Our Synod finished its business last night. Not all the Acts have yet been posted, but they should be soon.
Today I’ll make some comments about a few matters found in articles 113-134.
In article 122, there are some noteworthy decisions regarding the CanRC edition of the Heidelberg Catechism. As mentioned here, the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise proposed a change to QA 115. Synod decided to leave well-enough alone. However, there were also a few changes proposed by one of the churches and a couple of these were taken over by the synod. Answer 10 says that “He [God] is terribly displeased with our original sin…” It will now read, “He is terribly angry with our original sin…” In Answer 75, “everlasting life” will be changed to “eternal life” in order to make it consistent with Answer 79.
The matter of women’s voting came up again in article 125. At Synod 2010, the Fellowship CanRC in Burlington appealed a decision of Regional Synod East on whether or not this issue was a matter of local regulations. Synod 2013 decided that Synod 2010 erred in the way it handled that matter. Synod 2013 then proceeded to deal with the appeal and denied it. It reaffirmed that the issue of women’s voting is in fact a matter of the churches in common and not a matter for local churches to decide by their own regulations.
However, perhaps the most interesting items in these acts are found in the articles dealing with the United Reformed Churches. From a superficial CanRC standpoint, the process is continuing. Our committees were all reappointed. Our church unity coordinators were also mandated to urge the URCNA to reappoint all their subcommittee counterparts. Should those counterparts be reappointed or mandated with a call to engage the CanRC subcommittees, we will be ready and waiting for them.
But…there is a fly in the ointment here and it’s not a tiny one. In article 126, in the “Considerations,” one can find interaction from some of the churches with the report of our Coordinators for Church Unity. URC brothers who are paying attention will undoubtedly read some of this with concern. Three local churches wrote letters to our synod stating that “some points of Federal Vision can find sympathy in the Canadian Reformed Churches.” One church wondered whether the URCNA “has a clear picture of the Federal Vision movement.” Though for the sake of honesty and transparency it’s necessary that these sentiments be expressed, I deeply regret that they live in our federation. At least now the URCNA will have a clear justification for their concerns about pursuing full federative unity with us. There are now official CanRC documents stating that there is sympathy for “some points of FV” in our churches. One church wonders whether our brothers in the URC even understand the FV — that despite the fact that they’ve been engaging it and studying it at length for over a decade. Let’s be realistic: a merger in my lifetime is now certifiably a pipe dream. If it happens, it will be nothing short of miraculous. Moreover, those of us in the CanRC who are concerned about FV clearly have our work cut out for us.
The same article also has some more discussion about the status of the Nine Points of Schererville and the Fifteen Points of London. Some of our churches continue to be concerned about the status of these points in the URCNA. Our Coordinators have been mandated by this synod to get more clarity on that point, while at the same time discouraging the URCNA from “making further statements of this nature.” Does anyone else see the problem there? We need more clarity on what these points mean to the URCNA, but we also urge them to stop making statements “of this nature.” The nature of these points is unclear — that’s what the CCU is mandated to clarify. How can we urge them to stop making statements like this until we have a clear understanding of the nature of these statements?
Over the last few years, I’ve not been hopeful for the prospects of federative unity between the URCNA and CanRC. Today I’m disappointed to say that I’m even less so. Whatever momentum we’ve had in the last few years is likely to be torpedoed by what our URC brothers read in the Acts of Synod Carman 2013. This grieves me and, even more importantly, I can’t believe that this would be pleasing to the Lord.