Classis North of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, September 25, 2015.
Greetings from Tasmania, Australia! Our family arrived here safely last Monday. Since then, we’ve been getting settled in here quite well. Tasmania is not a difficult place to love. The natural beauty and the friendly people everywhere ensure that one soon feels quite at home.
One of the first orders of business for me as the pastor-elect of the Free Reformed Church of Launceston was to undergo a colloquium at a classis. That happened this morning. A Classis North was held here in Launceston. Besides the elders from Launceston FRCA itself, delegates travelled from Legana (a short 15-20 minute drive) and from Western Australia (a long 4.5 hour flight). We also had curious onlookers, including a sizeable contingent of students from the John Calvin School next door.
So what is a colloquium? It’s something that the FRCA Church Order requires for ministers who are coming from a foreign sister church. The Canadian Reformed Churches have exactly the same thing in their CO (see article 5.B.2). The churches have agreed to hold a colloquium, or discussion, with ministers coming into the federation. The discussion deals with doctrine and church government. This doesn’t have the character of an examination, but it’s not exactly a mere formality either. As I understand it, it can be summarized with two words: due diligence.
Naturally, I’ve never been on the receiving end of a colloquium (not on the giving end either). I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. To prepare, I reviewed the differences between CanRC and FRCA church polity. There are not many differences and none of them are momentous. I also reviewed some doctrinal discussions in which I’ve recently participated, just on the hunch that I might be asked about one or more of them.
Rev. Eddy Rupke was up first as the minister leading the discussion on doctrine. Was I surprised when he announced that he wanted to discuss creation and evolution? Does the bright Tasmanian sun blind your eyes? No, I could see that one coming. It was a good discussion with the sorts of questions that usually crop up: does Scripture allow for long days? What do we lose if we allow for an evolutionary view of creation? How can we help young people in the church who want to study science? Those were the sorts of questions I faced.
Rev. John Kroeze was next on church polity. This was mostly a discussion about the place of the local church in the federation, or “bond” as they tend to call it here. He asked me about such things as the binding character of decisions made at broader assemblies. After each minister was finished, other delegates were also given the opportunity to “discuss” with me. One of my favourite questions was from an elder regarding the place of children in the church and whether Sunday School during the worship services was a good idea. I wonder if he read my review of Daniel Hyde’s excellent little book The Nursery of the Holy Spirit.
At the end of it all, classis went in to closed session to discuss the discussion. A few minutes later, we were ushered back in and I was informed that the way was clear for me to become a minister in the Free Reformed Churches. That will happen, God willing, on Sunday morning. I’m looking forward to serving Christ’s church here for the foreseeable future!