GS 2019 – Article 41
That Synod decide:
4.1 To thank the subcommittee mandated by GS 2016 for the diligent work they have done.
4.2 With sadness to discontinue the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship (EF) with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKv) and to implore the CanRCs to continue in prayer for the GKv.
4.3 To convey this decision, together with a letter of explanation and encouragement, to each of the GKv congregations.
4.4 To mandate the Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad (CRCA):
4.4.1 To deliver this decision and letter (see 4.3) in person to the next Synod of the GKv;
4.4.2 To submit its report to the churches 6 months prior to the convening of the next general synod.
GS 2019 – Article 104
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 Rev. Peter H. Holtvlüwer
(Chairman) (Second Clerk)
GS 2016 – Article 104
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.
GS 2013 – Article 148
That Synod decide:
4.1. To thank the committee for their extensive report;
4.2. To continue at this time the relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the RCN under the adopted rules;
4.3. To express – by letter, from this synod to the next RCN synod – our brotherly concerns in a letter of admonition as per the rules for EF (1&6) about the tolerance of deviations from Scripture and confessions that we see in our sister churches at this time. This letter will express our love for the RCN as church of the Lord and our sincere prayers for our sister church in the extremely secular European situation. But it will also describe our disquiet about the following matters:
4.3.1. The views coming from or tolerated at the TUK which show marks of Scripture criticism and which deviate from Reformed hermeneutical principles as indicated by Articles 5 and 7 of the Belgic Confession;
4.3.2. The work of the Deputies Men/Women in the Church appointed by Synod Amersfoort-West 2005 and Zwolle 2008, especially regarding how Scripture was treated in their reports;
4.3.3. The growing relationship with the NRC, without resolution of crucial differences such as women in office and subscription to the confessions;
4.3.4. A growing sense of estrangement as a consequence of the concerns mentioned above, which we hope and pray will not lead to a parting of the ways in the future;
4.4. If churches send female delegates to CanRC synods, they will not be given synod privilege;
4.5. To hereby express regret for the strong expressions used in statements made by some members of the subcommittee in Clarion, July 29, 2011;
4.6. To reappoint a subcommittee of the CRCA with the following mandate:
4.6.1. Maintain contact with the BBK of the RCN and represent the CanRC at the next synod of the RCN. If possible, the CRCA subcommittee be present when this synod’s letter is dealt with by the next synod of the RCN;
4.6.2. Inform BBK of our decision concerning female delegates;
4.6.3. Continue to observe developments at the TUK;
4.6.4. Monitor the work of the Deputies concerning the Role of Women in the Church and assess its report as well as the decisions of the next Synod of the RCN regarding that report;
4.6.5. 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;
4.6.6. Review the results of the revision of the RCN church order;
4.6.7. Monitor the results of the RCN’s involvement with the “National Synod;”
4.6.8. Monitor the developments regarding the application of Article 67 of the RCN Church Order;
4.6.9. Work in consultation with the deputies of the FRCA and OPC;
4.6.10. Report to the churches six months prior to General Synod 2016 giving special attention to the question whether or not we continue in Ecclesiastical Fellowship.
GS 2013 – Article 165
The General Synod
Canadian Reformed Churches
Meeting in Carman, Manitoba, Canada
To the General Synod 2014 of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands:
Esteemed Brothers in Christ:
Synod Carman 2013 greets the Synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN). We praise our faithful God for his continuing work of grace in the midst of your churches. As observers from afar, we are thankful for the confession, worship and witness of the RCN. We recognize in your midst the faithful preaching of the gospel of salvation and that fills us with joy. Between you in The Netherlands and us in North America, there is a bond of some 60 years. Many of our members trace their ancestry to your country. With you, we find our roots in the Reformation of the 16th century and we are united to you in our common confession of faith. Even though the present generation of Canadian Reformed believers is much less connected to Europe than in previous times, there remains among our churches, in general, a keen interest in the RCN. Ministers and other members of our churches continue to benefit from the scholarly labours of members of our sister churches in the Netherlands. We think, for example, of the Commentaar op het Nieuwe Testament (Derde Serie) which has been well received in Canada among those who can still read the Dutch language.
