ARTICLE 30: Ecclesiastical Matters

These assemblies shall deal with no other than ecclesiastical matters and that in an ecclesiastical manner.

A major assembly shall deal with those matters only which could not be finished in the minor assembly or which belong to its churches in common.

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.

Texts of Implementation
Route for New Matters

GS 2013 – Article 99

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.


Texts of Application
Inter-church Relations

GS 2019 – Article 147 – Reformed Churches in Indonesia – Timor (GGRI-T)

2. Observations

2.1    The Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad (CRCA) included in its report to GS 2019 that in a letter dd April 9, 2018, Smithville CanRC requested the CRCA to investigate the fledgling federation of churches newly formed on the island of Timor in Indonesia “with a view to establishing a sister church relation with them.”  This new federation of nine churches is the fruit the Lord has granted on the labors of Smithville’s missionary, the Rev. E. Dethan. This new federation has called itself “Gereja-Gereja Reformasi di Indonesia – Timor” (GGRI-T) because it intends to apply to the next Synod of the national GGRI to become part of that federation of churches.

2.2    Previous CanRC synods have indicated that requests for new relationships should come to the attention of the General Synod after having followed the ecclesiastical route (see GS 2007 Art. 160 Cons. 3.3; GS 2013 Art. 81 Cons. 3.1 & Rec. 4; GS 2013 Art. 175 Cons. 3.2).

2.3    In her letter to GS 2019, Smithville “formally requests GS 2019 to investigate the GGRI-T with a view to establishing ecclesiastical fellowship with them.”  As grounds for the request Smithville reiterates what the CRCA has written to Synod: the GGRI-T “are in a sense daughters of the CanRC and receive direct assistance from some CanRC through mission work. It is appropriate for the CanRC to establish closer ties with the GGRI-Timor.”

3. Considerations

3.1    The request to “investigate” the GGRI-T with a view to establishing a sister church relation with them did not come to the attention of this GS via the ecclesiastical route.

3.3    As the churches known today as the GGRI-T were forming and finding their way into a federation, they have been looking to the Smithville CanRC for a measure of guidance. Now that they are newly federated, they continue to look for encouragement and support from Smithville and those with whom Smithville belongs. The CRCA has experience and resources from which the GGRI-T could benefit.

4. Recommendations

That Synod decide:

4.1    To instruct the Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad (CRCA):

4.1.1    To provide assistance to the GGRI-T in its effort to join the GGRI;

4.1.2    In conjunction with Smithville to offer any other assistance within the normal ambit of CRCA work that the GGRI-T would need.

4.2    To send this decision to the Smithville CanRC as Synod’s answer to their request.


GS 2013 – Article 81

3. Consideration:

3.1.      While Hamilton-Cornerstone’s suggestion may have merit, it would be appropriate and also helpful for Hamilton (or some other congregation so inclined) to first investigate the PCA further. If after investigation and evaluation of the PCA there is an apparent potential for fruitful ecclesiastical contact, the issue should be brought from the minor assemblies to the broader, where it may be placed on the agenda of the CCCNA for their attention. This course of action is similar to that taken, e.g., by the church of Aldergrove with respect to the FRCNA (see Acts of Synod Fergus 1998, Article 98, Consideration III.A).

4. Recommendation:

That Synod decide that the above consideration serves as answer to the letter of Hamilton-Cornerstone.


Route for New Matters

GS 2013 – Article 125

4. Recommendations:

4.5.      Mandate Clarification

4.5.1.   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 their 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 – Article 173

3. Considerations:

3.5.      The mechanism of following the ecclesiastical route of bringing overtures for new hymns to the minor assemblies (consistory to classis to regional synod to general synod) is well-suited for this. If the churches, through their delegates at the minor assemblies, agree that the time is right to consider adding more hymns and general synod agrees too, then a general consensus will have been reached as to the wisdom of adding new hymns. At that point, general synod can pass along to the SCBP any hymns it has received in this manner from the churches for its own internal evaluation and recommendation. This mechanism can also be used by the churches at Carman-West and Willoughby-Heights (and others) if they have a proposal for the deletion of certain existing hymns.

Belong to the churches in common

GS 2016 – Article 119

2. Admissibility

2.1    Abbotsford’s letter is admissible since it involves a request from a foreign church. Abbotsford was encouraged by Classis Pacific-East on February 25, 2016 to present this matter to synod.


Texts of Commentary
Belong to the churches in common

GS 2016 – Article 87

4. Considerations

4.8    While the appellants are not agreed that women’s voting ought to be a matter for the churches in common, they are agreed on what CO 30 does not stipulate. CO 30 does not say that a matter for the churches in common is one in which uniformity of practice is demanded.

4.8.1     As we live in federative unity with one another there are matters in which a uniformity of practice is desirable. However, such unity does not require uniformity of practice in all respects. For example, synods have dealt with the matter of liturgy through the Book of Praise, but have never mandated a prescribed order of worship.

4.9    GS 2013 is correct that if women’s voting was not a matter for the churches in common then prior synods should not have dealt with the matter (Art. 110 Cons. 3.2). Churches that considered prior synods to be in error in this respect ought to have appealed these prior decisions.

