The union of the Reformed Church in the United States and the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church was really effected in the year 1934.
As early as 1932, the General Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States adopted a tentative plan of union, which was referred to the several classes of that denomination (as well as to the districts of the Evangelical Church), and which was adopted at a special meeting of the same General Synod held in Cleveland, Ohio in 1934. This plan consisted of twelve articles, which, for a full understanding of the matter, we quote here in full:
“Preamble. The Reformed Church in the United States and the Evangelical Synod of North America, under the conviction that they are in agreement on the essential doctrines of the Christian faith and on the ideals of the Christian life as contained in the Old and New Testaments and as defined in their respective standards of doctrine, do hereby declare their desire to be united in one body according to the articles mutually agreed upon as follows:
“The name of the Church formed by this union shall be “The Evangelical and Reformed Church.” Congregations and institutions may retain their names, but they shall designate their membership in The Evangelical and Reformed; Church.
“We acknowledge and accept the historical confessions! of the two Churches as the doctrinal basis of the union.
III. Supreme Judicatory.
“The Evangelical and Reformed Church shall establish, as its supreme judicatory for the prosecution of its work, a representative body to be known as The General Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church/
IV. The General Synod.
“The General Synod shall be constituted of an equal number of ordained ministers and lay members to be chosen by the Classes which are now in the Reformed Church in the United States and by the Districts of the Evangelical Synod of North America, The basis of representation shall be: one minister and one layman for every 20 congregations or major fraction thereof. Each Classic and District shall have at least one minister and one lay member as representatives in the General Synod. A quorum shall consist of a majority of the members of the body. The members of the General Synod shall be elected by the Classes and the Districts! in the same manner as these now choose delegates to their respective supreme judicatories, until a uniform mode of election shall have been provided by the General Synod.
V. Functions of the General Synod.
“1. The General Synod, through boards and other agencies by it, shall carry on the general work of the Church which is now conducted by the General Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States and the General Conference of the Evangelical Synod of North America.
“2. The specific work of the General Synod shall be: Foreign Missions; Home Missions; Education; Publication; Ministerial Relief; Benevolent Activities, and such other work as will promote the kingdom of God and pertains to the Church as a whole.
“3. The work of foreign missions, of home missions, of education, of ministerial relief, and of publication shall be consolidated under the direction of the General Synod as rapidly as the laws of the State, the charters, constitutions, and the property rights of the boards of the respective Churches will permit. In the original constitution of the boards of the General Synod due recognition, is to be given to representation of each of the consolidated churches.
“4. The boards are to be governed according to their respective charters. At the regular meeting of the General Synod each board is to submit for review a report of its operations during the time elapsed since the last regular meeting of the General Synod.
“5. The General Synod shall Review proceedings of the Classes, the districts and the Synods, which they shall submit to each regular meeting of the General Synod.
“6. The General Synod shall have power to maintain correspondence with other denominations; to hear and determine complaints and appeals; to decide controversies between subordinate judicatories; and to give counsel in cases referred to it by one or more judicatories.
“7. The General Synod shall promote the reorganization of Classes and Districts into conferences which shall be constituted on a territorial basis and shall have the same status as Classes or Districts. However, the General Synod shall not have power to unite subordinate judicatories of the consolidated churches except at their request.
“8. The General Synod shall meet in regular session quadrennially, or more frequently, as the General Synod may determine, and in extraordinary session at such time and place as it may determine.
“9. The General Synod shall have authority to initiate action for the preparation of a Constitution for the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
“The constitution shall be adopted by a two-thirds vote of the General Synod and shall be approved in such manner as the General Synod shall determine.
“1. The General Synod shall elect officers, who shall perform the duties that are customary in judicatories of that sort.
“2. The General Synod shall appoint or elect agencies for its administrative and promotional work.
VII. Subordinate Judicatories.
“Until by regular action of the General Synod according to Article V, Section 7, it is otherwise determined, the Synods, Classes, and; Districts shall continue; and each shall conduct its business in its own way. Whatever action is submitted to the subordinate judicatories by the General Synod shall be disposed of in the same way as these subordinate bodies disposed of such action by the General Synod or General Conference prior to the union.
VIII. Rights of Property.
“1. The Congregations, Classes, Synods, and Districts shall continue to exist and to do their work in the way it was done prior to the union; they shall also continue to hold and to supervise whatever property they possess and institutions they control. Congregations, judicatories, or institutions may unite by mutual agreement, and such union shall be confirmed in case of congregations by the Classes or Districts, or by each as the case may require; in case of judicatories and institutions by the General Synod.
“2. The theological seminaries, colleges, academies, and benevolent institutions that are under the control of the subordinate judicatories’ of the respective Churches shall continue under the supervision of the Synods, Classes, or Districts, which were in control of them before the union. Those institutions, however, which were under the control of the supreme judicatories of the united Churches shall pass under the control of the General Synod. In the constitution of the boards of directors of these institutions the interests of the. groups previously in control shall be properly recognized. A union of these schools may be affected according to the provisions defined in the previous paragraph of this; article.
“3. At the first session of the General Synod a committee on charters shall be appointed, which shall recommend the procedure to be adopted to safeguard the institutions and their charters.
IX. Authorizing of Ministers.
“Candidates for the ministry, after the union, and until a uniform method is prescribed by enactment of the General Synod, shall be authorized to perform ministerial acts by the Classes or Districts in the same way as they were authorized before the union. The ministers of the Churches in the union shall be enrolled as ministers of the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
“Men, women, and children shall be admitted into the fellowship of the Evangelical and Reformed! Church through baptism and profession of faith according to the custom and usage of each congregation prior to the union. When they shall have been (admitted, they shall be enrolled m members of The Evangelical and Reformed Church.
“The freedom of worship at present enjoyed by the negotiating Churches shall not be interfered with in The Evangelical and Reformed Church.
XII. Approval of Plan of Union.
“The Plan of Union shall be submitted to the supreme judicatories of the Reformed Church in the United States and the Evangelical Synod of North America. Each Church shall proceed according to its own constitution in the approval or disapproval of the Plan of Union. When the Plan has been approved by regular action of the two negotiating Churches, the president and the secretary or stated clerk of the
Supreme Judicatory of each Church shall report the action to the Commissions on Union of the negotiating Churches, who shall then request the officers of the supreme judicatories to call a special meeting of each judicatory at the same time and place. In joint session of the judicatories the final report of the action of the Churches on the Plan of Union shall be made. The supreme judicatories of the Churches that have approved the Plan of Union shall declare by joint resolution, that the union of the Church is duly effected at that time. Then the delegates, duly elected by the Churches entering into the union to constitute the original General Synod, shall effect an organization by the election of officers and proceed to the transaction of business. From the time of the organization of the General Synod until a constitution shall have been adopted as heretofore provided, this Plan of Union shall be the fundamental law of The Evangelical and Reformed Church.
“2. The number of delegates to which each of the uniting Churches shall be entitled in the first General Synod shall be determined by the Commissions on Union and be announced to the stated clerks or secretaries of the Classes and Districts three months before the meeting of the supreme judicatories for the consummation of the union.
“3. Any part of this Plan of union may be revised or amended by The Evangelical and Reformed Church in the same way as the constitution of said Church is revised or amended.
“We recommend that the present Commission on. Closer Relations and Church Union be continued with instructions to carry out the provisions of Article XII, should the Plan of Union be approved by the Reformed Church in the United States and Evangelical Synod of North America.”
As already stated, this Plan of Union was adopted by both Churches in 1934, and the merger was accomplished.
More about this in the next issue, D. V.