ARTICLE 76: Observance and Revision of the Church Order

These articles, which regard the lawful order of the church, have been adopted with common accord. If the interest of the churches demand such, they may and ought to be changed, augmented, or diminished. However, no consistory, classis, or regional synod shall be permitted to do so, but they shall endeavour diligently to observe the articles of this Church Order as long as they have not been changed by a general synod.

Texts of Implementation
Texts of Application
Living in the Churches

GS 2013 – Article 65

1. Material:

Letter of appeal from the church of Barrhead against Article 45 of Synod Burlington 2010 (8.5.11)

3. Considerations

3.2.      As Synod Burlington 2010 noted, the term [“living in the churches”] is vague. Barrhead is correct in stating that every matter brought before the broader assemblies first has to meet the admissibility criteria of the Church Order and that such matters should then be dealt with on the basis of their own merit, according to the Word of God and the confessions. In making its decisions, a broader assembly should never simply resort to counting how many members or churches are giving attention to a certain issue and react thereto; however, in matters of preference this remains a distinct factor.

3.3.      It is true that it can be helpful for a broader assembly to note whether there is concern for or interest in a particular matter among the churches, as the churches do look to the assemblies in some instances to provide them with guidance and direction.

4. Recommendation:

That Synod deny the appeal of the church of Barrhead.


GS 2010 – Article 45

3. Considerations

3.1       The observation that a particular matter is “living in the churches” is simply a way of indicating that interest or concern about this particular matter exists among the churches, and thus, may be worthy of consideration by synod.

3.2      As found in Observation 2.2 of Article 96 of the Acts of Synod Smithers 2007, the expression merely indicates that this was one of the grounds of the overture presented to RSW 2006 by the church at Smithers.

3.3       Though the expression in itself is somewhat indefinite, the presence or absence among the churches of interest or concern about a particular matter may indeed form part of the rationale for synod in deciding how to deal with that matter.

3.4       The weight given to such a ground must be left to the wisdom of synod.

3.5       It would be improper for a synod to make the judgment “that any suggestion to synod that something is living or not living in the churches is deemed immaterial to the case and should be flagged as such by synod or not be listed in the observations as it has no bearing on the case.”

4. Recommendation

That Synod decide to deny the appeal of Burlington-Ebenezer.


Applying the Church Order

GS 2013 – Article 128

3. Consideration:

3.1.      Burlington-Fellowship had the right to appeal a decision of Regional Synod 2008 according to Article 31 of the Church Order. Synod Burlington 2010 did not declare this appeal inadmissible. By implicitly declaring it admissible, Synod Burlington 2010 had the duty to deal with the appeal and also to provide Burlington-Fellowship with the grounds for denying the appeal. A ruling of the chairman that by defeating a proposal from an advisory committee the appeal is denied is not sufficient.

4. Recommendations:

That Synod decide:

4.1.      That Burlington Synod 2010 (Article 177) erred when it denied Burlington-Fellowship’s appeal without providing observations, considerations, nor adopting a recommendation;

4.2.      That Synod Burlington 2010 failed to do justice to the appeal of Burlington-Fellowship;

4.3.      To declare the resubmission of Burlington-Fellowship’s appeal against Article 10 in the Acts of Regional Synod East 2008 admissible.


GS 2010 – Article 171

3. Considerations

3.1      Article 31 of the CO recognizes the right of anyone who complains that he has been wronged by the decision of a minor assembly to appeal that decision to a major assembly. Willoughby Heights does not claim that it has been wronged by the decision of RSW 2009 in the appeal of br. H. Voorhorst against the decision of the consistory of Cloverdale, to use the revised Psalms in the worship services. Willoughby Heights seeks to provide a ground for its right to appeal the Considerations of Article 5a of the Acts of RSW 2009 by speaking about “a dangerous precedent” that could be set by those Considerations with regard to the use of the Church Order.

3.2       The dangerous precedent about which Willoughby Heights is concerned seems to be the fact that RSW 2009 spoke about “the intent” of Article 55. Willoughby Heights judges that, in doing so, RSW 2009 went “against Article 76 CO.” However, it is clear that the provisions of the CO do not address every possible situation or church orderly question that may arise. In fact, therefore, the diligent observation of the articles of the CO (Article 76) frequently requires that their provisions be interpreted, and their true intent discerned, so that they can be properly applied. In principle, therefore, it was not wrong for RSW 2009 to speak about “the intent” of Article 55.

3.3       In its Consideration 2, Willoughby Heights seems to suggest that RSW 2009 read into Article 55 the notion that “a committee appointed by synod can do, what the churches decided should be done by the churches in common.” In its Consideration 2, Willoughby Heights describes the rationale that RSW 2009 followed in arriving at its decision about the relevance of Article 55 to the appeal of br. Voorhorst. However, it does not show that RSW 2009 implied or claimed that “a committee appointed by synod can do, what the churches decided should be done by the churches in common.”

