19 Sep GS 2007 art 133
Article 133 – Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (GKN)
The advisory committee presented its third proposal:
- 1.1 CRCA Report 5
- 1.2 Supplementary report of the CRCA re GKN
- 1.3-16 Letters from the following thirteen churches:
- Ottawa, Elora, Willoughby Heights (2), Guelph, Smithers, London, Grand Rapids, Carman East, Smithville, Yarrow, Edmonton Immanuel, Fergus Maranatha, Winnipeg Redeemer
- 1.17 Letter of greeting from the Free Reformed Churches of Australia including an appendix Article 94 of Synod Kelmscott 2006 re GKN
- 2.1 All the submissions are admissible.
- 3.1 CRCA Report 5 re the GKN, which is included as appendices in the Acts, serve as Observations.
- 3.2 The CRCA recommends that Synod 2007 decide:
- 3.2.1 [5.5.1] To continue the relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the GKN under the adopted rules.
- 3.2.2 [5.5.2] That Synod judge the CRCA to have concluded its mandate in conveying to the GKN Synod Chatham’s concerns about the proportion of psalms and hymns in the Gereformeerd Kerkboek, and that in light of our better understanding of the decision of Synod Zuidhorn, the concerns are sufficiently alleviated.
- 3.2.3 [5.5.3] That Synod decide that the CRCA has fulfilled its mandate in continuing the discussion with the GKN regarding the new Marriage Form and in reporting to the churches about this.
- 3.2.4 [5.5.4] That Synod mandate the CRCA to convey to the GKN that Synod Smithers is satisfied as to the Dutch deputies’ explanation of the phrase “when the Lord provides the possibility” in connection with having children and as to the explanation about why the new Marriage Form does not address the task of the wife in her family and household.
- 3.2.5 [5.5.5] That Synod declare that the CRCA has fulfilled its mandate with respect to studying the results of the deputyship “Fourth Commandment and Sunday” and reporting to the churches.
- 3.2.6 [5.5.6] That Synod mandate the CRCA to convey to the GKN that the document “Sunday, glorious day of the Lord. A resource,” as well as the Dutch deputies’ analysis of the decisions of Synod Leusden 1999 and Synod Zuidhorn 2002 pertaining to the fourth commandment, put to rest the concerns that the CRCA reported to Synod Chatham 2004 about this matter.
- 3.2.7 [5.5.7] That Synod express its thankfulness for the fact that the Dutch sister churches stress the Scriptural norm that marriage is an institution created by God and should not be broken. Furthermore, that Synod mandate the CRCA to express concern about the new approach to divorce and remarriage, specifically with respect to “the-style-of-thekingdom” approach without reference to “grounds” for divorce, the analogy of Paul, and the suggested revision of the Church Order about discipline in cases of divorce and remarriage.
- 3.2.8 [5.5.8] To take note of the manner in which the GKN has changed the way in which it deals with communications of the deputies of sister churches, expecting our deputies to enter into correspondence with their BBK when the opportunity presents itself.
- 3.2.9 [5.5.9] To express appreciation for the way the GKN has sought to engage the GKH in unity talks by means of the appeal from Synod Amersfoort.
- 3.3 Ottawa supports the committee’s recommendations. They note concern “that our sister churches are ‘relaxing’ their supervision of the Lord’s Supper and giving way to individualism” and ask that synod relay this concern through the committee.
- 3.4 Elora concurs with the committees’ recommendation regarding the GKN/GKH but would like to see the development between the two churches monitored more closely.
- 3.5 Fergus Maranatha is of the opinion that the formulations in the new marriage form could and should be more concrete and specific “in light of the societies in which we live.” Winnipeg Redeemer states that this new form opens “the door to accepting change about the God-given role of husband and wife” and therefore asks synod to “warn our sister churches of this.”
