URCNA Classis Central US: Sets up church planting advisory committee

From a cloudless sky, the sun shone on the extensive and freshly mown lawn of Covenant Reformed Church when Classis Central met in Kansas City, MO, on April 10-11, 2012.

The Classis agenda was rather light and became even lighter as one overture for possible consideration was not taken up and an overture to establish a pulpit supply schedule as a resource for vacant churches was tabled indefinitely. Those overtures are likely to come before Classis at its next meeting.

The most important action of Classis Central US was its adoption of Immanuel URC’s overture to establish a classical committee to distribute information on existing church plants and advise member churches regarding potential plants.

Although the voice vote was too close to determine and Chairman Harold Miller called for a show of hands, the motion to adopt the overture carried by a slim majority. The division arose not from delegates being opposed to church planting, but rather from a desire that the proposal be more thoroughly fleshed out prior to its adoption as well as a concern regarding the possibility of a classical committee usurping a local consistory’s authority.

Elder Dave Troup, Covenant-Kansas City, expressed the latter fear, saying, “Anything that places a committee over our consistory will probably be voted down by our consistory.”

Speaking in favor of the overture, Rev. Jacque Roets, Redeemer-Dyer, IN, noted that Classis Central is “a study really of wasted resources” and “it would work so much better if we would pool what we’ve learned.” He added, “A committee on this level will help us; it’s there to aid us in working together.”

Rev. Bradd Nymeyer called the overture’s lack of recommendations regarding funding “an oversight” and noted the necessity for such provision.

In the most colorful comments of Classis, Rev.Spencer Aalsburg (Sioux Falls Reformed Fellowship) compared the committee’s formation to a couple’s discussion regarding having children.

“If we don’t want to have kids, let’s say it now,” Rev. Aalsburg said. “If we do, let’s at least begin talking about it.” 

Immanuel’s overture asks Classis Central US to appoint a Church Planting Advisory Committee of at least five elders/ministers for three-year terms with a mandate to:

1. Regularly gather and distribute information in one comprehensive report about church plant works in Classis Central US, including their financial needs.

2. Provide advice and recommendations to the churches on potential church plant locations in Classis Central US.

3. Develop “Classis Guidelines for Church Planting” covering the planning, commencement, funding, and oversight of church plants and submit the “Guidelines” for approval by the churches of Classis Central US.

4. Provide regular reports of its work to a consistory designated by Classis.

Classis asked the Immanuel delegates to consult with their consistory regarding its willingness to serve in a supervisory capacity and to determine, in consultation with other consistories in Classis Central, the names of elders or ministers willing and able to serve on such a committee. Classis additionally asked Immanuel to provide recommendations regarding funding and to report all these matters to the next meeting of Classis Central in September. It is hoped that the composition of the committee as well as specific funding directives can be determined at that time.

MISSION COMMITTEE REPORT

Some concerns similar to those voiced about a classical committee were expressed about the synodically appointed Missions Committee, whose report will come before Synod 2012. Grace URC in Waupun requested permission to discuss its concerns, but before that was granted there was a lengthy debate regarding the proper venue for discussion of matters still to come before the federation’s deliberative body. Since there is a lack of established protocol, there was some difference of opinion among the delegates.

Rev. Keith Davis (Lynwood,IL) said that his church’s elders had not yet discussed this matter and, therefore, its delegates could not represent the consistory accurately.

Rev. Doug Barnes (Hills, MN) noted that the material has been available to consistories for some time and, with only eight weeks prior to Synod, it would be helpful to consider the matter together.

While Rev. Nymeyer remarked about being blessed by informal discussion of the report, he said he felt “conflicted” about formal discussion, noting that it will come before an advisory committee prior to coming to Synod. “I speak against discussion at Classis,” he said. “The proper venue is not Classis.”

Eventually Classis approved no more than 30 minutes of discussion. Classis actually spent more time discussing whether or not to have the discussion than in the discussion itself, which ended with eight minutes to spare in its allotted time frame.

Later in the meeting, Classis allowed Rev. Jody Lucero, Clerk of the Missions Committee, 15 minutes to briefly respond to concerns and answer additional questions from the delegates. He assured delegates that the Committee’s purview would be informative, not deliberative.

“The Missions Committee would have no teeth by which to enforce giving in any local congregations,” he said. “There has been no authority given to this committee whatsoever. I think that’s a legitimate fear, but I believe we were careful to avoid that.” He added that this was an effort to provide “more information, more knowledge” so that elders will have necessary assistance and churches will become “more excited about spreading the gospel.”

OTHER BUSINESS

Prayer characterized this meeting of Classis Central. As usual, prayer followed reports from fraternal delegates and church visitor reports as well as reports on church plants and chaplain efforts; however, a new feature of the agenda was a time for church reports, each of which were followed by meaningful prayer for the four reporting churches: Wellsburg URC, Rock Valley URC, Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, and Covenant Reformed in Pella, IA.

Fraternal speakers were Rev. Wade Mann (Midwest Presbytery, RPCNA), Mr. Bill Gortemaker (Classis Manitoba, CanRC), Rev. Joe Vusich (South Central Classis, RCUS) and Mr. Keith LeMahieu (Presbytery of the Midwest, OPC).

Several church visitor reports were received, one of which generated a motion later in Classis to encourage churches to follow Synod Escondido’s directives regarding retirement and disability provisions for ministers. After some discussion, that motion was tabled.

Revs. John Vermeer, Talman Wagenmaker, Bradd Nymeyer, and Harold Miller

In addition to the usual CECCA, CERCU, and Classis website reports, delegates heard reports on the work of church plants in Sioux Falls and Prinsburg as well as an update on the Hispanic ministry in Chicago Heights. A report on Chaplain Spriensma, currently in Germany, noted his possible deployment to Afghanistan in the near future.

Classis was chaired by Rev. Harold Miller (Covenant-Kansas City) assisted by Rev. Talman Wagenmaker (Grace-Waupon, WI) serving at his first meeting as Clerk of Classis. Rev. John Vermeer (Oak Glen-Lansing) was Vice Chairman. Elder Don De Boer (Cornerstone-Sanborn, IA) submitted his Classis Treasurer’s report.

This was the first meeting of Classis Central at which delegates stood to indicate their agreement with the Form of Subscription, as opposed to first-time delegates coming forward to sign. Rev. Miller explains that the change in dealing with the Form of Subscription came by way of overture to the previous meeting of classis and “was intended to give a more tangible, visible, and edifying expression to our already robust unity.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 12 of the May 2, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.

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