>As noted in my previous post, the third of the URCNA “unity” committees had reported to Synod that its work with the Canadian Reformed committee was “at an impasse.”
The impasse was due to disagreement over whether a federationally-controlled seminary is biblically mandated. The CanRC committee had entered discussions with a synodical mandate that it was. The URCNA committee believed that the Bible taught no such mandate, but that each consistory should ensure that seminarians under care received solid Reformed instruction.
Due to this impasse, the two committees had not met since November of 2005. Position papers had been offered on both sides, but the committees were not able to resolve this issue.
Then the CanRC General Synod met for two weeks in May of this year. It adopted recommendations to seek agreement with the URCNA committee based on the principle of 2 Timothy 2:2, “taking into consideration” the joint statements made by the committees, “while expressing the strong preference for at least one federational seminary.”
One of the considerations listed for these recommendations states that 2 Timothy 2:2 “does not necessitate the conclusion of a ‘federational’ seminary” and that Art. 19 of the CanRC Church Order “also does not necessitate a ‘federational’ seminary.” It continues, “Therefore, it would be best, for clarity’s sake, to realize that ‘federational’ seminary is terminology that has arisen…out of current practice and is not itself the Reformed theological education principle.” Another consideration notes, “It is not acceptable in the course of dicussions and agreements leading to federative unity that…the way to unity, should reach an impasse on a matter of practice only.” Synod also replaced two members of the committee who work at the Theological College in Hamilton.
The decision was hailed by many as a major concession; however, the most conciliatory language is found in the considerations, while the actual recommendations reflect only a slight positional shift.
The analysis of the URCNA Synod Advisory Committee is instructive: “We should point out that this statement is given in the context of an extensive discussion of the matter and that even though it appears to clear the way for the two committees to continue their work, the Canadian Reformed Churches concluded their remarks by saying that they still express “a strong preference for at least on federational seminary.”
The issue generated brief discussion on the floor of Synod Schererville 2007. Rev. Rand Lankheet expressed his concern about the lack of face-to-face meetings and stressed the need to reinvigorate the committee. Rev. John Bouwers expressed concern about “implications” for the Canadian Reformed Churches. Peter Moen, Sr. made an unsuccessful motion to conclude the work of the Theological Education Committee. The Advisory Committee recommended and Synod approved the addition of Rev. Joel Dykstra as a committee member, even though the committee had not requested additional members.
What was not contested was Synod’s affirmation of the URCNA Theological Education Committee’s position that a federationally-controlled seminary is not biblically mandated.
Delegates were also united on Synod’s ruling that the churches should continue to follow URCNA Church Order Article 3, requiring a man’s consistory to assure that he receive a thoroughly Reformed theological education.
Synod encouraged the URCNA Theological Education Committee to continue its work with the CanRC committee, reiterating the committee’s original mandate “to draft proposals for theological education to our respective synods in preparation for an eventual plan of union.”
Another federative unity issue with implications for the URCNA relationship with the CanRC was that of revising CERCU’s (Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity) guidelines. The Lord willing, the next post will deal with that.