Synod 2014 (Visalia) Provisional Agenda Highlights And Comments

Introduction:
This review of the 372 page agenda of the upcoming Synod is designed to drill down into the significant matters of Synod. There is a lot of content in the Agenda that serves as background material or helps to flesh out the discussion. This is necessary for a full understanding of the issues. This high-level overview is intended to provide quick access to the materials in the agenda.

The basic question many delegates get asked is, ìwhat’s on the agenda for Synod?î

In short, many of the recommendations and proposals are standard ìbusiness itemsî that respective Synods undertake at every meeting. However there are some significant matters being brought before Synod Visalia:

Significant Matters:
➔ Request to Study membership resignation and desertion of membership (Overtures 3 & 4, pp 43-46)
➔ Request to revise guidelines for missions coordinator to expand eligibility to include men who are elders/qualified godly men (Overture 5, pp. 47-48)
➔ Request to adopt one form per liturgical event (Overture 8 & 9, pp. 59-62)
➔ CERCU reports that they will recommend to Synod 2016 that we enter into Phase 3A (Development of the Plan of Ecclesiastical Union) with the Canadian Reformed Churches (CERCU Report, pp.76-79, 84-85).
➔ The Psalter Hymnal Committee recommends the adoption of the Psalm proposal to be the psalter portion of the new songbook and provides a list of the psalms that will make up this portion of the new songbook (Psalter Hymnal Committee Report, pp. 99-109)
➔ The Missions Committee recommends a new nomination procedure for the Missions Coordinator position that will involve the Synodical

Pre-advice Committee (Missions Committee Report, pp. 341-342)
➔ The Compensation & Retirement Committee recommends a series of changes to current practices to ensure that ministers and their dependents are provided for in cases of disability, retirement, and death (Compensation & Retirement Committee Report, pp. 343, 347-353)

Administrative Matters, pg 134
A collection of (necessary) reports from the convening consistory, stated clerk, US and CDN treasurers, and other misc. matters.
Report of the Stated Clerk (5-6)
The Stated Clerk apologizes to the federation for not changing the a portion of the wording of Church Order Article 10 in the final published document. The first line should read, ìEach church shall provide honorably [not ‘adequately’] for the minister of the Word.î
The Stated Clerk provides an attachment (pp. 7-10) suggesting updates to the Regulations for Synodical Procedure.

Overtures, pg 35-62
Only the overtures themselves are included here. Background and Ground(s) can be found in the
Provisional Agenda itself.

1. Editorially Revise Classical Credential (35-36)
Classis Central US overtures Synod Visalia 2014 to editorially revise the classical credentials of the URCNA by replacing the term ìcouncilî with the term ìConsistoryî throughout the form.
Comment: This is interesting because Classis SWUS made these changes to their Classis Credentials in September 2004 and June 2005. Other classes have done the same (ex. Ontario East and Ontario South West)

2. Clarify the Status of Our Three Forms of Unity (37-41)
Classis Central US overtures Synod Visalia 2014 to adopt the following two affirmations.

Affirmation 1:
That the United Reformed Churches in North America have accepted as confessionally binding the English-language translations of the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession of Faith, and Canons of Dort which are included in the 1976 version of the Psalter Hymnal.

Affirmation 2:
That the United Reformed Churches in North America recognize the 1958 revision of Belgic Confession Article 36, including the ìsubstitute statementî placed in a footnote, as part of its confessional binding.

Comment: This overture asks the delegates to ìpick an official version of the Three Forms of Unityî and they suggest that the versions found in the 1976 Psalter Hymnal has the all-but-official stamp of approval. The first affirmation is intended to settle the question of which version we have adopted in our history and in our current circumstances. The second affirmation picks up the status of the 2nd paragraph of Belgic Confession 36. There is a substitute version of the 2nd paragraph (in the footnote) that has been the adopted position of the CRCNA since 1958.

This overture forgets what Synod 2001 recognized (Acts of Synod 2001, Art. XXIII) in the grounds for denying an overture to adopt a particular translation of Belgic Confession, Article 4: 1) ìA number of versions of the Three Forms of Unity are currently in use in the URCNA, none of which has ever been officially adopted. î 2) ìThe matter of versions of the confessions falls under the mandate of the Psalter Hymnal Committeeî (and subsequently the Liturgical Forms Committee). Furthermore, the second affirmation incorporates two opposing positions of what was an ongoing debate in the CRCNA until 1985 when the CRCNA removed from Article 36 the portion of thebody amended in 1910 and included in Article 36 what had been a footnote since 1958.

