Tag Archives: International Conference of Reformed Churches

RCN @ ICRC: In or Out?

At their synod last month, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands decided to admit women to all the offices of the church, effective immediately.  The RCN (also known by their Dutch name Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland –Vrijgemaakt or GKV) were instrumental in the founding of the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC) in the early 1980s.  Up till now, the ICRC has never had a situation where a member church has departed from biblical orthodoxy in such an explicit fashion.  However, there are churches within the ICRC who have had similar experiences with another church in a similar ecumenical organization.

In the 1990s, the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRC) went in the direction of women in office.  The CRC had been a founding church of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC).  After the CRC adopted women in office, NAPARC decided in 1997 to suspend their membership.  Leading this initiative to suspend the CRC from NAPARC were especially the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Church in the United States.

The recent developments in the Netherlands with the RCN have not escaped the attention of the OPC or RCUS.  Along with other sister churches, they have been actively warning the Dutch not to go in this direction.  They have insisted that there will be consequences if they do.

The ICRC is having its quadrennial meeting at this moment in Jordan, Ontario.  The RCN is discovering that the OPC is keeping its word.

The RCN has sent a delegation which includes the president of Synod Meppel, Dr. M.H. Oosterhuis.  On the first full day at the ICRC, Dr. Oosterhuis attempted to explain and defend the decision regarding women in office.  In the next day, the OPC is reportedly going to be making a proposal to the body that the RCN be suspended from the ICRC.  There is some question over whether this proposal will be permitted, since it is late.  It requires a 2/3 approval of the delegates to be considered.  If the proposal is allowed, then on Monday July 17 there will be a secret ballot where each delegation (church) is allowed one vote.  If the proposal passes, the RCN is suspended.  They will be allowed to attend, but not vote on any subsequent matters.  Additionally, they will be admonished to repent.  If there is no repentance, their membership in the ICRC would be terminated at the next meeting in 2021.

It’s difficult to predict how things will go in the next few days.  There are over 30 churches in the ICRC and it’s not clear how familiar each would all be with the developments — or, more importantly, how seriously they would view the decisions of the RCN.  But, as I’ve said before, unless there’s repentance, the writing is on the wall.  It’s just a matter of time.  The OPC and others have seen this movie before.  They know how it ends.


RCN Report: Open All Offices to Women

wrong-way

This past Tuesday, the deputies appointed to study women in office in the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (RCN) released their final report to the 2017 Synod.  If you can read Dutch, the 75 page report is here.  The news is not encouraging.  The deputies are recommending that the 2017 Synod decide to open all the offices of the church to women.

Some 11 pages of the report is taken up with considering advice from sister-churches.  The report notes the objections/warnings of the Canadian Reformed Churches and Free Reformed Churches of Australia, but does not mention the Reformed Church in the United States (see here), perhaps because the RCUS Synod letter did not arrive in time to be considered.   The report notes that two foreign sister churches currently admit women to church offices:  the Reformed Church in Japan (all offices) and the Reformed Churches of South Africa (GKSA — these churches only admit women to the office of deacon and on the understanding that this office is not one of authority).  This is in addition to a sister church federation in the Netherlands:  Nederlands Gereformeerde Kerken.  That section concludes by noting that, from the survey of sister churches, there is “room for diversity in how women in office is handled, appropriate to the time and culture in a particular region.”  The deputies also recognize that moving in the direction of women in office is going to have consequences in some of their ecumenical relationships.  They do not mention that this direction will also likely impact the membership of the RCN in the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC).  Several member churches of the ICRC were involved with removing the Christian Reformed Church of North America from the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council over the issue of women in office.  I suspect that they will not look the other way when it comes to the RCN and membership in the ICRC.

While we pray otherwise, the recommendations of this report will quite likely be adopted.  As has been mentioned here previously, the horses are already well out of the gate in the RCN on this issue.  Local churches are already opening the offices to women, regardless of this report and whatever the synod decides.  A synod decision will just be essentially rubber-stamping what’s already going on and giving it official status.  Should a synod decide otherwise, would one really think that these local churches would revert back to the way it was before?  It seems a sad, foregone conclusion that even if permitting women in office is not the official position in the RCN, it will be tolerated.


Synod Dunnville 2016 (2)

Synod Dunnville 2016

Synod Dunnville continues today over in Canada.  We’ve seen the publication of a few sets of Provisional Acts.  Unfortunately, it’s a little haphazard as to where these Acts are being published, whether at the Synod website or at the federation website.  I have an idea of what’s happened so far, and I’m able to pass on a couple of the highlights:

  • Up to this point, most of the plenary sessions have been dealing with ecumenical relationships.  Most of this is standard fare.  In most cases, the status quo in these relationships continues to hold.  There are a couple of instances where foreign churches (e.g., Free Church Continuing, Kosin Presbyterian Church of Korea) have congregations in North America and the CanRCs are urged to develop closer relationships with these churches.
  • Speeches from delegates from sister churches (and observing churches) have also been delivered, along with responses.  Most of these have not been published anywhere yet.  The major exception is the address of Rev. J.M. Batteau on behalf of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN), and the response from Rev. Karlo Janssen.  Curiously, these addresses don’t appear (yet) on either the Synod website or the federation website, but have been published (in English) on the Dutch website, Een in waarheidYou can find them here.  These speeches are very interesting.  Rev. Batteau insists that the course of action recommended by the Canadian committee is “premature.”  Rev. Janssen’s reply reflects the ongoing concerns that the Canadian churches have had for a long time already and the lack of any action in a positive direction thus far.  Most interesting of all in both of these speeches is the mention of the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC).  Both mention that the current direction of the RCN may lead to their expulsion from the ICRC.  In fact, Janssen compares it to the expulsion of the Christian Reformed Church from the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council.  This is the first time that anyone has publicly mentioned the status of the RCN within ICRC being threatened by their current path.
  • As I have mentioned before, theistic evolution is on the agenda of this Synod.  It comes by way of two appeals.  One is from the church at Ancaster regarding the decision of a Regional Synod East to sustain the appeal of Dr. J. Van der Meer.  The other is from the Providence CanRC of Hamilton regarding the decision of another Regional Synod East (RSE) about the proposal to change article 14 of the Belgic Confession to better address the challenges being faced on origins.  Neither of those matters is confidential.  The first-mentioned decision of Regional Synod East was made in closed session originally, but was made public by Dr. Van der Meer and his colleagues from the Reformed Academic website (see here).  The decision on the BC 14 proposal was discussed in open session at the most recent RSE and the decision was publicized in the press release and in the Acts.  So it is a little baffling to read in the provisional Acts of Synod Dunnville that these appeals are thus far being discussed in closed session.  This has also been noted by the Dutch website Werken aan Eenheid.  Along with them, while I can conceive of reasons why the discussions thus far have been in closed session, I hope that the final decisions on these matters are indeed public.  These are public matters that have a bearing on the whole church federation, therefore the decisions should be promulgated publically.  Also for the sake of sister churches, the Canadian Reformed Churches should not only do the right thing, but also be seen to be doing the right thing.  Transparency is key when the issues are of such a huge magnitude.

For those interested in reading the Provisional Acts published so far, here are the links:

May 10-11, 2016

May 12, 2016

May 13, 2016