FRATERNAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE
The Fraternal Relations Committee report to the 42nd General Assembly of its work during 2021-2022, plus recommendations for consideration by the Assembly.
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TE, Presbytery of the Gulf South
SUMMARY OF WORK
The Committee takes as its charge to Identify, develop, and implement relationships with other bodies of Christians that will promote the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the unity of His Body, and the strengthening of the Kingdom of God on earth. (84-06)
Following a fallow period caused by COVID-19, the Committee reconstituted seeking alignment with the vision and strategic priorities of the EPC; working more closely with World Outreach; reconnecting with international and domestic partners; and seeking God’s will for future relationships.
42-15 That the 42nd General Assembly charge the permanent Fraternal Relations Committee to study and evaluate our relations with the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), and to report to the 43rd GA (2023) for action.
42-16 That the 42nd General Assembly approve entering into a formal Fraternal Relationship (84-06, 12-10) with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Sierra Leone.
42-17 That the 42nd General Assembly approve the increase of elected members of the permanent Fraternal Relations Committee from six to nine members.
WORK OF THE COMMITTEE
1. The Committee has worked to reconnect with existing international fraternal partners in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, and Peru.
2. The Committee continues its discussions with the Presbyterian Church of Ireland and hopes to bring a recommendation to the 43rd General Assembly (2023).
3. The Committee continues its discussions with the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO).
4. The Committee continues in relationship with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE); the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC); and the World Reformed Fellowship (WRF).
5. The Committee has maintained informal relations with the following denominations: The Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO); the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA); the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP); and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA).
6. The Committee has begun working more closely with World Outreach, asking if there are ways in which we may help and support one another.
7. Working together with World Outreach, the Committee has sought to support international partners affected by the war in Ukraine.
The Committee would like permission to evaluate whether or not continuing membership of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) is appropriate for the EPC. At one time, our membership in WCRC made it easier for congregations departing from other denominations to be transferred into the EPC. In addition, some “gracious dismissal” agreements contained reversion clauses requiring that departing churches must stay in denominations affiliated with WCRC for a certain number of years. Most of these reversion clauses have now expired. Given the EPC’s membership in the theologically more conservative World Reformed Fellowship, we believe it is time for the situation to be evaluated.
Given the growth of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Sierra Leone, and its association with our Stated Clerk, TE Dean Weaver, we believe that a fraternal relationship between the two bodies would be mutually beneficial. Our assumption is that this would be a less formal relationship, corresponding to the third of the definitions provided in Acts of Assembly 12-10, that is, a relationship based upon membership “in ecumenical agencies that proclaim the Word of God, promote the unity of the Body of Christ, and share resources for effective ministries” (12-10.1.c.). Membership of both bodies in the World Reformed Fellowship would fulfill this requirement. We would also reserve the right to recommend to the General Assembly at some time in the future that this relationship be strengthened, so that it would correspond to category 1.a. or 1.b. of 12-10.
In order to lighten the load upon Office of the General Assembly staff members, the Committee is attempting to share responsibilities among elected members. To do this, we believe that the size of the Committee should be slightly increased. Members serve for three years, so if each class contained three persons, instead of the current two, we would have nine elected members.
Alan Trafford (Chairman)
TE, Presbytery of the Gulf South
TE, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic
Stan Van den Berg
TE, Presbytery of the Great Plains
RE, Presbytery of the West
RE, Presbytery of the Central South
July 28, 2021: Video Conference
November 16, 2021: Video Conference
April 4-5, 2022: Office of the General Assembly (Orlando, Florida)
Alan Trafford, Chairman