Tag Archives: Church Order article 31

FRCA Synod 2021 (6)

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:

Decision

  1. To take note of the letter from Classis Central May 8 and 14 2020;
  2. To deny the appeals of FRC Mt. Nasura, FRC Darling Downs, and FRC Armadale;
  3. 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. 

Grounds

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.      
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.   
  7. 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.

All the draft Acts for last week are now available here.


Upcoming at FRCA Synod 2018

In a little more than a month, the Free Reformed Churches of Australia will be having their synod.  While convened by the church at Bunbury, the proceedings are to be hosted by the Southern River FRC in the Perth Metro area of WA.  I’ve posted before on some of the more noteworthy items on the agenda — click here.  Since then, the provisional agenda for this synod has continued to grow.  In this post, I’ll mention a few more points of interest.

In the Free Reformed Churches, delegation to synod comes via the classis (as opposed to regional synod in the CanRC).  These are the primary delegates for Synod 2018 from each classis:

Classis North

Ministers:  Rev. R. Bredenhof, Rev. W. Bredenhof, Rev. A. Souman

Elders:  Elder W. Spyker, Elder H. Hamelink, Elder T. Reitsema

Classis Central

Ministers:  Rev. D. Anderson, Rev. A. Hagg, Rev. C. Vermeulen

Elders:  Elder E. Heerema, Elder H. Terpstra, Elder J. Torenvliet

Classis South West

Ministers:  Rev. H. Alkema, Rev. R. Pot, Rev. S. t’Hart

Elders:  Elder S. Bolhuis, Elder H. Olde, Elder W. Vanderven

Every synod also includes fraternal delegates.  This year’s list has a few standouts.  As mentioned previously, the Southern FRC has put forward a proposal to investigate ecumenical relations with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  The OPC is slated to have a presence at our synod in the person of Rev. Jack Sawyer.

Also, I noted before that there’s a recommendation from our deputies to terminate our relationship with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.  The Dutch have decided to send not only Rev. Johan Plug (on behalf of their Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad), but also Rev. Dr. Melle Oosterhuis, the chairman of their last synod.  These men have been mandated by Synod Meppel to provide an explanation to our synod regarding the decision to open all the offices of the church to women.  Will they avert what appears inevitable?

While not officially delegated, I’m told there will also be observers from Reformed churches in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Most synods also feature appeals.  There are three of a public nature, all pertaining to the FRCA’s relationship with the Reformed Churches of New Zealand.  Three individual brothers believe this relationship is illegitimate and ought to be voided by Synod 2018.  In response, one church has submitted a letter arguing that these types of appeals should be declared inadmissible, since article 31 of our FRCA Church Order only gives individual members the right to appeal decisions of minor assemblies whereby they have been personally wronged.  It will definitely be a discussion to watch.

After receiving the deputies’ reports, local consistories typically discuss these reports and then sometimes submit letters interacting with them.  To date, two churches have submitted a number of letters, but one can expect more in the next week or two.  Let me mention just a couple of the submissions thus far.  Kelmscott submitted a letter asking Synod to remind the deputies to keep their reports succinct and clear, since there is only a short time for churches to consider them.  In addition, they suggest that deputies submit annual reports if there will be more information to share than might be reasonable in a tri-annual report.  Launceston sent a letter asking synod to appoint an official website committee which would include a mandate to refresh the look of the FRCA website and enhance its functionality with federational news and press releases.

Synod 2018 is scheduled to begin on June 18 with a prayer service.  Updates or press releases should be published on the federational website (click here) — there’s also an option of signing up to a synod update e-mail list.