Press review – criticism expressed by overseas delegates to RCN’s Synod Ede

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Reformatorisch Dagblad, 29th March 2014, reported that representatives of churches abroad gathered at Synod Ede of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (RCN, aka GKV) had told the RCN that they were in danger of leaving the path of God’s Word and the confessions. Rev deBoer, on behalf of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, said that RCN delegates to the last few Australian synods gave the impression that over the years little had changed in the RCN. However, he said, it was evident from other sources that the opposite was true. Rev deBoer expressed the fear that the RCN had departed from a faithful way of dealing with Scripture to a new way of interpreting Scripture for today. He said that this new way followed the way of the synodical churches of the 1960’s which deviated from the normative way the Bible speaks. Various other churches abroad also spoke of their concerns, with some focussing particularly on the RCN deputies’ report recommending women in office. The RCNZ representative said that if the recommendations about women in office were adopted it would jeopardise their sister relationship with the RCN. The RCN synod did not respond to the substance of the concerns expressed by the foreign delegates at this meeting held 28th March but would consider them at synod sittings in April and May.

On the 31st March Nederlands Dagblad reported that, according to the synod’s chairman Paul Voorberg, a number of the RCN’s sister churches abroad had said that this would be the last time they visited RCN synods if the RCN pursued having women in office. Various overseas representatives had strongly criticised, or at best expressed grave reservations, about the RCN’s consideration of women in office. Indeed, for many of them it raised broader questions about what lay behind this issue, namely the whole attitude towards the authority of the Bible. Synod delegates were not able to respond to the sharp criticism from churches abroad; that would be done later when synod responded to the official admonitions from the sister churches in Australia, Canada and the United States. An associated problem, said the article, was that some churches abroad were not satisfied simply with synod rejecting women in office; they want the whole report which recommended the appointment of women office bearers to be withdrawn. The Canadian delegate Gerard Nordeman said that although nothing had been decided about this in Canada, the Canadian churches would seriously consider breaking ties with the RCN if the report was not withdrawn. The same, it was said, applied to the Australian sister churches, and could also affect the RCN’s position in the ICRC. According to the Nederlands Dagblad article, all this illustrated again how the internal RCN responses to developments in society placed pressure on the RCN’s relationship with its “more-conservative” overseas sister churches. That had already happened earlier about such matters as marriage and divorce, and about the relationship between the Sunday and the fourth commandment. But, said the article, the past criticisms from abroad had not been as sharp as at present.