At their synod last month, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands decided to admit women to all the offices of the church, effective immediately. The RCN (also known by their Dutch name Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland –Vrijgemaakt or GKV) were instrumental in the founding of the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC) in the early 1980s. Up till now, the ICRC has never had a situation where a member church has departed from biblical orthodoxy in such an explicit fashion. However, there are churches within the ICRC who have had similar experiences with another church in a similar ecumenical organization.
In the 1990s, the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRC) went in the direction of women in office. The CRC had been a founding church of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC). After the CRC adopted women in office, NAPARC decided in 1997 to suspend their membership. Leading this initiative to suspend the CRC from NAPARC were especially the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Church in the United States.
The recent developments in the Netherlands with the RCN have not escaped the attention of the OPC or RCUS. Along with other sister churches, they have been actively warning the Dutch not to go in this direction. They have insisted that there will be consequences if they do.
The ICRC is having its quadrennial meeting at this moment in Jordan, Ontario. The RCN is discovering that the OPC is keeping its word.
The RCN has sent a delegation which includes the president of Synod Meppel, Dr. M.H. Oosterhuis. On the first full day at the ICRC, Dr. Oosterhuis attempted to explain and defend the decision regarding women in office. In the next day, the OPC is reportedly going to be making a proposal to the body that the RCN be suspended from the ICRC. There is some question over whether this proposal will be permitted, since it is late. It requires a 2/3 approval of the delegates to be considered. If the proposal is allowed, then on Monday July 17 there will be a secret ballot where each delegation (church) is allowed one vote. If the proposal passes, the RCN is suspended. They will be allowed to attend, but not vote on any subsequent matters. Additionally, they will be admonished to repent. If there is no repentance, their membership in the ICRC would be terminated at the next meeting in 2021.
It’s difficult to predict how things will go in the next few days. There are over 30 churches in the ICRC and it’s not clear how familiar each would all be with the developments — or, more importantly, how seriously they would view the decisions of the RCN. But, as I’ve said before, unless there’s repentance, the writing is on the wall. It’s just a matter of time. The OPC and others have seen this movie before. They know how it ends.