GS 2013 art 76

GS 2013 Article 76 – Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA )

Committee 4 presented a proposal on the RPCNA. With a minor change, this was the result:

1.         Material:

  • 1.1.      Report from the CCCNA re: the RPCNA (8.2.3)
  • 1.2.      Letter from the RPCNA (Appendix 1 of CCCNA report)
  • 1.3.      Adopted report of RPCNA Synod 2001 (Appendix 2 of CCCNA report)
  • 1.4.      Paper entitled “On Women Deacons” (Appendix 3 of CCCNA report)
  • 1.5.      Letters from the churches at Yarrow (8.1.31), Grand Valley (, Coaldale (, Guelph-Living Word (, Abbotsford (, Ancaster (, Attercliffe (, Carman-West (, Elora (, Grand Rapids (, Hamilton-Providence (, Lincoln (, London (, Smithville ( and Owen Sound (

2.         Observations:

  • 2.1.      Synod Burlington 2010 gave the CCCNA the following mandate in regard to the RPCNA (Acts, Article 77, Recommendation 4.2):
    • [4.2.1] To monitor developments in the RPCNA regarding the ordination of women as deacons;
    • [4.2.2] To continue informal contact with the RPCNA via NAPARC;
    • [4.2.3] To report to the next General Synod.
  • 2.2.      Delegates of the CCCNA met with the Inter-Church Relations Committee (IRC) of the RPCNA at meetings of NAPARC in 2010 and 2011.
  • 2.3.      The IRC raised the question with the CCCNA “as to why the Can. Ref. Churches would object to having fellowship with the RPCNA on the ground of ordaining women deacons when the Can. Ref. Churches already has [sic] ecclesiastical fellowship with the ERQ which (according to the RPCNA) holds to the position of women deacons.” In response, the CCCNA noted “that while the ERQ church order does not rule out women functioning in a diaconal capacity, women have never been ordained as deacons in this church.”
  • 2.4.      The IRC committed themselves to providing a written interaction with the decision of Synod Burlington 2010 and sent a letter to Synod Carman 2013 (with two appendices), elaborating on the RPCNA position regarding women deacons, clarifying their stance on exclusive Psalmody and requesting a reopening of discussions with the CanRC with a view to having fraternal relations.
  • 2.5.      The CCCNA notes that it did not have further dialogue with the RPCNA concerning women deacons, as this was not their mandate.
  • 2.6.      The IRC provided a position paper, adopted by the RPCNA Synod of 2001, outlining their view of women deacons and their view of ordination. For example, with respect to the former, it states, “The Diaconate… is neither a ruling nor a teaching office. Its exercise… and its function is administrative.”
  • 2.7.      The IRC provided an unofficial paper on women deacons, reflecting the Scriptural arguments offered in support of the RPCNA position.
  • 2.8.      Grand Valley, Attercliffe, Lincoln, Elora and Yarrow urge caution with respect to the relationship with the RPCNA, on account of the ordination of women as deacons within this church.
  • 2.9.      In response to the IRC’s question to the CCCNA about consistency of practice with respect to relations with churches that ordain deacons, Coaldale and Attercliffe point out that the CanRC entered EF with the ERQ in an effort to assist them in their development as Reformed churches. Further, Coaldale notes that, “if the ERQ indeed has the practice of allowing women to serve in the capacity of deacons, this is not because the practice has been endorsed or promoted by the CanRC.” Hamilton-Providence suggests that this matter of EF with the ERQ needs to be clarified with the RPCNA.
  • 2.10.    Guelph-Living Word finds it regrettable that the CCCNA did not offer more concrete recommendations and they propose that the difference between the office of deacon in the CanRC and the RPCNA be investigated further. Ancaster, London, Carman-West, Lincoln and Hamilton-Providence also seek an examination of the RPCNA’s position on women deacons. Attercliffe notes that the position paper and other material provided by the RPCNA make clear their view that the office of deacon is open to women, a view quite different than that held in the CanRC. Owen Sound proposes that the material provided by the RPCNA on women deacons be studied further by the CCCNA.
  • 2.11.    Abbotsford suggests a comparative study of how the terms “office” and “ordination” are used in the CanRC and the RPCNA respectively, wondering if the same terms are used but with different definitions.
  • 2.12.    Grand Rapids opines that the RPCNA’s definition of the nature and function of the deaconal [sic] office as being without any ruling function contradicts Article 30 of the Belgic Confession, where it is stated that “elders and deacons…together with pastors, form the council of the church.”
  • 2.13.    Hamilton-Providence raises some concerns with the exegesis supporting women deacons as found in the material provided by the IRC.
  • 2.14.    Smithville recommends that Synod Carman 2013 not withhold EF from the RPCNA based on their practice of having women in the office of deacon. Smithville points out that, unlike in the CanRC where the deacons form part of the ruling body of council, in the RPCNA the diaconate is neither a ruling nor teaching office. Smithville notes the potential for the impression of inconsistency if we do not extend EF to the RPCNA, while we have EF with churches that do allow women to the office of deacon (KPCK, FCS, ERQ).
  • 2.15.    Ancaster, London and Grand Rapids draw attention to the RPCNA Testimony, a part of their constitution and functioning on the same level as the Westminster Standards, asking that it, as yet, be thoroughly studied and evaluated for its Reformed character.
  • 2.16.    Attercliffe suggests that the RPCNA’s position of exclusive Psalmody may create an obstacle for unity.
  • 2.17.    The CCCNA recommends that Synod decide:
    • 2.17.1. To receive and respond to the RPCNA’s letter written to Synod 2013 regarding Synod 2010’s decision not to enter into ecclesiastical fellowship with the RPCNA.
    • 2.17.2. To provide direction for the CCCNA with respect to the RPCNA.

3.         Considerations:

  • 3.1.      It is true that the CCCNA did not receive a clear mandate from Synod Burlington 2010 with respect to the RPCNA and its position on women deacons.
  • 3.2.      With respect to women deacons, contrary to what the CCCNA reported (see Consideration 2.3), it should be pointed out that in the ERQ, while such women are ordained, they do not hold a position of ruling authority in the church. This is also a matter which has priority in our ongoing discussion with the ERQ.
  • 3.3.      The way in which the RPCNA understand ordination, the nature and root of the office of deacon and the authority of such an office in light of Scripture and the Reformed confessions are important matters which invite further study by the CCCNA.
  • 3.4.      The nature and status of the Testimony within the RPCNA still needs to be clarified (see Acts 2010, Article 77, Consideration 3.6).
  • 3.5.      With respect to exclusive Psalmody, Synod Burlington 2010 considered that this has never been seen as an obstacle to EF by either the CanRC or the RPCNA (Article 77, Consideration 3.5).

4.         Recommendations:

ThatSynod decide to mandate the CCCNA:

  • 4.1.      To respond to the letter from the RPCNA.
  • 4.2.      To investigate and evaluate the way in which the RPCNA understand ordination, the nature and root of the office of deacon and the authority of such an office in light of Scripture and the Reformed confessions.
  • 4.3.      To investigate further the nature and status of the Testimony.
  • 4.4.      To continue dialogue with the RPCNA at meetings of NAPARC.