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Canada and the BBK 1

 

D.J. Bolt

23-03-13

 

We wish to conclude the series Canada and the GKv and Canada and the GKa with some ‘final remarks’. In previous articles we gave the delegates of the Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC) wide-ranging opportunity to speak by way of displaying their (translated) reports in full. On several occasions we indicated how much we were impressed by their keen observations and clear analyses of what is happening in our churches. It appears that these brothers did not skim over the material, but clearly engrossed themselves in the situation of the GKv. For this they deserve all praise.
 

The reports go to their synod which this year will be held in Carman, Manitoba. There the churches will consider what was found in the Netherlands. And there will be discussions about its consequences. For as the reports have shown, these observations cannot be merely received for information. Serious consideration is needed about the sister-relationship with the GKv.
This has of course our great interest.  For it concerns the churches who are dear to us, but who lately are developing themselves in such a way that we are becoming increasingly estranged from them. Will the Canadian churches be able to exert their influence, so that there will be a turn for the better? Are our churches really listening to them?

 

BBK

 

The signs are not promising. In the previous issue of our magazine we devoted attention to the proposed admonition of the Australian churches at the address of the GKv. It turned out that the ‘liberated’ deputies for Relations with Foreign Churches (BBK) reacted very negatively even to this intention alone. They issued a press release and sent an angry letter to the Australian churches. But it was not only at these churches that deputies directed their arrows. The Canadian churches were also targeted.

We will now devote more attention to that point.

We found the following press release on BBK’s site. [1]

 

Press Release

 

Discussion between the Canadian Reformed Churches and Reformed Churches (GKv)

 

In different ways (and not always correct) attention has been given in various media, both within and outside the churches (also in Canada), to the ongoing discussion about points of conflict between the Canadian Reformed Churches and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.

In Spring of 2012, a delegation of the Canadian sister churches visited our churches and talked with a delegation of BBK and TU Kampen.

The central issue is the alleged ‘new hermeneutics’ that is supposed to have been accepted by our churches in which man stands more in the centre; the developments at the TU, the man/woman discussion, and certain ‘incidents’ they experienced in worship services, and public statements from members of our churches. This should make sufficiently clear (according to an earlier report in Clarion magazine) that our churches have completely lost their way.

BBK has lodged objection to these remarks made by Canadian deputies, and discussed this with them in the Spring meeting.

The Canadian deputies have now submitted their comments and findings to the Canadian churches by way of a report on the website of these churches including formal proposals to the next synod in Canada.

Given the public nature of the website being used by Canadian deputies and the many contacts between church members in Canada and the Netherlands, BBK decided to place its relevant responses at the address of the next Canadian Synod and their deputies on the website of BBK for information. Click here to download the letter (including two appendices) that was sent in late 2012 to the Canadian churches. 


 Thus far the Press Release

 

It is important to read the letter and its appendices. We will reproduce the documents here.

But first a remark about the press release itself. It says: 
 

“In different ways (and not always correct) attention has been given in various media both within and outside the churches (including in Canada), to the ongoing discussion about points of conflict between the Canadian Reformed Churches and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.”

 

We are unable to judge publications in the Canadian press. But the press release also mentions "various media within the churches." That is a little vague.

Who and what does BBK mean anyway? De Reformatie, Nader Bekeken, one of the church magazines perhaps? Or een in waarheid? The latter is unlikely, because this magazine has always offered one-to-one translations of the relevant (General) Synod decisions and the report of the Canadian delegates.

Why such a veiled statement, that tends to send the reader straightaway in the direction of disinformation? Why not say flatly where, by whom, and at what point “incorrect attention was given”?

 

Anyhow, forget it! The BBK-letter is more important. For it does not mince words.

 


BBK to Canadian Churches (CanRC)

 

BBK sent the following letter to the synod of the Canadian churches which is to meet in Carman Manitoba. We omit the usual headings.

 

Letter to the synod at Carman


Dec. 6th 2012


Dear brothers in Christ,


Cordial greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!


We pray that your Synod will be able to meet according to schedule and have fruitful sessions of deliberation and decision-making, which will serve your churches and the Reformed churches around the world, to the glory of God!


We are writing you as the Deputies BBK (maintaining international ecumenical relations). Your CRCA Subcommittee for contact with our churches produced the report "Report of the CRCA Subcommittee for Contact with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands Liberated (RCN)." amounting to 77 pages of text. We have received the report. It is not our intention to comment in detail on it. We have had intensive contacts and exchanges, written and in person, with the subcommittee, and are thankful for the communication we have had.


