01 Feb GS 2004 art 44
GS 2004 Article 44 – CRCA re: The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated)
Committee 3 presented its proposal on the CRCA report re: The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) (GKN). After several rounds of discussion, the following was adopted:
- 1.1. Report of the CRCA re: The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) (GKN)
- 1.2. Supplementary Report of the CRCA (December 11, 2003)
- 1.3. Letter from the church at Chatham
- 1.4. Letter from the church at Fergus
- 1.5. Letter from the church at Aldergrove
- 1.6. Letter from the church at Carman (West)
- 1.7. Letter from the church at Elora
- 1.8. Letter from the church at Lincoln
The report and letters are admissible.
- 3.1. The report and the supplementary report of the CRCA re: the GKN, which are included as appendices in the Acts, serve as Observations.
- 3.2. The CRCA recommends that Synod 2004 decide:
- 3.2.1. To continue the relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the GKN under the adopted rules;
- 3.2.2. Not to pursue any further the matter of the Theological University as “Knowledge Centre,” the matter of increased centralization of church life, and the matter of the “professionalizing” of the ministry;
- 3.2.3. To instruct the CRCA, in accordance with Rule One of the rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship, to suggest to the next Synod of the GKN that the proportion of Psalms and hymns in the Gereformeerd Kerkboek should reflect the importance – and even the priority – of the Psalms;
- 3.2.4. To instruct the CRCA, in accordance with Rule One of the rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship, to convey to the next Synod of the Dutch sister churches that the decisions of Leusden and Zuidhorn about the fourth commandment are based on unconvincing argumentation;
- 3.2.5. To instruct the CRCA, in accordance with Rule One of the rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship, to address the next Synod of the Dutch sister churches on behalf of Synod to the effect that their recent decisions pertaining to the Marriage Form weaken the scriptural teaching about marriage;
- 3.2.6. To instruct the CRCA, with a view to the rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship, to explore what, if any, implications flow from the changed role of the Dutch deputies, both in relation to their Synods as well as in relation to the deputies of the CRCA.
- 3.3. The supplementary report contains an update by the deputies of the Dutch sister churches on the recent developments with regard to the “Call to Reformation” in the GKN. The CRCA informs Synod that it will continue to monitor the situation.
- 3.4. According to the supplementary report, the Dutch Deputies took issue with the report on the visit made by Rev. J. Huijgen and Rev. C.J. Vandervelde. The Dutch Deputies published a rebuttal in Clarion. The CRCA regrets that the Dutch Deputies took this course of action, but sees no need to discuss this further.
- 3.5. The churches at Chatham, Fergus and Elora are in agreement with the recommendations of the CRCA. In regard to the decision of Synod Zuidhorn 2002 re: the fourth commandment, the Church at Fergus notes that this Synod has prescribed both positions described by the Synod of Dort, saying that both are true, instead of coming to one position through the study of Scripture.
- 3.6. The Church at Lincoln concurs with the recommendations of the CRCA that the time has come to officially exhort the GKN.
- 3.7. The Church at Aldergrove requests Synod:
- 3.7.1. To continue the relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) under the adopted rules while seeking clarity into the legitimacy of the recent “Vrijmaking” and monitoring further developments.
- 3.7.2. To inform both the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) and the group that has departed in the recent “Vrijmaking” that they have our prayerful support in the hope that they will, by God’s grace, come to reconciliation.
- 3.7.3. To communicate to the churches (Canadian and American Reformed) the need for prayerful support for the situation in the Netherlands.
- 3.8. The Church at Carman (West) writes that the mandate given to the CRCA by Synod Neerlandia is not fully reflected in the report on the work of the committee. Carman (West) mentions the following items:
- 3.8.1. Synod Neerlandia mandated the CRCA to stay in touch with the deputies of the GKN concerning the relationship with the OPC. There is no report on this.
- 3.8.2. There is no thorough study of the concerns mentioned in the report to Synod Neerlandia Art.80, Recommendation 5.3.3.
- 3.8.3. There is no discussion regarding the structural changes in examinations for the ministry, changes to the liturgy, allowing celebration of the Lord’s Supper by army chaplains.
- 3.9. The Church at Carman (West) also cautions carefulness in light of statements by the CRCA (cf. the report on General Synod Zuidhorn 2002) about “a regression and not a progression” since this may come across as a generalization that does not do full justice to our sister churches as a whole.
- 3.10. Re: the Theological University as “Knowledge Centre,” the matter of increased centralization of church life, and the matter of the “professionalizing” of the ministry (cf. 3.2.2 above). The CRCA reports that with regard to these items there is no evidence of deviation from God’s Word, the Three Forms of Unity and the adopted Church Order.
- 3.11. Re: the proportion of Psalms and Hymns in the Gereformeerde Kerkboek (cf. 3.2.3 above). The CRCA refers to the plans of the GKN to add more hymns and thus possibly change the proportion of Psalms and Hymns.
