24 Jul GS 2013 art 190
GS 2013 Article 190 – Reformed Churches in the Netherlands – Restored (RCR)
Committee 3 presented its second draft. With some minor changes, this was the result:
- 1.1. Report of CRCA subcommittee for contact with the RCR (184.108.40.206)
- 1.2. Letters from the CRCA of the RCR (8.1.18), Liberated Reformed Church in Abbotsford (LRCA) (8.1.23), Gereformeerde Kerk in Dalfsen (8.1.32); letters from the churches at Abbotsford (220.127.116.11), Attercliffe (18.104.22.168), Elora (22.214.171.124), Fergus-North (126.96.36.199), Fergus-Maranatha (188.8.131.52) and Spring Creek (184.108.40.206)
2. Observations and Considerations re: Admissibility
- 2.1. The CRCA of the RCR wrote their letter as an elaboration of their recent discussions with our CRCA. The letter attempts to justify their ‘liberation’ as well as that of the LRCA. It also urges the CanRC to evaluate our ecclesiastical relations in the light of Article 28 of the Belgic Confession. While this letter may serve members of synod for personal reflection, it does not require a response.
- 2.2. The letter from the LRCA purports to “provide clarification regarding a number of serious inaccuracies and misconceptions” in the report of the subcommittee. Where it disputes the historical record of events that transpired, it should be consulted. Beyond that, it is inadmissible.
- 2.3. The letter of greeting from the Gereformeerde Kerk in Dalfsen (of the RCR) expresses the desire that the CanRC continue to have contact with their church federation. This letter may be received for information only.
- 3.1. Synod Burlington 2010 decided, with respect to the RCR (Acts, Article 155, Recommendation 4):
- [4.1.] To give the matter of contact with the RCR to the responsibility of the temporary sub-committee of the CRCA to deal with the RCN.
- [4.2.] To mandate this sub-committee of the CRCA:
- [4.2.1.] To dialogue with the RCR in order to come to a comprehensive understanding of their concerns and actions;
- [4.2.2.] To continue to seek ways to facilitate reconciliation between the RCR and RCN;
- [4.2.3.] To do all this in close contact with the FRCA and the OPC;
- [4.2.4.] To submit a comprehensive report of its activities to the churches six months prior to the next general synod.
- 3.2. The subcommittee reports the following about how it worked out its mandate:
- 3.2.1. The subcommittee met 14 times, maintained regular contact with the RCR via e-mail and official letters and also met with the CRCA of the RCR.
- 3.2.2. The RCR came into being as a result of concerns with respect to developments in the RCN. At present they have 11 congregations and approximately 1200 members.
- 3.2.3. Our subcommittee discussed with the RCR their “indirect declaration of the CanRC being false churches.” In response, the RCR stated that (a) they never called either the RCN or the CanRC false churches; and (b) “the correspondence between the CanRC deputies and (the RCR) has not always been flawless.”
- 3.2.4. The RCR confronted our subcommittee with the pronouncement of Synod Smithers 2007 that the separation in the Netherlands which led to the formation of the RCR was an act of ‘schism’. The subcommittee responded that the pronouncement had been informed by a brochure from the RCN, while a response to that brochure prepared by the RCR had been ignored because the subcommittee had not been mandated to study it. The subcommittee asserts that this RCR response, written and received by the CRCA before Synod Smithers 2007, was already highlighting issues which the subcommittee is now raising with the RCN. (In their letter to Synod Carman 2013 the RCR wrote that “the [CanRC] subcommittee also admitted to us that the extensive information about our Liberation which we had in the past provided, had not been fully studied by you in detail. We are pleased that the subcommittee now acknowledges this and has come to a more accurate assessment of the extremely sad developments within the RCNlib.”)
- 3.2.5. Synod Emmen 2009-2010 of the RCR decided to recognize the LRCA as a true church and enter into a sister church relationship. The grounds for this decision relate to the LRCA being a faithful church, the CanRC having entered into sister church relations with the OPC and the URC and the fact that CanRC synods have made it impossible for individual church members to appeal matters of ecclesiastical contact.
