August 30, 2006
The Canadian Reformed Church
Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Enclosed you will find a package of material that was sent out to the members of the American Reformed Church of Lynden, WA calling them to secede. We are sending this material to you because you must now decide whether you will continue to remain in federation with the Lynden church or will recognize the legitimacy of our secession and join with us in returning to the historic foundation of the Canadian Reformed Churches.
We recognize that there may understandably be an almost immediate inclination to dismiss this letter as being out of order and improperly before you. However, before you make such a decision, we ask for your consideration of the following reasoning.
At first glance, it is natural to assume that we have not followed the church-orderly route by failing to appeal our local grievances to the broader assemblies-particularly the regional synod and the general synod (since we did appeal to a classis, copies of which are available on request). If this were true, then it would be correct to dismiss our letter and material as illegitimately before you. However, it should be noted, as we explain in our letter of call, that the matters at issue are not simply local ones, but rather ones that have been dealt with by all the churches over many decades. Further, these issues have been repeatedly appealed in various ways by many churches only to have the general synods again and again affirm that there will be no change in the direction of the churches regarding ecclesiastical fellowship. Thus, the local issues that are the foundation for our secession are also the federational issues with which all the churches have been confronted repeatedly.
Since our secession is the logical and church-orderly conclusion to such a situation, we believe that our material is indeed legitimately before you. Hence, you must decide if you are going to continue to uphold and implement the decisions of synods regarding ecclesiastical fellowship, and thus continue fellowship with the Lynden church, or if you are going to liberate yourselves (from the unscriptural binding that has been placed on the churches by the synodical decisions) and recognize us as the continuing true church in this area.
We realize that there are still some consistories that have not upheld and implemented some of the decisions of synod regarding ecclesiastical fellowship, most notably with the OPC. To those of you in this position, we urge you to consider the following. First, the rationale for continuing appeals has now lost its integrity partly since repeated synods have upheld the decisions in question and partly since there are virtually no new grounds to be presented. Second, it is becoming clear that synods are not dealing with such appeals with integrity: they are being lumped together and not being answered with the specific character demanded by the character of such appeals.
Third, it should be noted that consistories that do not uphold and implement the decisions of the broader assemblies are ultimately on a collision course with the federation (cf. Art. 44, C.O., par. 3). Since the process of appeal over these matters has lost integrity, these consistories must either capitulate, and hence compromise their convictions, or secede-there are no other options. Hence, to these consistories, we urge you to consider our appeal to you with this letter and the accompanying material to liberate yourselves immediately. Fundamentally, there is no basis for doing anything further other than seceding. To persist in appealing looks increasingly like an excuse to avoid the consequences of your convictions.
It has been said that there are many in the federation who don't like the decisions in question but don't believe action such as ours is warranted because they don't believe there are confessional issues at stake. If this is your position, then we urge you again to carefully consider our material, especially the article entitled "The Keys of the Kingdom and Closed Communion" (enclosed). When you carefully consider the actual practical implications of implementing the decisions of synod regarding, e.g., the OPC, as we faced it in Lynden, you will find that the unity of faith, as summarized in the confessions, required for celebrating the Lord's Supper with others is undermined.
Many of you may not have had to confront the implications of upholding and implementing some of these decisions simply because you are geographically removed. However, we urge you not to dismiss the seriousness of these issues for this reason. No church in the federation can ultimately escape the implications of these decisions even if, for example, no visitor from the OPC ever sought admission to your Lord's Supper table. If nothing else, our secession in Lynden has the effect of forcing every congregation in the federation to deal in a practical way with the implication of those synodical decisions.
There is one final point we wish to emphasize from our call to secession. This has reference to the importance of the secession of the Laurel (Maryland) congregation from the OPC in 1983. It has often been said to the Hoffords, and those with them, that they were mistaken to enter the federation knowing that the OPC had already been declared a true church by synod '77; hence, the dilemma they now face is one of their own making.
In response, it should be noted that before the Laurel congregation entered the federation in 1987, classis Ontario-South officially approbated their secession and concluded that the OPC should be called to repent (this means the OPC was living in sin!). The relevant portion of the accepted report reads as follows:
"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 O.P.C., the historical developments surrounding this case warrants a calling of the O.P.C. to repentance and a breaking of the present relationship if this repentance is not forthcoming."
It was on this basis that the Laurel congregation was received into the federation by that classis (note: the classis bears the responsibility for the admission, not the Laurel congregation!). What is often overlooked is the significance of those classical decisions for the entire federation.
First, classical decisions admitting congregations into the federation supersede the decisions of broader assemblies. Second, it is significant to note that these decisions were never appealed to any broader assemblies. In short, the failure of the churches at the level of General Synod to properly resolve the problem as set forth by classis has resulted in the present contradictory situation. In such a situation, every church must choose which path to follow: the one set forth by the classical decision or the one set forth by the synods. Our secession makes clear that the path of obedience to Christ and His Word is the one proscribed by the classical decisions.
Brothers, we hope and pray that in light of the above points you will give this material serious and careful consideration. If you need additional information or material, we will be glad to supply what we can. If you believe that we have acted against scripture, confession or church order, we ask that you show how and where. It is our earnest desire that you join with us in liberating yourselves from these unscriptural decisions and practices.
Sincerely on behalf of consistory,
S. W. Brown, Clerk
Rev. B. R. Hofford, President (firstname.lastname@example.org)