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/ Reformed Churches of the Netherlands / Choose or Lose (2) by D J Bolt

Choose or Lose (2) by D J Bolt

Jelte Numan on March 23, 2015 - 10:09 am in Reformed Churches of the Netherlands

In part one of Choose or lose, more than a month ago, we had a look around in our churches. Then we attended the Synod of Ede which was still dealing with a number of important issues, namely the new Subscription Form now called Binding Form, and the appointment of new University lecturers, dr. D. te Velde and dr. J M Burger in Dogmatics (Systematic Theology).

Attending this Synod assembly gave cause to write an extensive commentary GS Ede – Impression 10. The story led to the sad conclusion that Scripture is no longer safe in the GKv (RCN), and ended with the announcement

“It is time to consider the consequences and weigh up our responsibility towards the Lord, our children and ourselves.”

This is what we want to do in this instalment. For those who do not have the opportunity to read the whole story we first give a brief summary.

Summary

We have wrestled much and long with the question whether we can remain members of the liberated-Reformed church, because we have grave concerns about the direction our bond of churches is going. The question whether we should stay or leave is becoming more and more pressing. Is it not time to make a definitive choice, and if so on what basis? And above all, are we allowed to leave Christ’s church?

We take for our starting point what we as Reformed people confess about the church. This clearly indicates the conditions Christ’s church must satisfy:

The true church can be recognized by the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church—and no one ought to be separated from it… (Belgic Confession, Article 29).

That’s the issue.

We have lost the confidence that this Confession characterises our churches as a whole. They no longer believe without doubting in any respect everything that is written in the books of Holy Scripture (Belgic Confession Article 5). The admonitions on this point from within the churches and from sister churches abroad were rejected. This opens the door to doctrinal license and Bible criticism.

Blurring of the authority of God’s Word has had all sorts of consequences for practical living. For example: unfaithfulness in church attendance, an open Lord’s Supper Table, pleas for an optional infant baptism as well as for no baptism at all, alternative views on marriage and sexuality, false ecumenism and a vanished understanding of what the church is, de facto acceptance of women in office, weakening in the exercise of church discipline.

We have fought against wrong developments and tried to do our part in the efforts to halt the ongoing decay. But we had no success. The un-Reformed direction was strongly confirmed and further extended by the Synod of Ede.

Should we not continue the struggle within the GKv? But we see that in other churches (for example, in Synodical Reformed and the Dutch Hervormde churches) permanent opposition has no effect, certainly not when the Theological University and church government together lead the way in deformation.

The new Church Order has made revision requests to Synods impossible for us. Moreover, the Synod of Ede has closed the dossiers that deal with deviations from Scripture and the Confessions. Revision of these deviations is no longer possible.

Fleeing to a congregation with an orthodox minister can only offer a temporary solution; not a permanent arrangement. Moreover, the developments in the GKv do not leave orthodox congregations and their ministers untouched, as has repeatedly been demonstrated in practice. It is also not a good ecclesiastically-responsible solution.

The Reformed Confession speaks of persecution by a false church. Is that the case in the GKv? Persecution can be practised subtly: through exclusion from the offices and important positions in the church, by snubbing, neutralization and isolation. Actual day-to-day life of orthodox ministers is getting more and more difficult. Several ministers have had to leave their place because of opposition in their congregation.  The cornerstone of Reformed church polity, Article 31, has been removed from the Church Order. Decisions of classis and Synod must be carried out forthwith by church councils even if a council is convinced that they are contrary to God’s Word.

Belonging to a bond of churches also means taking responsibility for it. But how can we live up to our responsibility for a decaying bond and still give account to the Lord? If through rampant undermining of the Reformed faith more and more doubt about the validity and reliability of the Scriptures is being sown in the (young) hearts? Do we burden ourselves with heavy guilt?

