(in chronological order)
A. Excerpt from Press Release of Continuation of Classis Ontario South of September 11 and 12 on October 2, 1985 (see Clarion, Vol. 34, No. 23, November 15, 1985 issue, p.493):
Item #4 (c)
Grand Rapids informs Classis of a request of Tri-County
Reformed Church, Laurel, MD, to the church at Grand Rapids to take whatever
steps are necessary to assist this congregation in affiliating with the federation
of the Canadian Reformed Churches. Classis decides to appoint a committee:
I) to investigate this request and for this purpose to be provided with all the relevant and official documents, including those from the Mid-Atlantic Presbytery and General Assembly 1983 of the O.P.C.
II) to advise, if possible, the next classis regarding the request and the manner of admission to the federation of the Canadian Reformed Churches, and to send this request to the churches five weeks before classis.
III) to evaluate the position of Rev. B. Hofford with a view to possible affiliation.
IV) during this investigation into the procedures for admission, to take into account that there are matters involved that have served at the broadest assemblies of the O.P.C. and the Canadian Reformed Churches, and which will be dealt with at our forthcoming General Synod, 1986.
Appointed to this committee are: Rev. J. van Rietschoten, Rev. J. Moesker, elder B. de Vos and another elder from Chatham.
B. Partial extracts from above report submitted to Classis Ontario South on March 5, 1986 regarding the request of Tri-County Reformed Church
III. Conclusions According to the Mandate of Classis Sept./Oct. 1985
Mandate i) to investigate this request and for this purpose to be provided with all the relevant and official documents, including those from the Mid-Atlantic Presbytery and General Assembly of the O.P.C.
The committee obtained the relevant documents including those of the Presbytery and the General Assembly and concludes that Rev. Hofford and the complainants were correct in their complaint and the steps taken to have their complaint assessed by the higher assemblies in the O.P.C. The 50th General Assembly was wrong in its rejection of the complaint and cut off the way for future discussion by refusing to heed the request of the complainants to "give this issue to a committee for study and a report to the Fifty first General Assembly rather than come to a hasty and premature conclusion."
Mandate iv) during the investigation into the procedures for admission, to take into account that there are matters involved which have served at the broadest assemblies of the O.P.C. and Canadian Reformed Churches, and which will be dealt with at our forthcoming General Synod 1986.
Tri-County has adopted the stand that the O.P.C. is a false church and that the ministers and elders of the O.P.C. are false shepherds. Synod 1977 of the Canadian Reformed Churches on the other hand, has declared the O.P.C. to be a true church, and at present maintains fraternal relations with this church.
Conclusion: Since we as committee believe that the development of the controversy shows that Rev. Hofford and the complainants were correct and that they clearly made their objections known, and that their complaint was rejected by the highest assembly of the O.P.C. and not even placed in a category for future study and consideration, we conclude that our relationship with the O.P.C. requires serious reconsideration. 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. The stand of the Tri-County Reformed Church is historically understandable since it warranted their separation, and it must not be a bar to our unity with them. We recommend the consistories to propose to classis that this conclusion be added to the report of the committee which is presently drawing up a submission for Synod 1986 with respect to the development surround the church at Blue Bell, as this is additional proof that our relations with the O.P.C. require reconsideration.
C. Excerpt from Press Release of Classis Ontario South of March 5, 1986 (regarding the above report - see Clarion, Vol. 35, No. 6, March 21, 1986 issue, p.132):
c. Report of Committee re Tri-County Reformed Church. This report is presented. In connection with it there is the instruction of the Church at Hamilton which is read. A letter of Tri-County is read as well.
Hamilton urges Classis to provide Tri-County with the necessary assistance in coming to unity with the Canadian Reformed Churches. Tri-
County informs classis of the steps she has taken in adopting the Reformed standards.
The report is extensively discussed. Classis breaks for a hearty lunch served by the sisters of London. After lunch we sing Psalm 147:1 and roll call is held. All members are present.
The discussion is continued. Classis breaks for supper which is enjoyed by all. After supper we sing Psalm 147:4 and roll call is held. All are present.
