Concurrent meetings of URCNA Classis and OPC Presbytery prefigure major assemblies

groupFrom March 15-17, 2018, the URCNA’s Classis Central US and the OPC’s Presbytery of the Midwest held meetings at Community Reformed Church (URCNA) in Schererville, IN, that prefigured the federations’ concurrent major assemblies in a few months.

Classis Central convened at 4:00 PM on Thursday, March 15, and concluded at 6:00 PM on Friday. The Presbytery of the Midwest convened at 8:30 AM on Friday and concluded its business about noon on Saturday. Before and during the overlapping times, delegates and commissioners enjoyed communal worship and meals as well as shared instruction and information.

On Thursday evening, men from both groups attended an educational presentation (open to the public) by Tim Geiger, President of Harvest USA and a Teaching Elder in the PCA.

2 Anderson instrumentalistsFriday morning began with joint opening devotions. Rev. John Vermeer, recently installed at Doon URC in Iowa, spoke from Ephesians 2:11-22. He noted that twisted views of the church inhibit fellowship, but true unity can be found in focusing on Christ. Members of the Community URC congregation provided accompaniment for singing from a Trinity Psalter Hymnal sampler. Rev. James Oord played the piano. Andy Anderson played bass, his son James played cello, and another son Isaiah played violin.

The afternoon began with joint devotions led by Rev. Shane Lems, former pastor and church planter of the URC in Sunnyside, WA, who is now minister of Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Hammond, WI. From Luke 22:31-34, he spoke about Christ’s intercessory prayer that the faith of believers would not fail.

Dr. Alan Strange reported that printing of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal was scheduled to begin on March 19. Over 30,000 copies had been ordered, about 18,000 by URC churches.

Classis Central US: Colloquium Doctum and emeritation

Classis Central welcomed a minister from another federation and granted concurring advice regarding a minister who is being emeritated.

Jon and Kelli Bushnell
Kelli and Jon Bushnell

The most time-consuming matter on the agenda of Classis Central was a Colloquium Doctum conducted with Rev. Jon Bushnell, minister of First CRC in Prinsburg, MN. Sioux Center URC requested the CD and expressed its intent to proceed with steps for extending a call to him, should he sustain his exam. He did.

“It was extensive, exhausting and extremely encouraging,” Rev. Bushnell observed. “We covered everything from pastoral burn-out to the incomprehensibility of God.”

A humorous moment occurred when Rev. Spencer Aalsburg asked Rev. Bushnell if he would cast a presidential vote for an inexperienced Christian or an experienced non-Christian with good policies.

“It’s hard to say without knowing more,” Rev. Bushnell responded diplomatically. “Is he a Christian in name only? Are you running for president? Because I’d vote for you.”

Rev. Bushnell’s home church is Trinity URC in Visalia, CA. He is a 2011 graduate of Westminster Seminary California and served an internship at Prinsburg prior to accepting the church’s call. His wife, Kelli, is from DeMotte, IN, where she belonged to Immanuel URC. The couple has three young children.

The request for concurring advice in the matter of emeritation came from Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, with respect to Rev. Tom Wetselaar, who has served the church since it formed in 1995. Rev. Wetselaar has been a faithful pastor for 30 years and has been in Classis Central the longest of any minister. His struggle with chronic back pain, combined with an unusually heavy burden of full-time pastoral ministry, led to a leave of absence in August and the eventual emeritation. Rev. Wetselaar continues to preach and counsel as opportunity arises and hopes for new avenues of ministry in Christ’s kingdom.

Rev. Jody Lucero chaired the meeting, Rev. John Vermeer served as Vice Chairman, and Rev. Ralph Pontier is Clerk of Classis. Oak Glen URC in Lansing, IL, is scheduled to convene the next meeting of Classis on September 10, 2018.

Presbytery of the Midwest: Exams and expansion

The Presbytery of the Midwest examined several men at various levels and discussed a proposal to expand its geographic bounds.

OPC examsCommissioners approved taking three men under Presbytery care: Ben Bessett from Neenah, WI; Elijah DeJong from Sheboygan, WI; and Carl Gobelman from Joliet, IL. Peter Bringe from Wentzville, MO, preached on Friday morning, and Nathan Strom from St. Paul, MN, preached in the afternoon. Commissioners voted to grant them license to preach in the churches. Andrew Fortenberry, from Hanover Park, IL, was approved for ordination, and Jared van Noord, from Green Bay, WI, was accepted from another denomination.