Does leaving the GKv equal leaving Christ’s church?  The striking point is that the GKv itself has changed fundamentally. It is not leaving the GKv, but especially remaining in the GKv that means parting with the kind of Reformed churches as defined in our Confessions – Reformed churches that are being governed by the age-old Reformed Church Order. That is the crucial consideration each one of us must make.

All things considered, we have resolved to leave the bond of the Reformed Churches liberated (GKv). We see no other way out. This is how we want to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ and flee from the stranger, John 10.  And we call our brothers and sisters to do the same.

We are members of a local church, not of a bond of churches. We shall therefore lay our problems and objections before our own church council together with an urgent request to take similar steps. Should it be that they refuse to listen, a personal farewell shall have to follow.

It will be prudent to seek contact with distressed brothers and sisters in your own congregation.

If it should happen that we must also say goodbye to our local congregation the next question is: where shall we go? It is a question which, in accordance with our Confession, must be answered ‘accurately and with great care, from God’s Word.’ [1] We shall pay attention to this in the next instalment of this series of articles.

So far the summary of the story that follows.

Can we stay in our liberated church? The question has kept us busy for a long time already. At times it keeps us awake. For separating from a church community that you’ve been part of since your earliest childhood feels like a serious amputation. You break with the community in which you grew up, professed your faith, were married, had children who in turn received the faith there and received their children. You separate yourself from brothers and sisters with whom you built up a relationship, which inevitable will produce losses. It will be painful to no longer listen together in familiar surroundings to the Word, sing God’s praises accompanied by beautiful organ music, and enjoy the sacraments. A church with an acknowledged position in state and society, in which we are noticed and attract international theological attention.

Look at … ‘all these beautiful buildings of our temple …’

Do we then have to start all over again? With fruit boxes as chairs, so to speak? With reading sermons in meeting rooms? In small communities where conflicts arise easily and personal discord grows? Without impressive names that are able to set things straight? Where in many respects costs are high and our cosy rest should be mostly sought elsewhere?

Should we? And more importantly, are we allowed?

It is certainly not allowed if it concerns trivia, or cherished personal well-being. Or one hundred more or less hymns. Or even if you need a light to find a psalm on the liturgy board that is full of revival songs and hip-hop tunes. Also not because many brothers and sisters do not like us anymore or find us downright annoying, and would rather park us at the edge of the church.

There must really be very much wrong when you break the bond with the church, the body of Christ.

Small is usually not nice. And struggling is difficult. The Bible is full of it. As is the history of the church. What a ‘mess’ it was in the years after the Separation, after the Liberation. And it is happening again, just like that, even in our modern enlightened days.

From the Fall on, a struggle has been raging to the death. Sometimes ruthlessly public, at other times sly and cunning behind church political shields. The struggle is intense and exhausting, sometimes making you despondent. Recently an elder asked us formally: “What, after all, have you guys achieved?”

But the struggle has been imposed on us. Without the good fight you are not a Christian, at most a religious humbug. And God’s children do overcome, albeit in weakness, in Christ’s strength.

Perhaps the Lord wants us today, in the end of times, to again submit to an exercise in thinking small of ourselves. To just forget all the achievements that we were, in the (former) liberated stronghold, still quite proud of – though they have indeed mostly been wiped out. And therefore just again put our hands to the plough: believe and love, praise and glorify, read, preserve, and do God’s Word.

The question is: must we say goodbye to the church and is it allowed?

We prayed much for our churches’ return to the ‘old paths.’ For restored trust in ministers and ecclesiastical meetings. For light, to find the path along which our feet can go.

Again and again we must make a choice in our personal and church life. As rev. J R Visser said in a sermon on Jeremiah 6:16.

We are all facing the choice. As congregation and also in our own life. Which way do we choose? Which way do you choose? Quietly follow Christ, and thus on the trail of His blood, and therefore according to His Word that is so old but forever makes new. Or do you choose for the spirit of the time, for your own thoughts and feelings?

Choose who you want to serve in your whole life with your heart. I cannot do better than let you and us together listen to the call that the Lord Himself spoke to the people of Israel through Moses:

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live  and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

I and my house will serve the LORD. Surely, together with all of you ?! [2]

Choose therefore.

