07 Aug GS 2010 art 86
GS 2010 Article 86 – Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN)
- 1.1 Report from the CRCA (Agenda 8.2.m).
- 1.2 Letters from Toronto (8.3.M.1), Guelph (8.3.M.2), Hamilton-Providence (8.3.M.3), Grand Valley (8.3.M.5), Carman-East (8.3.M.9), Edmonton-Immanuel (8.3.M.12), Fergus-Maranatha (8.3.M.19), Neerlandia (8.3.M.24), Attercliffe (8.3.M.26), Taber (8.3.M.27), Burlington-Ebenezer (8.3.M.29), Glanbrook (8.3.M.33), Abbotsford (8.3.M.35), Lincoln (8.3.M.36), Winnipeg-Redeemer (8.3.M.37), Yarrow (8.3.M.40), and Kerwood (8.5.x).
- 2.1 With regard to the RCN, the mandate of the CRCA included the following (Acts of General Synod Smithers 2007, Article 133, 5.1-9):
- [5.3.1] To pay attention to the content of the hymns.
- [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 “the-style-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 RCN, keeping in mind the concerns expressed by the churches about the situation in the RCN.
- [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 (EF).
- 2.2 The CRCA reports the following about the way it has worked with its mandate
- 2.2.1 Hymns. The CRCA has not given this much attention. Once the new songbook is complete it will be in a better position to evaluate this matter.
- 2.2.2 Fourth Commandment and Sunday. Smithers 2007 mandated the CRCA to “see how the decisions about the fourth commandment work out in practice.” The CRCA feels this is an impossible mandate to meet.
- 2.2.3 Hermeneutical concerns. The CRCA suggests that organizing a conference involving the professors of Hamilton and Kampen would be a way of addressing these concerns.
- 2.2.4 Monitoring the relationship. The CRCA reports on a matter that has arisen since Smithers 2007 which involves men connected to the Theological University. The CRCA expressed disappointment that Synod Zwolle 2008 did not call Dr. G. Harinck to retract his controversial remarks. The CRCA is also disappointed that the Theological University appointed Dr. S. Paas. Dr. Paas has written and defended a dissertation that makes many concessions to liberal scholarship.
- 2.2.5 Joint meetings. The CRCA met with the deputies of the RCN at the time of Synod Zwolle 2008 and at the time of the ICRC meeting in New Zealand in 2009.
- 2.3 Regarding General Synod Zwolle 2008 the CRCA reports:
- 2.3.1 Two reports that served at Synod Zwolle had been translated into English. They are: “Men and Women in the Church,” dealing especially with the role of women in the church, and “Church Unity,” dealing with the matter of confessional subscription between the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Netherlands Reformed Churches (NRC).
- 2.3.2 The Canadian deputies took part in the so-called “Foreigners Week.” They received opportunity to address only two matters, the role of women in the church and confessional subscription. The CRCA expresses disappointment that it was limited to addressing these two matters only.
- 2.3.3 During this week a closed session was held in which the foreign delegates were urged to be frank and open about their evaluation of the two reports mentioned in 2.3.1. The CRCA reports that it would not be proper to reveal what precisely went on in this closed session except to say that a number of brothers used the opportunity to speak in a very forthright manner.
- 2.3.4 Synod Zwolle adopted most of the recommendations of the report on the role of men and women in the church. With regard to confessional subscription, Synod charged the committee dealing with this matter to have further discussions with the NRC.
- 2.4 The CRCA recommends that Synod Burlington-Ebenezer 2010 decide:
- [1.] To continue the relationship of EF with the RCN.
- [2.] To monitor developments regarding the quality or contents of new hymns.
- [3.] To give priority to the matter of biblical hermeneutics, discussing this with deputies of the RCN and through them with the appropriate committees of synod.
- [4.] To seek ways to organize a conference on hermeneutics which would involve professors currently teaching at Hamilton, Kampen and perhaps elsewhere.
- [5.] To pay special attention to the upcoming report on the role of women in the church and the discussions currently taking place between the RCN and the NRC.
- [6.] To express disappointment that:
- [a.] Synod Zwolle of the RCN did not demand that one of the professors reaching at the Theological University in Kampen retract his controversial remarks.
- [b.] The Theological University did not exercise greater care in the case of a more recent appointment to its faculty.
- 2.5 The CRCA reports that Synod Legana of the FRCA expressed concerns about the developments in the RCN including the following: the approach of these churches to hermeneutics, their position on the Lord’s Day, the public comments of Dr. Harinck, and the administration of the sacraments for military personnel. The Australian deputies were instructed to examine and discuss the concerns about hermeneutics as expressed in the report of the late Rev. M. Nap, the report concerning the role of men and women in the church, the decision of the RCN on divorce and remarriage, the proliferation and content of new hymns, the position of the RCN regarding developments in the NRC in connection with female office bearers, the need for the RCN to uphold the plain meaning of Gen 1 – 11 and signs of independentism in the RCN. Synod Legana expressed the hope that these matters can be discussed with the Dutch deputies and those of other sister churches. The Australian Synod observed that the current direction of the RCN is placing tension on their relationship with the RCN.
