When You Don’t Follow Through…

windmill

There once was a Reformed church federation in the Netherlands.  This federation had a long and storied history.  Its roots were not only in the Great Reformation, but also in the Secession of 1834, the Doleantie of 1886, and the Union of 1892.  After the Second World War, numerous people from these churches immigrated to North America.  The ties remained strong.  However, eventually things began going amiss in these Dutch churches.  Voices were heard stating all kinds of unorthodox views.  But nothing was really done to stop it.  The momentum just continued to build.  Across the Atlantic, many watched this with great concern.  Many reports were written about what was happening in the Netherlands.  Synods discussed the developments.  At least one letter of admonition was sent.  However, nothing changed.

It may sound like a familiar story (especially to Canadian Reformed readers), but it is the story of the relationship between the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (Synodical) and the Christian Reformed Church.  There were many CRC people concerned about the direction of the GKN in the 1960s.  Men like Harry Kuitert were espousing ideas that were clearly unbiblical and out of line with the Reformed confessions.  In 1970, the CRC Synod even sent “a letter of admonition” to the GKN.  You can read it here, together with some of the background.   But nothing changed, at least not in terms of the relationship between the GKN and the CRC.  There were changes:  the GKN became progressively more liberal — and the CRC was not all that far behind.  Yet the two remained in ecclesiastical fellowship.  The CRC never got up the nerve to finally sever the relationship.  The GKN no longer exists today — it was absorbed into a merger and is now part of the Protestantse Kerk, and the CRC also has a relationship with this body.  The fact that the CRC continued to fellowship with the GKN says more about the direction of the CRC than it does about the GKN.

Today we are at a turning point with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated).  Both the Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC) and the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA) have sent letters of admonition to our Dutch sister churches.  Nothing has changed, at least not for the better.  One of our Dutch sister churches has even called for names to be submitted for vacancies amongst the office bearers — and they’re open to both genders.  On June 22, the Synod of the FRCA begins.  They will have to decide whether to plod along with the Dutch a little while longer (in a “suspended” relationship) or to sever the relationship completely.  Next year, at Synod Dunnville, the Canadian Reformed Churches will have to discuss and decide on a plan of action too.  It is time to be realistic — the momentum is too great to turn this ship around.  Consider what the General Secretary of Synod Ede (RCN) wrote to the Free Reformed Churches of Australia.  This is from an official letter:

Many of your concerns go back to subjects which in previous synods have been settled and have had the attention in the discussions between our deputies BBK and your synods and deputies.

Therefore we regret that in your correspondence and also in the contribution of your deputy in our synod concerns are based on hear say and information of individual office bearers, instead of based on what we as churches are responsible for. Nevertheless, the synod once again has paid attention to your concerns. But now, dear brothers, we as Reformed Churches in the Netherlands insist upon our sister churches in Australia to put an end to the discussion of these matters in which constantly the same historical data are repeated to show evidence for your many times impudent judgments of your sister churches in the Netherlands.

You have loudly called a wake-up call to us and we accept that for the sake of our sister church relation. But please do not continue to call. Let us keep in mind each other’s own responsibility, we as churches in the Netherlands and you as churches in Australia.

In other words, enough with the admonitions, we don’t want to hear them anymore.  That leaves those of us who are concerned with a choice:  we change (drop our concerns, tolerate/accept their direction) or we say a sad farewell.  “Going the extra mile” might be a viable option if our Dutch brothers and sisters were willing to listen and take us seriously, but they’re not and they have officially stated so.  Regrettably, that really leaves the faithful with no choice.  Let’s not see the history of the GKN/CRC repeat itself.

About Wes Bredenhof

Pastor of the Free Reformed Church, Launceston, Tasmania. View all posts by Wes Bredenhof

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