Why refer, yet again, to something happening in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN or in Dutch GKv) on the other side of the globe? First because, although ‘our’ FRCA have suspended relations with the RCN/GKv, they are still our sister churches. Second, because in the Liberation of 1944, the LORD freed them (and hence us) from unscriptural teachings and synodical hierarchy, continuing His church through them and us. Third, as migrant churches with their beginnings in the RCN (GKv), a close affinity with them existed between us, particularly in the first decades. Fourth, because the deformation within the RCN (GKv) during the last decades is a warning for us; we can learn to identify the danger signals.
So what are the latest developments? Last Wednesday concerned RCN people gathered together in a packed 600-seat church in Bedum. The initiative for the meeting was taken by two retired ministers, Rev H Gunnink (67) and Rev H van Egmond (70), to discuss what to do now that synod has decided to open the offices of deacon, elder and minister to women, and now that it has decided to seek unity with the liberal Netherlands Reformed Churches (NRC).[I] The ministers said that in calling the meeting they seek to submit in reverent and wholehearted submission to God and His Word. This brings them into conflict with the latest synod decisions which, they say, are unacceptable. [ii]
Rev Gunnink said the church is called to abide by the true doctrine of God’s Word and may not add to it or take from it (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; Titus 2:1, etc). Both synod decisions are contrary to the confession. Indeed, the binding to the confession is not guaranteed in the RCN (GKv) and in the NRC , he added. He quoted passages from Articles 29 and 30 BCF to illustrate that the “true church must be governed according to the Spiritual order which our Lord has taught us in His Word” and that by means of the proper government of the church “everything will be done well and in good order when faithful men are chosen in agreement with the rule that the apostle Paul gave to Timothy”. The church is called to govern itself “according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it…” [iii] Yet this is not happening in the RCN (GKv).
The ball is now in the court of the various consistories, said Rev Gunnink. Each must determine whether to accept the synod’s decisions and then make its decision clear to the congregation. If they decide to accept the synod decisions “then they act contrary to God’s Word and church members must take action”.
He believes there’s nothing to be gained by appealing the decision. Such appeals would not be dealt with until the next synod meets in 2020. Meanwhile, consistories and congregations would remain in a bond of churches in which heresies are taught, practised and propagated. How can you teach and admonish in such a situation? Which preaching are we to accept? What must be the content of our prayers: Must we thank God for sisters in office, or pray for repentance of this error? Who should we allow in the pulpit: only those against, or also those in favour, of women in office? What about catechism and its oversight? Who will you allow as candidates for the ministry. What about attestations? And so on.[iv]
“It’s possible that in September we’ll see the first female ministers in the pulpits. And if not in September, it’ll be next year.” Moreover, consistories face the problem of how to work with female ministers at classis meetings.[v]
He emphasised that the decisions about women in office and unity with the NRC were not the only reasons to leave the RCN (GKv). There had, during the last years, been many disconcerting developments. They included the authority of God’s Word, such as how to interpret Genesis 1-3, liturgical changes and the deletion of catechism preaching, the view on the church, the ‘feel-good-thinking’ and the ‘feel-good-sermons’, the acceptance of homosexual relationships, of living together outside of marriage, and not exercising church discipline. [vi]
Rev Gunnink said that churches which ratified/accepted the synod decisions, and staying in the RCN, would thereby be acting contrary to God’s Word.
The idea is now for concerned members to contact one or more elders who also reject the synod decisions. “They can provide the necessary leadership and call on the congregation to liberate itself from the RCN (GKv) bond of churches with its unscriptural decisions.” If there are no elders to give guidance in this way, the concerned members must seek each other out and together leave the unfaithful RCN (GKv). [vii] He expressed the hope that many would choose to free themselves from the synod decisions.
The concerned members agreed to meet again after the summer to discuss what concrete steps to take. They were advised, meanwhile, to write to their consistories urging them to reject the synod decisions.[viii]
Someone in the audience asked: Should they stay in the RCN (GKv) even longer, and keep warning, trying yet again to convince others? Rev Gunnink saw no mileage to be gained by this; it’s a lost cause. “You can see that there is a groundswell afoot in the churches that is distancing itself from the Word of God.” [ix]
The question of where to go once they leave the RCN led to several suggestions, including references to the DGK[x] and GKN[xi]. The DGK bond of churches was instituted in 2003 when concerned members left the RCN after appeals to synod were rejected and a church-wide call to repent was ignored. They seek to submit humbly to the authority of God’s Word, as confessed in the Three Forms of Unity, and to regulate church life in accordance with the Church Order. Their representatives have attended our FRCA synods. More concerned members left the RCN (GKv) a few years later and instituted the GKN. These two bonds of churches have had discussions about unity.
[i] Formerly ‘Buitenverbanders’, a liberal group who broke from the RCN in the late 1960s.
[ii] “Referaat Ds. H. G. Gunnink d.d. 12 juli 2017” on http://www.werkenaaneenheid.nl.
[v] Nederlands Dagblad Digital article “Vrouwenbesluit was de druppel voor verontruste vrijgemaakten” by Eline Kuiper, 13th July 2017, placed 12.45pm
[viii] Nederlands Dagblad
[ix] Nederlands Dagblad
[x] De Gereformeerde Kerken
[xi] Gereformeerde Kerken Nederland