Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council
This Council (NAPARC) has six member denominations: the Christian Reformed Church, Presbyterian Church in America, Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Korean American Presbyterian Church, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (Covenanters). In addition, several other Reformed and Presbyterian denominations send observers to its annual meeting. Our churches have had observers at several recent meetings of NAPARC, though not this year.
Meeting in Philadelphia last November, NAPARC for the third year in a row debated whether or not to admit the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS, German Reformed) to full membership in NAPARC. The Interim Committee recommended that the RCUS be admitted to full membership. At- its plenary session the next day, NAPARC voted to approve the recommendation. If two-thirds of the synods or general assemblies of the NAPARC denominations agree, the RCUS will join NAPARC as a full member in 1995. All this, however, was not without lengthy and sometimes heated debate at the interim committee meeting and, we assume (reporters were barred from this part of the meeting), at the plenary session as well.
“The constitution says that ‘those churches shall be eligible for membership which profess and maintain the basis for fellowship expressed in section 2 and that maintain the marks of the true church,”‘ noted Rev. Donald Duff, secretary of NAPARC and stated clerk of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. “Nobody has ever brought any evidence that the RCUS does not meet these standards,” said Duff. “Unless someone can show that they do not meet those qualifications in the constitution, I think they should be approved.”
Noting that the RCUS has since 1991 been sending observers to the meetings of the Alliance of Reformed Churches (ARC), made up largely of a sizable group of independent churches which have recently seceded from the CRC, Dr. David Engelhard, General Secretary of the CRC, objected to admitting the RCUS. “Some of you know that these churches (the ones in ARC) are not exactly in a blessed relationship with the Christian Reformed Church at this point,” said Engelhard. “The constitution gives what is essential, but not all that is important. In the absence of disavowal of this kind of activity I’m afraid we have either to abstain or vote against, this, (admitting the RCUS),” said Engelhard.
The Rev. Ric Perrin, delegate from the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), also objected to admitting the RCUS. He too cited their involvement with ARC. Perrin introduced a motion to require the RCUS to disassociate itself from ARC as a condition of admission. Perrig’s motion failed. Finally the recommendation passed. The CRC voted against admitting the RCUS and the PCA recorded its abstention from the vote.
It will be interesting to see if the synods and general assemblies of the NAPARC churches approve.
In other actions, NAPARC rejected a proposal for weighted voting. Both the CRC and the PCA had been advocating this system whereby the larger denominations would be accorded more votes than the smaller denominations. The CRC and the PCA account for over 85% of the total membership of the NAPARC churches. After a brief discussion the plenary session voted to change the current system in which the larger denominations pay more money to support NAPARC. Dues from now on will be divided equally among all the member denominations.
The OPC proposed that NAPARC send a letter to the CRC containing the I following statement, “that this meeting of NAPARC ,express to ‘the Christian Reformed Church in North America its deep thanks to God for the decision in which He led the CRC Synod 1994 to disapprove the ordination of women to ruling and teaching office in the Church and to express the devout hope that that position will not change and that the Church will apply the disciplinary work of the Church to those who are in violation of this principle as stated in the Church Order of the CRC.” When the final vote came, the CRC and PCA stood alone in voting against sending the letter to the CRC. However, even the PCA’s support of the CRC was qualified. “The PCA hopes passionately that you stay on the course you have set, but we vote no on sending the letter,” Pen-in told the CRC delegates as he cast his denomination’s vote against the letter.
Reformed Believer’s Press Service
PCA Publishes Psalter
The Presbyterian Church in America has joined more traditional bodies by issuing a denominational psalter.The Trinity Psalter is a complete words-only psalter issued with a tune reference list and two styles of cover. Nearly half of the 18,000 first printing sold early in the year.
Unlike the popular Book of Psalms for Singing, theTrinity Psalter has only one set of words per psalm and there is verse-by-verse correspondence to Scripture. PCA pastor Terry Johnson compiled the book in consultation with Crown and Covenant Publications and in cooperation with Charles Burney, editor of the Book of Psalms for Singing. In addition to contemporary books, some tunes come from the 1871 psalter and the Irish psalter. The 130-page volume sells for $5.00, or less in quantity. The PCA does not sing psalms exclusively, but uses as well theTrinity Hymnal in worship. Nevertheless we are pleased to see this denomination publish a psalter, committed as the Protestant Reformed Churches are to exclusive psalmody in worship.
Population and The World’s Future
Recently at the United Nations sponsored International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo it was estimated that the world’s population (currently 5.7 billion) is almost certain to double by the end of the next century. Despite repeated predictions of disaster from most population activists, however, recent scientific studies indicate that world food production continues to outstrip population growth, and, rather than rising, food prices have declined over the last half century. According to some experts the planet’s “gross productive potential” (measured by the available land, climate, and sunlight) could support a trillion people. One of the policies for slowing population growth highlighted in the Conference was enhancing the educational, political, and economic opportunities of women, often over the objections of religious critics. “I think this conference can be seen as ending 2000 years of ecclesiastical authority or jurisdiction over marriage and women’s lives,” asserted Ellen Chesler, biographer of birth control advocate Margaret Sanger. “Medicine and science, not religion and belief, will govern family planning” Chesler went on to say.
While no one knows the day or the hour of our Lord’s return, we do know from Scripture the signs that indicate its nearness. These signs, as recorded inMatthew 24 and other passages, are occurring in our world with increasing rapidity and intensity. It would seem, therefore, that the world will not last another century. However that may be, one thing is certain, and that is that it is going to be increasingly difficult for the church and God’s people to maintain and live the biblical truth concerning marriage, child-bearing, and the place of women in the church in the days to come.
May God grant to us and all His saints in the world the grace to hold the traditions we have been taught from His Word on these matters too (II Thess. 2:15). And, may our prayer be, Come, Lord Jesus, yes, come quickly!