Tag Archives: Reformed Churches of New Zealand

Upcoming at FRCA Synod 2018

In a little more than a month, the Free Reformed Churches of Australia will be having their synod.  While convened by the church at Bunbury, the proceedings are to be hosted by the Southern River FRC in the Perth Metro area of WA.  I’ve posted before on some of the more noteworthy items on the agenda — click here.  Since then, the provisional agenda for this synod has continued to grow.  In this post, I’ll mention a few more points of interest.

In the Free Reformed Churches, delegation to synod comes via the classis (as opposed to regional synod in the CanRC).  These are the primary delegates for Synod 2018 from each classis:

Classis North

Ministers:  Rev. R. Bredenhof, Rev. W. Bredenhof, Rev. A. Souman

Elders:  Elder W. Spyker, Elder H. Hamelink, Elder T. Reitsema

Classis Central

Ministers:  Rev. D. Anderson, Rev. A. Hagg, Rev. C. Vermeulen

Elders:  Elder E. Heerema, Elder H. Terpstra, Elder J. Torenvliet

Classis South West

Ministers:  Rev. H. Alkema, Rev. R. Pot, Rev. S. t’Hart

Elders:  Elder S. Bolhuis, Elder H. Olde, Elder W. Vanderven

Every synod also includes fraternal delegates.  This year’s list has a few standouts.  As mentioned previously, the Southern FRC has put forward a proposal to investigate ecumenical relations with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  The OPC is slated to have a presence at our synod in the person of Rev. Jack Sawyer.

Also, I noted before that there’s a recommendation from our deputies to terminate our relationship with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.  The Dutch have decided to send not only Rev. Johan Plug (on behalf of their Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad), but also Rev. Dr. Melle Oosterhuis, the chairman of their last synod.  These men have been mandated by Synod Meppel to provide an explanation to our synod regarding the decision to open all the offices of the church to women.  Will they avert what appears inevitable?

While not officially delegated, I’m told there will also be observers from Reformed churches in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Most synods also feature appeals.  There are three of a public nature, all pertaining to the FRCA’s relationship with the Reformed Churches of New Zealand.  Three individual brothers believe this relationship is illegitimate and ought to be voided by Synod 2018.  In response, one church has submitted a letter arguing that these types of appeals should be declared inadmissible, since article 31 of our FRCA Church Order only gives individual members the right to appeal decisions of minor assemblies whereby they have been personally wronged.  It will definitely be a discussion to watch.

After receiving the deputies’ reports, local consistories typically discuss these reports and then sometimes submit letters interacting with them.  To date, two churches have submitted a number of letters, but one can expect more in the next week or two.  Let me mention just a couple of the submissions thus far.  Kelmscott submitted a letter asking Synod to remind the deputies to keep their reports succinct and clear, since there is only a short time for churches to consider them.  In addition, they suggest that deputies submit annual reports if there will be more information to share than might be reasonable in a tri-annual report.  Launceston sent a letter asking synod to appoint an official website committee which would include a mandate to refresh the look of the FRCA website and enhance its functionality with federational news and press releases.

Synod 2018 is scheduled to begin on June 18 with a prayer service.  Updates or press releases should be published on the federational website (click here) — there’s also an option of signing up to a synod update e-mail list.


Supervised Lord’s Supper

Each month Faith in Focus, the official magazine of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, has a column entitled “Letters from New Zealand.”  This column features historical correspondence from D.G. Vanderpyl, a long-serving elder in the RCNZ and, at one time, their stated clerk.  The February 2018 issue sees Vanderpyl commenting on the supervision of the Lord’s Supper in the RCNZ.  He notes (writing in September 1978) that the RCNZ practices “closed communion.”  The elders supervise admission to the table and only those admitted by the elders are permitted to partake.

