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A Recent Meeting of the Minnkota Classis

A Recent Meeting of the Minnkota Classis

The synodical Welcoming Committee, through the Reformed Group Network, continues to find groups of believers, pastors, and churches exploring their denominational options. Three pastors have entered the RCUS ministries, with one church (and perhaps others) in the process of joining the RCUS.

In addition, the Reformed Group Network, through our website, introduces small groups to Reformed theology, dozens of streaming RCUS worship services, podcasts, Sunday school lessons, women’s book studies, and missions. Many, if not most of the dozens of groups connecting with the Reformed Group Network are in rural areas where there are insufficient numbers to support a pastor. These groups also tend to be composed of Reformed, Presbyterian, “Reformed Baptists,” and others, meeting together for Reformed Bible study, and sometimes worship services. For them, the RGN is an important and useful resource.

In March, however, we were invited to present the RCUS while a member of our committee was visiting the Minnkota Classis of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). This single Classis has been engaged in a multi-year struggle to reaffirm biblical, Reformed Christian principles in a denomination that many of us thought had long since gone the way of broad, liberal evangelicalism.  The CRC, for example, has had women serving as pastors, elders and deacons for many years. 

The Minnkota Classis has resisted the liberalizing trends, winning a significant victory in 2022, when the CRC Synod took a firm stand on human sexuality issues, declaring that ““adultery, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex” are sins and that  “the church must warn its members that those who refuse to repent of these sins—as well as of idolatry, greed, and other such sins—will not inherit the kingdom of God,” the report says. “It must discipline those who refuse to repent of such sins for the sake of their souls.”

Sadly, many churches ignored their synod and continued their unbiblical practices, even conducting same-sex “marriages.”  At their March classis meeting Minnkota passed an overture aimed at forcing their synod to act, not just with words, but with formal discipline. The issue will be decided at the June synod meeting of the CRC, with the future of the Minnkota Classis uncertain.

Recently, the Central Classis of the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) took the unusual step of entering into fraternal relations with the Minnkota Classis. Minnkota for their part, has long taken the position that it is their duty to stay and fight, not run. In this regard, they are much like the old Eureka Classis of the RCUS, which refused to leave the denomination in 1934. What happened next was a first, the liberal majority left to join with the Evangelical Synod to form an essentially creedless new denomination which today is known as the United Church of Christ.

Soon, the South Dakota Classis returned to the continuing Reformed Church in the United States, which retained the legal right to our name and history, despite two court challenges by the departing majority. While such an outcome is unlikely in Minnkota’s case, we of all people in the Reformed world can relate to being the “bitteneinders” — the bitter-enders. Our fathers stayed and fought.

While it is tempting to simply encourage Minnkota to leave what many see as a hopeless cause, our posture should be to encourage and pray for their victory, against seemingly overwhelming odds. We have, of course, extended an invitation to Minnkota to visit our own May synod, that we might get to know one another better. Our goal should be to encourage, not distract. Only the Lord knows the outcome, but whenever a group of churches is seeking to become more confessionally Reformed, they deserve our prayers.

The Welcoming Committee will be bringing a recommendation to synod that the RCUS authorize our Interchurch Relations Committee, in cooperation with our classes, to establish “Corresponding Relations” with such groups in order to bring structure to our denominational conversations. It is right and proper that synod and the affected classes direct these contacts when they move beyond these initial introductions. While your Welcoming Committee will continue to pursue new contacts, we believe there are cases when continued contact should more properly flow through our our respective interchurch relations committees. 

Below, you will find the text of the Minnkota overture. May God bless them in their battle for truth.

Overture of Classis Minnkota, Spring 2024

Introduction: When given the opportunity to call for accountability, repentance, and possible church discipline for Neland Avenue CRC and for Classis Grand Rapids East, Synod 2023 declined to do so (2023 Acts of Synod, 1027-1028). By this inaction, the delegates to synod made a great mistake. Synod 2024 must declare this decision to be in conflict with the Word of God. Further, only after declaring that Synod 2023 acted in conflict with the Word of God, Synod 2024 is then obligated to carry out the biblical requirements Synod 2023 declined to pursue.