However, we do have some serious objections to this report, both as to content and as to its (in our opinion) one-sided portrayal of our churches and the spiritual direction of our churches. In this letter we can do no more than summarize our reactions.


We find the report of the subcommittee, to repeat, to be quite out of balance. There is "appreciation" for our churches, but this is quite short, vague, and general, whereas the criticism is extensive, detailed, and needlessly very sharp. We see our churches painted black, with a few light spots. This disturbs us deeply. We believe that the report focuses so exclusively on negative points that the general impression is given of a church federation rapidly going the direction of the liberal "synodical" churches a generation ago. We reject this portrait as untrue. There are reasons for legitimate concerns, certainly. But to portray our whole church federation as "going liberal." is bordering on a violation of the 9th commandment.


In their recommendations (p. 18). the subcommittee expresses disquiet about:


a. The views coming from or tolerated at the Tl 'K (Theological University in Kampen) which shows marks of Scripture criticism and new hermeneutics.
b. The work of the Deputies M/W in the Church... and how Scripture was treated in their reports.
c. The growing relationship with the NRC, also on local level, without resolution of crucial differences such as women in office and subscription to the confessions.
d. A growing sense of estrangement between the CanRC and the RCN which we hope and pray will not lead to a parting of the ways in the future.


We would like to make a few. short remarks about these issues.


Re a. We feel that this sentence is needlessly alarmist. We believe that the TUK is maintaining its character as an orthodox Reformed institution. If the writings of a Professor or lecturer are the cause of concern, there are ample church channels to express this concern and have the writings in question be examined. We take the subscription formula very seriously. This does not guarantee that all will go well with any particular institution, but makes correction possible. That is certainly true of the TUK in this case.
Re b. Our last General Synod appointed a new set of Deputies to carry on this study. We must wait and see what they produce, and what our coming Synod does with their material. Again we feel this a needless, alarmist way of looking at the situation.
Re c. While these issues (women in office, subscription to the confessions) are genuine issues, nevertheless at the local level where there is a high degree of cooperation between RCN (L) and NRC congregations (Zaandam, Deventer (including the Christelijke Gereformeerde kerk). we see only positive developments, without women in office, and with a full subscription to the confessions.
Re d. We do not notice a "growing sense of estrangement" in general between us, although the article in Clarion and this report of the subcommittee may be contributing to such a sense of estrangement, by their extremely negative portrait of our church life. It is true, the communication between our churches and members has become perhaps less intense over the years, and we wonder how much your young people really know about us here in The Netherlands. There is more "distance" between us. perhaps, due as well to your own. rightful, independence, as a church federation, but to call our relationship one marked fundamentally by "estrangement" does not do justice to the situation, in our opinion. Among some visiting The Netherlands from Canada, we know that there is surprise about certain things which are striking: liturgically we are becoming more diverse, and there are some new accents in preaching. Is this "growing sense of estrangement" an experience of your churches as a whole? From our side, we do not experience it.


We would like to emphasize the seriousness of the allegations which are being made against us. We find it quite strange that the subcommittee recommends that we continue our sister-church relationship, while their report indicates that the grounds for such a sister-church relationship are shaky if not absent. This clouds our relationship considerably, to the subcommittee and to you, the Synod, representing our sister-churches in Canada, so that the future of our relationship is uncertain.


If you wind up with the recommendations of the subcommittee, or much of them, then it is important that you express your concerns directly to our General Synod, and not to us. We do not have the role of defending all the decisions our General Synods make, but have the task of maintaining relations with sister- and contact-churches in the world.


We say here what we have communicated to the subcommittee: we will be praying for you and for all the churches in the world who in sincerity wish to be true to the Lord Jesus as our Head, to the Word of God, and the Reformed Confessions as reliable summaries of the teaching of that Word, that we may remain faithful. We pray also that we may all seek to "not give false testimony against anyone," and do what we can "to defend and promote my neighbour's honour and reputation" (Heidelberg Catechism. Lord's Day 43).


May the Lord bless your Synod, and our fellowship and cooperation across the world! Sincerely in Christ, on behalf of the Deputies BBK,


Annex two letters from BBK to the CanRC-subcommittee, 121114.


*****


Letter BBK to Subcommittee CanRC


We omit the usual headings.


Dec. 6th, 2012


Dear brothers in Christ,


Thank you for your letter of Sept. 20, 2012, received by us by e-mail on Sept. 21. with accompanying attachment documents.