Or lose …

 

Faith and Church

What does the Lord want from us in this situation?  We believe that the answer lies in our Reformed Confession. Indeed, there we say about the Church what we believe with our heart and confess with the mouth.

There we read what the church of Christ is, and how you can recognise her and find her. The Confession’s answer is:

The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church—and no one ought to be separated from it…. Belgic Confession, Article 29.

This is how our Reformed Confession echoes Scripture:

In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head.

This is the core, that’s what it comes to.

We have lost the confidence that this Confession characterises our churches as a whole. Last time we concluded that the Bible is no longer safe in the liberated churches. They no longer believe without doubting in any respect everything that is written in the books of Holy Scripture. [3]

For many, in the wake of the Theological University, it has become an old book that is culturally determined, includes myths, has to be understood more and more metaphorically, and can bring the truth for today to light only by way of theological scientific research. Researchers are allowed in their scientific work to freely depart from the Confession.

A low point is the denial that (what we confess in Article 21, Belgic Confession) … Christ bore “in our place” our punishment as payment for our debt, can be found in the New Testament [4] .

Our church leaders have for years relativised these things by claiming that this concerns individual deviations of the Reformed faith and not the Confession of the church. They would be incidents that can happen in each church community and always in history.

But after the Synod of Ede we can no longer believe that. They’re not incidents, but symptoms of a deeper seated disease, namely: formally tolerated abandonment of the Word and relativising of the Truth.   By way of quite a number of foreign sisterchurchly letters of admonition practically all of the fundamental objections against the errors and decay in our churches were again placed on the table of the Synod of Ede.

However, without substantively confronting itself with them, the major assembly of our churches swept them aside, and even rewarded those who err with senior positions in the University.

And in defiance of principled opposition, the new Binding Form makes wilfully built-in allowance for public deviation from Scripture and Confession.

We believe that this opened the door at federal level to doctrinal license, and legalises Bible criticism.

We see its result in the desecration of Holy Supper by opening it up to non-church members; in the unfaithfulness to attend the church services on the sabbath day, the day of rest. It can be noticed in the pleas for an optional infant baptism and for tolerance towards those who reject infant baptism altogether.

Great confusion has grown about the meaning of the Bible for everyday living. Appealing to specific Biblical commandments and rules relating to, for example, marriage and sexuality, and women in office is being dismissed as legalistic, and no longer has normative significance for the lives of many. The understanding of what the church is has gradually faded away, and a pluriform church spirit is breaking down ‘the walls that are made by men.’

This also puts the exercising of church discipline at risk, as can be seen in practice, for instance with the fourth and seventh commandments.

To our great sorrow we must conclude that we can no longer bear witness …that this church [the GKv] practises the pure preaching of the gospel; that it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; and that it exercises church discipline for correcting and punishing sins. [5]

We experience this conclusion as one of the most intrusive things of our life. For many decades we have joyfully participated in Reformed-liberated church life and devoted ourselves heart and soul to it. We enjoyed the (salvation) benefits that come with membership of Christ’s church. Over the years we fought a long struggle to preserve its christian, Reformed character. But as is often said, the dogs bark but the caravan moves on. In seems with ever increasing acceleration. Besides the rapid demolition of all kinds of institutions, many notions and convictions of which we firmly believed that they were based on Scripture or our Confession are perishing . Sometimes it seems as if a herd of theological elephants is casually stomping through the ancient Reformed china cabinet.

With all this we definitely do not want to say that in every congregation of the federation Scripture has been abandoned, the celebration of the sacraments is not pure, and church discipline is not being exercised faithfully. Most certainly not. (Ir)regularly we hear also good Reformed preaching in worship services that are focused primarily on God. We read scripturally sound publications in the liberated environment. But to our conviction it can no longer be denied that the un-Reformed direction of the federation as a whole has, humanly speaking, once and for all been spelled out and settled in Ede.

