The 42nd annual meeting of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) was held November 8th-10th, at the Free Reformed Church in Pompton Plains, NJ. The meeting was hosted by the Free Reformed Churches of North America. NAPARC is comprised of thirteen member churches from the United States and Canada. All thirteen churches had delegates present for this meeting. In addition two Presbyterian/Reformed churches sent observers to this meeting.
Member churches of NAPARC are the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC); the Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC): the Église réformée du Québec (ERQ); the Free Reformed Churches of North America (FRCNA); the Heritage Reformed Congregations (HRC); the Korean American Presbyterian Church (KAPC); the Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin) (KPCA-Kosin); the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC); the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA); the Presbyterian Reformed Church (PRC); the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS); the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA); and the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA). These churches were represented by a total of thirty-eight delegates.
Delegates from the Bible Presbyterian Church (BPC) and the Protestant Reformed Churches in North America (PRCNA) attended as invited observers. A total of six observer delegates were present from these two churches.
The Council was called to order by Rev. Bart Elshout (HRC) the vice chairman acting in the stead of Dr. L.W. Bilkes (FRCNA) the chairman, who was unable to attend because of health issues. Following the election of officers Rev. Elshout assumed the chair. Rev. Maynard Koerner and Rev. Ron Potter, both from the RCUS, were re-elected as treasurer and secretary respectively. The Rev. James Kim of the KAPC was elected vice-chairman. Each session of the Council was opened with the singing of a Psalm, devotions, and prayer.
The Basis of the Council is set forth in its Constitution (Art. II) as follows: “Confessing Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Sovereign Lord over all of life, we affirm the basis of the fellowship of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches to be full commitment to the Bible in its entirety as the Word of God written, without error in all its parts, and to its teaching as set forth in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms.”
The Purpose of the Council is (Article III): “We regard this basis of fellowship as warrant for the establishment of a formal relationship of the nature of a council, that is, a fellowship that enables the Member Churches to advise, counsel, and cooperate in various matters with one another, and to hold out before each other the desirability and need for organic union of churches that are of like faith and practice.”
The Function of the Council is to (Article IV):
- Facilitate discussion, consultation, and the sharing of insights among Member Churches on those issues and problems which divide them as well as on those which they face in common.
- Encourage the Member Churches to pursue closer ecclesiastical relations, as appropriate, among the regional and major assemblies.
- Promote the appointment of committees to study matters of common interest and concern and, when appropriate, make recommendations to the Council with respect to them.
- Exercise mutual concern in the perpetuation, retention, and propagation of the Reformed faith.
- Promote local, regional, and general assembly/synodical-wide cooperation wherever possible and feasible in such areas as missions, relief efforts, training of men for the ministry, Christian schools, activities for young people, and church education and publications.
- Operate a website to facilitate the exchange of information and to foster increased cooperation and fellowship among the Member Churches.
In fulfillment of the Basis, the Purpose and the Function of NAPARC each of the member churches brought reports to the Council table. The presentation of each of these reports was followed by a period of questioning by delegates and by prayer for the reporting church by a designated member church. Each of the reports revealed the upholding of the three marks of the true Church (Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 29). The reports also demonstrated the labours of the churches in proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ to a lost and perishing world in a variety of regional and ethnic venues.
Discussion on several topics took place. These were proposed by two member churches (ERQ, PCA) are germane to the work of the Church. These topics were previously approved by the Interim Committee which is charged with preparing the Council Docket. After a time of discussion the Council determined that more time was needed to do justice to these topics and placed them on the 2017 Docket of NAPARC to enable thoughtful preparation for further discussion.
NAPARC also approved the following statement to be forwarded to the Churches for their action:
“That NAPARC urge its member denominations and federations to urge their respective congregations to make a regular part of the information they publish in weekly bulletins, church newsletters, church websites and other informational publications, their affiliation with NAPARC, providing also a web address to encourage their members to learn about NAPARC and to help foster an awareness of the biblical ecumenical mandate to seek ever greater unity with those of like faith and practice. Just as the local church makes known its affiliation with its denomination or federation, so it should make known its broader fraternal bonds.”
Reports were also brought on the World Missions Consultation which met earlier in the year, and also from the Web Site Committee and from the Treasurer. A Budget was also approved.
On the evening of November 8th, a devotional service under the oversight of the host Church was held. Rev. Carl Schouls (Ret. FRCNA) preached a sermon from Habakkuk 3:17-19 entitled “A Thanksgiving Hymn of Faith.”
On the evening of November 9th, following a banquet hosted by the Pompton Plains Free Reformed Church, the Rev. Jerrold Lewis (FRCNA) Pastor of the host Church, presented a lecture entitled “English Latent Antinomianism.”
The annual NAPARC Council meeting provides a venue for bi-lateral meetings between Interchurch Relations Committees of the member churches to take place. Time is provided on the NAPARC Docket to enable this and all delegations took advantage of this.
The next meeting of the Council is scheduled for November 14th-16th at Puritan and Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI. It will be hosted by the Heritage Reformed Congregations.
Rev. Ron Potter,