Oene, W.W.J. van (1990) Art. 47

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Article 47

Regional Synod

 

Each year some neighbouring classes shall send delegates to meet in a regional synod. If there are two classes, each classis shall delegate four ministers and four elders. If there are three classes, the number shall be three ministers and three elders. If there are four or more classes, the number shall be two ministers and two elders.
If it appears necessary to convene a regional synod before the appointed time, the convening Church shall determine the time and place with the advice of classis.
The last regional synod before the general synod shall choose delegates to that general synod
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Usually the geographical or political boundaries are followed also in ecclesiastical respect. Thus the term “provincial synods” was sometimes used in the past. We also find the term “particular synod,” since in some instances such a synod comprised either churches from more than one province or only part of the churches in one province. Our Church Order uses the term “regional synod,” as the churches represented at these not-general synods are situated in more than one province. Even churches in the United States are included: the American Reformed Churches.

As is the case with a classis, so a regional synod is a meeting which is convened to deal with a specific agenda, and not a more or less permanent body which meets once a year. It may seem superfluous to do so, but it has to be repeated that it is wrong to state that “regional synod will meet at such and such a date.” A regional synod is held, it does not “meet,” although there may be several sessions, depending on the size of the agenda.

Churches do not individually send delegates to a regional synod but the various classes do. Article 44 spoke of this. No one should wonder, therefore, why from certain churches no one has been delegated.

A regional synod is held each year. Although no specific provision has been made about cancellation or postponement of a regional synod, as was the case with a classis, it is possible that the convening church has to come to the conclusion that not a sufficient number of items has been submitted which would warrant convening a regional synod at this time. Must we then insist that it shall call one anyway because it is time for one? Or should it be possible, on the analogy of Article 44, that the convening church obtain advice from classis or from two neighbouring churches and postpone a regional synod? Frankly, we hesitate to mention the possibility and realize that it is dangerous to do something “on the analogy of...,” and we do not wish to go any further than mentioning it. But what should also be considered is the cost in time and money involved in having a regional synod.

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It is sometimes said that if no major assembly is held at the scheduled date but if it is postponed, we deprive members of the possibility of having their appeal heard. However, major assemblies are there in the first place for the benefit of the churches, not of church members who do not accept the verdict of classis on their appeal. We should not reason from the assumption that there will be appeals or that members will not heed the warning of Article 31 that they shall accept what was agreed upon by a majority vote and that they shall consider it settled and binding. Besides, it happened more often that an appeal was denied than that it was granted. The life and assemblies of the churches should not be dominated by real or alleged appeals.

For the orderly functioning of the federation it is advisable that broader assemblies, including regional synods, are held at the times agreed upon. This means that a regional synod is held every year. As is the case with classes, so it is with regional synods: the churches are appointed as convening church on a rotating basis: in alphabetical order, alternating between classes. Thus the burdens of this task are shared. The cost of convening the meeting is not shared, for each church in turn is responsible for it. The cost of the regional synod itself as well as that incurred as a result of its decisions is paid from the regional-synodical treasury.

No provision has been made concerning the place where a regional synod shall be held. It is up to each regional synod to determine the place where the next one will be held. Although it would not be wise to have a regional synod always in the same place, it would not be prudent either to choose a very remote church as the place where it is to be held. Choosing a remotely situated church might have in its favour, however, that the brothers and sisters there receive the opportunity to experience the bond also in this manner and to become more acquainted with this aspect of church life, although it remains to be seen how many of the members there would be able to sit in on the sessions. What should also be taken into consideration is the time it takes for the delegates to reach that place and the cost involved. It would not be prudent to convene a regional synod, or a general synod, for that matter, in Laurel, MD, or Lower Sackville, N.S.

When there are only two classes, four ministers and four elders are to be chosen. Calculations show that a regional synod never consists of fewer than sixteen members. Two classes choose sixteen brothers, three classes will result in eighteen brothers being sent, while four or more classes will yield sixteen or more delegates. Broader assemblies should consist of a sufficient number of members to ensure that not just a few brothers decide everything. This applies especially when matters that were dealt with at a classis are brought to a regional synod. In this event there should be a sufficient number of brothers who originally were not involved so that they can have their input as well. On the other hand, major assemblies should not be too bulky or unwieldy. Large numbers lengthen their duration and do not contribute to efficiency or fruitfulness.

Remarks made in connection with Art. 44 and other articles render it unnecessary to say more about the present article.