Even as we notice much faithfulness among the RCN, the apostolic exhortation to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) compels us to also express a number of serious concerns. We present them in humility and yet with the heartfelt desire that you would take heed to the matters we bring before you. Our rules for ecclesiastical fellowship state that “the churches shall assist each other in the maintenance, defence and promotion of the Reformed faith in doctrine, church polity, discipline and liturgy,” and shall be “watchful for deviations.” It is in this context of ecclesiastical accountability that we direct our exhortations to you.
To a great extent, our concerns revolve around the Theological University in Kampen (TUK). For some time, we have noticed the influence of critical scholarship upon the methodology and conclusions of some publications associated with the TUK. These concerns have been communicated on various occasions to the BBK Deputies and have also been expressed by our delegates at Synod Harderwijk 2011. An “Interim Report” of our Committee for Relations with the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands” was received by Synod Harderwijk which conveyed to you many of the details of our concern. In a recent letter to our Synod Carman 2013, the Deputies BBK assure us that the TUK is maintaining its character as an orthodox Reformed institution. However, there was no interaction in this letter with our specific concerns. Since we have not seen any indication that our concerns have been recognized and given a serious response, we feel the need at this time to intensify our exhortation to you. Indeed, we are appealing to you as our sister churches to return to the right path of faith in regard to the interpretation of Holy Scripture.
Specifically, we ask you as sister churches to indicate clearly that the views of Dr. Stefan Paas expressed in his dissertation, Creation and Judgment, are not in harmony with the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity to which we subscribe as Reformed Churches. When Paas puts forward the notion that the people of Israel arose from migrant and Canaanite populations and when he calls into question the historicity of the exodus, this constitutes an attack on the trustworthiness of the Word of God. To us, it is inconceivable that a person holding such views could be appointed as a professor at the TUK. That Paas does not teach in the area of Old Testament studies is no reassurance for us. Introducing doubt about the historical veracity of the Word of God cannot be contained; eventually, it will permeate all the disciplines of theological study. It is our view that the Directors of the TUK ought to have dealt with this matter by not allowing Paas to teach at the TUK so long as he held to the views expressed in his dissertation. Failure to do so means that a foothold has been established at the TUK for the methods and conclusions of scholarship which does not take seriously the special nature of Scripture as the inspired and therefore infallible Word of God.
Similarly, we are deeply concerned about the methodology and conclusions expressed in the dissertation of Dr. Koert van Bekkum, From Conquest to Coexistence: Ideology and Antiquarian Intent in the Historiography of Israel’s Settlement in Canaan (2001). Methodologically, van Bekkum believes that the factuality of historical events in the Bible cannot be accepted without question. In evaluating the truth of statements in the Bible about historical events, says van Bekkum, scholarship must consider the evidence of archaeology and the findings of literary criticism. Only in this way can a scholar arrive at the “truth value” of a text. The end result of his methodology is that certain biblical data are not accepted at face value. For example, according to van Bekkum, the Biblical data in Joshua 10:12-14 cannot mean that the sun and moon actually stood still. Similarly, the straightforward historical statement of 1 Kings 6:1 is set aside by van Bekkum. What we observe in such scholarship is a diminished appreciation for the authority and accuracy of the Word of God. The fact that this was a dissertation promoted under the auspices of the TUK. and was awarded a cum laude designation augments our concerns. That van Bekkum was subsequently appointed to the faculty of the TUK creates grave concern among us for the future training of ministers of the RCN. Allowing such views to be presented and promoted undermines the orthodox Reformed character of the TUK and jeopardizes the training of future ministers of the Word. For the safeguarding of the RCN, we urge you as yet to deal with this matter in a way that honours the Holy Spirit who has breathed out for us the living and abiding Word of God.
