A Profitable Trip to Australia

Rev. Cammenga, pastor of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan, is the secretary of the Contact Committee of the PRC.

From America’s Midwest to its west coast. From Los Angeles across the equator, across the International Date Line, with a stopover in New Zealand, finally to Brisbane International Airport in Queensland, Australia. After some twenty hours of flying time, and thirty hours after they set out from Grand Rapids, Prof. Robert Decker and his wife, Marilyn, and the undersigned and his wife, Rhonda, were greeted by brothers and sisters of the Brisbane Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

We had left on Monday, July 1 and arrived on Wednesday, July 3. Along the way we lost Tuesday, July 2. We were weary from our long journey, but glad finally to arrive at the destination of a trip that we had been planning for over a year.

We arrived in the middle of winter! July is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. But what a beautiful winter it was in Queensland. Daily temperatures were in the 70s, the sun shone down out of a blue, cloudless sky, and we were comfortable walking about in our shirtsleeves.

We had come under the auspices of our denominational Committee for Contact with Other Churches. Although we were able to do some sightseeing in beautiful Australia, known for its unique animal and plant life, as well as its beautiful ocean beaches, the main purpose of our trip was to attend the “Reformed Faith Conference” sponsored by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia (EPC). The Brisbane congregation of the EPC, of which Rev. David Higgs is the pastor, hosted the conference.

Most readers of the Standard Bearer are undoubtedly familiar with this denomination. For many years now the Protestant Reformed Churches have maintained a very close relationship with the EPC, a relationship that is precious to the PRC. In recent years a number of young men from the EPC have taken their seminary training at the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary.

Along with our sister churches, the Evangelical Reformed Churches of Singapore (ERCS), we were invited to take part in this conference. The ERCS delegation consisted of Rev. Lau Chin Kwee and elder Siew. The purpose of the conference was to strengthen the ties between our denominations and mutually to encourage one another to stand faithfully for the great truths of the gospel of God’s sovereign grace in the different countries in which God has established us. Besides taking part in the conference, Prof. Decker and Rev. Cammenga spoke at other public meetings, preached in various churches, attended the EPC annual Presbytery meeting, and had many meetings and enjoyed fellowship with the saints and office-bearers of the EPC.

On Friday of the week that we arrived, Rev. Cammenga flew by himself from Brisbane to Melbourne in the very south of Australia. The purpose of this visit was to speak and preach in the Frankston Presbyterian Church. Frankston is the southern most suburb of Melbourne. Mr. Robert Burford greeted him at the airport. Mr. Burford is an elder in the session of the Frankston Presbyterian Church, as well as a Christian schoolteacher. Over the past several years brother Burford, his fellow elders, and his pastor, the Rev. David Kumnick, have become familiar with the PRC. They find themselves very much in agreement with the PRC doctrinally and practically. The Frankston congregation, numbering some twenty families, is part of the Presbyterian Church of Australia (PCA). Because of serious departures from the Reformed faith, pastor and elders find themselves more and more in disagreement with the direction in which their denomination is going.

That Friday evening, Rev. Cammenga spoke at a public meeting in the Frankston church on “The Aim of Christian Education.” This meeting was held in connection with the endeavor of the members of the congregation to establish a parentally controlled Christian school that is faithful in its teaching to the Reformed faith. The meeting was well advertised and, besides a goodly number of the members of the congregation, a number of visitors were also in attendance, including some students from Geelong Reformed Theological College. On Sunday, July 6, Rev. Cammenga preached twice in the Frankston church. The preaching was well received and it is plain that this congregation is wholeheartedly committed to the truths of sovereign grace and the doctrine of God’s everlasting and gracious covenant. In his visits with the members and the officebearers, Rev. Cammenga encouraged them in their stand for the truth and also encouraged them to seek contact with the EPC. It is our hope and prayer that they may be of mutual help to each other as they seek to maintain a bold and faithful witness in Australia. On Monday, July 8, Rev. Cammenga took his leave of the saints in Frankston and returned to Brisbane.

On the same Friday evening that Rev. Cammenga was speaking on Christian education in Frankston, Prof. Decker gave the first of two public lectures in Brisbane. These lectures were rather widely advertised by the Brisbane congregation. The result of this advertising was that there were a number of visitors at each of the lectures. Prof. Decker’s first lecture was entitled, “A Reformed Critique of the World’s Religions.” A second lecture was delivered on Wednesday, July 10, on “Islam.” Prof. Decker also preached at the morning worship service of the Brisbane EPC on Sunday, July 7.

The two-day “Reformed Faith Conference” was held on Friday, July 11, and Saturday, July 12. Six papers were presented during the course of the conference, with a question and answer session after each presentation. The papers presented were: “The Presbyterian View of Covenant Children,” and “In the Space of Six Days,” by Rev. Mark Shand; “Union to Christ in Reformed Soteriology,” by Rev. Chris Connors; “The Serious Call of the Gospel,” by Rev. Lau Chin Kwee; “The Real Presence of Christ in the Preaching,” by Prof. Robert Decker; and “Preaching Christ from Old Testament Historical Narrative Texts,” by Rev. Ron Cammenga. Saturday evening the conference was concluded by a banquet. Servers for the banquet were the young people from the Brisbane congregation. The evening ended with a very thought-provoking speech by Rev. Chris Coleborn dealing with the contact between the leading reformers from the various branches of the Reformation and the lessons that we may learn from this contact.

The conference papers were well received and there was always lively discussion following their presentation. The papers are worthy of wider circulation. Perhaps they can be made available to the readers of the Standard Bearer in the near future. The interaction and fellowship enjoyed by those who attended the conference were a rich blessing. It was the consensus of those who attended that there ought to be future conferences, perhaps every two or three years, with a rotating venue that would include Singapore and the United States.

On Sunday, July 14, Rev. Cammenga led the morning worship service of the Brisbane congregation. In addition to the members of the congregation, members of Presbytery and some of the conference visitorswere also in attendance. Rev. Chris Connors led the evening worship service. Rev. Connors is the moderator of the EPC Pres-bytery this year, and so it fell to him to preach the sermon before the convening of the Presbytery.

On Monday, July 15, we attended the EPC Presbytery meeting. After handling some preliminary business, Presbytery went into closed committee in order to discuss the matter of contact with the PRC. We were given the opportunity to address the presbytery on behalf of our churches. Several matters of mutual concern were discussed, as well as possible ways in which the relationship between our two denominations could be strengthened. Great appreciation was expressed by the brothers from the EPC for contact with and assistance of the PRC. We, on our part, conveyed to them the love of the PRC for the saints in the EPC and our earnest desire to be of mutual help and encouragement.

After a busy but very profitable time in Australia, we returned to the states on Tuesday, July 16. The trip home was exhausting and we are still recovering from “jet lag.” Nevertheless, we had a most enjoyable time among the saints in the EPC and count it a highlight of our ministries that we might have represented our churches at their conference. Our earnest prayer is that God will bless the work that we did, for the furtherance of the gospel and for the strengthening of the ties between the PRC and the EPC. We stand very much alone in the ecclesiastical worlds of our respective countries. May we stand together—closer together than ever before, as a fruit of this trip.