Carey Conference    —
Join us at Braeside Camp from August 20–26, 2022!

About us

The statement “serving God by serving his churches” is not a catch phrase or an empty promise, but a rallying call to action. There is a pressing need for local churches to intercede for the needs of other churches. We recognize the autonomy of the local church and act only as enablers to facilitate their efforts. The SGF offers a framework through which churches can regularly interact, benefit from shared times of fellowship, and be blessed through the gifts the Lord has granted to each of our churches. We want our congregations to:

  • have opportunity to study with believers from other churches
  • be blessed by an exposure to the preaching of pastors and the instruction of teachers outside their own church
  • be encouraged by hearing what the Lord is doing among our Christian brothers and sisters in other places
  • be more informed so prayer for one another can be focused and detailed
  • take on projects corporately that may not easily be done separately
  • share ideas on how to reach out to our local communities, showing the love of Christ to them in practical ways
  • be effectively involved in foreign missions, with an eye to the training of pastors, Bible translation, church planting and outreach

In other words, striving to be those who are “doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). While a significant amount of our energy and efforts are directed toward the work and people of the SGF community, we warmly invite and welcome any others who wish to join us in our times of fellowship, teaching, preaching, and worship.

Our distinctives

Our member churches are all Baptist Churches even though not all include the title “Baptist” in their names. Being Baptistic means it is our conviction that only true believers should be baptized, and that baptism should only be administered by immersion. We also hold other Baptist distinctives such as:
  • the authority of Scripture in all matters of faith and practice
  • the autonomy of the local church
  • a regenerate, baptized church membership
  • liberty of conscience before God
  • separation of church and state
While believing that God has chosen certain individuals for salvation, we also believe that God invariably uses means to save his elect people, and therefore we believe in accordance with Christ’s command to his disciples that it is our duty and privilege to preach the gospel to everyone. We seek to do this in our public meetings and we also encourage individuals to witness to Christ’s saving grace whenever they have opportunity. We also seek to promote missions both at home and abroad by sending out and supporting missionaries, and by planting new churches in areas in need of a strong gospel testimony.
We believe that salvation is by the sovereign electing grace of God. While we accept full responsibility to spread the gospel by every legitimate means, we know that no one will ever come to Christ unless God first works in their lives. We believe that those chosen by the Father for salvation were redeemed by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, are drawn to faith by the Holy Spirit, and will be enabled by God’s keeping grace to persevere to the end. Although the Bible is our final authority in all things, certain historic Confessions of faith are helpful in defining what we believe. In particular we accept two Baptist Confessions known as the First London Confession of 1644 and the Second London Confession of 1689. We receive into membership churches that hold to either Confession.
Young man being baptized at a church
Photo of a church with a cross
Interested in joining the SGF?

Any church who subscribes to the doctrinal position (being committed to the Baptist Confessions of either 1644 or 1689) and the Constitution of the SGF, and who signifies in writing its desire to be affiliated with the SGF, will be received into membership of the SGF upon a three-quarters majority vote of the appointed delegates of the SGF, usually at the Annual General Assembly in November.

For more details, please refer to the SGF Constitution Section IV–VI or contact the SGF Coordinator.

