>Classis meetings frequently include weighty discussions, but that was particularly true when Classis Michigan of the URCNA met on October 12, 2010, at Bethel United Reformed Church in Jenison, MI.
Rev. Jason Tuinstra (Bethel-Jenison) chaired the meeting with Elder Myron Rau (Covenant-Kalamazoo) serving as Vice-Chairman. Rev. Greg Lubbers (Covenant-Byron Center) is the Stated Clerk for Classis and Mr. Dave VanderMeer (Covenant-Kalamazoo) is the Classical Treasurer.
Classis Michigan delegates spent a great deal of time in executive (closed) session, dealing with two matters regarding relationships between pastors and elders.
It was determined that material regarding the first matter was not properly before the body as an appeal, but would be considered as a communication.
The brothers bringing the communication had submitted similar documents in the past, expressing their concern about what they perceived to be failures in oversight by another consistory over a former URC office-bearer.
“In my opinion,” says Rev. Greg Lubbers, “the broader assemblies rejected such requests in part on procedural points, the ‘appeals’ did not fit the criteria for appeals, but also because of the understanding that our federation has made a purposeful decision to leave the exercise of the oversight of an office-bearer to the local consistory rather than the broader assemblies.”
After careful consideration of the matter, Classis Michigan declared that it had heard and shared some of the concerns. Classis expressed its appreciation for the diligent work of the consistory and it “sincere efforts towards reconciliation.” Classis also recognized the authority of the consistory to release its former pastor from ministry in the URC under Article 7 of the Church Order and, since the pastor is no longer under that consistory’s supervision, Classis urged “everyone to recognize that we must now leave our concerns in the hands of the Lord.”
“Despite lingering differences over these matters,” the minutes continue, “we urge everyone to renew their love for one another as brothers in the Lord and to continue steadfast in our service in God’s kingdom.”
The second matter was a request from the Eastmanville URC for concurring advice concerning an Article 11 dissolution with its pastor, Rev. Steve Postma. Classis adopted a motion to give concurring advice to the Article 11 dissolution “out of pastoral concerns for the pastor with the sad recognition of the procedural inconsistencies in regards to Church Order Article 11.”
In an effort to stem the high incidence of Article 11 dissolutions in the URCNA, Synod London 2010 had adopted new language for Article 11 that called for more involvement on the part of church visitors and Classis before an Article 11 dissolution was implemented. The language of the Classis Michigan minutes was deliberately chosen to reflect the sorrow that many Classis Michigan delegates expressed about the lack of Classis involvement prior to the situation reaching this point.
“The main ground given by the consistory for an Article 11 was simply that there was a lack of harmony between the congregation and the pastor,” explains Rev. Lubbers. “There were repeated affirmations of Rev. Postma’s faithful preaching and no specific incidents that served to create the lack of harmony were presented. Nevertheless, it was evident that the relationship had deteriorated to the point of being irreconcilable.”
Classis also adopted a motion stipulating a severance package the included financial arrangements for the year from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.
In addition to these two weighty matters, Classis Michigan discussed several discipline issues on which churches sought advice. Delegates also adopted guidelines for nominating elders to the Classis Michigan Mission Committee (CMMC) and made several committee appointments, including Gary Fisher as the Classis Michigan website representative and Denise Marcusse to the songbook committee.
Classis Michigan delegates heard from Rev. Allen Vander Pol regarding his work with MINTS and Dr. Brian Lee concerning his church planting work in Washington, DC. Trinity URC reported on the continuing work of its Sovereign Grace church plant in Grand Rapids.
Delegates were informed that Rev. James Admiraal (Cornerstone-Hudsonville) intends to retire, and Chairman Tuinstra expressed gratitude for Rev. Admiraal’s many years of faithful service in Christ’s kingdom.
The next meeting of Classis Michigan is scheduled for April 12, 2011, with Covenant URC of Kalamazoo as the convening church.
The above article appeared on pages 17-18 of the November 24, 2010 issue of Christian Renewal.
© Glenda Mathes, 2010