24 Jul GS 2013 art 126
GS 2013 Article 126 – Gereja-Gereja Reformasi di Indonesia (GGRI)
Committee 3 presented its third draft and this was the result:
- 1.1. Report from the CRCA (8.2.1) and the CRCA Supplementary Report (220.127.116.11)
- 1.2. Letters from the churches at Carman-West (18.104.22.168), Fergus-Maranatha (22.214.171.124), Lincoln (126.96.36.199), Orangeville (188.8.131.52) and Burlington-Rehoboth (184.108.40.206)
- 1.3. Letter of Greetings to Synod 2013 from the GGRI by Rev. Pila Njuka, chairman of the Committee on Relations of the GGRI (8.1.36)
- 2.1. Synod Burlington 2010 decided “to accept the invitation of the RCI to enter into a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship” and “to maintain the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship under the adopted rules” (Acts of Synod 2010, Article 108, Recommendation 4.4-5). These Reformed Churches in Indonesia are referred to in their own language as the Gereja-Gereja Reformasi di Indonesia (GGRI) in the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT).
- 2.2. The CRCA reports that it reverted back to the use of GGRI-NTT for these churches instead of the acronym RCI, which Synod Burlington 2010 used. The reason is that the name GGRI-NTT is commonly used by our sister churches and by many in our churches. The use of RCI would only increase confusion about the different churches in Indonesia.
- 2.3. The CRCA explains that “there are three federations in Indonesia which have the name GGRI.” They are located in the provinces of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT), Kalimantan Barat (KalBar) and Papua. Now that these federations have united, the federation can be referred to as GGRI at the national level and their regional synods can be designated according to their respective provinces as GGRI-KalBar, GGRI-NTT and GGRI-Papua.
- 2.4. The three federations originate from mission work conducted by our sister churches in the Netherlands (RCN) and they are listed as three distinct groups of churches in Indonesia and the RCN maintain a sister church relationship with each one (http://www.bbk.gkv.nl/ecumenical-contacts/732/). A historical overview of the development of the GGRI in their respective three provinces can be found on the website of the RCN at http://www.bbk.gkv.nl/styleit/706/.
- 2.5. The first national synod of the GGRI took place in Sentani, Papua, Indonesia, from February 22-25, 2012. No invitation was extended to the Canadian Reformed Churches. The FRCA was invited to this national synod and Synod Armadale 2012 of the FRCA has subsequently accepted the GGRI as sister churches.
- 2.6. The CRCA had not been consulted or informed of the merger of the three federations before it took place, but received a letter in November 2012 to inform the Canadian Reformed Churches of the development. The deputies of the GGRI apologized for not inviting the Canadian Reformed Churches as sister churches of the GGRI-NTT to the first national synod of the GGRI. They expressed appreciation for the presence of Rev. Versteeg even though he was not there officially on behalf of the Canadian Reformed Churches.
- 2.7. The letter from the GGRI explained that previously the GGRI-NTT held national Conferences of the Reformed Churches in Indonesia together with the Reformed Churches in KalBar and Papua. “The forum of a National Synod has now taken the place of the forum of a National Conference which until now did not have the authority to make binding ecclesiastical decisions. The purpose of forming a National Synod of the Reformed Churches in Indonesia was to enable the Reformed Churches in their respective three provinces to work together more closely and to help each other. This confirms the unity of faith on the basis of Holy Scripture, as summarized in the Three Forms of Unity and with the Reformed Church Order in Indonesia as our norm in fulfilling our calling and service in a uniform way in order to testify of the Reformed faith in Indonesia more effectively as put into practice by you, our brothers in the federations of the Reformed churches in Canada and the Netherlands.”
- 2.8. The letter from the GGRI goes on to describe the historical background of the GGRI as resulting from joint mission work of the RCN and the Canadian Reformed Churches and speaks of “the joyful developments regarding the unification of the Reformed Churches of Indonesia in these three provinces,” expressing the hope that this will be reported to the upcoming General Synod of the Canadian Reformed Churches.
- 2.9. The Committee on Relations of the GGRI requests “that the Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad of the Canadian Reformed Churches propose to the General Synod of the Canadian Reformed Churches that the bond of ecclesiastical fellowship with the GGRI-NTT may be broadened since we now form a national federation of Reformed Churches in Indonesia.”
- 2.10. The Committee on Relations of the GGRI also writes: “We are also looking further ahead to the strategic impact and prospect that this proposal may have in connection with the efforts of your CRCA to promote the unification of the Reformed Calvinist Churches (GGRC) with the GGRI and also remembering the existence of churches which are the results of mission work of the church at Smithville in Timor and the College of the Reformed Christian Religion (Sekolah Tinggi Agama Kristen Reformed Indonesia / STAKRI) in Kupang.”
