Category Archives: Church life

Update on Synod Bunbury — Week 2

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Rev. H. Alkema and Rev. A. Souman, the vice-chairman and chairman of Synod 2018.

Synod 2018 of the FRCA is now done and dusted.  We finished up this memorable assembly on Tuesday evening.  Later I may share some personal reflections on my first synod experience.  For now, let me summarize some the most important decisions made on Monday and Tuesday.  For more details, you can refer to the Acts here.  And the official press release can be found here.

  • Relations with De Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (DGK) and Gereformeerde Kerken Nederland (GKN), two church federations made up of varying degrees of ex-RCN members, were discussed.  Synod decided to monitor and maintain contact with both.  It was also decided to monitor the DGK’s relationship with the Liberated Reformed Church of Abbotsford, a group that had broken away from the CanRC.
  • Three personal appeals were submitted concerning the Reformed Churches of New Zealand — all three were declared inadmissible.
  • The proposals regarding an FRCA seminary were discussed at length.  Synod decided not to establish such a seminary at this time, but to pursue it in the medium-long term (6-12 years out).  The dream is still alive.
  • Two churches submitted proposals regarding sending observers to the next ICRC regional and general meetings — both proposals were declared inadmissible.
  • The Orthodox Presbyterian Church sent a representative to synod in the person of Rev. Jack Sawyer.  A church had submitted a proposal to establish official contact with the OPC and this met with approval.
  • To implement the earlier decision regarding the Australian Book of Praise, synod decided to establish a Standing Committee for the Australian Book of Praise (with the rather elegant acronym SCABP).
  • For some years, the FRCA has been supporting theological education in Indonesia via synodically appointed deputies.  This will continue for the next three years, but these deputies have been mandated to transition this matter over to a local church.
  • Several changes to our psalms, confessions and Church Order were proposed and discussed.  Of these changes, the only one adopted was a change to article 36 of the Church Order.  It now says that the minister shall chair consistory meetings “as a rule.”  This means that, by way of exception, elders may also chair these meetings.
  • Synod decided that all acts of all FRCA synods will be published online in searchable .pdf format.
  • Finally, synod decided to send a letter to Synod 2020 of the RCN communicating our decision to terminate the relationship with them.  This letter will be delivered by two deputies in person to underline the seriousness of the matter.

Update on Synod Bunbury — Week 1

Executive of Synod Bunbury 2018.

The first week of FRCA Synod 2018 is now over.  The assembly will continue meeting on Monday and will probably go until at least Tuesday evening, if not Wednesday.  Besides the headline decision of terminating the relationship with the RCN, a few other noteworthy decisions were made.  At this time I will simply draw them to your attention and add no comment of my own.  You can find the approved and published acts online here for more details.

  • In one of its first decisions, Synod decided to make the Acts more readable by having a summary of all material relating to decisions made.
  • There will be a new deputyship (committee) for the official FRCA website.  They are mandated to produce a revamped FRCA website which will include news items from the churches.
  • Synod decided to proceed with investigating ecumenical relations with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Southern Presbyterian Church.
  • The Deputies for Canadian Reformed Churches have received a mandate which will include monitoring “developments within the CanRC in relation to Blessings Christian Church in line with the questions expressed in the deputies report.”  For more information, that deputies report can be found online here.
  • Synod decided to proceed with an Australian Book of Praise, based on the 2014 CanRC Book of Praise (with adopted FRCA changes to creeds, confessions, and liturgical forms), using the ESV, and including the 19 extra hymns.
  • With regard to the URCNA, it was decided:  “To continue to liaise with the URCNA and to recommend to Synod 2021 whether to proceed in establishing a sister church relationship.”

Decisions still need to be made on a variety of other important items including:  ICRC (whether or not we send observers), appeals regarding the decision to establish a sister-church relationship with the RCNZ, and the question or whether the FRCA will move towards their own seminary.  Stay tuned…


Upcoming at FRCA Synod 2018

In a little more than a month, the Free Reformed Churches of Australia will be having their synod.  While convened by the church at Bunbury, the proceedings are to be hosted by the Southern River FRC in the Perth Metro area of WA.  I’ve posted before on some of the more noteworthy items on the agenda — click here.  Since then, the provisional agenda for this synod has continued to grow.  In this post, I’ll mention a few more points of interest.

In the Free Reformed Churches, delegation to synod comes via the classis (as opposed to regional synod in the CanRC).  These are the primary delegates for Synod 2018 from each classis:

Classis North

Ministers:  Rev. R. Bredenhof, Rev. W. Bredenhof, Rev. A. Souman

Elders:  Elder W. Spyker, Elder H. Hamelink, Elder T. Reitsema

Classis Central

Ministers:  Rev. D. Anderson, Rev. A. Hagg, Rev. C. Vermeulen

Elders:  Elder E. Heerema, Elder H. Terpstra, Elder J. Torenvliet

Classis South West

Ministers:  Rev. H. Alkema, Rev. R. Pot, Rev. S. t’Hart

Elders:  Elder S. Bolhuis, Elder H. Olde, Elder W. Vanderven

Every synod also includes fraternal delegates.  This year’s list has a few standouts.  As mentioned previously, the Southern FRC has put forward a proposal to investigate ecumenical relations with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  The OPC is slated to have a presence at our synod in the person of Rev. Jack Sawyer.

Also, I noted before that there’s a recommendation from our deputies to terminate our relationship with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.  The Dutch have decided to send not only Rev. Johan Plug (on behalf of their Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad), but also Rev. Dr. Melle Oosterhuis, the chairman of their last synod.  These men have been mandated by Synod Meppel to provide an explanation to our synod regarding the decision to open all the offices of the church to women.  Will they avert what appears inevitable?