Further considerations

What next?

We gave it a lot of thought. What does the Lord ask in this situation?

We mention a number of considerations.

Continue the struggle within the church

Is it possible to ‘just’ continue the struggle within the GKv?

So far there are not many barriers for ‘ordinary’ church members. Would a solution be possible like that chosen at the time in the Synodical Reformed Church or in the Hervormde Church: an association of distressed members that wages a kind of permanent opposition against the official policy and general decisions of the church?

There are quite some arguments against it.

What is the benefit?

The associations of distressed members [6] in the Synodical Reformed Church perished in the liberal climate and through ageing. However much they defended the authority and reliability of Scripture and the glory of God, the direction of the churches was hardly affected. Eventually, this church was integrated in the PKN, and her identity has been irretrievably lost. Worse is that hundreds of thousands lost their faith through the influence of deceiving spirits like Kuitert, Den Heyer and other leaders. The decline in membership is still continuing[7] .

The Reformed ‘Bond’ still has a distinct place within the PKN. Congregations which through their ministers align themselves with that Bond are forming a kind of shelter in the whole of the church. At the same time it is clear that despite their protests wicked liberalism remains the distinguishing mark of the PKN. Protestant minister K. Hendrikse who preaches that ‘God does not exist and Jesus is His Son’ hears at most a “shame, shame.”

In our days another minister, Van der Kaaij of the PKN at Nijkerk, claims that Jesus never existed historically. Another “shame shame”, but the official leaders will not even consider exercising church discipline on such violators of the gospel, because then you may as well expel everyone from the church [8]

Our conclusion has to be that if the theological training, the leadership and the government of the churches are diseased and detached from the Reformed roots, the tide humanly speaking cannot be reversed by opposition groups. In recent years several such groups have operated in the liberated churches. LWVKO, GB/GKB, EIW [9] , BKO, FKO, SMN, SKO. But what have they achieved if you look at the direction of the churches and the Reformed identity of the university? Is it much more than nothing? Should not you rather conclude that many things are accelerating? Moreover, many of the ‘combatants of the first hour’, whether forced or not, left the GKv long ago, by which the opposition movement was weakened. And that process is still going on.

Appeal to the next Synod

Can we not go with our objections to the next Synod, and ask her to once more seriously examine the objections in the light of Scripture? Is that not, after all, the normal ecclesiastical way concerned brothers and sisters have to go?

However, we think that that road is closed. We support that with a number of reasons.

Individual appeal denied

In the first place, under the new Church Order as it was adopted almost unnoticed, individual church members can no longer submit objections to ecclesiastical meetings if these are not matters that concern personal interest. And this emphatically excludes things that belong to the doctrine of the church. To name just an extreme example, it is impossible for ordinary church members to submit an objection against a denial of the Trinity. A personal appeal is possible if for example someone was overcharged by one Euro.

Article 31 of the Church Order of Dort, which is the cornerstone of Reformed church polity, no longer exists for objections concerning the doctrine of the church (and the Church Order).

Closed files

Many objections relate to Bible criticism by ministers in our churches. As previously noted, the Synod of Ede swept without substantive assessment all objections from the table, with the emphatic statement that with that decision these matters are finished. It means that a fresh appeal to the next Synod in Meppel will not be accepted.

In the case of lecturer Dr. Burger the general Synod has, well aware of the objections raised against his objections against ‘reconciliation through satisfaction’ according to Article 21 of the Belgic Confession, still allowed even without closer investigation his appointment to the Theological University to proceed. It is not expected that a revision of this decision by a consistory (if one can be found) will still have any result. Other similar complaints against TUK lecturers have been to no avail [10].

In short, soberness demands that for church members the ecclesiastical way is no longer available.

Perforation and shopping around

It has been suggested or recommended that if spiritual distress is high and you can not stick it out in your own congregation, you should in desperation seek shelter in a still ‘orthodox-Reformed’ church with ditto minister. This may in any case find a place of refuge and peace within the bond of churches.

