Australia admonishes the GKv
Editors een in waarheid
The Synod Armadale of The Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA) sent an admonition to the coming Synod of the Gereformeerde Kerken vrijgemaakt of the Netherlands (GKv). The Synod Armadale convened in July 2012 and having considered the deputies’ reports and the decisions of the Synod Harderwijk 2011 of the GKv resolved to write an official letter of admonition, stating the weighty concerns that FRCA have with respect to the GKv. The letter was endorsed and signed at the reconvening of Synod Armadale in April 2013.
The letter is published below.
In Appendix 1 also the related Acta Article 141 of the Synod Armadale is presented.
(zie voor een Nederlandse vertaling Australia vermaant de GKv in deze rubriek)
Letter of Admonition
Gereformeerde Kerken Vrijgemaakt
(Reformed Churches of the Netherlands)
To: Generale Synode Ede 2014
22 April 2013
Synod Armadale 2012 of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia greets our brothers of de Generale Synode Ede 2014.
Synod Armadale convened in July 2012 and having considered the deputies’ reports and the decisions of Synod Harderwijk 2011, resolved to write an official admonition directly to your Synod, stating the weighty concerns that we have with respect to the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (RCN). This letter was endorsed and signed at the reconvening of Synod Armadale in April 2013. We address this directly to your General Synod, because Synod Harderwijk decided that your “deputies correctly refused to hold an official meeting with various sister-churches” to respond to the concerns raised by our churches, on the grounds that if “a sister-church has objections against a Synod decision regarding doctrine, church government, discipline or liturgy, then it must direct these straight to the General Synod.”
This letter is written in accordance with our rules for sister church relations, namely, that such relations “shall be used to mutually assist, encourage and exhort one another as well as care for each other ... not to depart from the reformed faith in doctrine, church polity and liturgy.” We therefore write out of deep love for the churches from which we have originated from the 1950’s onward, whose ministers we have received in our churches, and with whom we still have many personal contacts. We have received so very much from you over the years, and we recognize and gratefully acknowledge this.
We also praise God for the many positive aspects to congregational life in the churches of the RCN. We understand something of the challenges faced by your churches as they live and worship in a culture that is rapidly becoming secularized and post-modern, a society in which the principles and norms of God’s Word are increasingly marginalized and even directly opposed. We too are churches in a country that demonstrates rising secularism, and grapple with similar issues. In such a hostile context, we are compelled to rely all the more on God’s grace in preserving His church, and to be reaffirmed in our conviction to live godly and holy lives that glorify our Saviour.
We recognize that in the face of this growing ungodliness, there is also an urgent need to make the good confession of faith with one voice together with our brothers and sisters across the world, and to be united in a faithful witness of the good news of the gospel. At the same time, such unity requires a mutual commitment to the complete truth of Scripture as summarized in our confessions, and to the rich heritage that we share, as Scripture itself exhorts us, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). Because we face similar struggles, and because we recognize that we are a very small bond of churches, we hold dear the rich blessing of being united with churches who share with us our conviction to hold fast to the truth of God’s Word as we confess it. It is our sincere prayer that the FRCA and the RCN may stand alongside each other in resolutely and faithfully holding fast to the traditions based on God’s Word and the Reformed confessions without compromise, and that we can assist and encourage each other to be beacons of the Reformed faith in an increasingly apostate world.
Exhortation of Synod Legana 2009
Over the past years, meetings have been held and letters exchanged between the deputies of our respective churches regarding our serious concerns with the direction that we see the RCN moving as federation of churches, concerns that have been documented in deputy reports and correspondence with you. We find it sad that these concerns do not seem to be recognized by your churches. It is becoming evident to us that this direction is leading you into conflict with God’s Word as it is confessed in the Three Forms of Unity and maintained in faithful Reformed churches. This direction is causing strain and tension in our relationship with you. In view of these concerns, Synod Legana 2009 decided to “exhort the RCN with love and care to be faithful in their approach to hermeneutics.”
In response to this exhortation, your Synod Harderwijk 2011 observed that “the RCN does not recognize themselves in the image described in the Acts of Synod Legana 2009.” By way of the following admonitions, Synod Armadale 2012 now seeks to give further explanation and reason for the exhortations of Synod Legana 2009. The footnotes will provide references to correspondence, reports, and decisions, where the concerns expressed here are further elaborated on.
