Synod 2012 of the United Reformed Churches in North America met on the bank of the Hudson River, on the campus of Nyack College in Nyack, New York, on June 11–16. Represented were 191 delegates from 102 churches, along with sixteen fraternal delegates and observers. One church sent delegates who were not presently sitting elders, and who, according to Church Order, were not seated as delegates but recognized as observers with no voting privileges.
Fraternal delegates representing like-minded confessionally Reformed churches from North America were in attendance, and those from foreign countries were from Indonesia, Quebec, Scotland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the Congo. Rev. Yonson Dethan of the Calvinist Reformed Church in Indonesia, in his address to Synod, said that it takes two days for him to get to the U.S. and, “I have a sore bum.” He went on to add that the joy of being with like-minded brothers of the Reformed faith for a week and receiving their encouragement quickly makes the sore go away.
Having also been in attendance at Synod 2010, it seemed to this reporter that with the songbook committee having listened and heard the concerns of the churches, and with actions for an organic merger with the Canadian Reformed Church on hold for the time being, the result was a more united synod. It was obvious that we as a federation are still maturing and trying to find ourselves; as such, much time and discussion were devoted in making sure that what was being acted on would be for the good order of the church, in accord to the Scriptures and the Reformed confessions, and to the glory of God.
Rev. Ronald Scheuers again served the synod effectively as chairman, assisted capably by Rev. John Bouwers as vice chairman. The gifts of Rev. Doug Barnes were again utilized as first clerk, and Rev. Greg Lubbers served the first time as second clerk. Stated Clerk Rev. Brad Nymeyer’s thorough knowledge of the Church Order and the Synodical Rules of Procedure effectively assisted the officers throughout the week.
Synod waded through eleven overtures and ten appeals and considered reports from fourteen committees. Without dissent, the request of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to join them in producing a new hymnal was approved, and further advice was given to the Song Book Committee. A Missions Committee was established, and the appointing of a Missions Coordinator was approved, but with considerable discussion as to what his job would entail and whether it must be held by an ordained man. Synod approved dividing Classis Southern Ontario—with its twenty-three churches—into two classes, with eleven churches making up Classis Southwestern Ontario and twelve churches making up Classis Ontario East. The guidelines for a thoroughly Reformed theological education were refined. Bible knowledge and biblical exegesis were added to the Guidelines for a Colloquium Doctum in Appendix 4 of the Church Order.
In other action, Synod accepted for continued study the Proposed Joint Church Order for union with the Canadian Reformed Church. It was approved to enter into phase two with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. Delineation was made concerning various types of synodical actions, classifying them as doctrinal affirmation, pastoral advice, study committee report, and synodical judgment. A report on the level of doctrinal commitment necessary for membership in a URCNA congregation was adopted. Article 10 of the URCNA Church Order was amended to more clearly define caring for emeritus ministers, and a committee was approved to give advice concerning the compensation and retirement of URC ministers.
Synod did not accede to an overture to change the phrase, “complete remission of our sins” to “complete forgiveness of our sins” in the URC provisionally approved Lord’s Supper Form. Also not approved were an overture to establish a committee of appeals for synod and one to require all ministers to submit reading sermons to be put on the URC website. There was considerable discussion concerning Canadian laws, which make it increasingly difficult for their churches to support joint federational causes in the U.S. An invitation from Trinity URC of Visalia, California to host the next Synod was accepted, and it was approved for that to be held in mid-June, 2014.
Mr. Myron Rau is a member of Covenant URC in Kalamazoo, MI, and a member of the board of Reformed Fellowship. When he was not representing RFI at our display table at synod, he attended the synod meetings as an observer.