Re. Ecclesiastical Fellowship and Lynden Secession
On June 13, 2006 two brothers of our sister church in Lynden, Washington, issued a call to secession. I attach a copy of this call for your consideration because I am convinced that these brothers acted in accordance with the Word of God, our confessions, and the Church Order.
These brothers repeatedly admonished the consistory of the American Reformed Church of Lynden regarding the consistory's determination to uphold and implement the unscriptural decisions of Synod 2001 (Neerlandia) and Synod 2004 (Chatham) regarding ecclesiastical fellowship with the OPC. These brothers also repeatedly admonished the consistory of the American Reformed Church of Lynden regarding the consistory's determination to uphold and implement the synodical decisions establishing ecclesiastical fellowship with the PCK, FCS, RCUS and the URC. Sadly, the consistory hardened itself against every admonition and unjustly placed under discipline those who had called the consistory to repent. Consequently these brothers sent out a call to secession to the congregation at Lynden.
I request that you consider the Lynden consistory's refusal to abide by the Word of God, our confessions, and the Church Order. Specifically, I request that you recognize the legitimacy of the secession that has occurred in Lynden and rescind your approval and implementation of all synodical decisions to establish and confirm ecclesiastical fellowship with the OPC, PCK, FCS, RCUS, and the URC. Moreover, I request that you determine that the Canadian Reformed Churches acted contrary to the Word of God by establishing unity with these churches without properly testing the spirits and without upholding all of our confessions.
As basis for the above requests, please consider the following:
1) The Hoffords were admitted into the CanRC on the basis that they "rightfully separated from the OPC" (see attached paper entitled "Decisions of Classis Ontario South in 1985, 1986 and 1987 regarding the Road to Affiliation of the Tri-County Reformed Church with the Canadian / American Reformed Churches"). The OPC did not place them under discipline, but in 1983, at its Fiftieth General Assembly, refused to give the matter of the fencing of the Lord's Supper any further study.
2) The Hoffords were involved in appeals of decisions regarding the PCK, FCS and OPC already in 1995 when Rev. Hofford was minister in the church at Grand Rapids. This church supported him in several appeals to General Synods 1995 and 1998. In the year 2000 and following (with increasing frequency and urgency after the decisions of Synod Neerlandia 2001) the Hoffords wrote numerous letters to the consistory of Lynden regarding the decisions to extend relationships of ecclesiastical fellowship to the OPC and others. However this consistory refused to render justice by leaving the points raised in their submissions unanswered.
3) Instead, Lynden's implementation of the E.F. decisions of Synod Neerlandia 2001 placed the Hoffords into the same conflict with their conscience that they were in with the OPC in 1983. Moreover, the Lynden consistory required that they participate in the Lord's Supper when guests were present from the OPC (and other churches), with whom they had no assurance that they were one in faith. Their conscience would not permit them to do this (Article 31 of the Church Order).
4) The failure of the Lynden consistory to properly interact with their letters was also appealed to Classis Pacific East in March 2006, but Classis only stated that they were answered, thereby denying their appeal. Clearly, while the Hoffords were very patient with the CanRC, they could not compromise their integrity. The refusal by the consistory at Lynden, the Classis, and many General Synods to properly study and interact with the underlying issues is no less serious than what the OPC in 1983 failed to do. To make matters even worse, the Hoffords were also placed under church discipline by the Lynden consistory for their refusal to act against their conscience.
5) In 1986 Classis Ontario South accepted a Committee Report that stated "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." (see attached paper on Decisions of Classis Ontario South). There is no evidence to suggest that since 1983 the OPC has changed its official position on the matter of fencing the Lord's Supper. Consequently the extension of a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship to the OPC by Synod Neerlandia 2001, and the subsequent implementation of this decision by the local consistory, placed the Hoffords in an untenable situation.
6) Further, General Synod 1989 (also General Synods 2001 and 2004) did not take account of the decisions of Classis Ontario South in 1987 that "the Tri-County Reformed Church has rightfully separated herself from the OPC." You will note that this decision has never been appealed. I question who are the masters - Classis or General Synod? Does not the failure of General Synods 1989 and following to take account of the Classis decision provide evidence of a new synodical hierarchy, similar to the events which occurred prior to the Liberation of 1944?
7) Currently, a large majority of CanRCs have given approval to the same practice (without scriptural grounds) regarding the fencing of the Lord's Supper, which clearly warranted a call to repentance in 1986 and 1987. Is it not therefore appropriate for the Hoffords to secede from an unfaithful church and to liberate themselves from these unscriptural ecclesiastical decisions?
I submit to you evidence that the relationship that has been established with the OPC is unscriptural. Please find enclosed a discussion paper entitled "Acts of Synod of the Canadian Reformed Churches: An Analysis of General Synod Decisions Regarding the Orthodox Presbyterian Church from the Period 1965 to 1989."
Brothers, all of us must return from a path of disobedience. We must encourage all other churches in our federation not to accept as settled and binding the synodical decisions establishing ecclesiastical fellowship with the aforementioned churches (see Article 31 of the Church Order). All of us must be obedient now, not later, and not after countless appeals to broader assemblies. As it is written in James 4:17 "Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." I hope and pray that you will choose the path of obedience.
Please respond in writing.
With brotherly greetings,
1) Letter of brothers Barry and Glenn Hofford dated June 13, 2006
2) Paper entitled "Decisions of Classis Ontario South in 1985, 1986 and 1987 regarding the Road to Affiliation of the Tri-County Reformed Church with the Canadian / American Reformed Churches"
3) Paper entitled "Acts of Synod of the Canadian Reformed Churches: An Analysis of General Synod Decisions Regarding the Orthodox Presbyterian Church from the Period 1965 to 1989"