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