But there are quite a few objections to this step. In the first place, one of principle. For we confess that we have been given to and placed among the brothers and sisters in the place where we live. To perforate the congregational boundaries on personal preferences is something we have always firmly rejected. [11] . An exception was made only in very special circumstances. It is not correct to now accept this as a more or less general solution. Moreover, in this manner a kind of church-in-the-church is established, comparable with the Reformed Bond churches in the PKN or in the wings of the CGK. It suggests a church unity, but this is essentially false [12] . It seems not a good ecclesiastical solution.

Is shopping then perhaps the answer? By regularly or exclusively attending church in orthodox churches nearby while remaining a member of your own congregation? During the past years we have done that (ir)regularly but continue to feel guilty .

Because also here, this may not be done in Christ’s church. What is more biblical and more glorious than coming together as members of God’s church around the pulpit to hear the gospel? To be together encouraged, comforted and admonished. To meet each other and exercise the (Holy Supper) community? That will disappear with shopping. There is growing distance, feelings grow cold.

Moreover, we have noticed over the years that the ‘colour’ of congregations, whatever you want to call it, changes easily. Here the minister is a strong determining factor. With his departure the church ‘climate’ can change rapidly, as it is strongly connected with the general nature and developments in other congregations.

On top of that, orthodox churches, too, are being asked to conform to the general direction in the new hierarchy.

We see no solution here, at best a temporary arrangement.

Persecution

There is in this context yet another important consideration which requires an answer on the way towards a decision. For does the Reformed church in her Confession not also speak of persecution?

As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself on humans, more than on Jesus Christ; it  persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.

That’s what we profess as Reformed people.

Are you then not bound to continue in the church of which you are a member until the day when persecution comes and you are thrown out? Was that not also the view of K. Schilder? [13] .

We had to think a lot about that, and want to share this with you.

First of all, it is remarkable that in our Confession persecution is mentioned as a mark of the false church, not of the true church. Thus for the latter we have three characteristics and not a fourth, something like: it does not persecute the believers. This is also obvious because the church that exercises pure discipline does not persecute believers. For that would be an abuse of the discipline and not pure ministry. And when it comes to the characteristics of the false church its pre-eminent characteristic is persecution as abuse of church discipline.

What is persecution? Is there ‘persecution’ in the GKv?

Persecution belongs to all ages. The early Christians suffered atrociously under pagan persecution.

But the Confession is speaking about persecution by an institution that calls itself church. Persecution in that sense we come across all too often in church history.

In the days of the Great Reformation 1517 the stakes burned and the believers who refused to convert to the Catholic faith were dismembered, hanged or drowned.

In the days of the 1834 Separation, by instigation of the Dutch Reformed Church leadership, jail sentences were handed out and soldiers billeted if believers would not obey the synodal regulations.

Things did not go as far during the Liberation of 1944. Although there were suspensions and dismissals there was no physical violence.  Thus the incidence of persecution has in the course of the centuries also experienced a certain development, although in many places in the world persecution of God’s children is no less bloody than in the sixteenth century in Europe.

And what about our days and situation?  The form of suffering and persecution has changed. In our days and nation persecution through violence will no longer occur [14] . It is now much more an insidious process, by which exclusion happens in a subtle way. Here isolation plays a major role. Ministers and church members who want to remain ‘orthodox’ Reformed are becoming increasingly isolated. Ministers do not get calls. Brothers are no longer nominated for the offices. Those who raise their voices are ignored [15], ​​neutralised or silenced [16] . The official press is not or hardly accessible for orthodox voices. Distressed members are no longer eligible for key positions in church life.

And that’s not all. For we see a growing emergence of difficulties in churches where the minister and (the majority of) the consistory adhere fully to the Reformed line. This is how in recent years several ministers were ousted from the federation [17] . And it seems that this is not the end. When difficulties arise in a congregation because of opposition to fully Reformed preaching it is not long before Deputies Problem Counselling stand knocking at the door.

