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Category Archives: Upcoming Events
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:
Ministers: Rev. R. Bredenhof, Rev. W. Bredenhof, Rev. A. Souman
Elders: Elder W. Spyker, Elder H. Hamelink, Elder T. Reitsema
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.
I’ve mentioned once or twice that I’ve accepted a call to the Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania. That happened back in September of last year. Since then, we’ve been working to get everything in order for this move to happen. Today we received the news that our visas have been approved. We’re now permitted to immigrate to Australia and take up permanent residency there. God willing, that will take place towards the end of September. Between now and then, there are countless things that we need to give attention to. Consequently, this blog is going to go quiet for a while. I have every intention of resuming once we get to the other side and get settled in. I plan to give things a fresh look here, but the content will continue to be much the same. However, you might notice me beginning to speak with a strange accent…
Since I soon hope to be taking up a call in their midst, I’m taking special interest in the upcoming Synod of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA). Like the CanRC, the FRCA has a synod once every three years. This year’s synod is being convened by the Baldivis FRC and it’s scheduled to begin on Monday June 22. In this post, I’ll review some of the items of interest on the agenda for this synod. If this was a CanRC synod, I might venture to offer a prognosis as well. However, because I’m still rather out of touch with the FRCA, I dare not make any predictions as to how things might go, nor editorialize all that much.
Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZ)
For many years, the FRCA have been discussing fraternal relations with the RCNZ. The major obstacle in establishing a sister-church relationship has been the relationship of the RCNZ with the Christian Reformed Church of Australia. The lengthy report for this upcoming synod can be found here. To summarize, the RCNZ/CRCA relationship changed to such a degree that the deputies no longer feel it should be an obstacle. The recommendation is to proceed to establishing full ecclesiastical fellowship/a sister-church relationship.
Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated)
Several of the sister churches of the RCN are deeply concerned about their direction. On their part, the FRCA has sent a letter of admonition. Since then, the situation has not improved, in fact, quite the opposite. The question is: what to do now? Two alternatives are presented in the report (the report begins on page 90, the recommendations begin on page 100). The first alternative is to sever the relationship completely. The second is to suspend the relationship and continue to interact with the RCN. The FRCA Synod will have to decide which alternative to follow, or perhaps to take a somewhat different direction.
From what I understand, most of the FRCA uses the New King James Version. However, the two congregations in Tasmania have been long-time users of the NIV. The 2011 edition of the NIV has raised many concerns around gender-neutral language. A committee was appointed to examine the 2011 NIV, as well as the ESV as a potential alternative. However, because of various circumstances, the committee wasn’t able to work together to produce a report. There is a report going to this Synod, but it’s only authored by one of the committee members. The report affirms that the problems with the 2011 NIV are significant. It also speaks favourably of the ESV. But what can a Synod do with a report signed by only one committee member? I hear that proper ecclesiastical ways to address this are being sought by the churches and may be sent to Synod. There should be a way out of this quandary.
Till now the FRCA has sent its seminary students to the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton. The FRCA also supports CRTS financially. However, there has been some talk of having at least some of this theological training done “down under.” The Deputies for Training for the Ministry were mandated to investigate whether the first year of training could be done in Australa, either through distance-learning, or through other means. Their report concludes that this is not feasible and the status quo should be maintained. Is that the end of the matter then? No. At least one church (Rockingham) has interacted with this report by advocating a different approach: they’re proposing to set the wheels in motion for a full-fledged Australian Reformed seminary, and sooner rather than later. It will be very interesting to see what Synod decides on this point.
Book of Praise
Finally, there’s the question of the Book of Praise. For many years, the FRCA and CanRC shared a common songbook. The Australians simply used our 1984 Book of Praise. However, in the last number of years, the CanRC have come out with a new edition of the Book of Praise. Among other things, it has revised wordings of the Psalms and some new hymns. From the sounds of it, the FRCA especially don’t feel the compulsion to add any new hymns and they also have some other misgivings. This puts them in a bind. The 1984 Book of Praise is out of print, yet the 2014 Book of Praise is not completely acceptable. The report of the Deputies for the Book of Praise can be found here. The Deputies surveyed the churches and found that more churches are in favour of an Australian Book of Praise than are opposed to it. They ask the Synod to recognize that and then, if the churches request it, that new deputies be appointed to execute it. In other words, if one or more churches takes the initiative upon reading this report, things could be moving forward towards a uniquely Australian edition of the Book of Praise.
This Synod will be faced with some tough decisions. May the LORD grant the delegates the wisdom they need to do their work in a way that pleases him and serves the good of his church.
Tomorrow I’m starting off my journey to Brazil, my second one in as many years. Yes, I know I’m blessed to have these opportunities. I look forward to reconnecting with my Brazilian brothers and sisters and meeting more of them. With God’s blessing, I hope to be able to encourage and edify them. I’m thankful that my church and family are supportive in this as well. Here’s what’s on my agenda for the next couple of weeks:
June 27 to July 2 — I’m slated to be in Belém (at the mouth of the Amazon River) for the Reformed Conference hosted by Word of Truth Reformed Association and the Puritan Project. I will be speaking on the doctrine of the church as found in the Belgic Confession. More details about the conference can be found here (in Portuguese).
July 2 to July 6 — I plan to go south to Maragogi (just south of Recife). There the Puritan Project is hosting another edition of the same conference. I will be speaking on the same topics there as in Belém. At this conference, there will be quite a few members of the Reformed Churches of Brazil. I should also mention that at both conferences I will be speaking with Dr. Nick Willborn.
July 7 — I’ll be in Recife at the Aldeia Training Center. They’ll be hosting a Training Day and I’ll be speaking on Mormonism.
July 9-11 — I’m scheduled to be teaching an evangelism course at the John Calvin Institute, the seminary of the Reformed Churches of Brazil.
July 9 — in the evening I’ll be giving a public lecture at the Reformed Reading Room in Recife. The topic will be “Saints and Sinners: At the Same Time?”
Besides the above, I’ll also be preaching at various churches and probably some other stuff that will pop up along the way. I’m not sure what my Internet access will be like while I’m down there, but as circumstances allow I’ll try to post some updates here. Tomorrow it begins with a flight to Miami. I’ll meet Dr. Willborn there and then together we travel to Belém (via Manaus) on Wednesday. Should be exciting!