Documents of Synod:
Study Papers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1965 to 1982)

154th GS MINUTES, MAY 21, 1976, pp. 144 - 162.

REPORT OF THE STUDY COMMITTEE ON BIBLICAL BOUNDS AND GUIDELINES
FOR ECCLESIASTICAL SEPARATION

The Rev. Donald J. MacNair distributed the following document which was changed at several points so as to read as follows:

PREFACE

Scope of this study paper

The 152nd General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, 1974, adopted the following recommendation:

“We recommend that Synod appoint a study committee to define the biblical bounds of ecclesiastical separation and to formulate guidelines for specific application for the sake of the purity of the church and report back to the 153rd General Synod.”

Important Note

The illustrations presented in this study are to be understood only as examples to help understand the principles. They may not be applicable to every situation. They are not exhaustive of all possible examples of each principle illustrated.

I. HISTORICAL STATEMENTS

A.  Statements from printed R.P.C.N.A. sources on separation.

1680, The Queensferry Paper, probably by Donald Cargill with Henry Hall (led to the Sanquhar Declaration by Richard Cameron, June 1680), throwing off the authority of both the state church and the Stewart kings:

“We shall go about this work in time to come with. . . more careful inspection into the conversation and holiness of those men that shall be chosen and ordained. Separation cannot be attributed to us. . .We are not separating from the communion of the Church and setting up new ordinances and a new ministry, but cleaving to the same ministers, and following the same ordinances, when others have slidden back to new ways and have a new authority superadded.”

(G. P. Hutchinson, pp. 32-33; John C. Johnston, Treasury of the Scottish Covenant, p. 140-141)

1721, First Society Meeting of the R.P. Church organized in America.

“They kept themselves distinct from the other worshipping societies which they found formed or forming in the land in which they were come to sojourn, as judging them no way disposed to enter into the full spirit of the covenanted reformation.” (Reformation Principles Exhibited, 1871 ed., historical sec., p. 113)

1743, Alexander Craighead’s renewal of the Solemn League and Covenant, Octorara, Pennsylvania:

“We look upon it as our Duty to separate ourselves from the corrupt Constitutions of both Church and State, and not to touch, taste, nor handle these Abominations, lest by partaking with them in their Sins, we be made Partakers with them in their Plagues.” (Hutchinson, note, p. 42)

1806, Reformation Principles Exhibited: Being the Declaration and Testimony of the R.P.C.N.A.:

“When [in] any church. . .  the administration is corrupt, and at­tempts at its reformation have proved ineffectual, it is the duty of Christians to separate from it,”  XXI:5.

1905, 82nd General Synod, R.P.C.N.A.:

“The plea of union with the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., was opposed on the ground that the U.S.A. Church was becoming more and more contaminated with modernistic teachings.” (Robert Waldo Chesnut, A Historical Sketch of the R.P.C. General Synod, p. 34)

1931, 108th General Synod, R.P.C.N.A.., on the modernist controversy:

"What is the remedy? Come out from among them and be separate. . . Conversation from one side to the other is impossible. . . Ultimately there are only two classes, the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares. . . .Our duty is to continue the struggle, and. . . .they who are faithful to the end shall be saved.” (Minutes, p. 173)

B.   Harvey Cedars Resolution:

1.   We hold that it is a Christian’s duty to separate himself from all cooperation in religious activities with those who deny the full authority and dependability of the Word of God, and that no consideration of expediency could ever warrant such cooperation.

2.   As concerns cooperation with those who, while themselves believing in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, continue in membership in denominations which include known unbelievers, and fail to see clearly and to observe fully the scriptural injunction to separate themselves from such organizations, we hold that this is a sphere of expediency, that is, one in which no man’s conscience may be bound by other men; however, we as a Synod feel that great harm is done in many cases by such cooperation, and hence that it is unwise to enter upon or continue in them without careful consideration.

3.   Regarding such individuals as are described in paragraph one, we should seek by every possible means to win them to Christ; regarding such individuals as are described in paragraph two we urge that they be dealt with in a spirit of brotherly love, seeking by every proper means to win them to the scriptural position of separation rather than to drive them from us, and yet not violating our conscience.

C.  1965 Plan of Union [RPCNA,GS and EPC]:

Be it further resolved that we counsel our ministry and membership that there is widespread apostasy and unbelief in church organizations today, and that we are not to be partakers with unbelievers in their religious activities

Be it finally resolved that whenever we have connections with believers who maintain associations with liberal church organizations, that we exercise great care and take every precaution to preserve an uncompromising stand with the Lord and His infallible Word, yet all the while dealing with others in grace and love.

