13 Aug GS 2010 art 108
GS 2010 Article 108 – Churches in Indonesia
- 1.1 Two reports from the Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad (CRCA) concerning the Calvinist Reformed Churches in Indonesia (CRCI), and the Reformed Churches in Indonesia – NTT (RCI-NTT) (8.2.m.i and ii).
- 1.2 Letters from Hamilton-Providence (8.3.M.3), Grand Valley (8.3.M.4), Coaldale (8.3.M.8), Attercliffe (8.3.M.26), Taber (8.3.M.27), Abbotsford (8.3.M.35), and Lincoln (8.3.M.36).
Various documents are inconsistent in the acronyms used to refer to the churches in Indonesia. Please note that for the sake of readability, also when quoting from such documents, the following acronyms will be used.
CRCI Calvinist Reformed Churches in Indonesia. The Indonesian name is: Gereja-Gereja Reformasi Calvinis di Indonesia NTT. The letters NTT refer to the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (East Nusa Tenggara), where these churches are located. In some documents this federation is sometimes referred to as GGRC – NTT.
GGRM The Pilgrim Reformed Churches in East Nusa Tenggara, originally one federation together with the CRCI.
RCI Reformed Churches in Indonesia (unless otherwise indicated, only those in the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur). The Indonesian name is: GerejaGereja Reformasi di Indonesia NTT. In some documents this federation is therefore sometimes referred to as the GGRI-NTT.
- 2.1 The CRCA notes that where the church of Smithville is working through the mission efforts of Rev. Ed. Dethan in Indonesia, there are already two faithful federations: the CRCI and the RCI. It also indicates that:
- 2.1.1 The RCN has recognized both as sister churches.
- 2.1.2 The FRCA has extended ecclesiastical fellowship to the RCI and has declared the CRCI to be a faithful church of Jesus Christ.
- 2.1.3 It would not be desirable that through the mission of work of Smithville a third federation of churches would be established next to the CRCI and the RCI.
- 2.2 In regard to the CRCI, Synod Smithers 2007 (Article 150, Recommendation 5.2) decided to delay entering into a sister church relationship until:
- [5.2.1] Proper consultation with other churches in ecclesiastical fellowship has taken place according to Rule 3.
- [5.2.2] The reasons why the FRCA have not as yet entered into ecclesiastical fellowship are understood and evaluated.
- [5.2.3] It is clear that there are no obstacles to entering into ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRCI.
- 2.3 Synod 2007 also decided to mandate the CRCA to maintain close contact with this federation and:
- [5.3.1] To consult with all sister churches as per Rule 3 bearing in mind Considerations 4.2-4.4 and Recommendation 5.2.
- [5.3.2] To seek clarity into the situation of the CRCI using also information solicited from the churches at Smithville and Edmonton-Immanuel.
- [5.3.3] To promote efforts towards federative unity with the RCI.
- [5.3.4] To encourage the CRCI to cooperate with the FRCA, RCN and RCI in the establishment of joint theological training.
- 2.4 In regard to the RCI, Synod Smithers 2007 (Article 151, Recommendation 5) decided:
- [5.2] To delay accepting the invitation from the RCI to enter into ecclesiastical fellowship until all the necessary information is available to make a decision concerning ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRCI.
- [5.3] To mandate the CRCA to encourage the RCI to:
- [5.3.1] Promote efforts toward federative unity with the CRCI.
- [5.3.2] Cooperate with the CRCI in joint theological training.
- 2.5 The CRCA reports that there are problems between the CRCI and the GGRM (the Pilgrim Reformed Churches in East Nusa Tenggara, originally one federation together with the CRCI) that have not been resolved despite efforts on the part of the RCI to mediate. The differences are not doctrinal but personal between Rev. Yonson Dethan of the CRCI and Rev. Eli Fangidae of the GGRM. However, the church at Lincoln recommends in regard to the CRCI and RCI: “to mandate the committee to assess the causes of the separation between these two apparently faithful federations, and offer all possible assistance in reconciling them.”
- 2.6 The CRCA notes that “the RCI is convinced that it has done all it could to promote unity between itself and the CRCI.” It is also open to cooperation between the two federations in regard to theological education. Ministers of the CRCI have even been members of the Board of Governors of the Theological College of the RCI in Sumba.
