In contrast to the September meeting of Classis Central US of the URCNA—which ran out of time to discuss the four overtures on its agenda—the March 3 & 4, 2014, meeting was the shortest in most delegates’ memory. A contributing factor was an abbreviated exam with a prompt decision. Another reason was that discussion on five overtures was not protracted. But the primary factor was the unusual absence of credential requests for advice, which can be a time-consuming activity conducted in executive session.
Delegates voted to revise the agenda in order to accommodate the candidacy examination of Pablo Landázuri on Monday evening. Because he’d already sustained the other six portions at the September Classis meeting, this exam consisted of only two sections. Rev. Jacques Roets (Redeemer URC in Dyer, IN) examined Pablo on Bible Knowledge and Rev. Simon Lievaart (Doon URC in Doon, IA) questioned him regarding Confessional Knowledge.
The consistory of Faith URC in Beecher, IL, supervises Pablo. Following the time of questioning, the Faith URC consistory determined, and Classis concurred, that he had sustained the areas of biblical and confessional knowledge.
Pablo later reflected, “My main thought is that God, once again, has shown me how his fatherly hand works in all situations. I have had the great privilege to have the time to study the Scriptures and the Three Forms of Unity in a detail that I wouldn’t have had in any other situation, for which I am thankful. Also, I have learned that the result of a Classis examination is not only an intellectual exercise, but a spiritual one by which God has molded me and shown his will for the future. This is a very comforting feeling.”
Since June of 2013, Pablo has been serving an internship at Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, IA. He has assisted Rev. Doug Barnes in a variety of pastoral duties, regularly taught fifth grade catechism, provided Spanish instruction at a local Christian school, led Bible studies in Spanish for some area families, and frequently preached at Covenant or other churches. His wife, Verenisse, volunteered in the Spanish language immersion program at Pella Christian Grade School.
Classis decided to waive Pablo’s ordination exam, should he accept a call within Classis Central US. That is likely, given that Covenant Reformed Church has been working to develop a Joint Venture Committee to support his work when he returns to Ecuador.
Rev. Barnes said, “We’re delighted at how well our brother did on his examination. Our Council plans to meet within the next few days, in part to finish laying the groundwork for holding a congregational meeting to extend a call to Pablo. Lord willing, we hope to ordain him before his return to Ecuador in June. There’s a lot to do between now and when the Landázuri family leaves, but we know that God is entirely able to ensure that it all gets done well. We urge the churches to keep Pablo and his family, along with our Consistory, in prayer as we seek God’s help in bringing a strong Reformed witness to Quito, Ecuador.”
Classis met earlier than its regularly scheduled date in order to vote on five overtures prior to the deadline for synodical materials. Three came from Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, one from Covenant Reformed Church in Kansas City, and one from Grace URC in Waupun, WI.
The first overture from Pella would request Synod Visalia 2014 to editorially revise Classis credentials. URCNA Church Order stipulates that Consistories delegate two of its members to attend Classis and Synod meetings, but the approved classical credential uses the word “council” rather than “Consistory.” This overture requests editorial revision of the current classical credential to replace “council” with “Consistory” throughout the form. After little discussion, the overture passed.
A second overture from Pella and the one from Kansas City both suggested the appointment of a synodical committee to study the matter of resignation. Brothers from the churches made clear that neither had been aware of the other’s work on the overtures. Classis delegates considered the two overtures separately because each had its own nuances.
In discussion regarding the Pella overture, concerns were expressed regarding adopting a blanket approach that failed to consider each unique situation of individuals. After some discussion, the overture passed with only a few dissenting votes.
The Kansas City overture generated more discussion, related primarily to terminology. Several brothers felt uncomfortable with the word “desertion,” which was used in this overture. Rev. John Vermeer said, “It sounds like the word already is presuming culpability.”
Although Rev. Harold Miller expressed the belief that the overture primarily spoke to the issue of a person already under discipline, Rev. Bradd Nymeyer felt that was not clear. After another concern was expressed relating to possible legal ramifications, the delegates amended the overture with a question relating to that matter. The revised overture passed, but with many dissenting votes.
The third overture from Pella requested clarification of the status of the Three Forms of Unity and consisted of two affirmations that delegates considered separately. The first called for Synod to affirm the Three Forms of Unity as they appear in the 1976 version of the Psalter Hymnal. The second called for Synod to affirm the “substitute statement,” which appeared as a footnote in the 1958 version of Belgic Confession Article 36, “as part of its confessional binding.” Rev. Barnes explained that the footnote had been approved by the CRCNA Synod of 1958, but the temporary footnote was used while awaiting feedback from other Reformed churches.
The first affirmation passed with a few negative votes, while the second passed without dissent. The above four overtures will now be forwarded to the federation’s Stated Clerk for inclusion on the agenda for Synod Visalia 2014.
The overture from Grace URC in Waupun requested revisions to Classis Rules of Procedure and consisted of three requests, considered separately. The first would allow the Clerk to update the Rules of Procedure when changes are made to the Church Order that require revision of corresponding citations in the Rules, as long as he reports such changes to Classis. The motion was adopted. The second suggested the Clerk remind consistories that seminarians under their care be encouraged to attend Classis meetings at which candidacy exams are scheduled. That motion was defeated. The third suggested changing the word “delegate” to “member” at two points in the Classis Rules of Procedure, and it passed unanimously.
While a total absence of request for advice is extremely rare, this doesn’t mean that the churches are not dealing with many pastoral concerns. It simply means that no consistory felt the need to request advice at this time. Some have recently moved beyond that point and others have not quite reached that point with discipline problems.
Before lunch, delegates finished their business: re-electing Rev. Jody Lucero to serve on the Missions Committee, continuing the Clerk’s current $1,200 annual remuneration, appointing the consistory of Sioux Center United Reformed Church to supervise the Classical Treasurer, and electing elder Martin Nuiver (Faith URC in Beecher, IL) to serve on CECCA.
Redeemer URC in Orange City, IA, convened this meeting, but had asked Covenant Reformed Church in Pella to host it. Rev. Todd De Rooy served as chairman, Rev. Doug Barnes served as vice-chairman, and Rev. Talman Wagenmaker is currently Classical Clerk.
The date for the next meeting of Classis Central US was set for September 15 & 16, 2014. Covenant Reformed Church of Pella, IA, is next in rotation to host and convene.
A slightly edited version of this article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 13 & 14 of the March 26, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.