Three RCN ministers abroad

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According to Nederlands Dagblad (6th Feb 2015) Rev G Pruijssen is the third minister of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (RCN or GKv) this year to take up a position as minister of a church with whom the RCN have no sister church relations. These RCN ministers no longer feel the need for the RCN to recognise and officially declare a church in another country true and faithful before accepting a position there as minister. And even Prof M te Velde of the RCN theological university approves of their actions.

In January, RCN minister Rev W van Veelen took up a position in the Evangelical reformed church in France. His colleague, Rev H ten Brinke of the RCN of Rotterdam, has taken up a position in a French speaking protestant congregation in Brussels. And now Rev Pruijssen is going to a congregation in Frankfurt in Germany.

None of these churches have relations with the RCN, and that makes this a new development. In the past an RCN minister would only go to a church which had a sister church relationship with the RCN. But Rev Pruijssen says: “If a church holds onto the kernel of the gospel then there is enough room for me to work.” The official position of his ‘new’ church is that only adults may be baptised. But, says Rev Pruijssen, he has told them that he has a different view on that, and apparently that was acceptable.

Prof te Velde has expressed the view that he has no difficulty with Rev Pruijssen’s move to a congregation which has no sister relationship with the RCN. As far as te Velde is concerned, if there is a spiritual tie with churches abroad – that’s fine. He adds, “The church is worldwide.”

The Nederlands Dagblad article does not provide a critique of this development. Yet this article reflects a disturbing development. Pruijssen and te Velde in effect say that as long as a church believes in the central truths of the Gospel it’s okay. Such a church, even if it officially does not subscribe to infant baptism, is nevertheless considered to be part of Christ’s world-wide church. Such a position reflects the pernicious pluriformity of the church idea, an idea that we escaped in the Church Liberation of 1944 but which now slips into the RCN again.

If ministers of the Word take this course of action, even with approval from a professor of the RCN Theological University at Kampen, why should church members not take the same attitude and join such churches or intermarry with members of such churches? There is, then, no longer an obligation to join a church which has been carefully evaluated by the bond of churches to hold the marks of the true church. The obligation to join the true church (BCF 28) has become subjective – as long as it holds onto the “kernel of the gospel” it’s considered okay. But that “kernel of the gospel” is elastic, depending on one’s feelings. For example, Rev Schoep, who left the RCN in the 1960s, it was simply the words “Jesus is Lord”. In LD 7, however, we confess that we are to believe all that is promised us in the Gospel.