Perhaps the most important point in this context is the introduction of the Revised Church Order (HKO or Church Order 2014) that was unanimously agreed to by the Synod of Ede. With this completely new Church Order, valid as from 1 July 2015, a hierarchical church government has been introduced. It means that between the churches and Christ their Head there are now the Synod and the classis. They demand immediate implementation of her decisions even when a consistory is absolutely convinced and can prove it as well that they go against the Word. The consistory has been deprived of the final w(Word) as it was in the old Article 31 of the Church Order.

Here again it is confirmed what church history shows again and again: tolerance of errors goes together with force to obey human insight.

Where that leads us can be seen in the Dutch Protestant Church (PKN).

Of course, we should not exaggerate as if virtual pyres are smoking in the GKv. But the procedure is certainly as effective. A huge turnaround is taking place in thinking, and in our opinion the consequences for ordinary Reformed life are disastrous.

Responsibility

We want to yet mention an aspect that keeps us more and more intensely busy in this regard, our own responsibility for the state of affairs. Belonging to a church federation also means having a degree of responsibility for her well-being. This becomes most evident in the financial contributions to fund its institutions and work. Even if you’re not a minister, church council member, Synod delegate or teacher, everyone is partly responsible for what happens in (primarily) his congregation. How long is it still justifiable to keep providing support?

Our responsibility applies in particular to the coming generations. What kind of example will they be given? And what will they be taught? From the pulpit, in the catechism classrooms, in the homes? While a flood of errors and deviations from doctrine is engulfing the churches and the dykes are broken, may we then continue to expose our children and grandchildren to this? Must we stumble from compromise to compromise, while God’s covenant children already have difficulties enough to keep themselves unspotted from the world? Is it not a miserable situation when children in the catechism class just have to listen to a story and then are not required to learn something? When young elders on home visits just do not know what to do with their Bible? [18] How will we be able to justify this, when later on we are asked how we could let this happen?

Let’s be honest, and also ask ourselves as older members: it is responsible to continue exposing ourselves to all kinds of modernisms which numb us and damage our faith? We, too, are not immune to this, are we? If you no longer hear the whole counsel of God proclaimed, and maybe even for years have not been able to celebrate Holy Supper? That should not be allowed to continue, should it?

Other church

We would like to remain members of the church of Christ. Rashly detaching ourselves from His body is reprehensible; and tearing the church arouses His anger.

So, must we still remain members of the GKv?

The surprising thing is that these churches themselves, as we experience quite often, do not have such a big problem with their members moving to another church address. In the commonly embraced ideas about the invisible and pluriform church it is no longer considered a problem when church members exchange their place for a (free) Baptist congregation or the NGK or PKN church.  From liberated pulpits serene prayers are being sent up for blessings on their departure, imploring that the brother and sister with their children may soon be fruitful in their new surroundings.  “Why don’t you go away if you feel more Reformed elsewhere?” we, too, are told. Or just celebrate Supper elsewhere if you find that more responsible. It seems that any understanding of what the Reformed church really is has completely vanished, not only among the elders but also the ministers.

Leaving all this aside, we must ask the key question: is staying in the GKv the same as staying in the church? If the GKv itself has fundamentally changed, is it then at bottom not true that exactly when you remain a member you have essentially moved to another church?

The GKv has changed right down to the bone. This is not only our conclusion. You can find it officially in Synod decisions [19] . These churches are not in decline only because of the demolition of what people call the ‘mini pillar’ [20] , but because of their decay in the characteristics of a church of Christ namely, in the marks we cited earlier from the Reformed Confession and in their Reformed church government. The GKv has become a pluralistic church.

As of 1 July, 2015 the liberated-Reformed church federation no longer formally exists. Under its new rules, it has become a synodocratic and democratic institution like the PKN, where its general Synod speaks the final word. The core of Article 31 of the Church Order, which is characteristic for a Reformed church community, was deliberately deleted in Ede [21] . After 1 July, 2015 we have become, also with respect to church government, a different church.

