URNS -In a landmark proposal published in The Outlook magazine, the President of Westminster Theological Seminary in California urged the various confessional Reformed denominations in North America to establish an interdenominational synod in which each member denomination would remain a particular synod retaining its own distinctives. If the March 9 meeting of Classis Southwest United States adopts an overture from First United Reformed Church of Chino, a version of that proposal by Dr. W Robert Godfrey will be on the agenda for this summer’s United Reformed synod. In its overture, First URC asks classis to overture synod to “instruct” its Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity to extend an invitation to other faithful Reformed churches to begin with them serious discussions with a goal of joining each body into a General Synod (or Assembly) of a single new denomination, each body constituting a particular synod. The proposal suggests that discussions begin with “at least” the Canadian Reformed Churches, the Free Reformed Churches, the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Protestant Reformed Churches, the Reformed Church in the United States, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. The proposed General Synod would have a combined membership of over 356,000 members if all nine denominations joined. First Chino URC proposes as basic topics for discus~ sion that each body “could maintain its own confessional standards,” whether the Three Forms of Unity of the Dutch Reformed tradition or the Westminster Standards of Presbyterianism; “could maintain its own church order or book of governance,” “could maintain its own distinctive practices, songbooks, and structure,” “would agree to cooperate where possible with other bodies within the new denomination so that duplication in a particular area is avoided,” and “would agree to receive the wisdom and admonition of the new denomination on matters of confessional faithfulness, thus maintaining a wholesome level of accountability within the denomination,” but “would be free to leave the new denomination without consequence,” According to the overture, such discussions could “provide an avenue to better express visible Biblical unity among the Reformed and Presbyterian bodies,” “provide greater accountability in maintaining Biblical faithfulness,” and “lead to greater cooperation in joint mission outreach, as well as avoid duplication of such outreach in a particular location,” Rev. Ron Scheuers, senior pastor of First Chino URC, said his church’s proposal followed up on a longstanding concern for unity that was more recently articulated by Godfrey. However, Scheuers said his proposal to instruct the URC Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity to pursue the interdenominational “General Synod” proposal was written without knowing that the URC committee is recommending that this year’s United Reformed synod begin negotiations with the Canadian Reformed Churches working toward full union in the year 2004, “There is in no way any reflection on anybody merging, but it does provide an opportunity to fellowship together, jointly worship together, and hold ourselves accountable, and I think that in itself speaks well of the proposal,” said Scheuers, Most of the denominations listed in the First Chino overture are members or observers at the current North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council, and all but two of the current full members of NAPARC are included, in the First Chino list. Current members of NAPARC are the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Korean American Presbyterian Church, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America, Reformed Church in the United States, and Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. The Christian Reformed Church has been suspended from NAPARC membership; the Free Reformed and United Reformed began sending observers to NAPARC in 1998, and the Protestant Reformed sent NAPARC observers until this past year. In a related overture, First Chino URC overtured Classis Southwest United States to establish its own classical interchurch relations committee with a mandate to exchange fraternal delegates with other Reformed classes and presbyteries and “encourage the churches to establish more meaningful relationships with churches of other Reformed denominations which are faithful to God’s Word.”

Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer United Reformed News Service