GS 2010 art 92

GS 2010 Article 92 – Appeal from Surrey re: Article 103 of Synod Smithers 2007

1.         Material

  • 1.1       Appeal from the church at Surrey (8.5.s).
  • 1.2       Acts of Synod Smithers 2007.

2.         Observations

  • 2.1       The church at Surrey states that “the Synod [2007] erred in mandating the (Theological Education) Committee to seek agreement with the URCNA Committee about theological education with as a working premise that the strong preference (Article103, rec., Acts) was for at least one federation seminary.”
  • 2.2       Surrey states further, “The training for the ministry is the task of the churches who confess in Lord’s Day 38 that, by the command concerning the day of rest, the LORD commands us in the first place – that is, before the day of rest, during the week – to see to it that “the ministry of the Gospel and the schools (for training for the ministry) are maintained.
  • 2.3       Surrey argues that dropping the requirement for the federation to maintain the training for the ministry (at least one  institution) goes against the principle that even our own Committee on Theological Education maintained. Surrey quotes from the Committee’s report to Synod 2007, where it states: “In our discussions we defended (emphasis added) the principle of having at least one federational school and that theological education should be of the churches, by the churches and for the churches.”
  • 2.4       Synod Smithers stated that “the principle of 2 Timothy 2:2 which points in the direction of the churches being responsible for the training for the ministry does not necessitate the conclusion of a ‘federational’ seminary.’ Article 19 of the Church Order of the CanRC also does not necessitate a federational seminary, as ‘an institution for the training for the ministry’ is not the same as a federational seminary. Already it is possible under Article 19 for the churches to maintain an institution apart from that institution having to belong to the federation. Therefore, it would be best, for clarity’s sake, to realize that ‘federational’ seminary is terminology that has arisen (in the Statements of Agreement and in the mandate of Synod Chatham) out of current practice and is not itself the Reformed theological principle. The principle remains: the churches are responsible for the training for the ministry” (Article 103, Consideration 3.4).
  • 2.5       Synod Smithers also stated that, “A seminary at which the board and faculty are appointed by the synods of the churches is one of the fullest ways to express the principle that the churches take responsibility for the training for the ministry. Therefore a federational seminary cannot and must not be quickly removed from the discussion of the theological education committees… Synod expresses the desire that the next URCNA synod would mandate the URCNA theological education committee to engage the CanRC committee on all options, including the possibility of at least one federational seminary.”

3.         Considerations

  • 3.1       In evaluating the decision of Synod Smithers, the context of that decision must be kept in mind. The report concerning theological education received by Synod Smithers indicated that an “impasse” had been reached in discussions with their URCNA counterparts (Article 103, 2.3.4). It was with the desire to break through that impasse and continue fruitful discussion that Synod Smithers laid out a careful distinction between biblical principle and ecclesiastical practice and also between current realities and future possibilities. The intention of Smithers was not to remove the CanRC commitment to a federational seminary or remove any one legitimate possibility from the discussion. Instead Smithers wanted to “leave sufficient room for a broad range of possibilities to be considered and explored based on scriptural principle and in accordance with the agreements the committees have already made” (Article 103, 3.5).
  • 3.2       Surrey’s statement in Observation 2.2 is correct. However, Surrey does not demonstrate that Synod Smithers is not in harmony with it. Surrey does not prove either how Synod Smithers erred in mandating the committee to proceed with, as working premise, the strong preference for at least one federational seminary. Smithers was speaking in favour of one of the best practices (yet leaving room in the discussion for other legitimate practices) which is based on the principle contained in 2 Timothy 2:2: “The churches are responsible for the training for the ministry” (Article 103, 3.4).
  • 3.3       Surrey cites Lord’s Day 38 but does not prove how it necessitates the conclusion of a federational seminary. A school owned and operated by the churches to train men for the ministry is certainly one of the best ways to “maintain the ministry of the gospel and the schools” in light of the fourth commandment, but it cannot be said to be the only way. During the period of discussion with the URCNA in 2007, Synod Smithers was correct to keep all legitimate options on the table.
  • 3.4       It is clear from the statements of Synod Smithers that it has not in any way dismissed the notion of working toward at least one federational seminary. It merely has distinguished between the biblical principle proper and the application of that principle. The biblical principle is this: the churches are responsible for the training for the ministry. One of the fullest ways to apply that principle is this: a seminary owned and operated by the federation of churches (i.e. a federational seminary).

4.         Recommendation

That Synod decide to deny the appeal.