Commissioners approved sending to the General Assembly a communication regarding Presbytery boundaries in the Great Plains States. The neighboring Presbytery of the Central US contains only four churches and will petition GA to dissolve it and disperse its territories. One of the churches, Faith OPC in Lincoln, NE, wishes to affiliate with the Presbytery of the Midwest. It is anticipated that the Presbytery of the Southwest will receive the other three, which are located in Kansas and Oklahoma. Because some parts of nearby states are closer to Chicago (where the PMW is centered) than to Denver (where the Presbytery of the Dakotas is centered), the communication expresses the willingness of the Presbytery of the Midwest to add specific counties of Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota to its geographical area.

Ben Snodgrass served as Moderator for the Presbytery’s meeting, and Camden Bucey was Vice Moderator. Christian McShaffrey is Stated Clerk, and Bruce Stahl is the Assistant Clerk. Brian De Jong serves as Archivist. The wide range of responsibilities struck Rev. McShaffrey.

“As those who acknowledge their own sin and weakness, we spend ample time in the Word and in prayer,” he said. “As those who have been forgiven, we sing much praise to our Savior. As those who guard the truth, we scrutinize candidates for ministry. As those who serve the church, we offer advice and shepherding as needed. As those who hold the keys, we adjudicate administrative and judicial matters. As those who love God, we seek to do all this in a decent, orderly, and Christ-honoring manner.”

Planning the meetings required cooperation between representatives in each federation. Rev. James Oord expressed gratitude for the dedication and efficiency of the Presbytery’s Ecumenicity Committee. “The whole event was a blessing to both bodies,” he said. He noted that despite full agendas, delegates and commissioners made the most of fellowship opportunities.

The above is an edited version of the article that appeared on pages 12 & 13 of the April 13, 2018, issue of Christian Renewal.

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URC and CanRC hold concurrent classis meetings

CanRC reportsClassis Central US (URCNA) and Classis Manitoba (CanRC) met in Sioux Falls, SD, on April 3 & 4, 2017, marking the first time the two federations held classis meetings concurrently. Delegates from both classes had the privilege of the floor during joint sessions, but did not vote on items of the other classis. Federational-specific matters were presided over by the appropriate chair.

Plans for the meeting began last fall, when Rev. Todd De Rooy (pastor of Redeemer URC in Orange City, IA, and a member of the URCNA’s Committee for Ecclesiastical Relations and Church Unity) contacted Classis Manitoba personnel to determine interest. Then he contacted Rev. Spencer Aalsburg, whose Christ Reformed consistory was slated to convene and host the April 2017 meeting of Classis Central US.

Rev. De Rooy said, “Classis Manitoba agreed to postpone their scheduled March meeting and hold it in April in Sioux Falls, at Christ Reformed Church’s invitation, to be concurrent with our Classis.”

He explained the rationale behind the idea as “excitement” for the anticipated concurrent URCNA Synod and OPC General Assembly in 2018, the “success” of concurrent meetings between Classis Eastern US and the OPC, and a desire “to find the best way for our elders and ministers to have contact with elders and ministers in the Canadian Reformed Churches.”

The close proximity of URC and CanRC congregations in Canada promotes pulpit exchanges and other events that foster fellowship; however, the small number of CanRC congregations within the US makes such ecumenical efforts less viable.

Ministers and clerks of the two convening consistories, Rev. Aalsburg and Clerk Mark Hoogwerf (Christ Reformed Church-URC) as well as Rev. Steve Vandevelde and Clerk Jon DeWitt (Carmen East-CanRC), did much preliminary work to facilitate the event.

Men from both federations worked together to craft a schedule that allowed similar amounts of time for separate administrative sessions and incorporated joint sessions to discuss items of mutual interest on each agenda.

Classis Manitoba not only had to be willing to postpone its meeting, but delegates also had to be willing to dedicate more time to it.

“We were humbled by the willingness of our Canadian Reformed brothers to take the extra time to travel down to meet concurrently with us in Sioux Falls,” Mark Hoogwerf said. “They could have completed their business in a normal meeting that would allow most of their delegates to return home the same day. However, they were very open to making the sacrifice of spending up to seven hours on the road each way to meet in ecumenical fellowship with us.”