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Our Constitution

The Sovereign Grace Fellowship (SGF) shall consist of Baptist Churches committed to the Baptist Confessions of either 1644 or 1689. While we are committed to these confessions, we affirm the unique and final authority of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, in all matters of faith and practice. A summary of some of the things we believe the Scriptures to teach is as follows:
  • We believe that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, completed Word of God.
  • There is only one, living and true God, composed of three Persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, each eternally co-existent and fully God.
  • God is sovereign over all creation, and He directs all things in accordance with His eternal, immutable purpose.
  • The first man was created perfect, but willfully disobeyed God and severed his communion with God, thus leaving his descendants – all mankind – at enmity with God and spiritually dead in their sin.
  • For no reason, other than to glorify His own Self, God in His eternal purpose chose to reconcile a multitude of people to Himself through the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this multitude Jesus Christ took on the form of a man and became their perfect Substitute on the cross, satisfying divine justice on their behalf. His sacrifice purchased all things necessary to ensure their eternal salvation.
  • Although God commands people everywhere to repent, the power of sin is such that people will not of themselves obey this command. Therefore, God determined to save those for whom Christ died, calls them through the Gospel, and draws them by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit (who renews their minds, hearts and wills so that they freely trust in Christ). Those who are brought to faith in Christ are forgiven all their sins, declared perfectly righteous in Christ (justified) and adopted as God’s children.
  • Saving faith is of necessity accompanied by repentance, which involves the recognition of, sorrow over, and the turning away from all known sin, with a new desire to live in obedience to Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the one true Christian Church, which is made up of those people who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. All these are presently indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and by their words and deeds show their allegiance to Christ.
  • There are two ordinances that have been instituted by the Lord Jesus: believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Neither of these has, in themselves, the power to save men from their sins, but are outward symbols of inward, spiritual realities.
  • God, in His eternal purpose, has also appointed a day of judgment: a day in which He will judge all mankind in righteousness by Jesus Christ. Every human who has ever lived will appear before Christ to give an account of his or her life and to receive either everlasting life in the presence of God, or everlasting torment in hell.
The SGF shall exist to promote the glory of God and to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, by engaging in activities that are exclusively in pursuit of this charitable purpose, by:
  • promoting joint activities and cooperation between member churches.
  • assisting churches in maintaining and propagating sound biblical doctrine.
  • working together in world missions, church planting, and evangelism.
  • assisting in the education, recognition, and support of biblically-qualified ministers.
We seek to strike a balance between independence and interdependence.  While seeking to promote the interdependence of SGF churches, the SGF recognizes and respects the independence of each member church. We are aware of the danger of fellowships or associations taking on a life of their own apart from the local church, and therefore, we want to affirm our commitment to the importance of the local church as the primary organizational structure given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Scriptures.

With this in mind, the SGF will seek to respond to requests from its churches to come alongside with support for projects initiated and/or overseen by individual churches. However, recognizing that some projects may be too large or complicated for one local church to efficiently manage, the SGF will initiate and/or oversee such endeavors itself as directed by the member churches. We believe there are great benefits in co-operating and working together, and in all our activities and initiatives as a fellowship we will strive to strike a biblical balance between the role of the larger group and the involvement of the individual local church.
A.  Admission
Any church who subscribes to the doctrinal position and the constitution of the SGF, meets the minimal criteria identified in “Criteria for Church Membership in the SGF of Canada,”* and who signifies in writing its desire to be affiliated with the SGF, will be received into the membership of the SGF upon a successful majority vote of its own church membership, as determined by the applying church, and upon a three-quarters majority vote of the appointed delegates of the SGF at the annual General Assembly.
[ * The meeting of these criteria, listed under our BY-LAWS below, is to be determined either by a sponsoring SGF church or a committee involving the Coordinator and at least one member of the SGF Board.]

B.  Responsibilities
Those churches that are part of the SGF are expected to uphold the Baptistic distinctives of the SGF (i.e., adhere to our doctrinal statement), and, as they are able, to contribute to the fellowship financially. The suggested level of financial contribution will be 2% of church revenues. That contribution level can be re-evaluated as needed at the General Assembly, but there must be a projected SGF budget before a change in the contribution level is requested.

C.  Mediation
For orderly conduct in the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it may be necessary for mediation to occur. If one of the member churches is in spiritual difficulty, unsolvable by its internal resources, the SGF may, upon the request of that local church, lend aid, insight and support through a body of Elders appointed by the Board of Directors. This aid will be advisory and will seek to encourage the church in trouble to act in accordance with the principles laid down in the Scriptures. Nevertheless, if in the judgment of the SGF, a church is in trouble but does not request aid, the fellowship may apply to arbitrate in such a situation.

D.  Discipline/Secession
Any church known to hold doctrines or polity which are contrary to the statement of faith of the SGF, or has practices detrimental to affiliated churches, will be so informed by the fellowship. The church in question will have a chance to address the concerns at the time they are presented. Failure to correct or remedy such errors will be considered grounds for removal from the fellowship upon a three-quarters majority vote of the delegates. A church may withdraw from the SGF at any time and for any reason sufficient to itself. Any church that does not wish a continuing affiliation with the SGF will be asked to submit, in writing, its intention to secede and the reasons thereof. Such a withdrawal does not legally prejudice the property rights of the church.
The governance of the SGF shall consist of a Board of either four (4) or five (5) members, plus a Coordinator and a Treasurer.

A.  Election of the Board

At the General Assembly, the church delegates will vote to fill any vacant spots on the Board of Directors with men from churches in good standing. Directors shall be elected for a three-year term with the option of a fourth year, left to the discretion of the Board and the willingness of the individual Director. No two voting board members may come from the same church. To give continuity, terms should be staggered.