II. THE BIBLICAL GROUNDS FOR BEING A SEPARATIST CHURCH

A.  Clarifying Comments.

1. Limitations of this paper.

Occasionally circumstances demand that “separation-from” be practiced in the ecclesiastical, ethical, and/or personal areas of life. This study is limited to the ecclesiastical area and to the application of this study to our 20th century.

2. The Motivating Principle for Biblical Separation.

While the word “separation” is biblical, the phrases “the doctrine of ecclesiastical separation,” “the separatist church,” and “the pure church” are historical and pragmatic applications of the word.
The motivating principle behind biblical separation is submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Separation, therefore, is a positive action, a commitment of all that we are to Jesus Christ. Separation may consequently include a prohibition of relationships with organizations or people, but only when such prohibition is necessary in order to continue in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
This submission to Jesus Christ must be practiced by the church which aggressively attempts to be a pure church. Such a church will seek to do whatever is necessary to glorify Christ and consequently will attempt to win over before separating from anything or anyone opposing this commitment. Furthermore, this attempt will be simultaneously practiced on the denominational, the local church, and the individual membership levels.

3. The Danger of Improperly Motivated Separationism.

The use of the terms “separation,” “the pure church,” etc., are often construed ,as majoring in the negative. It is further seen as inevitably developing a callousness which will fail to perceive the beautiful consequences of submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This criticism may be valid regarding “separation” in some of our church’s tradition. Without taking time to prove this criticism true or false, it must be affirmed that only an improper motivation— something less than true submission to the Lordship of Christ—produces a “majoring in the negative.” It must also be recognized that, when a church does find it necessary to “separate-from” an existing church in order to continue in true submission, the charge of “majoring in the negative” is untrue, even though many accept that interpretation of the circumstances.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, is a church which has “separated-from” existing churches. This is true in both of its branches. It is a church, however, which has declared itself to be committed to submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, a church seeking to be a pure church, regardless of the degree of success it had in avoiding the pitfall of less than biblical motivation.

There is yet another danger threatening the church as it attempts to be pure. It is the danger of accepting an “escape-clause” psychology toward the problems which come from trying to keep both unity and purity in the church. This psychology is a fatalistic admission that purity cannot be developed over a long period of time, at least not on a denomination level. If this premise is accepted, ‘separation-from” becomes the standard operating procedure for maintaining a pure church rather than the biblical oversight by elders. Such oversight properly administers discipline at each step and on each level. This strength to aggressively attempt to maintain a pure church lies in the ruling eldership. This ministry is given to the church by delegation from Christ. Through it the church will simultaneously grow in size and will preserve spiritual unity. The elders will also lead the church into “separation-from” when it has exhausted its ministry and still finds itself unable to maintain purity. Such leadership is the consistent consequence of shepherding and oversight.

B.   The Biblical Authority for Separation as the Ultimate Application of Submission to the Lordship of Christ.

The demonstration of submission to the Lordship of Christ as the motivating principle behind biblical separation must be given. Also, the demonstration of who stands accountable to responsibly lead in such action must be given. (Only a few key passages have been listed).

Colossians 1: 17-18
Ephesians 1:11-12

And He is the head. . .of the church;. . . so that in everything He might have the supremacy.”  Jesus Christ, as the Head of the Church, must be given all our praise and glory.  This, of course, includes the relationships of the church with others.

1 Peter 2:9-10


. . . you are a chosen people. . . belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him. . .” The church is a special body of people.  They belong to God.  They belong to God because He chose them, because He gave them mercy.  Their purpose is to praise Him.

Ephesians 1:22-23

. . . appointed Him to be the head over every­thing . . .”   The basis for decisions concerning the church’s relationships with others is submission to the authority of Jesus Christ by all parties of the proposed relationship.

Romans 16:17-18

Watch out for those who cause divisions. . . contrary to the teaching. . . For such people are not serving our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites. . ." Separation is a positive commitment to Christ.

Colossians 1:28
Hebrews 13:17

 

Obey your (elders) . . . they keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” The responsibility to determine which relationships to establish or to maintain is ultimately invested in the eldership. Elders must be free to exercise their oversight, since they are held ac­countable for their ministry.

2 John 10-11


If anyone comes .. . and does not bring this teaching . . . do not take him into your house or welcome him . . . (or you will) share in his wicked work.” The teaching to be brought is that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” To accept in the church a denial of that is to share in wickedness. This, then, is an absolute standard for union or non-union.   

