When Classis Central US met at Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, IA, on September 12 & 13, 2011, its agenda and atmosphere were lighter than recent meetings.
Business included finishing a candidacy examination and dealing with a four overtures, three dealing with a federational songbook.
On Monday evening, Classis conducted the biblical exegesis portion of Aaron Verhoef’s candidacy exam. Mr. Verhoef had successfully sustained all other sections of his examination in April. Rev. Todd Joling (Faith URC; Beecher, IL) asked Aaron pointed questions about Hebrew and Greek translations as well as the exegetical method he used in preparing sermons on the assigned texts. In private session, delegates discussed his submitted sermons. The consistory of Covenant Reformed Church judged that Mr. Verhoef sustained his exam and Classis concurred. Should he receive a call within Classis Central US, his ordination exam will be waived.
The pre-meeting agenda included three overtures. One dealt with procedure regarding the signing of the Form of Subscription at Classis meeting, while the others related to a federational songbook. Delegates voted to consider an additional overture regarding the songbook from Lynwood URC, which had been received one day late, since the deadline to submit overtures to the federational committee is October 31.
Delegates considered all overtures on Tuesday morning. A seven-page overture from Hills URC detailed suggested changes in the proposed hymnal. Rev. Vermeer (Oak Glen URC; Lansing, IL), who had assumed the chair while Chairman Rev. Aalsburg (Sioux Falls Reformed Fellowship) presented the overture, cautioned delegates against getting “bogged down in details,” particularly since the body still needed to discuss two additional overtures regarding the proposed hymnal. He noted that if he sensed delegates were going “down a hole that we cannot climb out of,” he would suggest striking a committee to unify the overtures and bring recommendations back to the body during the current session.
Although Rev. Aalsburg initially proposed taking the overture’s recommendations one at a time, Rev. Jacques Roets moved to consider the overture as a whole.
“Some of us here may be equipped to go through this overture piece by piece,” he said, “but some of us are not equipped to do this. I trust that the people who presented the overture felt strongly about these things and we can adopt this overture and pass it along to the committee.”
That overture from Hills URC was adopted. A five-page overture from Lynwood URC also contained suggested changes to the proposed hymnal. When Rev. Davis presented it, he explained that its background closely echoed the background of the Hills overture. Although there were similarities between the lists in the two overtures, there were also some differences. Rev. Talman Wagenmaker (Grace Reformed Church; Waupun, WI) suggested striking “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee” from the list of hymns recommended for inclusion in the new hymnal.
“The author was very much in the social gospel camp,” he explained. “There is nothing specifically Christian about this song; nothing about the Redeemer.”
The vote to strike passed by 14 to 8, perhaps the only vote during Classis calling for a show of hands. Once the overture was amended by striking this hymn from the inclusion list, the overture passed. As mandated by Synod London 2010, these two overtures now go to the federational committee.
A short overture from Covenant Reformed Church in Kansas City, MO, suggested changing the Church Order to include language regarding a “federational songbook.” That overture failed to reach the floor due to lack of a second.
Another overture from Kansas City, however, fared better. It suggested changing classical procedure to bring Classis in line with synodical practice with regard to delegates affirming the Form of Subscription. Instead of requiring first-time delegates to come forward and sign the Form, the Form would be read and delegates would rise to indicate their agreement with it.
Questions were raised concerning the practice of other federations and how late arrivals would be handled. Rev. James Sinke (Rock Valley URC; Rock Valley, IA) moved an amendment to strike Grounds 3 & 4 of the overture.
“I fear Grounds 3 & 4 speak against the very spirit of the overture itself,” he said. His motion to amend by striking those grounds carried.
The question of late arrivals was solved when Rev. Vermeer moved an amendment to insert the language from the rules for synodical procedure into the overture. That motion to amend carried. The overture as amended was then adopted. Classis procedure regarding delegates’ assent to the Form of Subscription will now be the same as that of Synod.
Elder Mark Vander Molen (Immanuel URC; DeMotte, IN) informed the brothers of the recent formation of a Board of Directors for the Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary. The Seminary will utilize material provided by Rev. Allen Vander Pol through Miami International Theological Seminary (MINTS) and will function within the walls of the Danville, IL, prison. He requested prayer as the Board of Directors seeks to hire a Director to oversee the program, preferably an ordained URCNA minister.
Rev. Todd Joling (Faith URC; Beecher, IL) reported that Chaplain Andrew Spriensma and his wife Michelle were blessed with their third child in August, and that the family will relocate this winter from Ft. Jackson in Georgia to East Bauten Airfield in Germany. Chaplain Spriensma is being reassigned to East Bauten prior to deployment next summer. The family requests prayer.
Delegates also heard reports on church plants within Classis Central US as well as several church visitor and ecumenical reports. Rev. Lee Johnson, an RCUS minister from Lincoln, NE, conveyed fraternal greetings from his denomination.
At this meeting of Classis, Rev. Spencer Aalsburg served as Chairman, Rev. John Vermeer as Vice Chair, and Rev. Doug Barnes served his final session as Clerk. His second term expires at the end of October. Rev. Talman Wagenmaker was elected to replace him as Stated Clerk of Classis and Rev. Dan Donovan was elected as Alternate Clerk, both pending approval of their respective consistories. When Rev. Aalsburg expressed the appreciation of Classis for Rev. Barnes’ six years of service, delegates rose to give Rev. Barnes a standing ovation.
Rev. Bradd Nymeyer was re-appointed to another term as Church Visitor. Rev. Doug Barnes was elected as Church Visitor.
Although several churches requested confidential advice from the body regarding discipline and pastoral issues, two matters were discussed in open session. Lynwood URC sought the advice of the body in dealing with Rev. Philip Tjoelker’s ministerial credentials. Subsequent to Lynwood’s decision to close the Providence church plant in Tinley Park at the end of 2010, Rev. Tjoelker had received an opportunity for church planting work with the Reformed Episcopal Church. Lynwood was advised to proceed with their actions in sending Rev. Tjoelker’s credentials to the Reformed Episcopal Church.
Rev. Jody Lucero (Providence Reformed Church; Des Moines, IA) shared news from the synodically appointed committee regarding missions. After researching the mission and evangelism efforts of other NAPARC federations, the committee intends to propose to Synod Pompton Plains in 2012 that the URCNA form a missions committee to facilitate more cooperation, more giving, and more prayer. The proposed committee would include a minister or elder familiar with missions or church planting from each of the seven URCNA classes, while an ordained minister would serve as a full-time coordinator who chairs the committee.
The next meeting of Classis Central US will be convened by Covenant Reformed Church in Kansas City, MO, on April 10, 2012.
The above is a slightly edited version of an article by Glenda Mathes that appeared on pages 11-12 of the October 5, 2011, issue of Christian Renewal.