THE REAL CHOICE
by Rev. B. R. Hofford
October 14, 2006
The secession of the Liberated Reformed Church from the Lynden American Reformed Church in June of this year presents everyone in the Canadian and American Reformed Churches with a choice. The character of that choice is often misunderstood. It is sometimes framed as though the choice were between the federation of churches (based on the synodical decisions regarding ecclesiastical fellowship with the OPC and other churches) and a few overly-concerned people. Such a characterization is inaccurate and obscures the true nature of the choice before you.
In the call to secession we referred to the fact that the Classis Ontario-South in 1986 accepted a committee report that definitively stated that the OPC should be called to repent. Here is the relevant section:
"It is clear that there is a problem here which must be resolved by General Synod, and though we are not called to label all other churches true or false, in the case of the OPC, the historical developments surrounding this case warrants a calling of the OPC to repentance and a breaking of the present relationship if this repentance is not forthcoming."
It was on this basis that Tri-Country Reformed Church of Laurel, MD was received into the federation in 1987.
There are several things to note about this. First, it is clear that the committee quoted above and those classes that dealt with this matter believed that what the OPC was doing was in fact sinful-you cannot call people to repent if there is no sin.
Second, subsequent general synods, which received the above report, never dealt squarely with the matter-it was given to the Committee for Contact with the OPC for "study" and was never confronted again, despite appeals.
Third, and critically significant, the decision of a classis to receive a congregation, as with Laurel, supersedes any other decisions of broader assemblies. The reason for this is that the classis is the body where such decisions are made; a classis does the detailed investigation necessary to make such judgments. In this case, when Classis Ontario-South accepted the above committee report and received Laurel into the federation, they did so in light of the 1977 synodical declaration of the OPC as "true." Since the decision to receive Laurel on the above basis was never appealed or rescinded, the classical position remains the final/ultimate decision in this case. Subsequent synods failed to take into account this decision of Classis Ontario-South.
Fourth, no evidence has come to light that the OPC has repented or changed its position or practice since the Laurel secession in 1983.
Fifth, for the churches of the federation to accept and implement the decision to establish ecclesiastical fellowship with the OPC is to condone and give approval to the sinful practices in the OPC. Since approving of sin is the same as practicing sin, it is clear that the churches are also now practicing sin. In addition to the sin of approval is the sin involved in actually implementing the decision to live in fellowship with the OPC. Hence, our call to repentance, and ultimately secession.
As stated in the beginning, some may think that the choice is between the overly-concerned position of a few and the position of the federation. However, it should be clear that this is not the case. The choice is between the antithetical directions of two broader assemblies. Refuge may not be taken in the assumption that the classical decision has been effectively set aside by the synodical decision. This is hierarchical reasoning.
Some may also think there is safety in "going with the flow-the group." But you must consider which group you are going to follow. There are two groups: classis vs. synod. Bear in mind that in the history of the church, the larger group in the church has very often ended up on the wrong side of the truth (cf. Jesus vs. Judaism; Luther vs. Rome; de Cock vs. The State Reformed Church; Schilder vs. the GKN).
Again, two paths now lay before everyone in the federation. On one hand there is the straight path blazed by the classical decisions that, if followed consistently, leads to reformation and secession. On the other hand there is the crooked path blazed by the synodical decisions that, if followed even by default, leads to compromise and deformation. This is the real choice.
CHRONOLOGY OF RELEVANT EVENTS
1977 - General Synod Coaldale declares the OPC a true church
1983 - OPC General Assembly denies complaint of Laurel members regarding open communion and refuses to establish study committee
1983 - Secession of Tri-County Reformed Church from the OPC in response to the above decisions
1986 - Acceptance by Classis Ontario-South of a committee report approbating Tri-County secession and calling OPC to repent
1987 - Admission of Tri-County Reformed Church into the federation of churches based on the above report