3.4       In its Consideration 3, Willoughby Heights states that RSW 2009 “tries to prove from history what the intent of the present Church Order is.” However, RSW 2009 did not try to prove from history what the intent of Article 55 CO is. RSW 2009 used the historical practice of the Canadian Reformed Churches to show how the provision of Article 55 (formerly Article 69) has been applied in the past. In fact, Willoughby Heights does the very same thing, when it argues that the situation pre-1983 was substantially different, because they “see in the history of the Canadian Reformed Churches a struggle to find their way in a new situation.”

3.5       In its Consideration 4, Willoughby Heights claims that the adoption of Article 55 in 1983 brought about a real change in regard to the singing of Psalms or Hymns not yet approved by a general synod. However, comparing pre-1983 Article 69 with current Article 55 shows that RSW 2009 correctly judged that “there is no significant change between the Church Order prior to and after 1983. Both the older Article 69 and the present Article 55 clearly limit the churches’ singing to synodically-adopted songs.” The issue, therefore, is not simply “What does the article say?” It is rather, “How should the churches apply Article 55 to the use of Psalms and Hymns which have not been approved by a general synod, but have been given to the churches for testing?” It was proper, therefore, for RSW 2009 to use the historical practice of the churches in that regard in order to come to a conclusion about br. Voorhorst’s appeal.

4. Recommendation

That Synod decide to deny the appeal of Willoughby Heights.


GS 2004 – Article 86

The following was adopted:

4. Consideration

4.5   The church at Abbotsford alleges that, “Synod 2001 maintains a double standard by requiring less from the OPC than it does from ourselves under Article 61 of the Church Order” (Consideration 3). In this statement the church at Abbotsford does not give enough attention to the character of the Church Order, especially vis-à-vis the confessions.  Based on scriptural and confessional principles, a federation of churches agrees to a certain church order so everything can be done decently and in order.  The OPC and the CanRC are not one federation, and therefore, they do not have one and the same church order.  This is not a double standard.  Rather, this simply indicates the reality of the present situation: we are in Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC; we have not merged into one federation.

5. Recommendations

Synod decide:

5.2   Not to accede to the appeals of the churches at Attercliffe, Abbotsford, Grand Rapids, Owen Sound and Blue Bell.

5.3   To state that the Considerations 4.1-4.10 serve as an answer to the appeals of these churches.

Texts of Commentary
Applying the Church Order

GS 2013 – Article 48

3. Considerations:

3.1.      It is important that the churches maintain what has been agreed upon in the CO and not move away from the literal reading of its articles by distinguishing between the plain or literal reading and the intent or spirit of the CO. The literal reading expresses the intent of the articles.

GS 2010 – Article 27

3. Considerations

3.3       To speak about a “historic continental Reformed position” is nebulous and not helpful.

GS 2007 – Article 27

3. Considerations

3.3 Synod Chatham 2004 allowed for an exception to the rule in Articles 3 and 13 of the Church Order without explaining why such an exception was justified in Rev. Boersema’s case. In fact, Synod Chatham 2004 acknowledged that the arguments brought forward by Calgary were ignored by Regional Synod (see Art. 111, 4.1, p.112). Synod Chatham 2004 stated too much when it said that the church at Surrey was justified in providing an exception in Rev. Boersema’s case.

3.4 Synod Chatham’s Consideration 4.2 that Calgary’s arguments do not sufficiently acknowledge the lack of clarity in the relationship between the CanRC and the OPC during the time period involved is beside the point. There was no sister church relationship with the OPC at that time.


Deciding to Church Practice

GS 2013 – Article 110

3. Considerations:

3.1.      The appeals bring forward church political, Scriptural as well as several other arguments. Synod Burlington 2010 also dealt with church political as well as Scriptural arguments. In response to the appeals we will have to weigh these arguments and deal with both Scripture and Church Order.

3.8.    The churches should not be led by developments in culture and those developments should not determine the way in which we understand the Scripture for our time today. The church of Grassie is correct in bringing this forward. We live in a culture in which the Biblical teaching about the headship of the man is greatly ignored, denied or rejected. In today’s culture the election of office bearers gives a good opportunity to the churches to show that they do not merely go along with the secular trend regarding the position of man and woman.

Jurisdiction of the Local Church

GS 2013 – Article 128

2. Considerations:

2.5.      Burlington-Fellowship incorrectly reasons that everything that is not in the Church Order should be left for local regulation. In other instances, synods have made binding decisions about matters which are not regulated in the Church Order.


GS 2010 – Article 106

3. Considerations

3.2.5    Re: points 5 and 6: In seeking to address serious issues such as schism among foreign churches in EF, Synod must ensure that it makes judgments according to the facts of the situation and according to Scripture and the Confessions. It must not make its judgments out of fear regarding unrest among its own congregations, or out of fear about how other federations will perceive this.

Proper Understanding and Significance of Church Order

GS 2004 – Article 76

4. Considerations

4.6   Synod applauds the extensive introduction to the Church Order as presented by the committee, as it is beneficial for its proper understanding and significance within the church federations.