Therefore, Classis Minnkota overtures Synod 2024 to do the following –

1. That Synod 2024 declare that Synod 2023 acted in conflict with the Word of God (CO Article 29) by not calling Neland Avenue CRC to repentance for their decision to allow someone in a same-sex relationship to be a member in good standing at Neland and further, to serve as a deacon (2023 Acts of Synod, 1027-1028).

a. Sin that is public in nature calls for repentance that is public as well (Galatians 2:11-14). The sin, public defiance, and dishonor to the name of the risen Lord Jesus that Neland Avenue CRC has demonstrated over the last several years warrants a call to repentance that is just as public as their sin has been.

b. Synod 2023, comprised of officebearers in the Christian Reformed Church, is called to a high standard in their beliefs and behavior (James 3:1). Having signed the Covenant for Officebearers, these delegates acknowledged “the authority of God’s Word” and promised to “submit to it in all matters of life and faith” (Covenant for Officebearers). Synod 2023 failed to submit to God’s Word by not calling Neland Avenue CRC to repentance.

c. Synod 2023 was required to call for what Christ the King calls for, namely, that Neland Avenue CRC repent and turn from wickedness (James 5:19-20; Acts 3:26; Acts 14:15). Because Synod 2023 failed to call for repentance, Synod 2024 must do so instead.

d. Synod 2023 stood in conflict with the Word of God (CO Article 29) when they set aside the demands of the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus. Christians have no authority to set aside the demands of Christ (Matt 28:20). It is unacceptable for citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20) to tolerate what Christ the King forbids (Rev 2:20).

 e. Neland Avenue CRC has disobeyed the Word of God by setting aside what the Lord commands regarding human sexuality. So too, Synod 2023 set aside what the Lord commands regarding church discipline (1 Cor 5:2; Rev 2:20). As such, Synod 2023 stands in conflict with the Word of God for their decision to not call for repentance by way of a new In Loco Committee (2023 Acts of Synod, 1027-1028).

f. Synod 2024 has the authority to revise the decision of Synod 2023 in this matter. This overture has been processed as far as possible already at the level of the Council and the Classis. It is therefore within the authority of Synod 2024 to act (Church Order, Article 31 and Supplement, Article 31).

2: That Synod 2024 carry out the biblical requirements that Synod 2023, in conflict with the Word of God, declined to pursue. Therefore, Synod 2024 must do all the following –

a. That Synod 2024 itself, prior to their adjournment on June 20, 2024, call upon Neland Avenue CRC to publicly repent for their open, persistent rebellion against Christ the King. This public repentance is to take the form of a written communication to the Office of General Secretary, to then be distributed to all the churches in the CRC. This communication is due to the Office of General Secretary no later than August 31, 2024.

b. That Synod 2024 itself, prior to their adjournment on June 20, 2024, call upon Classis Grand Rapids East to publicly repent for allowing the unbiblical positions and practices of Neland Avenue CRC to be tolerated. This public repentance is to take the form of a written communication to the Office of General Secretary, to then be distributed to all the churches in the CRC. This communication is due to the Office of General Secretary no later than August 31, 2024.

c. That Synod 2024 require Classis Grand Rapids East, at their Fall 2024 Classis meeting, if there is no public repentance from Neland Avenue CRC, to depose the Council of Neland Avenue CRC for their serious deviation from sound doctrine, in accordance with Church Order Supplement 82-84.

d: That Synod 2024 require Synod 2025, if there is no public repentance from Classis Grand Rapids East, to depose all the church Councils of Grand Rapids East for their serious deviation from sound doctrine in accordance with Church Order Supplement 82-84.

 e. That Synod 2024 itself, prior to their adjournment on June 20, 2024, call for public repentance from all the churches of the CRC that have publicly made declarations on human sexuality that are contrary to the Word of God and our confessions. This list of churches shall include, but is not limited to, the list of churches posted on the website of the organization “All One Body” as those “Welcoming and Affirming CRC Churches.” This public repentance is to take the form of a written communication to the Office of General Secretary, to then be distributed to all the churches in the CRC. This communication is due to the Office of General Secretary no later than August 31, 2024. If there is no public repentance, the classes in which these particular churches are located must begin the process of special discipline in accordance with Church Order Articles 82-84 and the Supplement.

f. That Synod 2024 instruct Synod 2025 to hold a joyous celebration of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration if Neland Avenue CRC, Classis Grand Rapids East, and the other affirming CRC churches repent and turn from their wickedness.

Ryan Spitzer, Chairman

Synodical Welcoming Committee

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