16 Jul GS 2016 art 104
Article 104 – GKv (Reformed Churches in The Netherlands)
Advisory Committee 1 presented its report. The report was discussed. During discussion the following amendments were moved and seconded:
- To replace
- “To inform the GKv via the BBK of our decision”
- “To inform the next synod of the GKv in writing of GS 2016’s decision”
- To insert between 4.4.2 and 4.4.3
- “To send a copy of this act of GS 2016 to each of the GKv churches accompanied by a cover letter.”
- 1.1 CRCA Subcommittee for Relations with churches in The Netherlands (CRCA-SRN) (220.127.116.11), including the appendices (18.104.22.168-7)
- 1.2 Letters from the following CanRC: Burlington-Rehoboth (22.214.171.124.1), Smithers (126.96.36.199.2), Chatham (188.8.131.52.3), Grand Valley (184.108.40.206.4), Langley (220.127.116.11.5), Ancaster (18.104.22.168.6), Fergus-North (22.214.171.124.7), Edmonton-Immanuel (126.96.36.199.8), Fergus Maranatha (188.8.131.52.9), Glanbrook-Trinity (184.108.40.206.10), Grand Rapids (220.127.116.11.11), Taber (18.104.22.168.12), Abbotsford (22.214.171.124.13), Grassie-Covenant (126.96.36.199.14), Cloverdale (188.8.131.52.15), Brampton (184.108.40.206.16), Elora (220.127.116.11.17), Burlington-Ebenezer (18.104.22.168.18), Toronto-Bethel (22.214.171.124.19), Hamilton-Blessings (126.96.36.199), Lincoln-Vineyard (188.8.131.52)
- 2.1 GS 2013 (Art. 148) decided to reappoint the CRCA-SRN with the following mandate:
- [4.1.1] To maintain contact with the BBK of the RCN and represent the CanRC at the next synod of the RCN. If possible, the CRCA subcommittee should be present when this Synod’s letter is dealt with by the next Synod of the RCN;
- [4.1.2] To inform BBK of our decision concerning female delegates;
- [4.1.3] To continue to observe developments at the TUK;
- [4.1.4] To monitor the work of the Deputies concerning the Role of Women in the Church and assess their report as well as the decisions of the next Synod of the RCN regarding that report;
- [4.1.5] To monitor the ongoing unity discussions between the RCN and the NRC and to review the decisions of the next Synod of the RCN regarding unity with the NRC;
- [4.1.6] To review the results of the revision of the RCN Church Order;
- [4.1.7] To monitor the results of the RCN’s involvement with the “National Synod”;
- [4.1.8] To monitor the developments regarding the application of Article 67 of the RCN Church Order;
- [4.1.9] To work in consultation with the deputies FRCA and OPC;
- [4.1.10] To report to the churches six months prior to General Synod 2016 giving special attention to the question whether or not we continue in EF.
- 2.2 Concerns about the GKv have been expressed by our synods over the past few decades.
- 2.2.1 1998: Synod agreed with the concerns expressed regarding commitment to the authority of Scripture and confessions, deviations regarding the doctrine of Christ’s suffering, and an article dealing with homosexuality (GS-CanRC 1998 Art. 40 Cons. III.6, Rec. IV.G).
- 2.2.2 2001: Synod noted concerns about the marriage form recently adopted by GS-GKv 1999 and mandated the CRCA to discuss the changes with the Dutch deputies (GS-CanRC 2001 Art. 80 Rec. 5.3.2). Synod also mandated the CRCA to study the concerns expressed about the GKv to see whether the point has been reached that a warning is needed that the GKv are deviating from the Reformed basis in Scripture and the Reformed confessions (GS-CanRC 2001 Art. 80 Rec. 5.3.3).
- 2.2.3 2004: Synod expressed concerns as well. In addition, it stated: “The letters from the churches show that there is concern within our churches about the situation in the GKv. It is important to keep in mind that we should not judge the GKv on the basis of what we know from personal observations, hearsay, or from articles in papers, but on the basis of its official documents.” (GS-CanRC 2004 Art. 44 Cons. 4.9).
- 2.2.4 2007: Synod maintained that there was enough reason to monitor the situation in The Netherlands. Further, it stated, “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 GKv 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 GKv. 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.” (GS-CanRC 2007 Art. 133 Cons. 4.9).
- 2.2.5 2010: The concerns increased to the extent that a separate subcommittee was set up. It was charged to express grave concerns about the teaching at the TUK and about a change in how biblical hermeneutics are functioning the GKv (GS-CanRC 2010 Art. 86 Rec. 4.4).
