The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) are the Dutch sister churches of the Canadian Reformed. Our last CanRC synod appointed a special committee to investigate and report on developments in these sister churches, often known by their Dutch abbreviation, GKV. You can find the report to our upcoming synod here. There’s plenty to be concerned about and I think a case can be made that the recommendations of our committee are actually rather understated.
Last week Reformatorisch Dagblad published an interview with a Dutch sociologist about the developments in the GKV. You can find it in Dutch here (with a rough English translation via Google Translate here). Prof. Dekker made a study of changes in the GKV from 1970 to 2010. He traced how things changed through yearbooks with their membership statistics and so on. The GKV are declining in membership as they continue to adapt to secular society. Among the developments he observed was talk of a freer relationship with Scripture and the confessions. The interviewer asked him what he thought was behind the secularization of the GKV. Dekker’s reply:
In all these developments the increased autonomy of people plays a role. The Liberated [GKV] have an open view of the world. They are influenced by their environment. That comes through in the way they look at the church and make their voices heard in it. Neither God or religion has the last word. Everyone creates their own truth. There is no absolute truth anymore, it’s about whether you feel comfortable in the church where you belong.
Dekker is not hopeful about the future of the GKV. He anticipates that they will continue to decline numerically even as some members claim to be on “the threshold of a new understanding of Scripture.”
I don’t report these things to glory in what’s going wrong across the Atlantic. We need to continue warning our brothers and sisters, though it could very well be too late. There are very few historical examples of churches turning the ship around once things have gone this far. However, more importantly, we need to take heed to ourselves. We in the CanRC are not immunized against heading down this same road. Two decades ago we stood aghast at developments in the Christian Reformed Church of North America. Scripture and the confessions were played with fast and loose. We are beginning to see evidence of the same happening in the CanRC. The boundaries are being tested, especially on crucial questions regarding origins. The Canadian Reformed Churches are at a cross-roads. Reformation or deformation? God’s Word or man’s word? Which will it be?