The International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC) is holding its meetings in Jordan, Ontario. Much attention is being given to the status of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN) who recently adopted women’s ordination. Ironically, this ICRC is being hosted by the United Reformed Churches — who owe their very existence by and large to the adoption of women’s ordination by the Christian Reformed Church in the early 1990s. However, it’s not the URC that’s leading the way in moving to suspend the RCN from the ICRC. It’s the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
At their recent General Assembly, the OPC adopted a motion that if the RCN were to adopt women’s ordination, the four OPC delegates are mandated to propose the suspension of the RCN from the ICRC. The ground for this decision expressed a hope that it would be unnecessary — the OPC GA was meeting before Synod Meppel made the final decisions. However, they also stated that if the RCN were to do this, it would be imperative to act in this manner since the “recommendation represents a reasonable and prudent action to protect the integrity of the ICRC, which plays a vital role in the structure of our own ecclesiastical relationships.”
The OPC GA concluded on June 5, 2017. The decisions of Synod Meppel on women’s ordination were made on June 15 & 16. The four OPC delegates to the ICRC had their work cut out for them.
As mandated, they drafted a proposal. The proposal first of all asks that this matter be added to the agenda. The second part of the proposal puts forward the following:
1. Declare that the RCN—having recently acted to permit the ordination of persons to the offices of minister and ruling elder contrary to the rule prescribed in Scripture—is in its doctrine and/or practice no longer in agreement with the Basis of the Conference (cf. Constitution, Article IV.4);
2. Pursuant to Article IV.4 of the Constitution of the ICRC, suspend the membership of the RCN in the ICRC, effective immediately;
3. Encourage the RCN to reconsider the action of Synod Meppel 2017 in this matter and to restore the doctrine and/or practice of the RCN to be in agreement with the Basis of the Conference; and
4. In the event that, by the time of the 10th (2021) Meeting of the ICRC, the RCN continues to permit the ordination of persons to the offices of minister and ruling elder contrary to the rule prescribed in Scripture, the status of the membership of the RCN in the ICRC be placed on the Agenda for that Meeting.
At the ICRC on July 14, the body agreed to consider the proposal even though it was submitted late. Discussion has been taking place and a final vote is expected on Monday July 17.
We should all be thankful for the leadership of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in this matter. They had the foresight at their GA to see that this was likely coming and they had a plan in place. Ecclesiastical evil is like cancer: when it is not addressed quickly, it spreads. The RCN should have no time or opportunity to spread this false teaching. I pray that the ICRC will adopt the OPC proposal and send a clear message to the Dutch — and all members of the ICRC — that this is contrary to God’s Word.
I do have a deep regret in all in this. My regret is that my own churches, the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, have no place in this discussion at the ICRC. The FRCA were involved with the founding of the ICRC, but withdrew in 1996. The FRCA withdrew because membership within this organization was not promoting harmony and unity in our own ranks. I’m hopeful that someday this can be reversed and we can return to the ICRC. It would certainly have been helpful to be able to stand with the OPC in Jordan in maintaining the cause of truth.