And we are going to belong to a different church federation if we stay with her.

Those who struggle with us to find an honest and scriptural answer to the current major problem of church membership and withdrawal must, we believe, focus on this. It is those who stay in the GKv (and not those who terminate their membership) that are bidding farewell to a church that is faithful to the Reformed Confession.

Conclusion

In John 10 the Lord Jesus tells the parable of the Good Shepherd and his sheep. In this beautiful story we hear the voice of the Shepherd.

Christ says:

… the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. (NIV)

In our days it is often said that we must follow Christ. And so we must. We follow Him when we recognise His voice that is heard in his Word and obey it. Then we remain in Him, and are part of His body which is his church.

And if it is different?

Flee, says the Good Shepherd.

That’s why we intend to leave the bond of the liberated-Reformed churches. We see no other way out.

And we urge our brothers and sisters to do likewise.

Consequences

How should we now actually proceed?

In our churches the individual believer is a member of the local congregation; not a member of the church federation. There is no central register showing all ‘liberated’ church members. According to the Reformed Church Order you are a member of a local independent church. The congregations together form the bond. They deal with common issues and support each other.

We believe that the first thing to do is inform your own consistory of the situation. For they are the ones who in Christ’s name watch out for ‘the souls’; they are at the forefront in protecting and leading the flock.

It is therefore not only a matter of informing the office bearers, but also of lodging an urgent appeal with them to agree with us and take the appropriate steps. For we desire to continue with them as Christ’s church.

If the local church wants to be faithful to Christ and His Word, rejects genuine errors and also accepts the consequences there is no reason to leave it. On the contrary, we continue together on our way with joy.

In the current situation it is a simple matter for the church council and congregation to leave the bond of churches. Refusal to ratify decision Art. 3-12 / 2 [22]  (provisional numbering) should be sufficient. This decision introduces the new Church Order, the HKO. We believe that a church council who does not ratify that decision automatically no longer belongs to the federation. [23]

But it is also possible that the church council (by majority) rejects the appeal. The minority will then have to take the responsibility and call the congregation to follow her.

If there are no office bearers to take that lead there is no choice but to personally withdraw and not follow the voice of these shepherds, under accountability and appeal to the fellow brothers and sisters.

Together

We have prepared our own appeal to the church council in an extensive appeal document leading to a number of requests. We make that document ​​available on this site [24] . Everyone can use it whether or not adapted with a personal introductory letter as required in his or her situation.

It will be a good plan to cooperate in this matter with other concerned brothers and sisters in the church. Perhaps the list of signatories to the gereformeerdekerkblijven Appeal can be consulted for this purpose.

It is recommended, however, to lodge the appeal on an individual basis, to avoid it being declared inadmissible.

Where to now?

It is general knowledge that there are now two church federations of congregations that largely consist of separated GKv members, The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (restored) (DGK) and Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN). These two would obviously warrant a first consideration.

We are looking at two federations, both of them wholeheartedly desirous to rest on the foundation of Scripture and the Reformed Confessions.

It means having to make a choice. This requires some knowledge about their backgrounds so that an informed choice can be made. We will do what we can.

By the way, the Synod of DGK has just this month decided to look at the possibilities for unification with the GKN and to take the necessary steps.  As we have frequently noticed, these people strongly desire, as do the distressed in the GKv, that there will soon be unity. It raises the hope and expectation that in the near future choosing at this point will no longer be necessary.

We will DV in the next article in this series devote more attention to this.

 

To be continued

(The above article is a translation of the article “Kiezen of Verliezen (2)” which appeared in Dutch on www.eeninwaarhed.info, 21-02-15.)

NOTES

[1]Belgic Confession, Article 29.

[2]Click here .

[3]Belgic Confession, Article 5.

[4]Dr. J M Burger, Professor of Systematic Theology at TUK in Cruciaal, p54.

[5]Belgic Confession, Article 29.

