Acts: Standing and Current Decisions
Exegesis is the activity of determining what a text says, hermeneutics is the rules for exegesis. This applies not only to Scripture, it also applies to legal texts, such as church orders, regulations, and acts of ecclesiastical assemblies. One basic rule for working with legal texts is understanding that not all texts or all parts of texts carry equal weight.
In the article Acts: Types of Texts & Their Authority the distinction between texts of implementation, of application, and of commentary is described. This present article describes how decisions taken by Canadian Reformed Synods are reported on this web-site and why.
The Standing Decisions of the Canadian Reformed Churches found on this web-site include texts of implementation, application, and commentary. As there will be debate as to the authority each carries, the texts have been classified according to their type. Texts of implementation are listed first. Texts of application are listed next. Texts of commentary are listed last.
Texts of implementation have authority as per CanRC CO 31, 37 and 76. Their authority is based on the fact that these are decisions taken with common accord and are within the bounds of Scripture.
There will be debate as to the authority which should be accorded to texts of application. In the civil law tradition, the tendency is to judge each case on its own merits and it is recognized that no two cases are exactly the same. Hence in this tradition texts of application are not considered prescriptive but wise guidelines. In the common law tradition, the tendency is towards treating similar cases similarly. Hence in this tradition texts of application are considered as authoritative as texts of implementation.
There will also be debate as to the authority which should be accorded to commentary, as found in the “considerations” preceding decisions. The challenge here is that from synod to synod, and sometimes even during the course of one synod, the considerations are not consistent. Regarding them authoritative will allow for a measure of arbitrariness. It should also be noted that in decisions leading to a text of implementation the considerations may contain texts of application.
Since no one will dispute the authoritative nature of texts of implementation, they are marked as such and are to be regarded as authoritative.
Since some will dispute the extent of the authority of texts of application, they are marked as such. It is for the assembly to decide to what extent a text of application from another assembly carries weight in the matter before it.
Since texts of commentary can be contradictory, one should be careful when attributing them authority. It is better to consider them simply as commentary to be taken into consideration and, if need be, bolstered or refuted. As some will attribute a measure of authority to texts of commentary, they are marked separately.
Because different elements of a synod decision are variously weighed, this website distinguishes between texts of implementation, texts of application, and texts of commentary.