Nine Can RC participants traveled in two vehicles the seven hours from Manitoba. But Classis Central US covers such a large area that some of its delegates drove farther. For instance, those from DeMotte drove twelve hours.

Rev. Todd Joling (Faith URC, Beecher, IL) chaired, while Rev. Talman Wagenmaker served as Clerk for Classis Central US. Rev. Rick Vanderhorst (Grace CanRC, Winnipeg) was President, and Dr. Andrew Pol (Carmen West) functioned as Clerk for Classis Manitoba. Rev. Joe Poppe (Redeemer, Winnipeg) served as Vice-President.

Classis convened on Monday evening with delegates from both federations gathering for devotions. Delegates then met separately to deal with administrative matters and reports. This period was followed by a joint session at which representative from the OPC and PCA extended fraternal greetings and a representative from the CanRC reported on mission work in Brazil.

Tuesday morning began with delegates meeting jointly to hear more fraternal greetings and reports. After updates on URC church planting efforts in Chicago Heights, IL, and Quito, Ecuador, delegates approved continued support for those works. They also heard an update on URC Chaplain Rev. Andrew Spriensma.

groupOvertures

URC delegates then dealt with three overtures. The first, submitted by Grace URC of Waupun, WI, requested several changes to Classis Central’s Rules of Procedure. Most of these were “housekeeping” changes, but one suggested that all examinees be required to submit a sermon manuscript for evaluation. All parts of this overture were adopted.

The second overture, from Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, suggested that Synod 2018 revise Article 64 of the Church Order to be in line with Synod 2016’s pastoral advice regarding membership departure. The overture would add language about transferring, releasing, or erasing memberships in situations not included in existing Church Order categories. This overture was approved and will be forwarded to Synod 2018.

The third overture, also from Immanuel in DeMotte, asked Synod to adopt a “Marriage Affirmation & Gospel Testimony,” which affirms biblical teaching and addresses concerns raised at Synod 2016. Classis Central US voted to send this overture on to Synod 2018.

Appeal

Following a lunch break, the concurrent meeting entered Executive Session, and Classis Manitoba reported on recent church visits.

Classis Central US then dealt with an appeal from an individual. The consistory had denied his request to pursue revision of the Heidelberg Catechism and Belgic Confession to bring those documents into agreement with statements about the ‘soul’ not being a “thing, but a characteristic/condition of a living body…and that…time in the Bible…is not literal.”

Delegates recognized seven of the appellant’s eleven grounds as valid, but three as invalid, and one as out of order. The decision to deny the appeal as a whole was adopted without dissent. Scriptural grounds were provided at several points of the response and the consistory was affirmed in its position that the confessions accurately reflect biblical teaching regarding the soul.

Although discussion on this matter lasted past the afternoon break, Classis Manitoba met separately after that time. Classis Central went on to appointments and offered pastoral advice regarding discipline matters.

Delegates met concurrently again for closing matters and prayer. Appreciation was expressed to Christ Reformed Church for hosting the meeting.

“We considered it a great joy to be able to host the spring meetings,” Mr. Hoogwerf said. “By God’s grace, numerous members of our small congregation were willing to joyfully serve. We were very grateful for the opportunity.”

Rev. Vandevelde thought he might find Classis Central US “less homogeneous” than Classis Western Canada, which he said “most of us know as ‘the URC.’” While he anticipated more diversity, his impression had been “that Classis US would not be hostile to some potential further organic unity, but more likely indifferent or hesitant, maybe reluctant.” For this reason, he was “keen” to meet URC brothers “face to face.”

Rev. Poppe described the concurrent meeting as “hugely beneficial.” He said, “There was a mutual recognition that we share a common faith, and that we truly are brothers in the Lord.”

He recommends that other classes consider such meetings and seek opportunities for them. Rev. De Rooy offered these thoughts: “All the delegates saw first-hand that the office bearers and churches of our two federations are doing the work of the Great Commission under the same Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, by the same power of the Holy Spirit. Our churches face the same challenges from the inside and the outside of the church. What we discover is that we differ in how we go about doing that work. There was a spirit of brotherly unity in the assembly of the concurrent Classis, and also in the many fellowship times over the two days.”