This overture might be answered by the Liturgical Forms Committee’s recommendation to adopt the 1985 CRC translation of the Belgic Confession.

3. Study the Matter of Resignation (43-44)
Classis Central US overtures Synod Visalia 2014 to establish a study committee to evaluate the practice of resigning one’s church membership. We ask that this committee be called to develop and recommend pastoral advice to the churches concerning the following points:

1.     How, according to Scripture and the testimony of our Reformed Confessions, we should regard the practice of resigning, or attempting to resign, one’s membership in the church;

2.     How, according to Scripture and the testimony of our Reformed confessions, we should regard an individual who attempts to engage in this practice of resigning church membership; and

3.     How the churches should respond when a member attempts to resign from the membership of the church, paying special attention to these questions:
a.     Under what circumstances, if any, should a Consistory ever acquiesce to a member’s desire to resign his or her membership in the church?

b.     Under what circumstances, if any, should the Consistory ever refuse to acquiesce to a member’s desire to resign his or her membership in the church?

c.     Should church discipline continue to be exercised in the case of a member who, in the midst of the discipline process, expresses the desire to resign from the church?

Comment: This overture and the overture following (#4) seek to give advice to the churches on matters of membership for those who wish to leave the church. These and similar questions are routinely asked of Classis to give advice since our Church Order does not contain these categories of ways a member can leave a local church. Overture 3 asks for a study committee to give advice to the churches when a member (either under discipline or not) asks to
resign their membership.

4. Study Committee Related to Desertion of Church Membership (45-46)
Classis Central US overtures Synod Visalia 2014 to empanel a study committee to give pastoral advice on the issue of desertion of church membership, as well as suggest appropriate changes to the church order.
The following should be addressed in the study committee report:

1.     What are the parameters which, when met, would constitute an individual seeking to desert his church membership?

2.     What options should be available to a consistory once a person has deserted his membership?

3.     What changes/additions to the church order should codify an understanding of desertion of church membership?

Comment: This overture is similar to the previous overture in that it deals with an individual’s membership in a local church. Whereas the previous was an active change in transfer by an individual, this overture seeks to resolve a seemingly passive change in membership for those who, for example, simply move to another church without transferring their membership or those for whom the Consistory no longer has any contact with.

5. Revise Guidelines for Missions Coordinator (47-48)
Classis Michigan overtures Synod 2014 to change the missions policies (as printed in the Agenda for Synod Nyack, pages 376-379) as follows:

1.     Change in b.3.f. ("Functions and Tasks of the Synodical Missions Committee," "Chairman-Coordinator"), from "He shall visit missionaries periodically for encouragement, exhortation, and preaching/teaching/counseling, in order to assist the calling churches and missionaries as requested by either party" to "He shall visit missionaries periodically for encouragement, exhortation, and teaching/counseling, in order to assist the calling churches and missionaries as requested by either party."

2.     Change in c.2.a. ("Qualifications for Synodical Missions Committee Members,"
"Chairman-Coordinator"), from "The Chairman-coordinator must be an ordained minister of Word" to "The coordinator must be an ordained minister of the Word or a qualified godly man recommended by his consistory."

3.     Change in c.2.c., from "The Chairman-coordinator should show strength in both pastoral ministry and administrative skills" to "The coordinator should show strength in administrative skills as well as in pastoral ministry (if an ordained minister)."

4.     Change in d.2.a., ("Appointment of Members,î ìChairman of committee") from "Each classis is encouraged to nominate a minister of the Word for the position of Chairman-coordinator of the Synodical Missions Committee." to "Each classis is encouraged to nominate a minister of the Word or a qualified godly man for the position of Missions Coordinator."

Comment: This overture seeks to allow for an elder or other godly man to be considered to fill the position of Missions Coordinator. This idea was discussed at length prior to Synod Nyack 2012, but the Missions Study Committee, the Advisory Committee, and the delegates of Synod Nyack decided to limit the position to only ordained Ministers of the Word. Seeing that no nominated minister was approved by a classis prior to Synod Visalia, an overture like this might gain traction to open the number of candidates available to fill this position.

6. Retain Doxological Ending of Lord’s Prayer (49)
Classis Ontario-East overtures Synod Visalia 2014 to instruct the Liturgical Forms Committee to retain the longer, doxological ending (namely For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.) in every instance where the Lord’s Prayer is included in our Liturgical Forms.