In short, we believe that we are witnessing the acceptance of higher-critical scholarship in the Theological University of Kampen which is under the governance of the RCN. In our own North American context, we have observed the disastrous spiritual and numerical decline of various church federations due to the inroads of historical criticism of the Bible. Out of our love for you, we beseech you to take our concerns seriously and to be resolute in refuting opinion and scholarship which does not honour the infallibility, clarity and sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures (Article 7, Belgic Confession).
We would also like to communicate our dismay about developments in your federation of churches in regard to the matter of women in office. While your Synods have thankfully not made a decision allowing for women office-bearers, we are concerned about the process that has been set in motion. When a Committee appointed by Synod Amersfoort-Centrum 2005 developed a manual to facilitate reflection on the role of women in the church, it failed to direct the membership of your churches to what Holy Scripture says on this matter. Instead, what Scripture clearly reveals in regard to this matter became merely one option to be considered among others. Synod Harderwijk 2011 appointed deputies with a mandate to answer the question of whether Scripture permits the appointment of women to the offices of deacon, elder or minister. In our opinion, this gave evidence of a diminished regard for the plain teaching of the Bible that these offices are to be filled by faithful men who are chosen in agreement with the instructions provided through the Holy Spirit by the apostle Paul (1 Timothy 2:11-14, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35). In the RCN, as in any faithful church of the Lord Jesus Christ, the matter of women in office should not be framed as an open question. When the unambiguous teaching of the Word of God about male leadership in the church becomes a matter of debate, then we fear that a new and dangerous hermeneutical approach is showing its influence. We urge you in the Lord to defend the Biblical truth that God calls men to give leadership in the churches and we ask you to encourage your churches to resist the inroads of egalitarian thinking in regard to offices in the church.
Finally, we express our concerns about the ongoing relationship between your churches and the Netherlands Reformed Churches (NRC). As you know, the NRC allows women to be ordained to the offices of minister, elder and deacon and has recently mandated a study into whether practising homosexuals may fill the office of elder or deacon. A further reason for alarm is that full subscription to the confessions is not required of office-bearers in the NRC. When there is such deviation in the NRC from Scripture and the Reformed confession, it seems impossible to us that churches in your federation could amalgamate even with NRC churches which do not have women in office since each NRC church is part of a federation of churches and thus co-responsible for the direction of the whole. We urge you in the Lord to turn back from ecumenical relationships which are not built squarely on the truth of God’s Word as confessed in the Three Forms of Unity.
Brothers, in addressing you as we have, we do not imagine for a moment that we are above reproach or that our churches do not also face many challenges. Both your churches and ours are involved in a deep spiritual battle for the preservation of the truth of God’s Word. In this battle we need each other. We appreciate and thank the Lord for all the help you can give us to stay true to the Word of God as confessed by all of us in the ecumenical creeds and the Three Forms of Unity. In the same way, we hope and pray that you will hear our concerns and consider our admonitions and turn back from the wrong path on which you have set out in recent years. Should you stay on your present course in regard to the matters we have raised in this letter, we fear that the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship which we have with you will be jeopardized. We urge your Synod and your churches to stand firm in confessing the whole truth of the Word of God and to defend this truth boldly and vigorously even when it is denounced and hated by the world. We hope and pray that our concerns may one day be put to rest and that our churches and yours may remain faithful until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory, majesty and power.
We look forward to your response to our next General Synod via our Subcommittee for Contact with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands Liberated. With Christian greetings, on behalf of General Synod Carman 2013,
(Signed by the chairman and second clerk of Synod Carman 2013)
GS 2013 – Article 193
A motion was tabled to formulate a Dutch translation of the English letter to the RCN previously adopted by Synod Carman 2013 (see Article 165) in order to be also sent to the RCN. This will be done by a committee of brothers fluent in both the Dutch and English languages and will be placed in the Appendices of these Acts. [See Appendix 21].