Synod of the United Reformed Churches of North America: Day 2 Report

The United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) is meeting in Visalia, California for its ninth meeting of Synod, June 2-6, 2014

The delegates adopted “the submitted Psalm Proposal to be the psalter portion of the new songbook” without dissent. They also took note of the dates of May 1, 2015, for the completion of proposed hymn collection in preparation for the publishing of a new songbook in cooperation with the OPC in 2016. In light of the mutual laboring and prospective adopting of a new songbook a decision was made to “invite the OPC to hold its General Assembly concurrently and contiguously with the next Synod of the URCNA.”

 

The second full day of Synod Visalia 2014,, June 4, began with a song from the proposed Psalter selection reminding the body that “God is our refuge and our strength, our ever present aid.”

Synod began its day by receiving a warm and encouraging fraternal address from Rev. Willem den Hollander of the Canadian Reformed Churches. Rev. den Hollander reported on the numerous visits he has made to URC Classes and congregations in the pursuit of maintaining and furthering “the bond of peace” between our respective federations. He called upon the URCNA churches and Synod to continue with momentum in laboring toward eventual institutional unity between the two federations.

Throughout the day, the universal nature of the Church of Jesus Christ and the fraternal relationships that result were displayed.  With praise to God, the delegates determined without dissent to enter into ecumenical contact with the United Reformed Churches of Congo (URCC). Fraternal greetings were also brought by Rev. Bartel Elshout of the Heritage Reformed Churches (HRC) and Rev. Jonathon Merica from the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS).

One notable event of the morning hours brought progress toward the production of a Psalter hymn book. The delegates adopted “the submitted Psalm Proposal to be the psalter portion of the new songbook” without dissent. They also took note of the dates of May 1, 2015, for the completion of proposed hymn collection in preparation for the publishing of a new songbook in cooperation with the OPC in 2016. In light of the mutual laboring and prospective adopting of a new songbook a decision was made to “invite the OPC to hold its General Assembly concurrently and contiguously with the next Synod of the URCNA.”

The afternoon hours were spent with various advisory committees finalizing their reports and recommendations for the full assembly of Synod.  Attention was also given to guidelines for the compensation and retirement of ministers in light of a report from an ad hoc committee that studied the matter of pastoral compensation. Synod sought to walk a careful line in giving objective guidelines for the compensation and retirement of the minister without being overly prescriptive in how the churches provide honorably for those who labor in the ministry of the word and sacraments.

The evening brought the opportunity for the delegates and visitors to hear an interactive theological discussion between the professors Dr. Robert Godfrey and Dr. Cornel Venema, representing the United Reformed Churches, and Dr. Jason Van Vliet and Dr. Ted Van Raalte, representing the Canadian Reformed Churches. The purpose of the discussion was to explore and clarify any possible or perceived differences in covenant theology within the respective federations. The professors all acknowledged the historical and contemporary nuances within continental reformed churches of Dutch heritage in relationship to the dearly held doctrine of the covenant. The discussion sought to explore whether the various nuances within both federations were within the parameters and/or boundaries of the confessions while seeking to come to a clearer understanding of one another’s covenant views. As the professors interacted, emphasis was placed upon the common ground and mutual understanding shared even in light of various nuances.

Rev. Greg Lubbers is the Second Clerk of the URCNA Synod meeting in Visalia, Calif.

Read Scott Clark’s Notes From URCNA Synod Visalia 2014 for more on the Synod meeting