When reflecting on what we notice happening among you, and taking our concerns together as a whole, it is our observation that there is evidence of a liberal way of interpreting Scripture. Striving to find better ways to serve and praise God, and providing Biblical responses to the contemporary issues we face are activities that are unquestionably necessary and beneficial for the church. However, such seeking of change should not mean that you relinquish what you have fought for and have learned from the Bible in the past. The questioning that we hear in the RCN opens the door to a toleration of a hermeneutic that does not do justice to God’s full revelation, and it is our belief that this way of using Scripture underlies many of the concerns that we state in the material which follows.
We hear you ask: “How do we interpret God’s Word in today’s context?” Indeed the answer is important, but the answer must lie only in the truth of God’s Word. Whilst the times may change, the command to remain obedient to Scripture does not change. And it is here that we have serious concerns, in relation to matters that were decided on by your Synods, as well in relation to matters about which your Synods failed to affirm the clear teaching of Scripture. In the following sections we seek to explain our serious concerns.
CONCERNS REGARDING DOCTRINE
Statement of Concern #1
The RCN tolerates an approach to hermeneutics that does not uphold the authority and plain meaning of Scripture for exegesis. This seriously questions the ability and willingness of the RCN to fully uphold the truth of Scripture.
Statement of Concern #2
The RCN tolerates an approach to hermeneutics that does not uphold the sufficiency of Scripture for ethics. This approach conflicts with what we confess in Belgic Confession Art. 7 concerning the sufficiency of Holy Scripture.
Statement of Concern #3
Decisions of the RCN about marriage and divorce leave room for a subjective approach in understanding and applying the Biblical norms. It remains our concern that such an approach has not been explicitly excluded by your synods.
Statement of Concern #4
The study into whether Scripture allows for women to fill the offices of deacon, elder and minister fails to affirm the clear teaching of Scripture that the special offices within the Christian church are reserved for men.
CONCERNS REGARDING ECCLESIOLOGY & CHURCH POLITY
Statement of Concern #5
The adoption of regulations that allow for the amalgamation of local RCN congregations with those of the NGK promotes a false ecumenism.
Statement of Concern #6
The past and continuing participation in the National Synod/Protestant Forum promotes a false ecumenism.
CONCERNS REGARDING LITURGY
Statement of Concern #7
The RCN has accepted a proliferation of hymns many of which are not unambiguously Biblical and Reformed.
Brothers, we earnestly urge you to give the matters we have addressed in this letter of admonition careful consideration. We acknowledge that some of these matters may not have been dealt with or be fully concluded at your General Synods. However, when errors become evident and are left unchecked without an ecclesiastical assembly addressing them, they become like leaven that lives among you, and so in love for you we would be remiss not to raise them. The church of the living God is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), and so we sincerely and humbly urge your synod to stand firm in confessing that truth boldly and clearly, by sounding the clear clarion call of God’s Word to your churches and to this world, faithfully echoing God’s revelation.
We recognize that some of the things we have written may sound harsh and judgemental, and perhaps not always clearly articulated. We trust that even though this letter may have its shortcomings, that you hear in it our earnest appeal for you to be faithful to our God and His Word, and that you also see behind it the sincere love that we have for you as our sister church, and are fully assured of our brotherly affection and concern that underlies and motivates this serious admonition.
Be assured that we also write this letter with great humility, knowing well our own weakness in our struggle to hold fast the faith in a secular and postmodern culture, and recognizing our own need for the blood of Christ and the ongoing renewal of His Spirit. We also covet your prayers for us.
Finally, we also write this letter prayerfully, seeking the Lord for you to return to and hold fast the truth of His will as revealed in His Word. In ourselves we are no better than you or anyone else, and both you and we must rely on the grace of God, and be led and governed by His Word and Spirit rather than our own insights. As such it is our longing and prayer for you that you will fully embrace, faithfully confess, and heartily defend the full riches of God’s revelation and the gospel of salvation which reflects the glory of our Great God and King. Revelation 3:11 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”
We look forward to your well considered response.
With Christian greetings, on behalf of General Synod Armadale 2012,
Chairman Second Clerk
 Acts of Synod Harderwijk 2011, Art. 87, Decision 3 and Grounds
 Acts of Synod Legana 2009, Art. 71 XI. 4, p.83.
