06 Jul GS 2019 art 64
GS 2019 Article 64 – Request of Hamilton-Blessings re: GS 1983 Art. 145 (expression “confessions” in liturgical forms)
- 1.1 The request of the Hamilton-Blessing CanRC to revise the decision of GS 1983 Art. 145 (188.8.131.52)
- 1.2 Letters from the following churches: Dunnville, Guelph-Emmanuel, and Grand Rapids (184.108.40.206.1–3)
- 2.1 Since the matter concerns a decision of a synod which involves changing the wording of some liturgical forms, it is a matter of the churches in common (CO Art. 56) and thus admissible.
- 3.1 GS 1983 considered the following in Art. 145 regarding changes to the Form for Baptism: “In order to avoid misunderstanding, the word ‘creeds’ in the second question should be replaced by ‘confessions.’” Regarding changes to the Form for Profession of Faith, synod considered the following: “In the first question the word ‘creeds’ should be replaced by ‘confessions.’” Both changes were adopted.
- 3.2 The Hamilton-Blessings CanRC summarizes its request this way: “In light of new research, the emergence of a new ecumenical landscape, and the conviction that previous appeals to synods (1986, 1989, 1992) were inadequately considered and therefore unjustly denied, the Blessings Christian Church requests a revision of the 1983 (Cloverdale) General Synod’s decision to modify the questions in the liturgical forms for Baptism and Profession of Faith by replacing the phrase ‘articles of the Christian faith’ (or the tentatively approved ‘Apostles’ Creed’) with the term ‘confessions.’”
- 3.3 Hamilton-Blessings took it upon itself to send its request for revision to all the churches in the federation shortly before the deadline for submissions to General Synod Edmonton. It did so with a cover email stating “Due to the late hour with which these documents are being submitted to General Synod, we are sending them to all the consistories in order to provide a little time, however short, to provide feedback to General Synod if so desired.”
- 3.4 Hamilton-Blessings makes a point of distinguishing its submission as a “request for revision” and not an “appeal” in footnote 13: “The language of ‘request for revision’ is invoked rather than ‘appeal’ because ‘appeal’ implies a request to a major assembly to rehear a case that has been rejected or denied by a minor assembly.”
- 3.5 Dunnville, Guelph-Emmanuel, and Grand Rapids complain that the submission came too late for the churches to interact with it meaningfully. Dunnville suggests that a revision of this nature should go the route of the ecclesiastical assemblies on the principle that, “churches must be given adequate time to interact.” Grand Rapids observes that “this matter has not served at General Synod in 27 years” and adduces that, “in general, the churches do not have an issue with the 1983 decision.”
- 4.1 The Hamilton-Blessings CanRC is clearly requesting a revision of a decision of a past synod in order to change some wording in several adopted liturgical forms. Regarding changes to liturgical forms, GS 2013 decided the following: “To decide that all requests concerning factual errors, grammatical, typographical, or other minor stylistic matters throughout the Book of Praise may be addressed by individuals or churches to the SCBP for its consideration and possible suggestion for change to a future synod. All requests concerning other changes to the contents of the Book of Praise (e.g. translation of confessions, changes to metrical psalms, rewording and rhyming of psalms and hymns, changes to liturgical forms) need to arise out of the churches in the ecclesiastical way, namely from consistory to classis to regional synod and general synod” (GS 2013 Art. 125 Obs. 4.5). It is true that on appeal GS 2016 decided to direct churches to return to the previous practice of submitting hymns to the SCBP but the rest of GS 2013’s decision remains unaffected (see GS 2016 Art. 122).
- 4.2 While Hamilton-Blessings consistently calls its submission a “request for revision,” and makes a point of not calling it an “appeal,” the Church Order does not speak of “request for revision.” The Church Order speaks only of two avenues to bring a matter forward to a general synod: the way of appeal (CO Art. 31) or the way of presenting a new matter through the ecclesiastical route (consistory to classis to regional synod to general synod, CO Art. 30). GS 2013 (Art. 99, Cons. 3.1) clarified that even when the new matter is dealt with by the churches in common, it must first travel the ecclesiastical route through the minor assemblies.
- 4.3 Changing the liturgical forms in the way Hamilton-Blessings requests will affect all the churches and thus all the churches should have ample opportunity to meaningfully interact with this request. Hamilton-Blessings implicitly understands this principle for it took it upon itself to send out its request for revision to all the churches seeking their input only it was too late for that to be done in any substantive way. Hamilton-Blessings is to be commended for wanting to involve all the churches in their quest, however, the Church Order indicates that the way to garner the input of the churches is via the ecclesiastical route (CO Art. 30; see Cons. 4.1).
- 4.4 The fact that the decision of GS 1983 has served in the churches for more than 30 years is also significant. During all that time, the 1983 decision was honoured as settling and binding. Also for this reason, the request of Hamilton-Blessings should come in the form of an overture that follows the ecclesiastical route (see Cons. 4.2 and 4.3), seeking support. In this way, all the churches will have ample time and opportunity to interact with it through this filtering process.
- 4.5 The above considerations will address the concerns of Dunnville, Guelph-Emmanuel, and Grand Rapids.
That Synod decide:
- 5.1 To not accede to the request of the church at Hamilton-Blessings but to point it to consider the appropriate process as per Considerations 4.1, 4.2, and 4.4.
During discussion, the following amendment was moved, seconded, and defeated:
To add at the end of recommendation 4.4
Much care ought to be exercised that the vital role of our reformed confessions in church and family life is not minimized.