URC and CanRC Church Order Committee Report

August 05–07, 2003

Ebenezer Canadian Reformed Church at Burlington, ON

Present were: Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, Rev. William Pols, Rev. Ronald Scheuers, Rev. Raymond Sikkema 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). Dr. Jack DeJong of the CanRC, due to reasons of health, attended the meeting on a limited basis.

On behalf of the Canadian Reformed Churches, Br. Nordeman welcomed the committee members and introduced Dr. Nederveen who will serve the CanRC committee as an advisor on an interim basis.

Dr. Kloosterman opened the meeting with Scripture reading and prayer. He welcomed in particular Dr. Nederveen. It was agreed that Dr. Nederveen would fully participate in the work of the committee. An agenda and timetable for the next three days were circulated and adopted.

The minutes of the February 13-14, 2003 meeting were reviewed. It was agreed to add to these minutes the third consideration that was used for not including an article regarding ‘exceptional gifts’ (Dort Art. 8) in the proposed church order. These considerations are:

1) instances of abuse of this article in the past, especially in the experience of the URCNA, 2) potential abuse in the future, and 3) the churches’ requirement that every minister be thoroughly trained for the ministry, a training that at present is readily available.

The Function of a Minister

The consideration that the function of a minister extends beyond the local congregation and is available for call among all the churches of the federation suggests that declaring a man eligible for call is not the task of a consistory but more appropriately that of a classis. This principle will be included in the appropriate article. It was agreed that when a vacant church wishes to call a minister for the second time during the same vacancy, classical approval is required.

The Dort provision for ‘recent converts wishing to enter the ministry’ is adequately covered in the proposed article headed “An Ordained Minister Without a Congregation Entering the Federation,” where arequirement for “an adequate period of consistorial supervision” is stipulated.

Church Assemblies

An extended discussion took place on the division and alignment of churches, classes, and synods.

A consensus was reached that among the churches of the federation, four assemblies shall be recognized: the consistory, the classis, the regional synod, and the general synod. The terms “classis” and “synod” designate either ecclesiastical assemblies or ecclesiastical regions. Assemblies, classes, and synods exist only for the duration of their meetings. These assemblies are deliberative in nature.

Appropriate articles were formulated prescribing that those delegated to the broader assemblies shall be issued proper credentials by their delegating body, thereby receiving authorization to deal with all the matters properly placed before them; and that in all assemblies only ecclesiastical matters shall be transacted, and only in an ecclesiastical manner.

The broader assemblies shall exercise jurisdiction exclusively relating to matters properly before them. All matters must originate with a consistory and must first be considered by a classis and a regional synod before they may be considered by a general synod. Only those matters shall be considered in the broader assemblies that could not be settled in the narrower assemblies, or that pertain to the churches in common. Each broader assembly shall approve for publication a press release regarding its proceedings.

Regarding delegation to broader assemblies a consensus was reached that classis shall choose the delegates to both the regional synod and the general synod proportional to the number of classes participating. This would ensure a better distribution of delegates from among the churches. The exact formula still needs to be determined.

Function of a Classis

Agreements were also reached on the proposed wording of articles relating to the specific function and make-up of a classis. A classis shall be held every four months, unless the convening church, in consultation with the neighboring church, concludes that no matters have been sent in by the churches that would warrant the convening of a classis. Cancellation of a classis shall not be permitted to occur twice in succession.

Decisions regarding Church Visitors include the understanding that classis shall appoint a number of its most experienced and competent ministers and elders to visit all the churches of the classis. At each church visit at least one of the visitors shall be a minister. A description of the specific task and function of the Church Visitors was agreed upon.

Agreements were also reached on the matters pertaining to archives, counselors, regional synod and deputies of regional synods. A regional synod, consisting of three or more classes in a region, shall ordinarily meet once per year. This synod shall deal only with such matters as are placed on its agenda by the member classes, and with appeals from consistories or church members who have previously processed their appeals through their consistory and classis.

Reports to the churches and synods of the two federations will be composed by each sub-committee and compared to ensure that in the areas of accomplishments and recommendations they are in full agreement.

At the close of the meeting Dr. Jack DeJong informed the meeting that because of his health he can no longer function effectively as an active member of the committee. This makes it necessary for him to resign from the Committee for the Promotion of Ecclesiastical Unity as well as the sub-committee for the church order. It is with profound regret that the committee took note of this decision. Br. DeJong was thanked for his outstanding contribution, not only in this committee, but also for his committed efforts in the whole unity process. All the brothers wished him well. Dr. Kloosterman led in devotions and committed Dr. DeJong in the care of our faithful Father.

The press release was read and approved for publication.

In his closing remarks Dr. Kloosterman expressed his thankfulness to the Lord for the brotherly manner in which the committee could proceed with its work. A considerable amount of work was accomplished.

After Scripture reading and closing prayer by Rev. Sikkema, the meeting was adjourned.

For the committee, Gerard J. Nordeman

Classis Southwest U.S. Report September 16–17, 2003

The Grace United Reformed Church of Kennewick, Washington, served as the host for the 11th regular session of Classis Southwest U.S. The beauty of the Tri-Cities area and hospitality of the congregation made the trip particularly enjoyable.

After receiving the normal initial reports of convening consistory, classical clerk, and classical treasurer, the delegates took up the main business of the day: the colloquium doctum of Dr. Greg Bero, the minister of the Grace Evangelical Church of Torrance, California. Dr. Bero was examined in all the area prescribed by the Church Order. He sustained his colloquium doctum, and is now eligible to be called as a Minister of the Word and Sacraments in the United Reformed Churches.

The following morning, the classis, with gratitude to God, approved a request to provisionally accept into the federation, the congregation that Dr. Bero serves.

During the second day of classis, greetings were received from ecumenical observers and visitors from six different denominations/ federations. Much of the morning was spent passing two overtures to synod. The first asks for a republication of the 1976 Psalter Hymnal. The second requests that synod authorizes the formation of Classis Pacific Northwest to include ten churches from the United States and Canada. It was with a sense of joy and also loss, that this overture passed. Classis Southwest U.S. congregations will miss the fellowship we have enjoyed with our northern churches over the past several years.

Most of the rest of the day was spent conducting a colloquium doctum of Rev. John Sawtelle, who has been called to serve as Pastor of Congregational Life and Outreach at First United Reformed Church of Chino, California. Rev. Sawtelle sustained his examination, and was heartily welcomed by the delegates of classis.

The next convening church is Calvary United Reformed Church of Loveland, Colorado. The classis is set to convene on March 23–24, 2004.

Respectfully submitted, Rev. Bradd L. Nymeyer, clerk Classis Southwest U.S.