I. General Synod 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. 128.IV.A.B.). This offer was subsequently accepted and the relationship established.
II. The church at Grand Rapids appealed the above decision to Synod 95 on the grounds that the Orthodox Presbyterian Church's charge of a double standard with reference to the issues of confessional membership and the admission of guests to the Lord's Table was accurate. Among the observations made in that appeal was the following: "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 FCS have essentially the same position as the OPC in matters of confessional membership and supervision of the Lord's Table!'" (Acts 1995, Appendix V.II.B.1., p. 152). 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.).
III. In its report to General Synod 1995, the CCOPC describes its September 27, 1994 discussion with the CEIR regarding this issue as follows, "On the basis of information received by Synod Lincoln 1992 we showed that we have reasons to believe that the practices of the FCS with respect the (sic) supervision of the Lord's Supper and confessional membership are dissimilar from those of the OPC. We found it more difficult to show the same for the PCK. CEIR contested this assertion, and we concluded that more evidence regarding the respective practices of guests at the Lord's Supper should be provided by both sides." (Acts 1995, Appendix V.II.B.4.).
IV. The CCOPC in its report to Synod 1998 refers to a letter from the CEIR dated September 21, 1995 in which, "the charge was repeated that the Canadian Reformed Churches maintain a double standard in their contacts with other church bodies, by continuing to deny the OPC a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship while at the same time entering into that relationship with the Free Church of Scotland..." The CCOPC responded by focusing on preparing proposals for moving toward Ecclesiastical Fellowship rather than continuing the discussion on the alleged double standard. (Report, II.1., p. 2).
V. 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.
VI. Apart from simply asserting that the OPC charge of a double standard regarding confessional membership was unsubstantiated, General Synod 1995 made no direct response to the part of the Grand Rapids appeal addressing the question of difference on the issue of confessional membership. That part of the appeal stated: "With regard to confessional membership, it may be pointed out that the election/regeneration orientation described above (same as Considerations VI. & VII. below), 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."
VII. In response to the Grand Rapids appeal to General Synod 1995 regarding the Lord's Supper matter, Synod considered, "The reaction of the CEIR of the OPC is, however, regrettable. Their charge of applying a double standard (re: admission to Lord's Table, and confessional membership) is not substantiated. For example, information available to Synod regarding the Lord's Supper, indicates that there are different practices with regards to the supervision of guests at the Lord's Table in the FCS compared to the OPC (see Acts 1989, p. 161; Acts 1992, p. 126; see also Report CCOPC II.B.4.)." (Art. 106.V.A.2).
I. Grand Rapids believes this appeal should not be denied on the basis of Art. 33, C.O. For although the substance and grounds of the appeal are virtually the same as parts of the appeal submitted to Synod 1995, the fact is that Synod 1995 did not answer part of our appeal (cf. Observation VI. above), and, as we prove below, the other part (cf. Observation VII. above) was answered incorrectly.
II. With regard to the supervision of the Lord's Table, the evidence suggests that 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.
III. While it may be true, as General Synod 1995 asserts, that the charge of a double standard has not been substantiated by the OPC; nevertheless, the CCOPC in its report to General Synod 1995 conceded "...that more evidence regarding the respective practices of guests at the Lord's Supper should be provided by both sides." (Acts 1995, Appendix V. II.B.4.).
IV. In defending its position that there are different practices with regards to the supervision of guests at the Lord's Table in the FCS compared to the OPC, General Synod 1995 appeals to Acts 1989, p. 161, and Acts 1992, p. 126.
A. With regard to the Acts 1989, there is no mention of the supervision of guests at the Lord's Supper. Thus, appeal to this section of the Report of the CCOPC is irrelevant.
B. With regard to the Acts 1992, the reference to guests reads as follows: "As for guests at the Lord's table from other churches, that does not seem to happen very often...In short, there is no stipulated policy with respect to visitors, although all are subject to the fencing of the table by means of the series of preparatory services held before the supper." While this may indicate a different practice from the OPC inasmuch as the OPC may not ordinarily require participation in preparatory services, it does not reflect a difference in principle regarding the criteria (the relationship of the visitor's church to the FCS; see Consideration V. below) for admission to the supper. The OPC's objection to the double standard in the face of this information reflects their understanding that this variation in procedure is not a difference in principle.
V. Personal contact between the consistory at Grand Rapids and the members of the session of the FCS in Livonia, MI confirms the assertion that the FCS's practice with regard to the admission of guests to the Lord's Table is not consistent with our principles. We were told that visitors from virtually any denomination are admitted simply by affirming their membership in a church to one of the elders at the time of the celebration of the supper.
VI. Both the Scots Confession and the Westminster Confession set forth an election perspective with regard to the church and explicitly teach an invisible church (cf. Esp. Chapters 16-18 of the Scots Confession) which provides the basis for viewing guests in terms of election/regeneration.
VII. 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).
VIII. Since General Synod 1995 did not respond to the question of confessional membership raised in our appeal, as noted above under Observation VI. this consideration still stands.
IX. While it may be true, as Synod 1995 asserts, that the OPC charge of a double standard regarding these two issues has not been substantiated by them: nevertheless, the concession of the CCOPC (Observation III. above), the continued conviction of the CEIR that the double standard exists despite our remonstrations to the contrary, the evidence adduced from reports to previous Synods by Grand Rapids, and the direct experience of Grand Rapids with the FCS at least provide sufficient grounds for asserting that these two issues were not resolved before entering into Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the FCS.
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.
I. That the decision to call the FCS a true church and establish ecclesiastical fellowship be rescinded.
II. That an explanation and apology be sent to the FCS based on the above information.
III. 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.
IV. That the CRCA be instructed to investigate these matters further 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
P. A. ten Haaf, Clerk