Comment: Given the widespread (universal?) use and even the Confessional use/explanation (HC Q&A 119, 128) of the ìdoxological endingî of the Lord’s Prayer this overture seeks on liturgical and pastoral grounds to restore the conclusion of the prayer when it is used in our liturgical forms.

7. Enhancement of the Proposed Form for Baptism (51-58)
Classis Ontario-East overtures Synod Visalia 2014 to adopt provisionally the attached proposed enhancement of the form for the ìBaptism of Infants: Form 1î for continued refinement by the Liturgical Forms Committee. Classis correspondingly overtures Synod to instruct the Committee to bring those components of the forms for Adult Baptism, Reception of Families and Household Baptism that overlap with the basic baptismal form into conformity with one another, as appropriate.

Comment: This overture provides an alternate to "Baptism of Infants: Form 1" that seeks to "enhance" its contemporary usefulness/character as well as to be in harmony with other baptismal forms prepared by the Liturgical Forms Committee. The language of the form has been updated and is more readable than its predecessor. A document follows the overture that contains three columns with the far right one containing the proposed revisions. The overture sensitively requests the committee to continue refining the form so as not to impede on the work of the committee.

8. Reduce the Number of Liturgical Forms (59-60)
Classis Ontario-East overtures Synod Visalia 2014 to instruct the Liturgical Forms Committee to limit the production of liturgical forms to one form per liturgical event1 while maintaining the commitment to continuity with the historic Reformed forms.

1 One form for each of the following liturgical events: Baptism of Infants, Public Profession of Faith, Baptism of Adults, Reception of Families, Household Baptism, Celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Short Form for the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Excommunication, Readmission, Ordination (or Installation) of Ministers of the Word, Ordination of Elders and Deacons, Solemnization of Marriage.

Comment: This overture seeks to limit the number of liturgical forms to one where there is a multiplicity of forms available in order to maintain consistency and give an expression to the unity of faith.

9. Remove Baptism Form 2 from Committee’s Proposal (61-62)
Classis Ontario-East overtures Synod Visalia 2014 to instruct the Liturgical Forms Committee to remove Baptism of Children—Form 2 (which is a slightly updated version of Form 3 in the Blue Psalter Hymnal) from the Liturgical Forms being proposed for inclusion in the new Psalter Hymnal.

Comment: This overture highlights perceived deficiencies in the second form for the baptism of children given to the churches by the Liturgical Forms Committee and would like to see it removed altogether. If Overture 8 is acceded to, and assuming Form 1 is the single liturgical form chosen, then this overture would be answered.

Note: The report of the Stated Clerk mentioned two overtures that ìdid not meet the standards of admissibilityî and were not included in the final agenda.

Reports of Committees:
(Only the recommendations from Committees are included here. The Provisional Agenda includes the entirety of reports. These are worth reading)

1. Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity (CERCU) (65-95)

1.     That Synod grant the privilege of the floor to the committee chairman and secretary when committee matters are being considered (Regulations 5.4.2).

2.     That Synod allow for a one hour Colloquium between two representatives of the URCNA and two representatives of the CanRC as arranged by CERCU.

Comment: Dr. Robert Godfrey and Dr. Cornel Venema will engage in a dialogue with Dr. Jason Van Vliet and
Dr. Ted Van Raalte during Synod on matters of theological concern.

3.     That synod ratify the changes to the Constitution of NAPARC as found in Appendix 2 below.

Comment: The changes to the Constitution of NAPARC largely involve cleaning up language and making the articles more readable. The additions to the Constitution relate in most cases to facilitating ecclesiastical cooperation amongst the member churches in matters of mutual concern.

4.     That synod ratify the membership of the Korean Presbyterian Church in America—Kosin (KPCA) in NAPARC. See Appendix 3 for a report on the KPCA.

Comment: The KPCA is not to be confused with the Korean American Presbyterian Church (KAPC) which is already a member of NAPARC. This church seems to really be an extension of her mother church in Korea which seeks to remain faithful to the Westminster Standards. Much of their history reminds one of the 19th Century Dutch Reformed churches in the Netherlands!

5.     That Synod appoint or re-appoint three members-at-large. Rev. Richard Miller, Rev. Bill Pols and Rev. Peter Vellenga are eligible for reappointment.