You begin by thanking us for the meeting we could have on April 19 of this year, in Zwolle. We too look back on that meeting with thankfulness and appreciation that we could meet and talk together. We certainly concur with your statement: "It is good that we as sister churches can meet to assist each other in the maintenance, defence and promotion of the Reformed faith."


At that meeting we could indeed "speak openly with each other about the blessings we experience, but also the concerns." We do sense that your "concerns" have become "grave concerns." regarding not just incidents and some individuals in our church federation, but regarding "the direction these churches are slowly but surely moving." since you express the fear "that this is a direction which is leading them into conflict with the Word as it is confessed and understood in faithful Reformed churches throughout the world." (your Report of the CRCA Subcommittee for Contact with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands Liberated (RCN), p. 14).


We appreciate your concern, and your words: "We hold you dear." and your prayers for us. "our 'mother' church in the extreme secular European situation."


Nevertheless, we are quite alarmed at the evaluations and the conclusions of your report on our churches. The report itself is extremely long, including appendices, 77 pages, and contains extremely detailed analysis and criticism of various persons and documents. Apparently you believe that such detailed criticism is necessary and warranted. This is your right, but we believe that your report is unbalanced at many points, and paints a very black, general picture of our churches. There are some words of "appreciation" in the report, but they are come across as formal polite talk, without much specification, and out of balance with the critical remarks. Expressing concern is one thing, but to say that our entire federation is (potentially) heading in a completely wrong direction, is something quite different. That disturbs us.


In fact, in the light of the breadth, depth, detail, and seriousness of your criticism, we wonder indeed if your recommendation to the coming Synod of Carman, in 2013, "To continue at this time the relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the RCN" (p. 18) has sufficient backing in the report itself. For surely if you fear that the "direction" of our churches is leading us "into conflict with the Word," and if your "disquiet" about the "growing sense of estrangement between the CanRC and the RCN" (p. 18) is real, then our relationship is coming under such severe pressure that such a relationship as we now have is gravely threatened.


We believe, in fact, that your suggestive language use ("fear." "direction." "disquiet." etc.) is counterproductive, and could be the cause of irreparable damage to our relationship. We hope sincerely that this will not be the case.


Our discussions of April 19 have made no substantive changes in your assessment of our churches, whereas we got the distinct impression that our discussions did help "clear the air" somewhat. We asked in our discussion document if you could correct some use of language used in a report in Clarion, but now, on the points we mentioned, you say that no correction is necessary (your report's Appendix 4 b, Response to the discussion document... on April 19, 2012, p.52, 53). We are disappointed about this, and puzzled as to why these corrections could not be made, in spite of your explanations.


With respect to publicity given to perceived unbiblical developments in our churches, we hope that you would do your best to be very careful what you say about us. Bad publicity has a damaging effect, not only in Canada, but around the world in other sister-churches. Getting a besmirched reputation is something which is very hard to fight against. We hope that subsequent informative articles in Clarion or other media will be more careful than in the past.


In a separate document, attached, we would like to respond to your Response (Appendix 4b) in some more detail.


In another attachment we include a copy of a letter addressed your coming Synod with some short remarks about your report.

Brothers, it would be good to talk with each other again about the matters you address in your report. However, as we have repeatedly tried to make clear, the severity and detail of your criticism, if adopted by your coming Synod, are such that they should be conveyed directly to our next General Synod, as the body which is responsible for defending or reassessing Synodical decisions and policies.


In the meantime we will be praying for you and for all the churches in the world who in sincerity wish to be true to the Lord Jesus as our Head, to the Word of God. and the Reformed Confessions as reliable summaries of the teaching of that Word, that we may remain faithful. We pray also that we may all seek to "not give false testimony against anyone." and do what we can "to defend and promote my neighbour's honour and reputation" (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 43).


Greeting you on behalf of all the members of the BBK. deputies.


sincerely in Christ.


For your information: this letter was sent to the subcommittee listed as the recipient.


*****


BBK Section 3's response to "Appendix 4b of the Report of the CRCA Subcommittee for Contact with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands Liberated (RCN): Response to the discussion document presented by Deputies BBK for the meeting with the GKV Subcommittee of the CanRC on April 19, 2012
Adopted and sent to BBK - Sept. 2012"


Nov. 2012


1. Regarding section 1. : Re: the role of deputies BBK


You write that you believe that "it is within the mandate of deputies BBK" to "bring these matters" (of concern and criticism) "to the attention of the next synod" (p. 51). This may be within the mandate of the CRCA, but it is not BBK's specified task to convey grave concern and criticism of sister-churches to the Synod, beyond our reporting on our relationship. If such concern and criticism is substantive, it should be conveyed directly to the Synod, not via BBK.


