When the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), met on November 19-20, 2013, in Flat Rock, NC, it adopted new by-laws and approved changes to its constitution. The new by-laws are already in effect, but changes in the constitution must be approved by NAPARC member churches.
Those actions arose from a report by the Committee of Review (COR), which several years ago had been given a mandate to evaluate NAPARC’s function, constitution, and by-laws and bring its recommendations to the Council.
The new by-laws will soon appear on the NAPARC website (naparc.org). Beginning in 2014, the Council will meet over the course of three days (instead of two). Time blocks will be scheduled to allow interchurch committees to meet between NAPARC sessions, rather than squeezing in these meeting before the Council convenes or after it adjourns.
The current practice of the host church arranging for an evening meal and speaker will continue, although it will take place on the second evening. The first evening will ordinarily be designated for a devotional service, conducted by a congregation of the hosting member church.
Informational documents produced over the years by NAPARC will be published on its website and in its minutes to be available for use by member churches. Additionally, NAPARC will maintain a cumulative listing of studies completed by member churches.
The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC) hosted this 39th meeting of NAPARC at its Bonclarken assembly grounds. Delegates were present from it and the rest of the 12 member churches: Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC), Église réformée du Quebec (ERQ), Free Reformed Churches of North America (FRCNA), Heritage Reformed Congregations (HRC), Korean American Presbyterian Church (KAPC), Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Presbyterian Reformed Church (PRC), Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA), and United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA). The Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin) is applying for NAPARC membership and its observers were present as well as visitors and members of interchurch relations committees.
The Council elected Rev. Peter Holtvlüwer (CanRC) as chairman and Rev. Ben Westerveld (ERQ) as vice-chairman. Delegates re-elected Rev. Maynard Koerner (RCUS) as treasurer and Rev. Ron Potter (RCUS) as secretary.
Each member church presented a report, followed by a delegate offering prayer for the reporting church.
“It was plainly evident to all in attendance that the Kingdom of our LORD is advancing,” wrote Rev. Potter in a NAPARC press release. “What was evident in these reports is scriptural and creedal fidelity among the member churches of NAPARC, the distinguishing characteristics of the three marks of the true church, the active missionary efforts of the churches at home and abroad, the evident working of Christ and conversely, the attempts of the Devil, in some cases, to cause disruption.”
Following the evening meal, Dr. Mark Ross of Erskine Theological Seminary spoke on church unity from John 17. “Dr. Ross demonstrated from John 17:21 that the apologetic before the world for the glorious existence of the Triune God is the church, and specifically, the visible unity of the church,” wrote Rev. John Bouwers in a pastoral report to his congregation. “One challenge we must also continue to face, is that though we speak well of our commitment to unity in contexts like NAPARC, and very much enjoy the tastes of it we experience there, the actual fruit of such unity needs to come to expression in and between our local churches.”
In addition to the member church reports, NAPARC received a report from the observing church as well as reports from the treasurer, auditor, Interim Committee, and the Foreign Missions Consultation committee, before taking up the COR recommendations.
The 40th meeting of NAPARC is scheduled for November 11-13, 2014, and will be hosted by the Canadian Reformed Churches near Hamilton, ON. An invitation to observe the meeting was extended to the Bible Presbyterian Church, the Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin), and the Protestant Reformed Churches of North America.
One of the interchurch relations meetings that occurred within the context of NAPARC was between representatives of the URCNA and the CanRC, who focused on efforts toward merger.
A joint press release from the URNCA’s CERCU and the CanRC’s CCU committees stated, “In an effort to understand one another better, we discussed covenant views in the CanRC and the URCNA. The discussion then moved on to why the CanRC dislike extra-confessional statements. We also discussed the status of the doctrinal statements adopted by recent URCNA synods.”
The press release additionally stated, “We discussed CERCU’s intention to move the relationship to Phase 3A, which would mean a commitment to making concrete preparations for an eventual merger. It is CERCU’s intention to present Synod Visalia 2014 with a preliminary outline of such a plan leading up to a finalized proposal to Synod 2016. Part of this plan would be to encourage URCNA churches to interact with those issues that need resolution before merger. Furthermore, to enhance understanding of the issues involved, the hope is that a colloquium can be held at Synod Visalia 2014 in which two representatives from the URCNA and two from the CanRC will address covenant views and perhaps other theological issues.”
Rev. John Bouwers reported that CERCU held additional meetings with representatives of the ARP, ERQ, FRC, HRC, OPC, RCUS and the RPCNA. CERCU also met on its own to discuss its work related to each of the NAPARC churches, but particularly regarding merger with the CanRC.
“In our discussions together as CERCU,” wrote Rev. Bouwers, “we observe that three types of concerns remain regarding the unity process. One is theological; we need to be convinced as churches that the doctrine of the covenant taught in our respective churches can live healthily side by side in one federation within the bounds of our Confessions. The second is church political; given our negative past experiences, there are continued fears concerning perceived hierarchical tendencies in the Proposed Joint Church Order. The third has to do with the will to ecumenism generally; some are not convinced that churches that share a confession are required to seek organizational unity. As a committee we are of a mind that if the first two types of objections can be addressed to our mutual satisfaction, the hesitations with regards to the third will also be alleviated.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 17 & 18 of the January 22, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.