C. The Importance of Attempting to Maintain a Pure Church Stance.

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1—Paul, quoting Isaiah 52, demands that they must come out from among them and be separate. He argues that, because they are the temple of God, He will “. . .  live with them, and walk among them, and. . .will be their God. . ."

Paul thus declares that only the church attempting to live with the consequences of the Lordship of Christ can anticipate the full blessings involved in being the temple of God.

III. EXPLANATIONS AND DEFINITIONS

A.  The remaining portions of this paper attempt to define the boundaries after which ecclesiastical separation is necessary and to apply these definitions. This separation may either be:

—  from an existing union; or,

—  continued separation between non-united parties.

B. Definitions:

“union”

This term is used for a relationship of either a church or an individual. It indicates that an affiliation in addition to membership in the RPCES is established with:
 

—a church or an ecclesiastical organization which is actually doing the work of a church or which could exercise some degree of official jurisdiction over the RPCES church or member.

 

—an organization or function in which the RPCES church’s or member’s testimony to the clarity of the message of Jesus in the scriptures is subjected to being strengthened or made less clear by the other participants in the union.

“organic union” 

 

This term is used to indicate the merger of two organizations (and therefore two organisms) into a new organization. This new organization will include all the people, programs, assets and liabilities, etc., of the original two organizations.

C.  Terminology.

Unless otherwise noted, the term “church” will be used to refer only to local congregations.

Since no RPCES church can enter an “organic union” without involvement of presbytery and/or General Synod, the term “organization” is used to mean any organization other than a particular church or a denomination unless specifically indicated otherwise by the illustration.

N.  DEFINING THE BOUNDS OF ECCLESIASTICAL SEPARATION FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH

A.  Delineation of Boundaries.

1.   The Lordship of Christ over the church provides boundaries.
Ephesians 4:4-5
Cf. Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 25-1,2,3 and Form of Government, Chapter I


Deductions:

The church should be striving to provide the whole counsel of God, the sacraments, and discipline for each member of the body. It may not enter any union which reduces its commitment to these provisions.

The church cannot enter into union with any organization that denies Jesus Christ His headship over the church and each member of it.

The church cannot unite with unbelievers.

Example:

An RPCES church may be the only church in the community which is not a member of the local council of churches. However, that particular local council of churches is committed to developing in the community an ecumenical church in which Jesus Christ will only be presented as a good man, not as God in the flesh. Although it may be ridiculed for its stand, the RPCES church may not become part of that local council of churches.

Example:
Because of the financial drain of maintaining two plants relatively close to each other, an RPCES church might be asked to become part of an evangelical UPUSA church. The UPUSA church is (vis. the “Confession of ‘67” and the entire “Book of Confessions”), in effect, a non-confessional church. That is not compatible with the biblical foundation upon which the RPCES stands. Therefore this merger cannot even be proposed to presbytery for consideration.
2.   The doctrine of sanctification produces boundaries.
Some key verses of Scripture are:

Matthew 6:33, 1 Peter 2:11-12,2 Corinthians 6:14-18. The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 13, 1, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism No. 35 teach that Christians “. . . are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”

Deductions:

The church cannot enter into union with an organization which would have any authority, design, or practice which would erode or replace the commitment of the church actively to prosecute this doctrine.

Example:

An RPCES church may be located where the sociological-moral conflict generated by statewide pressures to legalize casino gambling is raging. The church MUST take its stand—publicly (cf. New Jersey, 1974). A local social activist-led front may be proposed to defeat the referendum at the polls. The proposal is only for a temporarily united front to fight the gambling issue. However, various facets of the “front” also advocate such things as premarital sex. If the proposal involves the RPCES church so that at least for the length of time agreed upon to fight the issue, it agrees (actually or even tacitly) not to speak out on positions of the other members with which it disagrees, the church may not enter the union. It may, of course, endorse this one particular stand of the union. To become united, however, is to open the way to destroy the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification.
3.   The ordination vows of the elder’s office provide boundaries.

The Form of Government prescribes that the questions of ordination which each elder vows are, in fact, the expression of his conscience. All of them must be understood to be interrelated, so that it is impossible to hold reservations about one without distorting the commitment of one’s conscience to the others. Among them, Question No. 6 stands out as the most cogent expression of moral commitment directly related to the need to practice ecclesiastical separation.

Question No. 6: Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace of the Church; whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account? (Form of Government, Chapter V,3)

Deductions:
The church cannot enter into union with any organization whose purposes or practices will dilute the Headship of Christ over each individual of the church and thus force the elders, wittingly or not, to violate their ordination vows.
4. The responsibility inherent in the office of elder/bishop provides boundaries.

