16 Jul GS 2016 art 94
GS 2016 Article 94 – Appeal of Hamilton-Providence re: RSE 2015 Art. 7
Synod went into closed session.
- 1.1 Appeal from the Hamilton-Providence CanRC (184.108.40.206)
- 1.2 Letter from br. A. Sikkema (220.127.116.11)
- 2.1 The letter from br. Sikkema is admissible, since the appeal from Hamilton-Providence concerns his person.
- 3.1 Regional Synod East 2015 heard an appeal of br. Sikkema against Classis Ontario West (COW) regarding an overture sent by Hamilton-Providence to that Classis. The overture used references to public writings of br. Sikkema as part of the ground for their argument that Article 14 of the Belgic Confession should be changed. Br. Sikkema argued in his appeal that the “admission, adoption, forwarding and publication of the overture constitutes a violation of the ninth commandment as we confess it in the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 43.” RSE 2015 Art. 7 is as follows:
- 1. Br. A Sikkema maintains that he was not given an opportunity to interact with the statements attributed to him. He documents that statements about his views were adopted and forwarded without his knowledge.
- 2. Br. A. Sikkema maintains that the overture includes allegations about him that in his view are false.
- 3. From the letter dated April 18, 2015, it is clear Providence did not give Br. Sikkema opportunity to see or respond to the overture before it was brought to classis.
- 4. There is no evidence from Classis Ontario West March 11 2015 that they ascertained whether br. A. Sikkema was given opportunity to deal with the overture and its statements about his views.
- 1. Regional Synod agrees that Providence and Classis Ontario West March 11 2015 erred in their dealings with br. Sikkema. He ought to have been given opportunity to respond to the statements made about him in the overture. As such, he was judged rashly and unheard.
- 2. At this point it is not the place of Regional Synod to make a judgment on the views of br. A. Sikkema. This is the responsibility of his local consistory as per Art 66 CO.
- Synod judges that Classis erred in forwarding the overture in the manner that it did – as per Consideration 1. Classis Ontario West Mar. 11, 2015 should have advised Providence to give br. Sikkema an opportunity to interact with the overture.
- 3.2 Regional Synod East decided that Hamilton-Providence and COW erred in their dealings with br. Sikkema. He ought to have been given opportunity to respond to the overture. Hamilton-Providence agrees that this would have been a brotherly gesture and has sent a letter of regret to br. Sikkema.
- 3.3 Hamilton-Providence contends that they did not judge br. Sikkema “rashly and unheard,” for the following reasons:
- 3.3.1 Hamilton- Providence notes that br. Sikkema received a copy of their proposal. Synod notes that according to br. Sikkema’s timeline, he received it from a third party on February 4, the day it was distributed by Hamilton-Providence.
- 3.3.2 On February 27, br. Sikkema wrote to Hamilton-Providence about the manner in which he felt Hamilton-Providence misrepresented his views. Council members reviewed his letter prior to classis, and by e-mail agreed that his letter did not change their proposal.
- 3.3.3 Hamilton-Providence considers that Matthew 18 does not apply in this case, since “all the sources mentioned in the proposal regarding Belgic Confession 14 were taken from public published sources, whether published in print books or journals or in electronic sources online”.
- 3.3.4 Hamilton-Providence contends that br. Sikkema has to take responsibility for his public writings, and clarify any potential misunderstandings of his position. Hamilton-Providence notes that br. Sikkema has not answered some specific questions publicly asked by br. John Byl in an attempt to clarify his views.
- 3.3.5 Hamilton-Providence notes that br. Sikkema did not contest their characterization of Reformed Academic, of which br. Sikkema is a co-editor, as a “blog which has promoted theistic evolution and tolerance for it in the Canadian Reformed Churches,” or their observation that he is included in Patrick Franklin’s list of “Prominent Christians who support evolution”.
- 3.3.6 Hamilton-Providence cites a statement made by the editors of the Reformed Academic blog as evidence that br. Sikkema holds to theistic evolution: “If [theistic evolution] means a combination of belief in God with an acknowledgement that the biological theory of evolution has considerable evidential support, although some aspects are still under debate, then indeed we are guilty as charged.” In his writings, br. Sikkema claims that evolution is “supported by significant and multiple lines of converging evidence”.
- 3.3.7 Hamilton-Providence further cites private conversations that its former pastor had with br. Sikkema some years ago and states that the office bearers have been reading Reformed Academic blog for some years now. In their minds, this shows that they did not judge br. Sikkema rashly and unheard.
- 3.4 In his letter to General Synod, br. Sikkema contends that his letter to Hamilton-Providence of Feb 27, 2015 was written as an identification of specific factual errors and not as a full engagement or interaction with the allegations, that he is under no obligation to answer questions posed by br. Byl, and that references to private conversations are not appropriate as evidence in an appeal.
- 4.1 When a person or ecclesiastical assembly cites a public work, there is no obligation to contact the author to verify his views. When a person or ecclesiastical assembly makes judgments on a brother’s doctrine or conduct based on that brother’s public works, they ordinarily have an obligation to verify that they have accurately represented that brother’s views.
- 4.2 By failing to give br. Sikkema opportunity to respond to the statements made about him in their overture to COW, Hamilton-Providence has failed to act in a brotherly manner toward him. Synod agrees with RSE’s Consideration 1, that “[Hamilton-]Providence and Classis Ontario West March 11, 2015 erred in their dealings with br. Sikkema. He ought to have been given opportunity to respond to the statements made about him in the overture.”
- 4.3 RSE considers that Hamilton-Providence judged br. Sikkema “rashly and unheard.” This phrase comes from Lord’s Day 43, which deals with the ninth commandment, in which God requires that we do not “condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard.” To judge someone rashly and unheard means that one has come to a hasty judgment without due consideration of his position.
- 4.4 Hamilton-Providence testifies that the office-bearers had been reading public writings of br. Sikkema, on the Reformed Academic blog and elsewhere for some time. These writings included not only statements made by br. Sikkema, but also responses that he and others have made to various questions and criticisms of their views. The office-bearers also read and considered br. Sikkema’s February 27, 2015 response to what was written about him in their overture to COW. Hamilton-Providence may not have come to a completely correct assessment of br. Sikkema’s views, but they have considered his teachings extensively and over quite a long period of time.
- 4.5 Synod considers that Hamilton-Providence’s failure to provide br. Sikkema with a copy of its overture to change BC Art.14 is a significant failure. When an ecclesiastical body makes charges against a brother, they are morally responsible to verify with him that they have represented him correctly.
- 4.6 Synod also considers that RSE overstated what Hamilton-Providence did when it used the words “rashly and unheard” in its judgment.
That Synod decide:
- 5.1 To send the above considerations as an answer to the appeal of Hamilton-Providence.
with delegates involved in judging this matter at previous assemblies abstaining.