You defend your very critical words about our churches in the article in Clarion by saying that ' such reports have been published" in the past "to keep the church members informed and involved." We applaud reports which keep church members informed, but such personal remarks, conveying severe criticism and using inflammatory language, not yet supported by one's own Synod, and without the possibility of the "accused" to defend themselves, is surely not the task of a subcommittee reporting about a sister-church. This is more than "only the observations and considerations of the committee." surely.


2. Regarding section 2: : Re: Hermeneutics... and Relations with the NRC


You say that the "growing cooperation with the NRC does not give reason for optimism" and with respect to the relationship between the RCN and the NRC, "we see some alarming trends" (p. 52). What do you mean by "alarming trends"? We hear only positive things about, for example, the full cooperation of the RCN (L) congregation and the NRC congregation in Zaandam, without any signs of them "going liberal." It seems the mere fact of cooperation is in itself grounds for rejection from your side.


3. Regarding section 3: Re: The accuracy of our reports...


You say that the chairman's remarks about not being able to handle a report without a proposed recommendation "felt like" him saying: "Thank you for your letter, but we are going to ignore it." However, the chairman made a remark about the proper course of the discussion, based on the existing rules for such discussion. It might "feel like" blatantly being "ignored," but that was not the point at all. What something "feels like" is further not something you should broadcast in Clarion. It is an abusive use of language and totally uncalled for. We repeat our request that you publically regret these remarks.


In your first report you say that "more bizarre things... are happening." We protested that this is not a way to typify our church life. You say now: "we expressed our concern that there is freedom for those liturgical experiments and for such doctrinal pilot-balloons. This goes beyond an innocent amount of diversity" (p. 52). Beyond innocent diversity means unbiblical diversity. We do not feel this does justice to the situation. As far as liturgical diversity, we do not think, for example, that using modern musical instruments and music in the church service is a "beyond innocent" and unbiblical practice.


You defend the use of the harsh expression "things are going off the rails." You mean that you see a "shift of hermeneutics" taking place in our churches, and Prof. De Bruijne as an example of that shift. We continue to deny that there is such a "hermeneutical shift" in our churches. You say now: "the thought that 'things are going off the rails' flows from what is mentioned in conclusion # 1 (the hermeneutical shift) and the first part of conclusion # 2." referring to seeing Paul's writings reflecting only the culture of his days. You say "if this continues, it won't take long that someone is going to say that some instructions in Paul's letters do not apply for us today" (p. 53). This is pure speculation about "what might happen if..." The recently completed series of New Testament commentaries, including all the letters of Paul, by Prof. J. van Bruggen and others, show by their exegetical approach, where Paul is seen as authoritative doctrinally and ethically, that our churches continue to value Paul's teaching as the Word of God for our time.


Informative articles for the Clarion ought not to contain tendentious phrases like "going off the rails." We hope that you will still publically regret these words.


4. Regarding the section "In Conclusion" (p. 53)


You say, "We find that much of the critical comments made by Deputies BBK has more to do with the wording and the tone... than with the actual content." We disagree. Using phrases like "we're going to ignore you" and "going off the rails" is abusive language, and totally uncalled for. What you say has a lot to do with the way you say it. They are not "informative" words at all, but needlessly cutting and tendentious.


You give thanks to God for a brotherly atmosphere during our discussions. We too, were thankful for our meeting. However, your reactions now lead us to question our own positive assessment of that meeting. We are sad about that.

We hope and pray that you will listen carefully to our reactions, expressed here.

 


  

In the footsteps of the synodical churches

 

BBK is very displeased that the Canadian brothers describe the situation in the liberated churches in such terms that it can be compared with the developments in the former synodical reformed churches who in later years merged with other churches to form the PKN.

They write:

 

We believe that the report focuses so exclusively on negative points that the overall impression arises of a church federation rapidly going the direction of the liberal ‘synodical’ churches a generation ago. We reject this portrait as untrue. There are reasons for legitimate concerns, certainly. But to portray our whole church federation as ‘going liberal’ is bordering on a violation of the 9th commandment.