4.10  Since a matter for the churches in common is not necessarily a matter in which uniformity of practice is demanded, the appellants are correct that the decision of GS 2010 does not contravene CO 30.

GS 2013 – Article 110

3. Considerations

3.2.   It is undeniable that this matter has in the past always been regarded as a matter for the churches in common (appeals Smithville, Dunnville, Grand Valley, Attercliffe). Numerous synods in the past have implicitly accepted or explicitly considered this to be a matter for the churches in common, beginning with Synod Coaldale 1977. That Synod stated in Article 27, Consideration 2, “By not ad Article 30 Church Order refusing to deal with women’s voting rights, Synod Toronto 1974 has in fact admitted that this is a matter of common concern.” As Calgary states in its appeal, Synod Smithville 1980 discussed and defeated the motion “to leave the matter of Women’s Voting Rights in the freedom of the churches” (Acts of Synod Smithville 1980, Article 80). Synod Burlington 1986, in Article 120, Considerations 2 and 3, stated that “It is therefore also incorrect to state that there is no moral hindrance for any consistory to introduce women’s rights by its own regulations (Observation 5).” Synod Fergus 1998, in Article 112, II. Admissibility, stated concerning women’s voting “The subject matter does concern the churches in common.” Synod Neerlandia 2001 remarked about an overture of Regional Synod East to appoint a committee on women’s voting rights (Article 101, Consideration 4.2), “The first ground that Regional Synod presents is that ‘the matter of women’s voting rights has been dealt with as a matter of the churches in common.’ This is true. However, this in itself does not constitute a ‘new ground.’ It only confirms that this request is at the right address, namely, General Synod.” The above statement of Synod Neerlandia 2001 was reiterated in the Acts of Synod Smithers 2007 (Article 136, Observation 3.8.) None of the Synodical pronouncements mentioned above have explained why the churches have considered this matter as belonging to the churches in common.But over the years this was the commonly accepted practice. This practice has the more authority because churches repeatedly stated that the matter was federational. To alter course would require an argument explaining why a new practice is necessary. The Church Order requires this in Article 33.

Route for New Matters

GS 2013 – Article 110

3. Considerations

3.7.      It is clear from the many appeals that the decision of Synod Burlington 2010 did not put the matter to rest in the churches. Calgary, Attercliffe, Grand Valley, Chilliwack, Taber and Fergus-Maranatha are right in pointing this out. This issue has divided the churches. It will continue to divide the churches if we do not attempt to build a broader consensus among the churches. Therefore, if any of the churches, after study and based on Biblical evidence, come to the conclusion that the practice of male-only voting should be changed, this church ought to work on building a consensus among the churches by going the ecclesiastical way, through classis and regional synod, before the matter ends up at the table of general synod.

Individuals and Broader Assemblies

GS 2004 – Article 20

4.3   The first matter deals with the individual’s right to make submissions to a general synod concerning the various reports from the synodical committees. Synod Neerlandia is correct in stating that an individual member cannot forward their comments or concerns directly to a general synod. The reason for this is that the reports from the various committees are for general synod to engage in a discussion and make the appropriate decisions. A synod does so representing all the churches within the federation. (cf. W.W.J. Van Oene, With Common Consent, pp. 133, 139; G. Van Rongen and K. Deddens, Decently and in Good Order, p. 58). Consistories have the opportunity to respond to these reports, as the local churches have ultimately placed these common matters on the agenda of a general synod (Art. 30). Synod Neerlandia was not consistent in this particular matter (cf. Acts of Synod Neerlandia 2001, Art. 96, p. 107).  Individual members have opportunity to interact with these reports through their consistories. The way of the Church Order requires individuals to wait until a general synod actually makes decisions on the committee recommendations before they may begin an appeal process.

4.4   The second matter relates to an individual’s right to appeal a decision of a general synod directly on matters pertaining to the churches in common. Synod Neerlandia was correct in stating that an individual member cannot forward his appeals regarding matters that concern the churches in common directly to a general synod. This does not mean that Synod Neerlandia has taken away the right of individuals to appeal. Rather, Synod Neerlandia shows the appellants the correct way of appeal according to the Church Order.  Individual members must follow the way of the Church Order by addressing their concerns to their local consistory who, should they concur with the concerns, direct an appeal to a general synod. Consistory, unlike individual members, has the right to deal directly with the matters that belong to the churches in common. Consistory may do so because these decisions are to be considered settled and binding by the consistory.  A consistory cannot appeal a decision of a major assembly to a minor assembly.  If the local consistory does not take over the individual’s appeal, he can appeal the local consistory’s decision to classis and thus begin the appeal process in accordance with Article 31 of the Church Order.

4.5   Article 30 of the Church Order provides clarity as to what is to be considered an ecclesiastical matter and what should be dealt with at the broader assemblies. Article 31 of the Church Order deals exclusively with the appeal process. Article 31 states clearly that “if anyone complains that he has been wronged by the decision of a minor assembly, he shall have the right to appeal to the major assembly.”  For the individual, his local consistory is to be considered the minor assembly. When the consistory accepts a decision of a general synod, the individual’s appeal is against the consistory and, therefore, Article 31 directs his subsequent appeal to the broader assembly of classis, and then regional synod and general synod.