6.     That synod appoint an alternate member-at-large. There is no current alternate. Rev. Brian Vos, who last served in that position before it became vacant is eligible for reappointment.

7.     That Synod set the budget for CERCU at $10,000 US per annum.

Comment: This is an increase from $6,500.

8.     That Synod remind the churches of our mutual responsibility to engage one another in our ecumenical task through prayer, classical dialogue, local efforts and the expression of concerns.

9.     That Synod approve the work of the committee in its reporting of our interaction with the Interchurch relations committee of the Free Reformed Churches on the Conclusions of Utrecht, that without binding ourselves to any formulations beyond our Confessions, the report gives faithful expression to what lives in the thinking and practice of our churches. The committee welcomes any additional feedback from the churches.

Comment: Pages 71-74 helpfully include reflections on dialogues that a sub-committee of CERCU had with the FRC on the matters taken up by the Synod of Utrecht. There was definite agreement on the conclusions of Utrecht, but the FRC are really concerned that within the URC there is in practice the notion of ìpresumed regenerationî for our baptized children even if we do deny it in proclamation. The sub-committee directs attention to Recommendation 15 concerning the conclusions made in this report. (Herman Bavinck’s book Saved By Grace goes through these matters in a very concise and clarifying way—as does Mark Beach’s article: http://www.midamerica.edu/resources/journal/19/beach19.pdf)

10.    That Synod receive for information the announcement of CERCU that it plans to recommend to Synod 2016 that we proceed to Phase Three A of church unity with the Canadian Reformed Churches that, should the churches approve of this recommendation in 2016, we would begin the Development of a Plan of Union

Comment: CERCU is providing notice of its intended direction as an early heads up. The churches will have plenty of time to weigh the merits of this idea and CERCU will present a fully-developed argument for moving to Phase 3A in its 2016 Report to Synod. This plan includes recommendations 11-13 below.

11.    That Synod urge the churches to seriously consider which, if any specific articles or stipulations of the PJCO they believe should be changed before it can be adopted for a united federation, and seek to bring such concerns to Synod 2016 by way of overture to their classis.

12.    That Synod approve the cooperation of the PJCO Committee with CERCU for the working on as yet unresolved difficulties that will be encountered in formulating a plan of union.

13.    That Synod continue to encourage each classis and consistory to continue to engage the issue of an eventual merger between the CanRC and the URCNA by inviting Canadian Reformed ministers to fill our pulpits, inviting Canadian Reformed representatives to our classis meetings, seeking open dialogue with Canadian Reformed brothers regarding any outstanding areas of concern, organizing joint events with Canadian Reformed congregations, attending joint conferences, and writing columns to foster our mutual understanding and affection. Grounds not included in this document

14.    That the classes be reminded of their continuing responsibility to appoint or reappoint classical representatives (and alternates) to CERCU in the manner the classes deem appropriate.

15.    That Synod approve the work of the committee without adopting every formulation in its dialogue.

Comment: This recommendation is important because the Committee is indicating that the materials in its report are not definitive and therefore Synod is not being asked to make a wholesale adoption of the Committee’s findings/formulations.

2. Proposed Joint Church Order Committee (97)
If it pleases synod to continue our committee to perfect the PJCO, Synodical Regulations and related documents previously assigned to us, we recommend the appointment of an alternate member who can familiarize himself with our work, be kept up to date on our work, and be ready to step in should one of our members no longer be able to serve.

Comment: This Committee was kept by Synod Nyack, but was not given any work to do by the churches. Given CERCU’s recommendation to pursue an eventual merger with the CanRC, this committee is ready to serve in its mandate to process information brought by URCNA churches and serve as liason to the Church Order Sub-Committee of the CanRC (cf. CERCU Recommendations 11-12above).

3. Psalter Hymnal Committee

1.     That synod receive the work of the committee to date.

2.     That synod grant the privilege of the floor to members of the URC Psalter Hymnal Committee when this report is being discussed.

3.     That synod express the churches’ appreciation and gratitude for the faithful service of 
Dr. Scott Finch and Mr. Daniel Zylstra.

4.     That synod adopt the submitted Psalm Proposal to be the psalter portion of the new songbook. Grounds not included in this document

Comment: The churches have had opportunity to provide feedback on the psalter portion and the committee has already made a number of changes in response to that feedback. Unlike the hymnal portion, this process has been quite straightforward and less emotionally-charged. In adopting this psalter portion, the URC will be essentially rediscovering what it is to give the Psalms "principal place" in our worship services. The Psalms in the BPH are mostly rough paraphrases and this psalter marks a return to an older/traditional model of psalm singing that involves the entire text of a psalm (instead of snippets).