- 2.7 The CRCA expresses some frustration in its supplementary report that in its own communication with the CRCI it did not receive official responses but “personal answers from Rev. Yonson Dethan,” making it difficult “to gain any sense of the character and direction of the CRCI.” The church at Taber, however, notes that Rev. Dethan is the chair of the CRCA of the CRCI and “is quite distressed that he did not make it clear that he spoke officially. Communication received by him was sometimes informal and personal, not always with official designation, and he merely responded in kind.”
- 2.8 The CRCA notes in its first report that the RCI has invited the CRCI to participate in a merger. In its supplementary report the CRCA lists objections that Rev. Yonson Dethan has raised on the basis of differences of culture, language, and church history. It notes further: “In regard to unification possibilities between the CRCI and the RCI, the CRCA feels that the CRCI lacks enthusiasm for this endeavour.”
- 2.9 The CRCA observes in regard to the CRCI “that while the Free Reformed Churches of Australia have more knowledge of the situation in Indonesia, they have not yet established ecclesiastical fellowship with these churches but are still monitoring the situation.” The church at Taber notes that while the CRCA has had repeated contacts with deputies of the FRCA, it “does not report on the reasons for the hesitation of the FRCA nor give us an evaluation of them.” It therefore questions whether there are valid reasons for continuing to withhold ecclesiastical relations with the CRCI.
- 2.10 The FRCA delegates attending Synod Burlington-Ebenezer 2010 explained why the FRCA has not established sister church relations with the CRCI. The FRCA has had sister church relations with the RCI for many years. It is only in the recent history that contact began with the CRCI. Synod Legana 2009 appointed deputies for contact with the CRCI and mandated them to continue contact and “to encourage the CRCI to work towards federal unity with the RCI, especially in view of the anticipated unification of the three federations of the RCI” (Acts Legana 2009, Article 57). The Australians are referring to the three groups of Reformed churches in Indonesia that have been established through the mission work of the RCN and the CanRC: RCI-KalBar in Kalimantan Barat, RCI-NTT in the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur, and RCI-Papua in Papua (formerly Irian Jaya).
- 2.11 The fraternal delegates of the FRCA also indicate that since the beginning of the Australian contact with these churches in Indonesia, the Australian churches have always insisted that there should not be two federations of churches in the same province. The CRCI are very similar to the RCI in governance, history, background and even culture. They both have ministers who have been trained at the theological seminary of the RCI on the island of Sumba. Moreover there are also churches of the CRCI and RCI in Kupang. The Australian churches therefore believe that it is best for unity that the CRCI is encouraged to work towards unity with the GGRI. The brothers from the FRCA are of the opinion that it is not warranted to delay establishing ecclesiastical fellowship with the RCI-NTT.
- 2.12 In regard to the CRCI, the CRCA recommends that Synod Burlington-Ebenezer 2010 decide:
- [1.] To not at this time offer a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship to the CRCI.
- [2.] To mandate the CRCA to continue contact with the CRCI with a view to improving official communications.
- [3.] To acknowledge that unity between the CRCI and the RCI should not be a prerequisite for ecclesiastical fellowship with either of these church federations.
- [4.] To mandate the CRCA to continue to promote unity efforts between the CRCI and the RCI.
- [5.] To authorize the CRCA to appoint Dr. A.J. Pol and Rev. A. Souman to visit a General Synod of the CRCI and to generally assess the ecclesiastical situation of these churches.
- 2.13 In regard to the RCI, the CRCA notes that Synod 2007 already “considered that the CRCA ‘provides the proof that the RCI are a federation of faithful churches of our Lord Jesus Christ” and further that ‘the Committee gives evidence that it followed Rule 3 for Ecclesiastical Fellowship when it consulted with the GKN and the FRCA’ (Acts of Synod 2007, Article 151, section 4.1).”
- 2.14 The CRCA recommends that Synod Burlington-Ebenezer 2010 decide:
- [1.] To accept the invitation of the RCI to enter into a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship.
- [2.] To maintain the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship under the adopted rules.
- [3.] To monitor the progress of dialogue between the RCI and the CRCI.
- 2.15 Two churches noted not yet having seen the Supplementary Report and could not interact with it, although one did not wish to state this as an objection to Synod discussing it.
- 2.16 Grand Valley cautions against making “any conclusions that could have a negative bearing on the churches in NTT.”
- 2.17 Two churches recommend that Synod refrain from making any decisions regarding ecclesiastical fellowship with either the CRCI or the RCI until these churches have sorted out their own issues. Coaldale suggests further that it would be best to consult closely with the FRCA in this matter.