- 3.6 Willoughby Heights and Edmonton Immanuel feel that the concerns of Synod Chatham re proportion between psalms and hymns, hymn content as well as the issue of the fourth commandment have not been alleviated. These churches request synod to appoint a separate committee for contact with the Dutch churches and to mandate it to deal with outstanding issues of concern. They would like this committee to specifically examine the content of the new hymns in light of the concerns expressed by the GKH and also to convey to the GKN that our concerns regarding the proportion between psalms and hymns have not been alleviated. These churches further ask that this committee examine the decisions and appeals of Synod Leusden and Zuidhorn in regards to the fourth commandment and Sunday rest. Willoughby Heights gives the following reasons:
- 3.6.1 Synod Zuidhorn expresses an “intention” rather than a decision that psalms will always have priority. This provides no guarantee that psalms will always have priority in the worship services.
- 3.6.2 Synod Zuidhorn indicates the importance it gives to hymns by speaking about the how the Holy Spirit “must also lead the authors of the church songs in all truth of the Word.”
- 3.6.3 With respect to the fourth commandment, they feel that “The CRCA did not study the decisions of the two Synods [Leusden & Zuidhorn] and appeals against these decisions” but only the Dutch deputies’ analysis of the decisions provided by the Dutch deputies. They feel the CRCA should undertake an independent study not only of the synod decisions but also of the appeals concerning them.
- 3.7 Guelph requests the discussion over the marriage form to continue because in their view the new marriage form does not accurately reflect Scripture which “highlights the special task of the wife in her family and household” as can be found in 1 Tim 5:14 and Psalm 128. Guelph explains that even in Proverbs 31 the “diverse activities” of the wife revolve “around her household.” They feel that it is important to maintain this “unique role of a wife… especially in our day” where the special roles of husbands and wives are set aside.
- 3.8 Smithers disagrees with the committee’s recommendation 5.5.7 and requests synod not to adopt it without first removing the statement “without reference to the ‘grounds’ for divorce.” Smithers argues that the “CRCA recognizes that Synod Amersfoort has indeed made reference to the grounds for divorce when it writes: ‘While Synod Amersfoort stated that the intention of this approach is not to replace the commandments of God and specific words of Scripture.’”
- 3.9 London is concerned that the language of the phrase in the new marriage form, “when the Lord provides the possibility thereto” in connection with receiving children “remains open to misinterpretation.” London is also concerned that the language in the new form blurs the clear biblical distinction between the roles of husband and wife. London further requests clarification “about the view that Sunday as day of rest is based on a responsible choice of the Christian church.” London asks: “Is this view ‘opening the door for a dangerous hermeneutic where the command to rest no longer is seen as having any Biblical foundation?”’
- 3.10 Elora, London, Grand Rapids and Carman East concur with the committee’s Recommendation 5.5.7 regarding the concern over the new approach to divorce and remarriage.
- 3.11 Carman East requests synod:
- 3.11.1 To continue the discussion concerning the proportion of hymns to psalms. They take issue with the committee’s agreement with the BBK that “increasing the total number of hymn selections in the songbook is not automatically or necessarily increasing the number of hymns selected for the worship service.” Carman East posits that “we are dealing here not with logical necessities or automatic outcomes but with probable outcomes, with risks and dangers and this is what neither the BBK nor the present CRCA seem to realize.” Carman East feels this risk is high in part because “hymns are often more ‘pleasant’ to sing (both in tune and in lyric) and many lack the stark antithesis of many Psalms.” Further, they state that a disproportionate number of hymns will, in time, lead to hymns overshadowing the psalms. Carman East states a practical way to minimize this risk is to reduce the number of hymns for “the less hymns which a church has available, the more it must choose from the Psalms.”
- 3.11.2 That the terms “obey and submit” with respect to the wife’s role in marriage be restored to the marriage form. Carman argues that these terms are fully biblical (Eph 5:22; Col 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1,5) and feels that in our day, which despises authority, this should continue to be made explicit. Carman East further requests synod to express concern that “not making explicitly mention of the wife’s task in the Marriage Form is a serious weakening of the biblical teaching on this point.” They state that the “wife’s primary task is to take care of her family and household” as made clear in Psalm 113:9, Psalm 128:3, 1 Timothy 5:16, Titus 2:4-5 and Proverbs 31:15, 21, 27.
