Tag Archives: CanRC Synod 2016

Synod Dunnville 2016 (7)

Photo:  Rev. D.M. Boersma

Photo: Rev. D.M. Boersma

Today I’m going to review some of the highlights from Day 7 of Synod Dunnville, the proceedings of Wednesday May 18.

  • Synod junkies observers have especially been keen to see what would be decided about the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN).  A lot was discussed and considered and I’ll do my best to put the end result in an easily-digestible format for you — if you want the full details, see article 104.  The Canadians have had a number of items of concern such as the teaching of the Theological University in Kampen, women in office, and relations with the Nederlands Gereformeerde Kerken.  Synod considered (3.2) “with sad and heavy hearts” that there is no evidence of returning to the full authority of Scripture on such items of concern and, in fact, things have actually gone further down the “course of deformation.”  However, Synod 2016 decided not to fully go the route proposed by the committee (see here).  While continuing ecclesiastical fellowship with the RCN, rules 4 and 5 have been suspended.  These rules have to do with accepting attestations and allowing ministers on the pulpits.  These things are no longer automatic.  As for the future, rather than having the RCN Synod 2017 decide by repenting or not, the continuance of EF is something that will have to be determined at the next CanRC Synod in 2019.  This approach is similar to that being taken by the Free Reformed Churches here in Australia.  Finally, it should be noted that Synod Dunnville did recognize with gratitude that there are still faithful believers in the RCN.  There are brothers and sisters who are still trying to right the ship.  Yet, sadly, it cannot be denied that there is increasing evidence of “tolerance of deviations from Scripture and the confessions.”  We will have to wait another three years to see whether the CanRCs will take the final step of breaking off EF with the RCN.  Before then, in 2018, the next FRCA Synod will meet on this side of the world.  Given that the Canadian approach appears to be more or less following the Australian, that may be the more defining moment.
  • Article 111 features the decisions regarding the Committee for Bible Translation.  The gist of it:  the ESV continues to be recommended for use in the CanRCs.  However, Synod 2016 also noted that a general synod may not forbid the churches to use the NIV2011 if they so desire, even if it’s not possible to recommend that translation.  As I see it, the reasoning applied there actually opens up the possibility for local churches to use whatever translation they desire.
  • In article 122, the question of how to bring in new hymns was discussed and decided upon.  GS 2013 said that churches had to “go the ecclesiastical way” and propose new hymns via classis and regional synod.  GS 2016 says, “No, you can send your proposals directly to the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise.  They can evaluate and bring forward whatever they think is worthy of consideration.”  Another course reversal.
  • The question of theological students has been raised, specifically:  should they be connected to their “home church”?  Should they be examined by their “home classis,” rather than having all the (licensure/candidacy) examinations basically done in one classical region?  A proposal came from Regional Synod West 2015 to change the way things are done.  Synod Dunnville (article 112) decided to maintain the status quo.  A student comes to Hamilton, becomes a member of one of the local churches, and consequently will be examined in that classical region — which means, more often than not, Classis Ontario West.

Synod Dunnville 2016 (6)

(Photo: eeninwaarheid.info)

(Photo: eeninwaarheid.info)

We spent the weekend (and a bit more) without Internet.  As of last night, it’s back up and running and so I can continue the blogging about the recent CanRC Synod.  Today let’s review what happened on Day 6, Tuesday May 17.  I’m summarizing from the Provisional Acts found here.  Some of the highlights from where I’m sitting:

  • Article 86 mentions the appeal of Ancaster regarding Dr. Jitse van der Meer.  The discussion on that Tuesday was held in closed session.  We can skip ahead to Day 7 and article 103.  There we find that the decision in this matter is only going to appear in the confidential Acts.  And what happened to the Providence appeal?  It doesn’t appear again anywhere in the Provisional Acts.  I suspect that it might appear in the final, public version of the Acts.  We will have to see.
  • The matter of women’s voting was certainly something of interest at this Synod for a lot of people.  There’s a long history on this topic in the Canadian Reformed Churches.  It took a long time for the momentous decision at Synod 2010 recognizing that this is a matter for local churches to decide upon.  Synod 2010 left it in the freedom of local churches whether or not they wanted to allow female communicant members to participate in elections for office bearers.  Numerous churches appealed that decision to Synod 2013 and it was overturned.  By then the horses were already out of the gate.  Churches that had been doing it since the decision of Synod 2010 continued doing it in the conviction that this was not agreeable to Scripture, Confessions, and Church Order.  More appeals were submitted to Synod 2016.  Consequently, this most recent Synod decided that Synod 2013 erred in its overturning of Synod 2010 on this matter.  Confused yet?  Let me make it simple:  the Canadian Reformed Churches are back to where they were after Synod 2010.  Whether female communicant members vote or not is a matter for local churches to decide.  My view on this has not changed.  I remain convinced that there are no sound biblical, confessional, or church political arguments that can be brought to bear against allowing female communicant members to participate in elections for office bearers.  I understand that some local churches believe differently about it and thus I think the approach of Synod 2010 (buttressed now by GS 2016) is the best approach — really, it’s the only approach that can be justified.  I would urge readers to look carefully at the arguments presented by GS 2016 in the Acts.  For this post, I am going to open up the comments.  If you want to argue the case for the opposing view or make other comments, I’m giving you the opportunity.  However, please don’t expect that I’m going to interact.
  • Article 90 dealt with another topic relating to the role of women in church life, but this time in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA).  The Committee for Contact with Churches in North America (CCCNA) recommended that the CanRCs offer ecclesiastical fellowship to the RPCNA.  This despite the fact that the RPCNA allows for women to be ordained as deacons.  The CCCNA pointed out that the RPCNA doesn’t consider the deacon to have “an office of ruling authority.”  Contrary to the CCCNA’s reasoning, Synod Dunnville decided that the RPCNA’s view on this matter did, in fact, constitute a significant obstacle to EF.  After all, article 30 of the Belgic Confession says that faithful men are to be deacons.  Moreover, they said (Consideration 3.2.3) that the office of deacon does “involve the exercise of authority in the church.”  It appears to be the end of the road for any possibility of formal relations with the RPCNA, though informal interactions will continue through venues like the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC).

Synod Dunnville 2016 (4)

George Van Popta

The Acts of day 5 of the Synod have just been published — but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to review them.  In the meantime, a related video has been posted online.  In this video, Rev. George van Popta makes a presentation of the 2014 Book of Praise on behalf of the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise.  He explains the history of the Book of Praise, including the reasons why the CanRCs didn’t go with an “eclectic Psalter,” but rather chose to use Genevan melodies exclusively for the Psalms.  After the presentation to Rev. Richard Aasman (the chairman of Synod Dunnville), you can also hear the singing of two stanzas of Psalm 22.

 


Synod Dunnville 2016 (3)

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I’ll make two remarks about the latest set of Provisional Acts (which you can find here).

The other day I used the word “boilerplate” in reference to the Acts of the first day.  Perhaps I sent some of you scrambling for a dictionary.  “Boilerplate” is a term often used in the legal world to refer to standard wording.  If the same wording gets used repeatedly in all kinds of documents (like contracts), you might hear it referred to as “boilerplate.”  It’s not a derogatory word, just descriptive.  The word came to mind again as I reviewed the latest Acts, especially articles dealing with the Reformed Church of Quebec (art. 59), Reformed Church in the United States (art. 60), and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (art. 61).  In each case, there have been concerns expressed in the past about what we used to call “divergences” — a fancy word for different views and practices.  Past committees have been mandated to discuss these.  Some churches feel that these discussions should go on.  Synod 2016 disagrees.  In each of the aforementioned articles, you read this boilerplate in the adopted decisions:

Rule 1 of Ecclesiastical Fellowship states that “the churches shall assist each other in the maintenance, defence and promotion of the Reformed faith in doctrine, church polity, discipline and liturgy, and be watchful for deviations.” Within this context, there is always room for discussion about differences in matters of doctrine and practice.

