Mary Kay Ashe is reported to have said “There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.” This report is for those, including some who were in attendance, who wonder what happened at the 2015 Spring Meeting of the South Central Classis.
Fourteen ministers and ten elder delegates made their way to Vermillion, South Dakota, for the annual spring meeting of the South Central Classis on Monday and Tuesday, March 24th and 25th. Hosted by the members of Providence Reformed Church, the congregation did a wonderful job serving their guests. Their service included delicious meals and warm Christian fellowship.
Rev. Jon Blair opened the meeting with a devotional from Psalm 48 and Ephesians 2:19-22, where he encouraged the assembly to remember the greatness of the Lord that is manifest in the working of His grace in His Church. The Church is being knit together by His Spirit as a dwelling for the Living God.
The meeting was called to order and, following the roll call, elections were held for officers. Rev. Travis Grassmid was elected as president; Dr. Maynard Koerner as vice president; Elder Scott Velgersdyk as treasurer and Rev. George Horner was elected for another go as our beloved Stated Clerk. Although not cited anywhere in the minutes, Rev. Matt Powell was recognized as the “Ron Paul of South Central Classis,” since he was nominated for every position and made a decent showing in the polls but never won an election.
Regarding the statistics of the classis, our total baptized membership decreased by 30 souls from the previous year to a current total of 1,369. There were 26 baptisms, including 4 adult baptisms. Financial giving increased from the previous year by $76,472.
Concerning the state of the classis in 2014, Rev. Jon Blair proposed the themes of constancy, changes, and challenges.
Constancy is evident in the work of the ministers and the life of the churches. The following quote is taken from the President’s report, “Most of the parochial reports have a positive tone and reflect an overall good health and outlook in the respective congregations. We praise God that the marks of the true church continue to be evident and actively functioning. It is especially refreshing to hear of what is being preached and taught from the word of God and creeds in the church — through the various sermon series, Bible studies, Sunday School and catechism classes, radio and social media, devotionals and articles, Heidelberg Youth Camp, as well as seminary classes.” The elders affirmed the reports of the ministers and assessment of the president by answering positively to all the questions asked in Article 81 of the RCUS Constitution.
Constancy can also be seen in our continued support of Home Missions within our classical boundaries. We are still funding the congregations in Limon, CO, and Casper, WY. Rev. Matt Powell reports that after two years, “I am thrilled with what God has done for us in this time. Though it’s been quite challenging, I feel that the church plant overall has gone quite smoothly and I’m very pleased with the progress of the work here.” We are still trying to move forward with a mission work in Omaha, NE. St. John’s RCUS remains committed to starting a work in the largest city in Nebraska. Contacts are continuing to be made. Families are still expressing interest and desire for a Reformed witness in this area of the country. Please continue to pray for the work of missions within our classical boundaries!
Regarding some of the changes from the past year, three ministers of the classis are now serving in a different location. Rev. Kevin Carroll accepted a call to Grace RCUS in Mitchell, SD; Rev. Scott Henry was installed to the charge in Vermillion, SD; and Rev. Michael McGee is now serving Trinity RCUS in Sioux Falls, SD. Currently, the works in Limon, CO, and Omaha, NE, are without ministers. As an aside, please remember to pray for the RCUS works who are currently trying to fill a ministerial vacancy. This can be a very trying time in the life of a congregation and they need our support!
Regarding some of the challenges before us, prayer was offered for Revs. Bud Powell and Howard Hart as these two men are dealing with health concerns. Classis, with a recommendation from the Permanent Home Missions Committee, decided to suspend active missions activity in Sherman, TX.
Two men came before the South Central Classis to undergo the challenges of a licensure examination. As questions were asked of these men to demonstrate their theoretical and practical knowledge in the areas of theology, history, creeds and confessions, etc., the challenge was met. Mr. Tim Marinelli, a member of Grace RCUS in Rapid City, SD, sustained his examination and was licensed to preach by the South Central Classis.
Additionally, the Standing Judicial Committee was busy as they were called upon to deal with some weighty matters. The Lord was gracious and allowed wisdom to be manifest in the deliberations of the committee members and classis delegates. Much of our work pertaining to this committee’s recommendations centered on the function of classis in general and the Executive Committee in particular when classis is not in a called meeting. Discussion revolved around matters pertaining to circulars, objections to circulars, limitation of powers, etc. Although many minds, minutes, and mouths were given to this discussion, it was decided that the best course of action was to refer this matter to Synod for further minds, minutes, and mouths to assist in the process. When this matter comes up in a few weeks at the RCUS Synod meeting, you can thank your brothers in the SCC!
For the past two years, a Special Committee on Pastoral Relations has been working on a report dealing with the right of conscience for a minister. The committee concluded their work and noted four principles concerning conscience objections:
1. Demanding a person to go against his conscience is not to be done. (1 Corinthians 8:12);
2. A minister may refuse to a do a job/service/vow on the grounds of conscience, for to go against one’s conscience is sin. (Romans 14:23, Belgic Confession 32, Westminster Confession of Faith 20:2);
3. When an issue of conscience arises between a Consistory/Spiritual Council and a minister each side is duty bound to find a solution amicable to both sides. (Romans 14:10, 12:10; Ephesians 5:21);
4. If no compromise can be reached, the two parties have an obligation to seek assistance from a higher judicatory by one of the methods prescribed in the Constitution.
The following recommendation was unanimously adopted: “That Consistories be encouraged to read the report, become familiar with the Constitutional procedures, and develop a plan now on how to deal with possible conscience objections in their church.”
In an attempt to overcome some of the struggles that have occurred within our classis over the past few years, a recommendation was presented and approved which seeks to implement the practice of hosting an informal, pre-Classis meeting for the purpose of fostering open communication among the ministers and elders of the classis.
As there have been many changes and challenges within the boundaries of the South Central Classis, we give thanks to the Lord for His constancy to us over the past year and look forward to His faithful provision in the year to come!
Rev. Michael McGee
Sioux Falls, SD