- 2.11. The CRCA disagrees with the proposal of the GGRI to accept them as a federation at the national level. It states first of all that “we do not know the other two federations (in Papua and in Kalimantan Barat) at all.” Secondly, it questions why neither the GGRC nor the church of Smithville and the mission churches in Timor were informed about this process of unification, whereas other sister churches were invited and were present. Thirdly, it asks how important a relationship with the Canadian Reformed Churches is for the GGRI since the Canadian Reformed Churches were not invited to the first general synod and it took almost nine months to receive a letter from them.
- 2.12. The CRCA therefore recommends “to suspend the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship with the GGRI (NTT), to take up contact with the Committee on Relations of the Reformed Churches in Indonesia to gain more information about this new federation and to come with a recommendation to the general synod of 2016 regarding a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship with the GGRI.” The concern of the CRCA is to “tread carefully and follow proper procedure.”
- 2.13. The GGRI-NTT has a sister church relationship with the Calvinist Reformed Churches (GGRC) in West Timor. The CRCA has been actively encouraging these two church federations to become one. The CRCA notes that “as Canadian Reformed Churches we should not make any decision that would cause this process to slow down or come to a stop and both church federations should be encouraged to continue to seek ecclesiastical unity. We have experienced that often this can be done best by someone from or delegated by the CRCA being present there from time to time to bring them together and facilitate a meeting between delegates from both federations.”
- 2.14. The CRCA also notes that it “encouraged the GGRI (NTT) to come to closer cooperation with the Canadian Reformed Church of Smithville, especially in the area of theological education.” A theological school has been established in Kupang, Timor, through the work of Rev. Edwer Dethan, missionary of Smithville. This institution is flourishing and has already received accreditation from the Indonesian government. The theological seminary of the GGRI-NTT has a relatively long history but is struggling to establish itself properly and is not yet accredited by the government.
- 2.15. Burlington-Rehoboth expresses its reservation regarding the recommendation to suspend the relationship with the GGRI-NTT and asks: “What other options did the committee consider? We also note that the FRCA is still maintaining EF with the GGRI (NTT).”
- 2.16. Speaking on behalf of the FRCA, br. Wayne Pleiter cautioned Synod 2013 against following the recommendation of the CRCA to suspend relations, since that would be a “setback” in the interaction between the Canadian Reformed Churches and the GGRI.
- 2.17. The church at Carman-West notes the common mission history of the Reformed Churches in Indonesia and emphasizes that the three federations of the GGRI have not become an essentially new body of churches but a larger body of churches maintaining the same Three Forms of Unity and the Reformed Church Order. Carman-West also states that the GGRC have already shown themselves not to be eager to pursue unification with the GGRI-NTT. This should not be used against the GGRI. Rather, the Canadian Reformed Churches should make use of the opportunity to encourage unity between the GGRI and the GGRC as well as with the churches in Timor being established through the mission work of Smithville. Carman-West recommends that Synod Carman 2013:
- [1.] Accept the apologies of the GGRI for not having invited us to their First National Synod;
- [2.] Accept the offer of ecclesiastical fellowship with the Reformed Churches in Indonesia (GGRI);
- [3.] Mandate the CRCA to take up contact with the Committee on Relations of the Reformed Churches in Indonesia and to request them to be mindful of our rules for ecclesiastical fellowship.
- 2.18. Fergus-Maranatha notes that “language barriers, as in the case of contact with churches in Korea and Indonesia and the matter of distance make it difficult to work together fruitfully.”
- 2.19. The church at Orangeville recommends that synod decide:
- 2.19.1. To suspend the relationship of EF with the GGRI-NTT;
- 2.19.2 To suspend further efforts at establishing EF with various churches in Indonesia until such a time there is greater clarity on the situation of the Indonesian churches;
- 2.19.3. To leave it to churches involved in mission work in Indonesia to assist the churches in growing in reformed character by sending someone when necessary and requested.
- 2.20. The Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church of Lincoln commends the CRCA “for the efforts for the sake of church unity and ecclesiastical fellowship with the churches in Indonesia.”
- 2.21. In the Letter of Greetings from the GGRI to Synod Carman 2013, the Rev. Pila Njuka, chairman of the Committee on Relations of the GGRI, writes: “Rev. Souman witnessed that we invited the GGRC to unify with GGRI in 2016. We would like to give them time to discuss it among themselves. We hope and pray that they will join the GGRI because the GGRI is now one national church or one federation with the GGRI in Papua and West Kalimantan. It would be great if the GGRC would become part of this federation. We will invite them to our upcoming Synod and the same thing will be stressed again.”
