GS 2013 art 149

GS 2013 Article 149 – CCU – Church Order Subcommittee

Committee 4 presented a proposal. With some minor changes, this was the result:

1.         Material:

  • 1.1.      Report from the Church Order Subcommittee of the CCU (8.2.5), including appendices: Revised PJCO (2012), Comparing PJCO 2010, Press Release of June 2011 Joint Meeting, Comments on the Changes from PJCO 2010 to PJCO 2012, Proposed Forms for Discipline for a United Federation, Draft Proposed General Synod Regulations for a United Federation, Incorporation Report
  • 1.2.      Letters from the churches at Attercliffe (, Grand Valley (, Elora (, Aldergrove (, Langley (, Abbotsford (, Carman-West (, Fergus-North (, Fergus-Maranatha (, Grand Rapids (, Grassie (, London (, Lynden (, Spring Creek (, Surrey ( and Flamborough (

2.         Observations:

  • 2.1.      Synod Burlington 2010 gave the PJCO subcommittee of the CCU this mandate (Acts, Article 151, Recommendation 4.4):
    • [4.4.1.] To give a final evaluation of the letters from the churches;
    • [4.4.2.] To finalize those matters deemed to be yet unfinished (e.g., Article 3);
    • [4.4.3.] To adopt the recommendations under Consideration 3.3 in consultation with the committee of the URCNA;
    • [4.4.4.] To prepare a final edition for Synod 2013, sending it to the churches six months prior to synod.
  • 2.2.      In its main report the committee notes that it has worked closely with the subcommittee for the Church Order from the URCNA.
  • 2.3.      The committee notes that Synod Burlington 2010 decided to adopt the PJCO 2010 “provisionally” as the Church Order for a united federation, while Synod London 2010 decided to accept PJCO 2010 “for continued study.” The committee reports that Synod London 2010 informed the churches that suggested changes should be directed to Synod by way of overture through the classes. Because of this, the URCNA committee had no further recommendations for the joint committee to consider. Synod London also mandated their PJCO committee to develop Forms of Discipline for a united federation and to draft joint regulations for synodical procedure.
  • 2.4.      In order to evaluate the input that was received from the CanRC churches at Synod Burlington 2010, the committee first reviewed the letters and then proposed a number of changes to the PJCO 2010 for consideration with the URCNA brothers. The committee reports with gratitude that it was able to finalize Article 4, regarding theological education. It also considered a number of suggested formulations as proposed by Synod Burlington 2010 (see “Comments on PJCO 2012”) and sent a final edition of the PJCO (2012 edition) to the churches.
  • 2.5.      In consultation with the Liturgical Forms and Confessions subcommittee of the CCU, the committee took over the task to draft, together with the URCNA committee, Forms of Discipline for a united federation (see “Proposed Forms for Discipline for a United Federation”).
  • 2.6.      While the joint committee could not come with a finalized proposal on regulations for synodical procedure, they submit to Synod a draft “which could give the churches an idea of how the synods of a united federation would work,” and which could serve as basis for a future proposal from the joint committee (see “Draft Proposed General Synod Regulations for a United Federation”).
  • 2.7.      The committee notes that Synod Burlington 2010 did not deal with the matter of incorporation, though it was mentioned in its report to the 2010 Synod. As it was not part of their mandate, the committee did not take any action on this topic, but has resubmitted its report to Synod Carman 2013 (see “Incorporation Report”).
  • 2.8.      As an addendum the committee reports that Synod Nyack 2012 did not provisionally adopt the PJCO 2012, though this was recommended by the joint committee. However, Synod Nyack did encourage the URCNA churches to no longer send suggestions for improvement by overture to Synod, but directly to the committee for its evaluation.
  • 2.9       The committee now recommends that Synod decide:
    • [1.]       To thank the committee for the work it has completed;
    • [2.]       To receive the committee report and the PJCO 2012 (with the two-column document comparing PJCO 2010 and PJCO 2012 as an appendix);
    • [3.]       To provisionally adopt PJCO 2012 as the Church Order for a united federation of the URCNA and CanRC;
    • [4.]       To provisionally adopt the Forms for Discipline for a united federation of the URCNA and CanRC;
    • [5.]       Reappoint the current committee for the sake of continuity, upon (provisional) adoption of PJCO 2012 by the URCNA general synod, with the mandate to continue working closely with the church order committee of the URCNA to finalize synodical regulations.
    • [6.]       The committee also recommends that Synod receive their report regarding incorporation and give direction for how to proceed with this matter.
  • 2.10.    Some of the letters received by Synod Carman 2013 deal with minor corrections relating to internal consistency, sentence structure and word changes. Other letters deal with more substantive issues.
  • 2.11.    Carman-West makes a number of suggestions for improvements to the proposed Forms for Discipline.
  • 2.12.    Attercliffe urges Synod to make clear that the implementation of the PJCO should only take place once a merger has been finalized, “and to caution the churches to refrain from using the PJCO as a point of argument or basis for church orderly conduct.” Grand Rapids wonders what the exact status is of the PJCO 2012. Langley and Lynden suggest that the PJCO 2012 not be adopted provisionally, since the merger seems not likely to be achieved for some time. Abbotsford urges that not much time and energy be spent on the PJCO at this point.
  • 2.13.    Spring Creek suggests that Synod not receive the Incorporation Report, as this was beyond the mandate of the committee. Abbotsford urges that the churches not be incorporated, contending that “this unduly compromises our church government.”

