Tag Archives: Book of Praise

Synod Dunnville 2016 (7)

Photo:  Rev. D.M. Boersma

Photo: Rev. D.M. Boersma

Today I’m going to review some of the highlights from Day 7 of Synod Dunnville, the proceedings of Wednesday May 18.

  • Synod junkies observers have especially been keen to see what would be decided about the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN).  A lot was discussed and considered and I’ll do my best to put the end result in an easily-digestible format for you — if you want the full details, see article 104.  The Canadians have had a number of items of concern such as the teaching of the Theological University in Kampen, women in office, and relations with the Nederlands Gereformeerde Kerken.  Synod considered (3.2) “with sad and heavy hearts” that there is no evidence of returning to the full authority of Scripture on such items of concern and, in fact, things have actually gone further down the “course of deformation.”  However, Synod 2016 decided not to fully go the route proposed by the committee (see here).  While continuing ecclesiastical fellowship with the RCN, rules 4 and 5 have been suspended.  These rules have to do with accepting attestations and allowing ministers on the pulpits.  These things are no longer automatic.  As for the future, rather than having the RCN Synod 2017 decide by repenting or not, the continuance of EF is something that will have to be determined at the next CanRC Synod in 2019.  This approach is similar to that being taken by the Free Reformed Churches here in Australia.  Finally, it should be noted that Synod Dunnville did recognize with gratitude that there are still faithful believers in the RCN.  There are brothers and sisters who are still trying to right the ship.  Yet, sadly, it cannot be denied that there is increasing evidence of “tolerance of deviations from Scripture and the confessions.”  We will have to wait another three years to see whether the CanRCs will take the final step of breaking off EF with the RCN.  Before then, in 2018, the next FRCA Synod will meet on this side of the world.  Given that the Canadian approach appears to be more or less following the Australian, that may be the more defining moment.
  • Article 111 features the decisions regarding the Committee for Bible Translation.  The gist of it:  the ESV continues to be recommended for use in the CanRCs.  However, Synod 2016 also noted that a general synod may not forbid the churches to use the NIV2011 if they so desire, even if it’s not possible to recommend that translation.  As I see it, the reasoning applied there actually opens up the possibility for local churches to use whatever translation they desire.
  • In article 122, the question of how to bring in new hymns was discussed and decided upon.  GS 2013 said that churches had to “go the ecclesiastical way” and propose new hymns via classis and regional synod.  GS 2016 says, “No, you can send your proposals directly to the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise.  They can evaluate and bring forward whatever they think is worthy of consideration.”  Another course reversal.
  • The question of theological students has been raised, specifically:  should they be connected to their “home church”?  Should they be examined by their “home classis,” rather than having all the (licensure/candidacy) examinations basically done in one classical region?  A proposal came from Regional Synod West 2015 to change the way things are done.  Synod Dunnville (article 112) decided to maintain the status quo.  A student comes to Hamilton, becomes a member of one of the local churches, and consequently will be examined in that classical region — which means, more often than not, Classis Ontario West.

Synod Dunnville 2016 (4)

George Van Popta

The Acts of day 5 of the Synod have just been published — but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to review them.  In the meantime, a related video has been posted online.  In this video, Rev. George van Popta makes a presentation of the 2014 Book of Praise on behalf of the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise.  He explains the history of the Book of Praise, including the reasons why the CanRCs didn’t go with an “eclectic Psalter,” but rather chose to use Genevan melodies exclusively for the Psalms.  After the presentation to Rev. Richard Aasman (the chairman of Synod Dunnville), you can also hear the singing of two stanzas of Psalm 22.

 


FRCA Synod 2015 (4)

Synod Baldivis 3

By now, many readers are already aware of what took place at Synod Baldivis last Friday.  After all, there was a press release already last week.  Nevertheless, the Acts were not published until today and I prefer to summarize from the Acts.  Two significant decisions are worth noting.

The first has to do with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated).  Two possible courses of action were put forward by the deputies:  1) Break off the relationship with the RCN altogether, or 2) Suspend the relationship.  Synod Baldivis chose the second course of action.  The relationship between the FRCA and RCN is now suspended.  This entails the following:

  • Attestations will no longer automatically be accepted from the RCN.  Attestations will only be issued to members departing for the RCN “with due care.”
  • FRCA pulpits are no longer open to RCN ministers.  If an FRCA congregation wishes to call an RCN minister, the call must be approved by a classis.
  • Fraternal delegates from the RCN will still be invited to the next FRCA Synod, but will only be accorded the privileges of visitors from churches in temporary ecclesiastical contact.

The FRCA will be taking additional measures, including:

  • A letter will be sent to the next RCN Synod informing them of these developments and warning them that the relationship will be untenable if there is no repentance before the next FRCA Synod in 2018.
  • FRCA congregations are encouraged to pray for the RCN that they would “uprightly uphold and defend the Scriptural truth as maintained in the three forms of unity.”
  • All RCN consistories are to receive a copy of the letter sent to Synod Ede, as well as the letter to be sent to the next RCN Synod.

From all this, it is apparent that the relationship between the FRCA and RCN is anything but “business as usual.”  What a sad course of affairs!

The other important decision had to do with the Book of Praise.  The Australian churches have officially decided to produce their own version of the CanRC songbook.  We’ll call it the AuBoP.  It will be slightly different from its Canadian counterpart.  For example, the 19 extra hymns adopted by the CanRC (but not FRCA) will be left out for now.  There will be two versions of the AuBoP:  one using the NKJV (with capitalized pronouns for God), the other using the ESV.  It will also include the Australian versions of all creeds, confessions, liturgical forms, and church order.  The deputies were mandated to have this AuBoP ready to present to the next synod in 2018.  In the meantime, the 19 extra hymns will be investigated for possible inclusion.  Moreover, the churches are also encouraged in the meantime to use the 2014 edition of the CanRC BoP.


FRCA Synod 2015 (1)

Synod Baldivis 2

The Synod of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA) is being held presently in Baldivis, Western Australia.  It opened on Monday with an evening session.  The only newsworthy item during that session was the election of the moderamen.  Rev. Stephen t’Hart is the chairman, the vice-chairman is Rev. E. Rupke, and the clerks are elder D. Bonker and Rev. Carl Vermeulen.

Tuesday’s sessions had a bit more of interest.  There was a decision regarding Bible translations.  The ESV has been judged suitable for use in the worship services.  The 2011 NIV continues to be disallowed, and the 1984 NIV is to be phased out by July 2018.  On another topic, there were a couple of rounds of discussion regarding the Book of Praise.  This has been sent to a committee for further discussion and drafting of a recommendation.

One observation:  it appears that Australian synods work a little differently than Canadian synods.  At the beginning of a Canadian Reformed synod, several advisory committees are immediately appointed and the material is divided up between them.  The Australians apparently only appoint advisory committees if they’re needed — that is, if it soon becomes apparent that there is no unanimity amongst the delegates on a particular matter.  This means that more time is spent at the Synod meeting together as a full body.


Coming Up: FRCA Synod 2015

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.

Bible Translations

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.

Seminary Training

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.