Tag Archives: CanRC Synod 2013

Synod Carman 2013 (5)

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.

Synod Carman 2013 (4)

Synod Carman 2013 -- photo courtesy of Rev. D. Boersema.

Synod Carman 2013 — photo courtesy of Rev. D. Boersema.

As Phil Robertson would say, “Now we’re cooking with peanut oil.”   There are several very interesting items in yesterday’s Acts.

Synod made a decision about Bible translations.  The ESV is now the recommended translation in the Canadian Reformed Churches, having supplanted the 1984 NIV.  Synod refrained from recommending the NIV2011 for use or testing in the churches.  However, the Committee for Bible Translation was tasked with doing further study of both the NIV2011 and the ESV.

There were a number of decisions pertaining to the Book of Praise (with more to come).  One of the decisions was in regard to the Abbreviated Form for the Lord’s Supper.  I predicted that the recommendation of the Committee would be followed and the words “For the Second Service” would be dropped.  It didn’t happen.  The Synod decided to keep the words, citing as grounds the fact that the Committee still needs to interact with the reasoning of Synod Smithville 1980.

But the biggest surprise of all has to do with women voting for office bearers.  My prognosis postulated that the status quo would prevail.  I was wrong.  Many churches appealed the decision of Synod 2010 to leave this matter in the domain of local churches.  Synod 2013 was persuaded by the arguments presented and has overturned that decision.  A 180 degree turnaround is rare in the Canadian Reformed Churches, but that’s what has happened here.  Let me give the full text of the recommendations that were adopted:

4. Recommendations
Synod decide:
4.1 That Synod Burlington 2010 erred on church political grounds in its decision to leave the matter of women’s voting in the freedom of the churches.
4.2 That Synod Burlington 2010 erred in stating that the exegetical sections brought forward in both the majority and minority reports are “hardly relevant or decisive for the matter of women’s voting”.
4.3 That the churches should return to the voting practice as it officially was before 2010,  namely, male communicant members only voting.

This decision doesn’t affect our congregation in Providence, but I can think of some who will not be happy with this.  This issue is not over, not by far.

Synod Carman 2013 (3)

Synod 2013 delegates -- photo courtesy of Rev. D. Boersema.

Synod 2013 delegates — photo courtesy of Rev. D. Boersema.

We’re finally starting to see some newsworthy items coming out of Carman.  The Synod has been spending a lot of time in committee sessions.  In these advisory committee sessions proposals are drafted.  The proposals then get presented on the floor of Synod for discussion.  Usually the advisory committee ends up taking the proposal back to work on it further.  The process takes time and this is why most of the major items on the agenda of this Synod still have not been dealt with.  I’m told that the Synod will run into next week, so we may have to wait until then to hear about some of these big issues.

I do have a couple of items that I want to comment on.  As reported in the Acts just posted today, Synod did make a decision about the Needy Student Fund.  As forecasted, the committee overseeing the Fund has been directed to change their guidelines.  The Fund is not a student loan program and students will not normally have to repay any funds.  Some of the churches suggested going back to the old system of having classis Funds, but the Synod decided that such a move would be premature.  For the next three years, we will continue to have the NSF overseen by a central committee operating out of Grassie.

There was an item that surprised me from the other day.  It’s found in this set of Acts, article 80.  Hamilton-Cornerstone proposed to Synod that we take up official contact with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), and make an investigation of this church (with a view to eventual ecclesiastical fellowship, of course).  I can’t imagine that this would ever find traction in the Canadian Reformed Churches.  The PCA is a mixed-bag.  There are solid Reformed people in the PCA and I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some of them.  There are good, confessionally Reformed men who take the Westminster Standards seriously.  But…the PCA is also home to many who are only Reformed in a rather elastic sense of the term.  The PCA talks a good talk about theistic evolution, Federal Vision, inerrancy, and on down the line on many important issues of the day.  However, when men and women step outside those boundaries, little to nothing is done (or can be done) to discipline them.  The collective will is not there.  Many of our churches have reservations about the RPCNA because of their practice of women deacons.  Serious concerns are being expressed about our sister churches in the Netherlands.  And now a proposal for official contact with the PCA, where many of the same issues are present?  But my befuddlement doesn’t matter.  Our Synod wisely sent Cornerstone back to the drawing board to do their own thorough investigation and then present a proposal via the assemblies (i.e. Cornerstone –> classis –> regional synod –> synod).  If delegates of the assemblies have any awareness of the array of serious issues in the PCA, I’m quite confident that this will go nowhere.  What I would like to see, however, is the PCA become a more confessional and more consistent Presbyterian church — the kind of Church where we automatically recognize that we belong together in close fellowship.  We can pray for that today, but I think it’s a ways off.

Last of all, I can mention here that the newly appointed Professor of Ecclesiology accepted his appointment yesterday.  The day before he had successfully defended his dissertation  at Calvin Theological Seminary, so he’s now the Rev. Dr. Ted Van Raalte. I congratulate my colleague with this achievement!

Synod Carman 2013 (2)

The Acts from yesterday were uploaded earlier today.  A few highlights that I can mention:

The Synod dealt with several appeals by individuals.  They were all declared inadmissible for varying reasons.

The Synod also dealt with an overture from an individual that had been forwarded by a church.  This overture (from E. Van Woudenberg of Chilliwack) was with regard to the casting of lots in the choosing of office bearers.  The Synod declared this overture inadmissible since it came on the table from an individual, not from a church.  Basically, this means that churches cannot simply forward overtures from individuals.

An overture was received from Regional Synod West concerning the manner in which decisions are formatted in the acts of our synods.  The overture proposed a shift to a “material, decision, grounds” format.  Synod decided not to adopt this overture.  The brothers were not persuaded that the existing format (observations, considerations, recommendations) is broken.

Finally, the Synod also dealt with our relationship with the Reformed Church of Quebec (ERQ).  Not surprisingly, our relationship will continue under the adopted rules, though Synod did encourage our committee (CCCNA) to pay special attention to supervision of the pulpit, admission to the Lord’s Supper, and the ordination of women deacons.  This was in response to concerns expressed by some churches.

Synod Carman 2013 (1)

CanRC Synod Carman 2013 got underway yesterday.  The first batch of Acts are now available at the federation website.  Yesterday involved mostly organizational work.  The executive was appointed and the synod divided up the workload amongst advisory committees.  However, two important decisions were already made yesterday.

The first was a decision to move ahead with a fifth professor for our seminary.  This professor will be full-time in the ecclesiology department.

The second important decision was the actual appointment of this fifth professor.  Synod decided to appoint Rev. Ted Van Raalte, presently minister of the Maranatha Canadian Reformed Church in Surrey, BC.  Rev. Van Raalte will be doing his doctoral defense next week Tuesday at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids.  So, God willing, he will soon be Dr. Van Raalte.  I congratulate my friend and colleague and I’m looking forward to seeing him here in Hamilton in the near future!