GS 2013 art 99

GS 2013 Article 99 – Appeals re: General Synod Guidelines

Committee 2 presented its second draft with this result:

1.         Material:

Letters of appeal from the churches at Burlington-Ebenezer (8.1.9), Dunnville (8.5.7), Grand Valley (8.5.20) and Orangeville (8.5.33)

2.         Observations:

  • 2.1.      Article 30 of the Church Order stipulates that “a new matter which has not previously been presented to that major assembly may be put on the agenda only when the minor assembly has dealt with it.”
  • 2.2.      Synod Burlington 2010 decided to add the following new guideline to the Guidelines for Synod: “For all matters of the churches in common, individual churches may address proposals or other significant submissions directly to general synod with the requirement that all such submissions are sent also to each church in the federation no later than six months prior to general synod” (Article 62, Recommendation 4.2, now General Synod Guideline 1.E)
  • 2.3.      The four churches assert that this new guideline contravenes Article 30 CO, since the guideline allows churches to place matters for the churches in common on the agenda of general synod without having the minor assemblies (classis and regional synod) filtering these matters first.
  • 2.4.      The church at Grand Valley also states that Synod Burlington 2010 erred and was “not fair to the churches” when synod wrote “its own rules… in order to deal with a matter on its agenda.”
  • 2.5.      The church at Orangeville proposes an amended guideline to try to bring synod Guideline 1.E more into harmony with Article 30 CO. They propose that only returning matters go directly to synod, while new matters go via the minor assemblies. Their proposal is as follows:
    • [1.E.]   For any matters of the churches in common, dealt with at a previous general synod, individual churches may address proposals or other significant submissions directly to general synod… All other matters of the churches in common, not dealt with at a previous synod, may be put on the general synod’s agenda only when the minor assembly has dealt with it.
  • 2.6.      Since Article 30 CO was changed in 1983, there has been a great degree of inconsistency in terms of understanding and application among the churches and subsequently, at various synods.
  • 2.7.      Article 30 CO has been applied in essentially two ways at the various general synods (1974, 1977, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2007, etc.). Position A: Consistory may make a submission directly to synod if the matter is one of significance for the churches in common. Position B: Consistory must make all its submissions on matters for the churches in common via all the ecclesiastical assemblies (classis, etc.). Exceptions have been submissions that respond to various synodical committee reports.
  • 2.8.      Synod Burlington 2010 outlined the benefits of both positions as follows:
    • 2.8.1    “The benefit of the older system [Position A] is that every congregation has direct access to the broadest assembly on matters which are deemed to belong to the churches in common… this is healthy in our system of check and balances…”;
    • 2.8.2    “The benefit of the newer system [Position B] is that it does not give undue influence to any one church who [sic] could potentially place a proposal on the agenda of a general synod without the other churches having… interacted with it.”
  • 2.9       Synod Burlington 2010 adopted the new Guideline (1.E) to, in its words, “blend the two approaches in a clear direction from synod [to] serve to benefit the churches….”

3.         Considerations:

  • 3.1.      Burlington-Ebenezer is correct when it maintains that “Article 30 CO stipulates that any new matter, even if it is a matter ‘which belongs to its churches in common’ needs to follow the route of consistory-classis-regional synod-general synod.” Burlington-Ebenezer correctly points to and highlights the word “new” in Article 30 CO, whereas Synod Guideline 1.E essentially undermines this stipulation by making provision for “all” matters. As a result, Burlington-Ebenezer (“not in step”) and Dunnville (“too broad”) are both correct in claiming that Guideline 1.E is not consistent with Article 30 CO.
  • 3.2.      Grand Valley is correct in its claim that having matters go through minor assemblies has worked well and will eliminate unnecessary matters before synod. Grand Valley, however, is not justified in its claim that Synod Burlington 2010 erred in implementing a new guideline. Synod was merely responding to the church at Kerwood, clarifying Article 30 CO for the benefit of the churches. It is worth noting that synod has the right to suspend, amend, revise, or abrogate its own guidelines by majority vote (Guideline 4 J.).
  • 3.3.      Orangeville’s proposed modification to Guideline 1.E would make this guideline redundant, as it essentially re-states what is already implied in Article 30 CO.
  • 3.4.      Synod 2010 attempted to clarify Article 30 CO by enacting Guideline 1.E for the benefit of the churches, but in fact it rendered the last paragraph of this article ineffective.

4.         Recommendations:

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1.      That Synod Burlington 2010 erred in its decision to implement Guideline 1.E
  • 4.2.      To remove Guideline 1.E from the Guidelines for Synod.