Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
Back in the early 1970s a new denomination emerged in the southern United States. This denomination came out of the Southern Presbyterian Church which has since merged with the Northern Presbyterian Church (healing a breach that existed since the Civil War) to form the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. The new church in the South, calling itself the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), began with only a few congregations but has grown rapidly. It now numbers over one thousand congregations, with about a quarter of a million members, making it the second4argest Presbyterian denomination in the United States. The PCA was formed because of liberalism in the Southern church. This relatively young denomination is one of the fastest growing churches in the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition, The PCA is a member of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council and is a church in “ecclesiastical fellowship” with the Christian Reformed Church.
Recently a number of both ruling and teaching elders of the PCA formed an organization called “Concerned Presbyterians.” Included in the membership of this conservative organization, are men who were leading figures in the formation of the PCA, Dr. Morton H. Smith of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary among them.
The Concerned Presbyterians are troubled by several phenomena in the spheres of worship, doctrine, and practice that are occurring in the PCA. The Concerned Presbyterians held a special meeting last year on September 30 to discuss the question, When is it appropriate to leave a denomination?” A call for secession was not issued at this meeting. Rather, the Concerned Presbyterians took a decision to “call the PCA to be what she said she would be.” “Recognizing that not all presbyteries are Biblical, the Steering Committee also authorized a committee to make plans for a ‘Biblical Presbytery.'” According to the official statement, “The Steering Committee further determined to have a study committee make a presentation at the March 1995 Concerned Presbyterian Day.” The third annual “Concerned Presbyterian Day” is scheduled to meet on March 3, 1995.
The keynote speaker at the March meeting is Dr. George W. Knight III, professor at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Dr. Knight has been deeply involved in denominational affairs in the PCA. For nearly twenty years he taught at the official PCA seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Before accepting the professorship at Greenville, Knight also served as an administrator at Knox Theological Seminary, which was founded by Dr. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
If the question, “When is it appropriate to leave a denomination?” is being addressed, and if men like Drs. Smith and Knight are involved, there must be reason for concern within the PCA. We shall continue to monitor developments.
Banned From Christian Reformed Pulpits
Classis of the Heartland (located in Northwest Iowa) has sent a letter to every classis in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) informing them that two former CRC ministers, Dr. Nelson D. Kloosterman (professor at Mid-America Reformed Seminary), and Rev. Ralph Pontier (former pastor of First CRC, Orange City, Iowa) have no right to preach from any CRC pulpit.
Kloosterman and Pontier are two of three pastors who have recently left the CRC in Northwest Iowa. The other is the retired minister, Dr. Richard Venema. Dr. Venema left the CRC and joined the Presbytery of the Dakotas of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Rev1 Pontier, as reported earlier in these columns, led a group out of First CRC Orange City and formed an independent congregation called. Redeemer Alliance Reformed Church. Dr. Kloosterman, a member of First CRC Orange City, left that congregation to become a member of the newly formed independent church.
All three ministers had submitted letters to the December 7 meeting of the classis requesting that they be released from the ministry of the Word in the CRC. The council of First Orange City also sent a request to classis asking that “Classis Heartland acknowledge the resignations of Revs. Kloosterman and Pontier as ministers of the Word in the CRCNA and hereby declare them as being released from their active ministerial service in the CRCNA.” Among the grounds for this request, First Orange City told classis that no discipline had been imposed by the council on the two ministers.
Instead of ruling in favor of this request, the classis accepted the recommendations of the Classical Interim Committee and ruled that Venema and Kloosterman be “dismissed” from their offices and that Pontier be declared to have the status of one deposed from office.
In a letter dated December 8, Classis of the Heartland stated clerk, Rev. Jack Gray, informed all other classes in the CRC that “Richard Venema has, a right to Christian Reformed pulpits through our ecclesiastical fellowship with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, but neither Nelson Kloosterman nor Ralph Pontier have any right to a Christian Reformed pulpit.” The ground for considering Rev. Pontier as having the status of “deposed” according to classis is the fact that he created schism in First Orange City CRC.
The practical effect of the ban remains unclear, since in 1904 the CRC synod decided that, “ministers of other denominations are permitted to preach in the churches provided that the consistory is convinced that such a minister is committed to the Reformed confessions” (Acts of Synod 1904).
Meanwhile, as of this date, the CRC tolerates some seventeen of her churches which allow women elders. In addition, two classes (Lake Erie and Chicago South) have licensed seven women to expound in their churches, and two congregations of the CRC, Trinity in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan and First CRC Toronto, Ontario, have women as full-time expounders.
—All ten positions on the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) Bible bestselling list for the month of December were published by Zondervan Publishing House. All are variations of the New International Version (NIV). Among these are theNew Student Bible, Women’s Devotional Bible, Adventure Bible, Life Application Bible, and theTeen Study Bible. The NJV is now the most popular Bible translation in America. Some 100 million copies have been distributed since the NIV New Testament was first published in 1973.
—Attendance at all of Cuba’s Protestant churches has tripled in the past three years according to recent reports. Some eighty percent of former church members have been brought back to the church. Many families are now looking for pastoral help because they want to give their children the values which materialism cannot provide.
This, coupled with the fact that the church continues to flourish in Communist China, is evidence of the truth that Satan has never been able to harm, much less destroy, God’s church by means of persecution. Indeed, God by the power of His grace in Christ Jesus uses persecution to strengthen and bless His church!