Some of the texts which detail the major responsibilities of the bishop/elder (excluding preaching and teaching per se for the pastor-teacher are:

Acts 20:28

Guard the flock; Oversee the flock; Shepherd the church
I Timothy 3:2
Apt to teach
I Timothy 3:5
Take care of (manage) God's church
I Timothy 4:12
Set an example for the believers
I Timothy 5:17
Direct the affairs of the church
2 Timothy 4:2
Correct, rebuke, and encourage
Titus 2:1-14
Teach; set an example
Titus 2:15
Encourage and rebuke with all authority
Hebrews 13:7
Be subject to being imitated
Hebrews 13:17
Have authority over Christians; Keep watch in order to give an account
1 Peter 5:1-4
Shepherd the flock; Be an example to the flock
2 John 10, 11
Guard from heresy

Summary Key:

Hebrews 13:17
  Elders are to be held responsible to give an accounting to God for the flock. Cf. Ezekiel 3:17f.
   

Deductions:

The church cannot have union with organizations which would have the authority or design to replace the elders’ responsibility for the flock with anything less than their full accountability demanded by the Word of God. This replacement could be by deletion, dilution, or substitution. This accountability includes nurturing, disciplining, and guarding the flock. The principle used to delineate the boundary of separation applied here is the natural parallel of the axiom enunciated for the General Synod relative to its power: “. . . but the Synod shall not delegate any of its general powers beyond its own recall so as to cease to be fully responsible for the spiritual life of should therefore be pointed out that elders may delegate much of their work and the authority to do that work, but may not delegate their responsibility for its calibre and consequence. Putting it in this context, no union is possible which, in effect, delegates the ruling elders’ responsibility to give an account for the flock (to God) to an organization, if by such delegation, proper responsibility of an accountability for the spiritual welfare for the flock is endangered.

 

Example:

An RPCES church may be asked to be an equal participant in a community-wide evangelistic campaign. The evangelist is clearly evangelical. Although he is not a Calvinist, he is not known as an anti-Calvinist in his preaching. The plans are to enroll every church in the community, regardless of the doctrinal position taken by that church in its formal doctrinal statements or its practical expression of them, as an equal participant in the campaign. The training of the personal workers will be done by the evangelist’s staff, although the selection of those to be trained and the supervision of their work as personal workers will be done by a cross section subcommittee of the pastors of the involved churches. The converts will be directed to the church of their choice on the presumption that, if they are truly born again and if the church of their choice does not preach the Gospel, the Holy Spirit will motivate them to locate a different church. An RPCES church may not become an equal participant in this campaign for any one or combination of the following reasons:

(a)     in subscribing to a common platform, the elders might be diminishing or even possibly forfeiting their ultimate responsibility to be accountable to God to guard the flock and to be an example to the flock because of a formal relationship that condones those who do not believe that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh (cf. 2 John 10-1 1);

(b)    in permitting the spiritual supervision of church members, the elders might be improperly delegating at least a tangible degree of their responsibility to be accountable to God to shepherd the flock by allowing a coalition of men, among whom some may believe that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, to oversee the work of their members in the spiritual work of personal witnessing for Christ (cf. Hebrews 13:17);

(c)     in not fulfilling the spiritual responsibility for nurturing the new converts, the elders might be seriously curtailing their responsibility to guard the sheep from wolves by supporting a pro­gram which proposed sending new-born babes in Christ into churches that deny that Jesus is God in the flesh (cf. Acts 20:28 and Acts 20:30).

5. The implications government by a plurality of elders (called sessions and presbyteries) provides boundaries.

1 Timothy 5:17

—ruling over the flock by ruling and by ruling/teaching elders, simultaneously

1 Timothy 4:14

—ordination by the laying on of hands by the presbytery

2 Timothy 1:6

 

Acts 15

—differences of opinion in a specific region settled by the meeting of minds of elders from
   

Deductions:

1.   No union is possible which contradicts the majority or other prescribed minimum vote of the session as its expressed commitment to carry out its responsibility to be accountable for the flock of God.

Example:    An RPCES church may be asked to join a local evangelical council of churches. For a variety of reasons the majority o elders do not think it wise to do so, at least for the present. There is no way for the pastor or individual elders or other individual church officers to circumvent this and associate the church unilaterally so that the church corporately is embarrassed.