- 2.2.6 2013: Synod decided to send a letter of admonition directly to GS-GKv 2014 because of continued growing concerns (GS-CanRC 2013 Art. 165).
- 2.3 GS-GKv 2014 responded by letter to the CanRC letter of admonition. GS-GKv 2014 expressed appreciation for the letter as an expression of love but defended the position of the GKv with regard to the matters mentioned in our letter of admonition.
- 2.4 Reactions from the churches:
- 2.4.1 Several churches indicate general support for the direction the committee proposes. Some of the items mentioned by the churches are:
- – Many warnings have been issued by our past synods;
- – It sends a strong signal to the GKv and adds a further clear warning;
- – The recommendation to restrict our Ecclesiastical Fellowship (EF) will be an encouragement to faithful members of the GKv.
- 2.4.2 Several churches propose specific changes to amend recommendation 2 of the CRCA-SRN report to the extent that the next general synod will make a decision about terminating our EF.
- 2.4.3 Langley proposes to suspend EF with the GKv rather than restrict it.
- 2.4.4 Cloverdale disagrees with the recommendation to restrict EF and instead proposes notice be given to the GKv that the EF will be terminated at GS-CanRC 2019 unless there is meaningful change in the direction of the GKv. They note that the proposed restriction would create a new class of EF and “would punish visitors for the sins of the broader assemblies.”
- 2.4.5 Glanbrook-Trinity indicates that a synod should not be advising consistories as to their role in advising their members who are travelling to The Netherlands.
- 2.4.6 Hamilton-Blessings regrets that the Rev. Dr. Hans Burger was not contacted by the CRCA-SRN and indicates that his views are misrepresented in the report to synod. They propose that synod acknowledge this publicly.
- 2.4.7 Flamborough observes that the CRCA met its mandate to work closely with the deputies of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).
- 2.4.8 Grand Rapids supports the EF restriction as a minimum, but sees the case for complete suspension at this time. They indicate that in any case the EF should be terminated by GS-CanRC 2019 if the situation in The Netherlands has not improved.
- 2.4.9 Burlington-Ebenezer supports both recommendations of the CRCA and gives 2 Thess. 3:13-15 as guidance.
- 2.5 The CRCA-SRN recommends to restrict our sister relationship with the GKv. This more limited relationship should be understood as follows:
- 2.5.1 Rules 4 and 5 for EF which deal with the automatic acceptance of attestations from the GKv and the privilege of the pulpit for GKv ministers are to be considered null and void. Consistories are urged to exercise due diligence to ensure that those whose attestations from the GKv are accepted are sound in doctrine and conduct. Should a church desire to call a minister from the GKv, the concurring advice of classis is required before such a call is issued. In the case of visiting ministers from the GKv, consistories are urged to exercise careful diligence and should be fully assured of the sound doctrine and the godly life of the minister involved. Furthermore, consistories should advise their members who are travelling to The Netherlands not to automatically join a GKv congregation but to be discerning where they worship.
- 2.5.2 If GS-GKv 2017 makes a clear statement indicating that these churches are returning to acknowledging the full authority of Scripture and show that commitment by as yet acting on our concerns expressed in the letter of admonition from GS-CanRC 2013 regarding the TUK, women in office, and other matters such as homosexuality mentioned in our reports, the normal sister relationship will resume. If, however, GS-GKv 2017 maintains the present course of deformation then by that very fact this Synod will break the relationship of the GKv with the CanRC and the CanRC will consider the sister relationship to have ended.
- 3.1. From the report of the committee it can be concluded that the committee fulfilled its mandate. The committee is to be commended for the amount of work it did and the clarity with which it presented its findings.
- 3.2. The report indicates that, in spite of the warnings by our deputies and the letter of admonition to GS-GKv 2014, there is no evidence of returning to the full authority of Scripture regarding the items mentioned in the letter; for example, the teachings at the TUK, women in office, relations with the NGK. This is also supported by the official letter from the GS-GKv 2014. In fact, the report from the CRCA-SRN shows that the GKv has gone further in challenging the full authority of Scripture. The report speaks of a “course of deformation.” We note this with sad and heavy hearts.