 

BBK is obviously in total disagreement with the Canadian assessment of the situation. So much so, that the deputies do not hesitate to mobilize the ninth commandment, thereby really raising the stakes.

The real cause of the anger seems to be that the report would imply the suggestion that “we, the liberated, are following in the footsteps of the synodicals.”

And that is “untrue”, according to BBK.

 

Anyhow, this proposition: the liberated are following in the footsteps of the synodicals, has been mentioned in een in waarheid‘s columns on more than one occasion. Perhaps that can moderate BBK’s denial to some degree.

The following examples have been taken from recent publications.

  

In the footsteps of the synodicals - 1

 

We ran an article[2] from Wim Schrijver, a journalist with De Leeuwarder Krant, in which he wrote:


The slippery slope of the synodicals was always a nightmare for the liberated, and that has worked perfectly for decades. Incidentally, do not worry, I do not believe that the liberated are now sitting on the slippery slope - they finished up in free fall.”

 

Our comment at the time: We found this such a striking observation that it left us with a feeling of “recognition and profound sadness.”


In the footsteps of the synodicals - 2

 

One of the agenda items dealt with by Synod Zwolle-Zuid 2008 was M/V in the church. [3]  In an impression of Synod’s deliberations we noted:

"It is instructive and revealing that there are some Synod members who say frankly and synodal-incorrectly just what's going on. We quoted delegate Rev. P.H. van der Laan:

 

"Do we need research? With the spirit of this report [about M / V in the church, eiw] we have already taken a new direction. We are following in the footsteps of the synodicals and the ‘buitenverbanders’, even though the previous chairman emphatically denied this. Amersfoort spoke of 'a biblical vision, not ‘the'’. It took a hermeneutical decision. So it makes no sense to start looking for a scriptural answer."

 

Here we are told in plain terms where we’re really at. For just a moment the hidden motives and secret agendas are put aside. Women in office, that is the issue! Amersfoort put the train on the rails. In Zwolle-Zuid three locomotives were put in front, plus a battery of wagons hooked up.

"… we have already taken a new direction".  That was also demonstrated in practice when a professor at our university publicly stated:

“I have nothing to do with those Bible texts that are for ever being trotted out in discussions about women in office. I cannot do anything with that. I find that nonsense. Women in office should have happened yesterday.” [4]

Thus far our impression.

Was Rev. Van der Laan rebuffed? Did he have to confess guilt about what he said as being contrary to the ninth commandment? No way. He even received support.[5] 

Was the professor admonished, and made to retract his statement with regret? Not at all. 


 In the footsteps of the synodicals - 3

 

In a speech at Ten Boer[6], Prof. dr. M. te Velde professor of canon law at the TUK, spoke about Truth, Unity and Diversity. He said among other things:

 

“The Scriptures are not automatically safe with us. God is at risk of being put into the shadow of man. In education for example, where the child makes the decisions; there where instead of speaking about sin we speak of brokenness, and as a consequence reconciliation disappears from sight and you can no longer do much with the cross.

In our churches the norm of Scripture no longer seems to always be self-evident; the church no longer seems to come first, sometimes not even second; and in ethics God’s will does not come first. Are we losing truths?

People are saying: The liberated are following in the footsteps of the synodicals?

 

Te Velde wants to give a two-fold answer. He finds it appalling that people are saying it.

"There is so much that is good, that we offend God with this question. There are on the other hand weaknesses that require attention. But that should not make us nervous. Together we must faithfully address these things and find answers to them from the Scriptures. () We go for truth, unity and diversity. And then we do not make predictions about going in the way of the synodicals. That will ruin things in the church. And for the rest: start first with your own faults and sins and then with those of the other. God is with us. His word of promise guides us. The truth is a power that sets us free and offers perspective." [1] 


In the footsteps of the synodicals - 4

 

To a question about the ‘liberated’ past the professor replied:

"We must walk with God. During the 1960-70 years we were also deadly afraid of subjectivism. But we discarded the child together with the bathwater. As a consequence we now see a strong shift towards the psychological viewpoint. We should indeed take Van Deursen’s warnings to heart. There may also be a silent erosion as in the synodical Reformed churches of the 50s. At that time practically no one noticed it. Neat words and doctrines, but meanwhile God in the shadow of humans. The issue is about much more than Genesis 1-3, without saying that that is unimportant. And reconciliation is of greater importance than asking whether the animals in paradise could possibly die, or a day in paradise lasted 24 hours. It’s the real great things that need our attention."

