17 May GS 2001 art 80
GS 2001 Article 80 – CRCA: Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (GKN)
Committee 3 presented the following report on the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland.
- 1.1. Report of the CRCA regarding the relationship with the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (GKN).
- 1.2. Letters from the churches at London, Owen Sound, Elora, Willoughby Heights, Brampton, Fergus, Orangeville, Burlington Ebenezer, and Lincoln.
` Synod decides to declare the letters mentioned in 1.2 above as admissible since they all deal with the recommendations of the report of the CRCA.
- 3.1. The report of the CRCA re: the GKN, which is included as an appendix in the Acts of Synod, serves as observations.
- 3.2. The CRCA recommends that Synod decide:
- 3.2.1. Continue the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship with the GKN under the adopted rules.
- 3.2.2. Conclude that the matter of the “blessing elder” and the matter of the word “inform” have been dealt with sufficiently.
- 3.2.3. Decide that the mandate to discuss the points raised by the Church at Guelph went beyond the basic mandate of the Committee.
- 3.2.4. Instruct the CRCA to address the next Synod of the GKN expressing the concern that they seem to be drifting away from the old Reformed paths as is evident in the weakening of the Scriptural language in the Form for Marriage, the increasing centralization in church life, the increase in the number of hymns which historically has come at the expense of the singing of the Psalms, the shift of the focus of the Theological University from an institution for the training for the ministry to a “Knowledge Centre,” and an apparent professionalizing of the ministry.
- 3.3. The Churches at London, Owen Sound, Elora, Brampton, Fergus, Orangeville, Burlington-Ebenezer, and Lincoln request Synod to include in the list of concerns expressed in 3.2.4 above, the items mentioned as concerns under 5.4 and 5.5 of the report: interpretation of Lord’s Day 38, structural changes in the examinations for the ministry, changes to the liturgy, allowing celebration of the Lord’s supper by army chaplains to all soldiers present at a worship service, and the enormous amount of contacts with churches all over the world.
- 3.4. The Churches at London, Brampton and Orangeville urge Synod not just to conclude that the GKN seem to be drifting away from the old Reformed paths, but to issue the serious admonition that they are drifting away from the old Reformed paths as evident in the concerns referred to 3.3 above.
- 3.5. The Churches at London and Willoughby Heights request Synod to instruct the CRCA to express to the GKN the disappointment of the CanRC that the rules for ecclesiastical fellowship were not adhered to by the GKN when establishing a sister church relationship with the OPC.
- 3.6. The Churches at London and Brampton emphasize the need to deal more thoroughly with the matter of changes to the Form for Marriage.
- 3.7. The Church at London requests Synod to mandate the CRCA to send a letter of appeal to the GKN requesting that they rescind their decision allowing communicant women the right to vote in the election of office bearers. London disagrees with the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15, given by Synod Ommen (1993), and warns that the decision of Synod Ommen, upheld by Synod Berkel En Rodenrijs (1996) is “the first beginnings of female rule in the church of Christ.”
- 4.1. Synod agrees with the conclusions of CRCA in 5.2.1 and 5.5.1, namely, that the discussion concerning what is called “the blessing elder” should be terminated.
- 4.2. Although the discussion concerning the rule “to inform the sister churches when entering into relations with third parties” seems to be exhausted (see CRCA Report 5.2.2), there is still reason to question the approach of the GKN in this matter since Synod Leusden 1999 proceeded with corresponding relations with the OPC without proper communications with the CanRC.
- 4.3. Contrary to what is stated by the Church in London, as well as in 5.12 of the CRCA Report, the GKN did not enter into a sister church relationship with the OPC. According to article 91 of the Acts of Synod Leusden, the GKN accepted “corresponding relations” with the OPC. This is the second of three levels of relations adopted by the OPC. The purpose is to work towards the level of full ecclesiastical fellowship. Synod Leusden has declared that working towards this goal has to be done in consultation with the CanRC. This means at this point in time there is no ground to express disappointment or to issue an admonition for not adhering to the rules for ecclesiastical fellowship. It will be good, however, to stay in touch with the deputies with the GKN regarding the relationship with the OPC.
- 4.4. Although the delegate of the CanRC to Synod Leusden mentioned the matter of changes to the Form for Marriage in his speech to Synod, there is no evidence in the CRCA report that the CRCA pursued the instruction of Synod Fergus to discuss the alternate Form for the Solemnization of Marriage. This is understandable, as the CRCA did not have ready access to the drastically renewed form that was adopted by Synod Leusden until shortly before its report had to be sent to the churches. It is important to study this form and to discuss it with the GKN, which would also serve the churches at London and Brampton who speak about “diminishing the Scriptural teaching” or “weakening the Scriptural language.” It can then be seen whether the omission of the words “obey and submit” does indeed mean that the Scriptural teaching about marriage in this form as a whole is flawed.
- 4.5. In response to several letters from the churches, the CRCA rightly states that it is not its task to investigate and pursue matters on information from the press. The CRCA can only execute the first rule for ecclesiastical fellowship on the basis of official decisions as found in acts and minutes. The churches that have concerns about developments in churches with which we have ecclesiastical fellowship, and want to address those concerns directly to the CRCA (Acts Synod Fergus article 40 V E) should take this into consideration. Should such churches become convinced of a problem and want to address it, they should make their own careful examination and then present their findings to the CRCA.
