I’m back from the RCUS Synod meeting of last week. Actually, I got back on Friday, but I’ve been pretty wiped out between recovering from that and getting ready for Sunday worship. So today’s the first time I feel like I’m starting to get back into the routine.
It was a really good meeting. I felt a spirit of unity and brotherhood in a way I haven’t before. Not that I never felt it before, but there have been some pretty fractious debates in the past that really tested the bonds of brotherhood. And there really wasn’t much contention at this meeting at all.
For those of you who don’t know, a synod is a broader judicatory in the Reformed church. We have the consistory, which is the local governing body, the local elders, deacons and pastors of a particular church; the classis, which is a regional governing body and which oversees churches and pastors; and the synod, which is made up of a group of classes (classis plural). It is a higher court of appeals and the body which has original jurisdiction in matters which affect the whole church- foreign missions, denominational positions, etc.
We had a committee erected to study the Federal Vision, and they presented their paper at this last meeting. The paper ended up being recommitted to the committee for further work, a vote that as I recall was about 2/3 in favor of recommitting and 1/3 against. There were some that were worried we might be sending the wrong message, that we weren’t decided where we stand on the FV, so I thought I’d tell you what my understanding of the vote was, for the benefit of posterity and all that.
There was about a third of the body (about 85 delegates, elders and pastors) that felt the paper was strong enough, that it made the case sufficiently well. Another third of the body did not feel it was strong enough- felt it needed some additional scholarship to really make the case. They felt the conclusions were good but the paper did not sufficiently support the conclusions. Finally, there was about a third that I felt thought the paper was OK, but really wanted unanimity on it, and so voted to recommit. This was my interpretation, and the proportions might be off some, but I think these were the basic three positions represented in debate.
We have done two previous papers on other issues, on the New Perspectives On Paul of N.T. Wright, and on Norman Shepherd, both of whose teachings are closely related in many ways to the Federal Vision. Both of the votes on those papers were unanimous, and many people really wanted to have a unanimous vote on this too. There was simply not a word spoken in favor of the teachings of the Federal Vision, which was very encouraging to me. Given the mood of the body, a person with such sympathies might have been afraid to voice them. But I’m fine with that. Anyone who had such sympathies needs to feel that their beliefs are unwelcome in the RCUS, and in fact in any orthodox denomination, and be lovingly rebuked to turn back to orthodoxy.