- 3.2.6. With respect to Point 4.2.2 of its mandate, the subcommittee expresses the view that the RCR are genuinely concerned about the direction that the RCN have taken and continue to maintain. The RCN believe that the RCR overstate the issues. They point out that no one in the RCN has been forced to adopt doctrines which they reject and no office bearer has been suspended or deposed. According to the subcommittee, though, recent synods of the RCR have attempted to show in detail where their concerns lie, but the RCN have not responded in any substantive way.
- 3.2.7. There has been regular contact between the subcommittee and the FRCA and the OPC regarding the RCN.
- 3.2.8. In 2009 a congregation in Kampen (Ichthus) was excluded from the RCN. In November 2009 two other congregations separated from the RCR and joined Ichthus to form a provisional church federation (RCNvv). Subsequently some other churches and groups also joined them.
- 3.2.9. The subcommittee recommends that:
- [1.] Synod receive the committee report and thank the committee for the work done;
- [2.] Synod ask the churches to pray that a true unity in the faith may develop within the fragmented ecclesiastical situation with the RCN and those who have left;
- [3.] Synod note with regret that the RCR have entered into a sister relationship with the LRCA (June 10, 2010) and that the RCR do not recognize us as true churches;
- [4.] Synod nevertheless charge the committee that is to be appointed to deal with our relationship with the RCN to continue the contact with the RCR and other groups that have left.
- [5.] Synod charge the committee to maintain some form of contact with the GKNvv to see how they develop and how they reach out to others who love the Word and the Reformed faith.
- [6.] Synod charge the committee to monitor further developments with the GKD.
- [7.] Synod charge the committee to submit a comprehensive report of its activities to the churches six months prior to the next general synod.
- 3.3. Spring Creek believes that the CRCA subcommittee exceeded its mandate by establishing contact with other groups that left the RCN such as the GKNvv.
- 3.4. Spring Creek argues that the CanRC should discontinue contact with the RCR because the RCR recognized the legitimacy of the secession of the LRCA on the ground that the CanRC are false churches. According to Spring Creek the reasoning of the RCR regarding the LRCA proves that the ‘liberation’ of the RCR was indeed schismatic, as Synod Smithers 2007 said.
- 3.5. Abbotsford, although “deeply disturbed” by the fact that the CRCA subcommittee dialogued with the RCR while the latter has EF with the LRCA, acknowledges that “there is a duty for us to communicate with those who claim to be the true continuation of the RCN [just like] we decided with regard to the FCS and the FCS(c).” Elora also mentions the RCR-LRCA sister church relationship and argues that the mandate for contact with the RCNvv should be “stronger” than the mandate for contact with the RCR because “the GKNvv (RCNvv) is more open-minded and therefore more akin to the Canadian Reformed Churches.” Attercliffe recommends that synod “note with regret” the RCR-LRCA sister church relationship but still mandate the CRCA to “continue the contact with the RCR and other groups that have left” the RCN.
- 3.6. Spring Creek expresses concern because it seems that “questions about the legitimacy of the secession of groups from the RCN are no longer considered relevant. This report appears to say: ‘If you leave in good conscience, as you may judge yourself, we will not judge you and will maintain contact with you because of our own unanswered concerns about the direction of the RCN.’” Spring Creek laments the absence of an assessment of the secession in Kampen which led to the formation of the GKNvv.
- 3.7. Spring Creek denies that the CanRC has a calling “to gather those in the Netherlands who cannot in good conscience remain with the RCN” and questions why the CanRC should seek out contact with the RCR or the GKNvv ahead of older church federations in the Netherlands. Attercliffe expresses a desire for the CRCA to have a greater form of relationship with both the RCR and the GKNvv.