- 4.6. The Churches at London, Owen Sound, Elora, Brampton, Fergus, Orangeville, Burlington-Ebenezer, and Lincoln rightly point out that it is not clear why some of the items gleaned from the Acts of Synod Leusden that are mentioned as reason for concern in Section 5.5.3 do not return among the issues listed in Recommendation 5.6.4. which should be presented to the next Synod of the GKN as evidence for the conclusion that the GKN seem to be drifting away from the old Reformed paths.
- 4.7. Synod appreciates that the CRCA carefully monitors and evaluates the developments in the GKN as they appear in the decisions of the last general synods. This is fully in line with Rule 1 of the rules for ecclesiastical fellowship. It is however to be regretted that the evaluation of the CRCA does not go any further than stating that certain developments are departing from long standing principled traditions, or that they differ from what was traditionally understood, or that they seem to depart from a long and well worn old Reformed path. If there is a need to sound a warning cry in the direction of the GKN because of deviations from the Reformed faith in doctrine, church polity, discipline, and liturgy, it is our responsibility as sister churches to provide the necessary evidence from the Scriptures and the Reformed Confessions, and to appeal to the GKN on that basis. Departure from a long, traditional and well-worn path is not necessarily wrong. A thorough study and evaluation of the developments in the GKN in that light would also show that not every change in church life carries the same weight.
- 4.8. The judgment requested by the Churches at London, Brampton and Orangeville (3.4) can only be made if a thorough study and evaluation of the developments in the GKN would show that they deviate from the Scriptures and the Reformed Confessions.
- 4.9. It would not be correct to mandate the CRCA to send a letter of appeal on behalf of the CanRC to the GKN, requesting that they rescind their decision allowing communicant women the right to vote. The reason for this is that we ourselves have not made a final decision in the matter of women’s voting in the church.
- 4.10. The CRCA report (5.4.7 and 126.96.36.199) gives the impression that Synod Leusden gave a general approval, which would allow Reformed ministers who serve as army chaplains to administer the Lord’s supper to all soldiers present at a service regardless of church affiliation. This matter was also dealt with in the submissions from various churches. This impression by the CRCA is, however, not entirely correct. The complete decision in Article 70 of Synod Leusden reads as follows (dynamic equivalent translation): ”Synod decides to mandate deputies to instruct the serving army chaplain for exceptional situations in crisis and war zones that he:
- a. must be able to proclaim God’s Word in its fullness;
- b. must be able to give spiritual care to the soldiers entrusted to his care;
- c. can celebrate and administer the Lord’s supper under the following conditions:
- i. In the service, the character of the Christian congregation must be maintained;
- ii. He invites only those who are also allowed to attend in their own congregation;
- iii. He must point out to them their personal responsibility in doctrine and life.”
- This instruction is temporary and the deputies for spiritual care in the military are instructed to study this matter further and come with more pertinent proposals to the next Synod.
- 4.11. Synod understands that Synod Leusden would allow army chaplains to administer the Lord’s supper to all soldiers present at a worship service only under an exceptional situation of crisis in a time of war. Further, it appreciates that Synod Leusden provides certain specific conditions as mentioned above, and that this is a temporary instruction that requires more study. It is important that our sister churches maintain Articles 60 and 61 of their Church Order and not ignore the Scriptural teaching about the Lord’s supper as summarized in the Reformed Confessions. Article 35 of the Belgic Confession and Lord’s Day 28-30 of the Heidelberg Catechism teach us that the Lord’s supper is to be celebrated in a worship service of the congregation and that admission to the Lord’s supper is to be supervised by the consistory.
- 4.12. Synod agrees with the CRCA when it cautions not to put the GKN to greater scrutiny than the other churches in ecclesiastical fellowship but to remain fair when we are faced with the developments or changes in their church life. The fact that there are strong historic ties and that there are many personal contacts between friends and family in Canada and The Netherlands does not imply that church life in both federations must be identical. Without jeopardizing our responsibility as sister churches formulated in the first rule for ecclesiastical fellowship, the CanRC should respect the reality that throughout fifty years of church life, different developments take place.
- 5.1. To continue the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship with the GKN under the adopted rules.
- 5.2. To conclude that the matter of the “blessing elder” has been dealt with sufficiently.
- 5.3. To instruct the CRCA:
- 5.3.1. To stay in touch with the deputies of the GKN concerning the relationship with the OPC in light of Rule 3 of ecclesiastical fellowship;
- 5.3.2. To study the Form for the Solemnization for Marriage of Synod Leusden, to discuss the changes with the deputies of the GKN, and to report to the next Synod whether this new Form does indeed diminish or weaken the Scriptural teaching about marriage;
- 5.3.3. To make more thorough study of the concerns mentioned in its Report to determine whether the CanRC should approach the sister churches in The Netherlands in accordance with Rule 1 of the rules for ecclesiastical fellowship with the warning that they are deviating from their Reformed basis in the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity;
- 5.3.4. To express to the GKN the disappointment that the CanRC were not informed that a major change to the Church Order was considered when revisions were prepared in the manner of ecclesiastical examinations;
- 5.3.5. To pass on consideration 4.11 above to the GKN in light of Synod Leusden’s decision regarding the administration of the Lord’s supper by army chaplains.
An amendment was made and seconded to replace the last line of 4.9 to read, “The reason for this is that Synod 1983 considered that “there is an obvious lack of consensus in our churches (Synod Cloverdale, Art. 160 C 1; cf. Synod Abbotsford 1995 p.175).”
This was defeated.
The proposal of the committee was adopted.