Category Archives: Uncategorized

Letter to the Editor

I submitted the following letter to the Examiner (our local Launceston newspaper) in response to their February 22 article, “A Tasmanian survivor’s story on conversion practices.”

Dear editor,

In the February 22 article, “A Tasmanian survivor’s story on conversion practices,” our church was referenced as a body that admits to having “carried out SOGI conversion practices.”  To clarify, our church does not provide exorcisms, electroshock therapy, or aversion therapy. We only hold out the same hope God offers to all people:  forgiveness through Jesus Christ and grace to change.  Let me further clarify by quoting my submission to the Tasmania Law Reform Institute:  “…our church preaches and teaches what the Bible says, including what it says about sexual orientation and gender identity. We do this out of our ultimate commitment to God, our love for him, and out of love for the people around us. We counsel accordingly. We pray publicly and privately accordingly. According to the working definition the Issues Paper provides, we are involved in SOGI conversion practices. We make no apologies for that. Moreover, as stated above, this is non-negotiable for our church since we believe what the Bible says. For us to do otherwise would be unloving and disingenuous.”

Rev. Dr. Wes Bredenhof

Free Reformed Church of Launceston


Preview of FRCA Synod 2021

It’s another exciting synod year for the Free Reformed Churches of Australia.  This year’s synod is scheduled to be held starting on June 14 in Albany, Western Australia.  The reports for this synod are now publicly available here and I imagine other material will soon follow.  Let’s review some of the noteworthy items on the agenda for Synod Albany 2021 so far.  Since I’m delegated to this synod, I’m not going to be offering my views or opinions — what follows are just the facts, presented as objectively as possible.

Website

Synod 2018 mandated the Website Committee to design a new website for the FRCA.  This has been done and it just remains for Synod 2021 to give the green light.  In the meantime, you can find a preview of the new website at this link. 

Book of Praise

Our last synod also mandated the development of an Australian Book of Praise and, to that end, a Standing Committee for the Australian Book of Praise was appointed.  The Aussie church book is apparently at Premier Printing in Canada, but should be available by the time of Synod 2021.  It will officially be called Australian Book of Praise:  Anglo-Genevan Psalter.

Training for the Ministry

This is a significant report because these deputies were asked to develop a strategic long-term plan for an accredited Australian seminary.  The plan proposes to explore the possibility of an Australian affiliate of the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary. There are many unanswered questions about this route, but the deputies are asking for a new mandate which will see them finding the answers. 

The report also proposes that deputies be mandated to develop guidelines for a vicariate system in the FRCA.  This would see seminary graduates who originated in the FRCA being given the opportunity to have a one-year internship/vicariate in a local FRC congregation with an experienced pastor.  The proposed model is based on the practice of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand.

Ecumenical Relations

As happens at every synod, a lot of time is going to be spent on relationships with other churches.  Especially noteworthy at this synod will be a proposal from Classis North (originating from Launceston) to send observers to the next International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC).  The FRCA was part of the founding of the ICRC.  We left the ICRC in 1996, but this proposal suggests the time may be right to re-examine our involvement through a small step.

Within Australia, we have our Committee for Contact with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and Southern Presbyterian Church.  This committee is recommending that the FRCA continue discussions with the EPC and SPC with a view to eventually establishing sister church relations.  While the marks of a true church are in evidence with both the EPC and SPC, there do remain outstanding issues to discuss with them.  The committee is also asking the synod to clarify the status of a “Declaration” that was made by Synod 1986 with regard to “true church.”  Was that a general doctrinal declaration and therefore a form of extra-confessional binding?  Or was it simply a limited declaration meant to serve the narrow purposes of a discussion at Synod 1986 about the Presbyterian Church in Eastern Australia?  The answer has implications for moving forward with the EPC and SPC.                   