The subsequent meeting of Classis Central US was scheduled for September 11, 2017, in Waupun, WI, with Grace URC as the convening consistory. Carman West CanRC was slated to convene the next meeting of Classis Manitoba on June 23 or September 22, 2017.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 8 & 9 of the May 31, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.

 

Short meeting for URC Classis Central US

DSCN3737
Pablo and Verenisse receive congratulations.

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.

Revs. Spencer Aalsburg, Bradd Nymeyer, and Keith Davis enjoy a break.
Revs. Spencer Aalsburg, Bradd Nymeyer, and Keith Davis enjoy a break.

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.

DSCN3722Before 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.

Candidacy exams dominate the agenda at URCNA’s Classis Central US

church interiorAttending the September meeting of Classis Central US of the URCNA was a genuine blast from the past. It reminded many older folks of childhood Sundays, when summer services were made more comfortable with whirling wall fans. But the past was only a memory as office-bearers looked to the future by examining two men as prospective ministers in Christ’s church.

Those two examinations were the primary matters of business when delegates met at First URC in Oak Lawn, IL, on September 9 & 10, 2013. It was the first time Classis Central US met in the historic and beautiful (if not air-conditioned) building.

Although from very different backgrounds, Pablo Landázuri and Robert Van der Woerd are both graduates of Mid-America Reformed Seminary (Robert in 2012 and Pablo in 2013) who share a burden to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pablo grew up in a nominal Roman Catholic home, but first heard the gospel when he began attending a Presbyterian church. He said, “One particular day I had a huge conviction of sin and I knew my only hope was the Lord Jesus Christ.” He eventually felt compelled to enter the ministry, but it was almost five years before God paved the way for him to attend Mid-America.

Robert was raised in a Reformed home, but his faith didn’t become real to him until late in his teen years. “I came more and more to realize it was time to confess sin and take my faith seriously,” he said. While pursuing a business degree, he felt a strong sense that he would not be content doing anything other than preaching. He entered seminary after his college graduation.

Pablo and Verenisse and their three sons are members of Faith URC in Beecher, IL, but currently live in Pella where he is serving a one-year internship at Covenant Reformed Church (URC). He hopes to return to Ecuador next year to work with his former pastor in preaching the Word and establishing Reformed congregations.

Robert and Rachel and their two sons are members of Lynwood URC in Lynwood, IL, but have been living in Sioux Falls, SD, where he served a summer internship with Rev. Spencer Aalsburg at the Sioux Falls URC Fellowship. Robert hopes for a call to a congregation within the URCNA.

exam-IpemaOn Monday evening, delegates evaluated sermons of each man during executive session, open only to office-bearers. Then Rev. Paul Ipema examined the men concurrently in the area of Practica, dealing with their Christian commitment and personal life.

The exams continued on Tuesday morning when Rev. Jody Lucero quizzed the men regarding Bible Knowledge. Prior to Rev. Bradd Nymeyer examining them in Biblical Exegesis (translating original languages), a motion was made to suspend classical rules in order to question the men individually. Following that section, Rev. Dan Donovan conducted the portion of the exam on Church Polity, which deals with ecclesiastical rules and procedures.

Before the lunch break, a motion was passed to reduce the length of the Confessional Knowledge and Church History sections from 60 minutes to 45 minutes in order to allow the exams to conclude by approximately 5:30.

After the lunch break, a motion was made to suspend the classical rules in order to schedule the spring meeting in early March rather than in April of 2014. The rationale was that this would allow Classis to table the four overtures on this meeting’s docket and discuss them at the next meeting, which would still be prior to the deadline for Synod 2014. The motion to suspend passed.

The first part of the afternoon was devoted to Confessional Knowledge with Rev. Todd De Rooy and Reformed Doctrine with Rev. Paul Ipema. In the second part of the afternoon, Rev. Spencer Aalsburg questioned the men regarding their knowledge of Church History. The exams concluded with Rev. Matthew Nuiver examining the men on the important subject of Ethics.