- 2.6 Most of the churches that submitted letters express concern about the direction of the RCN. In the words of one of the churches “the time has come to ‘speak the truth in love’ and exhort our sister churches in the Netherlands for walking a path that is deviating from the Reformed faith in doctrine, church polity, discipline and liturgy. A mandate should be given to the Committee that allows them to express our prayerful concern for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.” Several churches suggest that Synod decide that our relationship with the RCN is “under strain.”
- 2.7 The churches express concern about the lack of meaningful communication between the CRCA and the RCN. The following examples are given:
- 2.7.1 The CRCA delegates were only allowed to address two matters at Synod Zwolle 2008.
- 2.7.2 The RCN had a meeting with the foreign delegates in a meeting behind closed doors. The CRCA does not report on these meetings. “Is it appropriate to discuss public matters concerning the churches in common and of interest to foreign churches in a closed session?”
- One church feels that the CRCA failed to do justice to responsibly exercising the communion of saints in relation to the Dutch brothers and sisters.
- The churches who mention the lack of meaningful communication give the following suggestions:
- 2.7.3 Mandate the CRCA to send a letter of admonishment to the RCN concerning the lack of interaction.
- 2.7.4 Assess whether the RCN is still motivated to mutually uphold Rule 1 of EF and communicate with each other accordingly.
- 2.7.5 Re-evaluate the status of EF with the RCN because of the inability to uphold meaningful communication with the RCN.
- 2.8 Three churches express concern about the way the CRCA worked with its mandate. They suggest that more should have been done in light of the concerns expressed by Synod 2007. One church notes that several items included in the mandate of the CRCA by Synod 2007 do not seem to have been concluded. These points are: how the decisions about the fourth commandment work out in practice; the new approach to divorce; monitoring the situation in the RCN; and joint meetings at least every two years (Acts 2007, Article 133, 5.5-5.8).
- 2.9 Three churches, though agreeing with the CRCA that the matter of biblical hermeneutics is an important concern with regard to the RCN, do not agree with the CRCA’s recommendation to organize a conference. The hermeneutical concerns are not topics for a scholarly debate, but were concerns which the deputies had to convey to the RCN.
- 2.10 The churches suggest various topics that should (continue) to be addressed. One church suggests that the CRCA has to continue to speak with the RCN regarding the fourth commandment, because this matter continues to be divisive. It also feels that the CRCA has to speak with the RCN about divorce and remarriage because the principles and practices regarding these matters appear to be in flux. Another church suggests to mandate the CRCA to discuss with the RCN the following matters in addition to the ones already mentioned: variations in liturgy, admission standards for Lord’s Supper attendance by non-members, practice of the “unity congregations,” severe restrictions on the appeal process, unity discussions with the NRC. This church doesn’t give reasons why they should be discussed.
- 2.11 Several churches interact with Recommendation 6 of the CRCA, which deals with the controversial remarks of Dr. Harinck and the appointment of Dr. Paas. Six churches feel that the CRCA’s recommendation to express “disappointment” is insufficient. There is a need to express our deep concern. One church suggests to suspend the full application of the Rules 4 and 5 of EF with the RCN. It gives as reason “When a General Synod does not properly and without ambiguity deal with the errant views of one or more of the professors at the Theological University, this becomes evidence of deviation at the level of the federation.” Another church feels that there is insufficient information to warrant Recommendation 6.
- 2.12 One church addresses the report about confessional subscription and the contact with the NRC. It suggests that the CRCA be mandated to request the RCN to provide an authorized translation into English of the decisions taken by Synod Zwolle-Zuid 2008 as recorded in “Hoofdstuk 10 – Binnenlandse betrekkingen”
- 3.1 Several churches have expressed concern about the way the CRCA fulfilled its mandate in regard to the RCN. They feel the CRCA should have done more. It must be kept in mind that the CRCA has a broader mandate than just the RCN and is limited in its possibilities. It is unrealistic to expect the CRCA to be able to deal extensively with each part of its mandate regarding the RCN. At the same time, however, the decisions of Smithers 2007 indicate that the relationship with the RCN is a matter of great concern to the churches and needs more attention. Smithers 2007 urged the CRCA to keep in mind the concerns expressed by the churches and to be “pro-active.” In light of the concerns expressed by Smithers 2007, the contact with the RCN should have received greater priority in the way the CRCA allocated its resources.
- 3.2 With regard to the communication with the Dutch churches, it is disappointing that there was not much opportunity to speak together. It is also regrettable that the deputies could only address two items on the agenda of Synod Zwolle. In regard to the meeting behind closed doors, the report of the CRCA delegates indicates that this meant that the members of the press were not present. In this way the foreign delegates could have a frank and open discussion with the RCN and speak in a forthright manner.