Vanderpyl shares a number of reasons why Reformed churches have a closed Lord’s Supper with supervision by the elders:

Elders have the responsibility to superintend (shepherd) the Church of Jesus Christ to see that all things are done decently and in order, 1 Cor. 14:40, Acts 20:28-31, 1 Thess. 5:12-13, Heb. 13:17, and 1 Peter 5:1-4.

Open communion means that the session [a.k.a. consistory] must measure with two different standards:  Local members are under the continuous disciplinary supervision of the session while the visitors are permitted to come to the Lord’s Table without any exercise of supervision on the part of the session.

At open communion elders have no prior knowledge of who partakes of the sacrament, which allows for the possibility that visiting communicants may not have made a credible profession of faith earlier, may be living in open sin, or may even be under discipline elsewhere, all of which desecrates the Lord’s Table.

Open communion contradicts the Church Order, Articles 66 and 91 (Reformed Church of Australia), which specify that the session must ascertain whether those who come to the Lord’s Table are qualified to do so, namely, those who have professed their faith publicly and who are in good standing in the church.

Open communion contradicts the necessity of discharging and receiving members in orderly fashion by means of a letter or certificate from sister churches.

Open communion contradicts the commandments of love (Matthew 22:37-40) which indicate that, in order to love God and the neighbour properly, concern for the neighbour should include that he not be guilty of eating or drinking judgment upon himself (1 Cor. 11:27ff.).

Open communion prevents conscientious members from exercising their right to come to the Lord’s Table because they do not wish to share responsibility for an improper celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:30ff.).

All good reasons worthy of our consideration!  The continued practice of closed communion in churches like the CanRC and FRCA is not, historically speaking, idiosyncratic or arbitrary.


RCN in ICRC: Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Debate about the future of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN) as members of the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC) has been continuing in Jordan, Ontario.  At their synod last month, the RCN fully adopted women’s ordination.  Anticipating this move, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church mandated their delegates to the ICRC to propose the suspension of the RCN.  Details of that proposal can be found here.

On Friday afternoon debate continued about the OPC proposal.  The delegates from several ICRC member churches vocally supported it.  Amongst them were the Canadian Reformed Churches, the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, and the Free Reformed Churches of South Africa.  The OPC and others have been arguing that suspension of the RCN is necessary to preserve the integrity of the ICRC and its testimony to the world and other churches.  Such a move also sends a clear signal to the RCN and gives them the opportunity to reconsider and repent.  Above all, they argue, this course of action gives the most honour to the head of the Church, Jesus Christ, and the authority of his Word.  Tolerating the present situation is unacceptable.

During the two hour discussion, however, some delegates expressed opposition to the proposal to suspend the RCN.  The Christian Reformed Churches from the Netherlands (not related to the Christian Reformed Church in North America, but rather the sister churches of the Free Reformed Churches of North America) argued that more time was needed and suspension would be premature.  The Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia also expressed discomfort with the OPC proposal, arguing not only that it was premature, but also that it was necessary to answer the RCN with carefully formulated biblical arguments.

Despite these reservations, there seems to be a consensus at the ICRC that the RCN is indeed out of step with the basis of the ICRC, namely the Scriptures as confessed in the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards.  There’s therefore no question as to whether the RCN’s membership will be terminated in 2021 should they fail to reverse course on women’s ordination.  The present question is how to move forward at this meeting:  suspend or not.  The Christian Reformed Churches are reportedly preparing a counter-proposal to that of the OPC.

Debate continues on Monday with a vote expected later that day.


FRCA Synod 2015 (2)

Synod Baldivis

There are a couple of highlights worth mentioning from Wednesday’s draft Acts of Synod Baldivis.  There was a momentous decision to enter into a sister church relationship with the Reformed Churches of New Zealand.  This has been in the works for many years.  I’m thankful to hear of this outcome.  I’m also encouraged to read that the FRCA are going to pursue contact with the United Reformed Churches of North America.  Hopefully in due time that will also result in a sister church relationship.  I’ll have more as soon as more Acts are posted, so stay tuned.


