Choose or lose 6
D.J Bolt and T. Bolt-Slager
Once again we wish to look back at the recent events of this summer, in which we separated ourselves from the ‘liberated’ Reformed Churches (RCN) and the congregation of Drachten-South-West.
We concluded our Justification (see previous Newsletter) to the congregation with the words:
“Finally, we understand that reading the above can be rather upsetting or maybe confusing. If you wish to discuss it with us, you are welcome. You may also email us if you prefer.”
Some ten brothers and sisters responded by e-mail or card. One brother called in for just a moment. We appreciate this involvement.
Everyone found it ‘regrettable’ that we had left the GKv congregation. And that goes for us as well. A church relationship of seventy years has been cut. We are leaving a church community in which we have been involved with heart and soul. And that hurts.
Again, we appreciate this response of several brothers and sisters. At the same time something more has to be said. Also because there is a need to add an important warning.
Church or club
After we had informed the consistory of Drachten-South-West of our intention “to withdraw ourselves from its oversight and discipline” we received a visit from two elders - the chairman of the consistory and one of the ward elders.
The brothers had indicated in advance that it was not the intention to deal with the substance of our problems and discuss the objections we had submitted to the consistory. The purpose of the visit was pastoral - how were we getting on in the difficulties we were experiencing; and were we able to handle the situation.
Of course, we also appreciated thát concern. Shepherds look after their sheep and keep their well-being in mind. That is part of their job.
But what we do not understand is that the brothers office-bearers (again) did not want to talk with us about the cause and the substance of our problems. How can that be right? Our departure almost seemed to be a matter of course, for which even the blessing of the Lord was asked.
We ask in surprise: where in this situation is the ecclesiastical recognition that admonition is mandatory when someone leaves the church of Christ?
Or has that notion completely worn off? Dare we no longer qualify our ‘own’ church as such?
The same must be said about the reactions from the congregation. It is ‘a pity’ and we (including even our ‘critical remarks’!) will be missed… But, as one brother and sister expressed it, ‘it is nice’:
How nice that you now have found a church where you can be happy. It is too bad that we can not experience this together in the same church. Yet we stay connected as brother and sister in Christ, regardless of the different denominations. We wish you God’s indispensable blessing, personally and also in the church!
Again, we appreciate this from the interpersonal level. But should not an admonition have been more adequate? If you’re convinced that the GKv Drachten-South-West is church of Christ should not different words have been spoken when someone cuts the ties with that church? We’re dealing with the Body of Christ, aren’t we, rather than with some club where you can or cannot feel at home, and which you can join or leave depending on your fancy? Should not we have been told seriously: you are schismatics, you are breaking the church, you are denying the word and promise spoken at your public profession of faith? Would that at bottom not have been more compassionate than the well-meant ‘How are you now?’ and ‘We hope you will soon feel at home in your new location?’
It appears that this experience at leaving the GKv has not been ours only. Brothers and sisters from other places tell the same ‘friendly’ story. “Stay? We’d love it!” “Leave? No hard feelings!”
In the end we presented our problems and plan to a professor of the churches. But here too: nothing.
Much is being written these days about our ‘liberated’ past. And … the criticism one reads …! . It is fashionable to spit on the former ‘true-church-idea’ of the Reformed (fore) fathers; and whatever still remains of the liberated 'mini pillar' is eagerly broken away or blown up .
But the anxious question that more and more Reformed people in the GKv are asking themselves is: What kind of church (notion) will fill this ‘empty house’? As rev. Z J. van Harten was wondering in GKv Church Magazine (Central) . After first having sung in the choir that voices the dark discords of the former ‘liberated church-ism’, he wrote:
“Fortunately nowadays this is a very different matter. But at the same time I experience the occasional feeling that in reaction to our ‘liberated’ history we threw out the baby together with the bathwater. While in the past there was, for example, too much preaching and writing about the church, today you hear and read hardly anything about it. Except on the websites of distressed brothers and sisters.
It seems, however, as if the large majority of our church no longer considers the church important. Why should we, for example, still get worried about the difference between evangelical and reformed? Is it not so that it’s not the church, but our relationship with God that matters?
Moreover, people frequently tell me that the youth of the church are not interested in church boundaries, and that therefore we should also not be too concerned about it.