After various proposals are presented and discussed classis decides to receive the committee report with thanks. Classis considers that at present there is no request from Tri-County for affiliation with the Canadian Reformed Churches.
Classis expresses thankfulness that Tri-County continues to desire to come to affiliation.
1. To file the report of the committee so that it is available for use by a subsequent classis if and when a request for affiliation from Tri-County Reformed Church is forthcoming.
2. To provide the Tri-County Reformed Church with all necessary assistance in coming to a full understanding of the Three Forms of Unity and the Reformed Church Order.
3. To recommend to Synod 1986 to seriously take into consideration this report and its conclusions when judging the case of Tri-County Reformed Church and in synod's discussion of our relationship to the OPC. In connection with this decision a covering letter to synod is approved.
D. Response of General Synod 1986 (regarding the above covering letter and report - see Acts, General Synod Burlington 1986, Article 137):
Overture Classis Ontario South re Contact OPC
Committee 4 presents:
A. MATERIAL - Agenda, VIII, J, 2 [Overture from Classis Ontario-South, March 5, 1986, re Contact with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church] and 3 [Report to Classis Ontario-South, March 5, 1986, re affiliation of Tri-County Reformed Church, Laurel, MD, U.S.A.]
1. Classis Ontario South of March 5, 1986 requests Synod to "address the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church with the concern of the Canadian Reformed Churches on the doctrinal and church political issues which compelled the Reformation Church at Blue Bell to withdraw from the OPC. The doctrinal issues are the following:
a. The doctrine of the covenant.
b. Confessional membership.
c. Restricted communion.
d. The doctrine of the church.
e. The autonomy of the local church.
a. As Canadian Reformed Churches we have "Ecclesiastical Contact" with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. We have mutually recognized one another as true churches of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet a local OP Church felt compelled to withdraw from the OPC because its Reformed identity was being jeopardized. This gives reason for concern regarding our mutual recognition of one another.
b. Doctrinal and church political issues were at stake in the controversy at Blue Bell. On the one hand, the handling of these issues caused the church-members at Blue Bell to withdraw from the OPC. On the other hand, the Canadian Reformed churches could receive this church without hesitation, and this was due in part to these same Reformed views and practices. These gives reason for concern regarding our doctrinal and church political unity. The Canadian Reformed Churches, which share the Reformed doctrine and practices with the Church at Blue Bell, must ascertain whether this Reformed doctrine and practice is acceptable to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church or whether the Canadian Reformed Churches are compelled to break the temporary ecclesiastical relationship."
2. Classis Ontario-South judged that "the separation of the Church at Blue Bell from their Orthodox Presbyterian Church was warranted in order to continue their Scriptural and Reformed distinctives which were at stake ."
3. Classis Ontario-South has sent a letter to the Philadelphia Presbytery of the OPC addressing them concerning how they have dealt with Blue Bell.
4. Classis Ontario-South also forwards a document "convinced of the need for Synod to seriously take into consideration the report and its conclusions when judging the case of Tri-County Reformed Church, and when discussing our relationship with the OPC."
1. Classis Ontario-South is correct in stating that the acceptance of Blue Bell into the federation of Canadian Reformed Churches has an effect on the relationship between the Canadian Reformed Churches and the OPC.
2. Previous and present General Synods have instructed the Committee for Contact OPC to discuss the doctrinal and church political divergencies with the OPC in view of the "new developments."
3. Synod recognizes that the "Hofford" issue is a matter which is as yet not finished in the minor assemblies (Art. 30, Church Order).
1. Synod decides to inform Classis Ontario South that the request is already included in the mandate for the Committee for Contact OPC.
2. Synod decides to ask Classis Ontario South to cooperate fully with the Committee for Contact with the OPC regarding the "Hofford" issue.
The recommendations are ADOPTED.
E. Excerpt from Press Release of Classis Ontario South of June 11, 1986 (regarding the above General Synod decision - see Clarion, Vol. 35, No. 15, July 25, 1986 issue, p.320):
g. Letter from General Synod Burlington West 1986 in reply to submission of classis to synod.
Classis instructed the convening church at Grand Rapids to place this letter on the agenda of the next classis to give opportunity to churches to study this reply.