All delegates discussed the examinations in executive session, and the consistories of Faith URC in Beecher, IL, and Lynwood URC in Lynwood, IL, met for discussion during the evening break. Again in executive session, the consistories reported their determinations to the entire assembly, which then voted on each area by ballot. Later it was announced that Mr. Landázuri had sustained his examinations in six and Mr. Van der Woerd in two of the eight areas. The men need undergo exams in only the unsustained areas and will have to opportunity to do so at a future Classis meeting.

Gray-church exteriorLate in the evening, delegates provided pastoral advice to three churches seeking counsel and elected several men to serve in various classical and federational roles. The four overtures on the agenda were tabled indefinitely. Redeemer URC of Orange City, IA, will serve as the convening consistory for Classis Central’s March 3 & 4, 2014, meeting.

Although the heat was a key feature of meeting during days of record-breaking temperatures, the members of First URC overcame the high temperature with their warm hospitality. They worked hard to provide delicious food and plenty of cool water to refresh delegates and promote the fellowship that transcends physical discomfort.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 14 & 15 of the October 2, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.

URCNA Classis Central US: Church planting–good news, bad news

For Classis Central US of the URCNA, the second half of September contained church planting good news and bad news. Classis Central rejoiced as it took a step forward in church planting with the establishment of its official Church Planting Advice Committee at its meeting on September 10-11, 2012, at Oak Glen URC in Lansing, IL. But Classis grieved an apparent step backward during the following week, when the Covenant URC church plant in Prinsburg, MN, dissolved.

Classis designated Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, as overseeing consistory for its newly established Church Planting Advice Committee and appointed the following five men to the Committee: Rev. Spencer Aalsburg (Chairman; Hills URC, Hills, MN), Rev. Jody Lucero (Clerk; Providence URC, Des Moines, IA), Elder Dave Buursma (Redeemer URC, Dyer, IN), Elder Grant Diekevers (Cornerstone URC, Sanborn, IA), and Rev. Tom Wetselaar (Immanuel URC, DeMotte, IN).

The decision to dissolve the Covenant URC church plant in Prinsburg was made subsequent to this meeting of Classis and related to matters discussed at it.

Covenant URC’s minister, Rev. Larry Johnson, had accepted a teaching position at a school in Michigan only a few days prior to Classis. Due to the short amount of time the supervising consistory, Cornerstone URC in Sanborn, IA, had to deal with the matter, Classis did not grant concurring advice regarding the handling of his ministerial credentials. After extensive discussion, Classis encouraged Cornerstone to continue working with Rev. Johnson toward a pastoral and procedurally appropriate solution.

On September 12 (one day after Classis had concluded), the congregation of the Covenant church plant in Prinsburg met to discuss options regarding their future. The Steering Committee proposed the church plant’s dissolution. The congregation agreed by vote with that proposal. The consistory of Cornerstone URC in Sanborn then voted to proceed with the decision to dissolve. Rev. Dan Donovan led the final worship service for the Covenant group on September 16. The approximately 25 members of the former church plant now must find new church homes.

The Prinsburg group began meeting in the fall of 2008 and Rev. Larry Johnson was called to the work that November. The group’s first worship service was held on January 18, 2009. The group met for worship at Central Minnesota Christian School in Prinsburg, a small rural community of approximately 450 people, located about 120 miles straight west of Minneapolis.

During Classis Central’s September meeting, delegates also discussed an overture from Oak Glen URC to add a new article to the Church Order regarding lapsed members. Because there were differences of opinion regarding the issue and how to deal with it, the overture was tabled indefinitely.

Classis Central US appointed an alternate to the federational Mission Committee and appointed both a representative and an alternate to the URCNA Songbook Committee. Delegates additionally provided advice to four churches regarding discipline matters.

Representatives reported on the work of CERCU, CECCA, the URCNA Missions Committee, and the Classis Website Oversight Consistory. Rev. John Vermeer reported on his church’s ecumenical efforts, noting his plans for a teaching trip to Latvia and Rev. Mark Vander Hart’s work among Reformed churches there. Classis also heard updates on church plants and the work of Chaplain Andrew Sprinsma, currently in Germany. Rev. Nathan Brummel reported on his work with Divine Hope Reformed Seminary in the Danville Correctional Institution. Fraternal delegates Rev. George Horner of the RCUS and Rev. Alan Strange of the OPC were present at Classis Central.

Lynwood URC is scheduled to host the next meeting of Classis on April 15, 2013.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 12 of the October 2, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.

