Kerken in Canada 5 E
Dr. P. Witten van de Free Reformed Churches of Australia hield onderstaande toespraak op de synode Dunnville 2016 van de Canadian Reformed Churches. We hopen binnenkort een Nederlandse vertaling ervan te geven.
Een gedeelte eruit, namelijk over de relatie met de GKv kan vertaald worden gevonden in Kerken in Canada 4.
Esteemed Brethren in our Lord Jesus Christ,
On behalf of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, it is our special privilege to extend to you, warm greetings from Australia. The Lord, the shepherd of our lives, the head of the church, stirs within us a true brotherly love for you! We are thrilled to be here. My fellow delegate, Rev. Stephen ‘t Hart and I thank you for this opportunity! Australia may seem like a faraway distant land, but, within the unity of true faith, we are your nearby neighbour. Thank you for your kind friendship and generous hospitality.
Thank you, also, for sending Brs. Otto Bouwman and Jake vanLaar, as your delegates to our most recent Synod, held last year at the Free Reformed Church of Baldivis. It was good to welcome these brothers, and to receive their input into our discussions. We enjoyed hearing news from Canada, and this face-to-face interaction not only helps to promote a deeper understanding of your church situation, but it also helps to avoid potential misunderstandings. It serves to strengthen the harmonious relationship that exists between our two church federations. We hope that you too, will also accept our invitation to send delegates to our next synod to be held, the Lord willing, in 2018, in the beautiful coastal city of Bunbury, WA. Your input on such synod matters as; the review of Bible translations, inter-church relations, the training of young men for the ministry, and, what we in Australia still refer to as, ‘the Book of Praise’, is considered as truly supportive.
Work dealing with the review of Bible translations continues to be a matter of great importance at our synods. We are concerned about the possible use of the NIV 2011, within the public worship services. The danger of egalitarianism within the NIV 2011 is worrisome. And this danger, as also highlighted in your Committee for Bible Translations’ report to this synod, caused Synod Baldivis to phase out the use of the NIV 1984, by July 2018. Synod Baldivis stated the following; “The continued use of the NIV 1984 may cause confusion, and, inadvertently, lead to the 2011 version being used in error.” Synod Baldivis also reviewed and has thus recommended, the English Standard Version as a trustworthy bible translation, opening the way for its use within the public worship services. Thankful use was made of the report on the ESV to your last synod.
In the full acknowledgement of the Lord’s providence and blessings, we share with you news regarding our church relations. Australia has a new sister church in Singapore. The First Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore is a congregation of some 307 members. Their pastor is Chong, Nam Tuck, he is someone you might remember as a former CRTS student in Hamilton. In the midst of past doctrinal struggles, the Lord has preserved this church. It is a single church federation, located not that far from the coast of WA. The First Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore, which is known to you, through the work of Rev. Berends, Van Spronsen, Dr. Van Dam and Dr. Visscher and other Canadians who have travelled to Singapore, is also busy with bringing God’s word to the country of Malaysia. We rejoice that the Lord is gathering his church in a part of the world, that is heavily dominated by the religion of Islam.
Similarly, with much joy we share that a new sister church relationship has been extended to the Reformed Church of New Zealand. Following many years of dialogue, progress towards a sister church relationship was made possible, when the barrier of the sister church relationship between them and the Christian Reformed Church of Australia was discontinued. Through the ‘rules for sister church relations’, our deputies will seek to encourage and support our brothers and sisters in New Zealand.
Whilst the joy of having two new sister church relations brings much happiness, the same cannot be said in regards to our relationship with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. Deep sorrow is felt with the decision to suspend this sister church relationship, resulting in the loss of certain sister church privileges. What were previously open pulpits and an open Lord’s Supper table, for the visiting RCN ministers, brothers and sisters, has now become a situation of careful review and restrictions. The ongoing toleration of Scriptural and Confessional deviation has threatened, what was once a beautiful sister church relation. We know that you too, brothers, are saddened by these concerns. May the Lord hear our prayers for His grace to awaken new faithfulness within the RCN. We cherish the expectation that together we may be united in our call for these churches to repent.
This time of sadness can also provide cause for serious reflection for our own churches and church federations. Are we being influenced by the trends and philosophy of the world around us? Are we compromising the gospel message to remove the rock of offense? Are we pushing the envelope of our confessions or stretching the boundaries of the church order to be seen as more relevant to our culture and palatable to our members? The prayer for greater faithfulness in the RCN (lib) requires that we too, are ever watchful for the attacks of the evil one in the life and doctrine of our church members.
Mentioning a prayer for greater faithfulness, then also ties into news regarding the De Gereformeede Kerken (formerly called the RCN restored) and the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland. Deputies have asked, “Will these churches continue to grow? And, will the Lord bless them as they struggle to find each other?” In Australia, the discussions with the DGK and GKN are welcomed, although we have no formal relationship with them. Since 2006, a delegate from the DGK has attended our synods in Australia, and they continue to receive the opportunity to address our Synods and deputies about their church situation.