B.  Duties of the Board
  • The members of the Board of Directors are responsible to implement the initiatives of the SGF churches as expressed by their delegates at the General Assembly.
  • They will meet as required throughout the year and establish committees as needed to realize the objectives of the SGF.
  • They will set the agenda for the General Assembly in consultation with the church delegates.
  • The board will nominate a Coordinator who will be presented to the General Assembly for approval.
  • They will give advice to the Coordinator in the fulfillment of his duties, and offer advice to churches if requested to do so or deemed necessary (see Section IV.C. above).
  • Directors of the Board will serve as Trustees to transact any legal or public business on behalf of the SGF.

C.  SGF Coordinator
 

The Coordinator must be a member in good standing of an SGF church. He will serve a three-year term that can be renewed indefinitely. He must be approved at the General Assembly by a three-quarters vote of the delegates. If the Coordinator, nominated by the Board, is not approved, the Board will then have to put another name forward. Every three years the Board must bring a nomination for Coordinator to the General Assembly. The Coordinator is a non-voting member of the Board.

The duties of the Coordinator include:
  • Assisting the Board in preparation for the General Assembly and distributing the agenda for this meeting.
  • Chairing the General Assembly meeting and Board meetings.
  • Facilitating communication between the churches and outside contacts.
  • Visiting, and being available to preach in, the member churches.
  • Promoting the Sovereign Grace Fellowship, and encouraging communion and cooperation between member churches.
  • Meeting with interested parties who want more information about the SGF and coordinating the process for churches to join the SGF.
  • Participating in the planning and operation of the Grace Pastors Fellowship (GPF).
  • Organizing and helping to lead the annual Pastors’ Conference and Retreat.
  • Providing guidance and assistance, as required, with regard to the other formal ministries of the SGF, such as the Ladies Retreat, Carey Conference, and Youth Retreat.
  • Providing oversight in the production of the BARNABAS magazine, as well as assisting in the distribution of the magazine.
  • Giving direction and assistance to the Treasurer as required.
  • Ensuring that the SGF and GPF websites are updated on a regular basis.
  • Maintaining records of SGF business.

D.  Treasurer
The Board will nominate a treasurer who must be a member in good standing of an SGF church. This nomination must be ratified by a three-quarters vote of the delegates at the General Assembly. The treasurer will be a non-voting member of the Board who will serve a two-year term renewable indefinitely. Every two years the Board must bring a nomination for Treasurer to the General Assembly.

The duties of the Treasurer include:
  • depositing monies received;
  • paying bills;
  • preparing quarterly statements for the SGF Board;
  • preparing and submitting information to the government on behalf of the SGF;
  • preparing and submitting a draft budget forecast for the upcoming fiscal year at the SGF Board meeting just prior to the General Assembly;
  • and providing any other financial information as requested by the SGF Board.
A. The General Assembly

A General Assembly of the member congregations shall be held at least once a year. Each member church will be invited to send three (3) delegates to the Assembly who will be empowered to represent their congregations in any matters of business that arise. These delegates should be elders and/or deacons of the church they represent. In the event that the elders/deacons cannot attend, member churches will appoint suitable representative(s). The assembly will be open to all other members of our congregations who wish to attend, and such attendance is strongly encouraged. But during the business part of our Assembly, they attend only as observers.
  • The General Assembly will be held in the fall of the year and rotate through different parts of the country and different churches represented by the SGF.
  • Sixty percent of the member churches must be represented to constitute a quorum.
  • Recognizing the need to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” every attempt will be made to reach a consensus of the member churches on all matters of business.
  • A two-third’s majority vote of the delegates present at the General Assembly is necessary to pass business items unless otherwise specified. Therefore, abstaining on a given item will be counted as a ‘no’ vote.
  • Two months prior to the General Assembly, the names of delegates are to be sent to the Coordinator. These names in turn will be sent out to the member churches.
  • One month later, nominations for Directors are to be sent back to the Coordinator and then out to the churches. Churches may nominate as many Directors as there are open positions. Delegates are to vote at the General Assembly. If the number of nominees exceeds the number of open positions, the nominees receiving the most votes are elected to the respective positions.
  • At the request of the Board, as it deems necessary, extra in-person meetings of the delegates may be convened with a minimum of a six-week notice. However, if necessary, online meetings of delegates may be convened instead, and business transacted, and that on shorter notice.
  • The delegates appointed by the churches for the General Assembly will continue to serve in that capacity until the Assembly of the following year when new delegates will be appointed. In this way, any business that needs attention during the year can be transacted without having to wait for the next Assembly.
  • Furthermore, if deemed necessary, motions may be put forward to the delegates and voted on at any time during the year. This can be done via electronic means, even without actually meeting physically or online.