 

Te Velde rejects Van Deursen’s proposition that nowadays in the churches it goes from our way of life to the Bible, instead of the other way round. Van Deursen misses too much the duality.

Te Velde points again to the hermeneutical model in which the answer arises from three listening areas. "Things do not and nowhere run in such a simple way."

 

In a comment on Te Velde’s speech we noted that the professor again and again speaks with two tongues:


Te Velde’s dual approach is apparent not only in the speech but also in his answers to questions. It is a demonstration of what 'theory' means in practice.

A number of examples.
On the one hand, according to the professor, we must heed the warnings of prof. Van Deursen ('the liberated are following in the footsteps of the synodicals'). But on the other hand Te Velde rejects Van Deursen’s proposition that nowadays in the churches it goes from our practical way of life to the Bible, instead of the other way round.

Again, on the one hand he points at the silent revolution in the former synodical churches, but in the same breath downplays similar errors that are surfacing in our churches in respect to the first chapters of Scripture.

Then the conclusion is: “Things do not and nowhere run in such a simple way.”


In the footsteps of the synodicals - 5

 

In Christian Reformed Church magazine De Wekker [7]  Dr. N. van Driel (or C.M. van Driel?) devotes an article to the relationship between doctrine and conduct of life. He observes that in recent decades it has been hard work to transfer the importance of doctrine, as well as doctrine itself, to the different generations in the congregation. One of the reasons is that doctrine is no longer regarded as vital. The relationship between doctrine and life is also vital. "Are we following in the footsteps of the synodicals?”, he wonders.

Van Driel quotes drs. A A van der Schans: "With the synodicals the changes in ethics and dogmatics influenced each other. In liberated-reformed circles he notices the same.”

 


In the footsteps of the synodicals - 6

 

Monthly magazine Terdege published an interesting series on faith and science. Under the title ‘Obedience to the Scriptures’ the issue of 16 November 2005 presented an interview with Dr. C A van der Sluijs of Veenendaal, PKN minister and member of the Gereformeerde Bond.

This minister appears to see no benefit in efforts like those of Cees Dekker, to connect creation and evolution.

"They try to reconcile reason with faith in the Word of God. You should not do that, because in that situation reason always wins", he says. Regardless of his sympathy for the attempt to show that there must be a creator, that push will still prove to be a threat to the traditional belief in creation. For, according to the minister, we must seek our firm foundation in the reliability of the Word of God. He does find it "nice", and with a "happy smile" takes note that the theory of evolution is not that fait accompli as is often being suggested.
Van der Sluijs has "no reason at all" to regard the first chapters of Scripture as literary articulation. It is being presented as history and this is also how he reads it.

Dr. van der Sluijs finally answers the question how it is that doubt about the first chapters of Genesis is increasingly rearing its head also among the Reformed.

He believes that the cause lies in "the common degenerative process that is born from the fact that there is hardly any awareness left of “regeneration, being born again, being a new creation in Christ.” What is missing in the preaching is: "Thus says the Lord", and: "You are that man."

The minister believes that the Reformed world will show the same decline as “the followers of Abraham Kuyper.” There will be nothing left of the reformed world!

We concluded at the time:

"In our circles the remark: ‘We are going the way of the synodicals’ has become a household word. It is often met with a tinge of denial or mockery. But let the above be a serious warning, also for the ‘liberated world’. For the story lets itself be effortlessly applied to the developments in our churches."  


In the footsteps of the synodicals - 7

 

Do all these writers see water burning?

You must be very gullible to discard the observations of so many aspects of our church life as marginal events and trivia; as black spots on an otherwise bright-white banner.

Perhaps the last BBK-doubters can be convinced by a book announcement in Reformatorisch Dagblad [8] under the heading Dr. Dekker describes ‘revolution’ in the GKv. The paper reports:

 

 

Sociologist dr. G. Dekker  Photo RD, Sjaak Verboom 

 

KAMPEN – In recent decades changes occurred in the Reformed Churches liberated (GKv) that greatly resemble the changes in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands between 1950 and 1990.

 

This is shown in the upcoming publication of "The ongoing revolution", a book written by prof. dr. G. Dekker. In his book the sociologist compares the development of the GKv with that of the Reformed Churches who in 2004 merged for the larger part with the PKN (Protestantse Kerk in Nederland).

His publication is part of the Ad Chartas Series of Archive and Documentation Centre (ADC) of the GKv in Kampen, in cooperation with publisher Vuurbaak in Barneveld.