- 2.22. In the same letter, Rev. Pila Njuka informs us in regard to the GGRI-NTT: “we would like to let you know that our Synod is scheduled to be convened from August 6-20 in 2013. A letter of invitation will be sent. We hope that as our sister churches, the Canadian Reformed Churches will send a delegation to our Synod.” This is a regional synod of the GGRI-NTT, not a general synod of the entire federation of the GGRI.
- 3.1. The GGRI-KalBar, GGRI-NTT and the GGRI-Papua share a common mission history. They have expressed their commitment to uphold Scripture together as confessed in the Three Forms of Unity and confirmed their intent to abide by the Reformed Church Order. Given the prayer of Jesus Christ for the unity of the church (John 17:20-23), it should be a source of joy to note this. It is regrettable that the CRCA was not informed or consulted about the unification of the GGRI-NTT with the GGRI-Papua and the GGRI-KalBar. It would have been good if the Canadian Reformed Churches could join the sister churches in Australia and the Netherlands at the National Synod and express our joy and thankfulness for this unification.
- 3.2. The GGRI apologized for not informing the Canadian Reformed Churches about the plans for unification and for not inviting the Canadian Reformed Churches to the first national synod in 2012. Synod Carman 2013 would do well to accept these apologies.
- 3.3. The CRCA is overstating matters when it says “we do not know the other two federations (in Papua and in Kalimantan Barat) at all.” While this may apply to the GGRI-KalBar, we should not forget our history of extensive involvement with the GGRI-Papua and current contacts. As can be seen in 2013 Yearbook of the Canadian Reformed Churches, we have been heavily involved in the mission work among the GGRI-Papua from 1960-1976 through the mission work undertaken by Rev. H. Knigge through the church in Toronto and subsequently through Rev. H. Versteeg (1977-1997). He still visits the churches there annually (December-January) and has reported on his activities to the Canadian Reformed Churches in Mission News. Support for the GGRI-Papua also takes place through the Feunekes family, which is supported through a committee of the Canadian Reformed Church of Aldergrove with donations coming from various Canadian Reformed Churches in Western Canada.
- 3.4. It is true, however, that all we know about the GGRI-KalBar is that after having been established by mission work from our sister churches in the Netherlands, they have progressed sufficiently to enter into ecclesiastical fellowship with the RCN. Given our relationship with the GGRI-NTT we should be interested in getting to know the GGRI-KalBar and the GGRI-Papua better.
- 3.5. Although information about the GGRI-KalBar and GGRI-Papua can be gleaned from several sources, including the letter which was received from the GGRI, this information is scattered and does not give a complete picture of these churches. Making a decision solely based on the fact that these churches were the fruit of the combined mission efforts of the Dutch sister churches and the church in Toronto is not prudent and is not the way we went about such requests in the past. The GGRI-NTT is the result of the mission work of our Dutch sister churches. Nevertheless, the Canadian Reformed Churches were also careful not to rush into a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship with the GGRI-NTT.
- 3.6. Although the CRCA is correct in stating that we don’t have relationships with parts of church federations, this is an exceptional situation. It would not be good for the GGRI-NTT if we would suspend our relationship with them. At the same time we are not ready yet to enter into a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship at the national level with the GGRI. It is best for the coming three years to maintain the status quo and give the CRCA the opportunity to do due diligence in preparing a good recommendation for General Synod 2016, based on its own findings.
- 3.7. Observation 2.11 notes the question of the CRCA: “why neither the GGRC nor the church of Smithville and the mission churches in Timor were informed about this process of unification, whereas other sister churches were invited and were present.” A letter from the CRCA to the GGRI-NTT dated August 5, 2010 shows that the committee did inform the GGRI-NTT of our decision to accept their invitation to enter into ecclesiastical fellowship and it attached the relevant decision of Synod Burlington 2010. However, the letter does not offer an explanation of what it means “to maintain the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship under the adopted rules.” It appears therefore that there was a lack of sufficient information on our part as well as on the part of the GGRI-NTT. In any case, not being invited to the first national synod of the GGRI was an oversight on the part of the convening church of the GGRI-Papua and a written apology for this has been extended to the Canadian Reformed Churches. This apology should be accepted.
- 3.8. The CRCA has made it clear that the involvement of the Canadian Reformed Churches in Indonesia has already provided opportunities for encouraging church unity between the GGRI-NTT and the GGRC. Now that the GGRI-NTT are united with churches of the same Reformed confessions and church order in KalBar and Papua, the opportunity for further interaction and encouragement is present on an even larger scale. In Observation 2.10, it is clear that the GGRI are interested in the involvement of the Canadian Reformed Churches in promoting “the unification of the Reformed Calvinist Churches (GGRC) with the GGRI.” We should see this as a welcome opportunity to participate in the continuing church gathering work of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
- 3.9. The GGRI in the respective provinces have entered into a period of transition by deciding to federate at a national level. Our knowledge about the current state of affairs in the GGRI-KalBar and GGRI-Papua is limited. Now that men who have functioned in the Committee on Relations of the GGRI-NTT are active at the national level, they can help us come to a fuller understanding of the churches in those other provinces. Until then, it would be difficult to proceed beyond the relationship we have with the GGRI-NTT.
