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.
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
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
With sadness to terminate the sister relationship with the RCN.
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,
The chairman notes that this decision is made with great sadness, and leads the meeting in prayer.
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.
This coming week the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (where I serve) will be having their synod. As noted earlier, one of the items most people will be watching will be the discussion regarding the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. Will the Free Reformed Churches be the first sister church to terminate their relationship with the RCN?
The answer is “No.” At least one other church (that I’m aware of) has made that decision. At their recent synod (May 21-24, 2018), the Reformed Church in the United States ended its relationship with the RCN. Here are the relevant recommendations, which were adopted by the RCUS Synod:
(3) Whereas the Reformed Church in the Netherlands at Synod 2017 in Meppel, NL decided to allow the ordination of women to the offices of minister, ruling elder and deacon; and Whereas the RCUS judges the decisions and actions of the RCN at Synod Meppel to be a deviation from the Holy Scriptures and from the Reformed confessions (1 Timothy 2:11,12; 1 Corinthians 14:34; I Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; Belgic Confession article 30); and Whereas, in 1992, the RCUS and the RCN agreed on five stipulations for fraternal relations, the first one noting to “agree to take heed to one another’s doctrine, liturgy and church government, that there be no deviations from the Holy Scriptures or from the Reformed confessions” (1992 Abstract of the 246th Synod of the RCUS, page 88); and Whereas in the spirit of this rule, the RCUS has urged and pleaded with this sister-church many times, in writing and in person through delegates, to turn away from the course they have adopted; and Whereas the RCUS has received no compelling or repentant response to our earlier admonitions; Therefore, be it resolved that, in accordance with the decision of the 270th Synod of the RCUS, the Reformed Church in the United States terminate the fraternal relationship with the Reformed Church in the Netherlands (liberated).
(4) That the 272nd Synod of the RCUS be encouraged to pray for our brothers in the RCN, that the Lord in his grace would turn them in repentance to his Word and so be able to join fully with them once more.
(5) That the Stated Clerk send a letter to the Reformed Church in the Netherlands informing them of our decision, as well as our continued prayers on their behalf for the Lord to graciously turn them in repentance to His Word and so be able to join fully with them once more.
(6) That the 272nd Synod of the RCUS take note of the decision of ICRC 2017, which was to suspend the Reformed Church in the Netherlands based on their violation of Article IV:2 of the Constitution of the ICRC by their recent synodical decisions to permit the ordination of persons to the offices of minister and ruling elder, which is contrary to the rule prescribed in Scripture.
(7) That the 272nd Synod of the RCUS direct the permanent Interchurch Relations Committee to take steps to pursue the removal of the Reformed Church in the Netherlands from ICRC if the RCN remains unrepentant in their views of women in the ordained office of minister and ruling elder.
While the FRCA may not be the first sister church to make this decision, we will probably be the first sister church with her roots in the RCN via post-war Dutch immigration.
This week the United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA) are having their synod in Wheaton, Illinois. One of the decisions made so far has to do with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN). Up till this synod, the URCNA had a relationship with the RCN termed as “ecumenical contact.” This was the first step on the way to having a closer relationship as sister churches. However, because Synod Meppel last year decided to admit women to all the offices of the church, the URCNA has decided to terminate this relationship. One needs to remember that the URCNA partly owes its very existence to this issue — they developed out of an exodus of faithful believers from the Christian Reformed Church in the 1990s. One of the main issues leading to that was the adoption of women in office.
Last week, the Dutch media reported that the RCN had examined its first woman at a classis for preaching consent. Gerry Bos was examined by Classis Hattem and is now able to preach in the churches. Even before Synod Meppel, however, one RCN church had already allowed a woman to take the pulpit as part of her theological training. In 2015, Ineke Baron was permitted to preach at the RCN in Haulerwijk.
Next week, starting on Monday, the Free Reformed Churches of Australia will have their synod. One of the major items for discussion will be our relationship with the RCN. The deputies responsible for ecumenical relations with the RCN are proposing the termination of this relationship. If that happens (and it likely will), it should be another clear signal to the RCN that they are on the path of unfaithfulness. Sister churches and organizations like the ICRC see the writing on the wall — the faithful still in the RCN ought not to be naive and see it too. It is increasingly becoming apparent that their calling is to depart and find a bond of faithful churches.