When we enter EF, we accept each other as faithful churches without qualification.  Differences that were noted and discussed prior to EF but which did not hinder entering EF, do not require resolution. It is incorrect to speak of “outstanding differences.” The word “outstanding” implies a need for resolution. Bringing up these issues repeatedly, without proper proof of necessity, is potentially damaging to the sister-church relationship.  Discussion of these issues may take place naturally in the course of EF, but a specific mandate, identifying particular issues, need not be given.

As I see it, there is a subtext behind past mandates to continue discussing these differences.  The subtext was:  we have to keep discussing these things until they see things our way.  The above-quoted boilerplate is an explicit rejection of that subtext.

Another interesting item in these Acts is the mention of creation as a concern of the ERQ and RCUS.  The CCCNA had discussions with their ERQ counterparts about “the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 in the CanRC.”  They also affirmed to the ERQ that the CanRC “has not adopted any statements regarding the doctrine of creation.”  In discussions with RCUS, it “was acknowledged that some in the CanRC are looking for room within the confessions for views other than a literal six-day sequence of creation.”  Sister churches are taking note of what’s happening with the doctrine of creation in the CanRC, at least in certain corners.


Synod Dunnville 2016 (2)

Synod Dunnville 2016

Synod Dunnville continues today over in Canada.  We’ve seen the publication of a few sets of Provisional Acts.  Unfortunately, it’s a little haphazard as to where these Acts are being published, whether at the Synod website or at the federation website.  I have an idea of what’s happened so far, and I’m able to pass on a couple of the highlights:

  • Up to this point, most of the plenary sessions have been dealing with ecumenical relationships.  Most of this is standard fare.  In most cases, the status quo in these relationships continues to hold.  There are a couple of instances where foreign churches (e.g., Free Church Continuing, Kosin Presbyterian Church of Korea) have congregations in North America and the CanRCs are urged to develop closer relationships with these churches.
  • Speeches from delegates from sister churches (and observing churches) have also been delivered, along with responses.  Most of these have not been published anywhere yet.  The major exception is the address of Rev. J.M. Batteau on behalf of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN), and the response from Rev. Karlo Janssen.  Curiously, these addresses don’t appear (yet) on either the Synod website or the federation website, but have been published (in English) on the Dutch website, Een in waarheidYou can find them here.  These speeches are very interesting.  Rev. Batteau insists that the course of action recommended by the Canadian committee is “premature.”  Rev. Janssen’s reply reflects the ongoing concerns that the Canadian churches have had for a long time already and the lack of any action in a positive direction thus far.  Most interesting of all in both of these speeches is the mention of the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC).  Both mention that the current direction of the RCN may lead to their expulsion from the ICRC.  In fact, Janssen compares it to the expulsion of the Christian Reformed Church from the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council.  This is the first time that anyone has publicly mentioned the status of the RCN within ICRC being threatened by their current path.
  • As I have mentioned before, theistic evolution is on the agenda of this Synod.  It comes by way of two appeals.  One is from the church at Ancaster regarding the decision of a Regional Synod East to sustain the appeal of Dr. J. Van der Meer.  The other is from the Providence CanRC of Hamilton regarding the decision of another Regional Synod East (RSE) about the proposal to change article 14 of the Belgic Confession to better address the challenges being faced on origins.  Neither of those matters is confidential.  The first-mentioned decision of Regional Synod East was made in closed session originally, but was made public by Dr. Van der Meer and his colleagues from the Reformed Academic website (see here).  The decision on the BC 14 proposal was discussed in open session at the most recent RSE and the decision was publicized in the press release and in the Acts.  So it is a little baffling to read in the provisional Acts of Synod Dunnville that these appeals are thus far being discussed in closed session.  This has also been noted by the Dutch website Werken aan Eenheid.  Along with them, while I can conceive of reasons why the discussions thus far have been in closed session, I hope that the final decisions on these matters are indeed public.  These are public matters that have a bearing on the whole church federation, therefore the decisions should be promulgated publically.  Also for the sake of sister churches, the Canadian Reformed Churches should not only do the right thing, but also be seen to be doing the right thing.  Transparency is key when the issues are of such a huge magnitude.

For those interested in reading the Provisional Acts published so far, here are the links:

May 10-11, 2016

May 12, 2016

May 13, 2016