- 3.10. Suspending the relationship with the GGRI-NTT would undermine the potential of the Canadian Reformed Churches to play a positive role among the GGRI and to encourage them to work toward ecclesiastical unity with the GGRC and the churches being established through the mission work of the Canadian Reformed Church of Smithville on the island of Timor. As described by the FRCA delegates, it would be a “setback” instead of a step forward such as has already been taken by the FRCA, which have acknowledged the development of the national federation of the GGRI “with gratitude to the Lord.” (See the “Free Reformed Churches of Australia – Press Release of Synod Armadale 2012 – Week 2,” in the section on “Reformed Churches in Indonesia,” which can be found at http://synod.frca.org.au/2012/acts/pressrelease2_FRCA_Synod.pdf).
- 3.11. In regard to the comment of Fergus-Maranatha concerning “language barriers,” it should be noted that this is not a significant issue in contacts with the Reformed Churches with which we have contact in Indonesia. Various members of these churches (both GGRI-NTT and GGRC) are able to communicate in English. An issue that does play an important role is that of the cultural differences. As is the case in relationships with other church federations in non-Western societies, a good understanding of the culture is important to get a grip on developments within these churches and to be able to help and encourage them. Time and effort should be spent on that.
- 3.12. The proposal of the church at Orangeville essentially involves drawing back rather than continuing or increasing our interaction with the churches in Indonesia. The best way to gain the desired “greater clarity on the situation of the Indonesian churches” is to put greater effort into knowing them better through more regular contact.
- 3.13. The church of Smithville is actively involved in mission work in West Timor. Through Rev. Edwer Dethan a Theological School has been established and Smithville has tried to establish contact with the GGRI-NTT. This is starting to have results, but they are limited so far. We can be thankful for progress, but in this situation we cannot expect Smithville to assist these churches in growing in Reformed character by sending someone when necessary and requested, as Orangeville suggests. Strengthening churches and helping them to grow in Reformed character in this context is a responsibility for sister churches, while the church in Smithville focuses on mission work. We have the ability and opportunity to combine our resources with that of the FRCA for the sake of the development of Reformed Churches in Indonesia.
- 3.14. In order to get to know the GGRI better and to offer support and encouragement and foster church unity among the Reformed Churches in Indonesia, it would be beneficial to send a delegation to the Regional Synod of the GGRI-NTT, to be convened on the island of Sumba from August 6-20 in 2013, as well as to the national synod scheduled to take place there in 2016. Combining a visit to the Regional Synod of the GGRI-NTT with a trip to Timor to visit the GGRC and the churches being established through the work of Rev. E. Dethan could also be considered by the CRCA in consultation with the Canadian Reformed Church of Smithville.
- 4.1. To accept the apologies of the GGRI for not having invited us to their First National Synod;
- 4.2. To continue the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship with the GGRI-NTT under the adopted rules;
- 4.3. To mandate the CRCA:
- 4.3.1. To discuss our rules for ecclesiastical fellowship with the Committee on Relations of the GGRI and to gather as much information as is needed to come to a good recommendation to General Synod 2016 regarding a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship with the GGRI;
- 4.3.2. To gather and evaluate information regarding the GGRI-KalBar and the GGRI-Papua in order to prepare a proposal as to how to deal with the GGRI as a national federation instead of dealing exclusively with the GGRI-NTT, which has become part of this larger federation of churches;
- 4.3.3. To request input from the FRCA and the RCN;
- 4.3.4. To try to ensure that a delegation of two brothers is sent to Indonesia to represent the Canadian Reformed Churches at a synod of the GGRI-NTT;
- 4.3.5. To work in consultation and cooperation with the deputies of the FRCA, with the church of Smithville and the church of Edmonton-Immanuel and as much as possible and desirable with other organizations involved in the work among the GGRI, to encourage and support these churches in their efforts to grow in the Reformed doctrine and Church Polity;
- 4.3.6. To encourage the GGRI-NTT to seek cooperation with the Reformed Theological School in Kupang (established by the church in Smithville);
- 4.3.7. To encourage the GGRI-NTT to seek closer contact and cooperation with the GGRC and to monitor the progress of the dialogue between the GGRI-NTT and the GGRC.