Reports from several ‘Moderator’s Committees’ at the ARP General Synod

…the 2011 Synod…passed a policy for trustee removal from agencies and boards. Various agencies contacted Paul Bell, Director for Central Services about issues of legality. Synod’s attorney, Mr. Dan Eller, studied the issue and reported back to the Executive Board that there are liability issues with having this policy.

 

Each meeting of the Synod involves a time when committees, appointed by the Moderator, and having representation from all of the Presbyteries, meet prior to the presentation of the reports of permanent committees and agencies.  Their job is to review the recommendations coming from the committee and make recommendations to the Synod concerning the recommendations.

This step is done to have a much smaller group look at each report – some of which go to the dozens of pages in length – and discuss and debate with time for closer consideration than would be available on the floor of the full Synod.  Many other denominations do the same thing; in the Presbyterian Church of America they are called Committees of Commissioners.  The difference in the PCA is that these committees gather prior to the assembly, most on the Monday evening before the Tuesday start of the full Assembly.

Since The Aquila Report had a small staff (2) in attendance, only two of these committees will be reported on in this article.  However, we will seek to include a full report from both our own writers, as well as gathering information from the ARP Magazine and several bloggers who are in attendance.

First we will look at the Moderators Committee reviewing the work of the EXECUTIVE BOARD.  (Note:  The Executive Board of the General Synod is the agency empowered to carry out the work of the General Synod in the interim period between meetings of Synod, and is the agency responsible for presenting to the General Synod organizational and administration changes to enhance the capability of the General Synod to fulfill its primary responsibility. Further, it is responsible for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Center, the Office of Central Services, and the promotional work of the General Synod.

This portion was written by Daniel Wells.

On Wednesday, June 6th, at 2:00 pm the Moderator’s Committee on the Executive Board of the Synod met to examine recommendations from Synod’s Executive Board.

Two recommendations that were considered which will be voted on by the Synod are worth noting.

Recommendation 3 reads, “The Executive Board recommends to General Synod the establishment of a committee, appointed by the Moderator, to gather the information with regard to the incorporation of its boards and agencies that would enable us to evaluate properly the legal status of our relationship, assess the potential liabilities, and bring this report to the next meeting of the Executive Board.”

The background for this recommendation is the 2011 Synod which passed a policy for trustee removal from agencies and boards. Various agencies contacted Paul Bell, Director for Central Services about issues of legality. Synod’s attorney, Mr. Dan Eller, studied the issue and reported back to the Executive Board that there are liability issues with having this policy. So, the Executive Board would wish to have the Moderator appoint a committee to bring clarity to this issue.

Recommendation 4 will have a story of its own once voted on by the Synod. The recommendation reads, “The Executive Board recommends that the June 2012 Annual Meeting of the General Synod Pacific Presbytery be dissolved. Further, that General Synod allow any of the former Pacific Presbytery churches desiring membership in the Associate Reformed Presbytery Church to be aligned with the nearest ARP Presbytery.”

The context for this recommendation is the Northeast Presbytery coming to the Executive Board two years ago due to Pacific Presbytery refusing to come into their presbytery, as instructed. Pacific Presbytery also began a seminary in New York City called American Seminary, which was falsely advertised as an ARP seminary. The Ecclesiastical Commission was asked to deal with this issue. Eventually, the Executive Board sent American Seminary a statement requesting the institution to remove the ARP seal and name.

In addition, confusion arose over several other matters, including communication with Pacific Presbytery’s Moderator.

 

News Editor Don K. Clements covered the meeting of a special Moderator’s Committee that had been appointed earlier in the day review two Judicial Complaints that had been sent to the Synod for dedication.  After recommendation by the Moderator during the morning session of the Synod, the vote was approved to appoint 10 men from Presbyteries other than the ones involved in the two complaints – one from First Presbytery and one from Second Presbytery.  The Rev. Jeff Kingswood, Pastor of the Grace Presbyterian Church in Woodstock, Ontario, was appointed as Chairman.

The small committee gathered in a classroom in the Old Hotel building and opened with prayer by the chairman shortly after 3:15PM.  He outlined the basics of the two complaints and explained that the job of this committee was to determine if the complaint should be place before the full Synod to be heard, debated, and brought to a conclusion during this Synod meeting or if the complaint should be assigned by vote of the Synod by an Ecclesiastical Commission which would act for the Synod at some time after this meeting.  The Complaints could go either to the Standing Ecclesiastical Commission (which functions much like the Supreme Court) or to a separate, one time Ecclesiastical Commission to be appointed by the Moderator.

The first issue to be dealt with concerned a member in an ARP Church within the bounds of First Presbytery (names of the individual and church are withheld from this story but have no bearing on the decision).  The complainant was a member who had been brought to discipline for unrepentant sin by his Session, and in that process had been admonished by the Session, rebuked by the Session, and then suspended from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper by the Session – after which a formal trial was conducted with resulted in the sentence of suspension from the Sacraments.  (He was later excommunicated).

The initial complaint against the Session by the individual was that the Session did not have the authority to suspend him from the Sacraments without the due process of conducting a trial.  The Session denied the complaint and the individual then complained against that action to First Presbytery.  First Presbytery, upon review, found that the Session acted properly and did not have to wait for the trial to initially suspend him.

The individual then complained against the action of Frist Presbytery to the General Synod, and it was that complaint that was being dealt with at this meeting.  After a brief time of getting some question of facts cleared up, a motion was made and approved to recommend to the General Synod that the Moderator be authorized to appoint a temporary Ecclesiastical Commission to hear and bring to final adjudication this case.  Rational for this action was that it appeared there might be differences of opinions as to whether the denominational standards clearly allowed this procedure and a smaller commission would be able to deal with such detail far better than asking the General Synod to do the same.

The second case was a complaint by a number of members of Second Presbytery against the actions of the Presbytery in the case of Elder Richard Taylor of First ARP Church in Greenville, SC.  Dr. Taylor was a member of the Erskine Board who brought the original lawsuit against the Synod after the actions taken by the Synod concerning Erskine College/Seminary at the June 2010 meeting.  Members of Second Presbytery filed charges against Dr. Taylor for what they believed was an unbiblical action to bring a lawsuit against Christian brothers.  The Session of First ARP denied the charges.  The complainants then presented the case to the full membership of Second Presbytery, who confirmed the actions of the Session.  The case is now before the General Synod by virtue of this Complaint.

The first comment made in the committee after stating that this issue was before them for a recommendation as to how the Synod should proceed, was “Putting this case before the whole Synod would be idiotic.  After a brief discussion as to which sort of Commission to recommend it be assigned to, the motion was approved to recommend it be assigned to the Standing Ecclesiastic Commission.

This report – as well as ALL the reports of the committees/agencies and the appropriate Moderator’s Committees will be before the full Synod on Wednesday.  It is noteworthy that the business concerning Erskine College and Seminary has been placed at the very end of the business priority.