Tag Archives: Free Reformed Churches of Australia

Personal Reflections on Synod Bunbury

Foreign delegates to Synod Bunbury 2018.

FRCA Synod 2018 was the first synod I’ve ever attended as a delegate.  In Canada I observed many of the sessions of Synod Neerlandia 2001 — I was there when they made the big decision to enter into ecclesiastical fellowship with the OPC.  I also attended once or twice at Synod Burlington 2010.  But this was my first synod as a delegate and in this post I’d like to share some thoughts on that experience.

Going into it, I had the impression it would be interminably tedious.  I don’t enjoy sitting for long periods of time and I’m not a real lover of meetings.  But this was surprisingly…exciting.  From where I was sitting, it was fast-paced and varied.  Delegates had to be quick-thinking because we went from one topic to another at what seemed like 100 mph.  Truth is, if anything, I was being over-stimulated.  At night I’d go to sleep and still be deliberating at a nocturnal session of synod.

I was also hugely impressed with the way the synod was organized by the convening church of Bunbury, with the help of the hosting church of Southern River.  Together they did a fantastic job with all the background stuff.  The facilities at the Southern River church were as good as one can hope for at an assembly like this.  The food was incredible — on the last evening, we even had Thai Red Curry and Bulgogi Beef.  It just doesn’t get any better.  The next convening church is Albany and I feel a wee bit sorry for them because it’s going to be hard to measure up to what we enjoyed at this synod.

We finished up in good time — starting on a Monday evening and ended the following Tuesday evening.  There was a huge agenda, but we got through it quickly and responsibly.  I attribute this to three factors.  First, we had a capable chairman working with a competent executive.  There was knowledge and experience at the helm.  Second, the executive appointed four advisory committees.  These committees dealt with the more difficult items on the agenda.  They listened to a first round of discussion and then drafted proposals which tried to capture the consensus.  This made the process of arriving at a decision go smoothly in most instances.  Third, we made excellent use of technology.  Every synod delegate brought a laptop computer and we were all networked into a main synod computer.  Internal synod e-mails flew around with proposals, motions, and amendments.  When a delegate would make an amendment, it would be on our screens in seconds.  It was brilliant.

The delegates all interacted harmoniously.  Sometimes I felt like I was back in seminary — not surprising since I had studied with a number of the ministerial delegates.  We didn’t always agree, but there was mutual respect and plenty of good-natured banter, especially about such things as Aussie vs. Canadian spellings.   We had some good laughs.  Elders make up half a synod and they weren’t just some pretty faces along for the ride — they were intensely involved in the discussions as well.  Moreover, most of the important decisions were made by unanimous agreement.  I really enjoyed spending the week with these brothers!  God blessed us with great fellowship and a pleasant atmosphere.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet old and new friends from overseas.  Two of the fraternal delegates (Rev. Arend Witten from the CanRC and Rev. Namtuck Chong from Singapore) were former parishioners of mine while they were studying in Hamilton.  There were two Filipino brothers observing, brothers whom I count as good friends.  I finally had the opportunity to meet in person the Rev. Jack Sawyer from the OPC.  Other overseas delegates I was pleased to meet for the first time were brothers like Rev. C. Koster and Rev. M. Sneep from the DGK, Rev. P. Archbald from the RCNZ, and br. G. Swets from the URCNA.

Synod is now in my rear-view mirror and it was an all-round positive experience.  It was intense, a whole heap of work, but rewarding.  My prayer is that the gracious King of the church would bless our decisions and use them for the advance of the gospel, the good of his people, and the glory of his Name.  Would I want to be delegated again?  Definitely!


Update on Synod Bunbury — Week 2

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Rev. H. Alkema and Rev. A. Souman, the vice-chairman and chairman of Synod 2018.

Synod 2018 of the FRCA is now done and dusted.  We finished up this memorable assembly on Tuesday evening.  Later I may share some personal reflections on my first synod experience.  For now, let me summarize some the most important decisions made on Monday and Tuesday.  For more details, you can refer to the Acts here.  And the official press release can be found here.

  • Relations with De Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (DGK) and Gereformeerde Kerken Nederland (GKN), two church federations made up of varying degrees of ex-RCN members, were discussed.  Synod decided to monitor and maintain contact with both.  It was also decided to monitor the DGK’s relationship with the Liberated Reformed Church of Abbotsford, a group that had broken away from the CanRC.
  • Three personal appeals were submitted concerning the Reformed Churches of New Zealand — all three were declared inadmissible.
  • The proposals regarding an FRCA seminary were discussed at length.  Synod decided not to establish such a seminary at this time, but to pursue it in the medium-long term (6-12 years out).  The dream is still alive.
  • Two churches submitted proposals regarding sending observers to the next ICRC regional and general meetings — both proposals were declared inadmissible.
  • The Orthodox Presbyterian Church sent a representative to synod in the person of Rev. Jack Sawyer.  A church had submitted a proposal to establish official contact with the OPC and this met with approval.
  • To implement the earlier decision regarding the Australian Book of Praise, synod decided to establish a Standing Committee for the Australian Book of Praise (with the rather elegant acronym SCABP).
  • For some years, the FRCA has been supporting theological education in Indonesia via synodically appointed deputies.  This will continue for the next three years, but these deputies have been mandated to transition this matter over to a local church.
  • Several changes to our psalms, confessions and Church Order were proposed and discussed.  Of these changes, the only one adopted was a change to article 36 of the Church Order.  It now says that the minister shall chair consistory meetings “as a rule.”  This means that, by way of exception, elders may also chair these meetings.
  • Synod decided that all acts of all FRCA synods will be published online in searchable .pdf format.
  • Finally, synod decided to send a letter to Synod 2020 of the RCN communicating our decision to terminate the relationship with them.  This letter will be delivered by two deputies in person to underline the seriousness of the matter.

