GS 2019 art 104

GS 2019 Article 104 – GKv – Letter to the individual congregations and to synod

The following text was adopted for a letter to be sent to all the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands (GKv) and brought in person to their synod 2021. The second clerk was instructed to ensure a Dutch translation is made of both the letter and the decision found in GS 2019 Art. 41.

To all the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (liberated) (GKv)     

Re: Decision on Ecclesiastical Fellowship (Sister-Church Relationship)

May 21, AD 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,

            It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that as Synod of the Canadian Reformed Churches held in Edmonton 2019 we write directly to you—each congregation in the federation of Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (liberated). We are taking this unusual step because of the distressing situation that has developed within your churches over the last years leading to the most recent decision of your General Synod Meppel 2017 to allow women to serve in any of the special offices. Not only has this development brought about a disruption of our long-standing and deeply cherished sister-church relationship, but, most importantly, it is offensive and disobedient to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The purpose of our letter is to explain our decision as Synod regarding your federation of churches, to offer a final word of exhortation, and to encourage the faithful among you to take necessary action.

            As you may be aware, for more than twelve years we as churches have expressed growing disquiet with decisions made by your synods which have increasingly put our relationship as sister-churches under strain. Our General Synods 2007 and 2010, through an appointed committee, communicated to your synods of that time period serious concerns about the faithfulness of your federation to the Word of God in particular matters. To our dismay, those concerns were not alleviated but instead grew worse. Our General Synod 2013 took matters a step further by writing a letter of admonition directly to your General Synod 2014, clearly warning against the underlying faulty method of interpreting Scripture (i.e. hermeneutics) which was evident among you. Our Synod pointed out how those hermeneutics resulted in your Synod failing to maintain faithfulness to the Word of God in several matters. Once again, there was no change in the direction of your churches. Our General Synod 2016 then decided to suspend certain formal rules of fellowship with your federation in the hope that this more drastic measure would arouse your next synod to reverse course. Our Synod 2016 also appointed a committee to send a letter directly to each congregation in your federation to, as much as possible, make all consistories aware of the great seriousness of the issues and to warn against the very real threat that our ecclesiastical fellowship would be severed if there was no genuine repentance evidenced in the decisions of your next synod. With great sorrow, our General Synod 2019 received a thorough report from the appointed committee showing that not only was the warning of Synod 2016 not heeded, but Synod Meppel 2017 carried forward the hermeneutical trajectory of your previous synods and decided that the Bible permits women to serve in the offices of deacon, elder, and minister. In the address by the fraternal delegates sent to our Synod 2019 by Synod Meppel 2017, nothing was said that contradicted the findings of this report. For reasons outlined in the report and presented in our Synod Edmonton 2019 decision (see attached), this action is a clear violation of the Word of God and has forced us to terminate our ecclesiastical fellowship with you, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (liberated).

            Brothers and sisters, we do not write any of the above with a sense of superiority or self-righteousness but rather in humility and awareness of our own sins and shortcomings. We too are susceptible to error and we pray that the Lord will open our eyes should we become delinquent in doctrine or in conduct. Daily we also need to repent as the Holy Spirit pricks our conscience. Our fervent desire is that by means of this letter, by means of the many admonitions expressed to you by us and many of your sister churches, that you as a federation of churches will also be pricked in your conscience and return to a faithful walk with the Lord in obedience to the plain teaching of His word. Please know that as General Synod Edmonton we have prayed for this very thing and rest assured that this will be the ongoing prayer of our churches for you as well. May this Word of God stimulate us all in these matters: “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way” (Ps. 25:8–9).

            We also are aware that many individuals and more than a few consistories have all along shared our concerns and have been praying and working for a return to faithfulness to God’s Word at the synod level. We want to encourage all such individuals, consistories, and congregations that you do not stand alone and that we wish to support you as best we can in this troublesome time. By means of this letter we would like to urge all members and consistories to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) by calling your next synod to repent and return to the Scriptures, to the Reformed confession we have historically shared together. If in time that process does not produce the desired result, we would then urge you to consider your place in the  federation. As we confess in the Belgic Confession, when a church federation no longer consistently maintains the marks of the true church, it is time to come out of it and seek membership in a true church: “. . . it is the duty of all believers, according to the Word of God, to separate from those who do not belong to the church and to join this assembly wherever God has established it” (BC Art. 28). We recognize that this process will not be easy and undoubtedly will be filled with many challenges but we believe it is necessary for the glory of the Lord, the preservation of his church,  and the salvation of many souls. As a church federation we will support all such efforts with prayer, encouragement, and whatever other assistance we may be able to render. We encourage you to take up contact with our Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad in order to seek whatever help you may need ([email protected]).

            Dear brothers and sisters, please receive our letter in the spirit in which it was written, the spirit of brotherly love and concern. May the Lord give you grace, wisdom, and strength as you reflect on these things and find your way forward.

            Yours in Christ Jesus our Lord,

            On behalf of General Synod Edmonton 2019,

Rev. Douwe Agema (Chairman)          Rev. Peter H. Holtvlüwer (Second Clerk)