The URCNA has two standing committees dealing with ecumenical relationships. CERCU (Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity) and CECCA (Committee for Ecumenical Contact with Churches Abroad). Both committees brought to Synod reports containing recommendations, which advisory committees passed on to the floor.
Although most recommendations were adopted quickly and unanimously, it seemed like Synod London 2010 all over again when it came time to vote on CERCU’s recommendation to enter into Phase Two Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the RPCNA (Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America).
The RPCNA, sometimes referred to as “Covenanters,” grew from the branch of the Protestant Reformation that took place in Scotland, where the blood of many martyrs—including women and children—cries out from Scottish soil.
RPCNA believers have a strong emphasis on family, holding frequent family camps and a six-day “family-reunion” International Family Conference every four years that is attended by thousands of its members. Their worship practice includes exclusive Psalmody, sung a cappella. They also permit women to serve as deaconesses. That more than 100-year-old practice, rooted in the denomination’s interpretation of Scripture rather than the modern feminism movement, generated much discussion on the floor of Synod.
It was pointed out that deaconesses perform mainly works of mercy to women and children and that they have no ruling authority. One of the grounds for the recommendations noted that the RPCNA broke ties with the CRCNA in 2002 and supported the expulsion of the CRC from NAPARC over the issue of women elders. It was additionally noted that the URCNA is already in Phase Two with the ERQ (Reformed Churches of Quebec), which also permits women to serve as deacons.
After prolonged debate, the voice vote was too close to call and a show of hands proved inconclusive, but Synod adopted by ballot the recommendation to enter into Phase Two with the RPCNA.
This decision requires ratification prior to January 1, 2013, of two-thirds of the consistories in the URCNA.
In addition to proceeding to Phase Two Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the RPCNA, Synod passed a motion encouraging each classis and consistory to continue to engage the issue of an eventual merger with the Canadian Reformed Churches by seeking opportunities to promote unity and fellowship.
Even though it no longer has a specific mandate, the Proposed Joint Church Order Committee will remain constituted while churches review the provisionally adopted Proposed Joint Church Order (PJCO) with a view toward the possibility of an eventual merger with the CanRC.
At the recommendation of CECCA (Committee for Ecumenical Contact with Churches Abroad) and the advisory committee, Synod affirmed its Phase One relationships with the Reformed Churches of South Africa (GKSA), the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKv), the United Reformed Churches of Congo (URCC), and the Calvinistic Reformed Churches in Indonesia (GGRT-NTT). Synod voted to enter into Phase One, Ecumenical Contact, with the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) (FCSC) and the Free Protestant Church in Argentina (FPCA).
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on paged 14-15 of the July 11, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.