Now, the latter argument cannot convince me. That the youth are not interested in church boundaries proves in my opinion that they were not properly taught in this respect. In recent years our churches have neglected this.”
“The church is the body of Christ, and that means that the most important yardstick is not whether or not it makes us feel comfortable. The church is not a collection of people who just get along with each other, but a community which in doctrine (yes, that as well) and conduct is living from the gospel of Jesus Christ. I think it is high time that as churches we re-develop a church vision that does full justice to both our Reformed witness and the stubborn practice of ecclesiastical disunity. What exactly such a vision should look like I do not know. But I am happily willing to give it some thought.”
This is beautiful, taken from our hearts! And maybe - that is our suggestion - it would be good to yet again try to learn from those detestable former liberated ‘church-ists’ as K. Schilder, J. Kamphuis, WG de Vries, C. Trimp and Joh. Francke, for example.
Van Harten wrote in his article that in a recent clean-out of his bookcase he also discarded many booklets of Word and World. We advise him to take yet another quick look in the bin whether he accidentally also threw away quite a number of wonderful writings about the Church .
It is that lack of understanding what the church is, that lack of church vision, or even better, that lack of confessional ecclesiastical definition that is sorely lacking in the Friesian town of Drachten. And elsewhere.
Just a final note in this context: In his column in GKv Church Magazine (Central), H. Walinga recommends that in the case of transfer to another church federation the brother or sister receives the new membership only after a satisfactory conversation. As with refugees
“the serious question must be asked: Is this a war refugee? Can this brother/ sister no longer in good conscience confess the faith in his/her congregation? Or are they looking for more joy (happiness?) in another congregation? ( ) How many receiving congregations conduct a serious conversation with the fugitive in an attempt to reconcile him or her with the congregation they left?” 
Walinga has “a misgiving that this number is zero or almost zero.”
From our recent experience we can add that admission to De Gereformeerde Kerken (Reformed Churches Restored - RCR) is considered only after a serious conversation, and that the particular congregation involved is also given the opportunity to submit any objections.
But in the meantime it will have become clear from the above that the problem is found on the other side of the transfer, that is: the problem is at the back door of Walinga’s 'church federation', where there is no substantive conversation and attempt to preserve.
Perhaps he could also dedicate a column to that matter.
Church and education
Rev van Harten points out in his story “[the fact] that the youth are not interested in church boundaries proves in my opinion that they were not properly taught in this respect.”
This is true and agrees with our own observation in Drachten. But you can find this also in other places. As an example, it was reported at Classis Rotterdam on the basis of research that “there seems to be a culture among [our] young people of delaying decisions, even after one’s confession of faith. Part of this is a quest in the city whether there are other churches that make one feel more comfortable. This involves a significant number of young people.” 
Exactly! Where can basic ecclesiastical education still be found?
But the situation is even more serious since the majority of church members is hardly interested in church boundaries any longer. “For these boundaries were man-made” is the popular song. The ancient Kuyperian heresy of ‘pluriformity of the church’ is the winner, both in preaching and in praying, also among the leaders in Drachten as we have noticed.
This is how the ‘tender’ care we experienced at our departure from GKv Drachten can be explained. For all we did is transfer to a different branch of the same church tree!?
To leave the church is regrettable for social contact!
But spiritually? No worries!
Church and ecumenism
The new minister of Spakenburg-Zuid  reckons that “… it is high time that as churches we again develop a church vision that does full justice to both our Reformed witness and the stubborn practice of ecclesiastical disunity.”
But has the minister not noticed that there is already a new and thriving vision in place, in a new ecumenism? Here are just some observations:
In [church magazine] Nader Bekeken dr. A. Bas wrote an interesting story about the so-called ‘National Synod.’ Past objections to this ecumenistic happening were always dismissed with ‘it is just a discussion forum’ where you can express your Reformed view for the benefit of the nation.
Bas accurately notes that under strong influence from the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN) the pursuit of the forces behind this ‘synod’ has been increasingly diverted to an attempt to come to a federation of as many churches as possible. Would it not be fantastic, people say, if that could be put into effect 400 years after the great ecumenical National Synod of Dordrecht, that is in 2018/19?