URCNA Classis Central US: Sets up church planting advisory committee

From a cloudless sky, the sun shone on the extensive and freshly mown lawn of Covenant Reformed Church when Classis Central met in Kansas City, MO, on April 10-11, 2012.

The Classis agenda was rather light and became even lighter as one overture for possible consideration was not taken up and an overture to establish a pulpit supply schedule as a resource for vacant churches was tabled indefinitely. Those overtures are likely to come before Classis at its next meeting.

The most important action of Classis Central US was its adoption of Immanuel URC’s overture to establish a classical committee to distribute information on existing church plants and advise member churches regarding potential plants.

Although the voice vote was too close to determine and Chairman Harold Miller called for a show of hands, the motion to adopt the overture carried by a slim majority. The division arose not from delegates being opposed to church planting, but rather from a desire that the proposal be more thoroughly fleshed out prior to its adoption as well as a concern regarding the possibility of a classical committee usurping a local consistory’s authority.

Elder Dave Troup, Covenant-Kansas City, expressed the latter fear, saying, “Anything that places a committee over our consistory will probably be voted down by our consistory.”

Speaking in favor of the overture, Rev. Jacque Roets, Redeemer-Dyer, IN, noted that Classis Central is “a study really of wasted resources” and “it would work so much better if we would pool what we’ve learned.” He added, “A committee on this level will help us; it’s there to aid us in working together.”

Rev. Bradd Nymeyer called the overture’s lack of recommendations regarding funding “an oversight” and noted the necessity for such provision.

In the most colorful comments of Classis, Rev.Spencer Aalsburg (Sioux Falls Reformed Fellowship) compared the committee’s formation to a couple’s discussion regarding having children.

“If we don’t want to have kids, let’s say it now,” Rev. Aalsburg said. “If we do, let’s at least begin talking about it.” 

Immanuel’s overture asks Classis Central US to appoint a Church Planting Advisory Committee of at least five elders/ministers for three-year terms with a mandate to:

1. Regularly gather and distribute information in one comprehensive report about church plant works in Classis Central US, including their financial needs.

2. Provide advice and recommendations to the churches on potential church plant locations in Classis Central US.

3. Develop “Classis Guidelines for Church Planting” covering the planning, commencement, funding, and oversight of church plants and submit the “Guidelines” for approval by the churches of Classis Central US.

4. Provide regular reports of its work to a consistory designated by Classis.

Classis asked the Immanuel delegates to consult with their consistory regarding its willingness to serve in a supervisory capacity and to determine, in consultation with other consistories in Classis Central, the names of elders or ministers willing and able to serve on such a committee. Classis additionally asked Immanuel to provide recommendations regarding funding and to report all these matters to the next meeting of Classis Central in September. It is hoped that the composition of the committee as well as specific funding directives can be determined at that time.

MISSION COMMITTEE REPORT

Some concerns similar to those voiced about a classical committee were expressed about the synodically appointed Missions Committee, whose report will come before Synod 2012. Grace URC in Waupun requested permission to discuss its concerns, but before that was granted there was a lengthy debate regarding the proper venue for discussion of matters still to come before the federation’s deliberative body. Since there is a lack of established protocol, there was some difference of opinion among the delegates.

Rev. Keith Davis (Lynwood,IL) said that his church’s elders had not yet discussed this matter and, therefore, its delegates could not represent the consistory accurately.

Rev. Doug Barnes (Hills, MN) noted that the material has been available to consistories for some time and, with only eight weeks prior to Synod, it would be helpful to consider the matter together.

While Rev. Nymeyer remarked about being blessed by informal discussion of the report, he said he felt “conflicted” about formal discussion, noting that it will come before an advisory committee prior to coming to Synod. “I speak against discussion at Classis,” he said. “The proper venue is not Classis.”

Eventually Classis approved no more than 30 minutes of discussion. Classis actually spent more time discussing whether or not to have the discussion than in the discussion itself, which ended with eight minutes to spare in its allotted time frame.

Later in the meeting, Classis allowed Rev. Jody Lucero, Clerk of the Missions Committee, 15 minutes to briefly respond to concerns and answer additional questions from the delegates. He assured delegates that the Committee’s purview would be informative, not deliberative.