- 3.3 The GKv delegates to the GS-CanRC 2016 indicated that the GKv understand the concerns of the CanRC but feel that the recommendations of the sub-committee are premature (see address, Appendix 10). They urged this synod to wait till the next synod of the GKv. It is true that the matter of women in office for example, has not yet been concluded in the ecclesiastical assemblies of the GKv. It will be important for our deputies to monitor this development, also in light of the request of the GKv for input by the sister-churches. In regard to the main concern of the CanRC, the apparent lack of authority of Scripture, there is no indication of change since GS-CanRC 2013.
- 3.4 The above outlined history (see Obs. 2.2), as well as the first reason of the subcommittee report (p. 68), show that the CanRC have addressed these concerns over a prolonged period of time. The overview also shows that the CanRC have exercised patience in following due process.
- 3.5 The CanRC have a deep and rich, common history with the GKv. Over many years we have worked together and we recognize the bond we have with many faithful brothers and sisters in the GKv. We also share in several mission projects. The Bible, however, also calls us to speak the truth in love when we have concerns and we are required to address them in accordance with our rules of EF.
- 3.6 Synod recognizes that the GKv are facing many challenges in its Dutch context. To one degree or another, however, we all live in a cultural context that is hostile to God’s Word. Nevertheless, the authority of Scripture transcends culture and needs to be maintained in any cultural context.
- 3.7 Because the situation within the GKv at the local level is “fluid” and there are many differences in practice between local churches when it comes to, for example, living common law, practicing homosexuals, and women in office, the CanRC can no longer automatically accept statements made by local consistories of the GKv. For this reason, it would be prudent to temporarily suspend the operation of the EF rules 4 and 5. These rules are:
- 4. The churches shall accept one another’s attestations or certificates of good standing, which also means admitting members of the respective churches to the sacraments upon presentation of that attestation or certificate.
- 5. The churches shall open their pulpits for each other’s ministers in agreement with the rules adopted in their respective churches.
- Synod agrees with the CRCA-SRN recommendation that “consistories are urged to exercise due diligence to ensure that those whose attestations from the GKv are accepted are sound in doctrine and conduct.”
- 3.8 It must be clear that this suspension of these two rules does not mean that EF with the GKv has ended but rather is under strain. This is a temporary situation in the hope that, under God’s grace, this suspension can be undone when there is evidence of change within the GKv churches.
- 3.9 Synod is not in agreement with the committee’s suggestion that if GS-GKv 2017 maintains the present course of deformation, then, by that very fact, this GKv synod will break the EF. Synod agrees with the churches which have pointed this out. As to the suggestion of several churches that Synod mandate GS-CanRC 2019 to make a decision about terminating our EF with the GKv, it is not within the jurisdiction of this synod to mandate a future synod to do this. It is our hope and prayer that breaking EF will not be necessary.
- 3.10 The report of the CRCA-SRN identifies several serious concerns regarding an article by the Rev. Dr. Burger, lecturer of systematic theology at the TUK. Hamilton-Blessings questions the findings of the report. It would be important for the CRCA-SRN to further investigate these concerns. The letter of Hamilton-Blessings should be forwarded to the SRN.
That Synod decide:
- 4.1 To express thankfulness for the Subcommittee for Relations with churches in The Netherlands of the Committee for Relations with Churches Abroad (CRCA-SRN) for their work;
- 4.2 To express thankfulness and joy to the Lord for much faithfulness in the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands (GKv) as well as grief and disquiet over tolerance of deviations from Scripture and confession;
- 4.3 To continue EF with the GKv, with the temporary suspension of the operation of EF rules 4 and 5;
- 4.4 To mandate the CRCA-SRN:
- 4.4.1 To maintain contact with the Committee for Relations with Churches Abroad (BBK) of the GKv and represent the CanRC at the next GKv Synod;
- 4.4.2 To inform the next synod of the GKv in writing of GS 2016’s decision;
- 4.4.3 To send a copy of this act of GS 2016 to each of the GKv churches, accompanied by a cover letter;
- 4.4.4 To monitor the work of the committee “Males / Females and Office”, as well as the decisions of the next GKv Synod regarding this matter;
- 4.4.5 To monitor the ongoing discussions between the GKv and the Netherlands Reformed Churches (NGK);
- 4.4.6 To continue to observe developments at the Theological University of the GKv in Kampen (TUK), which includes paying attention to the article by Dr. Burger;
- 4.4.7 To monitor the results of the GKv’s involvement with the National Synod;
- 4.4.8 To work in consultation with the deputies of our other sister-churches;
- 4.4.9 To report to the churches six months prior to GS 2019 giving special attention to the question whether or not to continue EF.