Extract from the Press Release of Classis Ontario-South, December 9, 1987 at Attercliffe, ON. published in: March 18, 1988 issue of Clarion (Volume 37, No. 6) regarding grounds for validating the secession of Tri-County Reformed Church of Laurel, MD, and its minister Rev. B. R. Hofford, from the OPC as a result of their complaint being denied by the 50th General Assembly.

Classis decides

1. to accede to the request of br. T.M.P. VanderVen.
2. to furnish grounds for the declaration of Classis March 25, Acts p.6, Art. 8B.1 making use of the "Report of Four" appointed by Classis September 16, 1987 and related documents.

Section Two

The committee of Four made use of a mimeographed copy of the Minutes of the Fiftieth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and related documents (where necessary). Hereafter the designation "Min. 50th" will be read as reference to the Minutes of the 50th Assembly of the OPC.

Proposed observations and considerations to be furnished as grounds for the Declaration of Classis March 25, 1987, Acts p.6, Art. 8B.1.


1. Classis observes that the complaint of Barry R. Hofford et. al. was found "to be in order and properly before this Assembly." See Min. 50th, p. 121, A.
2. Classis observes that the Committee reporting to the 50th Assembly and as a result the Assembly itself, "has dealt with the original complaint and has not sought to evaluate the merits of the complainants' grievance against the reasons adduced by Presbytery for denying the complaint." Min. 50th, p. 121, A., par. 2.
3. Classis observes that according to the Minutes of the 50th Assembly on Wednesday evening, June 8,...the pending question (the recommendation in part B of the report of Advisory Committee #5) was carried. "On separate motions the recommendation in parts C and D were adopted." Part B consists of the five grounds on which the complaint was denied. Part C contains the Assembly's 'observations in answer' which are 9 in total. Part D contains the decision of the Assembly "to commend to the church for its study the Report of the Special Committee on Restricted Communion (April 15, 1972) from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic."
4. Classis observes that the complainants respectfully suggested "that the Assembly give this issue to a committee for study and a report to the Fifty-first General Assembly rather than come to a hasty and premature conclusion." Min. 50th, p. 21, 2nd par.
5. Classis observes that "on a lost motion that would have referred to the Committee on Revisions to the Book of Discipline and the Directory for Worship the documents relevant to the Complaint as well as the issue of the proper fencing of the Lord's Table. Mr. D.W. Keister requested that his affirmative vote be recorded." Min. 50th, p. 129.


1. Classis considers that the Classis of March 25, 1987 was correct in declaring "that Rev. B. R. Hofford, c.s. brought their complaint concerning the fencing of the Lord's Supper properly to the 50th General Assembly of the OPC." (see observation 1).

2. Classis considers that in not seeking to "evaluate the merits of the complainants' grievance against the reasons adduced by Presbytery for denying the complaint" (Min. 50th Assembly, p. 121, A.) the 50th Assembly has not dealt properly with the complaint.

3. Classis considers concerning part B., "Grounds for denying the complaint"

3.1.1. Regarding B. Ground #1. The Assembly states that "the Session was properly discharging its responsibility to order the administration of the Supper" when after the interim method the "policy adopted on October 31, 1973" was restored. This statement is not a ground for denying the complaint since it does not prove that the discharge of the Session was indeed proper. It is a point which as yet had to be proved.
3.1.2. Regarding B. Ground #2. The Assembly approves of the actions of the Session as in harmony with the advice of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and the Report dated April 15, 1972. This Report however, does not have the status of a judgment within the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The Report remained a study report. As such this Report cannot form a ground for the denial of the complaint.
3.1.3. Regarding B. Ground #3. Ground 3 contains two points. The first point advances as ground for the approval of the procedure adopted by the Session, "the practice of the Presbyterian churches" which has "allowed" for this procedure. It is exactly this practice against which the appellants direct their complaint. To now use this same practice against which the complaint is directed as ground for denying the complaint is illegitimate. The second point reads, "Further, Presbyterian government has always respected the authority of the Session of the particular church to order the worship of the congregation in a manner that takes account of the circumstances of the church." Although it may be true that the Session must take into account the circumstances of the church, this may not have the priority. The priority must be what God says in His Word. This may run counter to what we consider to be the needs of the congregation. This point makes the circumstances the norm instead of the Word of God. This invalidates this point so that it cannot be a ground for denial of the complaint.

3.1.4 Regarding B, Ground #4 Also ground four contains two points. In ground four the Assembly asserts that the complainants in their formulation of the issue, "misconceive the actual question." The Assembly "corrects" the formulation of the issue in the following manner, "The issue, therefore, is whether the rule adopted by the Session and the means chosen to apply it are adequate to a responsible exercise of sessional obligation." This is not a correction of a misconception but a twisting around of the contents of the complaint. The complainants object against the rule adopted by the Session. This rule leaves it up to the individual to determine whether he or she shall be admitted to the Table. There is no discrepancy in the way the appellants formulate their complaint. Therefore this is not a ground for denial. The Assembly considers the rule of the Session a responsible exercise of sessional obligation because it "provides a means of determining if this invitation has been abused." This is an exercise after the fact. The fact is that in the meantime the Table of the Lord has not been kept holy. That notices of participation are sent to the visitor's home churches does not exempt the Session from the responsibility to keep the Table of the Lord holy. In this whole matter not people and their concerns should be in the center but the Lord. Also this consideration cannot serve as a ground for denial.

