Press Release of the meeting of the combined committees of the Canadian Reformed and United Reformed Churches to propose a common church order held March 13-16, 2006 at the United Reformed Church of Dutton, Michigan

Present were Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, Rev. William Pols, Rev. Ronald Scheuers, and Rev. Raymond Sikkema representing the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA), and Dr. Gijsbert Nederveen, Mr. Gerard J. Nordeman, Rev. John VanWoudenberg and Dr. Art Witten of the Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC). Mr. Harry VanGurp representing the URCNA was unable to attend due to illness.

Dr. Kloosterman opened the meeting with a brief meditation on Galatians chapter 1, and prayer.

The minutes of the November 1-3, 2005 meeting were reviewed and approved, as were the agenda and timetable for the next three days.

Correspondence was received from five United Reformed and Canadian Reformed Churches and individuals interacting with the committee’s reports and press releases. Feedback from the churches is much appreciated. Comments will be taken into consideration when the committee deals with the relevant articles. Requests for copies of the proposed Joint Church Order (JCO) as completed thus far cannot be accommodated. The work to this point is not a completed product. It remains open to further evaluation and revision. At each meeting the committee has returned to various articles and made changes reflecting concerns communicated to the committee by the churches. Also again at this meeting various changes were made. Foundational Principles 5, 6, and 10 were revised to improve logical clarity and now reads:

FP 5: In its subjection to its heavenly Head, the universal church is governed by Christ from heaven by means of His Word and Spirit with the keys of the kingdom, which He has given to the local church for that purpose. Therefore, no church may lord it over another church. (Matthew 16:19; 23:8; John 20:22-23; Acts 14:23; 20:2832).

FP 6: The offices of minister, elder, and deacon are local in authority and function. The Lord gave no permanent universal, national, or regional offices to His church by which the churches are to be governed. Therefore, no office-bearer may lord it over another office-bearer. (Acts 14:23; 16:4; 20:17, 28; Ephesians 4:11-16; Titus 1:5).

FP 10: Member churches meet together in broader assemblies to manifest ecclesiastical unity, to guard against human imperfections, and to benefit from the wisdom of many counselors. The decisions of such assemblies are settled and binding among the churches unless they are contrary to Scripture, the Reformed Confessions, or the commonly adopted Church Order.” (Proverbs 11:14; Acts 15:1-35; I Corinthians 13:910; II Timothy 3:16-17).

The phrase “commonly adopted” is important to show that the Church Order is not imposed, but is commonly accepted.

Broad Divisions and JCO article 1 were combined and revised for the sake of clarity, consistency, and structural improvement as follows:

1. Article re: Purpose and Divisions of the Church Order -For maintaining proper ecclesiastical order (I Corinthians 14:40), the Church Order must regulate the offices; the assemblies; the supervision of doctrine, worship, sacraments, and ceremonies; and the discipline. Therefore, we order our ecclesiastical relations and activities under the following divisions:

I. Offices (Articles 2 - )

II. Assemblies (Articles )

III. Worship, Sacraments, and Ceremonies (Articles )

IV. Discipline (Articles )

Minor changes in grammar and styling were made to a number of articles without changing the substance in any way. More thought will be given to the article regarding churches with a small number of office-bearers and to what extent the deacons may be involved in work that belongs to the office of elder.

The article regarding the reconciliation of a member was revised. The reconciliation of a member, whose sin is public or has become public because the admonition of the church was despised, shall take place only upon evidence of genuine repentance, and in a manner which best promotes the edification of the church. The consistory shall determine whether, for the welfare of the congregation and the sinner, the member shall be required to confess the sin publicly.

Matters left over from the previous meeting were reviewed. Two brothers have been found willing to edit the proposed church order for style and clarity.

One of the committee members was asked to correlate the proposed church order with theAn elder and deacon are always ordained church order of Dort. This document can later be changed to form a three or four column document meet together in broader assemblies to manifest ecclesiastical unity, to guard against human imperfections, and to benefit from the wisdom of many counselors. The decisions of such assemblies are settled and binding among the churches unless they are contrary to Scripture, the Reformed Confessions, or the commonly adopted Church Order.” (Proverbs 11:14; Acts 15:1-35; I Corinthians 13:910; II Timothy 3:16-17).
The phrase “commonly adopted” is important to show that the Church Order is not imposed, but is commonly accepted.

