Tag Archives: Book of Praise

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.

Synod Carman 2013 (4)

Synod Carman 2013 -- photo courtesy of Rev. D. Boersema.

Synod Carman 2013 — photo courtesy of Rev. D. Boersema.

As Phil Robertson would say, “Now we’re cooking with peanut oil.”   There are several very interesting items in yesterday’s Acts.

Synod made a decision about Bible translations.  The ESV is now the recommended translation in the Canadian Reformed Churches, having supplanted the 1984 NIV.  Synod refrained from recommending the NIV2011 for use or testing in the churches.  However, the Committee for Bible Translation was tasked with doing further study of both the NIV2011 and the ESV.

There were a number of decisions pertaining to the Book of Praise (with more to come).  One of the decisions was in regard to the Abbreviated Form for the Lord’s Supper.  I predicted that the recommendation of the Committee would be followed and the words “For the Second Service” would be dropped.  It didn’t happen.  The Synod decided to keep the words, citing as grounds the fact that the Committee still needs to interact with the reasoning of Synod Smithville 1980.

But the biggest surprise of all has to do with women voting for office bearers.  My prognosis postulated that the status quo would prevail.  I was wrong.  Many churches appealed the decision of Synod 2010 to leave this matter in the domain of local churches.  Synod 2013 was persuaded by the arguments presented and has overturned that decision.  A 180 degree turnaround is rare in the Canadian Reformed Churches, but that’s what has happened here.  Let me give the full text of the recommendations that were adopted:

4. Recommendations
Synod decide:
4.1 That Synod Burlington 2010 erred on church political grounds in its decision to leave the matter of women’s voting in the freedom of the churches.
4.2 That Synod Burlington 2010 erred in stating that the exegetical sections brought forward in both the majority and minority reports are “hardly relevant or decisive for the matter of women’s voting”.
4.3 That the churches should return to the voting practice as it officially was before 2010,  namely, male communicant members only voting.

This decision doesn’t affect our congregation in Providence, but I can think of some who will not be happy with this.  This issue is not over, not by far.

Synod Carman 2013 — Prognosis (6)

Nothing gets dyed-in-the-wool Canadian Reformed folk more animated than the Book of Praise.  Not animated in the charismatic/Pentecostal sense, but in the old fashioned CanRC sense of an…ahem…lively discussion.  So as I looked over the third provisional agenda for Synod Carman 2013, I’m not too surprised to see 47 letters from the churches regarding the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise report.  Forty-seven.  Our federation has 54 churches.  Now it’s true that some churches sent multiple letters interacting with this report.  But still, this is a remarkable amount of interaction.

What’s up with this report?  Over the last three years, we’ve been using an “Authorized Provisional Version” of the Book of Praise.  It has the 150 Psalms, many with new and improved wordings.  It also included a number of new hymns.  The NIV (1984) was incorporated into the liturgical forms and confessions.  The SCBP has received feedback on the changes.  There are a few improvements proposed for the final version of the text of the Psalms.  The hymns are staying, but there are some changes proposed to the music. I gather that some of the churches are still not pleased with either the new text of some of the Psalms or the addition of new hymns.  However, I can’t see that Synod 2013 is going to turn back the clock now.   However, they might deviate from the SCBP recommendations on the music of some of the hymns.

There are also some matters of interest in section 9 of the report.  One has to do with a long-standing issue regarding our Abbreviated Form for the Lord’s Supper.  The words “for the second service” were added by a past Synod, though as noted by the committee, this never was “a SCBP proposal nor did it come  as a proposal from one of the churches.”  It should never have happened, at least not in that way.  So the SCBP proposes that the words “for the second service” be dropped.  The practical significance of this rests with churches that may want to celebrate the Lord’s Supper more frequently.  A church might want to do it monthly, for instance.  A church could then decide to use the full form every third month, and the abbreviated form at every other celebration.  This is a welcome development, in my estimation and I can see no reason why Synod 2013 would want to maintain a heading in the liturgical forms that had no business being there in the first place.

Another interesting proposal has to do with QA 115 of the Heidelberg Catechism.  The SCBP proposes a change there in order “leave some of the original ambiguity.”  This so that preachers can bring out the nuances as they see fit.  I don’t find the reasoning of the SCBP persuasive here.  There is a lot of talk of the original German, as if we are translating a text from biblical Hebrew or Greek.  The issue ought to be fidelity to Scripture, not fidelity to the original German text of the Catechism.  I can’t see that there is a problem with our present wording, nor am I persuaded that we should strive for ambiguity.  Moreover, the Catechism is not just for the preachers.  The Catechism should also be used in our homes and by us as individuals.  For that, we need clarity, not ambiguity.  As I read it, there is nothing unclear in the present wording.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Will the Synod agree?  Here I wouldn’t dare to venture a guess.

I commend the SCBP for their hard work and the quality of the final product being proposed.  I love the Book of Praise and think it’s been improved dramatically over the last few years.  Hopefully this present revision will serve us well for at least a generation, maybe more.  This is a church book with substance — biblical Psalms and hymns plus our creeds, confessions, liturgical forms, and church order.  It really is a defining part of what it means to be a Canadian Reformed Church.  But above all, the Book of Praise is a tool in our hands to magnify the praises of our gracious God.  It’s still going to be around for years to come.