Category Archives: Church life

All His Lambs in Safety Keep

This morning there was a Classis North in the Free Reformed Churches of Australia. For those who don’t know, a classis is an occasional meeting consisting of delegates from local churches in a certain region. At our classis this morning, we had a proposal from the church at Melville regarding church visitation and child protection requirements. Each year each of the churches is visited by a pair of pastors. They inquire as to the well-being of the church and its adherence to the agreed-upon Church Order. It’s a form of accountability within our church federation. Melville proposed to add a question to the visitation guidelines regarding the protection of children. This proposal was adopted. The decision reads as follows:

Classis decided to add the following question to the adopted Church Visitation Guidelines:

What policies and procedures does the consistory have in place to protect the safety and well-being of children in the various aspects of congregational life?

Grounds:

1. It will assist in ensuring that the church visitation is done for the edification and preservation of Christ’s Church (cf. Church Order art. 44).

2. It is important that all churches endeavour to do what they can to cultivate a safe and godly environment in which our children can be ministered to and instructed.

3. It would be good for the churches to encourage and assist one another in developing their own child protection policies and church visitations are a good avenue to encourage this.

4. Being regularly asked about matters pertaining to child protection will help ensure that these policies and procedures remain current in the local church setting.

5. Our churches do not live in isolation from one another, and the actions or failures of one church with respect to child protection can have a considerable effect on the rest of the FRCA.


FRCA Synod 2021 Slide Presentation

Here’s a retrospective look at our recent synod via some photographs. There’s no soundtrack, but you can add your own: depending on your musical tastes I’d recommend either Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries or Joe Satriani’s Always With Me, Always With You. You pick. Enjoy!


FRCA Synod 2021 (8)

This will be my last update on the synod. I now have all the relevant information I can share with you.

Let me first relate some decisions that I forgot to mention from Tuesday. Synod 2018 had decided to adopt 19 new hymns from the Canadian Book of Praise. One of the churches appealed the adoption of 8 of these hymns. Some of the objections were judged inadmissible, some invalid, one was unsubstantiated, and one was unproven. In short, the appeal was not upheld and the hymns remain.

With regard to theological training, Synod decided to direct the Deputies to “continue discussion with CRTS to explore the feasibility of a CRTS Australian affiliate and, assuming a positive outcome, to develop a plan and report to the next synod with recommendations towards implementation.” So the dream for an FRCA seminary is still alive! The Deputies have also been directed to develop guidelines for a voluntary vicariate program to be implemented in 2025. What is a vicariate? It’s one year of paid “on-the-job” experience for men who’ve graduated from seminary, but are not yet ordained. It’ll be done under the supervision of an experienced pastor. You could say it’s a step beyond and above a pastoral internship.

Now I come to the big decisions made yesterday (Wednesday) on the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC). There are two decisions. One had to do with an appeal submitted by one of the churches against the decision of a classis to adopt the proposal to send observers to the ICRC. Here’s the text of the Synod decision on that:

Article 111 – International Conference of Reformed Churches

  1. Material

Item 8.b.2 – Appeal from FRC Mount Nasura – Appeal against the decision of Classis North, requesting synod not to mandate the Deputies for Inter-church Relations to accept invitations to the ICRC.  FRC Mount Nasura argues that the classis proposal fails to engage with the reasons why the FRCA withdrew their membership from the ICRC.  FRC Mount Nasura contends that membership within the ICRC promotes denominationalism and pluriformity by promoting cooperation before becoming sister churches.  FRC Mount Nasura expresses concern that the sending of observers will lead to the FRCA becoming members the ICRC.

Item 8.h.2 – Letter from FRC Launceston interacting with the appeal from FRC Mount Nasura, giving their support to send observers to the ICRC.

Admissibility

All the material is deemed admissible.

Decision

To deny the appeal of FRC Mount Nasura.

Grounds

  1. FRC Mount Nasura does not prove that accepting invitations as observers to the ICRC is against the Word of God and/or the Church Order.
  2. The concerns expressed by FRC Mount Nasura about past decisions in the FRCA regarding the ICRC are relevant and worthy of consideration should an overture for membership in the ICRC be proposed by the churches.

ADOPTED

The delegates from FRC Mount Nasura abstained from voting.

**************

The other decision was on the classis proposal itself. Here’s the synod decision on that:

Article 112 – International Conference of Reformed Churches

Material

Item 10.b.2 – Proposal from Classis North – Classis North proposes that Deputies for Inter-church Relations be mandated to accept invitations to send observers to ICRC conferences.

Item 8.b.2 – Appeal from FRC Mount Nasura – Appeal against the decision of Classis North, requesting synod not to mandate the Deputies for Inter-church Relations to accept invitations to the ICRC.  FRC Mount Nasura argues that the classis proposal fails to engage with the reasons why the FRCA withdrew their membership from the ICRC.  FRC Mount Nasura contends that membership within the ICRC promotes denominationalism and pluriformity by promoting cooperation before becoming sister churches.  FRC Mount Nasura expresses concern that the sending of observers will lead to the FRCA becoming members the ICRC.  Synod Albany 2021 has denied this appeal.

Item 8.c.7 – Overture from FRC Darling Downs – Darling Downs requests synod not to send observers to the ICRC, in view of past concerns among the FRCA congregations, shortage of manpower to fulfil the mandate, and lack of unity with all churches at the conference (e.g CRCA, PCEA).

Item 8.h.2 – Overture from FRC Launceston – Launceston interacts with the appeal from Mount Nasura, voicing their support to send observers to the ICRC.

Item 8.i.1 – Overture from FRC Melville – Melville supports re-engaging with the ICRC.  However, they also see merit in reflecting on what has been said by our synods in the past, and where appropriate, to engage with matters that were left unresolved.  They also suggest that input from the churches would be valuable.

Admissibility

All the material is deemed admissible.

Decision

Not to accede to the proposal of Classis North.

Grounds

  1. Prior to re-engaging with the ICRC, there is merit in reflecting on what has been said by our synods in the past and, where appropriate, to address matters that were left unresolved.
  2. Even though the proposal from Classis North is limited to involvement in the ICRC as observers rather than as members, one of the grounds provided by Classis North mentions the possibility of reconsidering membership.  This is the aspect that some of the churches have expressed concerns about.
  3. Further input from the churches would be valuable, prior to making a decision to re-engage with the ICRC.
  4. Synod has mandated Deputies for Inter-church Relations to develop guidelines which may have implications for FRCA engagement with the ICRC.  The consultation process around guidelines will give churches a further opportunity to provide input.

ADOPTED

*******************

As you might expect, I’m disappointed at this decision, but at this point I’ll refrain from commenting further.

The synod concluded last night. The next synod is scheduled for 2024 with FRC Darling Downs as the convening church.  


FRCA Synod 2021 (7)

This is just a little update from yesterday’s afternoon and evening sessions. It was mostly run-of-the-mill ecumenical relations — adopting recommendations from Deputies concerning sister-churches like the Canadian Reformed. The only really noteworthy decision was concerning the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Southern Presbyterian Church. Synod decided to continue discussions with these churches — FRCs Launceston and Legana are expected to be appointed again for this responsibility. There were also further discussions about the International Conference of Reformed Churches yesterday (particularly in relation to an appeal from one of the churches), but no decision as of last night. I left this morning to begin heading back to Tasmania. I haven’t yet heard if anything transpired on that point today. Stay tuned!


Men and Women in the Church

You can read my review of Kevin DeYoung’s latest book over here at Reformed Perspective.