The Deputies Report to the Synod of the Free Reformed Churches in Australia (to be held in June 2015) has just been published. Of special interest is its recommendations regarding relations with its Dutch sister church, the Gereformeerde Kerken vrijgemaakt (i.e., GKV, referred to in the report as the RCN = Reformed Churches in the Netherlands).
The FRCA admonished the RCN, at RCN Synod Ede (2014), regarding its application of the new hermeneutic, particularly regarding the role of men and women in the church. Having had no satisfactory response from the RCN, the deputies recommend to the FRCA Synod that the FRCA decide to either no longer maintain a sister-relationship with the RCN or to suspend this relationship.
The Canadian Reformed Church, expressed similar concerns to the RCN, and received a similar negative response. The CanRC Interim Report from the subcommittee for relations with the RCN (Sept.2104), noted:
...the hermeneutic utilized by the NRC to open all church offices to women has in principle been already accepted as valid by Synod Ede....
We remain concerned that the misgivings expressed in the Synod Carmen letter of admonition about the dissertations of Dr. Paas and Dr. van Bekkum have not brought any change or action. Instead Dr Pass has been by Synod Ede as professor of Missiology at the TUK (the RCN seminary), and Dr, van Bekkum remains assistant professor of Old Testament, without either having retracted any of their Scripture critical statements
...our exhortations have not been accepted in the spirit in which they were directed. We can only say that this does not bode well for the CanRC relationship with the RCN.
The CanRC will no doubt follow with great interest how the FRCA will handle this issue at its Synod 2015. The next CanRC Synod, meeting in 2016, will have to address the same issue.
Here are the recommendations from the Deputies Report to the FRCA Synod 2015 (pp.100-102)
Recommendations: There was common agreement among the deputies that our ongoing concerns with the RCN necessitates a change to our current sister-church relationship with them. There were, however, different thoughts on how to proceed from here, with one alternative being the termination of a sister church relationship and the other alternative being at this time to suspend various rules pertaining to our sister-church relationship. We therefore present both alternatives to Synod Baldivis with the prayer that they might serve the Synod well to come to a well considered and God-honouring decision.
1. With sadness, to no longer maintain a sister-church relationship withthe RCN
2. to encourage the FRCA congregations to pray that the Lord grant the RCN return to uprightly uphold and defend the Scriptural truth as maintained in the three forms of unity.
3. To discharge deputies, thank them for their work and to appoint new deputies with the mandate:
a. inform the RCN of this decision – which may include, upon invitation, to attend the next RCN Synod and orally convey and show the reasons for this decision.
b. receive and monitor aany response from the RCN.
c. where possible reply to any response received.
d. inform all FRCA sister-churches of this decision.
e. Report to next Synod.
1. The RCN expresses thankfulness for the admonitions given by Synod Armadale 2013 and other sister churches as evidence of care for one another, acknowledges that they have changed (see decision in response to admonitions 2.a.3.) but any Scriptural or Confessional
or church political deviation is denied and consequently, no need for repentance and return is expressed or considered necessary.
2. Although some Churches and members within the bond of the RCN show evidence of a desire to be faithful, the bond as a whole has failed to take adequate corporate responsibility for the far-reaching unscriptural and unreformed changes and teachings which have become part and parcel of the RCN today.
3. As sister churches we have exhorted the RCN “to live as churches of God in this world . . . and to mutually care for each other that they do not depart from the Reformed faith in doctrine, church polity, discipline and liturgy.” (Rules for sister churches.) However the RCN now insists that we no longer address them on the issues for which they have been admonished.
4. Continuation of a sister church relation with the RCN opens up the FRCA to the dangerous leaven which is sadly infecting the RCN (see1 Corinthians 5).
1. To suspend our relationship with the RCN. This suspension applies to the following rules of our sister church relationship agreement:
a. “Rule e) The churches shall accept one another’s attestations, which also means admitting the members of the respective churches to the sacraments upon presentation of these attestations.” To advise the consistories of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia to exercise due care with respect to their responsibilities towards those coming from and going to the RCN.
b. “Rule f) The churches shall in principle open their pulpits to each other’s ministers in agreement with the rules adopted by the respective church federations.” To advise the consistories of the FRCA to close their pulpits to visiting ministers of the RCN.
c. “Rule h) The churches shall receive each other’s delegates at their broadest assemblies and invite them to sit as advisers, as much as possible.” Delegates from the RCN will be invited to attend and address our next synod but will not be accorded the privileges as advisers.
2. To send to the next RCN synod a second letter:
a. To express our deep sadness at the response of Synod Ede to our letter of admonition sent by Synod Armadale and advise of the suspension of our sister church relationship.
b. Appeal their decisions with respect to our letter of admonition and re-iterate our concerns as summarised in the deputies report to Synod Baldivis.
c. Interact with the request of Synod Ede for advice with respect to the role of men and women in the church, and present the clear biblical teaching on this matter.
3. to encourage the FRCA congregations to pray that the Lord grant the RCN to uprightly uphold and defend the Scriptural truth as maintained in the three forms of unity.
4. To discharge deputies, to thank them for their work and to appoint new deputies with the mandate:
a. to interact with the deputies BBK;
b. to monitor and analyse responses by the RCN;
c. to report to the next synod;
d. to send two delegates to the next synod of the RCN
1. The RCN expresses thankfulness for the admonitions given by Synod Armadale 2013 and other sister churches as evidence of care for one another, acknowledges that they have changed (see decision in response to admonitions 2.a.3.) but any Scriptural or Confessional deviation is denied and consequently, no need for repentance and return is expressed or considered necessary.
2. By deciding at Synod Ede in 2014 (art ….) that removing the objection of women office bearers in relations with the NGK, the RCN churches have shown that a false hermeneutic is tolerated within the churches.
3. As sister churches we have promised to ‘exhort one another to live as churches of God in this world… and to mutually care for each other that they do not depart from the reformed faith in doctrine, church polity, discipline and liturgy.’ (Rules for sister churches). Although the deputies report, as well as previous synod decisions and reports to synod, have substantiated many of our concerns it is important to continue to go the extra mile.
4. The RCN have clearly communicated to us that concerns and objections are to be addressed directly to their synod. Synod Ede has specifically asked for advice from sister churches regarding the role of men and women in the church
5. While there are many brothers and sisters in the RCN who remain faithful to God’s Word and the Confessions, there is also clear evidence that the RCN does not reject all errors contrary to the Word of God.
6. By suspending the sister church relationship, our call for obedience and submission to the clear meaning of Scripture may yet be heard and acted upon by many in the RCN. We have a long history and close relationship with the RCN dating back to the start of the FRCA in the 1950’s. Within a sister church relationship the RCN is obligated under it’s own rules, to listen to and engage with our exhortations. Thus while there remains opportunity for dialogue we ought to continue our exhortations. Ending our sister church relationship at this time will no longer provide a way to exhort the RCN, and to encourage brothers and sisters in RCN churches that remain faithful to God’s word and the confessions.
7. Because of the grave concerns we have for our sister in The Netherlands, the churches should bring this matter regularly in prayer before the LORD.