GS 2019 art 120

GS 2019 Article 120 – GGRC (Reformed Calvinist Churches [in Indonesia])

1.   Material

  • 1.1    Report of the Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad (CRCA) regarding the Reformed Calvinist Churches [in Indonesia] (GGRC) (
  • 1.2    Letters from the following churches: Smithville ( Lincoln-Vineyard (

2.   Observations

  • 2.1    GS 2016 (Art. 116) decided:
    • [4.1]    At this time not to accept the offer of the Reformed Calvinist Churches in Indonesia (GGRC) to enter into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship (EF);
    • [4.2]    To mandate the CRCA:
      • [4.2.1]    To continue contact with the GGRC to encourage these churches to be faithful to the Reformed doctrine and church order;
      • [4.2.2]    To work in consultation and cooperation with the Smithville CanRC and the deputies of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA);
      • [4.2.3]    To encourage the GGRC to make use of the Reformed Theological School in Kupang (established by the Smithville CanRC) for the training for the ministry in their churches.
  • 2.2    From the CRCA report, we note the following observations:
    • 2.2.1    There are many historic and personal ties between the GGRC and the CanRC. Further, like the CanRC, the GGRC are concerned about developments in the GKv. Finally, they seek assistance from the CanRC in being Reformed in doctrine and practice and consider an EF relationship to foster this. This implies that the CanRC ought not to reject entering into a relationship of EF with the GGRC. Nevertheless, the geographical and cultural distance between Canada and Indonesia makes this a cumbersome relationship to maintain for the CanRC. It is prudent and proper for the CanRC to consult closely with the FRCA, who are much better positioned to provide whatever assistance the GGRC require.
    • 2.2.2    The FRCA, given its current policy of one church in one country, has not entered into EF with the GGRC. The CanRC does not have this policy. Further, the URCNA already enjoys EF with the GGRC. It is more advisable for the CanRC to grant than to refuse the GGRC’s request for EF.
    • 2.2.3    The GGRC earnestly strives for unity with other Reformed churches. Entering into EF with the GGRC is more likely to further this striving, as opposed to thwarting it. As Canadians we need to be sensitive to the environment and circumstances in which Indonesian churches find themselves (cf. CO Art. 50).
  • 2.3    Smithville writes that it does not intend to discourage a relationship with the GGRC, but urges Synod “to ensure that due diligence takes place before the next step is taken, and that all hesitation noted at Synod Dunnville is responded to sufficiently.” Smithville notes the following:
    • 2.3.1    The nine churches resulting from its mission work have decided not to affiliate with the GGRC although Smithville initially encouraged this.
    • 2.3.2    The CRCA has found no evidence concerning the accusation that “the GGRC has a tendency to hierarchy and ‘strong men,’” They should therefore interact with the GGRI-Timor to understand these concerns.
    • 2.3.3    The CRCA comments that “Seminary training is an internal matter not regulated by Rules for EF; it belongs to the minor points of church order and practice for which churches abroad shall not be rejected.” We must understand that while the typical North American theological student has enjoyed an upbringing in a Reformed home, has received six or more years of catechetical instruction, and has attended a college or university (and so has reached the age of 21 or 22), the typical theological student of the GGRC (and GGRI and GGRI-T) is commonly at best a high school graduate (and approximately 18 years of age). In that context, giving space to students to attend non-Reformed institutions is scarcely “a minor point.”
  • 2.4    Lincoln-Vineyard objects to the recommendation of the CRCA to extend EF to the GGRC.
    • 2.4.1    “The report from the CRCA does not present evidence that the concerns regarding the GGRC and their adherence to the Church Order, presented to GS 2016 and leading to the decision not to accept the offer of the Reformed Calvinist churches in Indonesia (GGRC) to enter into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship, have been addressed. Rather, a continued relationship of assistance and guidance is appropriate until these issues have been notably resolved.”
    • 2.4.2    Like Smithville, Lincoln-Vineyard is of the opinion that the issue of some men of the GGRC receiving ministerial training at a non-Reformed institution is questionable, having “a bearing on the Reformed character of the preaching and teaching ministry and of the federative life of the GGRC.”
    • 2.4.3    Lincoln-Vineyard mentions that “it has consistently been the stated position of Smithville since the inception of our mission project that the work would occur in cooperation with the GGRC and that any established churches would seek unity with the GGRC. Further, it was not our intention to establish a new federation in Indonesia. We acknowledge that our stated purpose and the outcome are very different.” This “was in no way a deliberate rejection of our stated intention but was rather the consequence of the inability of the Canadian Reformed Churches over several Synods to recognize the GGRC as faithful churches of the Lord and to establish sister relations between the federations, an eventuality we did not foresee at the inception of our mission work.”
    • 2.4.4    Lincoln-Vineyard goes on to state that “Granting EF to the GGRC would cause them to feel as if they are now on the same ‘level’ as the CanRC churches and that there is no longer room for growth or brotherly admonition from the CanRC. This, in turn, puts the GGRI-T in danger of following with the practices of the GGRC, i.e. slack on following the church order, because the GGRC are seen as ‘legitimate’ by the CanRC churches.”
  • 2.5    An extract from concerns listed by GS 2016 in regard to the GGRC can be found in Article 116:
    • [2.2.2] “Neither GGRI-NTT nor the GGRC have shown much interest in cooperating with STAKRI which is supported by the Smithville CanRC.”
    • [2.2.3] “Over time, however, the Canadian Reformed Churches got to know the GGRC quite well, but in the meantime several difficulties and divisions within the GGRC made the Canadian Reformed Churches reluctant to enter into such a relationship. This situation continues and over the past three years the CRCA has not seen much positive change in this situation.”
    • [2.2.4] “Ministers are being ordained within the GGRC who did not come from STAKRI but from other seminaries in Indonesia. The way in which they were called and ordained is not in agreement with the intention of the Church Order. The GGRC do not send their students for the ministry to STAKRI, as they had committed to during their synod in 2011 and 2012. Also the unity with the GGRI-NTT is something that seems to disappear into the background more and more.”