5.     That synod grant the privilege of the floor to the OPC member(s) serving on their Psalter Hymnal Special Committee when recommendation 4 is being discussed.

6.     That synod mandate the Liturgical Forms Committee to determine what liturgical forms, confessions, prayers, etc. ought to be included in the songbook, and submit these to Synod 2016 for approval. Grounds not included in this document

7.     That synod appoint a person or persons with authority to sign contractual agreements with the OPC regarding this project. Grounds not included in this document

Comment: This recommendation marks a milestone in the development of the Psalter Hymnal project because it involves laying the groundwork for publication. The OPC’s connections to Great Commissions Publications will allow the URC to engage professional assistance in bringing its final book to print. The hymns portion of the new songbook has gone through substantive revision and it will be presented to the churches in the coming year(s) in the same way that the psalter portion was presented.

4. Liturgical Forms Committee (111-209)

1.     To allow Rev. Al Bezuyen and Rev. Dr. Brian Lee to report on behalf of the committee as needed.

2.     To encourage the churches to review the Forms and prayers, ecumenical creeds and versions of the Belgic Confession and Canons of Dort with emendation and encourage communication with concerns to the committee by way of the Chairman Rev. Danny Hyde: pastor@oceansideurc.org or secretary Rev. Al Bezuyen at aabezuyen@gmail.com.

3.     To keep the committee as presently constituted.

4.     To set aside $6,000.00 USD for a face to face meetings (this was approximate cost of the last meeting.

Comment: This report brings updated and streamlined versions of the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the Belgic Confession (the 1985 CRC Psalter Hymnal edition), the Canons of Dort (the 1986 CRC Psalter Hymnal Edition), and prayers and forms for review in the churches. A translation of the Heidelberg Catechism is still underway along with introductions to various documents.
In selecting the 1985 edition of the Belgic Confession, the Committee recognized that it is prudent to modify Article 30 to reflect the original Latin text’s reference to men in the phrase "when faithful men are elected [to offices of the church]" in contrast with the more ambiguous "when such persons are elected." While the latter is an acceptable translation of the earliest Dutch and French versions of the Belgic Confessions, the term ‘person’ has been anachronistically stretched in recent decades to accommodate an egalitarian view of office.

5. Committee for Ecumenical Contact with Churches Abroad (CECCA) (211-254)

1.     that the URCNA remain in Ecumenical Contact (phase one) with the Reformed Churches of South Africa (GKSA);

2.     that the URCNA remain in Ecumenical Contact (phase one) with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKv);

Comment: the GKv Synod was scheduled to consider a proposal to welcome women in office at their Synod (dates unclear) and their reaction to this report may present new difficulties for our churches in deciding to remain in phase one with them.

3.     that the URCNA enter into Ecumenical Fellowship (phase two) with the United Reformed Churches of Congo (URCC);

4.     that the URCNA remain in Ecclesiastical Contact (phase one) with the Calvinistic Reformed Church in Indonesia (GGRT-NTT);

5.     that the URCNA remain in Ecumenical Contact (phase one) with the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) (FCC);

6.     that Synod encourage that a congregation of the URCNA be located to cooperate with, assist and maintain regular contact with the house congregation of Rev. Podesta (cf. Free Protestant Church of Argentina);

7.     that the URCNA enter into Ecumenical Contact (phase one) with the Evangelical Reformed
Church in Latvia (ERCLAT);

8.     that the URCNA enter into Ecumenical Contact (phase one) with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales (EPCEW);

9.     that Synod appoint Rev. Dick Moes to replace Rev. Ray Sikkema as member-at-large of CECCA;

10. that Synod welcome the fraternal delegates present at Synod, extending to them the opportunity to address Synod on behalf of the sending church;

11. that Synod welcome the fraternal observers who may be present, extending to them the opportunity to greet Synod on behalf of the sending church;

12. that Synod grant the privilege of the floor to the following members of CECCA to answer Synod’s questions regarding this report: Rev. Ray Sikkema, chairman and Rev. Dick Moes, secretary.