Outside Australia our closest sister churches are the Canadian Reformed (CanRC).  Among other things, our deputies were mandated to monitor developments in relation to Blessings Christian Church in Hamilton, Ontario.  In their report, the deputies noted that there were many efforts in the past three years to openly discuss and debate these developments within the CanRC.  They write that we need to respect the process of dealing with these things through the Canadian ecclesiastical assemblies.  Going forward, the deputies recommend that referring to a single church is not necessary or appropriate, because these developments are “part of a larger dynamic within the CanRC” (p.53). 

Geographically the Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZ) are some of our closest sister churches, especially if you’re in Tasmania.  Our deputies were mandated by the last synod to keep urging the RCNZ to be vigilant with regard to the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia.  In their 2021 report, the deputies maintain that there is no need to continue doing this, seeing how as the RCNZ already do this on their own.  If we continue to make that a point of discussion it communicates mistrust, according to the deputies’ report.

Finally, there are two North American churches with whom we’ve been exploring a relationship.  Our deputies recommend that contact be continued with the United Reformed Churches and that a recommendation be made to Synod 2024 about a sister church relationship.  With regard to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the deputies recommend not pursuing a sister church relationship at this time, not because of any issue with the OPC as such, but because of the practical difficulties involved.  They also invite recommendations from the churches about the merits of pursuing ecclesiastical contacts with the OPC outside the context of a sister church relationship.

Conclusion

There’ll be other items on the agenda.  In the weeks to come, FRCA consistories will be reviewing all these reports and the other proposals that have been submitted.  Undoubtedly, in due time, there will be letters from some of the churches interacting with some of this material.  This is good and fitting.  It shows that the churches care about what happens at our broadest assembly and they care about the direction of our federation.  I look forward to June!           


The Eccentric Echidna

Creation Without Compromise

For the last few years I’ve been privileged to live in Tasmania, Australia’s smallest and arguably most beautiful state. One of the wonderful things about Tasmania is the opportunity to regularly encounter unique wildlife. We have some of the most interesting creatures in the world and with many of them, you don’t have to travel far to meet them.

For example, I take a daily walk which brings me through a nearby bushland reserve.  During the warmer months, I frequently encounter the oddly fascinating echidna.  I’ll be walking along and an echidna will be foraging for food in the dirt at the side of the track.  If I walk up slowly from behind, usually I won’t be noticed.  But if I am noticed, the echidna doesn’t scurry away like most creatures might.  Instead, it freezes in place, tucks its head down and hopes for the best. 

If you’ve never…

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Ten Most-Read Posts of 2020

As we get to the end of another year, let me share with you the ten most-read posts here on Yinkahdinay in the past 12 months. Interestingly, only two of them were actually written in 2020.

10. Luther: Baptizatus sum (I am baptized)

This post relates a famous story about Luther and baptism and briefly touches on the connection between the sacrament and faith. Did Luther get it right?

9. Challenges Facing the Canadian Reformed Churches

I wrote this in 2015 while I was in my last days as a CanRC pastor. For some reason it popped up in this year’s top ten list. I’m not sure how applicable it still is after 5+ years.

8. Pastoral Q & A: The Morning After Pill

How should a Christian regard this “emergency contraceptive”? Apparently a few people are wondering.

7. Isaiah Reveals a Message No One Will Believe: A Good Friday Sermon on Isaiah 53:1-3

Over the years I’ve posted a few sermons, but most of them don’t get much of a read. I don’t know why this one has in the year gone by. Maybe it’s the opening lines about the picture of Jesus on the pizza.

6. Praying Together: No Laughing Matter

This is one of the two posts that were actually written in 2020. It’s about a vital practice for young couples not yet married.

5. The ESV Study Bible vs. The Reformation Study Bible: A Comparison

These two study Bibles are extremely popular amongst Reformed folk. Here I sort out the pros and cons of each and help you determine which might be best suited for you.

4. Can a Christian Eat Black Pudding?

Man, I love me some black pudding. However, there are Christians who argue that it’s unlawful for us to eat it. Here I interact with that view — and also give you my favourite BP recipe.

3. Tetelestai — It is Finished

This is the last word that Jesus uttered on the cross. It gets more attention around Good Friday, but people actually look it up year round. In this post I especially interact with a popular (but erroneous) idea about what this word means.

