GS 2013 art 25

GS 2013 Article 25 – Formatting of the Acts

1.         Material:

  • 1.1.      Overture from Regional Synod West (8.4.1)
  • 1.2.      Letters from the churches at Dunnville (8.1.7), Burlington-Ebenezer (8.1.11), Grassie (8.1.15), Lincoln (8.1.20), London (8.1.22), Burlington-Rehoboth (8.1.25) and Owen Sound (8.1.30)

2.         Observations:

  • 2.1.      The overture from Regional Synod West asks General Synod to choose the format of “material(s) – decision – ground(s) for its decisions and acts.”
  • 2.2.      Regional Synod West mentions that the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands made the switch in 1981 to the format now proposed by Regional Synod. Additionally, the RCN also structure their decisions topically rather than chronologically while also presenting a chronological overview of the actions of Synod in an appendix to the Acts. In 1994 the Free Reformed Churches of Australia adopted the format of “material(s)-grounds-decisions.”
  • 2.3.      Regional Synod West finds the following deficiencies with the prevailing practice of structuring synodical decisions in terms of “observations-considerations-acts:”
    • 2.3.1.   A survey of the Acts of various Synods reveals a degree of subjectivity in materials included in “observations.” In reality, the “observations” are a kind of “filtered summary” of material. Furthermore, items listed as “observations” sometimes amount to judgments. For these reasons, it would be better, in the judgment of Regional Synod West, to simply list the “materials” without attempting to summarize them. Anything in the material(s) that is relevant to the decision will also be reported in the decision and its grounds.
    • 2.3.2.   “Considerations” can be quite rambling; often, it is not clear how “considerations” support a “recommendation.”
    • 2.3.3.   With the current format of “observations-considerations-recommendations,” it is never clear why a recommendation is defeated. Regional Synod West suggests not including defeated proposals.
    • 2.3.4.   “Grounds” succinctly move through the text of a decision, supporting each element as required.
  • 2.4.      Regardless of whether or not General Synod adopts the specific proposal of Regional Synod West, the overture suggests that some stipulations regarding formatting be included in “Guidelines for Synod.”
  • 2.5.      A number of churches have provided responses to the overture of Regional Synod West:
    • 2.5.1.   Dunnville (8.1.7) prefers the present format of “observations-considerations-recommendations.” Dunnville argues that notwithstanding faulty applications, the current structure is sound and has the advantage of allowing the readers of the Acts to have a better grasp of the reasoning behind decisions of Synod. Lincoln (8.1.20) sees no reason to make the proposed change since “we find that the current format is helpful for understanding the background and rationale for synodical decisions.”
    • 2.5.2.   The following churches support the overture of RSW: Burlington-Ebenezer (8.1.11), Grassie (8.1.15), Burlington-Rehoboth (8.1.25), Owen Sound (8.1.30) and London (8.1.22) supports the overture with the qualification that it would remain important to show in the Acts how Synod has interacted with submissions from the churches and further that the “grounds” section of each proposal adopted by Synod would be “as comprehensive as possible.”

3.         Considerations:

  • 3.1.      Regional Synod West provides no proof that the prevailing system of providing “observations” is overly subjective. In general, it would appear that a conscientious effort is made by Synods to carefully summarize the material(s) under consideration. Even if it should happen inadvertently that certain points brought out in the material(s) are omitted in the “observations,” this is still better than not providing any summary at all. Likewise, if it should happen from time to time that an “observation” contains a “judgment” this would be a misapplication of a method but not a reason to reject the method.
  • 3.2.      While it may be true that “considerations” don’t always sufficiently support adopted “recommendations,” there is no reason to think that providing “grounds” would be more likely to provide a proper foundation for decisions made by Synod.
  • 3.3.      It is important for the well-being of the federation of churches that letters sent to General Synod are shown to have received due consideration; this is best accomplished by summarizing such communications in the form of “observations.”
  • 3.4.      It is important that the reasoning behind decisions of Synod is recorded and this goal is accomplished effectively by utilizing the category of “considerations.”
  • 3.5.      The current “Guidelines for Synod” have no stipulations regarding formatting of synodical decisions. It should be left in the freedom of each Synod to determine how its decisions should be recorded.

4.         Recommendation:

That Synod decide to not accede to the overture of Regional Synod West.