Monday, August 02, 2010

URCNA synod, a few reflections

I don't mean to rain on the parade, but I do have a few thoughts about the recent URC synod.

1. A URC friend and colleague of mine said that many at the synod were hesitant to keep moving towards merger with the CanRC because of a perceived hierarchicalism in the CanRC. Considering that fear, I'm surprised that this past synod has decided that the next synod will be only two years hence rather than three years. That seems to me to be a sign of a creeping hierarchicalism in the URCNA.  Synods should be kept at a minimum to ensure that the focus stays on the local church.

I am also surprised that the URCNA keeps, and is even strengthening, the office of Stated Clerk. Added to his regular duties of keeping things running, and preparing for the next synod (something that, if you want to avoid hierarchicalism , should be done only by the convening church of the next synod and not a permanent employee of the federation), he must also, on behalf of the federation of churches, address the US government on policy.

2. I'm saddened that the Theological Education and the Songbook committees have been terminated. I suppose it was inevitable considering that the joint TE committee had reached an impasse, and the URCNA synod 2007 had already told the Psalter Hymnal committee to shift its focus from a new songbook for the merged federation to a distinctively UR one, but it still saddens me. I must admit that my sadness is a bit selfish, when I think about the many 100s of hours I put into the project (duplicated many times over by others on my committee and on the PH committee), but one must not be selfish. I'm thankful for the friendships forged with brothers and sisters who serve on the URC PH committee.

The merger between our two sister federations will likely never happen. We should resign ourselves to a de facto pluriformity of the church position. It's too bad, but it is what it is. Perhaps there was/is a lack of will on either side to make it happen. Regardless, I had a great Sunday yesterday serving the URC in Brockville, and their minister was, again, well received by my congregation. Thankfully, such exchanges will continue.

Final thought: so often the analogy of dating, engagement and marriage is used to describe our relationship and a possible merger. That is an improper metaphor as the URCNA and the CanRC are both the bride of Christ. We are not a couple of teenagers, young adults, or whatever, who are dating; we are the bride of Christ. Let us speak of the church correctly and properly.


Wes Bredenhof said...

I'm disappointed by the way that the letter from the CanRC Synod appears to have been received and dealt with.

Tony Jelsma said...

If the CanRC wants unity with the URC, then the young people of the two denominations should get to know each other better. One way is for the high school students to attend the Reformed Youth Services yearly convention (at Dordt next summer), or for more CanRC young people to consider Reformed Christian post-secondary education.

Bill DeJong said...

I agree with you George. You can add to your list the unanimous adoption of the recommendations of the anti-FV report. This is particularly troubling for two reasons:
(a) I suspect the fundamental impetus behind these these recommendations lies in an anti-Can Ref disposition which thrives in certain quarters in the URCNA. Many of strongest supporters of the anti-FV report are also the strongest objectors to a merger with the Can Ref. Even at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, once quite sympathetic to Schilder, there are those who now allege that Schilder was a "latent Arminian."

(b) After the Can Ref voiced, in various venues, concerns about the nine points adopted by Synod Schereville, Synod London re-affirmed them and then adopted some more. This is a slap in the face to the Can Ref. and is indicative, I think, of general disposition the URCNA has towards the Can Ref. There are of course many here in Ontario who do not have this disposition, but it is otherwise widespread.

Lastly, I agree with Tony too. Where are Can Ref and URCNA relations excellent? Among the youth. Consider Campfire!, for example, where youth from both federations work alongside of each other without a hint of suspicion.

I'm still too much of a Schilderian to resign myself to pluriformity. It is a fact, but a lamentable one.


George van Popta said...

Interesting, Bill, that your take on the Nine Points is quite different from Jerry Visscher's at

Padre said...

I don't share Jerry's assessment that the adoption (and re-affirmation) of the nine points is benign, though I agree with him that, however unhelpful and unwise they are, they can be defended biblically.

Jerry has the advantage of being an outsider and I am burdened by having been an insider. There was a clear, though implicit message to the Can Ref in the adoption of the nine points -- namely, "we are not friends of Schilder around here."

Similarly, there was an implicit message to the Can Ref in the adoption of the anti-FV recommendations -- namely, "we know the Can Ref don't like extra-confessional declarations, but we're going to make them anyways."

There is a way for the Can Ref to endear themselves to the URCNA presently: (a) create some distance from Schilder's "idiosyncrasies" and (b) badmouth the FV.

I'm unprepared to do either.