Here’s a retrospective look at our recent synod via some photographs. There’s no soundtrack, but you can add your own: depending on your musical tastes I’d recommend either Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries or Joe Satriani’s Always With Me, Always With You. You pick. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: FRCA Synod 2021
This will be my last update on the synod. I now have all the relevant information I can share with you.
Let me first relate some decisions that I forgot to mention from Tuesday. Synod 2018 had decided to adopt 19 new hymns from the Canadian Book of Praise. One of the churches appealed the adoption of 8 of these hymns. Some of the objections were judged inadmissible, some invalid, one was unsubstantiated, and one was unproven. In short, the appeal was not upheld and the hymns remain.
With regard to theological training, Synod decided to direct the Deputies to “continue discussion with CRTS to explore the feasibility of a CRTS Australian affiliate and, assuming a positive outcome, to develop a plan and report to the next synod with recommendations towards implementation.” So the dream for an FRCA seminary is still alive! The Deputies have also been directed to develop guidelines for a voluntary vicariate program to be implemented in 2025. What is a vicariate? It’s one year of paid “on-the-job” experience for men who’ve graduated from seminary, but are not yet ordained. It’ll be done under the supervision of an experienced pastor. You could say it’s a step beyond and above a pastoral internship.
Now I come to the big decisions made yesterday (Wednesday) on the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC). There are two decisions. One had to do with an appeal submitted by one of the churches against the decision of a classis to adopt the proposal to send observers to the ICRC. Here’s the text of the Synod decision on that:
Article 111 – International Conference of Reformed Churches
Item 8.b.2 – Appeal from FRC Mount Nasura – Appeal against the decision of Classis North, requesting synod not to mandate the Deputies for Inter-church Relations to accept invitations to the ICRC. FRC Mount Nasura argues that the classis proposal fails to engage with the reasons why the FRCA withdrew their membership from the ICRC. FRC Mount Nasura contends that membership within the ICRC promotes denominationalism and pluriformity by promoting cooperation before becoming sister churches. FRC Mount Nasura expresses concern that the sending of observers will lead to the FRCA becoming members the ICRC.
Item 8.h.2 – Letter from FRC Launceston interacting with the appeal from FRC Mount Nasura, giving their support to send observers to the ICRC.
All the material is deemed admissible.
To deny the appeal of FRC Mount Nasura.
- FRC Mount Nasura does not prove that accepting invitations as observers to the ICRC is against the Word of God and/or the Church Order.
- The concerns expressed by FRC Mount Nasura about past decisions in the FRCA regarding the ICRC are relevant and worthy of consideration should an overture for membership in the ICRC be proposed by the churches.
The delegates from FRC Mount Nasura abstained from voting.
The other decision was on the classis proposal itself. Here’s the synod decision on that:
Article 112 – International Conference of Reformed Churches
Item 10.b.2 – Proposal from Classis North – Classis North proposes that Deputies for Inter-church Relations be mandated to accept invitations to send observers to ICRC conferences.
Item 8.b.2 – Appeal from FRC Mount Nasura – Appeal against the decision of Classis North, requesting synod not to mandate the Deputies for Inter-church Relations to accept invitations to the ICRC. FRC Mount Nasura argues that the classis proposal fails to engage with the reasons why the FRCA withdrew their membership from the ICRC. FRC Mount Nasura contends that membership within the ICRC promotes denominationalism and pluriformity by promoting cooperation before becoming sister churches. FRC Mount Nasura expresses concern that the sending of observers will lead to the FRCA becoming members the ICRC. Synod Albany 2021 has denied this appeal.
Item 8.c.7 – Overture from FRC Darling Downs – Darling Downs requests synod not to send observers to the ICRC, in view of past concerns among the FRCA congregations, shortage of manpower to fulfil the mandate, and lack of unity with all churches at the conference (e.g CRCA, PCEA).
Item 8.h.2 – Overture from FRC Launceston – Launceston interacts with the appeal from Mount Nasura, voicing their support to send observers to the ICRC.
Item 8.i.1 – Overture from FRC Melville – Melville supports re-engaging with the ICRC. However, they also see merit in reflecting on what has been said by our synods in the past, and where appropriate, to engage with matters that were left unresolved. They also suggest that input from the churches would be valuable.
All the material is deemed admissible.
Not to accede to the proposal of Classis North.
- Prior to re-engaging with the ICRC, there is merit in reflecting on what has been said by our synods in the past and, where appropriate, to address matters that were left unresolved.
- Even though the proposal from Classis North is limited to involvement in the ICRC as observers rather than as members, one of the grounds provided by Classis North mentions the possibility of reconsidering membership. This is the aspect that some of the churches have expressed concerns about.
- Further input from the churches would be valuable, prior to making a decision to re-engage with the ICRC.
- Synod has mandated Deputies for Inter-church Relations to develop guidelines which may have implications for FRCA engagement with the ICRC. The consultation process around guidelines will give churches a further opportunity to provide input.
As you might expect, I’m disappointed at this decision, but at this point I’ll refrain from commenting further.
The synod concluded last night. The next synod is scheduled for 2024 with FRC Darling Downs as the convening church.
This is just a little update from yesterday’s afternoon and evening sessions. It was mostly run-of-the-mill ecumenical relations — adopting recommendations from Deputies concerning sister-churches like the Canadian Reformed. The only really noteworthy decision was concerning the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Southern Presbyterian Church. Synod decided to continue discussions with these churches — FRCs Launceston and Legana are expected to be appointed again for this responsibility. There were also further discussions about the International Conference of Reformed Churches yesterday (particularly in relation to an appeal from one of the churches), but no decision as of last night. I left this morning to begin heading back to Tasmania. I haven’t yet heard if anything transpired on that point today. Stay tuned!
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.
On Friday evening several decisions were made regarding inter-church relations. Synod decided to continue maintain contact with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Some of the churches had expressed concerns — Synod acknowledged them and mandated our Deputies to investigate. Some of the churches had expressed a desire for further ecumenical contact with the OPC — Synod acknowledged those too and to that end decided to stay the course. A decision was also made to stay the course with De Gereformeerde Kerken and Gereformeerde Kerken Nederland, maintaining contact and “subject to the outcomes of this contact, work towards entering a sister-church relationship.”
On Saturday the delegates were treated to a 4x4ing expedition to West Cape Howe, the most southerly point of mainland Australia. Good fun!
Today there’s been some committee work again and some discussion about advisory committee proposals. The only noteworthy decision so far was on a letter from FRC Darling Downs asking Synod to judge that the last synod “erred in approving additional hymns without interacting with their concerns about the increasing the number of hymns.” Synod decided that Synod 2018 did not err on this. Synod also affirmed “the importance of the singing of Psalms in the worship services.”
We’re currently about to begin our evening session — hopefully there’ll be more to report on tomorrow.