The presentation will take place at the ‘liberated’ Theological University in Kampen on 1st March 2013.

 

In 1992 prof. Dekker, professor emeritus in sociology of religion at the Free University, published his book ‘The silent revolution’. In it he describes how in the Reformed Churches between 1950 (more: 1960) and 1990 a major change had taken place, which he qualified as a ‘silent revolution.’

For the GKv, who in 1944 had liberated themselves from the Reformed Churches synodical, this development was a ‘true horror image’, writes prof. dr. G. Harinck, director of ADC, in his invitation to the presentation."The comparison in ‘The ongoing revolution’ now shows that the changes that occurred during recent decades in today’s liberated Reformed Churches display great similarities with the changes that the synodical Reformed Churches went through at that time."

 

(Just for interest, look up the differences with a similar entry in ND, in appendix 1, djb).

 


 

Most remarkable. This identification of the horror image: ‘in the footsteps of the synodicals’ in an ongoing revolution is not made here by worried brothers and sisters at home or abroad, but by our 'own'  ‘liberated’ professor dr. G. Harinck at the University in Kampen.
This time on the basis of a scientific analysis.
Therefore from an impeccable source.

It leaves us speechless.

 

Ninth Commandment

Attention should still be given to the fact that in their letters to the Australian and Canadian churches BBK is mobilising the ninth commandment.

We have been wondering why deputies are doing this. If on the basis of their observations the delegates of those churches notice various developments in the GKv that appear to resemble the course of developments of the former synodicals, there is nothing wrong with that conclusion, is there?

Of course, you can disagree about the extent to which that conclusion is valid. As well as about the degree of concern that it should raise. That can be intensively discussed in a frank conversation.

But why then involve the ninth commandment already at this stage? Are we not dealing with matters that are, all of them, completely public, and also under discussion in the public sphere?

See our above quotations.
 

Are the overseas churches throwing mud? That kind of assertion would be hard to maintain. Once again, the comprehensive justification that lays the foundation under their expressed concerns, is impressive. The report has no less than 77 pages, is deputies’ complaint. But that is only to be appreciated, isn’t it? Does it not mean that these churches’ views are well supported?

It was also exactly what deputies BBK nota bene themselves were asking for in the Synod of Harderwijk. No mere ‘shouting’, was their watchword, but substantiation with sound arguments.

Such was the advice then spoken in the direction of the criticizing overseas delegates.[9] That does not match well with today’s complaints about the generous volume of findings and conclusions, does it?

 

We can imagine that it is not exactly easy to provide the overseas churches with a satisfying answer. And it is perhaps also annoying and inconvenient that stones are being thrown into the pond of the 'silent revolution'. For the things that concerned GKv members have been raising for years, will again (or perhaps: finally for the first time) have to be dealt with on their merits. And that is irksome and undoubtedly gives rise to much unrest.

But upright ecclesiastical relations do not sidestep the confrontation, right?

 

Or do they?

History teaches that ecclesiastical discussions are not infrequently avoided by turning into the side road of the ninth commandment/Lord’s Day 43. Then there are pre-conditions to the discussion. Until this or that accusation has been publicly withdrawn the other party is no longer welcome. The examples, also from recent church history, abound. By means of this approach a standoff can be created in which substantive discussions disappear from view, the parties contemplate each other only from a distance, and issues drag on for years.

Surely that should not be the intention here?

 

Tone

 

It should strike everyone who reads the above BBK documents how the deputyship gets worked up about the tone of the Canadian report. Consider the following medley of how the BBK-brothers disqualify it: 

  • painted black
  • unnecessarily sharp
  • abusive language
  • needlessly alarmist
  • biased expressions
  • pure speculation
  • inflammatory language  
  • hurting

We must say that we are ashamed of 'our' BBK’s rantings and ravings against the overseas brotherhood

This is not because we deny BBK the right to value faithfulness in doctrine and conduct to the Word in the GKv differently. But because deputies, without substantively engaging (or desiring to engage) with arguments and facts, are obviously trying to demolish the reports.

Does that vehemence have anything to do with the fact that the Canadian brothers are putting their finger, perhaps even now a heavy hand, on the sore spot?

It is almost comical that BBK tries to make prof. dr. J. van Bruggen with his New Testament Commentary its dummy. His orthodoxy should be demonstrating that there can be little wrong.

But this doesn’t make sense, does it? For comparison, it's like defending the reformed integrity of the synodical churches of those days with the synodal-professorial participation in the Korte Verklaring ...

