Last month delegates from Australia, Canada, Africa, USA, Brazil, Asia, Europe and elsewhere visited Synod Meppel 2017 of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (GKv). The Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC), after their greetings and following an update on developments in the CanRC, had this to say:
With respect to our relationship with you, our Dutch sister churches, Synod dealt with the concerns about the apparent direction you are heading fuelled by a new way of looking at Scripture. Most recently this new direction is evident in the proposal at this synod to admit women to all the offices in the church. This proposition is contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture. Also of great concern to us is the toleration of homosexual relationships and those in such relationships being admitted to the Lord’s Table. We are dismayed and saddened by these developments which are contrary to the Word of God. We have detailed them in our report to Synod Dunnville.
This synod noted (in Article 104) these developments “with sad and heavy hearts” for we have had “a deep and rich common history” with you. We recognized that you are facing many challenges in your Dutch context but “we all live in a cultural context that is hostile to God’s Word. Nevertheless, the authority of Scripture transcends culture and needs to be maintained in any cultural context.”
Because the degree to which the authority of Scripture is recognized varies within your churches, synod considered it “prudent to temporarily suspend the operation of the Ecclesiastical Fellowship rules 4 and 5.” This means that our churches will no longer automatically accept attestations or certificates of good standing coming from your churches and your ministers will no longer automatically have access to our pulpits. Our consistories are urged to exercise due diligence in these areas to ensure soundness in doctrine and conduct. All this shows that our relationship as churches is strained at the moment. Synod Dunnville expressed the hope that this would be a temporary situation and we echo that hope.
You have meant so much for us in the past and been a great encouragement to us. It is therefore very painful for our churches, especially the older members, to witness a growing divergence and disconnect between you and the Canadian Reformed Churches. As representatives of these churches we implore you in love to return to your heritage of acknowledging the full authority of Scripture on the issues that are on your synodical agenda. We need each other in a Western cultural context that is in the process of rejecting whatever remains of its Christian origins. As we said at Synod Ede: “May we continue to be partners in contending “for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3) and may we continue to be a blessing to each other. May the Lord our God give this assembly everything it needs to stay true to his Word.”
(The full text of the address can be found at http://eeninwaarheid.info/index.php?rub=7&item=1433. Scroll down for the English version.)
How much longer will the CanRC and the FRCA, not to mention the other sister churches, dilly-dally with a bond of churches that has, over the past couple of decades, shown an unwillingness to repent from a departure from God’s Holy Word? That departure is evident in the scripture criticism whereby the context of the writer (e.g. Moses or Paul) and the reader’s context influence the meaning of the text. It’s evident from the writings of GKv theologians. It also became evident through the way the GKv theologians spoke at the hermeneutics conference in Hamilton a few years ago. Then there are the synod decisions about the 4th commandment, the open supper table, marriage and the 7th commandment, recommendations regarding women in office and homosexuality, independentism, combined church services with the NGK (‘buitenverbanders’ who left the GKv for false-ecumenical reasons in the 1960s), etc. Where is the evidence of the GKv’s desire to submit humbly to the authority of God’s Word and to heed the repeated warnings and admonitions expressed by the CanRC, the FRCA and others? The simple obedience to God’s Word (BCF 7) without adding or detracting from it (Rev. 22:18,19) is being reinterpreted or reconstructed in ways compatible with post-modern literary theory. It’s time we severed completely the sister relationship with the GKv.
There is a bond of churches in the Netherlands that show the marks of the true church. Almost two decades ago a number of GKv members publicly appealed to their brothers and sisters in the GKv to repent. They acknowledged their shared guilt in the deformation of the GKv, and (though some were persecuted) followed the church orderly route of appeals to synods about unscriptural decisions. After due process, and when all ecclesiastical avenues failed to produce repentance, they finally liberated themselves from the unscriptural bindings and were instituted as De Gereformeerde Kerken (DGK). They saw in this liberation the hand of Christ, the Head of the church, and thanked and praised Him for preserving the faithful proclamation of His Word in His ongoing work of gathering, defending and preserving His church in the Netherlands. Overseas sister churches of the GKv were slower to acknowledge the dangerous developments or appreciate the faithful actions of DGK members. Indeed, the CanRC had the shameful temerity at two successive synods of accusing these brothers and sisters, who sought simply to be faithful to God’s Word, of being schismatic by liberating themselves from the GKv. The FRCA, at successive synods, have recognised in the DGK delegates the desire to be faithful to Scripture. However, both the FRCA and the DGK recognise that there can be no talk of unity between them while the FRCA retain a sister relationship with the GKv.
One wonders whether the extraordinary patience of the CanRC and FRCA with the unrepentant GKv is justifiable. Given the GKv’s continuing path of deviation and unwillingness to heed admonitions, do we not offend the Head of the Church by maintaining a declaration of ‘unity in the true faith’ through a sister-church relationship with the GKv? Meanwhile we have shown a marked restraint in supporting a small bond of churches (DGK) that show evidence of upholding and maintaining the marks of the true church in faithfulness to the Lord.