B. Financial Powers of the Board

In the case of an urgent need for a decision involving money, the Trustees (voting Board members) are legally entitled to transact business, though where possible the Board will seek the approval of the church delegates for major expenditures.

C. Criteria for Church Membership in the SGF of Canada

  • The church must subscribe to the doctrinal position of the SGF as laid out in Section I. of this Constitution.
  • The church must have an official membership.
  • The church must have an adopted constitution.
  • The church must have a duly elected church leadership.
  • The church desiring membership will receive a visit from board members of a sponsoring SGF church or members of the SGF Board, in order to work through any questions related to these criteria.
  • The church desiring membership will arrange for a presentation to their own membership by the SGF Coordinator to explain the vision, purpose, and intentions of the SGF, and to clearly delineate the privileges and responsibilities of membership.
  • As per Section IV.A. above, the church desiring affiliation must apply in writing to the SGF expressing its desire, have its own membership approve of the decision by majority vote, and be admitted by a three-quarters majority vote of delegates at an annual Assembly of the SGF.

D. Amendments to this Constitution

  • Sections IV – VI of this Constitution may be amended by a three-quarters majority vote of the delegates at any General Assembly, provided the amendment was sent in printed or electronic form to all the churches sixty days prior to the meeting in which it is presented for a vote.
  • Amendments of Sections I – III may only be amended at a General Assembly, by a three-quarters majority vote, if the proposed amendments were read at the previous General Assembly and then sent in printed or electronic form sixty days prior to the meeting at which it is presented for a vote.
[This Constitution was amended and approved at the General Assembly of the SGF on Nov. 20th, 2021.]

Our history

Before the SGF

The history of Reformed Baptist churches in Ontario does not begin with the SGF. The earliest known churches in the province date from the late 18th century, and were almost certainly Calvinistic. The growth of Baptist churches in Canada in the 19th century was steady. In 1848, the Regular Baptist Union of Canada was formed. They held to closed communion and it can be reasonably assumed that most of these churches were Calvinistic.

In 1888, the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec was started. By 1900 there were 520 member churches, but it was not long before it was severely affected by Liberalism. There were some voices who protested loudly against this tendency, the most vocal of which was T. T. Shields, the pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist Church. In 1926, as a result of these protests, Shields was censured by the Convention and expelled. Many evangelicals then withdrew from the Convention, and Shields was the leader in forming the Union of Regular Baptist Churches of Ontario and Quebec in 1927. While some within this group were Calvinistic (Shields himself was raised in this tradition and sought to articulate the doctrines of grace), the chief distinctive was a stand against Liberalism.

By 1930, there were 89 congregations in the Union. But many churches, while withdrawing from the Convention, did not join the Union because of the militancy of T. T. Shields and his strong anti-Catholic stance. In 1948, there were divisions within the Union and these eventually led to the formation in 1953 of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada (hereafter called the Fellowship). While all these churches were evangelical, and the statement of faith was mildly Calvinistic, in reality, pastors taking a consistent Calvinistic position were generally opposed by the leaders of the Fellowship. They were labelled, “Hyper-Calvinists.”

Some of those who did not join the Fellowship joined the Association of Regular Baptist Churches. This group reflected the influence of T.T. Shields, even though formed in 1957. It was never more than about a dozen churches, with Jarvis Street being by far the largest. The main distinctives of this group were gospel proclamation with an anti-Catholic and anti-ecumenical stance. Some of the pastors were Reformed in their theology.

Beginning of the SGF

In the late 1970s and early 1980s a number of churches pastored by sovereign grace men enjoyed fellowship together. Conferences were organized for pastors as well as for families, and these would be attended by people from a large number of churches, some of whom were independent while others were involved in different denominations. Some, of course, were not Baptist churches, and we rejoiced to have fellowship with those of other persuasions. However, William (Bill) Payne, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Burlington, felt a need for a more formal fellowship of Reformed Baptist churches, and so it was in 1983 that the Sovereign Grace Fellowship of Baptist churches came into being. There were 6 founding churches included in the SGF, which was established as a loose-knit organization that permitted membership of churches with ties to existing denominations as long as they were not affiliated with the World Council of Churches. The number of churches grew to 10 over the next few years. Bill Payne was the human instrument behind the movement and the guiding force while he was alive.

In 1998, the SGF pastors felt the need to be more formally organized, but not just for the sake of organization. There was a strong feeling that it would enable churches to co-operate better in such things as missions and church planting. To allow the group to be registered so as to issue tax receipts, a constitution was required. That occupied the men for about two years, the process being completed early in 2001.