It is moreover questionable whether this orthodox-reformed professor is happy about his publications being compared with what in recent years has been produced by the TUK.[10]

And finally, has another emeritus professor not already for years been a member of one of the separated churches? [11]

 

It seems that in the relationship BBK – CanRC the accused now sets himself up as the accuser and the offender portrays himself as the victim.

Is that not a typical postmodern reaction? You feel attacked because the wording of the criticism is not wrapped in delicate velvet, and so you elevate that to the point at issue.

This strong emphasis in BBK’s reaction can easily become an instrument by which the churches’ concerns disappear into a cloud of discussions about the tone. For it is not the first time that concerned church members are ignored because their tone was not pleasing to the leaders. Some years ago this approach was even recommended by a number of articles in De Reformatie.[12] The similarity between what was written then in that magazine, and today’s reactions from BBK is striking. Nothing seems to have changed, except the address of recipients. Just like then, the accused are raising their hackles, but there is no prospect of a substantive evaluation or discussion.

 

It would be good if the Canadian synod does not allow itself to be intimidated. And continues to powerfully press the issues at stake.

Let us realize that admonition and discipline are painful. Paul already knew it:

 

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. [13]

 

 

Appendix 1 - ND article

 

'Liberated are following the synodicals'

 

AMSTERDAM – in coming years the liberated-Reformed will develop in the same direction as the synodical-Reformed before them.

 

That is the finding of reformed sociologist (religion) Gerard Dekker in his forthcoming book ‘The ongoing revolution’. In his book Dekker researches the developments in respect to doctrine and life in the liberated-Reformed church federation, and compares his findings with his earlier research from the nineties in the synodical Reformed Churches.

 

The book will be presented on 1st March at the Theological University

of the Reformed Churches (liberated) in Kampen.

 

Sociologists have already before expressed the expectation that both the liberated-reformed and synodical-reformed will be going through the same process of development. To the liberated- and other orthodox-reformed churches that process of ‘following in the footsteps of the synodicals’ has always been a nightmare.

 

According to Dekker that development has also a positive side. "In coming years the liberated-reformed will display radical changes. They will (should) adjust themselves increasingly to the developments in general society, precisely because they want to involve their faith with all aspects of life."

 

In his book: The silent revolution (1993) the author portrayed how between 1950 and 1990 there were radical changes in synodical-reformed views on for example, marriage, the status of women and the authority of Bible and church. He has now imposed the same question upon the liberated-reformed and their ecclesiastical development between 1970 and 2010.

 

NOTES

 



[1] As far as we know it was not published in the Nederlands Dagblad and Reformatorisch Dagblad. But maybe we missed it.

[2] 12-02-2011 In vrije val, ééninwaarheid.nl, Column: In de pers

[3] M/V  stands for  Man/Woman; eiw for een in waarheid.

[4] Prof. dr. G Harinck

[5] 18-09-2008 General Synod Zwolle-Zuid - Report 17, eeninwaarheid.nl  Column: Synod Reports

[6] 12-08-12, see Trust requested - in a model (6). Column: TU Kampen

[7] De Wekker 16-11-2007

[8] RD 12-02-2013

[9] Br. K. Wezeman, chairman BBK at the Synod of Harderwijk: “... Some expressions are at odds with the promotion of the neighbour’s honour and good report. We have to query each other about this. Feelings should be substantiated [emphasis eiw]. Each week our ministers bring God's Word. That should make one careful to speak of human-oriented hermeneutics. The question is: where should you air your questions, here or elsewhere.

There is open and direct communication. We thanked the Lord for the completed talks. And of course, the Canadian churches have their say, although not in a decision-making position. And that’s how it went, open and honest. Sometimes there was adjustment of ideas, but the difference in evaluation and feelings remains.”

[10] ND of 22/02/13 published an article about the New Testament lectures that are being conducted throughout the nation by Professor J. van Bruggen. These lectures enjoy great popularity. Somewhere in the story we read about the professor: …“He certainly is informative and his style is unmistakably reformed. But this is almost guaranteed, considering he is an emeritus professor of the liberated-reformed Theological University in Kampen." We could not suppress a smile at this sentence, which for its lack of accentuation is quite ambiguous.

[11] Prof. drs. J P Lettinga.

[12] We have in mind the articles on www.eeninwaarheid.nl : The self-righteousness of Wesseling, and Wesseling: "Ssssttt!" and Arguments please. Column: In de pers

[13] Hebrews 12:11.