[6]For example Scripture and Testimony, with magazine Truth and Unity. Dr. J. Schelhaas was its well-known leader. Other names that can be mentioned: rev. AM Lindeboom with his publications Should it continue like this? and Theologians were the leaders; dr. MJ Arntzen with Humility or Pride; rev. MP van Dijk with Towards a new liberalism. But much more has been published about the decline of the Synodical Reformed churches.

[7]The PKN which absorbed the Synodical Reformed churches are loosing annually some fifty to sixty thousand.

[8]Dr. A. Plaisier: “Then I think of how Paul did it. He wrote a letter to a church where people claimed that there is no resurrection of the dead. Paul went sharply against it. He said… ‘If you say that, then faith is pointless. You may as well stop preaching.’  He did not say ‘Throw those who claim that out of the church.’ Why not? Perhaps in that situation you can continue throwing out. There is no end.” in Nederlands Dagblad 13/02/15

[9]LWVKO – National Workgroup for Ecclesiastical Developments, GB / GKB – Stay Reformed (Church), EIW – One In Truth. BKO, FKO, SMN and SKO are more regional groups of distressed GKv members.

[10]See the treatment of the objections against dr. S. Paas and dr. K. van Bekkum.

[11]It was for many years an important GKv objection against the Christian Reformed Churches who were much more easygoing about it.

[12]Compare  2 Cor 6:11 and what follows.

[13]See for example From the Lord’s ways, p 68, 69. But also compare p 71, 73.

[14]In the now popular book Cruciaal William Ouweneel writes: “… if you belong to Jesus, suffering is almost inevitable, even in the oh-so-tolerant Netherlands.” p 88.

[15]Notorious is the article in De Reformatie in which rev. J. Wesseling openly called the readers to ignore those who are distressed.

[16]A detail, but nonetheless characteristic, was that the president of Synod Ede, acting on a proposal of rev. W. van der Schee, silenced rev. R. van Wijnen when he voiced his unease about developments in the NGK.

[17]We mention rev. E. Hoogendoorn, rev. E. Heres,  dr. HJCCJ Wilschut.

[18]Dr. JM Burger on the Hermeneutics information evening, at Meppel 12/02/15.

[19]Preliminary Acts of Synod Ede Art. 7.24 / decision 2: “that the Reformed Churches of today are no longer the same churches of forty years ago, but because of that fact not less-Reformed Churches”

[20]The collection of Reformed churches, schools, newspapers, political party, all kinds of social organizations, etc.

[21]Ds. FJ Bijzet wanted to amend Church Order Art. F2.4: “In F2.4 the church council must eventually go to the classis, say the deputies. Where do we find that back? For this is Article 31. A church council is unable to obey a Synod decision. I tend to say: … then go back to the General Synod. According to deputies, the church council needs to go to the classis. My amendment is: Replace ‘someone … conscience’ by ‘church members or a church council are requested if this in their conscience …’.  And further ‘The person involved ….’ should be replaced by ‘In this case they must …’”  But deputy for the Church Order br. PT Peel said:  “We advise against amendment Bijzet. In the existing Church Oder the church council is also not mentioned as the second authority. It is not good to provide in the basic ‘ecclesiastical decisiveness scheme’ that a church council is not obliged to implement a decision. That would encourage independentism.”   And Synod agreed with the deputy …

[22] Article 3-12 / Decision 2 (the Church Order):

  1. to establish the final text of the Church Order of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (hereafter: Church Order 2014) as included in annex 3-11 to this decision;
  2. to decide that this Church Order 2014 will come into force on July 1, 2015;
  3. to withdraw the Church Order of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands as established by the General Synod of Groningen-Zuid (1978) and subsequently amended, with effect from July 1, 2015.

[23]   It would be wise if a legal specialist in church government had a good look at this.

[24]   It can be found as from 28-02-15 in section Kerkverband under the title BEZWAREN – DEEL 1 Bezwaarschrift. This section contains also the other parts (attachments) of the bezwaarschrift

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