The fall scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern North Carolina with its resident stock of gray squirrels, provided the picturesque background for the 25th annual session of the North America Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC). Bonclarken, the beautiful conference grounds of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Flat Rock, NC, hosted representatives from 7 Reformed denominations gathered to report on the activities of their respective denominations. Represented at the Council table for meetings on November 16–17, 1999, were the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC), the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC)—currently under suspension from NAPARC), the Korean American Presbyterian Church (KAPC), the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA). Denominations who sent observers were the L’Eglise Reformee du Quebec, the Presbyterian Reformed Church and the United Reformed Churches in North America.
The Interim Committee of NAPARC met in the morning of November 16 to set the agenda for the actual NAPARC meeting which began in the afternoon of the same day. Rev. Ron Potter chaired this meeting and also the main NAPARC meeting until the election of new officers. Dr. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk for the PCA, was elected Chairman, and Mr. Mark Bube of the OPC was elected ViceChairman. Rev. Donald Duff was re-elected to the office of Secretary, and Rev. Maynard Koerner was re-elected to the office of Treasurer.
At the 24th annual meeting of NAPARC (1998), the Interchurch Relations Committees of member churches were asked to submit suggestions as to how NAPARC could fulfill its mandate as stated in Article 11 of its Constitution. That article, known as the Basis of the Council, affirms that the basis of NAPARC fellowship is to be the Word of God and the Reformed Creeds. It goes on to also state the following: “That the adopted basis of fellowship be regarded as warrant for the establishment of the formal relationship of the nature of a council, that is, a fellowship that enables the constituent churches to advise, counsel, and cooperate in various matters with one another and hold out before each other the desirability, and need for organic union of churches that are of like faith and practice.” As a result of input received from these Interchurch Committees in consultation with their assemblies or synods, NAPARC adopted the following action:
We are grateful for the bonds of the gospel and the Reformed Faith that unite us. In the light of the “II Basis of the Council” (Constitution of NAPARC) and in order that all NAPARC member churches may be more fully aware of the unique characteristics of each member church, we recommend that each member church discern and enumerate those issues of belief, practice, and government that to the best of their knowledge, distinguish themfrom other NAPARC churches, and submit a report to NAPARC, no later than October 3, 2000, so that NAPARC may evaluate the Biblical and confessional basis for such distinctive positions and the degree to which these issues necessitate continued separation.
The action taken here is Significant. It is indicative of the fact that the NAPARC churches are willing to grapple with issues that one denomination may hold to but which another may not. The goal is to promote greater spiritual unity among the churches by submitting these differences to biblical and confessional scrutiny by member churches of NAPARC and thus fulfil part of the reason for the formation of NAPARC in the first place. It is anticipated that because of these pending reports by member churches, more time will be needed for the next NAPARC meeting and accordingly, rather than adjourning at noon on the second day, the time for adjournment of the 26th meeting of NAPARC was extended to 9 P.M. instead.
In subsequent NAPARC business, churches studying the issue of Women in the Military were asked to “include in their study papers, a series of propositions to be considered for presentation to and adoption by, the NAPARC churches. A committee of two, Rev. Christopher Wisdom of the OPC and Rev. Ron Potter of the RCUS, was appointed to “coordinate and facilitate the interchange.”
Again, this is a significant action. it means that NAPARC is earnestly considering the seriousness of the problem of women serving in the military in our nation, and that NAPARC churches have some preliminary desire to speak biblically as a body to the matter. The input of the various churches studying the matter will be considered and action recommended at the 2000 meeting of NAPARC.
A report was received by NAPARC from a committee appointed last year to bring recommendations on how to use funds raised several years ago to commemorate the Westminster Assembly. As a result of the committee’s recommendations, one member being Rev. Paul Trieck of the RCUS, NAPARC determined, in cooperation with the den Dulk Christian Foundation, to publish Rev. G.I. Williamson’s book, The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes, into Spanish, and, if feasible, to include a harmony of the Reformed Confessions.
In one other major item of business, NAPARC determined to ask the Interim Committee to make recommendations to the Council on “how best to encourage and facilitate annual consultations, particularly with regard to those of Foreign Missions and Home Missions.”
Though not a part of NAPARC it has been normal practice for representatives from these two groups to meet in conjunction with NAPARC. Committee members from the host church are responsible to convene such meetings. This year, because of communication problems, only one consultation was held, Foreign Missions. Rev. Maynard Koerner attended this consultation on behalf of the RCUS. It is hoped that this action taken by NAPARC will encourage and facilitate these meetings in the future.
Though the CRC was ordinarily the next in line of rotation to host NAPARC in the year 2000, the Council in its wisdom determined that, in light of the present suspension of the CRC over the matter of women serving in the church office, the invitation of the Korean American Presbyterian Church be received. The next meeting of NAPARC will be in Los Angeles, CA, November 14–15, 2000.
One of the things which NAPARC facilitates that is not a part of the actual meetings, is informal contact between the Interchurch Relations Committees of churches in fraternal relations. This year the RCUS delegation met with their OPC counterparts to discuss some matters of concern to the RCUS. The IRC of the RCUS considered this meeting to be very profitable, as did the OPc. It is hoped that the meetings of NAPARC in the future will give our two committees other opportunities to sharpen one another.
Not long after a fellowship lunch together following the adjournment of NAPARC, the Bonclarken Conference grounds became once more the domain of gray squirrels and falling leaves, as the various delegations one by one left to make their way back across the nation to their respective churches. But though the 25th meeting of NAPARC is history it is hoped that the work it set in motion will serve our Lord and His church well into the new millennium.
Rev. Potter is pastor of Covenant RCUS in Carbondale, PA, and Chairman of tire Interchurch Relations Committee of his denomination.