URCNA Classis Pacific Northwest: Joy and pain for delegates

When Classis Pacific Northwest of the URCNA met in Lynden, WA, on October 16 & 17, it had good reasons for rejoicing; it witnessed two successful exams and welcomed a new congregation. It took care of business, passing an overture regarding the Proposed Joint Church Order (PJCO). But it also dealt with a painful situation, deciding not to grant concurring advice to a request for an Article 11 dissolution.

Classis provisionally accepted Covenant Grace Reformed Church of Lynden, WA, when its pastor, Rev. Alan Camarigg, sustained his colloquium doctum. Covenant Grace had been independent for almost six years after withdrawing from the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches (OCRC) federation subsequent to its 2006 General Synod. The Lynden congregation was one of three that withdrew, due to what they perceived as Synod’s failure to deal adequately with a Federal Vision controversy. Covenant Grace’s letter to Classis Pacific Northwest states: “Needless to say we do not approve of federal vision and do not agree with adherents of this, in our opinion, false doctrine.”

Covenant Grace consists of 68 members in 34 families and meets for worship at 10:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. at 1227 Loomis Trail Road in Lynden.

van eeden petersmans-cAlso at the October Classis meeting, Mr. Norman Van Eeden Petersman sustained his candidacy exam. Mr. Van Eeden Petersman, a 2012 graduate of Westminster Seminary California, grew up in Lethbridge, AB, and graduated from Trinity Western University with degrees in political studies and philosophy. He has served summer internships in Lynden, WA, and Sheffield, ON. Reflecting on how God has brought him to this point, he wrote: “He has provided me with a helper, Rosanna, who has faithfully accompanied me to seminary and now is preparing for what lies ahead. We do not know where the Lord will lead us or when/whether He will lead a congregation to extend a call to us, but we rest in Him and pray for His strength to build us up.”

Delegates adopted an overture from Trinity URC in Visalia, CA, requesting that Classis Pacific Northwest 1) acknowledge that the present Church Order is lacking in many areas, 2) appoint a committee to study the PJCO, 3) mandate the committee to recommend such changes as are necessary so that the PJCO can replace the present Church Order, and 4) further mandate the committee to write an overture so Classis Pacific Northwest can present the revised PJCO to Synod Visalia 2014 for consideration as a worthy replacement for the present Church Order.

Most of the overture’s length is found in multiple examples listed under its first point. The overture’s background states that “it is time for the United Reformed Churches to reap the fruit of the PJCO.” One of the grounds under the final point notes that the overture “would allow us to adopt many of the improvements suggested by the PJCO, while avoiding the changes (e.g., regional synods) that are largely objectionable to our consistories.”

The consistory of Cloverdale URC in Boise, ID, requested that Classis grant concurring advice for an Article 11 dissolution with its pastor, Rev. Jonathan Van Hoogen. Classis instead encouraged Cloverdale to work through the five pages of recommendations it had received from the church visitors and seek reconciliation. Classis assigned the consistories of Twin Falls and Nampa to work point by point through the church visitor advice with the Cloverdale consistory.

Rev. Kevin Efflandt, Clerk of Classis Pacific Northwest and one of the church visitors who recommended steps toward reconciliation, explained that some within the congregation feel the consistory has not been sufficiently supportive of the pastor’s work, while others feel his work requires improvement, and many members are confused. He noted: “When this was brought to Classis, Classis stated to Cloverdale that they had not followed the Church Order (the CO states that a dissolution may only occur when reconciliation is attempted with the involvement of both church visitors and Classis, a step that Classis believes was not taken).”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 7 of the December 5, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.

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