3.   Considerations

  • 3.1    With thankfulness to the Lord, the CRCA concluded that the GGRC evidence in confession and practice to be churches seeking to serve the Lord according to His Word.
  • 3.2    As to the accusation of “hierarchy and ‘strong men,’” and in particular the perception that the GGRC are dominated by one person, the CRCA reported to Synod, “As far as the CRCA could observe – in discussions, during ecclesiastical assemblies, and during less formal occasions – the GGRC practice mutual accountability between churches and between office bearers.”
  • 3.3    As to seminary training, according to information provided by Rev. Yonson Dethan, seven ministers in the GGRC were trained at the Reformed Seminary of the GGRI-NTT in Sumba. One has since gone to be with the Lord. The GGRC has sent four students to STAKRI but been disappointed in not seeing them graduate with degrees from that institution. Two completed three years of instruction at STAKRI, while two others completed the entire program. Two are currently serving as ministers and two are serving as evangelists in the GGRC.
  • Another minister student graduated from a Reformed Seminary on the island of Bali, and one graduated from SALEM, an interdenominational seminary.
  • 3.4    As to a perceived unwillingness on the part of the GGRC or the GGRI-NTT to send students to STAKRI, aside from the practical issue noted above, there is also another matter to consider. In our relations with other churches around the globe, the CanRC do not tell other churches where they ought to send their future ministers for training. We also would not appreciate other churches directing us where to send our students. It is inconsistent for the CanRC to deal differently with the churches of Indonesia.
  • From our distance in Canada, we are geographically and culturally too far removed to be able to weigh responsibly the “issues” any given church may have concerning the theological training of their ministers. It is in step with the Lord’s instruction in Matthew 18 that if a church has any issues with an organization such as STAKRI, it needs to make work of sorting that out on the local level.
  • 3.5    It is clear from Lincoln-Vineyard’s letter, that the fact that the CanRC have not recognized the GGRC as faithful churches of the Lord has contributed to the mission churches in Timor forming their own federation with a view to joining the national GGRI. Meanwhile, they now form a third group of churches next to the GGRI and the GGRC.
  • 3.6    Using the statement that “there is a strong hierarchical structure in Indonesia” would raise the question whether it is possible to enter into EF with any churches there. Even if it can be proven that this aspect of Indonesian culture has an impact on church life, one only has to look back in the history of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands in past centuries to see parallels, caused by a lack of sufficient education on the part of many church members who were obliged to look to their educated leaders for guidance. The GGRC have sought to remedy the lack of education by establishing Reformed schools.
  • 3.7    The GGRC do not consider themselves to be strong in every respect, which is why for eighteen years they have been asking the CanRC to help them.
  • 3.8    The fear expressed by Lincoln-Vineyard that “granting EF to the GGRC would cause them to feel as if they are now on the same ‘level’ as the CanRC churches and that there is no longer room for growth or brotherly admonition from the CanRC” is a supposed future that is not in line with how the GGRC have presented themselves during the years of their contact with the CanRC and it conflicts with observations noted by the CRCA in its current report and in years past.
  • 3.9    As CanRC we have been looking to the FRCA for direction in regard to how to deal with the GGRC. As indicated in the CRCA report to GS 2019, a complicating factor is that the FRCA’s approach has been shaped by the view that they can only be sister churches with one church in one country. Since the FRCA already is a sister church of the GGRI, the focus of the FRCA’s contact with the GGRC has been to encourage them to pursue federative unity with the GGRI.
  • 3.10  Meanwhile we should also keep in mind that our sister church in Indonesia, the GGRI-NTT, has had a sister relationship with the GGRC since 1991. In the interest of promoting unity among the Reformed Churches in Indonesia and offering further help to the various parties, it makes sense to equalize the “playing field” by offering EF to the GGRC just as the GGRI-NTT did almost three decades ago, rather than indirectly calling that sister relationship into question by continuing to delay establishing EF with the GGRC.
  • 3.11  After eighteen years of contact between the GGRC and the CanRC in formal and informal ways, continuing to show reluctance to enter into EF with the GGRC on the basis of vague statements concerning their character has become very questionable and also threatens to perpetuate the divisions between the GGRC and the GGRI-Timor, founded by the mission work of the Smithville CanRC.
  • 3.12  Entering into EF with the GGRC acknowledges the history and legitimacy of this federation of churches. A sister church relationship between the GGRC and CanRC will provide a heightened mode of interaction that allows for addressing each other with respect to matters that pertain to doctrine, worship, and governance, also where church unity with other Reformed Churches is concerned.

4.   Recommendations

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1    To enter into Ecclesiastical Fellowship (EF) with the Reformed Calvinist Churches [in Indonesia] (GGRC);
  • 4.2    To mandate the Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad (CRCA):
    • 4.2.1    To send a delegation to the next synod of the GGRC, planned for 2019, informing them of this decision;
    • 4.2.2    To work in consultation and cooperation with the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA) and United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) as they encourage and support the churches of the GGRC in their efforts to grow in Reformed doctrine and polity;
    • 4.2.3    To work in consultation and cooperation with the Smithville CanRC given their mission work in Timor;
    • 4.2.4    To encourage the GGRC to foster and promote church unity among Reformed churches in Indonesia;
    • 4.2.5    To submit its report to the churches 6 months prior to the convening of the next general synod.