The synod finished last week Thursday evening and all the acts are now available here. As before, let me just review a few of the highlights from where I’m sitting.
Article 85 dealt with overtures from both regional synods regarding licensure of seminary students. They both proposed that students be permitted to speak an edifying word after two years of seminary, as opposed to the current three. The synod decided to give the green light for that under certain conditions. One of the conditions is that students licensed under these provisions have to preach under the supervision of a mentor for a full summer immediately following. But another condition is that the Pastoral Training Plan funding is still going to cover only one full summer internship, and usually that’s the internship following completion of the third year at CRTS. I guess the students will have to sort out how this is going to work in practice.
Remarriage after divorce is often a contentious issue in Reformed churches. In article 93, the synod considered an appeal from a couple concerning their consistory’s decision to pray for God’s blessing on such a marriage. The appeal went up through classis and regional synod, and thus landed on Synod 2019’s table. The appeal was denied. One of the grounds was that there is exegetical freedom in the CanRC on this matter. This is the way it should be, in my view.
Another appeal was considered in article 130. Blessings Christian Church appealed a decision of Regional Synod East regarding article 55 of the CanRC Church Order. In CO article 55, the churches agree that they will only sing “the metrical psalms adopted by general synod as well as the hymns approved by general synod.” A proposal was adopted by a Classis Central Ontario to revise article 55 to read as follows:
The 150 psalms shall have the principal place in public worship. The metrical psalms and hymns adopted by General Synod, as well as songs approved by the consistory that faithfully reflect the teaching of Scripture as expressed in the Three Forms of Unity, shall be sung in public worship.
This proposal then went to a Regional Synod East where it was defeated. But this synod still ended up dealing with it via the appeal of Blessings. However, the synod decided to deny it. There are several grounds, some of which deal with the question whether it is a matter for the churches in common. Synod decided that it remains so.
Article 139 dealt with the perennial topic of the United Reformed Churches. Synod decided not to reappoint the Committee for Church Unity. The process towards a merger is now officially on hold from both sides. However, the CanRC and URNCA will continue as sister churches.
Finally, they left one of the most interesting items almost to the very end. A Regional Synod West submitted an overture regarding the Trinity Psalter Hymnal (TPH) jointly developed by the OPC and URCNA. The overture asked the TPH be adopted for public worship in the CanRC per Church Order article 55. This overture was dealt with in article 142 of the Acts. Essentially the overture was denied — but some of the substance of it was reworked. The Standing Committee for the Book of Praise was mandated to consider improvements for both the psalm and hymn sections of the Book of Praise:
4.2 Mandate the SCBP:
4.2.1 Concerning the Psalms:
18.104.22.168 to seek input from the churches as to which non-Genevan renditions of the Psalms could be added to enhance the Psalm section of the BoP.
22.214.171.124 to compile a list of suitable Psalm renditions for possible inclusion in the Book of Praise, using the TPH as a primary resource.
4.2.2 Concerning the Hymns
126.96.36.199 to seek input from the churches concerning replaceable and additional hymns for the 2014 Book of Praise, using the TPH as a primary resource.
188.8.131.52 to compile a list of such hymns keeping mind that at this time the final number of hymns in the Book of Praise should not exceed 100 (as per GS 2004) and being flexible with the structural template (Apostles’ Creed) of the hymn section of the 2014 Book of Praise.
4.2.3 To send, at least 18 months before the next general synod, an explanatory report to the churches together with a provisional list of songs for immediate testing, in the worship services if so desired, so there can be well-considered feedback to the next general synod.
To sum it up, you can be sure that the CanRC Book of Praise will still exist four or five years from now, but it will look quite different to the way it does now. Additionally, it is going to be quite different to the Aussie Book of Praise which is probably going to appear in the next year or so. I suppose change is inevitable — as long as it’s change for the better. I do think that expanding the hymn section is warranted — there are some sections of the Book of Praise hymnary that are thread-bare. For example, there could definitely be more hymns that are directly about the cross and Christ’s sufferings there in our place. Expanding the hymnary carefully, looking to the TPH, and with a limit of 100 hymns seems a good way forward.