- 3.3 Typically the contact with churches in EF takes place at times of general synods or other assemblies. As in past years, the CRCA met with the Dutch deputies at the time of the Synod Zwolle as well as at the time of the ICRC 2009. This way of keeping contact is important and sufficient when the relationship is going well. It is not an adequate way to express serious concerns or to have a discussion on matters that place tension on the relationship. At the time of a general synod all the other foreign churches are present, thus limiting the possibilities for one to one meetings. The concerns of our churches need to be conveyed in a different setting. At this point in our relationship and in light of the limited possibilities of the CRCA, it would be beneficial that Synod would appoint a temporary subcommittee of the CRCA with a specific mandate to address the RCN on the matters of concern. This sub-committee could meet with the RCN at a time separate from General Synod.
- 3.4 One church suggests to re-evaluate the commitment of the RCN to EF. Because there is still room from our side to intensify the contact, it would be too early to do this.
- 3.5 With regard to the hermeneutical concerns it is important to consider that Synod Smithers referred to them in the context of dealing with the approach of the RCN to divorce and remarriage. To organize a conference can have its merits within e.g. the ICRC setting, but it is not sufficient to address serious concerns.
- 3.6 The CRCA delegates have properly expressed disappointment about the matters involving Dr. Harinck and Dr. Paas. Since the CanRC are in a relationship of EF with the RCN it is appropriate to express grave concern. However, it would not be correct to suspend Rules 4 and 5 of EF, as one church suggests. To suspend one or more of the rules would in effect mean the termination of the relationship.
- 3.7 Several churches list matters that they feel the CRCA should discuss with the RCN. Churches who request this should also indicate why these items need to be discussed. There are several items which Smithers 2007 included in the mandate of the CRCA. Thereport of the CRCA does not show that the discussion on these items has been completed. They are the hymns, revision of Church Order, women in the church, divorce and remarriage. These items need to be addressed within the context of Rule 1 of EF.
- 3.8 The CRCA requests Synod to pay special attention to the upcoming report on the role of women in the church. Both the FRCA and the OPC have been evaluating this matter as well. The CRCA would do well to take note of this work.
- 3.9 The CRCA requests that it be mandated to pay special attention to the discussion taking place between the RCN and the NRC. In this connection it would be helpful to request the RCN to provide an authorized translation into English of the decisions taken by Synod Zwolle-Zuid 2008 as recorded in “Hoofdstuk 10 – Binnenlandse betrekkingen.”
- 3.10 The fraternal delegates of the FRCA and the OPC at Synod Burlington-Ebenezer requested that our deputies work together with theirs in reaching out to the RCN. It would be important to do this, given our common concerns.
- 3.11 The CRCA is of the opinion that the mandate of Smithers 2007 to “see how the decisions about the fourth commandment work out in practice” is impossible to meet. Synod Smithers did not suggest to conduct “surveys and interviews to discover just what is being done with the fourth commandment.” Synod Smithers concluded that specific questions about the fourth commandment were put to rest, but we should keep this matter in mind in the application of the Rules of EF.
- 3.12 Our relationship with the RCN is at a critical stage. Rule 1 of EF requires us to be “watchful for deviation.” It is time to “speak the truth in love” and exhort our sister churches in the Netherlands. A mandate should be given to the Committee that allows them to express our prayerful concern for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is our prayer that the Lord may give the RCN grace to work through the weighty issues facing them in a manner that is in full obedience to and accord with Scripture.
That Synod decide:
- 4.1 To continue the relationship of EF with the RCN under the adopted rules.
- 4.2 To express our prayerful concern for our brothers and sisters in the Lord that they be committed to the Reformed faith.
- 4.3 To appoint a temporary subcommittee to the CRCA for contact with the RCN.
- 4.4 To mandate the subcommittee:
- 4.4.1 To express our grave concerns that:
- 18.104.22.168 Synod Zwolle of the RCN did not demand that Dr. Harinck, a professor associated with the Theological University in Kampen, retract his controversial remarks;
- 22.214.171.124 The Theological University did not exercise greater care in the case of the appointment of Dr. Paas as lecturer; and to urge the RCN to deal with these matters as yet.
- 4.4.2 To express and discuss our grave concerns about a change in how biblical hermeneutics are functioning in the RCN.
- 4.4.3 To pay special attention to the upcoming report on the role of women in the church.
- 4.4.4 To pay special attention to the discussions currently taking place between the RCN and the NRC and to request the RCN to provide an authorized translation into English of the decisions taken by Synod Zwolle-Zuid 2008 as recorded in “Hoofdstuk 10 – Binnenlandse betrekkingen.”
- 4.4.5 To work in consultation with the deputies of the FRCA and the OPC.
- 4.4.6 To monitor developments regarding the quality or contents of new hymns.
- 4.4.7 To report to the churches six month prior to General Synod 2013.
- 4.4.1 To express our grave concerns that:
An amendment was proposed, but the chairman ruled that it was not germane to the proposal. The ruling was challenged from the floor and a vote took place according to the Guidelines for Synod, II.A.6. The ruling was sustained.
Following this, the entire proposal was put to a vote and
 The “Netherlands Reformed Churches” is a group of churches that separated from the RCN in the late 1960’s. The Dutch name is “Nederlands Gereformeerde Kerken,” indicated as NGK in various documents. In the Acts of Synod Burlington-Ebenezer 2010, the acronym NRC will be used instead.