3.         Considerations:

  • 3.1.      The report of the committee shows that its mandate could be fulfilled in a spirit of concord between the brothers of the URCNA and CanRC.
  • 3.2.      Because it is not in the purview of Synod to do the joint committee’s work and because there is no apparent urgency to finalize the PJCO, the letters from the churches that deal with minor matters in the PJCO 2012, the draft synodical regulations and the proposed Forms for Discipline, should be referred back to the Church Order subcommittee for consideration and evaluation.
  • 3.3.      Some letters deal with major items and require input and direction from Synod, including the following:
    • Article 7 (et al) – Place of Deacons
      • Surveying the PJCO 2012 as a whole, it can be observed that the place of deacons seems to have been marginalized, without any rationale provided for this change. This is at odds with what we confess in Belgic Confession Article 30, where the elders, deacons and pastors together “form the council of the church.” As Aldergrove states, “The inclusion of the deacons in all aspects of Reformed Church government accords much better with our historical practices and roots dating as far back as Synod Emden 1571.” Articles in the PJCO where the deacons have been removed from the corresponding articles in our present Church Order include 7, 11, 15 and 56. The joint committee should work toward reinstating the role of the deacons within these articles.
    • Article 7 – Examination of Ministers from Churches in Ecclesiastical Fellowship
      • Several churches point out that, according to the PJCO 2012, ministers coming to our federation from a sister church need to undergo a complete examination at classis, whereas presently a colloquium is held. If we take seriously our ecclesiastical relationships and the ordinations that take place in sister churches, there is no need for this provision in our Church Order and a colloquium would be sufficient.
    • Article 26 – Church Visitors
      • The practice of making church visitations on an annual basis (instead of every two years, as in the PJCO 2012), should be upheld. When things are going well, the visits appear routine. However, it is beneficial to be held accountable on an annual basis, to be encouraged and challenged and to receive guidance for complex local situations.
    • Article 43 – Admission to the Lord’s Supper
      • A number of churches wrote about the current wording of this article, which refers to the consistory admitting “visitors who profess the Reformed faith provided that it secures from them a satisfactory testimony in either written or verbal form about their doctrine, life and church membership.” There continues to be concern that an individual guest may give a verbal testimony about his own doctrine, life and church membership, while the greater responsibility to provide such a testimony should rest with the visitor’s consistory. However, as Synod Burlington 2010 noted, “The elders of the local church are directly responsible for the doctrine and life of their members. Visitors, on the other hand, constitute ‘exceptions’ and it needs to be understood that ‘exceptions’ are always hard to regulate… The admission of visitors from churches with which we maintain ecclesiastical fellowship is best served by a letter of testimony, but it should be understood that very few churches in North America are familiar with such a practice” (Article 151). Nevertheless, because of the Biblical principle of establishing truth on the basis of two witnesses, the joint committee ought to consider making an addition to the wording of the proposed article to reflect a preference for a written testimony about the member from his consistory.
    • Article 57 – The Reception and Departure of Members
      • There is concern with the provision in this article that, “Departing members remain under the supervision and care of the consistory until they are received as members into [the receiving] church.” The committee notes the role of the individual “to come under the care of other elders of another church,” but stresses that the elders also have a responsibility and that there should be no time when a member is not under supervision. The joint committee needs to consider the point that this makes it difficult for the sending church to maintain interim oversight of a member who moves a great distance from their current church.
  • 3.4.      While the committee recommends that the PJCO 2012 be adopted, it should be noted that there are some unfinished matters that need to be resolved before final adoption can be given. At this time, it would be prudent to receive the PJCO 2012 for further refinement.
  • 3.5.      Regarding the matter of incorporation, the committee’s report can be received for information. If a church desires direction on this matter, it can raise it through the ecclesiastical route, but such a church should be mindful that different jurisdictions (e.g., provinces, states, countries) have differing regulations pertaining to incorporating.
  • 3.6.      With respect to the Forms for Discipline, the committee notes that “given how the discipline forms have a long history, we decided that we should restrict ourselves as much as possible to making only linguistic and stylistic modifications.” Because the CanRC forms are more up to date linguistically and because only the CanRCs have a form for excommunication of non-communicant members, the CanRC forms were used as templates for the proposed forms. The committee notes that the proposed forms still quote from the NIV1984, but highlights this as a matter for further review.
  • 3.7.      From the letters received, it appears that the status of the PJCO 2012 needs to be clarified. Currently the CanRC is governed by the Church Order adopted at Synod Cloverdale 1983 and it will remain so until such time as a future synod decides that agreement has been reached on merger. Only then will the text of the Joint Church Order be finalized and implemented.

4.         Recommendations:

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1.      To thank the committee for all the work that it has completed;
  • 4.2.      To receive the committee report and the PJCO 2012 (with the two-column document comparing PJCO 2010 and PJCO 2012 as an appendix);
  • 4.3.      To receive the PJCO 2012 for further modification;
  • 4.4.      To receive the Forms for Discipline for further refinement;
  • 4.5.      To receive the Incorporation Report for information;
  • 4.6.      To reappoint the current committee with the mandate to continue working with the church order committee of the URCNA:
    • 4.6.1.   To make further changes to the Church Order and the Forms for Discipline in light of the letters received from the churches;
    • 4.6.2    To finalize the synodical regulations.