“The Missions Committee would have no teeth by which to enforce giving in any local congregations,” he said. “There has been no authority given to this committee whatsoever. I think that’s a legitimate fear, but I believe we were careful to avoid that.” He added that this was an effort to provide “more information, more knowledge” so that elders will have necessary assistance and churches will become “more excited about spreading the gospel.”

OTHER BUSINESS

Prayer characterized this meeting of Classis Central. As usual, prayer followed reports from fraternal delegates and church visitor reports as well as reports on church plants and chaplain efforts; however, a new feature of the agenda was a time for church reports, each of which were followed by meaningful prayer for the four reporting churches: Wellsburg URC, Rock Valley URC, Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, and Covenant Reformed in Pella, IA.

Fraternal speakers were Rev. Wade Mann (Midwest Presbytery, RPCNA), Mr. Bill Gortemaker (Classis Manitoba, CanRC), Rev. Joe Vusich (South Central Classis, RCUS) and Mr. Keith LeMahieu (Presbytery of the Midwest, OPC).

Several church visitor reports were received, one of which generated a motion later in Classis to encourage churches to follow Synod Escondido’s directives regarding retirement and disability provisions for ministers. After some discussion, that motion was tabled.

Revs. John Vermeer, Talman Wagenmaker, Bradd Nymeyer, and Harold Miller

In addition to the usual CECCA, CERCU, and Classis website reports, delegates heard reports on the work of church plants in Sioux Falls and Prinsburg as well as an update on the Hispanic ministry in Chicago Heights. A report on Chaplain Spriensma, currently in Germany, noted his possible deployment to Afghanistan in the near future.

Classis was chaired by Rev. Harold Miller (Covenant-Kansas City) assisted by Rev. Talman Wagenmaker (Grace-Waupon, WI) serving at his first meeting as Clerk of Classis. Rev. John Vermeer (Oak Glen-Lansing) was Vice Chairman. Elder Don De Boer (Cornerstone-Sanborn, IA) submitted his Classis Treasurer’s report.

This was the first meeting of Classis Central at which delegates stood to indicate their agreement with the Form of Subscription, as opposed to first-time delegates coming forward to sign. Rev. Miller explains that the change in dealing with the Form of Subscription came by way of overture to the previous meeting of classis and “was intended to give a more tangible, visible, and edifying expression to our already robust unity.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 12 of the May 2, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.

URCNA Classis Central US ponders and prays

As with the previous meeting of Classis Central of the URCNA, its meeting on April 11-12, 2011 at Covenant Reformed Church in Pella was primarily held in executive session and was characterized by prayer. The meeting included a candidacy examination and several weighty pastoral issues.

Classis concurred with the consistory of Covenant Reformed Church that Mr. Aaron Verhoef had sustained all but one area of his examination. He has up to 13 months to be re-examined in that area.

Several churches requested advice from the body on disciplinary and pastoral issues. Difficult membership issues faced by one consistory are being considered by all consistories in order to offer further advice in the future. Classic encouraged the consistory of Immanuel URC in DeMotte to continue its study regarding “Two Kingdoms” theology and report its findings at a later date.

Two congregations within Classis Central US face unique challenges that call for continued prayer.

The consistory of Covenant Reformed Church reported that the situation following the deposition of its minister has been challenging, but that the Lord has blessed the congregation with unity and the ministry of interim pastor, Rev. Andrew Cammenga, scheduled to remain through mid-May. The Clerk of Classis was instructed to assist the Covenant consistory in securing pulpit supply.

Pulpit supply has also been needed in Doon URC, which waits immigration service approval for Mr. Simon Lievaart (a Canadian citizen) to serve as the congregation’s minister. Doon URC has been vacant since December of 2008. Prayers are especially requested as the church anticipates a visit from government officials and their subsequent ruling.

In addition to these weighty matters, Classis handled several routine matters and received greetings from fraternal delegates. Delegates rejoiced to hear positive reports regarding the work of church planters and a military chaplain.

Rev. Jacques Roets chaired the meeting while Rev. Spencer Aalsburg served as vice-chairman. Classis will next meet, the Lord willing, on September 12-13, 2011, with Hills URC as the convening consistory.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pp. 32-33 of the May 18, 2011, issue of Christian Renewal.