2.    No union is possible which contradicts those distinctive characteristics of the church’s presbytery or of the General Synod as de fined in the Form of Government, the Book of Discipline, or the specific results of an appeal to the courts of the church relative to any “resolution” previously adopted by the General Synod

3.    No union is advisable which apparently contradicts those distinctive characteristics of the General Synod enunciated in any o the “resolutions” it has adopted, even if it has never been tested in the courts of the church.

Example:    The General Synod of the RPCES has adopted a resolution on racial issues. It is not advisable for an RPCES church to join an organization which rejects the truth of that resolution.


If any resolution has been appealed to the General Synod as an appeal court, and has been upheld by that court, it is most strongly inadvisable for the RPCES church to join such an organization.

B. Analysis and Guidelines of the Bounds of Ecclesiastical Separation for the Local Church as a Corporate Body.

1. Analysis.
In all the circumstances concerning the local church as a corporate body, the responsibility of the elders to lead the church (2 Timothy 5:17) comes into focus. The decision ultimately rests upon their shoulders.

In making decisions, the elders are under moral oath to be examples to the flock, to guard themselves and the flock, and to shepherd and oversee the flock.

A statement of principle which is common to all of these boundaries, and consistent with these two conclusions, is:

(a) The session is to exercise responsibility (because of its accountability) for attempting to maintain a pure church stance; further

(b) This responsibility is summarily displayed in Hebrews 13:17 from which the following definition of responsibility can be drawn: the session must so rule over the flock entrusted to it that each member of the session may give a joyous, not burdensome, account to God as His Day of Judgment.

(c) This responsibility means that a spiritual judgment must be made following three practical guidelines:

—Because of the centrality of the message of Christ and the leadership that He must exercise in the work of the body, we cannot be in union with any function or organization in which our testimony to the clarity of the message of Jesus in the Scriptures is made less clear by the other participants in the union.

—There is cause for concern when the potential participants fail to demonstrate commitment to the presentation of the whole counsel of God.

—There is cause for concern when the potential participants fail to manifest the work of the Holy Spirit in demonstrable fruit (cf. Matthew 7:16-20).

2.   Guidelines.

(a)  Every decision with any implication of union must at least have the approval of the elders of the church.

(b) The elders must always make such decisions as a matter of conscience, not expediency, per se.

(c)  The elders must exercise their conscience so that their responsibility in giving an account to God for the flock entrusted to them shows that they have served demonstrably within God’s will as revealed in the Bible regardless of the pressures of the occasion.

(d) The elders, therefore, must seek to determine boundaries such as those herein enunciated and must evaluate the evident consequences and probably implications in the light of these boundaries as the basis for their decision.

(e)  The process by which this evaluation must be made must use a uniform assessment for each situation. The process of assessment has four contributing sources through which the bounds of ecclesiastical separation are applied:

1.   a judgment about the past ecclesiastical purity of the organization with which union is contemplated;

2.   a judgment about the contemporary ecclesiastical purity of the organizational with which union is contemplated;

3.   a judgment as to the probable future ecclesiastical purity of the organization with which union is contemplated;

4.   a judgment about the kind and degree of influences at work in the contemporary situation which apparently are leading the organization to its probable future;

5.   a judgment that relates (1) through (4) into a reasonable prognostication concerning the continuing commitment of the organization to the doctrine of the purity of the church.

(f)  Each decision deserves to be assessed in a meaningful and thorough way. One great danger is to presume upon and accept as still accurate conclusions others have previously made, often as much as ten to twenty years ago.

3.   An example of using this process of assessment.

An invitation is extended to a newly organized particular RPCES church to join in a long-standing council of churches. The major project of this council of churches is to conduct united Easter, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve services. The council of churches has developed many activities and services for the benefit of the ministers whose churches belong to it. Also, in the minds of the community, it is apparently taken for granted that the only churches that do not belong to the council of churches are the “sects,” etc. Finally, along with the invitation is the proposal to have the RPCES pastor be the speaker at the next Easter service (thus, of course, providing a major opportunity for exposure).
In assessing this invitation, following the procedure outlined above, the elders concluded that:
(a) In the past, all ministers had equal turns to speak. This included those who categorically reject the truth that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, the only Saviour of men. Also, these activities are planned to be services of worship.  As such, they even on occasion have included the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. By applying the aforelisted bounds of ecclesiastical separation to these findings, the judgment was made that the elders would not have been able to maintain their responsibility to give a joyous account of their “sheep” if they had obligated them to participate in the council of churches by means of union.
(b) The past policies seem to be intact in the contemporary situation. The situation about the contemporary situation confirmed the first judgment.
(c) The probable future ecclesiastical purity of the council of churches for all intents and purposes is more of the same. Again, the first judgment is confirmed.
(d) An analysis of the influences permitting this situation showed entrenched leadership among “main-line” denominational men who had no concern for biblical Christianity, an apathy on the part of the evangelical leaders, and a very strong influence to be afraid of the unchurched community’s reaction to nonparticipation.
Putting all these conclusions together led to the prognostication that only heartache and difficulties lay ahead for the RPCES church were it to join. The conclusion was that the RPCES church could not join this council of churches.
In addition, the elders had to consider their responsibility under presbytery in uniting their church into a nondiscipline oriented association which was, in fact, doing the work of the church, yet did not even pretend to have the marks of the true church.
Ecclesiastical purity forbade joining this council of churches.
4.     Conclusion:
The summary of biblical principles may be expressed in the facing statement:
A church cannot have a union with an organization which destroys the good conscience of the ruling elders to carry out their responsibility to give joyous account to God of the sheep of the flock.