- 3.12. Re: the fourth commandment (cf. 3.2.4 above). The CRCA is of the opinion that the decisions of Synod Leusden 1999 and Synod Zuidhorn 2002 are based on unconvincing argumentation. “These synods did not deem it necessary to go into a detailed study of Biblical texts relating to the matter; they based their decisions largely on an appeal to the history of exegesis and the history of the church.” “Furthermore, the way in which Synod Leusden dispensed with the fact that Lord’s Day 38 speaks of ‘the day of rest’ is unconvincing” (cf. report of the CRCA, section 5.2.3). The CRCA concludes that Synod Zuidhorn has given prescriptive status to the different views as identified by the Synod of Dort 1618/19. “If the Dutch sister churches wanted to prove that there has always been room for and an official acceptance of different views on the fourth commandment, they should have marshaled stronger historical evidence.”
- 3.13. Re: the new Marriage Form (cf. 3.2.5 above). The CRCA concludes that the changes to the Marriage Form affect the husband/wife relationship, the parents/children relationship, and the children/congregation relationship. The committee states that the new Marriage Form has diminished the male headship in marriage and breaks the link between receiving children and building the church.
- 3.14. Re: the changed roles of the Dutch deputies (cf. 3.2.6 above). The CRCA speaks of a change in connection with the way in which the letter of the CRCA about the new Marriage Form was presented to Synod Zuidhorn 2002. This letter went to Synod directly and was not discussed with the Dutch Deputies.
- 3.15. Re: Psalms and hymns in Gereformeerd Kerkboek (cf. 3.2.3 above). Synod Zuidhorn 2002 has stated that it did not want to oust the Psalms from the worship services and the hearts of believers (Acts, Art. 89, Decision 11). The same Synod also decided to leave the amount of hymns open-ended. (Acts, Art. 89, Decision 2).
- 3.16. Re: the fourth commandment (cf. 3.2.4 above). Synod Zuidhorn 2002 decided to establish a deputyship “Fourth Commandment and Sunday” and mandated the deputies to serve the churches with a guideline in which a well-argued, positive viewpoint is offered with respect to ethical action as believers and churches in the 21st century with respect to celebrating the Sunday as the day of the Lord in the light of the fourth commandment. (Acts, Art.13).
- 3.17. Re: the new Marriage Form (cf. 3.2.5 above). This new Form states “In following Christ, the husband should be the head of his wife in love and self denial.” The Form refers to Ephesians 5:2-33. With regard to the wife, the new Form states: “For her part, the wife is to preserve unity by doing justice to the position of her husband. As the church entrusts itself to Christ and allows herself to be led by Him, so the wife should entrust herself to her husband and follow him in serving the Lord.” Later on in the Form it says: “Accept him as head….”
- 3.18. When it comes to receiving children the new Form states: “Also today, partners (echtgenoten) are called to parenthood (1 Tim 2:15), when the Lord provides the possibility thereto.”
- 3.19. Re: the changing role of the Dutch Deputies (cf. 3.2.6 above). In the Clarion of July 18, 2003, Vol. 52 no.15, pp. 357-358, the Dutch Deputies wrote the following:
- From our point of view it is only logical that this piece was submitted to our synod. When a general synod is being held, synodical deputies are formally decommissioned, their mandate is finished and they have no new mandate. Since your discussion paper was received after the deadline for us to submit our report, but before synod went into session, and since the marriage form had already been placed on the agenda of synod, we thought it proper to pass on your concerns to our synod. We passed your paper on, intending it merely to be used as extra information by the committee appointed by synod to prepare the matter. It was not our intention that synod would receive this discussion paper as a formal objection from the CanRC. However, synod did so and the matter is now a fact. We sincerely apologize for thus having short-circuited the process which you, mandated thereto by GS Neerlandia 2001, had set in motion. We assure you that we had no ulterior motives in doing so.
- 3.20.Re: the Report of the CRCA on Synod Zuidhorn 2002 (cf. the letter from the church at Carman (West)). This report contains several statements that describe the deputies’ perception of the situation in the Dutch churches, such as “The Reformed character is almost unrecognizable. The Dutch churches are attempting to reinvent themselves in hopes of establishing an identity.”
- 4.1. From the report it is evident that the CRCA fulfilled its mandate with regard to the GKN.
- 4.2. Since the GKN is faithful to the Word of God, the Three Forms of Unity and the adopted Church Order in regard to the matters mentioned in 3.2.2 above (i.e. Theological University as “Knowledge Centre,” the matter of increased centralization of church life, and the matter of the “professionalizing” of the ministry), the CRCA is correct that no further discussion is necessary.
- 4.3. Re: the proportion of Psalms and Hymns in the Gereformeerd Kerkboek. Synod notes with thankfulness that Synod Zuidhorn 2002 stressed the importance of the Psalms in the worship services. At the same time, the decision to leave the number of hymns open-ended could lead to hymns overshadowing the Psalms. In light of these changes the CRCA is correct that a “proper proportion between the number of hymns in itself reflects the importance –and even the priority- of the Psalms.” Thus in light of our rules of Ecclesiastical Fellowship we should convey this to the GKN.