- 3.8. Fergus-Marantha and Fergus-North both urge synod to rescind the statement of Synod Smithers 2007 that those who now belong to the RCR were schismatic when they left the RCN.
- 3.9. The Gereformeerde Kerk in Dalfsen wrote a letter to inform synod that they have joined the RCR.
- 4.1. It is true that Synod Burlington 2010 mandated the CRCA subcommittee to establish contact specifically with the RCR and not with the GKNvv, or with other groups that left the RCN. But Consideration 3.3 of Article 155 indicates why the subcommittee was mandated to have contact with the RCR, namely, given how the RCR has arisen in connection with developments in the RCN. So because (a) the people in the RCR used to belong to our sister-churches and are important to us for that reason; or because (b) the people in the RCR had experiences that might help us to understand better what was happening in the RCN – or perhaps both – synod decided that it would be good to have contact with them. These reasons apply to the GKNvv just as much as to the RCR. (The GKNvv only federated in November 2009 and their name was not mentioned in the CRCA reports to Synod Burlington 2010 or in synod’s decisions (See Observation 3.3).)
- 4.2. Based on the report of the subcommittee (and Consideration 4.1), synod should acknowledge that the subcommittee has carried out its mandate faithfully.
- 4.3. Spring Creek (Observation 3.6) is correct in noting that the CRCA subcommittee is taking a new approach towards those who have seceded from the RCN. Synod Smithers 2007 mandated the CRCA “to admonish the GKH (now RCR) in a brotherly manner for its unlawful separation” from the RCN. Similarly, Synod Burlington 2010 mandated the subcommittee to “seek ways to facilitate reconciliation between the RCR and the RCN”. These synods were both striving to maintain the confessional norm that no one ought to withdraw from the church. In this context, synod joins Spring Creek in regretting the fact that the subcommittee did not provide information on the events in Kampen which led to the formation of the GKNvv, because now synod cannot develop a confessionally responsible approach to these churches.
- 4.4. Abbotsford uses the situation in Scotland, where we have EF with both the FCS and the FCC, as an historical precedent to justify engaging in dialogue with two (or more) church federations in one country. Synod Burlington 2010 noted in Article 155, Consideration 3.6, though, that this becomes problematic when one of those church federations regards the other one as false. This consideration of Synod Burlington 2010 was based on the assumption that Observation 3.2.3 (in this present article) is false. It should be noted that the CRCA report to Synod Smithers 2007 never quoted any RCR representatives stating that the RCN was a false church. Instead the CRCA itself made two statements, namely, “It is clear that the GKH considers the GKN a false church” (p64) and – commenting on a quotation, “This reply shows that the GKH continue to see the GKN as false churches which have departed from the Scriptures, confession and Church Order.” (p. 66)
- 4.5. In 2007, the CanRC attitude towards those who seceded from the RCN was linked directly to our relationship with the RCN. Synod Smithers 2007 considered “that the GKN (now RCN) had remained faithful” (Article 144, Consideration 4.1) and subsequently decided, in the same article, “to admonish the GKH (now RCR) in a brotherly manner for its unlawful separation” (Recommendation 5.4.1). Synod Burlington 2010 gave the CRCA subcommittee a dual mandate to (a) express concerns about developments in the RCN (Article 86, Recommendation 4.4.1) and (b) have contact also with the RCR (Article 155, Consideration 3.3). To be consistent, our decision in 2013 regarding those who seceded from the RCN must also be informed by our decision regarding the RCN.
- 4.6. Our relationship with the RCN – as reflected in the Acts – has changed in the last six years. Synod Smithers 2007 judged that “even though questions remain, it could be concluded that the GKN have not deviated from Scripture and the Confessions” (Article 133, Consideration 4.1). The decision of Synod Burlington 2010 to express concern about developments noted in the RCN (Article 86, Recommendation 4.4.1) was followed by a decision of Synod Carman 2013 that the relationship of EF with the RCN would be jeopardized if the RCN would stay on the present course in regard to the matters we have raised. To the extent that we share the concerns of the RCR and the GKNvv we have greater understanding for their members having left the RCN.
