URCNA Classis Michigan: Weighty appeals, one overture

When Classis Michigan of the URCNA met on March 13, 2012, at Grace United Reformed Church in Alto, MI, several appeals took most of delegates’ time.

Classis Michigan is struggling with many weighty issues related to good order in the churches, several of which have resulted in appeals. Although some of these matters were handled in executive session, Classis dealt with five appeals in open session, consolidating discussion since they were similar appeals regarding the same decision.

Five former elders of Trinity URC in Caledonia appealed a decision of the Trinity consistory regarding the public resignations of two elders from office. The elders publicly resigned, but later took up their responsibilities again. The appeals questioned the validity of their re-assumption of duties after public resignations, declaring that reinstatement of office-bearers who have abandoned their office causes harm to the church.

Trinity’s consistory maintained it did not reinstate the elders since their resignations were never officially accepted. A letter to the Trinity congregation, dated October 30, 2011, however, used the term “reinstate,” saying that the consistory “decided not to accept their resignations but reinstate them” (emphasis added). The letter also noted that the issues “which resulted in their resignations have been, in the main, resolved.”

Classis did not sustain the appeals due to their language appealing the decision to “reinstate” on the ground that “their resignations were never formally accepted but rather rejected and therefore there was no actual ‘reinstatement’ into office.” Appellants believe the decision is based on a narrow and technical ground regarding wording and leaves unanswered their primary questions regarding proper church procedure.

In a different, but significant matter, an appeal from a suspended office-bearer was to be considered in a special meeting scheduled for March 27, 2012. Since not all material for this appeal was available at the March 13 meeting, Classis desired to deal with it prior to the deadline for Synod materials.

The only overture (from Bethel URC in Jenison, MI) requested the addition of an appendix detailing requirements for a “thoroughly Reformed theological education,” according to Art. 3 of the Church Order. This addition would become Appendix 1 of the Church Order with subsequent appendices being renumbered.

The wording for the proposed appendix comes directly from Appendix 3 of the Synod 2010 Theological Education Committee Report (Acts 2010, pp. 563-564), although slightly modified. The overture was adopted by Classis Michigan and will go before Synod 2012 in Nyack, NY.

In addition to several items of routine business, Classis Michigan granted a two-year extension to Trinity URC for the credentials of Rev. Nathan Brummel. Rev. Brummel received and accepted in February a call from Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, to serve as Director of Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary within the Danville prison system, and Trinity is now in the process of transferring Rev. Brummel’s credentials to Immanuel.

Classis officially welcomed its newest member, Sovereign Grace URC, which organized as a local congregation on December 2, 2011.

Elder Steve Tjapkes (Grace-Alto) chaired the meeting with Rev. Jason Tuinstra (Bethel-Jenison) serving as Vice-Chairman. Rev. Greg Lubbers (Covenant-ByronCenter) is Clerk of Classis and Mr. Dave VanderMeer (Covenant-Kalamazoo) is Classis Treasurer.

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