Our readers are aware of the fact that merger proposals are being discussed by the Reformed Church in America and the Southern Presbyterian Church. This past month (June) the Synod of the Reformed Church and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. approved the merger proposal of their committee of 24. Timepresented a brief report in its June 21, 1968 issue. It stated: (under the above title)
Meeting in separate assemblies, representatives of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (1,000,000 members) and the Reformed Church in America (400,000) last week approved a tentative plan of union. If the proposal is ratified by the local governing districts of the two churches, they will merge in 1970 to form a new denomination called the Presbyterian Reformed Church.
Through the kindness of Rev. James A. Millard, Jr., stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, I received a copy of the merger plan and the report of the Committee of 24 presented to the Synod and the General Assembly of the two churches. I quote, without comment, the report presented to these bodies for your information.
REPORT OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE OF TWENTY-FOUR TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND GENERAL SYNOD
Fathers and Brethren:
In 1962, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America directed the Joint Committee of Twenty-Four to seek together “a fuller expression of unity in faith and action” in order “to give a more effective witness to the Gospel, and especially to the Reformation emphasis on the authority of Scripture and the Sovereignty of God as expressed in the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” Both Assembly and Synod reaffirmed their “readiness to be lead into whatever forms of church life and work are revealed as God’s will for us.”
In 1965, after three years of study of our ways of witness and their theological basis; and consideration of a number of possibilities, other than union, of expressing our unity in Christ and witnessing more effectively to the Gospel each of which seemed to be impractical, the General Assembly and the General Synod instructed the Joint Committee “to begin drafting a Plan of Union for possible presentation not later than 1968.”
In 1967, after hearing a preliminary report as to the contents of the draft documents, the General Assembly and General Synod affirmed “their confidence in the Providence of God and their serious and enthusiastic purpose to proceed as rapidly as possible looking toward the union of our two churches.”
The Joint Committee has enlisted the help of a number of members of both communions in the preparation of the first drafts and sought comments and suggestions, from Presbyteries and Classes, sessions and consistories. Well over 2,000 suggestions have been received and studied. Many of these have been incorporated in the final Plan.
We submit this Plan of Union to the General Assembly and General Synod because, in the words of the Preamble, “we are convinced that by coming together in one new church the members of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and of the Reformed Church in America, both branches of the church universal, will:
(1) bear a more effective witness to the Gospel,
(2) seek a genuine renewal of the Church in commitment to our Lord,
(3) increase obedience to the Will of God revealed in. our Lord Jesus Christ and made known to man by the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures,
(4) to emphasize our obligation in the light of the Great Commission to meet the true needs of all people.
(5) expand the horizons of our concern for the responsibilities we bear for all of life and for all of mankind.
Having sincerely endeavored to hold ourselves ready to be led into whatever forms of Church life and work are revealed as God’s Will for us,” we propose the establishment of “a united Church to be known as The Presbyterian Reformed Church in America.”
1. In 1967, the General Assembly and the General Synod voted to hold their 1968 sessions “simultaneously but not together . . . in view of the fact that the Plan may be amended, changed, altered or otherwise revised” by the two highest courts.
We therefore recommend that the following procedure for dealing with the Plan of Union at our simultaneous sessions be adopted by the General Assembly and the General Synod:
(1) That the Joint Committee of Twenty-Four act as a committee of reference in regard to the Plan of Union during the simultaneous sessions.
(2) That there be a first ‘reading’ (by title only) as early as possible at each session and that all proposed changes in the Plan of Union be received and referred to the Joint Committee for immediate consideration.
(3) That the Joint Committee report to General Assembly and General Synod its recommendations to which suggestions should be adopted.
(4) That a second ‘reading’ then take place whereby the two courts will by vote indicate their approval or disapproval of the proposed amendments.
(5) That the remaining differences between the two courts be resolved by the Joint Committee and the final Plan be presented for a third ‘reading’ and final vote.
(6) That at the third ‘reading’ the rules of order of both General Assembly and General Synod be set aside in order that the final Plan of Union may be voted upon without consideration of further amendments or changes . . . . (schedule of readings omitted—G.V.B.)
2. We recommend to the General Assembly and the General Synod the following resolution: “Resolved: that the General Assembly approve and recommend to the Presbyteries (that the General Synod adopt and recommend to the Classes) full organic union with the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America (with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States) under the proposed plan of union consisting of the Covenants of Agreement, the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in America, the Rules of Discipline of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in America, the Directory for the Worship of God and for the Work of the Church of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in America, together with all other documents and procedures incident thereto, all of which are attached to this resolution or by necessary implication are incident thereto, and by this reference are incorporated as a part thereof.”
3. If both General Assembly and General Synod adopt the Plan of Union, it will be ‘voted upon by the Presbyteries and Classes in the following manner:
(1) The resolution to be acted upon will be as follows: For the Presbyteries and Classes: “Resolved: That the Presbytery (Classis) of. . . . give its advice and consent (give its approval) to full organic union with the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America (with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States) under the proposed Plan of Union consisting of the Covenants of Agreement, the Form of Government of the Government of the Presbyterian Reformed Church (etc. as above) . . .
(2) The approval of three-fourths (60) of the Presbyteries and two-thirds (30) of the Classes will be needed.
(3) A certificate reporting the decision of the Presbytery or Classis will be sent to the Stated Clerk immediately after the vote is taken.
We recommend that, in order to afford a reasonable time for study of the Plan of Union and to insure some degree of simultaneity in registering the votes of the Presbyteries and Classes, the General Assembly and General Synod recommend that no votes be taken by the Presbyteries and Classes until January, 1969.
4. If the required number of Presbyteries and Classes approve the Plan of Union, the 1969 General Assembly and General Synod will make the final decision. If the Plan of Union is adopted, the following procedures will assist the transition of the two denominations into one united Church:
(1) In accord with Article 5 of the Covenants of Agreement the offices of the General Assembly and the General Synod will be continued until 1971 under the supervision of the special Committee on General Assembly Operation, one-half to be named by the General Synod Executive Committee and one-half to be named by the General Assembly Committee on Assembly Operation.
(2) In accord with Article 14 of the Covenants of Agreement the General Assembly and General Synod will each appoint twelve members to the Transitional Commission on Organization.
(3) In accord with Article 12 of the Covenants of Agreement the General Assembly and General Synod will each appoint six members to the Committee to Undertake the Formation of a New Confession.
We recommend that if the Plan of Union is approved by both General Assembly and General Synod in 1969 that the Consummation of the Union take place at a meeting of the New General Assembly of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in America in 1970.
5. We further recommend that the Joint Committee of Twenty-Four be continued until the next meeting of the General Assembly and the General Synod to be available to the churches for guidance, counsel, and interpretation of the Plan of Union, and to offer whatever materials may be helpful to the Presbyteries and Classes as they prepare to make their decisions.