Tag Archives: NAPARC

How the Mighty Have Fallen

I have been writing for about 25 years.  My first published article appeared in the January 1992 issue of a Canadian Reformed youth magazine called In Holy Array.  The article was entitled “Women in Office” and it discussed the opening of ecclesiastical offices to women in the Christian Reformed Church in North America.  In 1990, the CRC Synod decided to allow churches to admit women to the offices of minister, elder, and deacon.  This set in motion the large-scale departure from the CRC which eventually led to the formation of the United Reformed Churches.  My article expressed bewilderment that this could happen in a church with which, less than 50 years earlier, we had enjoyed Christian unity.

Now here we are 25 years later and I am again bewildered.  A church federation with whom we still officially have sister-church relations (though suspended) has officially decided to do what the CRC did in the early 1990s.  Over the last two days, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN) have decided at Synod Meppel to admit women to all the offices of the church.  Their sister-churches in Canada, Australia, Ireland, Korea, the US, and others all warned them not to but, regrettably, they did not heed these warnings.  Especially amongst the immigrant churches in Canada and Australia, these decisions bring an enormous amount of sadness.

I know there are still faithful believers in the RCN.  One such brother e-mailed me this morning to share his grief and consternation.  These brothers and sisters will need our prayers as they seek to discern God’s will for them in terms of church membership.  It would not be easy to leave the church of your youth, the church where you made profession of faith, the church where you were married, and where your children were baptized.  It wasn’t easy for the concerned CRC members in the early 1990s either.  Yet they didn’t choose the easy path; instead, they chose the faithful path.

As for ecumenical relations, next year there will be a Free Reformed synod here in Australia.  The Dutch churches were warned that, apart from repentance, our relationship with them would be severed at Synod 2018.  We will be forced to follow through on that warning.  The Canadian Reformed Churches have said something similar in regard to their next synod in 2019.

And then there’s the ICRC, the International Conference of Reformed Churches.  The RCN have badly miscalculated if they thought that these decisions would have no bearing on their membership in the ICRC.  Next month, July 13-19, the next meeting of the ICRC is scheduled to take place in Jordan, Ontario.  Again, one cannot but help think of what happened with the Christian Reformed Church in the 1990s.  The CRCNA was one of the founding members of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), just like the RCN is one of the founding members of the ICRC.  In 1997, NAPARC voted to suspend the membership of the CRC over their decision regarding women in office.  Amongst the churches leading that initiative were two current sister-churches of the RCN — the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Church in the United States.  The OPC and RCUS are still in NAPARC — and also in the ICRC.  Have the OPC and RCUS softened their stand on this issue since the 1990s?  The writing is on the wall for RCN membership in the ICRC.  The only question is one of time.

After the fall of the mighty CRCNA, many post-mortem analyses have been essayed.  Most of them, including mine, lay the blame at the foot of developments regarding the authority of Scripture tracing back to the 1960s.  Over the coming days, similar analyses will be written about the RCN.  It’s a familiar story and it illustrates man’s wickedness in departing from God’s Word.  It’s not “Reformation” when you scorn the Scriptures and have women office bearers — it’s deformation.  I’ve seen the story already play out twice in my short lifetime.  I pray I won’t see it a third time.  I pray that we will have learned something from the sad fall of these two federations of churches that were once faithful and mighty in the LORD.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

1 Corinthians 10:12


Confessional Conferences for Reformed Unity

Back in the early 1990s, a unique effort was made to address several  pressing issues facing Reformed and Presbyterian churches.  The issues of concern were primarily egalitarianism (leading to women in ecclesiastical offices) and evolution.  This period saw a mass exodus from the Christian Reformed Church over these very issues and ones related to them.  From concerned CRC and ex-CRC churches, an organization developed which eventually became known as the Alliance of Reformed Churches.  The ARC was approached to convene a series of conferences aimed at developing a confessional approach to the above-mentioned issues of concern.  The hope was that confessional documents could be developed which would provide the basis for doctrinal unity between various Reformed and Presbyterian churches in North America.  The ARC agreed to take this on.

The first Confessional Conference was held in July of 1993.  Christian Renewal reported on it in the September 13, 1993 issue.  Attendance was not all that impressive.  Some of the noteworthy individuals in attendance were Dr. John Byl, Dr. Margaret Helder, and Dr. Nelson Kloosterman.  Attendees came from Orthodox Presbyterian, Christian Reformed (and ex-CRC), PCA, Canadian Reformed, and other churches.  The 1993 meeting reviewed a document prepared by the organizing committee on hermeneutics.  Several speeches were also presented on the subject of creation and evolution.  The intention was that a confessional document on creation would be prepared and presented at the next conference in 1994.

I have been unable to find much about the 1994 conference.  It was scheduled to be held July 13-16.  From this report, it appears that it was held, but the attendance continued to be disappointing.  Another conference was supposed to be held in 1995 to discuss ecclesiology, but because of the attendance issue, it was scrapped.  One never hears about the Confessional Conferences again.