The first meeting of delegates from the churches was on February 10, 2001. By then the constitution had been accepted by seven churches, and these formally joined together as the Sovereign Grace Fellowship of Canada. Within a few weeks, three more churches accepted the constitution and the ten became the founding member churches. On April 21st, an executive board was elected together with a treasurer and a coordinator:

Board members:
Perry Edwards
Brian Robinson
David Robinson
Kirk Wellum
Alex Dauphin

Treasurer:

David Eizenga

Coordinator:

Roger Fellows

The charter member churches were:
Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, Geary, NB. Pastor Perry Edwards
Westboro Baptist Church, Ottawa. Pastor William Oosterman
Faith Baptist Church, Scarborough. Pastor Brian Robinson
Grace Fellowship Church, Toronto. Pastor Paul Martin
Churchill Baptist Church, Palgrave. Pastor Marino Vereecke
Trinity Baptist Church, Burlington. Pastor Carl Muller
Pilgrim Baptist Fellowship, Ancaster. Pastor Don Theobald
Blair Community Church, Cambridge. Pastor David Robinson
Bethesda Baptist Church, Delhi. Pastor Stephen Kring
Sovereign Grace Community Church, Sarnia. Pastor Kirk Wellum

The first board meeting was held on June 23, 2001 in which plans were laid for the first General Assembly and a plan was mapped out giving some direction for the fellowship. Three phases were planned:

  • To get around to all the churches to encourage them and share the vision.
  • To contact churches that may be interested in associating with the SGF.
  • To look at areas for church plants.

Fellowship was to be a key part of the SGF. Churches needed to feel part of the group and take an active interest in the needs of the other churches. There was a felt need to develop a sense of togetherness – connectedness.

Church planting was also to be a crucial aspect of the SGF. The desire was to see growth by the planting of new churches. For that, at least four things would be needed:

  • Designation of areas that needed a church.
  • Finding people in these areas to help start and support a new work.
  • A leader, a pastor, to spearhead the work.
  • Financial support.

It was viewed that some growth within the SGF may take place through the addition of already- existing churches, but it was more likely that we would see new churches coming into existence through the church-planting initiatives of the churches within the SGF.

Other areas in which policies needed to be developed were Missions and Theological education.

Coming under the umbrella of the SGF were three other agencies:

  • FRPS (Fellowship for Reformed Pastoral Studies) and its annual pastors’ conference.
  • The Carey Conference which was already a key point of contact between our people and churches.
  • The Sovereign Grace Journal edited by Brian Robinson.

Ongoing developments

An annual youth retreat was held in the spring and regular retreats for young adults were offered as well. In the spring of 2007, the SGF hosted its first ladies retreat, which has now become a popular annual event. In the fall of 2008, Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto took over the planning, organization and presentation of the Toronto Pastor’s Fellowship (TPF) and annual conference, replacing the former FRPS. Starting in the spring of 2009, the SGF began to publish a new quarterly magazine entitled Barnabas., replacing the Sovereign Grace Journal. As well, Trinity Baptist Church took on the oversight of the Canadian Carey Family Conference starting with the 2009 event.

Late in 2009, there were at least 4 church plants being overseen by SGF churches. Our prayer was, that under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, these would become church planters themselves in the not-too-distant future!

In 2011/2012, the TPF became the Grace Pastors Fellowship (GPF). It continues to run as a monthly encouragement to pastors for about eight months of the year, and in early June, conducts the annual Pastors Conference and Retreat.

In 2019, the SGF, in conjunction with Toronto Baptist Seminary, initiated an annual student award at the seminary named the W.E. Payne Award. This award not only demonstrates our support for the seminary – many of our SGF pastors have graduated from there – but it also commemorates the late Bill Payne’s zealous efforts to begin our association many years ago.

Throughout our formal existence of over twenty years, churches have left our association for various reasons, but others have joined us. As we begin the year 2022, the SGF consists of fifteen member churches. Our executive board consists of five members and our Coordinator continues to play a key role, serving a renewable three-year term. The first Coordinator, Roger Fellows, served from 2001 to 2006. Then Mark Hudson of Trinity Baptist Church served from 2006 to 2019. In November 2019, at our annual Assembly, Benno Kurvits, was voted in as our Coordinator.

It is our hope that we can continue to uphold each other as member churches through this Fellowship, working together to guard and proclaim the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We also want our Fellowship to grow through new church plants or the addition of already-established local churches in Canada.