URC Synod 2010, FV, and A Lot More — Is Four Days Enough?

7 June 2010 by Wes Bredenhof

July is near.  Next month, there will be a URC Synod in London, Ontario.  Over at Green Baggins, David Gadbois has posted some comments in anticipation of the discussion of the Federal Vision and Justification report.  I suspect we may be seeing a bit more discussion in the weeks ahead.

Here’s something that I struggle with:  the Synod is scheduled for Monday evening of July 26 to Friday afternoon of July 30.  Basically, that works out to four days.  I know that a URC Synod is much different than a CanRC Synod.  For one thing, every church sends delegates to a URC Synod.  In the Canadian Reformed system, the two most recent Regional Synods East and West delegate 12 elders and 12 ministers.  From the personal perspective of all those URC delegates, many of whom would probably rather be doing other things in July, it’s probably a good thing that it’s only four days.  I could imagine that scheduling a URC Synod for two weeks or more would probably see a drastic reduction in the number of delegates.  But the question should be:  what is best for the federation?

Is this URC Synod really going to do justice to the issues before it in four days?  Not only do they have the matter of the FV report, there’s also the relationship with the Canadian Reformed Churches.  These are significant issues.  Should they be dealt with hastily?  Wouldn’t it be better to slow down and carefully deliberate about these matters for the good of the churches?  I’m surprised that, from where I’m sitting, so many brothers in the URCNA seem to be content with this arrangement.  The Synod of Dort 1618-1619 lasted for several months, and they were dealing with a lot more than the Arminian controversy.  And we can’t devote two or three weeks once every three years for the well-being of our church federation?

In our ecumenical discussions, there seems often to an underlying fear that getting into a merger with the CanRC is going to bring the URC back to what they experienced with the CRC, especially with regards to the seminary.  Fool me once, etc.  However, in some key ways, the URCs don’t seem to have yet recognized the way in which CRC polity was inherently open to abuses, particularly at the synodical level.  Brief synods in which business has to be done in the set time was something inherited from the CRC (with the key difference that the CRC has a synod every year).  In that context, some key figures typically rise to the top and pull strings behind the scenes.  Business gets done, but at what cost?  It’s a flawed system and the URCNA could do better.  It’s too bad that the Proposed Joint Church Order is not quite ready for adoption.  It would point the URCNA in a better direction, at least on this point.

When church historians some day describe and analyze the attempt to merge the CanRC and the URC, I predict this is one factor they will isolate as to why it took so long or why it failed.