2064 Emerson St,
Abbotsford, BC Jan 22, 2007
Dear Brother vanTil
We acknowledge receipt of your letter of Dec 11, 2006.
We are grateful you have finally heeded Classis advice, and responded to our letter of Feb 4th 2006. For a very large part we can agree with comments and quotations in your letter and it is hoped that this will open the door for you to also heed the further advice of Consistory and cease acting in a schismatic way but rather work to build-up God's church here in Abbotsford and so further God's Kingdom.
First let us state unequivocally that Abbotsford consistory
and all its office bearers are
committed to uphold the Church's confessions and church order. Specifically in the
matters about which you have a concern, we state the following:
a) Consistory is committed to exercise church discipline as per Cat L/D 31 Q&A 85 and also Art 66 to 68 Church Order. It does this prayerfully and with much patience, as well as with many admonitions at times.
b) Consistory is committed to administer the sacraments in accordance with Confessions and Church Order and will continue to do so. With regard to Lord's Supper that also includes Cat L/D 30 Q&A 82 and Art 61 CO.
c) Consistory also is committed to issue and accept attestations and/or travel attestations as per agreement with the Federation outlined Art 62 CO.
Based on the above, brother, we believe that, for the most part we are in full agreement on these important scriptural principles. Where we differ is in only two matters:
1) Synods 2001 decision to establish sister church relations with OPC/URC.
We are convinced that these churches are committed to live by the Word of God and uphold the Confessions just as we do, and therefore we agree with Synod's decision to hold out to them the hand of fellowship.(refer Matt 18:20) While we recognize there may be shortcomings or a lack of insight or maybe a different view/interpretation on some matters with them, we hope and pray that with further discussion of such divergencies, we may in due time come to scriptural unity. (refer John 17 : 20 to 23) We have upheld Synods decision as we are bound to do per Art 31 CO "unless proven contrary to Gods Word."
2) Accepting of attestations from these sister churches.
Because of our accepting Synods decision we are also obligated to accept visitors from these sister churches upon receiving some form of valid attestation. In these very exceptional situations, we need to be welcoming to these fellow members of Christ's body, and will assist them in every way possible to obtain a valid confirmation of their "membership in good standing" either by phone call, fax, or e-mail as we would do for any member of the Can RC who was here for eg [sic] due to a death or illness in the family and had overlooked getting his attestation due to circumstances. Be assured the table of the Lord will be properly fenced because God requires his table to be kept holy and we are aware of our responsibility in that regard.
We are convinced that you are totally wrong in ascribing to the OPC the designation of being a "false church" based on one divergency or weakness. (Refer Mark 9 : 40 "whoever is not against us is for us") We become even more distressed when you support the Hoffords calling our sister church in Lynden a "false church" which by implication also makes us a "false church". Brother, you may have some valid concerns, but that is going too far. Has the church in Abbotsford done something contrary to God's Word or the confessions? If so provide the scriptural proof. Have you been personally wronged or has your conscience been bound beyond scripture, if so provide the specific proof.
Lest we be accused again of not providing a substantive reply to your concerns, we attach a detailed response in point form for you to consider. We will not entertain further debate on these points unless new scriptural grounds are provided, as we appear to have divergent views which is acceptable.
Brother, we admonish you with the words of Titus 3 : 9 & 10 "But avoid foolish controversies ... arguments and quarrels about law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once and then warn him a second time. After that have nothing to do with him." Brother this is a second such warning. We draw your attention to a note in the NIV Study Bible which provides a definition of "divisive person" Quote "The Greek for this phrase became a technical term in the early church for a type of "heretic" who promoted dissension by propagating extreme views of legitimate Christian truths." Read further Titus 3:11 "You may be sure that such a man is sinful; he is self condemned." Quote a further note NIV on this verse
- "Stubborn refusal to listen to
correction reveals inner perversion."
We appeal to you to stop creating unrest and division in the congregation, and work instead to buildup the communion of saints in Abbotsford, speak respectfully about those placed in authority over you by God Himself, and promote the wellbeing of God's people wherever the Lord of All has called his sheep to meet together.
One final point. We will not in future accept anymore lengthy treatises from you as a group with four signatories, but expect that any future correspondence will be personally written and address only matters wherein you have personally been wronged. Such writings should be short and concise, preferably one or maximum two pages and provide clear scriptural proof not lengthy treatises with narrow reasoning.
We pray that God will fill you with his Spirit to enable you to show true love, patience, kindness and compassion for his saints wherever they gather to honour Him, and profess a desire to live by His Word.
For the consistory
C. Leyenhorst - Vice Chairman J. Dykstra - Clerk
Response to Letter dated Dec 11, 2006 of Brs vanTil, vanLaar, Thalen & Flokstra
Point 1 - Consistory addressed what it deemed most important and relevant.
Point 2 - Par 1 & 2 We adhere to what we confess in
Cat Q&A 82 that "those who are unbelieving and ungodly are to be kept
from the table of the Lord". The OPC also believes this and exercises such
discipline with its members. The point is, it does not say here nor specifically
in Scripture how this is to be done. There is no 11th commandment! We do not
at all have an incorrect understanding of Q&A 82 such as is implied by you
and deem it unfair that you make such ridiculous assertions.
- Par 3 We are fully aware what Synod 1986 stated but a subsequent Synod stated this can be and will be a matter of further discussion and is not an impediment to recognition as a "true church". Does this one divergency make them a false church?
