Press Release of the meeting of the combined committees of the Canadian Reformed and United Reformed Churches to propose a common church order held August 8–10, 2005 at the First United Reformed Church in Chino, CA Present were: Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, Rev. William Pols, Rev. Ronald Scheuers, and Mr. Harry Van Gurp, representing the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA), and Dr. Gijsbert Nederveen, Mr. Gerard J. Nordeman, Rev. John VanWoudenberg and Dr. Art Witten of the Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC). Rev. Raymond Sikkema of the URCNA was unable to attend due to health reasons.
Dr. Kloosterman opened the meeting with a brief meditation on Acts 15:1–5, and prayer. The minutes of the March 15–17, 2005 meeting were reviewed and approved, as were the agenda and timetable for the next three days.
Correspondence from two United Reformed Churches interacting with the committee’s reports to the respective synods and press releases was acknowledged. Feedback from the churches is much appreciated. These comments will be taken into consideration when the committee deals with and reviews the relevant articles.
In a review of the articles thus far adopted, some articles were modified and improved for grammar, punctuation and style.
Authority in the Church
The matter of authority and governing as it relates to the broader assemblies was again extensively discussed. This resulted in a change to Foundational Principle 6 “The Lord gave no permanent universal, national, or regional offices to His church by which the churches are to be governed. Rather, the offices of minister, elder, and deacon are local in authority and function. Therefore, the decisions of the broader assemblies are settled and binding among the churches only when they agree with Scripture, the Reformed Confessions, and a commonly adopted church order.” The Scriptural references are: Acts 14:23; 16:4; 20:17,28; Ephesians 4:11-16; Titus 1:5
In connection with this, the last sentence in Foundational Principle 10 was changed to read: “The decisions of such assemblies are settled and binding among the churches unless they are contrary to Scripture, the Reformed Confessions, or the commonly adopted church order.”
To reflect this principle in the church order, a paragraph was added to the article dealing with Ecclesiastical Assemblies as follows: “All decisions of ecclesiastical assemblies shall be received with respect and shall be considered settled and binding, unless proven to be in conflict with Scripture, the Reformed Confessions, or the church order.”
An article dealing with equality among office-bearers was finalized to say that among the officebearers equality shall be maintained with respect to the duties of their respective offices and in other matters as far as possible, according to the judgment of the consistory and, if necessary, of classis. A similar article was adopted stating that no church shall in any way lord it over other churches, and no office-bearer over other office-bearers.
Ministers Entering the Federation
An appendix dealing with the examination for ordained ministers from outside the federation was reviewed in detail. We are looking at three possible situations: 1) An examination of a minister of a church with which we maintain ecclesiastical fellowship, and who has received a call to a church of the federation; 2) An examination of a minister of a church with which we do not maintain ecclesiastical fellowship, and who is seeking eligibility for call to the churches of the federation; 3) An examination of a minister of a church with which we do not maintain ecclesiastical fellowship, and who is seeking entrance into the federation with his congregation. More work needs to be done on this before it can be finalized.
The question: “Who, from outside the federation, may be admitted to the pulpit” was once more discussed. Also this matter requires further study and will be on the agenda of the next meeting as will the article regarding the right and procedure of appeal.
The Form of Subscription
Consensus was reached on the article on subscription. Each office-bearer shall subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity by signing the Form of Subscription. Anyone refusing to subscribe shall not be ordained or installed in office. Anyone in office refusing to subscribe shall, because of that very fact, immediately be suspended from office by the consistory, and if he persists in his refusal he shall be deposed from office.
This requirement was also included in the article on Ecclesiastical Assemblies by adding the sentence: “These assemblies shall require each delegate to indicate his agreement with the Form of Subscription.”
An article on the protection of doctrinal purity was formulated: “Ministers and elders shall use the means of instruction, refutation, warning, and admonition in the ministry of the Word as well as in Christian teaching to protect the congregation from false teachings and errors which endanger the purity of its doctrine and conduct.”
Regarding the sacraments the following articles were adopted:
The sacraments shall be administered under the authority of the consistory in a public worship service by an ordained minister with the use of the synodically adopted forms.
The consistory shall ensure that as soon as feasible God’s covenant shall be signified and sealed by holy baptism to the children of communicant members in good standing.
Adults who have not been previously baptized shall be engrafted into the Christian church by holy baptism upon their public profession of faith.
At least every three months the Lord’s Supper shall be administered according to the teaching of God’s Word and in a manner most conducive to the edification of the congregation.
The article dealing with the administration of the Lord’s Supper and who may be admitted to the table of the Lord received lengthy discussion and deliberation. Clarification on differing practices and understanding of the sacrament were helpful. However, the article could not be finalized at this meeting. Both the CanRC men and the URC men will prepare proposals to be presented at the next meeting for further deliberation.
Several other articles were discussed and completed.
Church records – The consistory shall maintain accurate records which includes the names of the members of the congregation and the dates of their births, baptisms, professions of faith, marriages, receptions into and departures from the church, and deaths.
Funerals – A funeral is a family matter and shall not be conducted as a worship service.
Prayer Services – It was deemed unnecessary to have a separate article for special days of prayer, but to include this in an article on worship services.
The weekly worship services – The consistory shall call the congregation together for public worship twice each Lord’s Day. The consistory shall regulate the worship services, which shall be conducted according to the principles taught in God’s Word, namely, that the preaching of the Word have the central place, the confession of sins be made, praise and thanksgiving in song and prayer be given, and the gifts of gratitude be offered. At one of the services each Lord’s Day, the minister shall ordinarily preach the Word of God as summarized in the Heidelberg Catechism by treating its Lord’s Days in sequence, and may give attention also to the Belgic Confession and Canons of Dort.
Special worship services – In the manner decided by the consistory, special worship services may be called in observance of Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of His Holy Spirit. Special worship services may also be called in connection with prayer for crops and labor, Thanksgiving Day, the turning of the new year, and times of great distress or blessing.
The next meeting of the committee will take place D.V. November 1–3, 2005 at the Ebenezer CanRC of Burlington, ON. Appreciation was expressed to the First United Reformed Church in Chino for the hospitality and the assistance received from many members of the congregation. Dr. Kloosterman, in his closing remarks, expressed his thankfulness to the Lord for the brotherly manner in which the committee could proceed with its labors and the amount of work that could be accomplished. To God be the praise and glory.
For the committee Gerard J. Nordeman