On Monday March 4, the congregation of Grace Reformed Church in Northwest Arkansas began hosting the delegates of the 28th annual Covenant East Classis of the Reformed Church of the United States. The members of Grace Reformed Church began their gracious hospitality at the rented facility of Hope Community Bible Church in Rogers, Arkansas. Normally, the congregation meets on the Lord’s Day at the Hyatt Place Conference Center in Rogers. They are currently looking to purchase a permanent location. Members of the congregation housed the delegates and many stayed at the Comfort Suites. All the meals were served at the church and we enjoyed our fill of lasagna, BBQ beef and turkey, Hungarian stew, spaghetti, fried chicken, and sandwiches.
Many of us left the snow behind for the first time in months and arrived to a beautiful day of jacket-free weather. The latter days were a little more like home for some of us, as the temperatures dropped. After enjoying the good food, we began the pre-Classis discussion of the book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of the Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp (Crossway, 2012). This discussion was led by Rev. Ron Potter and had a lot of interaction concerning the blessings and challenges for pastors and their families, as well as the biblical ways of facing those challenges, including the God-given assistance of the elders.
On Tuesday morning the president of the classis, Rev. Randall Klynsma, called the 28th annual session of Covenant East Classis of the RCUS to order at 8:11 a.m. The Classis was opened with prayer by Rev. Randall Klynsma followed by a devotion from Leviticus 16:1–10 and 2 Corinthians 5:12–6:2 on the nature of the gospel ministry of reconciliation. The roll call showed nine ministers and eight elders present. Rev. Ryan Kron was unable to attend and was excused since his wife Colleen was near the end of her pregnancy. We give thanks to God as their covenant child, Abram Charles Scott Kron, entered this world safely at 8:00 a.m. Thursday, March 7. Of the eight elders, Dan Wright from Heritage Reformed Church in Waymart, PA, was the only first-time elder. Elder Don Weilersbacher of Grace Reformed Church, Northwest AR, and Elder Don Buysee from Sovereign Grace Church, Gettysburg, PA were also present. We also had the privilege of having fraternal delegate Rev. Rodney Vermeulen from Classis Ontario West of the Canadian and American Reformed Churches present for the whole Classis.
Rev. Randall Klynsma was re-elected to continue in the office of president of the Classis. Rev. Daniel Schnabel was elected as vice-president. Rev. Kyle Sorensen, who continues to do an excellent job as the Classis clerk, was re-elected by acclamation. The Classis is very thankful for the hard work of Elder Jim Drewes, from Peace Reformed Church in Napoleon, OH, and re-elected him to serve as Classis treasurer after suspending the standing rule requiring secret ballot.
The normal order for the Classis meeting was followed. With this was an opportunity to give thanks to the Lord for the organization as a congregation of Heritage RCUS in Waymart, PA. Rev. Wes Brice led the body in a prayer of thanksgiving for the grace of God in building His church as well as for the faithful labors and health of Rev. Ron Potter. Various reports were given, including from the officers of the Classis whom God has enabled to labor diligently for His church. The Treasurer Jim Drewes read the report on the strong financial standing of the Classis for which we are grateful and for the generous giving of the congregations. The President’s Report on the State of the Church will be printed elsewhere in the Reformed Herald, which will give an overview of the blessings and the challenges from God’s sovereign hand which the Classis and its ministers have faced over the last year. We are very thankful for the Lord’s blessings in this past year for the churches in the Classis. There were 3 adult baptisms in various churches and 18 infant baptisms. Overall there was an increase of 6 percent in the total baptized membership in the churches for the classis. As the parochial reports of the ministers were read, prayer was also offered up for each church and pastor.
During the reading of the parochial reports, as well as in the Classis home missions’ report, we took note that Emmaus Road Reformed Church in Eden Prairie, MN, has been meeting for one full year. The Lord has blessed them greatly and they are able to take an aggressive decrease in support from Synod. God has also enabled them recently to start the process of organizing as a congregation while still under the oversight of Redeemer RCUS in Minneapolis, MN. Emmaus Road Reformed Church is also beginning their search for a parsonage. We are thankful that God is blessing the work of the pastors and the members of the three home missions churches in our Classis: Grace Reformed of Northwest, AR, Heritage Reformed Church, Waymart, PA, as well as Emmaus Road Reformed Church Eden Prairie, MN. The pastors of these churches also expressed their gratefulness for how God is providing financially for them through the brothers and sisters in the congregations of the Classis and Synod.
The classis continued its business through the day with the constitutional questions to the elders. The one area of qualified “yes” and one “no” was in dealing with the elder visitation. The elders with these answers each explained how this issue is being addressed and worked on to bring improvement and more faithful shepherding of God’s flock. There was also an opportunity for follow-up questions.
Reporting on interchurch relations, the delegates to fraternal bodies gave their reports showing how God opened the door for observers from the Classis to represent us bringing greetings from the RCUS to the OPC Presbytery of the Midwest’s September meeting, Classis Eastern US URCNA, and CanRC Classis Ontario West, March 2012. There was also the reporting of strengthening of fraternal bonds, through Redeemer RCUS and the unorganized body of Emmaus Road Reformed Church, as a joint Reformation Service with Mission OPC in Minneapolis was held. Rev. Rodney Vermeulen also addressed the body as the fraternal delegate of Classis Ontario West of the Canadian and American Reformed Churches, describing how God has been blessing their churches.
The evening ended with worship led by Rev. Jim Sawtelle. Rev. Dan Schnabel preached a sermon on Romans 8:28 titled, “Our Confidence—God’s Sovereignty.” We were thankful that most of the members of Grace Reformed joined with the Classis for this service and we had a good opportunity to have fellowship with them.
On Wednesday the Classis reconvened and began its day with the reports of the standing committees. In this time we reviewed the information received from the students under care. Updates were given on Cody Schwictenberg, who is a member of Peace Reformed Church in Garner, IA, attending Heidelberg Theological Seminary, and Steve Car, who is a member of Redeemer Reformed Church in Minneapolis, MN, attending Mid-America Reformed Seminary. Christopher Campbell who is a member of Northland Reformed Church in Kansas City, MO, is currently taking distance education classes at Greenville Presbyterian Seminary. We rejoice that God is raising up these men as future workers for His harvest. During the standing committee reports, time was also given to pray for Mrs. Grace Ploeger and Mrs. Joan Vance, widows of former RCUS ministers. Their gratitude for support was also recognized. After other various reports, the clerk was authorized to purchase software to produce digital forms for the Classis. While the Classis will still accept the traditional forms, as well as back up everything with paper copies, this hopefully will aid in making the transfer of information easier for the clerk.
Towards the end of the meeting, Rev. Harvey Opp led the body in a devotional on Psalm 51 titled, “The Broken Hearted Evangelist.” After completing the work of the Classis and enjoying fellowship together, the 28th annual Classis came to a close at 11:00 a.m. We were able to end so early because of the lighter Classis agenda and because things kept moving along. We ended as we began, enjoying the warm hospitality of the saints at Grace Reformed Church before departing to return to our homes and some of us to our six months of winter. We are thankful that the Lord granted us a productive meeting and safe traveling mercies back to our homes.