August 23, 2002


Category: Updates :: Permalink

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that the arrival of my new bookshelves was bittersweet since I might be moving. Someone named Sarah (Sarah who?, I wonder) asked why. Here’s the report I’ve put off writing for the last few weeks. On July 28, after three months of discussions between the elders and me, the consistory read this letter to the congregation following the morning service:

An open letter to the Congregation of Trinity Reformed Church.

Dear Congregation,

One of the issues that consistory has recently had to deal with is the matter of children at the Lord’s Supper. This issue, which is often referred to as “paedocommunion,” came to a head for consistory when we were required to make a decision on Tim Gallant‘s Appeal to the Classis of Western Canada (June 6 & 7, 2002). In his appeal, Gallant challenged the ruling of Classis 2000 “that the Reformed Confessions require a profession of faith as a prerequisite for the reception of the Lord’s Supper.” Mr. Gallant felt he could not sign the form of subscription if Classis placed the paedocommunion view outside of confessional bounds.

In our discussions on this issue, our consistory has maintained that those who approach the Lord’s Supper must be of a proper age to examine themselves and to commemorate the Lord’s death according to the commands of I Corinthians 11:25-29. It is, therefore, the position of consistory that our confessions do require a profession of faith as a prerequisite for reception of the Lord’s Supper. This position was supported unanimously by our consistory and was fully supported at Classis 2002. Our consistory also supports the rationale that Classis gave in denying Mr. Gallant’s appeal.

The reason that you are receiving this letter is that out of these discussions we became aware that our minister, Rev. Barach, is currently struggling with his views and beliefs on paedocommunion. At this time Rev. Barach does not have a firm position on the issue; rather, he is actively examining the arguments (for and against) trying to see what Scripture has to say on this matter. This became an issue for him in 2000 when Mr. Gallant first brought his appeal forward. It was not an issue for Rev. Barach when he signed the form of subscription himself in 1999. It should be noted that Rev. Barach has not preached, taught or promoted paedocommunion in our congregation.

The problem we face is that Rev. Barach cannot agree with the consistory and classis position that those who hold to the view of paedocommunion subscribe to a belief that is outside of confessional bounds. He is unable to support consistory in the stance we have taken and the direction we wish to pursue on this issue.

Based on this history, it was decided at our last meeting that:

The consistory of Trinity Reformed Church dissolve our relationship with Reverend Barach pending Classis approval in accordance with article 11 of our church order. Our intent is to dissolve the relationship with the following two provisions:

1) That Rev. Barach maintains his full ministerial duties until such a time that he can find a new position or until December the 31st of this year.

2) That consistory will continue to provide Rev. Barach with his full salary until such a time that he can find a new position or until July 31, 2003.

Consistory would like to stress that this is a mutual agreement between consistory and Rev. Barach. We agree that this is the best action that we can take at this time to keep and promote unity in our congregation and in the church of Christ at large. Consistory has a great appreciation for the love and leadership Rev. Barach has brought to our congregation over the last 3 years. It is our desire to proceed in this manner [sic: matter] in such a way that his name is upheld and the communion of the saints is maintained. We ask that the congregation support us in this matter with your prayers, discussions and actions.

If you have any questions about the current situation please talk to your district elder.

On Behalf of Consistory,

Gerrit Greidanus (Clerk)

Article 11 of the URCNA Church Order reads:

If, for reasons other than such as warrant ecclesiastical discipline, either a minister of the Word or the congregation he is serving desires to dissolve their pastoral relationship, that dissolution shall occur only upon mutually satisfactory conditions and only with the concurring advice of the classis. If the released minister desires to receive a call to serve another congregation, the council from whose service he is being released shall announce his eligibility for call, which eligibility shall be valid for no more than two years, whereafter he shall be honorably released from office. If the minister released from his congregation desires to leave his office in order to seek non-ministerial labor, he must receive the approval of the classis before doing so.

The consistory also included a letter from me:

Dear Congregation,

I want you to understand that I too share consistory’s concern for the peace and purity of the church. I love this congregation, with its commitment to God’s Word and its appreciation of God’s sovereignty and God’s covenantal bonds with His people. I deeply appreciate the love that the congregation has shown me and the assistance and encouragement that you have given me. It has been a wonderful three years. It is my hope that we can continue to work together as brothers and sisters in Christ until such a time as I secure a new ministerial position. I trust that we will be able to do this together under God’s grace and with His blessing.

In Christ,

Rev. John Barach

The consistory’s decision has been very painful for me. I had asked the elders to allow me to withhold judgment on the issue of paedocommunion and I had promised not to promote it or militate against our current practice. Nevertheless, the elders decided that it would be better for us to work to dissolve our relationship and I acquiesced to that decision. I’m grateful that they have stated in their letter that I have not been promoting paedocommunion publicly (I wasn’t the one who brought up the issue!), and I appreciate their desire to uphold my name. But it’s going to be very hard to have to leave Lethbridge.

According to the Church Order, this decision still needs to be ratified by a classis. My guess is that the earliest we could have a classis would be the first couple weeks of November.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to preach and carry on my other ministerial work. I’ve preached (from Philippians 2, in particular) that the path to vindication and exaltation with Christ is not the Adamic path of self-seeking and self-assertion, but the path Christ took, the path of self-sacrifice, humility, and submission. And now the Lord has given me the opportunity to back up my preaching by my example.

If you want more information, you can e-mail me. I appreciate your prayers for the congregation and for me.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:21 am | Discuss (0)

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