V.   BOUNDS OF ECCLESIASTICAL SEPARATION FOR THE INDIVIDUAL PRESBYTER

Introduction

A basic premise of this paper is continued in this discussion, namely each church member is in subjection to his court of original jurisdiction. For everyone except the teaching elders, the court of original jurisdiction is the session. For the teaching elder it is his presbytery. Note ordination Question No. 4, “Do you promise such subjection to your brethren taught in the Word of God?” This is a vow taken before his presbytery order to establish moral ties between the teaching elder and his presbytery. For the ruling elder the court of original jurisdiction is his session.  He takes his vow before his church in the presence of the session, thus establishing moral ties between himself and the session.
It is understood that neither the teaching elder nor the ruling elder act unilaterally to commit his church or denomination to a union. Therefore, this discussion will deal with the area of activity and involvement of each presbyter in all other areas of relationships he may face.
A. Delineation of Boundaries.

1.    Logic leads to the conclusion that an elder acting as an individual would apply to himself any boundaries affecting the local church and the denomination itself that are applicable in the frame’ of personal relationships. Therefore, any conclusions from Section III that are applicable must be accepted as boundaries.

2.    The elder must differentiate between attending meetings as an observer on the one hand and as a subscribing participant on the other:

Deductions:

(a) An elder may attend any meeting as an observer. As an observer it is understood that he does not have the privilege of the floor or of voting.

(b) Any elder must assess, in the light of this entire discussion, the character of the group, its witness and the oversight placed on him by the group by accepting the privilege of participating in its meeting. In some cases it would even be wise to weigh the implications of accepting travel assistance, etc., from a group in order to observe it before accepting such assistance.

Example. - The World Council of Churches declares itself to be fellowship of Christian churches, yet also declares that it cannot determine to what degree any of its member churches uphold eve the oversimplified statement of faith it presents.* It would be total proper for any RPCES member, elder or not, to attend a W.C.C. meeting as an observer. It would also be proper for him to be at the meeting as a resource person for the evangelical viewpoint. However it would be improper, at least without specific presbytery approval to do that which implies his willingness to accept some degree of oversight (therefore discipline) by the W.C.C. over his ecclesiastical activity or over additional use of his contribution to its meeting beyond anything he has specifically granted. His participation would be improper if he were not able to qualify the use of his contribution to the satisfaction of his conscience, either as initially given or in its use thereafter. [*See Report of the Committee to Formulate a Communication to DeGrereformeede Kerken, Minutes, 32nd General Assembly [1965], Orthodox Presbyterian Church, page 93.]

3. The elder must differentiate between joining a club, fellowship, council, or organization for pleasure, debate, or service to the community on the one hand and for activities which involve the systematic presentation of the Gospel or any other marks of the church (cf. Form of Government, Chapter 1) on the other.

Deductions:

(a) An elder may join any such group so long as it does not engage in the work of the church itself.

(b)  He must assess the character of the group, its witness, and the work (ministry) of the group to determine that membership in I does not, in effect, have him serving in two churches simultaneously.

Example. -  An RPCES pastor, shortly after coming to his pulpit, was asked to join a local ministerium and the local Kiwanis Club. Upon examination, he found that the ministerium, along with debates etc., always conducted a joint Easter sunrise service. The qualification for membership was simply to be a pastor in the community He was asked to be the speaker at the next service. The following year, a different pastor would speak, probably one of the unbelieving men in the group. The pastor would not be proper joining such ministerium. Among other things, his participation would have placed upon him a sense of obligation to bring his own flock to hear an unbeliever. On the other hand, he would be proper to join a service club such as the Kiwanis if the local chapter were such that he would not need to compromise his conscience in it and if his time permitted participation.

