Last night we did manage to make one significant decision which many people have been watching. It has to do with Synod 2018’s decision to declare three appeals inadmissible. Those three appeals had to do with Synod 2015’s decision to enter into a sister-church relationship with the Reformed Churches of New Zealand. Three churches appealed Synod Bunbury 2018’s decision in articles 76-78. One classis also wrote a letter informing Synod that they had grant the appeal of a couple against the decision of their consistory in relation to the same matter. This is the text of the decision with the grounds:
- To take note of the letter from Classis Central May 8 and 14 2020;
- To deny the appeals of FRC Mt. Nasura, FRC Darling Downs, and FRC Armadale;
- To acknowledge that varying interpretations of our Church Order regarding the individual right to appeal to synods exists in our churches. Synod thus decides to ask the churches to bring a proposal to change the Church Order to the next synod in the church orderly way if they hold that an individual should have the right to appeal to synod directly regarding matters of the churches in common.
- A synod is not a permanent legal body, but rather a deliberative assembly which only exists when it is meeting. Therefore, while precedent may have some value, it is not binding upon synods. Synod 2018 was thus correct to state that “admissibility must be governed by reference to the Church Order, not historical precedent.”
- Our Church Order does not grant the right of appeal to every member of an FRCA congregation with respect to any and every synod decision, nor does it grant a right to request revision of such decisions.
- Individuals are not members of the FRCA federation, but rather members of local FRCA congregations. An individual’s right to appeal (Church Order article 31) exists first within that local context.
- Church Order article 31 not only grants a right of appeal to individuals who have “been wronged by the decision of a minor assembly,” it also describes the general process individuals are to follow, that is, appealing from minor assembly to major assembly. For an individual the minor assembly is his consistory – this is where the individual must begin the appeal process. Therefore, Synod Bunbury 2018 was correct to judge that “individuals who wish to interact with decisions of Synod should begin by addressing their consistories. The local consistory, if they concur with the concerns may direct an appeal to synod. If the local consistory does not take over the individual’s appeal, he can appeal the local consistory’s decision to classis and thus begin the appeal process in accordance with article 31 of the Church Order.”
- Contrary to FRC Mt Nasura’s statement, minor assemblies do at times deal with inter-church relationships, particularly as these matters proceed to discussion at synod via the church orderly way.
- Contrary to FRC Armadale’s assertion, the procedure stated by Synod 2018 does not unjustifiably complicate or deny efforts of individuals to interact gainfully with synod decisions. Rather it serves both individuals and the churches by allowing such interactions to be scrutinized by consistories and classes before being submitted to a synod. This procedure can serve to highlight poorly formulated submissions so they can be rectified.
- Historically, there have been varying interpretations regarding article 31, with Church Order commentators differing on whether an individual member has the right to appeal directly to a synod. While the position that was adopted by Synod 2018 is not the only approach to the question, its decision was helpful in providing some clarity to the churches about the process of appealing. However, more clarity may be beneficial and that can only be provided by a well-considered proposal to change the Church Order.
This morning we’ve had more discussion on the ICRC and matters related to training for the ministry. I anticipate some more decisions in the afternoon and evening sessions, though perhaps not on those topics. One final note: I will be leaving for home tomorrow — I have a funeral on Friday and a wedding on Saturday. So it looks like I’m going to be missing some of the end parts of synod. It’s expected to be over tomorrow sometime.