1. What is the United Reformed Churches in North America?
The United Reformed Churches in North America is a new federation of churches formed on October 1, 1996, at a synod meeting held in Lynwood, Illinois, succeeding an organization known as the Fellowship of Uniting Reformed Churches in North America which had been formed in 1995.
2. How was this new federation of churches formed?
Congregations, most of which had a background in the Christian Reformed Church, determined by a majority vote of their consistories and/or membership to become part of this new emerging federation of Reformed churches.
3. What is the background of its organization?
Most, of the congregations comprising the United Reformed Churches in North America were members of a non-ecclesiastical organization known as The Alliance of Reformed Churches. The Alliance of Reformed Churches was originally called the Consistorial Conference which was a gathering of consistories/councils dissatisfied with many decisions being made by the synods of the Christian Reformed Church. It became an Alliance of Reformed Churches as congregations withdrew from the Christian Reformed Church so that its membership was composed of both affiliated and non-affiliated congregations. Congregations that were members of the Alliance formed Regional Fellowships to encourage contact and fellowship among geographically located congregations. The Alliance also appointed a committee to draw up a Church Order which was approved at its meeting of November 1995. The Alliance became somewhat of an ecumenical gathering as compatible Reformed denominations sent delegates to its meetings. Many of the non-affiliated congregations, however began to feel the need of a more structured church affiliation, and the movement toward the present organization was initiated by three consistories.
4. What is the basis of the United Reformed Churches in North America?
The basis of these churches is God's Holy Word as confessed in the Three Forms of Unity (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt). This was adopted by the Uniting Churches on November 16,1995.
5. By what Church Order is it governed, or what polity does it follow?
Initially the Uniting Churches adopted for their use the 1934 (1914) Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church. However, at the same time (November 1995) members of the committee formed by the Alliance to draw up a Church Order were requested to continue work on the document approved by the Alliance. At the first synod meeting of the United Reformed Churches a complete Church Order was adopted, based on the Church Order of Dordt, reflecting, at the same time, the history and experience of the congregations that are now the United Reformed Churches in North America. The URCNA now operates under the updated Second Edition Church Order.
6. Who are members of the United Reformed Churches in North America?
Congregations that have withdrawn from the Christian Reformed Church, groups of members in various places that have withdrawn from the CRC and organized into congregations, and some newly formed churches are members of the United Reformed Churches. Membership in the United Reformed Churches is not limited to those who formerly were Christian Reformed. All who agree with the basis and accept the Church Order are welcome as members.
7. Why form a separate federation of churches when there are already many existing Reformed Presbyterian denominations?
Because of a generally common heritage, history, and experience it was felt that a new federation of Reformed churches was legitimate. Each congregation, existing or newly formed, has had a similar experience in relationship to the CRC, has been convinced of the necessity of withdrawing for truth's sake, and has found fellowship with others who have taken the same position.
8. What is the structure of the United Reformed Churches in North America?
structure is familiar: Consistory/council, classis (at present 6),
and synod. The adopted Church Order has the provision that synod
shall meet at least once in three years, or every year deemed
necessary by synod as outlined in the Church Order.
The legal structure of the federation has not yet been finally decided. A committee, composed of members from both the United States and Canada, has been commissioned to come with recommendations.
9. What is the relation of the United Reformed Churches to other Reformed churches?
The delegates to the first synod of the United Reformed Churches in North America were happy to welcome official delegates from the Canadian Reformed Church and The Reformed Church in the United States. Rev. Geoff Donnan, of the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly, was also present The synod also mandated two member councils to "pursue membership in the International Conference of Reformed Churches." appointed a committee for correspondence and contact with other churches, and adopted and sent a letter to the Interclassical Conference meeting held at South Holland. IL, on November 7 and 8, 1996.
10. How are the activities of the new federation supported?
At this first synod no
system of quotas, or "ministry shares" was adopted. In view of
expenses incurred in the organization of the first synod. and the
expenses of the stated clerk, it was decided "that each church
should decide to send an 'asking' of at least $3.00 per family to
cover federation needs within the next two months."
A motion was made, supported and passed, "to appoint one church council on each side of the border . . . namely, Trinity, St. Catharines, ON and Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church, NJ . . . to oversee the financial needs on their sides of the border."
Other activities, including mission work will be supported by the individual churches as they see fit
11. What liturgical forms are used by the United Reformed Churches in North America?
According to a
recommendation of the Church Order committee it was decided "That
the United Reformed Churches in North America adopt the liturgical
forms printed in the Psalter Hymnal, Centennial Edition (1976) for
use among the churches," and by an amendment "the Form of
Subscription" was included in the decision.
Also adopted were "Guidelines" for a Licensure Exam, a Candidacy Exam, Ordination Exam, and for a Colloquium Doctum, along with Credentials for meetings of classis and synod, and letter of call, printed in The Polity of the Churches, by J. L. Shaver (4th rev. ed. vol.2, 1956. pp. 235-242).
12. What is the predominate type of worship style in the churches of the federation?
Although there is some variation between congregations in worship style, each council/consistory seeks to apply the Reformed principles of worship.
13. How often does the synod of the United Reformed Churches meet?
As noted above the
Church Order adopted by this first synod speaks about synod meetings
being held at least once in three years ("The churches shall meet as
a synod at least once every three years. Each Consistory shall
delegate two of its members to this meeting. . . " Article 28).
Because of matters connected with the organization of the
federation, and possible overtures concerning the Church Order, it
was decided that the second synod would meet in October 1997, at St.
Catharines, ON, Canada.
14. Are the United Reformed Churches in N.A. involved in any specific mission activity?
No federation wide mission activity is being conducted at present. Most of the individual congregations have undertaken support for one or more missionaries, or mission causes. The Church Order indicates that such activity begins with the local congregation and if additional support is needed, appeals may be made to other congregations.
15. What seminary is used by the United Reformed Churches in N.A. for the training of candidates for the ministry?
No seminary has been designated by the synod as an official training school for its clergy. Its present clergy has received training in various seminaries including Calvin Theological Seminary, Mid-America Reformed Seminary, and Westminster Seminary (East and West).
16. What financial provisions does the United Reformed Churches in N.A. make for its minister?
No federation-wide program has been considered. Each congregation will have to make arrangements for its own pastor. or the pastor will make such arrangements with help from the congregation he serves.
17. How does a congregation join the United Reformed Churches in North America?
Article 32 of the Church Order of the United Reformed Churches in N.A. reads: "Any church may be admitted into the federation provided that her office bearers subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity and agree with this Church Order, and her minister sustains an examination by the nearest classis, according to the regulations adopted by the federation. Any such church shall be recommended by the sponsoring classis to the synod and shall be received into membership upon approval by a majority vote".
18. What incentive is there for a congregation to join the United Reformed Churches in N.A.?
The experience of leaving the denomination of which one has been a part, for a shorter or longer period of time, which is characterized by a continuing course of questionable decisions and an increasingly tension filled relationship with many of its constituent congregations, brings liberty and reformation. To stand for truth is right, and it is to this that we are called by the Word of God. To become part of a federation of churches that stands in the historical line of the Reformed tradition, is invigorating and refreshing, It gives new impetus to the preaching, renewed interest in studying the Word and Confessions, and a sense of solidarity with those who have traveled the same course. It is reformation, a return to the basics, a renewed appreciation for the heritage that we have received and desire to pass on to those who follow us. To join in such a federation of churches identifies one as standing for principle, the principle that obedience to the Scriptures is above all things necessary.