From one perspective, the Confessional Conferences could be regarded as a failure.  However, it was not a waste of time or effort.  Today we still have two important documents that came from these conferences.  These documents should receive more attention.  The first is a Reformed Confession Regarding Hermeneutics.  The second is a Reformed Confession Regarding Creation.  These are both drafts primarily written by the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  Both are precise and faithful summaries of biblical teaching on these important issues.  They feature affirmations of the correct teaching and denials of various false teachings.  They are well-worth reading and studying.

Why did the Confessional Conferences fail?  Obviously the attendance was an issue, indicating a general lack of interest in North American Presbyterian and Reformed churches.  Worse yet, there was especially a lack of interest from the membership of the Alliance of Reformed Churches itself — the very organization which agreed to organize these conferences.  Moreover, the ARC was the vehicle engineering the launch of the United Reformed Churches.  That took place in 1996.  Much time and energy was being directed towards establishing a new federation and, understandably, there seems to have been little appetite for a broader outlook on unity.

Could an idea like this be revived today?  For example, could NAPARC be the vehicle to convene a new series of confessional conferences?  We have to be realistic.  I rather doubt that the appetite would be there any more today than it was in the early 1990s.  Just observe that, since then, there have been further developments in various NAPARC churches.  For instance, on the issue of creation and evolution, the URCNA took a position at Synod Escondido 2001.  The RCUS has also taken a firm position, as have others.  While it sounds like a good idea on paper, the reality is that the desire for developing a common confessional approach to these matters is going to be weak.  Churches faced with some of these contemporary theological challenges today are going to be best off investing their time and energy with an “in-house” approach.


Canadian Reformed Synod 2010 (11)

The Acts of Day 5 (Monday, May 17) are available online.  Highlights include:

  • The decision to hold a theological discussion with the URCNA fraternal delegates (Article 43)
  • The denial of an appeal of Attercliffe against membership in NAPARC because of concerns regarding membership transfers, etc.  (Article 45)
  • The denial of another appeal, this one from Coaldale, against membership in NAPARC because of similar concerns (Article 46)
  • The denial of the appeal from Burlington-Ebenezer regarding Lord’s Supper to shut-ins.  Burlington had appealed because “any suggestion to synod that something is living or not living in the churches is deemed immaterial to the case and should be flagged as such by synod or not be listed in the observations as it has no bearing on the case.”  Our Synod was not persuaded.

I was there for the afternoon plenary session today.  A number of interesting items were discussed, including the access to committee reports via the website, Bible translations, and whether or not a church can directly overture our synods.  I hesitate to report what I observed because my memory isn’t clear as to which items were decided upon and which were sent back to committee for “tweaking.”  But overall, I was pleased with the decisions or the directions that the advisory committees are going.

Tonight features one of the highlights of this synod:  the theological discussion with the URCNA delegates.  Rev. Bouwers, Rev. Zekveld, Rev. Vellenga and one other URC minister (whose name escapes me at the moment!) will be up front where the executive normally sits.  They will be answering the questions that some of the churches sent in, as well as general questions from the delegates.  The hope is to have the same sort of discussion take place at the URC Synod in July with two of our professors plus two members of our Committee for Church Unity.  Unfortunately, due to a prior commitment I can’t be there this evening.

Also with regards to the URC, it is worth noting that a letter is being drafted from our Synod to theirs.  All of this is unprecedented, at least amongst the Canadian Reformed Churches.  Will we find each other and the way forward?


Canadian Reformed General Synod (5)

According to the website, the following matters are being addressed this morning:

RCUS
ERQ
FRCNA
Appeal Coaldale against article 140 Smithers re: NAPARC
Appeal Attercliffe against article 140 Smithers re: NAPARC
Appeals from Church at Toronto and Burlington Ebenezer  re: article 96 Administering Lord’s Supper to Shut-ins
Appeal Attercliffe against article 83 Smithers Letter
Attercliffe re: SCBP change to Acts of Synod 2007
Letter Winnipeg Redeemer correcting article 111 of Smithers

The NAPARC and Lord’s Supper appeals sound interesting.  Are they appealing against CanRC membership in NAPARC?  That would be sad.  Are the other two  churches appealing against administering the Lord’s Supper to shut-ins?  That would be sad too.  I have an article queued up for Clarion on that second issue, specifically on the approach of Guido de Bres.  He addressed this in passing in his debate with Francois Richardot.  I’m waiting to submit the article until I find out what Synod 2010 does on this.

UPDATE @4:15 PM EST:  I received an e-mail informing me that the appeal of Coaldale is not against membership in NAPARC but has to do with transfers of membership between NAPARC churches.  According to the website, this appeal is back up for further discussion this evening.


NAPARC and Inerrancy

From the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) website:

Confessing Jesus Christ as only Savior and Sovereign Lord over all of life, we affirm the basis of the fellowship of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches to be full commitment to the Bible in its entirety as the Word of God written, without error in all its parts and to its teaching as set forth in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dordt, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

The Canadian Reformed Churches now have full membership in NAPARC, so of course we have expressed our official agreement with this doctrinal basis.