(Photo Credit: Glenda Mathes)
It’s been more than two weeks since I returned from Synod, and it’s time to wrap up this series of reports. This post will finish federative unity issues with the remaining CERCU-related matters, then move into ecumenical relations with CECCA-related matters, and conclude with brief reports on several other issues.
The URCNA is now a member of NAPARC, and Synod Schererville 2007 approved the memberships of the Free Reformed Churches of North America and Heritage Reformed Congregations in NAPARC.
Synod also voted to begin “Ecumenical Dialogue” with the Heritage Reformed Congregations as well as the Korean American Presbyterian Church. “Ecumenical Dialogue” is a precursor to the first formal step of federative unity, Phase One, Corresponding Relations.
The second step of federative unity is Phase Two, Ecclesiastical Fellowship, and Synod voted to enter into Phase Two with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). The URCNA has been in Phase One with the OPC since 1997. This move requires ratification from the majority of URCNA consistories.
CECCA is the Committee for Ecumenical Contact with Churches Abroad. Synod adopted its recommendations for entering into Phase One, Ecumenical Contact, with the GKN(v) and the RCNZ.
Rev. Peter Kloosterman was present at Synod as the fraternal observer from the RCNZ and, although he’s a relative newcomer to New Zealand, he spoke like a Kiwi.
In the course of his address to Synod, he said, “…RCN Zed.”
Classis Pacific Northwest
Although Synod Calgary 2004 flip-flopped on the matter of forming a new classis and eventually decided against it, Synod Schererville 2007 had no problem deciding the time was right to form a new Classis Pacific Northwest.
The new classis consists of 12 churches: the three U.S. churches understandably removed from Classis Western Canada and nine former Classis Southwest U.S. churches. With the reorganization, Classis Western Canada and Classis Southwest U.S. now each contain 13 churches.
Bellingham URC (Bellingham, WA), URC of Lynden (Lynden, WA), and Immanuel’s Reformed Church (Salem, OR), were formerly in Classis Western Canada. Classis PNW churches formerly in Classis Southwest are: Cloverdale URC (Boise, ID), Grace URC (Kennewick, WA), URC of Nampa (Nampa, ID), URC of Magic Valley (Twill Falls, ID), Belgrade URC (Belgrade, MT), Zion URC (Ripon, CA), Emmanuel URC (Lemoore, CA), Covenant URC (Fresno, CA), and Trinity URC (Walnut Creek, CA).
The website committee had presented 42 recommendations to Synod, but Classis Central’s recent adoption of a classical website helped Synod speed the website process.
One of the thorniest issues facing the development of a website is the approval of content. The Advisory Committee dealing with website matters suggested that a consistory is the “proper ecclesiastical authority” to approve content and changes.
Synod appointed Grace URC of Waupun, WI, the same church overseeing Classis Central’s website, to oversee the federational site.
URCNA members are becoming interested in the military chaplaincy and Synod approved a proposal to seek Associate Membership in the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRJC). Faith URC of Beecher, IL, will send observers to the next three meetings of the PRJC and report to the next Synod. The PRJC will also be asked to include the Three Forms of Unity as an alternative to the Westminster Standards in its policy statements.
Overture #9, from Classis Central, asked that a separate “Church Polity” section be added to candidacy exams. Currently “Church Polity” is listed as one of the subjects to be covered during the Practica portion of the exam.
Noting that the overture was “well-written and concise”, the Advisory Committee recommended its adoption. Synod quickly and unanimously passed the overture. Since this is a change to the Church Order, it will require ratification by a majority of consistories before January 1, 2008.
Another suggested change to the church is in regard to Article 11, which deals with the dissolution of the pastoral relationship.
The revised language is intended to impress the seriousness of such a separation and to ensure that church visitors and classis assist with reconciliation attempts.
Although there was discussion about wording, especially the suggested mandate for two years’ support, the revised article was adopted and must now be approved by a two-thirds majority of the churches.
Treasurer’s reports and a synodically-apointed report from Covenant Reformed Church in Pella made it clear that not all churches are contributing adequately to the suggested “askings” for federational support.
The Advisory Committee dealing with financial issues addressed concerns with several recommendations, most of which Synod adopted. Synod approved the use of an expenditure form for committee expenses and asked committees to project expenses for a three-year period. Federational treasurers will be required to submit quarterly reports tracking the budget. And churches will be asked to submit “askings” early, preferably during the first three quarters of the year. Synod stopped shy; however, of adopting a recommendation to change the word “askings” to “dues”, and it balked at adding a question regarding federational contributions to the credentials form.
Synod approved a joint venture agreement that would facilitate the flow of funds between Canadian and American churches of the URCNA. Synod also appointed a new U.S. Board of Directors and appointed Bethany URC of Wyoming, MI, to implement the new agreement.
Synod Schererville 2007 operated provisionally under the new regulations developed by the Synodical Regulations Ad Hoc Committee. The work of the Committee was approved by Synod and the regulations must now be reviewed and approved by the churches.
Many, many actions of Synod Schererville require ratification by the majority of URNCA consistories. Each office bearer will need to take seriously his responsibility to become familiar with suggested Church Order changes as well as large documents such as the Proposed Joint Church Order and the Synodical Regulations.
The URCNA is growing up and becoming more organized. Whether or not it approaches Synod 2010 in London, Ontario, as a mature steed will depend on how well URCNA office bearers take up the reins and provide direction.