Tag Archives: Reformed Church in the United States

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


RCUS to RCN: Your Choice

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Over the last year or so, we’ve seen both the Free Reformed Churches of Australia and the Canadian Reformed Churches issue stern warnings to their sister churches in the Netherlands.  If there is no turn-around at the next synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN), then these relationships will, in the words of the FRCA, “become sadly untenable.”  Now you can add an American voice to that of the Australians and Canadians.  The Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) held its synod on May 16-19 in Bakersfield, California.  The RCUS has also maintained a voice of witness against the deformation in their Dutch sister church.  Like the Australians and Canadians, however, the RCUS is now just about finished with the RCN.  This is the decision you’ll find in the Abstract of the Minutes for the 270th Synod (page 76):

RCUS on GKN

The Dutch Synod next year is going to be a nail-biter.  Will the RCN really throw away relationships with sister-churches in Australia, Canada, and the United States to continue their current path?  Is it worth it?  One would hope that they would value these relationships and want to hold on them.  But more importantly, one would hope that they would see the validity of the concerns expressed and repent because they agree that they have departed from Scripture — and therefore realize that it is repentance that would please God above all.


Synod Dunnville 2016 (3)

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I’ll make two remarks about the latest set of Provisional Acts (which you can find here).

The other day I used the word “boilerplate” in reference to the Acts of the first day.  Perhaps I sent some of you scrambling for a dictionary.  “Boilerplate” is a term often used in the legal world to refer to standard wording.  If the same wording gets used repeatedly in all kinds of documents (like contracts), you might hear it referred to as “boilerplate.”  It’s not a derogatory word, just descriptive.  The word came to mind again as I reviewed the latest Acts, especially articles dealing with the Reformed Church of Quebec (art. 59), Reformed Church in the United States (art. 60), and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (art. 61).  In each case, there have been concerns expressed in the past about what we used to call “divergences” — a fancy word for different views and practices.  Past committees have been mandated to discuss these.  Some churches feel that these discussions should go on.  Synod 2016 disagrees.  In each of the aforementioned articles, you read this boilerplate in the adopted decisions:

Rule 1 of Ecclesiastical Fellowship states that “the churches shall assist each other in the maintenance, defence and promotion of the Reformed faith in doctrine, church polity, discipline and liturgy, and be watchful for deviations.” Within this context, there is always room for discussion about differences in matters of doctrine and practice.

When we enter EF, we accept each other as faithful churches without qualification.  Differences that were noted and discussed prior to EF but which did not hinder entering EF, do not require resolution. It is incorrect to speak of “outstanding differences.” The word “outstanding” implies a need for resolution. Bringing up these issues repeatedly, without proper proof of necessity, is potentially damaging to the sister-church relationship.  Discussion of these issues may take place naturally in the course of EF, but a specific mandate, identifying particular issues, need not be given.

As I see it, there is a subtext behind past mandates to continue discussing these differences.  The subtext was:  we have to keep discussing these things until they see things our way.  The above-quoted boilerplate is an explicit rejection of that subtext.

Another interesting item in these Acts is the mention of creation as a concern of the ERQ and RCUS.  The CCCNA had discussions with their ERQ counterparts about “the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 in the CanRC.”  They also affirmed to the ERQ that the CanRC “has not adopted any statements regarding the doctrine of creation.”  In discussions with RCUS, it “was acknowledged that some in the CanRC are looking for room within the confessions for views other than a literal six-day sequence of creation.”  Sister churches are taking note of what’s happening with the doctrine of creation in the CanRC, at least in certain corners.


Report of Visit to RCUS Classis Covenant East

This report has been prepared for the upcoming Classis Ontario West of the CanRC, March 21, 2012.

I was asked to attend the RCUS Classis Covenant East meeting of March 5-7, 2012 held in Waymart, PA (a short distance from Scranton).  It was my distinct pleasure to do so.  I was warmly welcomed by our brothers and was again treated to their friendly fellowship.

Waymart Presbyterian Church building. Heritage RCUS rents the basement of this building. Classis Covenant East met on the main floor in the auditorium.

As is their tradition, there was a pre-classis meeting on the evening of Monday March 5.  The delegates gathered for a discussion on church planting.  This discussion was led by Rev. Ryan Kron, an RCUS church planter in the Minneapolis area.  The lively discussion was based on several chapters of Planting, Watering, Growing: Planting Confessionally Reformed Churches in the 21st Century.

The next morning the classis was called to order and the business began.  Of special interest was the parochial reports from all the local churches in the classis.  This classis stretches from Pennsylvania to Minnesota and includes seven instituted churches.  This is up by one from last year – the church plant in north west Arkansas became an instituted church and Rev. Wes Brice was installed as their pastor.  In addition, there is one church plant in Minneapolis and another in Waymart, PA.  Also, Rev. Jay Fluck is working “out of bounds” in a congregation seeking affiliation with the RCUS in Gettysburg, PA.

Rev. Randall Klynsma (Kansas City) giving his parochial report.

From the parochial reports, it was readily evident that these churches are striving to be faithful to our Lord Jesus.  There are active efforts throughout to spread the gospel far and wide.  Some of the churches are making effective use of the Internet and especially social media such as Facebook for this purpose.  The parochial reports also gave updates on developments in some of the churches.  For instance, one church reversed a long standing decision to prohibit funerals in their church building when the deceased had committed suicide.  The church made a careful study of the matter and when the reversal of the decision was adopted, there was no dissent from the congregation.

I was given the opportunity to address the body on behalf of the churches in our classical region.  I extended greetings and informed the Classis of some recent developments in our churches.  I made special mention of the fact that our seminary is actively searching for a fifth professor and asked them to please inform us if they knew of any suitable men from within their midst.

Elders being asked the "constitutional questions" by the president of the classis. This is the RCUS equivalent of the Article 44 Question Period at a CanRC classis.

There were also fraternal delegates in attendance from the URCNA (Rev. Kevin Hossink) and RPCNA (Rev. Paul Brace).  They also addressed the body and informed them of recent and upcoming developments in their churches.  Mr. Ray Schnabel was present on behalf of Heidelberg Theological Seminary.  He spoke a few words about the seminary and its labours for the RCUS.  As you may know, Heidelberg is affiliated with the RCUS.  They have a current enrollment of sixteen students, with eight in the M.Div. program.  The RCUS does have other men studying for the ministry at other institutions, most notably at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in South Carolina.

On the evening of March 6, a worship service was held.  All the members of the Waymart church were invited to attend and many, if not all, did.  Rev. Kyle Sorensen conducted the service and Rev. Jay Fluck preached a sermon on Hebrews 11:23-29.  The sermon was a faithful, Christ-centered exposition of God’s Word.

In informal conversation, I asked some of our RCUS brothers about the matter of Bible translation.  Most of their churches use either the NKJV or ESV.  The disappearance of the 1984 NIV is not a problem for their churches – it was never received very well among them.

In summary, I can report that God’s blessings continue to be in evidence among the RCUS churches of Classis Covenant East.  Moreover, the gospel continues to be faithfully preached, the sacraments are administered faithfully, and discipline is carried out according to the teachings of our Saviour.  We can praise God for the gracious work of his Spirit amongst them.

Submitted respectfully,

Rev. Wes Bredenhof