Coming Up: FRCA Synod 2015

Since I soon hope to be taking up a call in their midst, I’m taking special interest in the upcoming Synod of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA).  Like the CanRC, the FRCA has a synod once every three years.  This year’s synod is being convened by the Baldivis FRC and it’s scheduled to begin on Monday June 22.  In this post, I’ll review some of the items of interest on the agenda for this synod.  If this was a CanRC synod, I might venture to offer a prognosis as well.  However, because I’m still rather out of touch with the FRCA, I dare not make any predictions as to how things might go, nor editorialize all that much.

Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZ)

For many years, the FRCA have been discussing fraternal relations with the RCNZ.  The major obstacle in establishing a sister-church relationship has been the relationship of the RCNZ with the Christian Reformed Church of Australia.  The lengthy report for this upcoming synod can be found here.  To summarize, the RCNZ/CRCA relationship changed to such a degree that the deputies no longer feel it should be an obstacle.  The recommendation is to proceed to establishing full ecclesiastical fellowship/a sister-church relationship.

Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated)

Several of the sister churches of the RCN are deeply concerned about their direction.  On their part, the FRCA has sent a letter of admonition.  Since then, the situation has not improved, in fact, quite the opposite.  The question is:  what to do now?  Two alternatives are presented in the report (the report begins on page 90, the recommendations begin on page 100).  The first alternative is to sever the relationship completely.  The second is to suspend the relationship and continue to interact with the RCN.  The FRCA Synod will have to decide which alternative to follow, or perhaps to take a somewhat different direction.

Bible Translations

From what I understand, most of the FRCA uses the New King James Version.  However, the two congregations in Tasmania have been long-time users of the NIV.  The 2011 edition of the NIV has raised many concerns around gender-neutral language.  A committee was appointed to examine the 2011 NIV, as well as the ESV as a potential alternative.  However, because of various circumstances, the committee wasn’t able to work together to produce a report.  There is a report going to this Synod, but it’s only authored by one of the committee members.  The report affirms that the problems with the 2011 NIV are significant.  It also speaks favourably of the ESV.  But what can a Synod do with a report signed by only one committee member?  I hear that proper ecclesiastical ways to address this are being sought by the churches and may be sent to Synod.  There should be a way out of this quandary.

Seminary Training

Till now the FRCA has sent its seminary students to the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton.  The FRCA also supports CRTS financially.  However, there has been some talk of having at least some of this theological training done “down under.”  The Deputies for Training for the Ministry were mandated to investigate whether the first year of training could be done in Australa, either through distance-learning, or through other means.  Their report concludes that this is not feasible and the status quo should be maintained.  Is that the end of the matter then?  No.  At least one church (Rockingham) has interacted with this report by advocating a different approach:  they’re proposing to set the wheels in motion for a full-fledged Australian Reformed seminary, and sooner rather than later.  It will be very interesting to see what Synod decides on this point.

Book of Praise

Finally, there’s the question of the Book of Praise.  For many years, the FRCA and CanRC shared a common songbook.  The Australians simply used our 1984 Book of Praise.  However, in the last number of years, the CanRC have come out with a new edition of the Book of Praise.  Among other things, it has revised wordings of the Psalms and some new hymns.  From the sounds of it, the FRCA especially don’t feel the compulsion to add any new hymns and they also have some other misgivings.  This puts them in a bind.  The 1984 Book of Praise is out of print, yet the 2014 Book of Praise is not completely acceptable.  The report of the Deputies for the Book of Praise can be found here.  The Deputies surveyed the churches and found that more churches are in favour of an Australian Book of Praise than are opposed to it.  They ask the Synod to recognize that and then, if the churches request it, that new deputies be appointed to execute it.  In other words, if one or more churches takes the initiative upon reading this report, things could be moving forward towards a uniquely Australian edition of the Book of Praise.

This Synod will be faced with some tough decisions.  May the LORD grant the delegates the wisdom they need to do their work in a way that pleases him and serves the good of his church.