Classis also decided to receive and exchange with the Committee for Contact with the OPC decisions and reports concerning the "Hofford" case.
F. Excerpt from Press Release of Classis Ontario South of September 10, 1986 (regarding the above General Synod decision - see Clarion, Vol. 35, No. 21, October 17, 1986 issue, p.429):
13. The letter from General Synod 1986 will once again not be discussed until the Acts of General Synod are published and distributed among the churches. The reason for this is that the letter cannot be fully understood without the Acts of Synod.
G. Excerpts from Press Release of Classis Ontario South of December 10, 1986 (regarding contact with Tri-County Reformed Church and the above General Synod decision - see Clarion, Vol. 36, No. 2, January 23, 1987 issue, pp.38-39):
4. The chairman reads a letter from two members of the Tri-County Reformed Church at Laurel (Rev. Hofford) in which they ask to be allowed to attend Classis as observers. They like to get better acquainted with our churches since they consider asking to be admitted to our federation .
5 . After a cup of tea the floor is given to Rev. Hofford from Laurel. He thanks Classis for allowing him and elder Brown to be present as observers. He relates that they have been studying the Three Forms of Unity and the Church Order of Dordt. They hope to come with a request in March 1987 to be allowed to affiliate with the American/Canadian Reformed Churches.
Rev. Agema is given the opportunity to respond on behalf of classis. He expresses our thankfulness that there is a growing recognition between our churches and the church at Laurel that both want to be faithful to God's Word. He wishes the brothers observers and the congregation in Laurel the blessing of the Lord upon their further plans and express the hope that we may soon accept each other on the basis of Holy Scripture according to the Reformed Confessions.
7 . The Church at Chatham draws the attention of Classis to an inaccuracy in the Acts of Synod Burlington-West 1986, p.131, regarding the sequence of events resulting in the resignation of Rev. B. Hofford as pastor of Burtonsville Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
Chatham claims that contrary to the Acts, Rev. Hofford did not resign before the interim period came to an end but he resigned after he was faced with the consequence of having to administer the Lord's Supper against his conscience. Since the congregation at Laurel may come with a request for affiliation, Chatham deems it necessary to set this record straight.
Classis adopts Chatham's suggested correction and decides to include it in the Acts and the Press Release.
A letter from General Synod Burlington-West 1986 (cf. Art. 137) received by a previous classis is dealt with. Classis decides that in the Acts of Classis Ontario South, June 11, 1986, the matter has been sufficiently dealt with.
H. Excerpt from Press Release of Classis Ontario South of March 25, 26, and April 1, 1987 (regarding Tri-County Reformed Church - see Clarion, Vol. 36, No. 10, May 22, 1987 issue, p.232):
8. Request Tri-County Reformed Church: The following motion is proposed and unanimously adopted:
1. Classis declares that Rev. B.R. Hofford c.s. brought their complaint concerning the fencing of the Lord's Supper to the 50th General Assembly of the OPC. They were unjustifiably denied their complaint; and therefore the Tri-County Reformed Church has rightfully separated herself from the OPC.
2. Classis judges that it is not within the province of Classis to make further pronouncements regarding the OPC, since it is a matter which ought to be dealt with by a General Synod.
3. Classis decides to grant with gratitude, the request of Tri-County Reformed Church at Laurel, MD, to be affiliated with the federation of Canadian/American Reformed Churches with all the rights and obligations on the basis of her whole-hearted agreement with and adoption of God's Word as summarized in the confessions of the Canadian/American Reformed Churches and the Church Order of the Canadian/American Reformed Churches.
4. A) Classis decides, because the consistory of Tri-County Reformed Church consists of only two members, to advise the consistory to increase the number of officebearers to at least three.
B) Classis also decides to conduct the colloquium with Rev. B.R. Hofford at a later time.
5. Classis decides to send a copy of this decision to the Synodical Committee for Contact with the OPC and to let every church in the federation know of the affiliation of the Tri-County Reformed Church.
After this all present rise to sing Psalm 89:7 and 8 and Rev. D.G.J. Agema leads in prayer of thanksgiving. The brothers receive the opportunity to congratulate the guests from Laurel.