I. General Synod Lincoln, 1992, decided to recognize the Free Church of Scotland (FCS) as a true church of the Lord Jesus Christ and to offer the FCS a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship under the adopted rules (Art. 1 28, IV, A&B).
II. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) reports that the FCS holds the same views as the OPC with regard to the divergencies identified as supervision of the Lord's table and confessional membership. In a letter from the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations (CEIR) of the OPC to our CCOPC, dated March 3, 1993, it is stated, "...both the PCK and the FCS have essentially the same position as the OPC in matters of confessional membership and supervision of the Lord's Table!" (Report CCOPC to Synod 1995, II.B.I.,p.7). And in its report to the Sixty First General Assembly, 1994, the CEIR reported, "It is the judgment of the committee that given the fact that the CANREF has entered into ecclesiastical fellowship with two churches, the Free Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Church of Korea (Kosin), whose views and practices are the same as those of the OPC with regard to what are called divergences (sic), there are no divergences (sic) remaining that would bar full ecclesiastical fellowship" (Minutes, p.211, D.3.). No evidence can be found in the Acts of any of our Synods showing that these two matters, which are still considered impediments to full ecclesiastical fellowship with the OPC, were resolved prior to establishing ecclesiastical fellowship with the FCS.
III. The Free Church of Scotland has as their confessional basis, the Scots Confession of 1560, and the original version of the Westminster Confession of Faith (to be distinguished from the version held by many American Presbyterian bodies such as the OPC), (cf. Acts 1986, p.194,3,c, and Acts 1992, p.160,II).
I. With regard to the supervision of the Lord's table there is evidence to suggest that despite the measures taken to fence the Lord's table, as reported to various Synods by the CRCA, the FCS practices a method of admitting guests which is in conflict with the principles we hold and practice as taught in Art. 61, C.O., and H.C., L.D. 30, 31. This evidence is as follows:
A. Both the Scots Confession and the Westminster Confession set forth an election perspective with regard to the church and explicitly teach an invisib1e church (cf. below under Considerations IV,B, and Chapters 16-18 of the Scots Confession) which provides a basis for viewing guests in terms of election/regeneration.
B. The FCS allows into its pulpits ministers who either subscribe to unscriptural confessions or belong to churches with whom the FCS has no ecclesiastical fellowship (Reformed Baptists and liberal church men, cf. Acts 1992, p. 125, "Preaching"). This practice suggests, by extrapolation, that their view of visitors at the Lord's table is determined by an election/regeneration perspective rather than a confessional one. This is reinforced by the fact that the FCS places a strong emphasis on the dangers of participating in the sacrament with an unregenerate heart (cf. Acts 1986, p.192).
C. According to the report of the CRCA to Synod 1992, the FCS has "no stipulated policy with respect to visitors" (cf. Acts 1992, p.126, "The Lord's Supper").
II. With regard to confessional membership, it may be pointed out that the election/regeneration orientation described above, and the practice of allowing ministers from denominations with whom the FCS has no official ecclesiastical relationship into the pulpits of FCS churches, suggest that the FCS does not practice confessional membership as we require it in our churches.
III. In light of the reports to various Synods about the FCS, the assertions of the OPC regarding the Lord's Supper and confessional membership, and the above evidence corroborating these assertions, it is clear that these two issues were not resolved before a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship was offered to the FCS.
IV. Given the confessional basis of the FCS, as identified above under Observation 3, there are two doctrinal disagreements which were not reported to any of our Synods and thus not taken into account before deciding to declare the FCS a true church with the concomitant offer of ecclesiastical fellowship.
A. The Civil Magistrate
1. The Scots Confession, Chapter 24, states, "Moreover, we state that the preservation and purification of religion is particularly the duty of kings, princes, rulers, and magistrates. They are not only appointed for civil government but also to maintain true religion and to suppress all idolatry and superstition."
2. The 1647 edition of the Westminster Confession, Chapter 23:3, states: "The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and Sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: yet, he has authority, and it is his duty to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the church, that the truth of God be kept pure, and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruption and abuses in worship and discipline prevented, or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he has power to call Synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them, be according to the mind of God."
3. Some of these views of the role of the civil magistrate are not taught in the Three Forms of Unity as adopted by the C/ARC (cf. the statement deleted from Article 36 of the Belgic Confession by the General Synod of 1905 of the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland). Thus, the FCS holds views of the role of the civil magistrate which are contrary to Scripture and our confession.
B. The Invisible Church
1. In the Scots Confession, Chapter 16, "The Kirk," the catholic, or universal, church is described as, "...invisible, known only to God, who alone knows whom he has chosen, and includes both the chosen who are departed, the Kirk triumphant, those who yet live and fight against sin and Satan, and those who will live hereafter."
2. In Chapter 18, "The Notes by Which the True Kirk Shall Be Determined From The False, and Who Shall Be Judge of Doctrine," it gives the marks of the true church. It then concludes: "Then wherever these notes are seen and continue for any time, be the number complete or not, there, beyond any doubt, is the true Kirk of Christ, who according to his promise, is in its midst. This is not that universal Kirk of which we have spoken before, but particular Kirks, such as were in Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, and other places where the ministry was planted by Paul and which he himself called Kirks of God."
3. It is clear when comparing these two sections of the Scots Confession that a contrast is drawn between the invisible church, identified by election on one hand, and the local visible churches on the other. This view of the church is identical to the one rejected by Synod 1986, where it states, "One should not therefore draw the wrong conclusion from this that there is a nebulous concept of the holy, catholic church of all the regenerated and the elect, a church which is contrasted with the local, true churches" (Art. 184,IV,A,3,c, and VI,1). Thus, the FCS holds views of the church which are not in accord with Scripture nor with the Three Forms of Unity.
The church at Grand Rapids concludes from the above:
1. The decision to declare the FCS a true church of Christ while it holds teachings (civil magistrate and doctrine of church) which are in conflict with the Scripture and our confessions was wrong.
2. In accord with the pattern followed in our relationship with the OPC, the decision to establish full ecclesiastical fellowship with the FCS was premature because the issues of supervision of the Lord's table and confessional membership were not resolved first.
3. The Church at Grand Rapids also believes that it is incorrect to declare a church or churches true without simultaneously entering into full correspondence according to the adopted rules (cf. Grand Rapids appeal to this Synod of the 1977 decision regarding the OPC).
1. That the decision to call the FCS a true church and establish Ecclesiastical Fellowship be rescinded.
2. That an explanation and apology be sent to the FCS based on the above information.
3. That we reaffirm to the FCS our desire to continue contact with them with a view to investigating and, as necessary, resolving the differences between us so that full Ecclesiastical Fellowship may be established.
4. That the CRCA be instructed [to] investigate these matters and report to another General Synod.
We wish you every blessing from the King and head of the
Church in submitting to His will in every decision.
For the Consistory at Grand Rapids, MI,
Rev. B. R . Hofford, President
G. P. Vellenga, Vice-President