But dr. Bas has his serious objections. Of course, he is happy if more unity could grow between churches in the Netherlands. At the same time he points out that there are also legitimate separations between churches. As an example he cites the Remonstrant Church which also participates in the ‘National Synod’. How is it possible, he wonders in all seriousness, that this church whose doctrine was thoroughly condemned in Dordt and which today advertises nationwide with a faith that you can completely define all by yourself, is involved in this ecumenical endeavour? That is simply not possible, is it, if you want to remain Reformed? Don’t we still uphold the Canons of Dordt?
It is good that Dr. Bas points this out. Hopefully this will bring people to their senses, so that this unholy protestant striving is abandoned. But we do note that from the Steering Committee which in June of this year set out this federation target also the liberated prof. dr. B. Kamphuis is a formal delegate (!). As well as the Christian Reformed ds. W. van ‘t Spijker. It is thus not exactly the youth that is lacking a good Reformed church-vision but also long-serving leaders of the (minor) Reformed churches.
Incidentally, let no one think that this activity stands isolated from ordinary Reformed life and doesn't have much to do with it. For especially local churches are taking the lead in these ‘ecumenical’ developments. Trying to get closer relations with the PKN and other churches is growing and taking effect without significant opposition.
From an interview  with rev. A. de Groot (GKv), from CGK / GKv Enkhuizen: “Partly because of the large number of non-christian people, we cherish the cooperation with other churches that cling to the gospel. Thus for more than ten years we have been organising, together with a local Baptist and evangelical congregation, a Christmas Eve church service that attracts many non-religious people. It is nice to find each other around the cross of Calvary.”
From a report  of GKv Classis Stadskanaal: “Stadskanaal is looking back gratefully on the summer period because of the joint services with CGK and PKN (Oosterkade church). It was gratifying to see that people who had second thoughts did come anyway.” 
From an interview  with S. de Jong who became its new pastor: “In terms of positions I have not changed much, although I can no longer get excited so much about certain differences and opinions, for example, the difference between adult baptism and infant baptism, the position of Israel in history, the great rapture of the church and such issues. To believe is especially something between God and you, a bond, a relationship. To join in with that and engage with it attracts me much more. I’ve actually never been much interested in the bond of churches, and that certainly has not increased over recent years.”
Rev. S. de Jong  writes: “I had more contact with rev. Ron Koopmans of PKN Assen Centre (Jozefkerk) and rev. Harry Harmsen of PKN Kloosterveen (De Ontmoeting) than with GKv colleagues. In Kloosterveen we also have an annual joint Christmas Eve service.”
GKv Leek 
On August 6, 2015 a ‘Grunneger Dainst’ was held in GKv Leek in conjunction with PKN pastor rev. TJ Oldenhuis of Emlichheim.
To read the disconcerting ‘nice’ profile of this protestant / synodical preacher (Flash 30 – As if stung by a wasp), click here)
GKv/NGK/PKN training of interim ministers
GKv and NGK in collaboration with PKN are going to start a training course for interim ministers. These ministers will be able to guide congregations in transition, for example in a crisis. 
GKv The Hague
From Classis Middle Holland . The three GKv churches in The Hague have a missionary plan for the Leidschenveen / Ypenburg area. The Classis is ‘positive and enthusiastic’ (). Moreover there is a request to investigate whether there may also be initiatives taken by other churches (notably the PKN) in the same area, which can possibly be joined.”
GKv Den Haag-Centrum/Scheveningen
“If initiatives come along, we like to take them on. But talking together in the traditional way we have not been doing for years” .
There is a preacher exchange with for example NGK and PKN. “We deliberately call it a preacher exchange, not a pulpit exchange,” says Klapwijk. ‘Pulpit exchange is such a standard term in the process of merging; but we are not in need of a merger.” The preacher exchange extends also beyond the NGK. Klapwijk already preached once at the BOEI 90, a district project of the PKN. And it has now been decided that their pastor is also welcome in the pulpit of the Ichthuskerk.”
So far from the church press this summer. We may have overlooked an item here or there. However, the foregoing suffices to show that here too the dykes have been broken and a torrent is raging that no one can stop.
Church and confession
Rev Van Harten is in need of ‘a healthy and biblical understanding of the nature of the church.’ And ‘it is high time that as churches we again develop a church vision.’