Comment: The committee recommends three denominations for Ecumenical contact. This means that these churches meet a certain benchmark that has been laid out in the committee’s mandate. This committee’s work has resulted in very descriptive updates on our brothers and sisters around the world who share a common confession of the faith and teach a common doctrine that are worth reading through.

6. URCNA Web Oversight Committee (255-258)

1.     That Synod thank Mr. Gary Fisher for his work as Webmaster, and reappoint him for another term.

2.     Synod 2012 directed the Web Oversight Committee to recommend an appropriate honorarium for the Webmaster. Our recommendation is that the current amount ($4500/year) not be changed.

3.     That Synod thank the Consistory of the Grace United Reformed Church of Waupun for their oversight of the Committee, and request that its oversight continue until at least the next Synod.

4.     That Synod direct the Classes to immediately stop collecting funds for the Web Oversight Committee (the amount is currently $100 per year per Classis).

Comment: the committee notes that there is plenty of money in the fund to cover costs until the next Synod

5.     That Synod approve the following guidelines regarding posting of material to the website.
Guidelines not included in this document

6.     That Synod approve the following job description for the Webmaster: Job description of
Webmaster not included in this document

Comment: This recommendation proposes new guidelines for the material that is posted on the website and for the role of the webmaster. In addition, there are indications that a website overhaul is underway.

7. Oversight Consistory for the Web Oversight Committee (259)
That synod appoint a Consistory to serve as the Oversight Consistory for the WOC until the next synod. Ground not included in this document

Comment: This recommendation is a routine that each Synod takes up to make sure that the webmaster has suitable oversight and a sounding board for day to day decisions that need to be made.

8. Missions (261-342)

1.     That synod grant the privilege of the floor to Rev. Michael Brown (chair) and Rev. Kevin Efflandt (clerk) as well as any other members of the interim Missions Committee present during the discussion of this report.

2.     That synod adopt this report.

3.     That synod authorize the Committee to publish the manual, "How to Plant a Reformed Church" in electronic format for free distribution and in printed format for purchase.

4.     That synod consider the nominations received by the classes for the position of the missions coordinator and elect a missions coordinator accordingly.

5.    That synod continue to grant the committee an annual budget of $7,000. In the event that no coordinator is elected, the committee would request an annual budget of $14,000 in order to compensate for the work still mandated to the committee to be done without a coordinator.

6.     That synod adopt the following amendment to policy II.A.3.d.2.a from ìFulfilling the Great
Commission: A Proposed Shared Strategy in URCNA Missions,î by adding the following:
iii. In the following manner, nominations for the missions coordinator may also be made by the synodical pre-advice committee which considers the missions report.

A. In its synodical report, the Missions Committee will recommend qualified men who have been nominated by their respective Consistories. Recommendations will be preceded by committee interviews regarding credentials, history, office and salary requirements. All of this information regarding each nominee will be included in the committee report to synod as a "calling plan."

B.    Synod will vote on the nominations which are presented by the pre-advice committee.

The number of votes received by the top three nominees shall be recorded.

C.     The nominee with the most votes will be eligible to be called by his respective Consistory to assume the position of syndical missions coordinator. If the nominee declines the opportunity, the privilege will be extended to the nominee with the next highest number of synodical votes.

D.    If a man accepts, he will begin serving immediately in the capacity of synodical missions coordinator under the authority of his Consistory, though employed and paid by the federation as outlined in his calling plan. The basic budget should be approved by Synod with some leeway for cost of living differences associated with housing and insurance, etc. .

Comment: This recommendation is made in order to address the fact that no nominations were forthcoming from the Classes (as originally outlined in the Missions Committee Policy II.A.3.d.2.a). As a consequence, this recommendation appears to create an opportunity for a nomination to emerge in the weeks preceding Synod. These nominations would be vetted by the pre-advice committee. This may become complicated by the fact that the pre-advice committee must first seek modification of the policy and authorization by Synod to carry out the nominating procedures described in the recommendations. This might become procedurally tricky as the report asks Synod to modify its policy and then tasks the pre-advice committee (which is reviewing the report and its recommendations) with carrying out one of the recommendations before Synod concludes.

7.     That synod encourage the churches to support through synodical asking the salary of a future missions coordinator with the goal to have funds in place for his first year of work by Synod 2016.

9. Compensation and Retirement Assessment (343-364)

1.     That all churches should, as part of the annual remuneration and benefit package for their minister, make provision for a government approved retirement plan or equivalent in an amount ranging from 10% to 20% of gross remuneration, which remuneration includes any housing allowance or the equivalent thereof and medical benefits. This percentage amount should be designated by the church to the minister’s personal retirement plan or equivalent thereof. Grounds not included in this document.