 Acts of Synod Harderwijk 2011, Art. 87 Decision 2.a. and Grounds a, cited in Report to Synod Armadale 2012, p.71.
 Report to Synod Armadale 2012, p.58 & p.68
 Synod Legana 2009 exhorted the RCN “to be faithful in their hermeneutics”, and mandated deputies to discuss “the need for the RCN to uphold the plain meaning of Scriptures regarding Genesis 1 – 11.” cf Acts of Synod Legana 2009, Art. 71, p83-84.
 In the Belgic Confession Art. 7 we clearly insist from God’s Word that no opening is to be given to human insight or norms that contradict what is revealed in God’s Word when we say that “We may not consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with the divine Scriptures; nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all ... We therefore reject with all our heart whatever does not agree with this infallible rule...”
 K. van Bekkum argues that the history revealed in Scripture arises out of the culture and historic methods used at the time it was written, and that this “literary artistry and use of genre conventions should be studied first” (p.33). One of the far reaching and unacceptable conclusions of this approach is that Joshua 10:12-14 is interpreted in a metaphorical way (p.250).
 Oudtestamentische Studien 47, Leiden, Brill 2003.
 Cited in the Interim Report of the Canadian Reformed Subcommittee for Contact with the RCN that was submitted to the BBK for discussion March 9, 2011 (found in Report of the CRCA Subcommittee for Contact with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands Liberated (RCN) to Synod Carman West 2013, Appendix 3, p.29ff.)
 Woord op schrift: Theologische reflecties over het gezag van de bijbel, edited by C. Trimp, Kok Kampen, 2002. J. Doedens’ contribution is one of several articles that bring the literal meaning of Scripture into question.
 In one of his conclusions, he writes that with his way of understanding Genesis 1, “not all the questions about creation and its development or concerning the age of the earth are solved. But in this way room is given to be busy with these questions in an intellectually relaxed way. Genesis 1 does then not need be continually fitted into the latest creationist or evolutionist model.” (Translation of: “Met het op deze manier lezen van Genesis 1 zijn niet alle vragen opgelost rond schepping en ontwikkeling of rond ouderdom van de aarde. Maar op deze manier is er wel ruimte om met de vragen rustig wetenschappelijk bezig te zijn. Genesis 1 hoeft dan niet voortdurend ingepast te worden in het laatste creationistische of evolutionistische model.” p.105)
 He writes: “The (exegetical) space that had been rejected in Genesis 2 and 3 did exist in Genesis 1. The word ‘day’ for example, did not necessarily have to be understood as a literal day, even though many did so. To the extent that literary arguments were brought forward for this reason, these were to give Genesis 1 its own particular character distinct from Genesis 2 and 3. (Translation of: “De ruimte die bij Genesis 2 en 3 werd afgewezen, heeft bij Genesis 1 wel bestaan. Het woord ‘dag” bijvoorbeeld hoefde niet per se letterlijk te worden opgevat, al deden velen dit wel. Voor zover daarvoor literaire argumenten werden aangedragen, moesten deze echter Genesis 1 een eigen en ander karakter geven dan Genesis 2 en 3.” (p.156)
 Report to Synod Legana 2009, p.57-61; Acts of Synod Legana, Art. 71, sub XI.4b & Ground 9, p.83-85.
 Acts of Synod Zwolle-Zuid 2008, Art. 105.
 Acts of Synod Zwolle-Zuid 2008, Art. 53. The appellants initially addressed their concerns about Dr de Bruijne’s writings to the local consistory of Rotterdam-City, and the consistory’s questioning whether this was their task was confirmed upon appeal by classis, regional synod, and eventually general synod. The grounds for Synod’s decision included that “1. The churches, by way of the Statutes of the Theological University, have entrusted the supervision of the life and doctrine of the docents to the deputies-curators. 2. The deputies-curators have ... rejected identical objections to the opinions of dr. de Bruijne. 3. The deputies-curators have ...reported to the General Synod of Amersfoort-Centrum 2005 where their conclusion was accepted.”
 Regarding Dr. S. Paas, see Acts of Synod Harderwijk 2011, Art. 53, cf. also the English explanation provided at www.gkv.nl/styleit/10944 and quoted in Appendix 7 of Report to Synod Armadale 2012, pp. 86–88. Regarding Dr. K. van Bekkum, see his book Conquest to Coexistence, and also Acts of Synod Harderwijk 2011, Art. 66, in the explanation of Decision (Besluit) 12. See also Report to Synod Armadale 2012 p.23-24 & p.77-79.