- 3.12 Smithville requests that the committee “study and determine what is truly the situation in the Dutch sister churches particularly as it pertains to how it does or does not demonstrate the three marks of the true church” and that this be shared with wider church community in Canada by way of articles in the press. Smithville “notes that there is a lot of ignorance amongst the members of the Canadian Reformed Churches about the issues that are at play in the Dutch sister churches.”
- 3.13 Yarrow touches on the role of the deputies, the psalms and hymns, the marriage form, the fourth commandment, divorce and remarriage, the fencing of the Lord’s table, and the interaction based solely on official documents. They feel that in all these matters the GKN does not take into account sufficiently the sinfulness of the human heart. With reference to Deut 13:12ff & Deut 17:2ff, Yarrow is of the opinion that Rule 1 for Ecclesiastical Fellowship obliges the CanRC to investigate beyond what is written in the official Acts. They state that “Deputies would do well to make a point of reading the main church papers of any federation for whom they are mandated to maintain contact, simply so that they know what to expect in the Acts – and to note what is missing.” Further, they feel that “the matter of perception by the CanRC of the GKN is important. Deputies would do well to clearly inform the CanRC when there are wrong perceptions.” Based on the above, Yarrow asks synod to modify and add to the CRCA recommendations as follows:
- 3.13.1 To mandate the CRCA to discuss with the BBK deputies our concern about not having a grassroots involvement at Synod by screening overtures and appeals through the BBK before they come to Synod.
- 3.13.2 To mandate the CRCA to convey to the GKN that decisions about the addition of a large number of hymns, use of the fourth commandment, new way of interpreting Scripture (with respect to divorce/remarriage) do not sufficiently take into account the sinfulness of the human heart.
- 3.13.3 To mandate the CRCA to point out and discuss with the BBK deputies the GKN’s inconsistency in statements to the churches about remarriage.
- 3.13.4 To mandate the CRCA to discuss with the BBK deputies the GKN’s wrong distinction between those with hardened hearts and those who are weak, when dealing with divorce and the use of discipline.
- 3.13.5 To mandate the CRCA to address the GKN about the official change in the manner of fencing the Lord’s table.
- 3.13.6 To appoint extra members to the CRCA and to instruct the CRCA to appoint a subcommittee to deal with the GKN and to mandate them to keep abreast of all important matters in the GKN so that, based on what is officially dealt with by the ecclesiastical bodies and by what is missed, a better picture of the GKN can be obtained.
- 3.14 The letter of greeting from the Free Reformed Churches of Australia touches on the GKN and states that they would have “loved to see [our] deputies more engaged so that we can support each other in our relations with our sister churches.” In his speech to Synod, Rev. Karlo Janssen encouraged the CanRC to scrutinize the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands but not hold them to a higher standard than the other sister churches.
- 4.1 The CRCA Report gives evidence that the committee has paid careful attention to the situation in the GKN. They have reviewed the Acts. They have weighed the answers given in response to questions about issues like the Fourth Commandments and the Marriage Form, among others. They have also reviewed official publications from the GKH. Even though questions remain, it could be concluded that the GKN have not deviated from Scripture or the Confessions.
- 4.2 Psalms and Hymns. While some churches feel that the concerns about the proportion between psalms and hymns have not been alleviated, we do well to take to heart the remark of the committee that “pursuing the concern over the number of hymns… is not a fruitful avenue.” (pp. 46-47) This does not take away, however, the discomfort with the fact that a church known for its emphasis on psalm singing, as also reflected in the proportion of psalms and hymns in the past, has made a rapid shift to having a very large number of hymns available for worship. The concern remains that the vast multiplication of hymns does nothing to advance to the priority of psalm singing and places at risk this principle. While it will be good to express this concern once more, in the final analysis the issue is not only the number but also the content of the hymns. The committee would do well to review the hymns to see if there is reason for concern.
- 4.3 Marriage Form. The answers received to various questions about the Marriage Form have alleviated a number of concerns. Synod Chatham 2004 even noted that in some respects, the
- Form strengthens the teaching concerning marriage (e.g., explaining what true Christ-like headship is, Acts, p. 41). While there continue to be questions on certain formulations, no unscriptural elements are found in the Form. Furthermore, it should be noted that by now, this Form has been in use in the GKN for about 11 years and therefore it is time to conclude this matter.