- 4.4. Re: the fourth commandment. The CRCA is correct that the Dutch Synods did not give biblical grounds for their decisions regarding the Lord’s Day. It must be kept in mind that Synod Leusden 1999 and Synod Zuidhorn 2002 did not make doctrinal decisions about the fourth commandment, but had to deal with an appeal concerning a statement made by a minister in a sermon. Due to the many appeals, Synod Zuidhorn 2002 appointed deputies to study this matter further and they will report to their synod in 2005. In the current circumstances it would be prudent to wait until the results of this study have been judged by the next synod of the GKN.
- 4.5. Re: the new Marriage Form. The CRCA is to be commended for the extensive work done. Synod Neerlandia had asked the CRCA to study whether the omission of the words “obey and submit” indeed means that the scriptural teaching about marriage in this new form is flawed (Acts of Synod Neerlandia 2001, Art. 80). The CRCA now reports that this new form weakens the scriptural teaching about marriage. To prove this, the committee refers to the husband/wife relationship. Synod considers that, in some aspects, the new form strengthens the biblical teaching about marriage, for example, in explaining what true, Christ-like headship is. At the same time, it is also true that the words “obey and submit” are replaced by “accept as head… and follow.” It can be regretted that the new form does not use the word “submit” (Eph. 5:22), but this does not in itself mean that the biblical basis of marriage is weakened. Synod notes, however, that the new form does not address the task of the wife in her family and household (cf. 1 Tim. 5:14 and Prov. 31).
- 4.6. Re: the link between church and children. The expression “when the Lord provides the possibility thereto” can be read differently. It could refer to a couple not being able to receive children, or, as the CRCA suggests, give opening to “secular views concerning having children.” It would be helpful to ask the Dutch Deputies for clarification on this point.
- 4.7. Re: change in role of Dutch deputies. >From the report it is difficult to determine what the change in the role of the Dutch deputies is. The report refers, among others, to the March 5, 2003 letter, which deals with the discussion paper of the CRCA about the new Marriage Form, which was received as an appeal by General Synod Zuidhorn, whereas the CRCA meant it as a paper to be discussed with the Dutch deputies. The letter of the Dutch deputies published in Clarion shows that there is no change in the way the deputies work, but rather a misunderstanding had developed between our committee and the Dutch deputies.
- 4.8. It is regrettable that the report on Synod Zuidhorn 2002 contains several unproven statements concerning the GKN. Carman (West) is correct that such statements may come across as a generalization that does not do full justice to our sister churches as a whole. Synod regrets the pain this may have caused (cf. the address by the Dutch delegate, as it is found in the appendices).
- 4.9. The letters from the churches show that there is concern within our churches about the situation in the GKN. It is important to keep in mind that we should not judge the GKN on the basis of what we know from personal observations, hearsay, or from articles in papers, but on the basis of its official documents.
- 4.10.The concerns of the church at Fergus are already addressed in considerations 4.4. and 4.5.
- 4.11.In light of the above considerations, Synod does not agree with Lincoln that the time has come to officially exhort the GKN.
- 4.12.The requests of the church at Aldergrove fit within the rules of Ecclesiastical Fellowship. The CRCA should seek clarity into the legitimacy of the recent “Vrijmaking” and monitor further developments. The CRCA should also inform both the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) and the group that has departed in the recent “Vrijmaking” that they have our prayerful support in the hope that they will, by God’s grace, come to reconciliation. It would be good to communicate to the churches the need for prayerful support for the situation in the Netherlands.
- 4.13.The church at Carman (West) is correct in observing that the report of the CRCA does not show that the CRCA fulfilled its mandate as given by Synod Neerlandia Art. 80, Recommendations 5.3.1. and 5.3.3. If the committee has fulfilled this mandate but has not reported on it, then it should submit this report to the next Synod. If the committee did not fulfill this mandate, then it should as yet do this.
- 5.1. To thank the committee for the work done re: the GKN.
- 5.2. To continue the relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the GKN under the adopted rules.
- 5.3. Not to pursue any further the matter of Theological University as “Knowledge Centre,” the matter of increased centralization of church life, and the matter of the “professionalization” of the ministry.
- 5.4. To mandate the CRCA:
- 5.4.1. To convey to the GKN our concern with regard to the proportion of Psalms and Hymns;
- 5.4.2. To study the results of the deputyship “Fourth Commandment and Sunday” and report to the churches;
- 5.4.3. To continue the discussion with the GKN regarding the new Marriage Form, bearing in mind Considerations 4.5 and 4.6, and report to the churches;
- 5.4.4. To seek clarity into the legitimacy of the recent “Vrijmaking” and monitor further developments;
- 5.4.5. To inform both the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) and the group that has departed in the recent “Vrijmaking” that they have our prayerful support in the hope that they will, by God’s grace, come to reconciliation;
- 5.4.6. To communicate to the churches the need for prayerful support for the situation in the Netherlands;
- 5.4.7. To report to the next Synod on the mandate given in the Acts of Synod Neerlandia 2001 Art. 80, Recommendations 5.3.1 and 5.3.3.