November 5, 2019 Classis West of the Protestant Reformed Churches met in a reconvened session on November 5, 2019, in Calvary PRC (Hull, IA). Rev. Ryan Barnhill again chaired the meeting. The reconvened session was due to the fact that Classis was not able to finish its agenda in September and more time was needed by a committee of pre-advice to prepare its advice.
Classis had before it a request from a consistory for the concurrence of Classis in deposing its minister according to Articles 79–80 of the Church Order for his teachings on providence and sanctification, and an appeal of the consistory’s decision to do so. Classis sustained the appeal and declared that the consistory erred in seeking the deposition of its minister.
Classis also took a decision to advise the consistory to lift the suspension of its minister with regards to his teaching on providence, since Classis had already judged in September that suspension was not the proper way to address the minister’s error, that the minister demonstrated he understood the error and was repentant of it, and that the minister’s submitted confession on providence is orthodox.
Classis also advised the consistory to lift the suspension of the minister with regards to his teaching on sanctification. Classis judged that in some instances the consistory had wrongly charged the minister with error. In addition, Classis judged that, although the consistory rightly identified erroneous statements made by the minister, suspension was not the proper way to address the matter. Classis stated that, in order to suspend a man for teaching false doctrine or heresy, it must be demonstrated that a man’s teaching is characterized by consciousness and deliberateness as well as persistence after having been admonished, which was not true of the minister.
The March 2019 meeting of Classis had appointed a special committee to assist the consistory as they worked through these matters, and the committee reported to this Classis on its labors over the last months. Classis acknowledged the work of the committee in implementing its decisions from March, although Classis has now declared those decisions to be in error. Classis also noted several aspects of the special committee’s labors that it did not approve. Classis appointed a new special committee to assist the pastor, consistory, and congregation, should the consistory request such help.
Classis also treated an appeal against the consistory’s initial suspension of the minister without seeking the advice of a neighboring consistory. The consistory believed that the advice of the March Classis to suspend served in the place of a neighboring consistory’s concurrence. The appellant argued this was not proper. Classis upheld the appeal, citing the plain reading of Article 79 as well as the fact that the concurrence of another body is required after the decision of the consistory to suspend, not before.
The expenses of this part of the meeting totaled $11,965.97.
Classis will meet next in Peace PRC (Dyer, IN) on March 4, 2020, the Lord willing.
Rev. Joshua Engelsma,
Stated Clerk, Classis West