2. Five Ways You’re Probably Not a Calvinist

The other post actually written in 2020. You may call yourself a Calvinist, but you’ve probably got some points of departure from the Genevan Reformer.

1. What’s Wrong with Hillsong?

There are a lot of people asking questions about Hillsong. Because I care about the gospel, I wrote this to try and give some direction.

And with that, I’m taking my summer vacation beginning next week and so I’ll be taking my usual break from blogging. Hope to see you here again in February!


Traitors or Loyal Subjects?

Imagine for a moment a powerful yet wise and good king ruling over his vast kingdom.  Years ago, there was a rebellion in the kingdom.  Subjects of the king revolted against his rule.  They continued to live in his kingdom, but they refused to acknowledge his rightful authority.  When these rebels had children, they trained them to likewise reject the king.   Eventually, the king took action to address the rebellion.  Rather than immediately punish all his defiant subjects, he graciously offered them the gift of pardon and forgiveness, if only they would only return to acknowledge him as rightful king.  Some of the subjects did.  They turned from being traitors to being loyal subjects of the king. 

This is broadly analogous to the way things are in this world.  God is that good and wise king.  Human beings have rebelled against his rule, irrationally acted as traitors.  Yet in the gospel, God has offered pardon and forgiveness.  He calls for faith in Jesus Christ, a turn from sin, and a return to acknowledging his kingship.  By his grace, some do.  Many others, however, don’t.  They continue to traitorously rebel against the wise and good King.    

This analogy highlights a key feature of a biblical worldview:  there is no neutrality among human beings.  Humanity divides into two black and white categories.  There are traitors and there are loyal subjects of the King.

This contrast is found throughout the Bible.  For example, Jesus said in Matthew 12:30, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”  Loyal subjects are with Jesus Christ, on his side doing the work of gathering.  Traitors are against him, scattering as they go.  Similarly, in Matthew 25, Jesus speaks of the final judgment in terms of a separation between sheep and goats.  The sheep have been loyal subjects of the King, treating his brothers in a kind and compassionate way.  The goats have been traitors, acting selfishly in rebellion against the Lord.  There is, indeed, no neutrality among human beings.  Ever. 

This part of a biblical worldview has massive practical consequences.  Let me just briefly touch on two important areas.

Apologetics has to do with our defence and promotion of the Christian faith.  The biblical teaching about the impossibility of neutrality has to be taken into account.  The way we do that is by acknowledging what God says:  the unbeliever we’re speaking with is not neutral.  If he doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ and acknowledge God as king, he’s a rebel and a traitor in God’s kingdom.  You can’t pretend otherwise.  You can’t be silent about it.  Because you, as a Christian, are a loyal subject of the King you stand up for his crown rights.  Because you were previously a traitor yourself, but have experienced the pardon and forgiveness of this good King, you want the unbeliever to come to the same experience.  Therefore, in your apologetics, you have to speak about the reality of rebellion against the King.  You have to call the traitor to give up his treason.

For at least the past 200 years, Reformed believers have insisted that the Bible’s teaching on neutrality has a huge bearing on education.  Regardless of the type of school, the teachers are either traitors or loyal subjects of the King.  In their education, in the place of the parent (in loco parentis), they are going to train children to be either traitors or loyal subjects of the King.  This extends into educational philosophy as well.  A school is going to be guided by a philosophy that is either in rebellion against the King, or showing loyal submission to the King.  There is no neutrality in educational philosophy.  This is why, historically, we have argued for the necessity of Christian education.  Because there is no neutrality, we aim to have our children educated in a way that honours the King and seeks to create more loyal subjects for the King.

Every generation needs to be reminded of this biblical worldview cornerstone.  Why?  Because even as loyal subjects, even as Christians, we still have some of the rebel left in us.  That rebellious remnant tends to make us drift.  It tends to make us blur the lines and see neutrality where there is none.  When that happens and we don’t even see unbelief as an affront to the King anymore, we ourselves have been lured back to treason.  That would be tragic.