United Reformed Churches in North America Classis Central US

His Christian family and his upbringing as a member of the Covenant – that’s the soil from which Nick Smith’s desire to enter the ministry grew.

His desire became serious when, Mr. Smith said, during his high school years, as he developed a love for Reformed theology. Encouraged by his pastor, he enrolled at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, as a philosophy major in order to prepare for seminary. During college and the years following – when he worked as a computer Web site developer – the Lord cemented his desire by deepening his appreciation for the Church and the centrality of worship and preaching.

Delegates to the 18th meeting of Classis Central US had the privilege of examining how Mr. Smith cultivated that long-held desire for the ministry. After several hours of questioning on June 13, delegates concurred with the decision of Oak Glen URC that Mr. Nicholas Lee Smith should be declared a candidate eligible to receive a call in the URCNA.

A graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Mr. Smith married his wife Stefanie when both were students at Covenant College. They have a 3-year-old son, with another child due to make his appearance in July.

Although Mr. Smith’s examination was fairly rigorous, an overture approved later in the day would have added one more section. Proposed by the United Reformed Church of Wellsburg, this overture would add a section on church polity to the candidacy exam detailed in Appendix 2 of the Church Order. Currently, the candidacy examination includes seven sections, with church polity (or government) being one item among a lengthy list included in the “practica” section. Guidelines for ordination exams and colloquia docta (exams for those ordained in a different denomination who wish to accept a call from a United Reformed Church) both require exam sections focusing on church polity.

Wellsburg’s overture points out that classes are permitted to waive the ordination exam for candidates who receive a call within the classis that performed their candidacy exam – an occurrence that happens with some regularity. As a result, a number of men have been ordained to the ministry after only a cursory examination in this important area.

That overture will be considered by the Churches during Synod Schererville 2007. To be approved, it would require a two-thirds vote of the synodical delegates and the ratification of two-thirds of the Consistories prior to the next synodical meeting. It would take effect after that next synod.

Two other overtures met with less favor by Classis Central US.

One, submitted by Lynwood URC, would have replaced articles 52-58 — a significant chunk of the discipline section of our Church Order – with five articles reflecting the language developed by the Joint Church Order Committee of the URC and Canadian Reformed Churches.

The new language was proposed primarily as a way to make our Church discipline process more understandable. Indirectly, Lynwood’s Consistory noted, it could ease the transition to a new Church Order at a later date.

Several delegates expressed concern with the proposed articles’ wording at various points. Others objected that although the language of the new articles was clearer, the change was not substantial enough to justify a relatively major amendment to the Church Order. Another overture, submitted by Doon URC, sought to divide Classis Central US at the Mississippi River.

Currently, the classis comprises 15 Churches plus three Church plants, with another one or two Church plants being considered. The overture argued that dividing the classis at the Mississippi would create two sustainable classes that would have fewer geographic limitations, thereby encouraging the Churches to meet more often and work together more closely.

However, a number of delegates spoke against the proposal, noting that Classis Central US has not been shy about meeting as regularly as necessary and emphasizing the value of the insights provided by the greater number of delegates. While holding out the possibility of revisiting the matter in future years, delegates said they were unwilling to lose the breadth of fellowship, wisdom and resources made available by the current arrangement.

In addition to these matters, delegates received greetings from Rev. Alan Strange of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s Presbytery of the Midwest. Emphasizing our unity of belief and purpose, Rev. Strange invited those able to attend this year’s OPC General Assembly, which is to be held June 21–28 at Trinity Christian College of Palos Heights, Ill. He also asked for prayer, noting that some rather significant issues will be brought before that assembly.

The next meeting of Classis Central US is to be convened by the Consistory of Covenant Reformed Church of Pella, Iowa. No date has been set, but two Consistories have noted that they expect to request a meeting to perform candidacy examinations this fall.

Rev. Doug Barnes Stated Clerk