AN APPEAL TO GENERAL SYNOD 1998 OF THE CANADIAN REFORMED
CHURCHES REGARDING THE FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND AND THE SCOTS
from the church at Grand Rapids, MI
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.).
II. The church at Grand Rapids appealed to General Synod 1995 regarding the Scots Confession of 1560's teaching about the church. This appeal was predicated on the observation that the FCS has as their confessional basis the Scots Confession of 1560 (cf. Acts 1986, p. 194, 3.c., and Acts 1992, p. 160. II.).
III. In its appeal, Grand Rapids set forth the following considerations:
A. The Scots Confession, Chapter 16, "Of the Church," states that the catholic or universal church contains the elect of all ages, and "this church is invisible, known only to God, who alone knows whom he has chosen, and comprehends as well the elect that be departed, commonly called the church triumphant, and they that still live and fight against sin and Satan as shall live hereafter."
B. In Chapter 18, "The Notes of the True Church," the marks of the true church are listed. It then concludes: "Wherever, then, these former notes are seen, of any time continue (be the number never so few, about two or three) there, without all doubt, is the true church of Christ, who, according to His promise, is in the midst of them. Not that universal (church) of which we have before spoken, but particular (churches), such as was in Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, and other places..."
C. 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.).
IV. In its appeal, Grand Rapids concluded that since the FCS holds the above teachings, which we have judged to be in conflict with Scripture and our Confessions, it was wrong to declare to [sic] the FCS a true church.
V. General Synod 1995 answered this appeal of Grand Rapids by saying, "Further, with respect to the doctrine of the church, it is uncertain what edition was used. The two editions consulted do not agree with the quote '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.' Instead, it reads, 'Wheresoever, then these former notes are seen, and of any time continue, (be the number never so few, about two or three) there, without all doubt, is the true Church of Christ; who according to his promise is in the midst of them: Matt. xviii.19,20' This sheds a different light on the matter." (Art. 106.V.D.2.).
I. General Synod 1995 erred in thinking that the differences in editions of the Scots Confession referred to in their response altered the considerations of Grand Rapids. (The quotes used in Observation II.B. above are from a different edition than the one used for the appeal to G.S. 1995, and more in line with that used by G.S. 1995 in their response). This is proven by noting the words italicized by Synod in its answer, as though these particular differences shed a different light on the matter.
A. Grand Rapids' quote of the Scots Confession which included reference to the number of marks or notes of the church was only intended to provide a context for the relevant point, namely, the reference to the universal church.
B. Grand Rapids' point was to document the contrast between the invisible church on one hand and local true churches on the other.
C. The particular differences in wording pointed out by G.S. 1995 do not shed a different light on the contrast just noted.
II. Grand Rapids does not believe that its appeal should be denied on the basis of Art. 33, C.O. While it is true that the substance of this appeal is identical to the one submitted to General Synod 1995, and no new grounds are presented; nevertheless, Grand Rapids believes that since its appeal was not correctly understood, justice demands that it be reconsidered on its proper merits.
The decision to declare the FCS a true church of Christ and to enter into ecclesiastical fellowship with it while it holds teachings which are in conflict with the Scripture and our confessions is wrong.
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 resolving the differences between us so that full ecclesiastical fellowship can be established.
IV. That the CRCA be instructed to discuss this issue with the FCS and report to another General Synod.
For the consistory at Grand Rapids, MI
Rev. B. R. Hofford
P. A. ten Haaf, Clerk