4.   The elder must differentiate between joining a club, fellowship, council, or organization for pleasure, debate or service to the community on the one hand and secret oathbound orders on the other.


Deductions:

Because of the necessity to commit one’s self to the living God, His revealed truth as found in the Bible, and the subordinate standards of the church, the elder cannot join such a group.

5.   The elder must differentiate between joining a club, fellowship, council, or organization which does have a sound doctrinal basis in order to foster Christian fellowship and consideration of mutual problems on the one hand or to supplement the church itself by doing the work of the church on the other.

Deductions:

(a) An elder may join any such group so long as it does not engage in the work of the church itself.

(b) He must assess the character of the group, its witness, and the work (ministry) of the group to determine that membership in it does not, in effect, have him serving in two churches simultaneously.

Example:    A few years ago the National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship was formed. Several RPCES ministers became members. However, after the second year of its existence, there was a definite attempt made to make the NPRF a vehicle to which congregations in apparently apostate denominations could be dismissed until they determined which other denomination they wanted to join. The RPCES ministers all voted against such an action and would have had to resign from the NPRF if the action had been adopted, since such an action would have made the NPRF a denomination with judicial oversight and disciplinary responsibilities, no matter how short a time was involved in the so-called transition.

6.   The elder must as far as possible assess all the implications involved in participating in civil or civil/religious ceremonies with other ministers. The same need for assessment exists in joining in the celebration of the sacraments with other ministers.

Deductions:

(a) Given the right conditions any of these circumstances might be proper, while under other conditions, any of them might be improper. Consequently, this area of consideration demands very careful assessment by the elder before participating. On occasion, his actions will call for much longsuffering by his brethren until they understand all the considerations he used in making his decision.

(b)  Normally, most purely civil activities (such as school bond rallies, etc.) are proper functions in which the elder may participate.

(c)  In civil/religious functions (such as weddings) the major consideration is not the joining with another minister to perform the function (since the marriage service is not a sacrament), but whether the elder’s conscience and witness are indeed free in honoring the Lord through such participation.

(d)  In celebrating the sacraments with other ministers, the character of a sacrament per se demands that it ultimately is under the discipline of the church. Therefore, the elder would be limited:

(1) to join in administering a sacrament only if it indeed is directly related to a church and denomination which was attempting to maintain biblically sound confessional standards; and

(2)   to join in administering a sacrament only if the other minister(s) personally demonstrated his (their) commitment to maintain biblically sound confessional standards.

7.   The elder must differentiate, when working other than in one of the ministries of the RPCES per se, between swerving under conditions that do not restrict his conscience or his testimony and conditions that do restrict his conscience and/or his testimony.

Deductions:

(a)  The Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, has permitted its teaching elders to serve under many mission boards and in churches and schools which are connected with denominations with which fraternal relationships are maintained, and also with such institutions when they are independent. It has not tended to permit its teaching elders to serve with such institutions which are under the jurisdiction of denominations which are not attempting to maintain biblically sound confessional standards or are actually rejecting those standards.

(b) The line of distinction for some situations is difficult to determine and the presbytery must demonstrate approval for such situations.

Example: Teaching opportunities in secular schools are sometimes sought by an RPCES teaching elder as a source of additional income or even as his basic source of employment. Under such conditions it is possible he might find it mandatory to teach evolution as fact. If so, he would not be in order in teaching in that situation.

Example: Teaching opportunities often are afforded RPCES ministers in nearby church-related schools, such as a UPUSA college with an evangelical dean of faculty. If the controlling church/ denomination is not attempting to maintain confessional purity, the elder probably could not accept the invitation, since he would be giving his hand of blessing to the anti-biblical position of the denomination (cf. 2 John 10,11), hence, he could not accept such employment.

In addition, he ought to be cautious, lest he:

—out of conscience, go into the situation with a commitment to speak his mind when nonbiblical doctrine or lifestyles were promoted;

—be forced to go into the situation with apparent approval of the situation and then be accused of “fifth column” activities if he expressed his conscience clearly.

However, unofficially he can fellowship with the evangelical ministers counsel them, encourage them, etc.

B.   Analysis of Boundaries.

The elder must live with an awareness that he is oath bound to be in subjection to his brethren (the presbytery or session of which he is a member). Therefore, he must avoid establishing relationships which deprive his presbytery from its full oversight and disciplinary authority over him.