Australia has maintained sister church relations with the Kosin Presbyterian Church of Korea, the Free Reformed Churches of South Africa, and the Reformed Church of Indonesia (GGRI). Support is given for the work of the Theological Seminary in Sumba. Synod Baldivis also requested the church of Mundijong to make their minister available for lectures at the seminary. And, like you, Australia has continued to encourage greater unity talks between the GGRI and Calvin Reformed Church (GGRC). Synod Baldivis suggested that a possible time frame be sought towards the goal of federal unity between these two church federations in Indonesia.
In 2014, shortly following Synod Carman, our deputies received a letter of introduction from the United Reformed Church of North America. This letter did not surprise us, as our delegates had also spoken with the URCNA delegates during Synod Carman. Likewise, we were aware of the Ecclesiastical Fellowship which exists between you and the URCNA. In response to URCNA’s letter of introduction, Synod Baldivis has mandated our deputies to provide the URCNA with information about our churches, to take up contact with the URCNA and to report to the next Synod. We do welcome this opportunity and look forward to meeting the URCNA delegates.
In regards to theological training of young Australian brother, you might ask this question. What was Synod Baldivis doing when it commissioned its deputies to survey the FRCA churches regarding the desirability of establishing an Australian Seminary?
In order to address that question, we ought first to say that Australians still treasure the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary! And, we still consider it, ‘our seminary’. We are very aware of the rich blessings that Australia enjoys through the work of the CRTS. Many of our ministers are CRTS graduates! Our support for the seminary remains ever so strong! Therefore, Synod Baldivis also decided to increase and match your annual per communicant member contribution for the CRTS, to $82.00. Further, we have also understood and have accepted the Board of Governors’ decision to not endorse a remote Australian training program for first year students in Australia. Finally, each time that a CRTS professor visits Australia, we as churches feel truly connected to the CRTS and enriched by their in-depth Scriptural knowledge!
At the same time, with a desire to follow the instruction of Art 19 of the Church Order, which highlights the call to maintain an institution for the training of the ministry, we do not restrain discussions about working towards an Australian Theological Seminary. Such discussions are stimulating and acknowledge a wonderful zeal in the promotion of the ministry, particularly in encouraging young men to pursue this special calling. Indeed, it may be possible that in the future, unfavourable government policies and a restriction on the opportunity to travel overseas, could result in the disruption of our current situation. However, whatever the future might hold, please be assured that our theological seminary discussions will be held in cooperation with the CRTS. Again, please note our gratitude to you and our thankfulness to the Lord’s for the work of the CRTS!
Book of Praise
Work in regards to an Australian Book of Praise has also continued to receive our attention. And, once again, the ties with you here in Canada are strong. We thank you for mandating your Standing Committee for the Book of Praise deputies “to continue contact with the Australian Deputies for the Book of Praise in order to assist the FRCA’s pursuit of a possible Australian version of the Book of Praise.” We too, have mandated our Book of Praise Deputies to seek your guiding assistance. We realise that the adoption of a common Book of Praise is a labour intensive process, requiring much wisdom and perseverance. Currently, we are in what could be described as a ‘transitional’ Book of Praise stage. Synod Baldivis has encouraged the churches to use the 2014 Canadian Psalter Hymnal for the interim, as we seek to adapt your Book of Praise into an Australia Book of Praise!
Brothers, no Australian greeting should conclude, nor would seem complete, without some comment regarding the emigrational patterns that exists between our two church federations. We happily share with you that several young Australian brothers have expressed an interest in coming to Canada in order to take up their studies at the CRTS. Two of them will, the Lord willing soon arrive in Hamilton. And, we can tell you, that our joy in this matter is quite influenced by those ministers who have decided to immigrate to Australia. The churches of Launceston and Mt. Nasura have joyfully welcomed their new pastors, Dr. Wes Bredenhof and Dr. Reuben Bredenhof. In 2014, Rev. Dirk Poppe accepted the call to serve in the Free Reformed Church of Southern River. The Lord willing, we look forward to the safe arrival of Candidate David Winkel and his family for the church of Bunbury. And, Rev. Antoon Souman, from the church at Willoughby Heights for the Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott. And, just a few weeks ago, we thanked the Lord, in guiding Rev. Ryan de Jonge to accept the call extended to him by the Church of Armadale, for mission work in Lae, PNG.
In all of these things, brothers, we see evidence of the Lord’s care for his church in Australia. And, we see the rich blessings of a sister church relationship that is alive and well. We thus then, also pray that the Lord will continue to be with you and that he will continue to bless the Canadian Reformed Churches. May he grant you the strength and wisdom needed to complete the work of this synod. All praise and glory belong to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.