Update on Synod Bunbury — Week 1

Executive of Synod Bunbury 2018.

The first week of FRCA Synod 2018 is now over.  The assembly will continue meeting on Monday and will probably go until at least Tuesday evening, if not Wednesday.  Besides the headline decision of terminating the relationship with the RCN, a few other noteworthy decisions were made.  At this time I will simply draw them to your attention and add no comment of my own.  You can find the approved and published acts online here for more details.

  • In one of its first decisions, Synod decided to make the Acts more readable by having a summary of all material relating to decisions made.
  • There will be a new deputyship (committee) for the official FRCA website.  They are mandated to produce a revamped FRCA website which will include news items from the churches.
  • Synod decided to proceed with investigating ecumenical relations with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Southern Presbyterian Church.
  • The Deputies for Canadian Reformed Churches have received a mandate which will include monitoring “developments within the CanRC in relation to Blessings Christian Church in line with the questions expressed in the deputies report.”  For more information, that deputies report can be found online here.
  • Synod decided to proceed with an Australian Book of Praise, based on the 2014 CanRC Book of Praise (with adopted FRCA changes to creeds, confessions, and liturgical forms), using the ESV, and including the 19 extra hymns.
  • With regard to the URCNA, it was decided:  “To continue to liaise with the URCNA and to recommend to Synod 2021 whether to proceed in establishing a sister church relationship.”

Decisions still need to be made on a variety of other important items including:  ICRC (whether or not we send observers), appeals regarding the decision to establish a sister-church relationship with the RCNZ, and the question or whether the FRCA will move towards their own seminary.  Stay tuned…


Full Text of FRCA Decision on RCN

Here is the complete text of Synod Bunbury’s decision to terminate the relationship with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.  It comes from the approved and published Acts which you can find here.  This decision was made on Thursday June 21, 2018.

Article 45 – Reformed Churches in the Netherlands

I. Material
Item 13(h) – Report of Deputies for Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
Item 9(c)(i) – Letter from General Synod Meppel 2017, advising of their decision to urge the FRCA not to prematurely break off the bond with the RCN, to declare that from their side they see no cause to review the sister church relationship, and to send a delegation to the FRCA to facilitate a face-to-face explanation of their decision
Item 9(f)(vii) – Letter from FRC of Launceston, supporting deputies’ recommendation to terminate the sister church relationship
Item 9(h)(iii) – Letter from FRC of Darling Downs, supporting deputies’ recommendation to terminate the sister church relationship
Item 9(i)(ii) – Letter from FRC of Byford, proposing to continue monitoring developments in the Netherlands

II. Decision
With sadness to terminate the sister relationship with the RCN.

Grounds
1. The relationship with the RCN has become untenable due to their use of the ‘New Hermeneutics’ – principles allowing the current cultural context to play a determining role in explaining scripture. This has allowed the RCN to turn away from the clear instruction in God’s Word and to show unfaithfulness by lack of submission to that Word.
2. The evidence of ground 1 above is given particular expression in the recent decision of the RCN (Synod Meppel 2017) to allow women to the office of deacon, elder and minister.
3. There has been no adequate response, let alone repentance, to earlier admonitions:
i. Letter of admonition from Synod Armadale 2012 to RCN Synod Ede dated 22 April
2013 (Acts of Synod 2012, Appendix 5);
ii. Letter from Synod Baldivis 2015 to RCN Synod Meppel 2017 (Acts of Synod 2015,
Appendix 2).

ADOPTED

The chairman notes that this decision is made with great sadness, and leads the meeting in prayer.

 


FRCA to RCN: Farewell

Yesterday, June 21, Synod Bunbury of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia decided to terminate the relationship with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN).  This came after years of fruitless admonitions about refusing to submit to the full authority of God’s Word — a refusal exemplified in the decision of Synod Meppel to admit women to all the offices of the church.  Once the acts are adopted, I’ll share the full text of the decision here.  Synod is still working on formulating the best way to communicate this decision to the RCN, as well as working out the practical consequences of this decision when it comes to things like mission.

Synod has discussed and decided on other matters as well, but I’ll write about those later.