He must recognize that it is his presbytery or session which eventually will have to account to God, hopefully with joy, concerning him. Therefore, he must not act in such a way that he deprives his presbytery from taking its responsibility. If he does, presbytery will have to administer discipline on him.
VI. BOUNDS OF ECCLESIASTICAL SEPARATION FOR THE RE­FORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, EVANGELICAL SYNOD, AS A DENOMINATION
Introduction:
“In the life of the church. . . fellowship is indispensable.”* This fellowship, however, is in the context of adherence to the message and teaching of the apostles and to the proclamation of the same message and teaching. The same criterion must apply to denominational unity, and therefore to instituting organic union between denominations. [*See “Report of the Committee to Formulate a Communication to DeGereformeede Kerken,” Minutes, 32nd General Assembly, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, page 93.]
This, in turn, demands separation from sin and works of darkness. As to the individual church itself, Paul commands the believer to “turn away” from certain individuals (Romans 16:17) to avoid divisions and occasions for stumbling. This demand is naturally projected, and properly so, to the denominational level as a restraint against establishing organic union between denominations.
A.  Organic Union or other union—Possible.
1.   Organic union between the RPCES and any other denomination is possible if the other denomination has adopted one of the historic Reformed creedal documents (or its equivalent) as its sole creedal stance, and has it as part of its constitution.
2.   Union between the RPCES and any other organization (possibly a council of churches) is possible if the organization adhered to the message and teaching of the apostles, and to its proclamation, and does not stand opposed to the cardinal tenets of the Reformed creedal documents.
B.   Organic Union or other union—Impossible.
1.   Organic union between the RPCES and any other denomination is impossible if the other denomination has not adopted one of the historic Reformed creedal documents (or its equivalent) as its constitution or does not have such a document as its sole creedal stance in its constitution.
2.   Union between the RPCES and any other organization (possibly the W.C.C. and the N.C.C.C..) is impossible if the organization does not adhere to the message and teaching of the apostles, and to its proclamation, and stands opposed to the cardinal tenets of the Re­formed creedal documents.
C.   Organic Union or other union—Debatable.
1.   Some churches or organizations legally meet the prerequisites of Section I above, yet apparently do not honor them. In such cases, the same process of assessment as described under Section III,2,B, must be followed.
2.   Several criteria can be cited to precipitate a negative assessment when following this procedure. The clear-cut evidence of any combination of these criteria indicate the probability that the church or organization has passed the point of no return, so that it cannot be expected seriously to know its constitutional position in the future.
These criteria are:
(a) When half or more of the theological seminaries of the church (or approved by the organization) have faculty members who admittedly reject the verbal inspiration of the Bible and yet are not disciplined and eventually removed, grave and improper direction has been established within that church/organization -
(b) When the outreach of the church or organization (in missions, publications, services, etc.) clearly gives priority to the reconciliation of men to men rather than to the reconciliation of men to God, and those conducting the outreach are not disciplined and eventually removed, grave and improper direction has been established within that church/organization.
(c)   When the church does not at least fence the Lord’s Supper in the manner and spirit of 1 Corinthians 10 and 11, and when the church does not guard baptism, both infant and adult, with the standards demanded in the covenant to Abraham (Genesis 1 2 and 1 7 and Galatians 3), and does not discipline and eventually remove those who fail so to guard the sacraments, grave and improper direction has been established within that church.
All of these criteria do not fit an organization, of course, since the sacraments are not to be administered by organizations. If such organizations begin to practice the sacraments, the mere existence of such practice constitutes a grave and improper direction having been established by the organization. Further, since the organization is not a church, it probably cannot institute any discipline along these lines even if some of its members desire to do so.
D.  Analysis of the Boundaries.
1.   Organic union with other denominations:
The RPCES must be satisfied that the other church demonstrates:
—the marks of the church (Form of Government, Chapter 1,1).
—the constitution of that church commits the church to an adequate expression of the Reformed creedal stance as the system of doctrine of the church.
—that apparent departures from the faith and life taught in the Bible and the subordinate standards are being disciplined and corrected.
2.   Organic union with organizations:
The RPCES must be satisfied that the organization demonstrates adherence to the message and teaching of the apostles and to its proclamation. It must further be satisfied that it is practicing these commitments and safeguarding its practices.
Respectfully submitted:
Dr. Francis R. Steele
Dr. Mark E. Pett
Dr. Peter Stam, Jr.
The Rev. W. Lyall Detlor
The Rev. Ronald L. Shaw
The Rev. Donald J. MacNair, Chairman
ACTION
Synod adopted the report as amended and reproduced above.