The annual NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council) met from November 14-16, 2017, at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI.
This was the 43rd meeting of the Council, which now consists of 13 member federations. As usual, denominational reports followed by questions and prayers for those organizations took a great deal of time. According to Rev. Ralph A Pontier, NAPARC’s newly-elected Secretary, “One theme was repeated in several reports, that the work of missions is thriving among the churches.”
A more unique feature of this year’s NAPARC meeting involved a lengthy discussion regarding organic unity. Four matters related to the subject had been forwarded from the previous year, and delegates had been encouraged to be prepared to discuss them this year. Discussion began Wednesday afternoon and continued Thursday morning on four topics:
- How important is organic union among dissimilar NAPARC denominations? For example, do the denominations which focus on a specific ethnic/linguistic group in North America really need to merge with other NAPARC denominations?
- What denominational distinctives presently exist as obstacles to organic union? (Examples: exclusive psalmody, delegated or non-delegated assemblies or synods, strict subscription or good faith subscription, unique denominational histories, etc.)
- What denominational distinctives should be considered as valid obstacles to organic union under biblical scrutiny?
- Discuss the possibility of a structure that allows for both distinctives and organic union.
Rev. Steve Swets, pastor of Rehoboth URC in Ancaster, ON, viewed this as the meeting’s most significant discussion. “It was good to hear the brothers speak openly about the joys and difficulty of unity,” he said. “Some churches asked the FRCNA why they are slow in uniting with the HRC. Some asked the URCNA the same questions about the CanRC. It was an honest dialogue.”
In the official press release, Rev. Pontier reported: “The discussion revealed different ideas about the importance and feasibility of organic (organizational) union, but also a common commitment to giving visible expression to that unity which is already ours in Christ.”
As discussion continued, a motion was made to appoint an ad-hoc committee “to explore concrete ways in which we could begin to bundle our resources for greater visible expressions of our unity in Christ.” The committee would include a representative from each member church. Because the number of official delegates per federation at this meeting ranged from one to four, the body adopted a procedural motion to allow one vote per delegation. The main motion, however, was defeated.
“One thought that was expressed in discussion was that we would be asking a committee to do what we all were supposed to be doing together,” Rev. Pontier said. “I think the majority thought that a committee was not necessary and would not be able to do any better than what we could all do together.”
Another item on the docket dealt with religious liberty in light of the US Supreme Court’s action legalizing same-sex marriage. Delegates approved the Interim Committee recommendation that this matter would be best handled within the member churches.
A World Mission’s Consultation has been held for more than three decades. The 2018 event is scheduled for September 18-19 in Willow Grove, PA. Mr. Mark Bube will chair the event and Rev. Douglas Clawson will serve as secretary.
NAPARC called for three additional consultations. The OPC will host one on relief and diaconal ministry, convened by Mr. David Nakhla, part-time administrator for the OPC’s Committee on Diaconal Ministries. The ARP will host an event on theological training, convened by Dr. Kyle E. Sims. And the ERQ will host a conference on youth ministries, to be convened by Rev. Ben Westerveld.
Dues for NAPARC remain at $1,000 per member church. The website committee requested and received a $200 budget.
In addition to the election of Secretary Pontier, delegates elected Rev. Dr. S. Steve Park (KAPC) as Chairman and Rev. David Kim (KPCA) as Vice-Chairman. Dr. Maynard Koerner (RCUS) agreed to serve another year as Treasurer. An official resolution of thanks was adopted to express gratitude to Rev. Ron Potter (RCUS) for his 15 years of faithful service as Secretary.
Interspersed with NAPARC’s regular business were evening worship services and opportunities for ecclesiastical meetings among member representatives.
The KAPC is slated to host the next meeting of the Council in the Philadelphia area on November 13-15, 2018. According to the minutes, the docket will include these topics:
- As North American culture is becoming increasingly pluralistic and secular how might we develop a vibrant Reformed witness, although we are a small, minority group?
- Retaining the integrity of Reformed Confessionalism and Ecclesiology in a secular world.
- The Reformed Church and norms for gender, sexuality, marriage, and the family.
NAPARC Member churches
- ARPC – Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
- CanRC – Canadian Reformed Churches
- ERQ – Église réformée du Québec
- FRCNA – Free Reformed Churches of North America
- HRC – Heritage Reformed Congregations
- KAPC – Korean American Presbyterian Church
- KPCA – Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin)
- OPC – Orthodox Presbyterian Church
- PCA – Presbyterian Church in America
- PresRC – Presbyterian Reformed Church
- RCUS – Reformed Church in the United States
- RPCNA – Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
- URCNA – United Reformed Churches in North America
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the January 18, 2018, issue of Christian Renewal.