- 4.4 Fourth Commandment. With respect to the fourth commandment, Synod Amersfoort 2005 spoke clearly about Sunday as a day of rest and worship. The information received as spelled out in the Report puts to rest the specific concerns raised in the Report to Synod Chatham 2004. The CRCA would do well to continue to monitor developments to see how this decision works out in practice.
- 4.5 Divorce and Remarriage. While it is important to be careful not to jump to conclusions about the discussion concerning marriage and divorce, this does not take away the need to monitor developments. Rather than express concerns, which suggests a judgment has already been made, it is better to instruct the committee to discuss with the Deputies BBK the new approach to divorce and remarriage (and any underlying hermeneutical concerns) in order to get clarity on the concerns highlighted by the committee.
- 4.6 Lord’s Supper. It is inaccurate to say the GKN is “relaxing” admission to the Lord’s table. The Report makes clear that consistory approval is needed before attendance at the Lord’s table, with stringent criteria for admittance.
- 4.7 The Recommendation “to take note of the manner in which the BBK has changed the way in which it deals with communications of the deputies of sister churches” (5.5.8) seems out of place. There is nothing in the Report as background for this. In fact, Synod Chatham 2004 dealt with this matter and concluded that this was based on a misunderstanding (Acts 2004, p. 41, 4.7).
- 4.8 To improve communication and to assist the GKN (cf. Rule 1), synod should encourage the committee to be proactive and interact with the BBK whenever possible. Our input is most valued and most helpful at the time the issues are discussed. Further, in this way, the churches can be well informed before issues have worked their way through general synods and become accomplished facts. For the sake of good communication, effort should be made to have face-toface meetings at least every two years to discuss mutual concerns. It may be possible to coordinate these visits with meetings of the ICRC and visits to other churches.
- 4.9 In light of the above, there is reason to monitor the situation in The Netherlands. A church federation must be given time to work through the issues confronting it. If deviation is present, it will manifest itself eventually in the official decisions of churches. By carefully following the developments in the GKN in terms of the issues being dealt with by various deputies and in Reports, the committee should be able to keep a finger on the pulse of the GKN. While the committee can be encouraged to read more than just the official documents to get a sense of what is happening, judgments about situations must be based on the official documents (see Synod Chatham 2004, p. 42, Cons. 4.9).
- 5.1 To thank the committee for the work done with respect to the GKN.
- 5.2 To continue the Relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the GKN under the adopted rules.
- 5.3 That the CRCA end the discussion about the proportion of psalms and hymns by expressing the concern that the vast multiplication of hymns does nothing to advance to the priority of psalm singing and places at risk this principle.
- 5.3.1 To instruct the CRCA to pay attention to the content of the hymns.
- 5.4 That the CRCA has fulfilled its mandate in continuing the discussion with the GKN regarding the new Marriage Form and in reporting to the churches about this and, though questions remain, this discussion is concluded.
- 5.5 That the CRCA has fulfilled its mandate with respect to studying the results of the deputyship “Fourth Commandment and Sunday” and reporting to the churches but should continue to monitor developments to see how the decisions about the fourth commandment work out in practice.
- 5.6 To mandate the CRCA to discuss with the Deputies BBK the new approach to divorce in order to get answers to the hermeneutical concerns highlighted by the committee with respect to “thestyle-of-the-kingdom” approach to divorce and remarriage. Attention should also be paid to the suggested revision of the Church Order about discipline in cases of divorce and remarriage.
- 5.7 To encourage the committee to monitor the situation in the GKN, keeping in mind the concerns expressed by the churches about the situation in the GKN.
- 5.8 To instruct the CRCA to hold joint meetings at least every two years with Deputies of the BBK to discuss pro-actively matters of mutual concern and interact with requests for advice or feedback about issues coming before synods as much as possible in keeping with Rule 1 of Ecclesiastical Fellowship.
- 5.9 To express appreciation for the way the GKN has sought to engage the GKH in unity talks by means of the appeal from Synod Amersfoort and to encourage them to continue to reach out to GKH.