While not officially delegated, I’m told there will also be observers from Reformed churches in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Most synods also feature appeals.  There are three of a public nature, all pertaining to the FRCA’s relationship with the Reformed Churches of New Zealand.  Three individual brothers believe this relationship is illegitimate and ought to be voided by Synod 2018.  In response, one church has submitted a letter arguing that these types of appeals should be declared inadmissible, since article 31 of our FRCA Church Order only gives individual members the right to appeal decisions of minor assemblies whereby they have been personally wronged.  It will definitely be a discussion to watch.

After receiving the deputies’ reports, local consistories typically discuss these reports and then sometimes submit letters interacting with them.  To date, two churches have submitted a number of letters, but one can expect more in the next week or two.  Let me mention just a couple of the submissions thus far.  Kelmscott submitted a letter asking Synod to remind the deputies to keep their reports succinct and clear, since there is only a short time for churches to consider them.  In addition, they suggest that deputies submit annual reports if there will be more information to share than might be reasonable in a tri-annual report.  Launceston sent a letter asking synod to appoint an official website committee which would include a mandate to refresh the look of the FRCA website and enhance its functionality with federational news and press releases.

Synod 2018 is scheduled to begin on June 18 with a prayer service.  Updates or press releases should be published on the federational website (click here) — there’s also an option of signing up to a synod update e-mail list.


New Dutch Article

Missionair en gereformeerd — tien stellingen (translated by R. Sollie-Sleijster for Een in Waarheid)


Missional and Reformed — Five Positive Theses

Fostering an outward-looking perspective for our Reformed churches is important to me.  Doing that while maintaining a Reformed identity is also vital.  So, the other day I posted five negative theses about being missional and Reformed.  Today, as promised, I’m following up with five positive theses.  As before, I offer the thesis and then a little explanation/commentary (asking you to realize that way more could be said).

1. Being missional involves putting Jesus and the gospel at the center of everything

This one is first because it is of primary importance.  Since we recognize the pressing urgency of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Reformed churches must be always self-consciously putting the gospel out there.  By “gospel” I mean the good news of everything Jesus Christ has done and will do for sinners.   That gospel message has to resound not only in our preaching, but in every aspect of church life.   We ought to be known as churches that just can’t stop talking about Jesus.

2. Being missional involves intentional discipleship into an outward-looking mindset and practices

It is odd to me that the idea of discipleship is not more strongly emphasized in many of our Reformed churches — because Scripture teaches that one of the key things that defines a Christian is being a disciple of Jesus.  Being a disciple means being a student, not only in the sense of learning information from the Master, but learning to follow and imitate the Master’s way of life.  Our Teacher’s way of life was always outward-looking — he seeks and saves the lost.  So as Reformed churches, we ought to be discipling existing and prospective church members to do likewise.  Catechism classes should include discipling our younger members in how to reach out.  New member classes should be so bold as to teach new disciples how to start right away at making more disciples — we need to harness their excitement and enthusiasm for the gospel to spread the gospel further!

3. Being missional involves an attitude shift

Sometimes people have the idea that becoming more missional means radically changing everything we do as Reformed churches, dropping some things and adding others.  Not so.  Instead, at its heart, missionality involves a shift in perspective.  We go from having a church which exists as an end unto itself, to being a church oriented outwards and inwards.  We beginning thinking about the lost, we talk about the lost, and we pray about the lost.  This shift in perspective/attitude, also means adjusting existing programs to incorporate an outward looking perspective.  I give one such example here.

4. Being missional involves a cultural shift

Most, if not all, of our Reformed churches are what we call “high-context cultures.”  There are many unspoken assumptions embedded in our local church cultures.  For example, in the Free Reformed and Canadian Reformed churches, we usually expect everyone to know there is a section of Psalms in the Book of Praise, followed by a section of hymns.  In some of our churches, you are expected to look at the church bulletin and know that the women’s society meets at the church at such and such a day and time — no one will tell you, you just ought to know.  In other churches, strangely and sadly, you are expected to know that there is assigned seating.  Many more examples could be given.  Being missional means shifting to a low(-er) context culture where we don’t assume newcomers will automatically understand everything we do and say.  An excellent place to begin putting this into practice is the church website.  Ask an unbeliever to look at your church website and point out the Reformed jargon or anything unclear.  You might be surprised.

5. Being missional involves awareness that on any given Sunday we could have guests worshipping with us

We ought to pray about guests — that God would bring them and that God would bless them.  We expect to see guests and when they arrive, we want to be aware that they’re there.  For some years, I have greeted our members and guests before the worship service.  Part of the reason I do this is to be aware of who is worshipping with us, whether we have guests or not.  But congregation members should also be attuned to this.  In some of our churches, there are Bibles and Books of Praise in the pew (good missional practice, in my view), in others not.  For those who don’t, the members of the church should be observing newcomers and whether they have a Bible and Book of Praise, or not.  If they don’t, offer them one of yours, or help them to access the books from the ushers or whatever.  When there are guests, warmly welcome them — introduce yourself, offer hospitality, etc.  We do this because of who we represent — we represent our King.  He has a warm, friendly heart and so should we.

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With these five negative and positive theses, I don’t claim to have exhausted what could be said on this topic.  I also don’t claim that all of these are implemented in the church I serve or by me personally.  However, I believe they are goals for which we ought to strive.  I commend them for your serious consideration.  The world around us is perishing and the church is the means by which Christ will bring rescue.  Therefore, it behooves us to look outward and care deeply about the lost, while at the same time continuing to stand on the biblical teachings and practices which define us as Reformed churches.