3.1.5 Regarding B, Ground #5. Ground #5 contains two assertions: 1. "The reasons set forth in support of the complaint do not validate it." 2. "This chain of argument is not established in its affirmations nor in their necessary connections." These statements of the Assembly indeed are assertions and not grounds, for these assertions are based on observations and enumerations of the items in the complaint and not on a disproval of these items.

3.2 Classis considers regarding C "observations in answer."
3.2.1 That the "observations in answer" were adopted by the Assembly after the adoption of the grounds and consequent denial of the complaint. Classis considers that these observations therefore are not the grounds but observations after the fact. However, the fact that the Assembly gives these observations as an "answer" indicates that these observations nevertheless carry the weight of opinion voiced by the broadest assembly of the OPC and must be taken seriously.
3.2.2 Classis further considers that the "observations in answer" contain:

1. A taking refuge in an invisible church concept, undermining covenant responsibility. From C1 and C2 we learn that the Assembly considers the expression "evangelical churches" to mean the same as "true churches." These evangelical churches are "recognized as true churches even though our denomination has taken no official position as to their status. Therefore, members in good standing of evangelical churches may be admitted to the Table." Further the Assembly pronounces that these evangelical churches present a fellowship "that corporately makes a credible confession." Classis considers that the term evangelical churches cannot be considered equivalent with the confessional term "true church." Whether a church is truly church of Christ is determined by this, "It practices the pure preaching of the gospel. It maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ has instituted them. It exercises church discipline for correcting and punishing sins. In short, it governs itself according to the Word of God...." Belgic Confession Art. 29. Unless a church is known to have these marks this church may not be accepted as a true church, nor its members be received at the Table of the Lord. This is not being uncharitable or assuming reprobation of individuals. This is simply exercising corporate covenant responsibility according to the norms of Scripture. Many of those who term themselves evangelical have a dispensationalist teaching of the gospel which leads them to neglect the covenant unity of the Old and New covenant and thereby to an undermining of the commandments of God. Many of the evangelical churches condemn the biblical and covenantal doctrine and practice of baptizing infants of believing parents, so breaking the covenant. Moreover, baptistic churches do not heave corporate confessions.

2. The "observations in answer" contain an incorrect use of Scripture thereby reducing the responsibility of the Session to guard the Table. The Assembly considers an oral warning before the Supper sufficient and rejects a pre-testing of guests on the basis of I Corinthians 13:7. "Christian love 'believeth all things.'" Applying this word of Scripture to the receiving of guests at the Table who come not from known true churches but from a vague conglomeration of evangelical churches, the Assembly is taking this word out of context and misusing it. By this misuse the responsibility of the Session to guard the Table is minimized.

3. The "observations in answer" contain a playing down of the seriousness of the judgment of God. The Assembly writes, at the end of observation one, "The spiritual hospitality of welcoming love may be imposed upon or abused and the complainants are properly sensitive to the judgment that may be incurred. But there are other dangers that the complainant does not recognize, dangers of a denominational exclusivism in practice if not in principle, an exclusivism that may compromise our witness to the Table as the Lord's." Classis considers that in this statement the Assembly shows more fear of displeasing men than of displeasing God. Our love for the neighbour may not exceed our love and obedience to Christ. Moreover by speaking of "our witness to the Table as the Lord's" the Assembly creates a false dilemma. The Table is indeed the Lord's, and is therefore the Table which the Head of the Table entrusts to His ordained elders to guard and to keep. Removing the discipline connected with the Table from the elders and leaving it to the direct discipline of God is a pious fallacy. Participation in the holy things of the Lord by those who have not "discerned the body" indeed brings the wrath of God upon the whole congregation. Witness Numbers 16:20-24, Joshua 7:10-15, II Chronicles 30:18-20, I Corinthians 11:28-30, Heidelberg Catechism Q.A. 82. It has therefore pleased God to charge the elders with the exercise of discipline connected with the Lord's Table as is evident from many places in Scripture, e.g. I Corinthians 5, II Thessalonians 3:6, 14.Classis considers the "observations in answer" of no support to the grounds advanced for the denial of the complaint.

4. Regarding the request of complainants to give the issue to a committee for study, Classis considers that the Assembly, instead of honouring the request, substituted for this the recommendation that the church study the Report of 1972. In doing so the Assembly ignored the fact that this Report had been studied by the church and applied by Burtonsville Covenant Church. The situation indeed called for a thorough study of the complaint by a study committee. The haste which the complainants warned against has lead the Assembly to a denial of the complaint without proper grounds, followed up by observations which are subject to extensive criticism.

5. Regarding the lost motion recorded on page 129 of the minutes of the 50th Assembly, Classis considers that the motion, "to refer to the Committee on Revisions to the Book of Discipline and the Directory for Worship the documents relevant to the complaint as well as the issue of the proper fencing of the Lord's Table," should have been adopted by the Assembly for the following reason: Adoption of this motion would have been in line with the Report to the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic of April 15, 1972 in which the Presbytery states, "It would not be proper for the Presbytery therefore to require the churches to follow one particular method to the exclusion of the other without first obtaining an amendment to the Directory for Worship which now permits either method to be used."


Classis Ontario-South of Dec. 9, 1987 furnishes the above mentioned observations and considerations as the grounds for the declaration of Classis Ontario-South of March 25, 1987, that "Rev. B. R. Hofford, c.s. were unjustifiably denied their complaint and therefore the Tri-County Reformed Church has rightfully separated itself from the OPC"

Classis decides to send this answer to br. T.M.P. VanderVen, the Committee for Contact with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and to the church at Hamilton.

On behalf of Classis, K.A. Kok, vice-chairman, e.t.