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 waarheid. You 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
Things can often be depressing when it comes to developments in church life. We often see things slip-sliding away. That’s one reason why I love being to able to share some good news here, some positive developments. For some years, the Canadian Reformed Churches have been troubled by challenges regarding the biblical and orthodox view of origins. In response to this, the Providence Canadian Reformed Church of Hamilton developed a proposal aimed for Synod 2016. You can find the proposal here on the Providence website (below the Welcome message). Yesterday, a Classis Ontario West adopted this proposal and decided to forward it on to the next Regional Synod East for consideration. The press release is here. The proposal is now public and circulating through the churches. I’m thankful to God for these very positive developments! May he continue to preserve his church against these attacks on the truth of Scripture and the gospel. Yet the battle is not over…not by far. We have some ways to go before these false teachings are officially ruled out of bounds in the Canadian Reformed Churches. More on this proposal perhaps some other time.
The other day I was digging in my study for something when I came across a binder of material related to the institution of the church that I serve, the Providence Canadian Reformed Church. The whole history leading up to our institution is in this binder and it makes for fascinating reading. Why is there a Providence CanRC? Let me quote a document that was addressed to the consistories of the Ancaster and Cornerstone CanRCs. The document comes from the New Parish Committee and it was dated July 26, 2006:
It may be well to reflect briefly on the prevailing circumstances, both in Ancaster and in Hamilton, that led to a number of attempts to address the fairly rapid growth in church membership. Recently, some members in Ancaster investigated the possibility of a new congregation on the west side of Ancaster, but their plans did not come to fruition. In the past, an unsuccessful attempt had also been made in the west Hamilton mountain area, which had always been seen by many as the more logical target area. The attempt then failed for want of sufficient support.
Meanwhile, the churches continued to grow. Often, the vibrancy of church life as it relates to the communion of saints begins to wane somewhat when a church membership grows beyond the point where all members know one another. Fairly rapid turnover of members, not an unusual phenomenon in a city blessed with several post-secondary educational institutions, including our own Theological College, makes that even more difficult. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this makes members who ordinarily would make it a point to greet visitors to make them feel welcome, become reticent in so doing in order to avoid the embarrassment of being informed the “new face” actually belongs to someone who has been a member for quite some time. There is also a hanging back from active participation, letting others (often the same persons) do most of the work. Consistories, by this time, have also found the caring and supervision of the members to have become more difficult. Increasing the number of office bearers usually results in longer, or more, meetings. The minister no longer knows his sheep as well as he feels he should. It has been observed that these situations exist in both Ancaster and Hamilton congregations. It should be noted here that in the most recent Yearbook these two churches are listed as the second and third largest, respectively, in the federation.
It was against this backdrop that the New Parish Committee was formed.
Basically, Providence was instituted because it was held by a good number of people that congregational life functions better within a smaller congregation. Not everyone agreed and, as it happened, Cornerstone officially went in a different direction at that time. Most of the members who made up Providence at the beginning came from Ancaster where these sentiments found more traction. There is far more to be said about this, but it will have to wait for some other time.
A common sight in the Philippines: the Jeepney
Later today, I’m heading to the Philippines with a couple of members of my congregation. The Providence CanRC recently started a small-scale mission project called Theological Assistance to the Philippines (TAP). In partnership with the Free Reformed Church of Baldivis, Australia we’re hoping to provide regular seminary-level theological training. This trip will kick things off with a Reformation church history course. We also plan to have meetings with Rev. Stephen t’Hart and br. Hendrik De Jonge of the Baldivis FRCA, as well as Rev. Gil Baloy and Rev. Mike Voytek from the Reformed Church in the United States (who are also doing similar work in the country). I don’t plan on giving any updates here; however, there is a blog set up here that will keep you informed about our activities over the next two weeks. Please do follow along and pray with us for the advance of the Reformed faith in the Philippines.
Excerpt from Providence CanRC Bulletin of January 15, 2012:
…you may have noticed the news item about our Bible translation. The synodically appointed Committee for Bible Translation recently released its report on the 2011 NIV. You can find it at the federation website, http://www.canrc.org . To summarize the report as briefly as possible, the new NIV is not recommended to the churches by the committee. At our last Council meeting we discussed this report and came to a decision. Since the old NIV is no longer available and the new NIV is not acceptable, we are compelled to adopt a different translation. Of the options available (NASB, NKJV, ESV), the ESV is the most attractive. We have therefore decided to adopt the ESV effective September 1, 2012. The time frame gives congregation members opportunity to purchase new Bibles. Of course, if you wish to keep using your old NIV, you certainly have that freedom. However, if you are going to be looking for a new Bible for your children or for a gift, we recommend that it be an ESV in anticipation of the change in September. We have a congregation meeting scheduled for Thursday, February 23 and I’ll be making a presentation there about the background and rationale for this decision. You’ll also have opportunity to ask any questions. In the meantime, you are reminded that just about any new NIV Bible that you purchase will be a 2011 NIV with the objectionable changes mentioned in the CBT report.