But don’t we already have that ‘understanding’ and ‘vision’ in our Confession? Does it not embody a wealth of information about what the church of Christ is, who belong to that church, and how it should behave? Is not it high time to make that Confession  which ‘we believe’ our own again? We fear that for many it has become obsolete. It no longer applies.
According to rev. J. van der Wal, of GKv Appingedam:
“Guido de Bres could never have dreamed that nowadays there are some ten Reformed Churches in the Netherlands that have the Belgic Confession as basis but yet are living separately! BC Article 29 is not adequate to take stock of today’s religious patchwork in the Netherlands. () It has not foreseen our days and cannot meet all the needs of our time. That has never been the pretense of a Confession. The wisdom of the Spirit is not a stock item that can be drawn on as required.” 
However, we shall together first have to check why that Confession should no longer be adequate and “cannot meet all the needs of our time.” Because it rests firmly on the Scriptures themselves - see the many Scripture references. And it would (also here) not be right that the sinful practice of ecclesiastical division would determine the ‘vision’ and ‘understanding’ of our Confession. It should be the other way around – we must test what is being done against the Confession. And then there are many answers available, sometimes almost off the cuff, about either guilty or legitimate ecclesiastical separation. To limit ourselves to one specific example taken from the above quotations from the church press, how is it possible that more and more ‘liberated’ people no longer have difficulty with cooperating intensively with the protestants of the PKN, including pulpit exchange and a disguised fusion? With a protestant community [the PKN] in which the denial of the existence of God and the historical existence of Jesus Christ is tolerated and may be freely proclaimed!
The leader of this ‘church’ is trying desperately and in panic  to still keep the show together by advocating the appointment of a bishop and a floating religiosity through substantial alignment with the spirit of the age:
“The services themselves must be more accessible. For an outsider it’s like watching a Chinese play. (). Let there be something else next to it, that makes a ‘floating believer’ or a Happinez-reader think: My! I’ve been traveling to India, but I should just attend the little neighbourhood church.” 
But that will not help. There is only óne way to go: back to the scriptural Confession of the church, otherwise there is no future.
So we sincerely hope that the call of rev. Van Harten as well as the critical assessment by dr. Bas may have this positive effect.
Then with God’s blessing there will again be restoration of the broken ecclesiastical unity.
Also in Drachten.
 Just read the booklets Liberated? and recent Campfire for example. But also numerous articles in the ‘liberated’ press or in Nederlands Dagblad.
 The last part of Reformed life that went to the wall is De Driehoek, (see Signalen)
 GKv Church Magazine (Central), July 2nd 2015. I just leave it for now how he too cheerfully joins in with wrecking former Reformed life.
 Published in Word and World series, for example:
- Tj. Boersma, Jeruzalem vandaag [today]
- HHJ Feenstra, Was Abraham Gereformeerd?
- WG de Vries, De kerk
- WG de Vries, Kerk en confessie
- WG de Vries, De Vrijmaking [Liberation] in het vuur
- WG de Vries, Welke kerk ging stuk? [Which church was broken?]
- WG de Vries, De kerk, pijler of puinhoop [pillar or ruin]
- WG de Vries, Kerkelijk verdeeld, maar christelijk samen? [Ecclesiastically divided, but christian together?]
- JR Visser, Fijn, naar de kerk [Great, going to church!]
 GKv Church Magazine (Central) 25/09/15
 GKv Church Magazine (Central) 25/09/15
 Rev van Harten moved from Wezep to this congregation
 GKv Church Magazine (Central) 14/08/15
 GKv Church Magazine (North) 26/09/15.
 GKv Church Magazine (North) 10/09/15
 GKv Church Magazine (North) 26/09/15
 GKv Church Magazine (North) 26/09/15
 GKv Church Magazine (North) 15/08/15
 GKv Church Magazine (North) 15/08/15
 GKv Church Magazine (Central) 28/08/15
 GKv Church Magazine (Central) 15/08/15
 Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 21; Belgic Confession Art 27-32
 GKv Church Magazine (North) 12/09/15
 Each year more than 70,000 church members disappear from the PKN membership records (a figure equivalent to more than half of the GKv membership!). Closure of church buildings is the order of the day. The growing number of ‘white areas’ in the Netherlands where no protestant church can be found is a great worry for the PKN.
 Secretary dr. AJ Plaisier (PKN) in Trouw, Sept 2015.