- 4.7. In all our contact with the RCR or the GKNvv or any other churches or groups that have seceded from the RCN we must be very clear that we have EF with the RCN. This CanRC synod is urging the RCN to reconsider a number of decisions which they have made and if they respond to that appeal they will continue to be our sister-churches. This is not a choice against the RCR or against the GKNvv: instead this is the approach which the RCR urged us to follow in their letter to this synod.
- 4.8. Our understanding of the RCR has also changed since 2007. In its report to Synod Smithers 2007 the CRCA stated that “… the GKH (=RCR) continue to see the GKN (=RCN) as false churches which have departed from the Scriptures, confession and Church Order. The (CRCA) Committee again does not see the evidence that would lead to such a conclusion. In this regard, we are concerned that the GKH(=RCR) is in danger of not carefully examining what has actually been decided by GKN(=RCN) synods.” However, according to the subcommittee in 2013, (a) the RCR had already before Synod Smithers 2007 outlined, for the CRCA, the concerns which the subcommittee addressed in its report to Synod Carman 2013 and (b) the CRCA did not study that RCR brochure before Synod Smithers 2007. The subcommittee has already admitted to the RCR that, in 2007, the RCR had a better understanding than we did of what was happening in the RCN and we did not take their expressions of concern seriously enough. This should be acknowledged.
- 4.9. The fact that the RCR has established EF with the LRCA is legitimately flagged as a concern by Abbotsford, Attercliffe, Elora and Spring Creek. The LRCA speaks on their website of ‘federative corruption’ in the CanRC and uses Belgic Confession Article 28 to justify their ‘liberation’ from the CanRC. Through its EF relationship with the LRCA the RCR has explicitly taken the side of the LRCA against the CanRC and therefore closer contact between the CanRC and the RCR will be impossible. Synod also agrees with Spring Creek that, as long as the RCR continue to have EF with the LRCA, the characterization ‘schismatic’ will not be far from our minds. This should be synod’s response to Fergus-Maranatha and Fergus-North.
- 4.10. As long as the CanRC maintain the charge that the RCR are schismatic, it seems unreasonable for us to follow the recommendation of the subcommittee to express regret over the fact that the RCR does not recognize us as true churches.
- 4.11. The CanRC have no mandate to bring together those in the Netherlands who cannot in good conscience remain with the RCN. Nevertheless, the RCN are our sister-churches and this causes us to treat the RCR and the GKNvv differently than other church federations in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the GKNvv officially designates itself as a temporary federation (voorlopig verband) and we regard the whole situation in the Netherlands as fluid. To allay the fears of Spring Creek, it is appropriate that synod mandate our subcommittee to exhort those who have left the RCN to maintain unity and inform them that we desire to have one sister-church in the Netherlands.
- 4.12. Since the Gereformeerde Kerk in Dalfsen has joined the RCR there is no need to refer to them in the subcommittee’s mandate.
That Synod decide:
- 5.1. To receive the committee report and thank the committee for the work done;
- 5.2. To ask the churches to pray that a true unity in the faith may develop within the fragmented ecclesiastical situation with the RCN and those who have left;
- 5.3. To note with regret that the RCR have entered into EF with the LRCA;
- 5.4. To acknowledge to the RCR that our understanding of the Dutch church situation has evolved with the passage of time since 2007;
- 5.5. To reappoint the subcommittee and mandate it:
- 5.5.1. To monitor developments in the GKNvv and the RCR;
- 5.5.2. To exhort all those who have left the RCN to reach out to others who love the Word and the Reformed faith;
- 5.5.3. To inform the RCR that as long as they maintain EF with the LRCA, closer contact between the CanRC and the RCR will be impossible;
- 5.5.4. To work in consultation with the FRCA;
- 5.5.5. To submit a comprehensive report of its activities to the churches six months prior to the next general synod.