Comment: The report’s findings show ìevery indication is that ministers are running far short of funding for their retirement.î(pg 347)

2.     That the following questions be included for both the church visitors and on the Classical
Credentials:
a)    As part of the annual remuneration and benefit package for your minister, are you making provision for a government approved retirement plan or equivalent in amount ranging from 10%—20% of gross, which remuneration includes any housing allowance or equivalent value thereof, and medical benefits?
b)    Are you currently providing disability insurance for your minister, in an amount equivalent to at least 50% of the gross remuneration, which remuneration includes    any housing allowance or equivalent value thereof, and medical benefits?
c)    Does your minister have adequate life insurance coverage to provide for his dependents?
d)    Does your church provide assistance to a retired pastors or widows?
e)    Does your church need assistance to comply with Synod’s retirement provision guidelines?
f)     Does your church need assistance to support a retired pastor or a widow in need of financial assistance?î
Grounds not included in this document.

3.     That the Minister’s Assistance Fund be discontinued in any Classis that might still operate such a fund. Grounds not included in this document.

Comment: The report states that the CRA and the IRS have regulations preventing this type of fund from fulfilling the purpose it was established for.

4.     That an Ad Hoc Committee be appointed to study and make recommendations on specific feasible retirement plan options so the churches may consider whether to establish a federation-wide retirement fund/plan. Grounds not included in this document.

5.     That congregations verify that ministers have adequate life, disability, and health insurance so as to minimize a potential financial burden upon the surviving spouse and church. Grounds not included in this document.

6.     That Synod approve an increase in the minimum annual retirement contribution for ministers who live in a parsonage. Churches must ensure that ministers in this category are at the 15-20% range of the guidelines established by Synod. Grounds not included in this document.

7.     That the first sentence of Article 10 be amended to read (italicized language added):
Each church is to provide honorably for its minister and his family while he is serving that church to meet all his financial needs including ensuring the minister obtains his own sufficient life insurance, and shall provide for the retirement and disability needs of its minister. In the event of a minister’s death, adequate provision shall be made for the support of his dependent wife and children.
Grounds not included in this document.

8.     That Synod receive the report of this committee with thanks and discharges the committee as having completed its mandate.
Comment: This report should be reviewed by the council and any of its sub-committees that handle personnel issues (Committee of Administration, Personnel Committee, etc.) because there are a significant number of changes being proposed for the churches of the federation in an effort to address substantial shortcomings in current practice.

10. Report of Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRCC) (365-367)
The Consistory of Faith URC (Beecher, IL) is willing to continue as a liaison to the PRCC. It perceives no need for any recommendations to be brought to Synod 2014.

11. Canadian Board of Directors (369)
No recommendations given.

12. United States Board of Directors (372)

1.     Synod 2014 encourage pastors, elders and other church leaders be trained in biblical conflict resolution as an aid in maintaining harmony and unity within our federation. By so doing our federation would also enhance the prevention of legal action among the brothers and sisters of the federation.

2.     Synod 2014 encourage the Acts of Synod 2007 be followed in respect to overseeing the U.S. and Canadian Board of Directors and advise the member consistories of the federation to deal directly with the Convening Consistory of Synod when questioning the decisions and actions of the Board of Directors of our Federation.

3.    The US Board of Directors requests that Synod appoint four new members of the US Board at Synod 2014.

Comment: These recommendations appear to arise from specific difficulties that have arisen between unspecified consistories and the US Board. As a consequence, the Vice Chairman resigned in November 2013 and three of the remaining four board members are resigning effective June 2014 (Synod). Actions taken at the Synod Nyack appear to have contributed to the state of affairs that is being reported on here (one reappointment was blocked). References are made to this matter on pg 3 of the Convening Consistory’s Report.

Conclusion
If you have any suggestions for ways to improve this guide to the 2014 Synod Agenda, please contact us at donovan@escondidourc.org, markvanderpol@christurc.org or pastor@adorationurc.ca and we will gladly make the changes. We will distribute this document as a pdf and we will host (and update) this document as a Google Doc. It can be accessed by copying and pasting this link into your browser: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1frgrdeC5AYpsKGfCSgQjo4nZhgDoEGWsdzo8QLA1pvQ/edit?usp=sharing

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