GS 2016 art 90

GS 2016 Article 90 – RPCNA (Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America)

Advisory Committee 2 presented its report. The report was discussed. During discussion the following amendment was moved and seconded:

  • Amendment 1:
    • To augment
      • “4.2    That the CanRC not enter into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship (EF).”
    • With
      • “at this time”
    • So that the recommendation read
      • “4.2    That the CanRC not enter into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship (EF) at this time.”


1. Material

  • 1.1    Report of the Committee for Contact for Churches in North America – section on the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA) (8.2.4)
  • 1.2    Letters from the following CanRC: Orangeville (, Ancaster, (, Edmonton-Immanuel, (, Fergus-Maranatha (, Glanbrook-Trinity, (, Hamilton-Blessings, (, Grand Rapids, (, Abbotsford,, Lynden, (,, Willoughby Heights, (, Elora, (, Toronto-Bethel (

2. Observations

  • 2.1    GS 2013 (Art. 76) gave the CCCNA the following mandate with respect to the RPCNA:
    • [4.1]      To respond to the letter from the RPCNA;
    • [4.2]      To investigate and evaluate the way in which the RPCNA understands 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.
  • 2.2    The CCCNA investigated in detail the matter of women’s deacons. The RPCNA does not consider the office of deacon an office of ruling authority in the church and is therefore open to women. The CCCNA concluded that the RPCNA position on women’s deacons is not an impediment to Ecclesiastical Fellowship (EF) with the CanRC. It would be fitting for the CanRC to express disagreement with the exegesis of the RPCNA regarding their position on women’s deacons and to encourage further reflection on the matter.
  • 2.3    The CCCNA investigated in detail the matter of the Testimony of the RPCNA. The Testimony is granted equal status with the other confessional standards of the RPCNA. The CCCNA criticized some points of teaching in the Testimony but concluded that overall it is a faithful expression of Reformed doctrine and practice. The Testimony of the RPCNA should not be considered an impediment to EF.
  • 2.4    The CCCNA recommends that the CanRC offer a relationship of EF to the RPCNA under the adopted rules, informing them that we disagree with their position of ordained women deacons and disagree with or have some reservations on certain points of exegesis and doctrine within the Testimony.
  • 2.5    The CCCNA states in their report (7.5) that they have provided sufficient information to make a decision about EF with the RPCNA. The committee states that there is nothing to be gained by mandating the committee to study the matters further.
  • 2.6    Hamilton-Blessings and Toronto-Bethel support the committee recommendation for EF.
  • 2.7    Abbotsford supports the committee recommendation for EF, and questions the statement of the committee in 5.2. of the RPCNA report that the exegesis of Acts 6:1-4 represents the position of the CanRC federation.
  • 2.8    Orangeville, Ancaster, Edmonton-Immanuel, Fergus-Maranatha, Glanbrook-Trinity, Willoughby Heights, and Elora do not support the recommendation for EF with the RPCNA. They assert that the RPCNA position on women deacons is unscriptural and in conflict with BC Article 30.
  • 2.9    Orangeville is concerned that accepting the RPCNA position on women deacons would create the impression that this is acceptable in the CanRC as well.
  • 2.10  Ancaster, Glanbrook, Grand Rapids and Elora are concerned about the RPCNA Testimony. They assert that the Testimony contains questionable exegesis and “extra-Scriptural” teaching. The Testimony would be an impediment to EF.
  • 2.11  Lynden questions whether EF with the RPCNA will be a good use of time and resources, especially considering the nature of differences in doctrine, confession and church polity.

3. Considerations

  • 3.1    The CCCNA fulfilled its mandate regarding the RPCNA through correspondence with the representatives of the RPCNA and through meetings at NAPARC.
  • 3.2    The RPCNA practice of ordaining women as deacons is a considerable difference from the CanRC view of the office deacon as we understand the teaching of Scripture and have this teaching summarized in the Three Forms of Unity and spelled out further in the Church Order of the CanRC. The following points of concern against the RPCNA position were noted in the material from the churches:
    • 3.2.1     1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from teaching or having authority over men in the church.
    • 3.2.2     Belgic Confession Article 30 specifies that office bearers, including deacons are to be faithful men, chosen in accord with the rule of 1 Timothy 3.
    • 3.2.3     Although the deacons are not tasked with the ruling or governing of the church, the office does, by its very nature, involve the exercise of authority in the church.
  • Therefore the RPCNA practice remains an impediment to EF between the RPCNA and CanRC.
  • 3.3    The Testimony of the RPCNA is to be appreciated for its presentation of Reformed doctrines and practice, but questions remain about some teachings of the Testimony. The RPCNA teachings regarding covenanting and exclusive psalmody were questioned by the CCCNA report and some of the churches. CO 50 stipulates that “on minor points of Church Order and ecclesiastical practice churches abroad shall not be rejected.” Covenanting and exclusive psalmody can be considered “minor points,” but they have confessional status in the RPCNA. RPCNA practice allows for “exceptions” to certain teachings, but this does not change that the Testimony includes points that would be disputed by the CanRC. 
  • 3.4    Abbotsford is correct to observe that speaking of a “CanRC exegesis” is saying too much. The churches are bound to the confessions but not to a specific exegesis of a particular Bible passage.
  • 3.5    The RPCNA can be recognized for their fidelity to the Word of God and their strong Reformed convictions. A formal relationship of EF would be difficult at this time because of the concerns raised in 3.2 and 3.3. This is not a statement of disparagement against the RPCNA’s Reformed faith and witness but rather an expression of conviction that women ought not to be ordained and of reservation about material included in the Testimony.

4. Recommendations

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1    To express gratitude for the Reformed doctrine and practice evident in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA), evident through the contact between the Committee for Contact with Churches in North America (CCCNA) and the Inter-church Relations committee (IRC) of the RPCNA;
  • 4.2    That the CanRC not enter into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship (EF);
  • 4.3    That the CCCNA interact with the RPCNA at the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC).