2015 Report of the President
of Western Classis
of the Reformed Church in the United States
Esteemed Fathers and Brethren:
The purpose of the President’s Report, according to Article 81 of the Constitution, is to summarize and assess “the state of the Church.” In previous years, these reports have commented individually on each parochial report, but this year I have decided instead to make general observations drawn from your parochial reports, the reports of the various permanent and special committees, the Treasurer’s Report, and the statistics of Classis. Even this is no small task considering that the Western Classis includes 22 of the 57 ministers of Synod (39%).
So, what do your parochial reports and the other reports reveal? Let me answer this by focusing on several very specific areas.
The Preaching of the Gospel
All of your reports affirm that the pulpits of the Western Classis are ringing with the pure doctrines of the gospel. In addition to regular Lord’s Day services in which the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed, most of our congregations also provide Sunday school instruction, Bible studies, and discipleship training. Even the Anderson, CA, church, the only congregation in the Western Classis currently without a pastor, has regular preaching provided by various seminary students and RCUS pastors.
A particular cause of celebration is the fact that our youth are regularly catechized in the doctrines explained in the Heidelberg Catechism, as both our Constitution (Art. 192) and our Standing Rules (Rule 4) require. I believe that this is one of the unique strengths of the RCUS. In a day when almost 70 percent of youth leave the church between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, the Lord has been pleased to use our catechetical program to strengthen our young people’s faith against an onslaught of humanistic ideas and lifestyles. For that, we must render to God our unfeigned and sincerest praise!
Furthermore, many of our pastors continue to serve on the board and/or faculty of City Seminary or Heidelberg Seminary. Three are also involved in the ministry of Westminster Biblical Missions, which has a record of promoting the gospel in central and eastern Europe, Korea, Mexico and Pakistan.
The Sacramento and Modesto churches have a special reason to rejoice in that their pulpits, which were vacant a year ago, have been filled. Rev. Bowen accepted the call to Modesto, and Rev. Hall (whom we now welcome to the Western Classis) assumed his pastoral duties in Sacramento last June. Both men have zealously proclaimed and taught the Word of God both publicly and privately.
The report of the Candidates and Credentials Committee states that we currently have two students under care: Mr. Matthew Davis and Mr. Colin Samul. Lord willing, Mr. Samul will have completed his theological training and internships by our next annual meeting, at which time he plans to pursue licensure and a call. The Anderson church has already expressed an interest in having him as its next pastor. As a point of interest, neither student is requesting tuition assistance thanks to the generosity of City Seminary. City Seminary offers free theological education to all RCUS students under care. This is one way in which City Seminary hopes to ease the financial burden of Synod. According to last year’s Synodical Abstract, tuition for full-time students at other RCUS-approved seminaries varies between $5,200 and $8,925 per year. This amounts to a guideline of $2.00 per communicant member per student.
But declaring the gospel within the local church only partly fulfills the preaching mandate. The Great Commission instructs us to “go … and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19), i.e., to summon unbelievers to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of our churches approach evangelism in an organized and systematic way. The Shafter congregation, for example, called Rev. Alpuche to serve as a missionary pastor to reach its Spanish-language community. Rev. Alpuche’s report shows how much the Lord has already blessed his labors. Similarly, Rev. Bowen is busy in Modesto instructing the people in Evangelism Explosion.
After several years as a missionary outpost, the Permanent Home Missions Committee is recommending that the Calvary Reformed Chapel of Stockton be approved “as a viable home mission work of the Western Classis.” The assessors noted that the members of this work are committed to evangelism and have “a definite conviction” that they should continue as a conservative Reformed witness in the Stockton area.
While our church websites may make our churches accessible to people who happen to be looking specifically for a Reformed church, the concern I raised last year is far more fundamental than that. Our job is not to wait for Reformed people to find us. Rather, we need to develop strategies to reach unbelievers, so that we might call them out of darkness into the marvelous light of the gospel. Jesus instructed us to “go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:23) Paul did this not only by preaching in the synagogues, but also by going out into the marketplace. He challenged unbelievers to come to Christ wherever and whenever he found them.
In the RCUS we have a strong and necessary emphasis on systematic theology and apologetics. I would never want to see that changed. On the other hand, I would like to see a much greater emphasis on plain old evangelism. Remember, we have to summon lost sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ before we can explain the gospel to them in depth or defend it against calumnious charges.
Your reports indicate that the sacraments are properly and regularly administered in the churches of the Western Classis. The Lord’s Supper is celebrated four times per year in some of our churches, while others prefer twelve. The frequency of baptism, of course, is determined by need, as the Lord brings new converts and covenant children into our fellowships.
The statistics that the clerk distributed by email show that there were only four adult baptisms in the Western Classis last year. Although I realize that many people join the church having already been baptized (in a lot of churches baptism is more sentimental than religious), this number is far too low. It highlights again the fact that every congregation of Classis needs to focus more on evangelism and outreach.
One of the questions we ask our elders every year is, “2. Is careful attention given to … the reception of members into the Church…?” (Art. 81). In all the years I’ve been in the RCUS, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone answer it in the negative. I suspect that’s because we have adopted a narrow view of what it means. We think that we have given attention to the reception of members if we offer membership instruction to visitors who express an interest in joining the church. But would we have to answer the question differently if we viewed it through the grid of evangelism, adult conversions and adult baptisms? Whether that’s really the point of this question or not, we should nonetheless ask ourselves whether we’re giving necessary attention to evangelizing the lost so that we can get them into the church in the first place.
Wouldn’t it be great if we saw fifty or a hundred adult baptisms every year?
Ecclesiastical discipline, while considered one of the least pleasant aspects of the ministry, is nonetheless necessary for the church’s continuance. It glorifies God and maintains the purity of our Savior’s bride. Although we tend to think of discipline in a formal sense (i.e., written charges brought before a Spiritual Council), the truth is that the primary discipline of every congregation is simply the preaching of the Word of God. As Jesus addresses His people through His ordained servants, His commands and promises summon us to serve Him with our whole hearts. In that sense, we can affirm that discipline is always exercised wherever and whenever the Word is proclaimed.
Church discipline also takes place behind the scenes, so to speak, as believers mutually admonish and exhort one another in the Lord. When private admonition is encouraged and regularly practiced, there is rarely a need for the courts of the church to act.
But let us remember that we are sinful pastors of sinful sheep. Once in a while, therefore, formal discipline cannot be avoided. With much sadness I note that such discipline was necessary in some of our congregations in 2014, and yet with great joy I see that our elders have been faithful and willing to carry it out, even though it often hurts.
Some of our congregations report that they gained more members than they lost in 2014. Ebenezer in Shafter added 9 communicant members in 2014. Calvary Chapel in Stockton added 4 communicants and 5 covenant children. Lancaster, Willows, Yuba City and San Diego also report increases. Altogether, this year’s statistics show an increase of 8 communicant members. This is the third increase we’ve seen since 2003.
Other churches report an overall loss. The membership of Grace Reformed Church in Bakersfield declined by 22 (12 communicants and 10 baptized members). The Modesto church also saw a significant decline, losing almost a third of its members in a year. As you know, that’s only part of the picture since many of its former members left before the beginning of 2014. But by God’s grace, the hemorrhaging there seems to have come to end. Those who remain are faithful and committed to the work. The Modesto congregation can now concentrate on healing and building.
Reports of frequent visitors in our congregations is encouraging. However, the sad reality is that visitors do not always stay. Rev. Gruggett, for example, laments the fact that the last time a young family joined the Bakersfield church was 2010. He says that most of those who have visited want a church of the “New Calvinist” variety. With competition from many Calvinistic Baptist groups that claim to be the true heirs of sovereign grace and covenant theology, it might be wise on our part to develop a strategy to counter this misunderstanding.
Our lack of growth has changed the dynamics of how the RCUS operates and has created a number of issues that we’ll have to face sooner or later. Nowhere is this more evident than in our finances. We have more churches, but our churches are significantly smaller on average and therefore simply don’t have the resources to support the broader work of the church.
In preparation for our discussion of evangelism and missions, I compared the statistics of the RCUS to a few other small Reformed denominations. Although I’ll flesh this out more for you later, one point of comparison was particularly shocking to me. Between 1960 and the present, the OPC has grown from 9,615 to 30,224 members (an increase of 214 percent), and the Protestant Reformed Churches have grown from 2,822 to 8,187 members (an increase of 190 percent). Even the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, which experienced some major setbacks in the 1960s and early 70s, grew from 5,306 members in 1975 to 6,786 today (an increase of 28 percent). But over the last fifty-five years, the RCUS has added only 305 members (a total increase of 9 percent — an average of 0.165 percent per year). See the graph below.
In his report to Classis, Rev. Henderson wrote that the Shafter congregation continues “to be encouraged and challenged from our Lord” to trust Him to out-give them as they give Him His due. What a wonderful way to express the Biblical principle of joyful and generous giving! It reflects an attitude that all of our churches, and particularly our pastors and elders, should embrace.
A few of our churches continue to struggle financially. Rev. Roe reports that the Grass Valley congregation, by the mercy of God, suffered a smaller shortfall than expected, due to the addition of new members and the generosity of its people. Although not a church that usually struggles to make ends meet, the Bakersfield church, as reported by its pastor, ended the year $40,000 in the red. Its deficit came as a result of repaying Synod and Classis, giving to the new Spanish-language ministry in Shafter and upgrading some of its classrooms. Thankfully, Rev. Gruggett does not expect this trend to continue, at least not to the same degree.
The Western Classis currently provides missions support to Rehoboth Reformed Church in LA and the Valle de Gracia of Shafter, as well as benevolent aid to Covenant Reformed Church in Chico, Grace Reformed Church in Lancaster, Trinity Reformed Church in Modesto, and Covenant Reformed Church in San Diego. Funds have also been set aside for Faith Reformed Church in Anderson, which will be made available once it calls a new pastor. In addition, direct diaconal support was provided to Pastor Mayville to help with his insurance needs. Overall, half of the churches in the Western Classis are receiving aid from Classis in one form or another. If we approve the Stockton work, more than half of our churches will be receiving aid, increasing the Classis’ guideline for Home Missions by $17 per communicant for 2015 and $21 per communicant for 2016.
According to the Treasurer’s Report, only six of the fourteen churches in the Western Classis paid their guidelines in full. One church paid approximately 25 percent, another about 11 percent, and a third paid nothing at all. This resulted in all of our guidelines (except dues) being funded at 90 percent or less. The Heidelberg Camp fund received only 83 percent of its expected income, increasing its deficit from $2420.86 to $3464.25. The other funds ended 2014 in the black, although a good share of their income came at the end of the year.
All of this is to say that the guidelines are becoming an increasing burden to the churches that pay them. Is the fact that less than half of our churches paid their full guidelines a sign that we need to rethink our approach to the whole subject? I don’t know, but it does take me back to my original concern. Our churches need to grow. While we beg the Lord to bring his people in, we must also go out and fetch them!
The retired pastors of the Western Classis continue to preach and teach insofar as they are able, and serve on various committees of Classis and Synod. In some instances, the infirmity of age has prevented even regular attendance at Lord’s Day services. Please pray privately and publicly for these brethren, who have served the Lord faithfully and have given a worthy example for those of us still in the trenches to follow (viz., Gross, Pollema, Riffert, Sawtelle, Treick, West, and — soon to be added to the list — Roe).
Although Rev. Mayville is not retired, he is not currently pastoring a church. I would be remiss not to ask for your prayers for him and his dear wife Carolyn, that the Lord would guide them concerning their future service.
All in all, I am not only thankful but overjoyed to be part of the RCUS. We’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. We know many of our faults; perhaps we’re blind to others. Yet, the one strength that towers above all our weaknesses is our firm commitment to the inerrant, infallible Word of the living God and the Savior it reveals!
Like the rest of our denomination, the Western Classis must face the challenges of each new generation. By the grace of God, we will continue in the faith that we have clung to heretofore. May God make us strong and stout-hearted to do his will!
Christ’s servant and yours,
Frank H. Walker
North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council
2014 Press Release
The fortieth annual meeting of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) was held November 11th – 13th, 2014, at Covenant Canadian Reformed Church, in Grassie, ON. The Council was hosted by the Canadian Reformed Churches.
Following the morning Interim Committee meeting, which sets the docket for the plenary session of the Council, the Council was called to order by the Chairman, Rev. Peter Holtvlüwer at 2:00 PM. Thirteen member churches were represented by their delegations, the newest addition being the Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin).
All the member churches were present at the Council, represented by a total of forty delegates. The Protestant Reformed Churches in North America were invited to observe NAPARC. Two delegates from those churches were also present.
Upon recommendation of the Interim Committee the following officers were elected: Chairman, Rev. Bernard Westerveld, Vice-chairman, Rev. Joel Overduin; Secretary, Rev. Ron Potter, Treasurer, Rev. Maynard Koerner.
Recent proposed changes to the NAPARC Constitution and By-laws are now fully ratified and operational. One of the several By-law changes that affected this year’s meeting was the preparation of a standardized reporting form setting forth the statistics for each member church along with the significant actions of their assemblies or synods, as well as items deemed to be of significance for NAPARC. This was forwarded to delegates prior to the meeting of the Council and supplemented on the floor by the reporting church.
As each church reported, the Chairman assigned another member church to question the reporting church on items appearing in their report and then to lead the Council in prayer for that church. Opportunity was also given after the initial questions for the Council as a whole to ask questions. The benefits of this newer approach to reporting and questioning were immediately apparent inasmuch as there was much more substantial interaction than in former years.
Anticipating this, the By-laws extended the time NAPARC meets for an additional day. This extension also facilitates an evening devotional service on the Tuesday night of NAPARC which is open to the public. Members in the region of the host church therefore joined with the NAPARC delegates and observers for a time of worship and for a sermon on Church Unity preached by Dr. Gerhard H. Visscher, President of the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary.
On the Wednesday evening the By-laws provide for the host church to bring a presentation to the delegates and observers following the evening banquet. This year the address was by Mr. Hans VanDooren who spoke on: Reformed Christian Day Schools. This presentation was followed by a question period.
In addition the By-law changes now allow for time before, in between, and after Council sessions, for the Interchurch Relations Committees of the various churches to arrange to meet with one another to further Interchurch Relations among the member churches. NAPARC has proven to be the ideal venue for these meetings.
The new By-laws also require that the Secretary gather the various adopted statements of member churches, together with their grounds and as well compile a list of ongoing and completed studies by the member churches. Action was taken to facilitate getting this information in the hands of the Secretary as a prelude to this information being provided with the annual Minutes of the Council.
The present and sole operating committee of NAPARC is its Web Site Committee. That Committee reported on its labors and its efforts to keep the Web Site as current as possible. Information regarding contacts within each member church, past and present Minutes of NAPARC, and events posted by the Member Churches of interest to other churches within NAPARC are kept up to date. (www.NAPARC.org)
Formerly NAPARC heard reports from two consultations associated with the member churches of the Council, World Missions and Home Missions. The By-laws have extended that number to six by adding Christian/Church education, Relief/Diaconal Ministries, Theological Training, and Youth Ministries. A report was heard this year from the World Missions Consultation and organizational steps were taken to establish a Youth Ministries Consultation by appointing Rev. Bernard Westerveld to be the convener.
By extending the order of the day the Council completed its business on November 12th and adjourned to the next scheduled meeting to be held November 10-12, 2015, in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Lord willing, this meeting will be hosted by the Église réformée du Québec.
Rev. Ron Potter,
The following churches are members of NAPARC:
- Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC)
- Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC)
- Église réformée du Québec (ERQ)
- Free Reformed Churches of North America (FRCNA)
- Heritage Reformed Congregations (HRC)
- Korean American Presbyterian Church (KAPC)
- Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin) (KPCA-Kosin)
- Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC)
- Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)
- Presbyterian Reformed Church (PRC)
- Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS)
- Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA)
- United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA)
WHY the Reformed Herald Exists
Editor: Some interesting observations on this subject are found at the very beginning of the Reformed Herald. These two articles are found on pages 26-27 in the August 1956 issue (labeled as Volume XII, No. 3).
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
The Preacher says “there is no new thing under the sun.” Then why start a new paper? The reasons and purpose of our new paper have been set forth elsewhere in this paper by the President of Classis, Rev. D. E. Bosma. Our contribution to the world of religious literature is not an attempt at newness or novelty. We hope to say what has been said before—by prophets and apostles, by the saints of every age—to sound forth the faith once delivered to the saints. What we do hope is that we will say it in a pointed way to meet the needs of our own time and people.
We are heralds. The job of a herald is to bear and proclaim the message of his king. We have a message from the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” We dare not corrupt this message with our own imaginations and vain thoughts. Rather, we must follow the injuction of Paul to Timothy, “preach the Word.” Our new paper seeks to continue the stand of the Eureka Classis [that is, the RCUS] in all its former publications, holding forth the Word of life, heralding the message of God’s Word.
The issue that confronts us in our day is: What is the Word of God, and where it to be found? For the older readers this question is easily and quickly answered: the Bible is the Word of God. But if some of the younger readers should attend a theological seminary today, they would find in most cases that this answer of the ages is no longer acceptable to many.
We find this situation accentuated in several recent articles in the Christian Century, a leading liberal, ecumenical religious weekly. Reinhold Niebuhr, professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, says: “Whatever the Church may do to spread the gospel, it must resist the temptation of simplifying it in either literalistic or individualistic terms.” E. G. Homrighausen, Dean of Princeton Seminary, commenting on Niebuhr’s article, discusses biblical criticism. He writes, “An uncritical Protestantism may lapse into a conception of the authority of the Bible which ignores the research that has given a newer understanding of its uniqueness and relevance.” Says T. A. Gill, an editor, concerning the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church: “Unlike other Lutheran churches, Missouri has never worried out loud about how the Word of God is related to the Bible and how the Bible is related to a church’s theology. The literalism . . . continues to be insisted upon by the Missouri Synod. . . .”
In all these articles what is objected to is the literal interpretation of the Bible, that is, to take the Bible, as written, to be the Word of God without error, and authoritative for faith and life.
Where does the Reformed Herald stand? With the apostles! Paul wrote in 2 Tim. 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Scripture, the written Word is, according to Paul, from God. These writings are God-breathed.
Scripture alone is determinative of Christian doctrine and action. Peter writes in 2 Pet. 1:20-21, “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The prophecy of Scripture is not of men but of God. This Word is not momentary and transitory, but is a permanent Word of God. John the apostle warns against adding or subtracting from the words of this book. Why? Because it is the Word of God.
The Reformed Herald, in heralding forth the Word of God, believes that Word to be the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Therefore, we will present sermons and exegetical studies upon biblical texts. We believe that the teaching of the Bible is set forth in that doctrine, called Reformed, which is so admirably summarized in our Heidelberg Catechism. Therefore, we will present commentary and discussion of this statement of our faith.
Above all it is our hope that this paper will fill a real need in our Classis. May our God bless this humble effort to establish and strengthen the people of God.
Rev. Norman C. Hoeflinger, Artas, SD
THE REFORMED HERALD
The need for a periodical, set in the midst of congregational life, as the members experience it and live it, induced Classis at its annual session, the forepart of May, to launch the publication of the Reformed Herald in bi-lingual form. It will be a successor to the Gemeindeblatt, which was the official publication of the Eureka Classis.
More and more it has become evident that our churches need a medium of contact in their difficult and rather lone stand over against the impact of indiscriminate, delusive, confessionless unionism. They must become more conscious of the fact that also other congregations are partakers of the same tribulations in their stand to remain Reformed. This, however, needs to be expressed, so that fellowship in the faith be more firmly established, sharing each other’s burdens as well as joys and blessings in the Lord.
The periodical should present items of importance and interest from every congregation, besides readable, edifying, biblical presentations from the pastors. Certainly this responsibility cannot be left to the editors, Rev. N. Hoeflinger, Artas, S. Dakota, and [German Articles Editor] Rev. W. E. Korn, Menno, S. Dakota, but every pastor of Classis is personally responsible for his share of contributions.
This must be carried out and adhered to unflinchingly to make this periodical a welcome and profitable monthly visitor in the homes of our church membership. It would not be out of place, but rather advisable now and then, for members to remind their pastor to send in an item from their church. Our churches need contact with each other. People want to know how other congregations are faring.
Rev. D. E. Bosma, Eureka, SD
Editor: For those interested, the Publishing information in that inaugural issue of August 1956 appeared as follows:
Reformed Herald, Formerly Reformiertes Gemeindeblatt
Entered as second-class matter at the post office at Green Bay, Wisconsin under the act of March 3, 1879.
Published monthly at Green Bay, Wis., U.S.A. by the Reliance Publishing Co. under the auspices of the Eureka Classis, Reformed Church in the U.S.
EDITOR: Rev. Norman C. Hoeflinger, Artas, S. Dak.
GERMAN EDITOR: W. E. Korn, Menno, S. Dak.
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Revs. D. E. Bosma, Eureka, S. Dak.; E. Buehrer, Green Bay, Wis.; J. Cooper, Ashley, N. Dak.; W. Grossmann, Shafter, Cal.; R. Klaudt, Sutton, Nebr.; K. Krueger, Upham, N. Dak.; H. Mensch, Leola, S. Dak.; L. Stockmeier, Hosmer, S. Dak.; K. J, Stuebbe, Manitowoc, Wis.; R. Stuebbe, Bakersfield, Cal.
Subscription Price, $ 1.00 Per Year
Forward subscriptions, contributions and copy to the editor, Rev. N. C. Hoeflinger, Artas, S. Dak.
The 30th session of Covenant East Classis met March 3-4, 2015, at Peace Reformed Church in Napoleon, Ohio. The delegates for the Classis arrived the night before the meeting. The Executive Committee designated this time for a pre-Classis study titled “Bringing Peace to Conflict: God’s Method for all Christians in all Places and all Times.” Rev. Kyle Sorensen led the study and discussion.
Rev. Randall Klynsma, President of Classis, called the meeting to order at 8:02 a.m. on March 3rd. He opened the meeting with prayer and a devotion on Ephesians 2:1-10. When the roll was taken, 10 ministers and 8 elders were present. Rev. Klynsma was re-elected as the President. Rev. Ryan Kron was elected to be Vice- President. Rev. Sorensen had been faithfully serving as the clerk for years, but with his election at Synod to the position of Editor for the Reformed Herald, Rev. Steve Altman picked up the Stated Clerk duties. Rev. Altman will not be able to continue in those duties for the upcoming year. A variety of discussion ensued and Rev. Ron Potter announced his willingness to fill position of Stated Clerk and was promptly elected. The first time elder delegates were introduced: Elder Tim Bessette(Grace RCUS, Rogers, AR), Elder David Blauw(Redeemer RCUS, Minneapolis, MN) and Elder Alan Herrmann (St. Paul’s E.R., Hamburg, MN). The delegates and visitors were also welcomed. These included fraternal delegates Rev. Reuben Bredenhoff (Classis Ontario West, Canadian Reformed Churches), Rev. Zach Wyse (Classis Eastern US, URCNA), Rev. Larry Oldaker (Presbytery of Ohio, OPC) and Rev. Tom Wetselaar (Classis Central US, URCNA). These delegates also addressed the body in the meeting. One of them responded they were encouraged by our “desire for the expansion of God’s Kingdom, faithful office bearers and churches.”
For the meeting, the normal order was followed. We had the presentation of the various permanent committee reports while others were referred to the standing committees. One new committee to report this year was the Church Camp Committee, which oversees the camp and assists the long-time camp director Carolyn Hackmann. This year there were 65 campers (37 girls and 28 boys). There were also 10 adults and five pastors in attendance. The theme this year was “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” Each day there were two lectures. Each evening was completed with Bible study for boys and girls separately.
The President’s Report was read by Rev. Klynsma. This will be reprinted in the Reformed Herald, as well as the abstract. Each pastor read his parochial report and an elder from another church prayed for the pastor and the church. In these reports there were some challenges spoken about, as well as the joys and blessings of our Heavenly Father. Due to some of the challenges and our prayerful concern for a couple of the churches and pastors, the Executive Committee called for a closed session of Classis. This session lasted for nearly 3 hours as the classis heard from and advised representatives of those churches which were in the middle of a time of crisis.
We, as a classis, also have much to rejoice over. Rev. Jay Fluck was able to report how the Lord worked greatly in Gettysburg. During this classis, we also accepted Covenant Reformed Church of Gettysburg as a new member congregation of the Classis. We received them with the right hand of fellowship and their Elder, Dennis Luquette, was also welcomed and received as a new delegate elder. During the Standing Missions report, another reason for praise and time for a prayer of thanksgiving was led by Rev. Dan Schnabel. Emmaus RCUS in Eden Prairie, MN, has been so blessed by the Lord that in the next year they will not need financial support from Classis or Synod. We are also thankful for the work Rev. Potter and Rev. Fluck are doing with the Reformed Church of Blue Bell, PA. This work, which is a mission work of Heritage Reformed Church in Waymart, PA, is the only church in the Philadelphia area formally committed to the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort). This work was also encouraged when the Classis later voted to set aside up to $3,000 for outreach. The Lord also continues to bless Redeemer RCUS in Minneapolis, MN. The Classis voted to “support the Redeemer RCUS church building efforts with up to $25,000 in classical year 2015-2016, as needed, for the purpose of building up the congregation with a view towards starting a mission work in the Minneapolis Metro area in around 3-5 years.” The Redeemer Consistory explains, “As the Lord blesses the longer term goal would be to use 20 (or more) families to begin another daughter church. . . . We recognize this is a different way in which we are approaching the development of a new mission work, but we feel the Twin Cities is ripe unto harvest and with an additional laborer Christ will bless His Church.”
On Tuesday evening, the worship service was led by Rev. Fluck with the Peace Reformed congregation. Rev. Kron preached a sermon on Genesis 2:18-25 titled “The Covenant of Marriage.” During the next day of business Rev. Sorensen led the body in a devotion from Acts 1:12-26 with the title “The Church of the Upper Room.”
A few things stood out in this year’s meeting. The President of Classis addressed the constitutional questions to each Elder delegate separately. Previously this was done lining up the elders together, then asking one question at a time. This year, after the elder answered the constitutional questions, a time was opened up to the body for any pastor or elder to ask questions. In response to a request from one of our churches, last year the Classis established a special committee to study the issue of the exclusive use of wine in the Lord’s Supper. This study resulted in a minority and majority report. The minority report, which gave an extensive history of the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper, was received by the Classis and will be printed in its Abstract. After the report was reviewed by the Standing Judicial Committee, the Classis voted, “In light of the Special Committee report, Classis affirms that wine should normally be used in the Lord’s Supper, but exceptions may be made by the local Spiritual Council on a case by case basis, motivated by mercy and love for brothers and sisters who in God’s providence warrant an exception.” Another thing to note is that two of the students under care of this Classis (Mr. Steven Carr and Mr. Cody Schwichtenberg) will be graduating from seminary. The financial reports also showed this Classis is doing well and we were able to maintain the $66 classis guideline per communicant. The Classis statistics also revealed that the Lord helped us to grow slightly in total baptized membership.
As always, this classis was a great opportunity to serve our Lord and do the work of the church, as well as a time to enjoy the communion of the saints. The members of Peace Reformed Church greatly helped in this by serving the Classis well through the use of their very nice facilities and the bountiful meals of lasagna, chicken alfredo, brats, seasoned chicken breasts and sandwiches. All of this was topped off with wonderful deserts including things such as pecan pie and coconut meringue pie.
We are thankful to our gracious Triune God for the business we were able to complete. We also pray that the Lord may continue to use this Classis and its member churches for His glory as we declare this precious gospel of God’s grace in Christ.
Rev. Dan Schnabel