Broad Divisions and JCO article 1 were combined and revised for the sake of clarity, consistency, and structural improvement as follows:

1. Article re: Purpose and Divisions of the Church Order -For maintaining proper ecclesiastical order (I Corinthians 14:40), the Church Order must regulate the offices; the assemblies; the supervision of doctrine, worship, sacraments, and ceremonies; and the discipline. Therefore, we order our ecclesiastical relations and activities under the following divisions:

I. Offices (Articles 2 - )

II. Assemblies (Articles )

III. Worship, Sacraments, and Ceremonies (Articles )

IV. Discipline (Articles )

Minor changes in grammar and styling were made to a number of articles without changing the substance in any way. More thought will be given to the article regarding churches with a small number of office-bearers and to what extent the deacons may be involved in work that belongs to the office of elder.

The article regarding the reconciliation of a member was revised. The reconciliation of a member, whose sin is public or has become public because the admonition of the church was despised, shall take place only upon evidence of genuine repentance, and in a manner which best promotes the edification of the church. The consistory shall determine whether, for the welfare of the congregation and the sinner, the member shall be required to confess the sin publicly.

Matters left over from the previous meeting were reviewed. Two brothers have been found willing to edit the proposed church order for style and clarity.

One of the committee members was asked to correlate the pro-for usage by the churches in reviewing the JCO.

Regarding Dort art. 18 it was decided to not include reference to Professors of Theology in our Church Order.

A discussion on whether elders and deacons who have served before are installed or ordained, resulted in the understanding that the responsibility and authority of office do not extend beyond a term of ordination. Therefore an elder and deacon are always ordained again upon subsequent entry to office. The title and body of the relevant article were changed accordingly.

Dort article 26 dealing with the involvement of deacons in institutions established for the care of the poor, and article 45 regarding written records and minutes of broader assemblies were deemed outdated and not necessary in a new church order.

Regarding Dort 57 requiring a father to present his child for baptism, it was decided that an equivalent article is not needed in the JCO. It is neither in the URC or CanRC church order. The background for the stipulation of Dort 57 is not male headship, but rather that in the Reformed churches the Roman Catholic practice of using god-parents or sponsors, who acted as spiritual fathers and mothers for the children, could be found. (cf. VanDellen and Monsma, 1941 ed., p 239-240.) The article dealing in trust as property in common of all of the churches within the federation, in accordance with the rules and regulations adopted by classes or synods of the federation. In the event a local church withdraws from the federation, unless the rules and regulations of the federation provide otherwise, the withdrawing church shall cease to have any benefit in such property.

C. Notwithstanding the laws of the jurisdiction in which a local church is located, the final authority for any acquisition or disposition of property by a local church, whether real or personal, shall be the council of that church in accordance with the church’s own by-laws or regulations, regardless of how the property is held.

D. Any appeals to broader assemblies with respect to property shall be governed by this article.

Regarding the Church’s Mission Calling the committee proposes that each church shall fulfill its mission calling, which is to preach the Word of God to the unconverted at home and abroad with the goal of establishing churches. This shall be carried out by missionaries who are ministers of the Word set apart for this labor by being called, supported, and supervised by their consistories for this task. Such missionaries shall proclaim the Word of God, and administer the sacraments to those who have come to faith. They shall also institute church offices according to the provisions of the Church Order. The consistory shall promote the involvement of church members in labor and service that assist fulfilling this mission calling. If necessary, a calling church shall invite churches within its classis or regional synod to cooperate by agreement regarding the field, support, and oversight of the mission work.

The committee also proposes an article regarding the church’s evangelism calling. Each church shall fulfill its evangelism calling according to the Word of God and relying on the Holy Spirit, which is to make known the good news of Jesus Christ to those within its area of life and influence. It shall seek to persuade those who do not know God or are estranged from God and His service to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, which necessarily includes affiliating with His church through profession of faith.

Agreement was also reached for the article on marriage. Scripture teaches that marriage is to be a lifelong monogamous union between a man and a woman. Consistories shall instruct and admonish those under their spiritual care who are considering marriage to marry only in the Lord. The minister, as authorized by the consistory, shall solemnize only marriages that accord with Scripture using the form for the solemnization of marriage adopted by general synod.

The article dealing with the observance and revision of the Church Order was formulated as follows: These articles, relating to the lawful order of the church, having been drafted in accord with the Foundational Principles and adopted by common consent, shall be observed diligently. Only when the good order and welfare of the churches make it necessary, shall this church order be revised. Any revision of the church order can be adopted only by a general synod.

Wording of various ordination examinations was also agreed upon.

The last hour of the third day was used to review the agenda for the next meeting. The next meeting will take place, D.V., August 2224, 2006 at the Dutton United Reformed Church, MI.

Appreciation was expressed to the Dutton URC for its hospitality and the assistance received from the church’s secretary, Beth Bouman. Dr. Kloosterman, in his closing remarks, stated his thankfulness to the Lord for the brotherly manner in which the committee could proceed with its labors and the amount of work that could be accomplished. To God be the praise and glory.

For the committee Gerard J. Nordeman

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