- Par 5 & 6 We fully agree with the comments of Rev Stam with regard to "fencing the table" and that is what we practice. So your conclusion in the final two sentences is completely wrong. We do adhere to the confessions & liturgical forms.
Point 3 - We adhere to Art 61 CO because we believe it
most closely follows Scripture outlined principles, however you have not proven
from scripture "that this is the only way and that we must require an identical
way from all sister churches in the world".
- We fully agree with the comments of the Revs Deddens, van Rongen & Bouwman
- We disagree with your last 2 sentences because we believe there is no departure
by us in Abbotsford or any other Can RC that we are aware of, from the federatively agreed to standards and historical Reformed position.
The question is - Do we have the right to impose our views and exact practice on another recognized sister church who confesses to want to live in full agreement to God's Word and by the same scriptural principles as we confess - Sola Scriptura/by Scripture alone, Soli Deo Gloria/for the Glory of God alone, Solo Christa/by Christ's work alone we are saved, Sola Gratia/salvation by grace alone, Sola Fide/ justification by faith alone - but who maybe has not received full scriptural insight on some minor point or has a slightly different insight on some points than we do. Does that make them a false church? Does that make us a false church because we allow a "minor divergency" (Synods word) for later discussion and show some Christian patience and tolerance?
Point 4 - We do not agree there is a double standard or that there should be one.
Point 5 - We note your quotation "It is clear there is a problem here which must be resolved by General Synod" Two subsequent Synods have decided that this matter was a "minor divergency" and could be a matter for further discussion. This decision can only be appealed or accepted. You cannot re-write history!! We feel as long as there is ongoing discussion and progress is being made towards achieving unity, then we are following the scriptural mandate to "seek unity" and further the Kingdom of God. Refer John 17:23
Point 6 - You again refer to "unscriptural practices" by the OPC but have given no scriptural proof of this. Chapter & verse Brother!! Is there a denial here of the Trinity or a denial of Christ's all-sufficient sacrifice or of God's grace or of other important principles of scripture and/or of the Reformed Faith as confessed in the 3 Forms of Unity? No there is not, there are only some "minor divergencies" in practice on which we hope and pray we may come to unity in the future. Should we not show love, patience and be charitable to those who share the faith with us. Refer Colossians chap 2
Point 7 - We do not legitimize an open Lord's Supper but neither does the OPC. It confesses and practices church discipline for its members as we do, but for visitors it practices a "restricted" admission policy by way of "verbal warning" and/or interview requiring a "credible confession". All visitors are encouraged and further instructed in the doctrine of the church which is their way of evangelizing. Scripture gives many examples of the disciples and apostles preaching and then baptizing those who verbally indicate they believe while instructing them more fully in the gospel by way of letters sent later.
If you are not able to prove and/or are not willing to demonstrate that the OPC is unfaithful because they profane the table of the Lord by admitting those "who are known to be unbelieving and ungodly" or fail to exercise church discipline, then we cannot accept your objection to accepting visitors from the OPC who are faithful members there and attested to be in good standing and leading a faithful lifestyle. Take note that we are not accepting their visitors but only their members in good standing should they present themselves and provided we have an attest of their membership
Point 8 - We have indeed seen and read your lengthy material submissions and do not disagree with most of the quoted writings. We however strongly disagree with your conclusions and applications. We asked that you summarize that information with a concise and clear scriptural proof which you have not done. We acknowledge that Synod has also not been consistent which proves that contrary to what you appear to think, scripture does not in all things provide absolute and clear rules for every matter, but sometimes, as in this case, their can be difference in interpretation. Provided no clear scriptural truths are being denied, we need to bear with each other, be patient with each others shortcomings, and help each other to fully understand God's will. Refer Romans 15
We are aware of the history, as it relates to the Hoffords and can somewhat understand their feelings of having been wronged. However their failure to appeal to Synod, means they have to bear the wrong for Christ's sake, as scripture sometimes calls us to do. This does not give them the right to call to schism, and breakup the true Church of Christ by calling it false. Remember this is a problem created by Synod and not by Lynden or Abbotsford. The Hoffords also acted unscripturally when they refused to participate when called to celebrate Lord's Supper. Don't forget especially the scriptural call to "obey your leaders and submit to them in all humility" as each of us has agreed to do when we made confession of faith.
We find your reference to the Liberation of 1944 (Schilder's Struggle for the Church) as support for your actions totally unacceptable. There the church was not dealing with a "minor divergency" in the understanding of a sister church, but with a Synodical denial of the doctrine of the Covenant and a decreed binding to Synod's decisions followed by deposition of professors, faithful ministers, and whole consistories.
Brother there is no comparison. We do not object to your views perse [sic], nor do we deny you the freedom to believe that Synod 2001 may have erred, however we do draw the line when you support calling a sister church (i.e. Lynden) a false church without scriptural proof thereof and support a call to schism in God's church without going through the proper appeals and church orderly way. Such action can only lead to censure.
In summary, Brother, we again quote the words of Titus 3 : 9 & 10 "But avoid foolish controversies ... arguments and quarrels about law, because these are unprofitable and useless". Do not become so "obsessed" with a minor divergency, that you lose sight of all the wonderful treasure that Christ has given to His Church, His Bride. These treasures are not exclusive to the Can RC but are shared with those who faithfully submit to God's Word all over the world. As per Romans 14:1 show some patience with the weaker brother.
Brother we admonish you to buildup the communion of saints in a positive and scriptural way. Do not be a party to divisive writings and actions.