GS 2013 art 65

GS 2013 Article 65 – Appeal of Barrhead re: “It’s living in the Churches”

Committee 4 presented a proposal and with a change, this was the result:

1.         Material:

Letter of appeal from the church of Barrhead against Article 45 of Synod Burlington 2010 (8.5.11)

2.         Observations:

  • 2.1.      Barrhead appeals the decision of Synod Burlington 2010, Article 45, which dealt with an appeal from the church of Burlington-Ebenezer on the matter of the Synod Smithers 2007 decision pertaining to the administration ofthe Lord’s Supper to shut-ins.
  • 2.2.      Burlington-Ebenezer had challenged Acts 2007, Article 96 (Observation 2.2), where it stated, “[The church of] Smithers requests a revision of the Church Order regarding the administration of the Lord’s Supper to shut-ins, because this issue is living in the churches, but is not clearly dealt with in the Church Order.” In its appeal to Synod Burlington 2010, Burlington-Ebenezer contended that “the term ‘it is living in the churches’ is an undefined term … a non-argument … Whether something is living in the churches is immaterial and should be flagged as such by synod or, better still, not be mentioned at all.”
  • 2.3.      In its consideration of Burlington-Ebenezer’s appeal, Synod Burlington 2010 responded that “the observation that a particular matter is ‘living in the churches’ is simply a way of indicating that interest or concern about this particular matter exists among the churches and thus, may be worthy of consideration by synod … Though the expression in itself is somewhat indefinite, the presence or absence among the churches of interest or concern about a particular matter may indeed form part of the rationale for synod in deciding how to deal with that matter … The weight given to such a ground must be left to the wisdom of synod.”
  • 2.4.      Barrhead is alarmed that such an ambiguous term could be given credence in decisions at the broader assemblies, questioning how it can even be determined that a matter is “living in the churches.” Barrhead opines that decisions that are based on such an indefinite and questionable foundation are bound to be challenged and disputed. Barrhead says that the Church Order provides us with criteria for what can be dealt with by the broader assemblies and those matters should be dealt with solely on the basis of their own admissibility and merit.
  • 2.5.      The church of Barrhead asks that that the decision of Synod Burlington 2010, Article 45, be rescinded and that synod not consider whether a matter is living in the churches when dealing with matters that are brought before it.

3.         Considerations:

  • 3.1.      While Barrhead is appealing a decision made with respect to a church other than itself, Synod Burlington 2010’s considerations to Burlington-Ebenezer about taking into account whether an issue “lives in the churches” has the potential to relate more widely in the federation and at its broader assemblies.
  • 3.2.      As Synod Burlington 2010 noted, the term is vague. Barrhead is correct in stating that every matter brought before the broader assemblies first has to meet the admissibility criteria of the Church Order and that such matters should then be dealt with on the basis of their own merit, according to the Word of God and the confessions. In making its decisions, a broader assembly should never simply resort to counting how many members or churches are giving attention to a certain issue and react thereto; however, in matters of preference this remains a distinct factor.
  • 3.3.      It is true that it can be helpful for a broader assembly to note whether there is concern for or interest in a particular matter among the churches, as the churches do look to the assemblies in some instances to provide them with guidance and direction.

4.         Recommendation:

That Synod deny the appeal of the church of Barrhead.