- 2.18 Attercliffe wonders “whether it would not be practical to limit our contacts and to request the FRCA to act on our behalf seeing both their insights and proximity to Asian culture,” while Abbotsford questions the necessity and value of entering into ecclesiastical fellowship since “there are already ties with the FRCA” and “more Reformed church federations in Indonesia it could seek ties with.”
- 3.1 The CRCA has stressed the importance of ecclesiastical relations with faithful federations in Indonesia, given the current involvement of the church of Smithville in mission work on the island of Timor. The churches being established through this mission work need to align themselves with an existing, faithful Reformed church federation. Indirect interaction with such federations in the same area through the FRCA would not be beneficial for the progress of the mission work undertaken through Smithville.
- 3.2 Since Synod Smithers 2007, churches with which we have ecclesiastical fellowship are now sufficiently aware of our developing contacts with the churches in Indonesia.
- 3.3 The FRCA, which already has had a relationship with the RCI for years, has not yet established ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRCI because their contacts with this federation are more recent. Moreover, they would prefer to see the CRCI merge with the RCI.
- 3.4 The CRCA is not yet ready to recommend ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRCI. It desires first to get a clearer sense of “the character and direction of the CRCI.” So far the CRCA has apparently only been able to communicate with the CRCI through Rev. Yonson Dethan (Observation 2.7). The interaction between the CRCA and the CRCI would be enhanced if the CRCI would approach the CRCA in an official way as a federation of churches and not only through one particular individual. A visit to Indonesia to interact with more church leaders than only Rev. Yonson Dethan could provide clarity in regard to this and related matters.
- 3.5 The CRCI and the RCI have already had ecclesiastical relations with each other for years. The RCI has made efforts to seek unity with the CRCI. However, it does not look like these efforts will be successful in the immediate future. It would therefore also not be realistic to postpone establishing ecclesiastical fellowship until there is a positive outcome.
- 3.6 Given the fact that the RCI has made it possible for members of the CRCI to be trained at their Theological College and even to be members of the Board of Governors of that institution (Observation 2.6), it seems that the RCI has already shown its goodwill in regard to cooperation with the CRCI in joint theological training.
- 3.7 It is not necessary for Synod to mandate the CRCA to assess the causes of a supposed separation between the CRCI and RCI as recommended by the church at Lincoln (Observation 2.5), since the separation was actually between the CRCI and the GGRM (originally one federation). The CRCA noted that the RCI has attempted to mediate between the CRCI and the GGRM (see Observation 2.5).
- 3.8 The RCI has shown repeatedly willingness to promote unity between itself and the CRCI. That this has not been fruitful yet should not become a reason to withhold ecclesiastical fellowship from them. They already have a long established relationship with the RCN and the FRCA. The fraternal delegates from the FRCA have made it very clear that they see no reason for the CanRC to delay establishing ecclesiastical fellowship with the RCI. Synod Smithers 2007 has also already considered that the CRCA “provides the proof (Report, 7.3) that the RCI are a federation of faithful churches of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts, Article 151, paragraph 4.2).
- 3.9 The Free Reformed Churches of Australia live in closer proximity to the Indonesian churches and are more familiar with the complexities and the developments that have taken place within these churches. Therefore, it would be prudent to leave any face-to-face discussions with Indonesian churches to the FRCA. The CRCA would be welladvised to work in consultation with the FRCA.
That Synod decide:
- 4.1 To not at this time offer a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship to the CRCI.
- 4.2 To mandate the CRCA to continue contact with the CRCI with a view to improving official communications and to gain more insight in the character and direction of the CRCI.
- 4.3 To acknowledge that unity between the CRCI and the RCI should not be a prerequisite for ecclesiastical fellowship with either of these church federations.
- 4.4 To accept the invitation of the RCI to enter into a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship.
- 4.5 To maintain the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship under the adopted rules.
- 4.6 To mandate the CRCA:
- 4.6.1 To monitor the progress of dialogue between the RCI and the CRCI and where possible to continue to promote unity efforts between the CRCI and the RCI.
- 4.6.2 To work in consultation with the FRCA, receiving their reports and any other information that would be helpful in assessing the ecclesiastical situation of these churches.
- 4.6.3 If necessary, to send Dr. Pol and Rev. Souman to visit the CRCI and to combine this with a visit to a General Synod of the RCI.
In accordance with Article 32 CO, one member of Synod abstained from voting.