What Next?

“Faith in Focus,” the monthly magazine of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, quotes a letter from J.M. Batteau, professor of systematic theology at Korea Seminary, Pusan, Korea. The letter was addressed to all the members of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod which met last summer in Chicago. The letter dealt with his concern about the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Gereformeerde Kerken). He quotes from the Liberated Reformed Churches’ newspaper from the Netherlands a report about a woman minister in the (Synodical) Reformed Churches in the Netherlands—yet hardly the kind of situation which one might expect within a Reformed church. The report went as follows:

In the monthly bulletin of the Amsterdam combination congregation (Reformed: Nassau church; Dutch Reformed: Prinsesse church), the “Ichtus Woord en Wijk,” which we read in the “Waarheidsvriend” (weekly of the conservative Reformed Union within the Dutch Reformed Church, J.M.B.):

“The stimulus to this interview is the happy news that Paula is expecting a baby in September. She is glad to talk about it and, since she is following a lifestyle that is somewhat different than might be expected, we wanted to ask her a few questions.

Question: What are your plans for the future?

Paula: My boyfriend Hans and I are going to start living together in July; we’ve found an apartment on Watteaustraat.

Question: You two are not getting married. Why not?

Paula: In my circle of friends there are many who are not officially married, and if we were to be officially married I get the feeling that I would alienate them. It is a matter of personal feeling. The church can be terribly stern with people who choose a lifestyle other than marriage. I’m hoping for a church which has more room for people who want to live differently, such as lesbians who live together, or those who want to live alone.

Question: How can you bless a marriage if you yourself don’t want to be married?

Paula: It’s a part of my job. I enjoy it tremendously, and I’m not at all against church marriages. It’s fine if people want to celebrate their covenant with each other in church, with their joy and pain. I’m only very sad that a church marriage is made exclusive, and other life-styles are condemned. The joy of homosexual relations, for example; I would like to have them also celebrated in church. But often it’s simply not possible.

Question: Paula, don’t you think that the minister ought to be a good example for the congregation? What about the teenagers?

Paula: The real question is: are we following the path of the Messiah? Does our path have anything to do with the path that Jesus followed? There’s where I feel my responsibility. The minister does not have a position above the congregation, but rather is together with the congregation. How do we live as Christians in our mutual life together? To be a “shepherd and teacher” means this: as a shepherd one follows the path which the Good Shepherd has taken; as a teacher one takes part in opening the Scripture with one another. The congregation has no right to criticize me concerning the form of my relationship, though it certainly can do so regarding the content of my relationship. And as far as that is concerned, it is going well, I have full confidence in it. Parents of teenagers might be shocked; I can well imagine it. Thinking: I certainly hope my child doesn’t . . . . But let the children choose freely the life-style which suits them best. Are they happy? Do they treat each other well? Children are not extensions of ourselves, but rather they are entrusted to our care. In our congregation we’re happy that we don’t exclude anyone. There is room for different opinions, and readiness to talk about them.

Question: What kind of person is Hans? Many of us don’t know him. And he doesn’t go to Church. What should we think about it?

Paula: We met each other shortly after I came to work in the Prinsesse church. Wonderful things all came together at the same time. Hans has studied political science and he’s working as a researcher for the Bureau of Economics in The Hague. He travels back and forth every day by train, and in September he’s going to be working three days a week. Just like Hans Mos and Rev. Hibma we’re choosing to take care of the child together, and we’re both going to be working. When Hans was 17 he left the Dutch Reformed Church, after much thought. I see a lot of Calvinism in him. We have good talks about my work and my faith—he supports me completely in the way I do it. He listens critically to my sermons, especially the development of the theme. We have good discussions about the discoveries I make in a Bible text. He doesn’t go to church, because he doesn’t want to give the impression that he belongs to a community which he actually has no part of. If Hans had been a church member I would have loved to celebrate my commitment and joy in church. But Hans thinks it simply hypocritical to go through religious motions which he doesn’t believe in.

No one should get the impression that I’m opposed to marriage. I’m only opposed to using norms and values against people. Do people have the chance to receive their genuine rights? That’s what concerns me. I’m only asking for the room to live in this way. We’re really happy together.

We thank Paula for her honest answers, which we’ve compressed because of lack of space. We wish her and Hans all the best.” (End of the excerpt from Netherlands Dagblad).

So: Rev. Paula Irik is a minister in good standing in the Dutch Reformed Church who is serving a church in Amsterdam. She is expecting a baby out of wedlock and does not plan to marry her non-believing boyfriend. She does not condemn Christian marriages, but insists on the option of other life-styles.

One hears strange things coming out of the Netherlands. From the denial of the infallibility of Scripture, to the denial of the atonement of Christ on the cross, to a walk and life-style contrary to all that the Bible teaches—all this is tolerated and even approved. One wonders how all this can be. Two of the ministers from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands have recently been visiting the Christian Reformed Church in Canada. In some of the reports of these visits, it appears that these ministers try to explain how all this comes to be. Still, such deviation both in doctrine and in life can not be explained—but can only be condemned. This action is neither Reformed nor Scriptural. If there is no repentance, there is assuredly condemnation in hell.

One might wonder, incidentally, what the situation will be for this woman minister five years from now. Surely the bitter fruits of her action will be experienced in her life.

Government Support = Government Control

Some of the Canadian provinces provide government support for private school students. The Christian schools in British Columbia receive $900 per student per year. We might look rather enviously at such a gold-mine. What would this do to our tuition payments? Were we to receive something on a similar scale, it would reduce our tuition payments to a few hundreds of dollars. We could pay teachers more. We could provide more subjects for our students to study. If . . . .

But the Christian schools of B.C. are facing a dilemma. To receive continued support, the students must take government tests or the government support is reduced to $300 per student (not a small amount either). But to take government tests, one must be prepared to study government-prescribed courses. One writer in Calvinist Contact, Sept. 28, 1984, presents the following:

Van Brummelen believes the imposition of these examinations to be a turning point for BC’s Christian schools. He points out that Christian schools have never opposed government testing of basic skills and general knowledge, and have welcomed government evaluation teams. Now, he says, a new element has been added in that schools must carefully follow government- prescribed courses. Rather than teaching and continuing to develop an integrally Christian program of studies at these levels, the schools now can only add Christian interpretations to material that is often based on a non-Christian view of life.

Parents face a real dilemma in making decisions about the examinations. Students from schools not writing examinations. will not be able to enter public universities directly, and their diplomas will be viewed second-rank by the public-at-large.

BC’s schools have always made a strong argument for government funding of Christian schools on the basis of justice in a pluralistic society. The examination issue has underscored, however, that receipt of funding also makes the schools subject to undesirable government control.

The above is a sobering reminder of the control a government obtains by way of providing financial support. We can tell ourselves that we just get back our “taxes,” but the fact remains, that the government regards our taxes as their own monies. What we get back, has strings attached—strings which make such support suspect. Let us too beware that allure of such governmental support. The government seeks to control the Christian schools already now—but finance gives them apparent justification for the attempt to control.

And make no mistake—support once given, but then withdrawn, is more difficult to face than never having received the support in the first place.