I would like to thank brothers Bouwers and Visscher for their response to the observations I gave concerning the 2010 URCNA Synod. Both were members of the Joint Theological Education Committee, Bouwers representing the United Reformed Churches, and Visscher the Canadian Reformed Churches.
Let me begin by writing that I was genuinely surprised to read that seminaries other than the Theological College in Hamilton were considered as the federational seminary. I dare say that many of our readers will be surprised to read this, as well. I also dare say that many of the delegates to Synod 2010 (URC) will be surprised. But then, many of us were surprised by the discussion as it unfolded. In its report to synod, the committee had written: “Since the CanRC Committee was mandated to maintain at least one federative seminary, we found ourselves at an impasse” (Synod 2010 URCNA Agenda, p. 301). The remaining report informs readers of points of agreement between the URC and CanRC representatives but also points out that making the CanRC seminary an independent seminary was “not likely to receive favour” (p. 306).
Under the heading Conclusions and Recommendations, the committee reported that “the only real viable choice of governance for theological education in a united federation would be a model where the united federation would operate with a model of two independent seminaries endorsed and approved by the general synod of a united church (i.e. Mid-America and Westminster California), with one federationally governed seminary (the Theological College in Hamilton) by way of a Regional Synod of Canada, or, if deemed appropriate, by the general synods of the united federation meeting from time to time” (Agenda, p. 306).
When this “conclusion” suddenly became a “motion” on the floor of synod, it brought a considerable amount of confusion to the delegates. If I recall correctly, even the chairman of synod twice asked the committee if it was truly the desire of the committee to make the above statement a motion. One may argue that since the statement was under the heading Conclusions and Recommendations, it came not as a conclusion but as a recommendation. However, earlier the committee had reported that, “We as a committee are not prepared to entertain any proposal for theological education that mandates at least one federational seminary” (Agenda, p. 301). One could conclude from that statement that the committee was not prepared to make a motion that mandated a federational seminary.
Finally, once the motion was on the floor, never once in the entire lengthy discussion that followed was there any mention of any seminary other than the Theological College in Hamilton being the federational seminary. As they participated in the discussion, any member of the committee could have mentioned that other seminaries could be considered as viable options in the motions. One cannot help but notice that the “i.e.” (for example) in front of the parenthesized Mid-America and Westminster California is missing in front of the mandated federational seminary—Hamilton. Had delegates unfamiliar with Hamilton known that it was not the only seminary under consideration, the vote may have turned out differently.
I believe the above illustrates the frustrations felt by many members within the URCNA. Granted Synod 2010 only had two actual overtures dealing with the CanRC merger, but discussions surrounding the union between the CanRC and the URCNA did enter into much of the debate on the floor of Synod. Our argument is not so much in opposition to the CanRC as it is against those who appear to be so eager for unity that they will sell their birthright to get it. Rev. Bouwers writes that the CanRC Synod was told by the URCNA fraternal delegate, “I don’t believe that . . . everything, or perhaps even much of anything would have to change among the churches that are presently Canadian Reformed.” Could the same be said to the churches that are presently United Reformed? So far we have been asked to give up our songbook, our church order, and our seminaries. The troubling thing is, the surrendering of these things comes not from the CanRC as much as from URCNA committees.