 Acts of Synod Zwolle-Zuid 2008, Art. 54, dealt with submission of R.W. de Graaf cs
 In Belgic Confession Art. 7 we confess that “We believe that this Holy Scripture fully contains the will of God and that all that man must believe in order to be saved is sufficiently taught therein.” We do not deny that the Holy Spirit gives the church guidance in applying the norm of Scriptures, as long as the outcome is not contrary to Scripture.
 Cf Acts of Synod Harderwijk 2011, Art. 81, decision 1. The relevant text of Appendix 9 of this report is cited in Report to Synod Armadale 2012, p.19-20, for example: “Renewed by the death and resurrection of Christ, God’s children may live according to the Spirit and learn to distinguish between the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit, without having specific biblical precepts for all situation and areas of life (our emphasis). Thus, together, God’s children seek to understand God’s will for their lives, using the gifts they have received and listening to God’s Word and each other, walking in close fellowship with the living God.”
 Address to Synod Zwolle-Zuid 2008, found in Report to Synod Legana 2009, p.114-115; Report to Synod Armadale 2012, p.19-20.
 Acts of Synod West Kelmscott 2006, Art. 94, p.61.
 Report to Synod Armadale 2012, p.60.
 Acts of Synod West Kelmscott 2006, Art. 94, sub. VI.4 & Ground c, p.64-65; Address to Synod Amersfoort-Centrum 2005, found in Report to Synod West Kelmscott 2006, p.205; Letter of Deputies 11 February 2005, found in Report to Synod West Kelmscott 2006, p.209; Report to Synod West Kelmscott 2006, p.258-9; Address to Synod Zwolle-Zuid 2008, found in Report to Synod Legana 2009, p.114-115; Letter of Deputies 3 July 2010, found in Report to Synod Armadale 2012, p.34-35 & p.38; Letter of Deputies 10 November 2010, found in Report to Synod Armadale 2012, p.45; Address to Synod Harderwijk 2011, found in Report to Synod Armadale 2012, p.50; cf. also Report of Deputies to Synod Smithers 2007 of the Canadian Reformed Churches, p.51-55.
 Acts of Synod Harderwijk 2011, Art. 29, Decision 2. “to again appoint deputies M/F in the church with the mandate: a. to answer the following questions: 1. Is it allowed on the basis of Scripture, to appoint sisters besides brothers in the office of deacon? 2. What are the consequences of the answer to this question for the task and responsibility of the deacons? 3. Is it allowed on the basis of Scripture, to appoint sisters besides brothers in the office of elder and of minister?
 Acts of Synod Amersfoort-Centrum 2005, Art. 132
 Acts of Synod Zwolle-Zuid 2008, Art. 109, Decision 5b
 Report to Synod Armadale 2012, p.22
 Report of the Committee for Church Unity to Synod Harderwijk 2011, p.12, at www.gkv.nl/english-materials-/345/
 Lux Mundi 30/1, March 2011, p.17, available at www.bbk.gkv.nl
 Acts of Synod Harderwijk 2011, Art. 77, Decision 1
 Acts of Synod West Kelmscott 2006, Art. 94, Decision III, p.61-62; cf Acts of Synod Harderwijk 2011, Besluiten deputaten kerkmuziek 13 mei 2011
 Acts of Synod West Kelmscott 2006, Art. 94, Decision III, p.61-62; cf Letter to RCN dated 10 July & 9th Aug 2004, found in Report to Synod West Kelmscott 2006, Appendix 6, p. 276-283
 See the letter referenced in the previous footnote.
 e.g. Hymn 200 “Heerlijk verschenen is de dag”; cf Report to Synod West Kelmscott 2006, p. 280; and Acts of Synod Harderwijk 2011, Decision 2 of Besluiten deputaten kerkmuziek 13 mei 2011.
Appendix 1 – Acta FRCA art. 141
Article 141 – Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (Refer Articles 29, 40, 43, 57, 76, 94, 114, 116)
I. Final Decision:
Wednesday 23 April 2013
Article 141 - Continued
After singing Ps 131:1,2 & 3 synod continues its work.