Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

Synodical Baggage

The Alliance of Reformed Churches held its annual meeting November 15-17, 1994 at the Lynwood Christian Reformed Church (Independent) in Lynwood, Illinois. One hundred and thrity-seven official delegates representing sixty-two congregations (forty-six independent Reformed, eleven Christian Reformed, four Presbyterian, and one Canadian Reformed) were present. In addition eight congregations sent official observers to the meeting. Fraternal greetings were brought by representatives of the Reformed Church in the United States (formerly known as Eureka Classis), the Canadian Reformed Churches, the Bible Presbyterian Church, and the Free Reformed Churches.

Dr. P. Y. DeJong, who recently left the CRC, spoke for the public inspirational meeting on the subject, “For Such A Time As This—The Reformed Faith.”

Christian Renewal has this, among other things, to say about the meeting, “As has been noted in the past and which also came to expression at this year’s meeting, different agendas are competing for a hearing, and none have spoken out too clearly or articulately as of yet. The identified agendas are as follows: those independent churches that wish to federate for the future security of their congregations; those churches that wish to participate in the development of a broadly based ecumenical body for the purpose of greater unity among Reformed and Presbyterian churches. Yet despite the frustration of many, both of the above agendas did make some progress toward their eventual realization. Baby steps, maybe, but steps nevertheless.”

A proposed Church Order was presented to the assembly for information. It was decided to recommend the proposed Church Order to the churches for study and response. It was also decided to mandate the Church Order Committee to formulate a Preamble to the proposed Church Order containing the biblical principles undergirding the Church Order. The committee was also instructed to consider a name for the churches represented by the Church Order. Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, professor at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, was added to the Church Order Committee.

It remains our firm conviction that these churches ought to federate under the Church Order of Dordt. If then they would recognize the great principle of the Dordt Church Order, the autonomy of the local church, they would be a Reformed denomination.

In a related matter, the Alliance appointed a committee. (Dr. P. Y. DeJong, Revs. J. Julien and R. Lanning, and Elder C. Wieringa) to “recommend specific ,Liturgical Forms (Baptism, Lord’s Supper, Profession of Faith, discipline, ordination and installation, and marriage) and a specific form of Subscription for use in the churches.”

The proposed change in the Purpose of the Alliance and the Basic Confessional Statement to include “either the Reformed Creeds of the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt, or the Westminster Standards,” as decided last year, was not ratified. Instead, by amendment the statement was made to read, “either the Three Forms of Unity, or the Westrninster Standards.” This was passed by a vote of 83 — 23. This matter will be up for ratification in the 1995 meeting. A study committee was appointed “to demonstrate to the churches the unity between the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards and to identify any differences which may exist between them, and to report at the 1995 meeting of the Alliance.” The committee consists of Revs. R. Lanning G. I. Williamson, G. Dodds, D. Royall, Elders D. Kloosterman and P. Yonker, and Dr. N. Kloosterman, and Dr. R. Venema.

A new committee for contact with other churches was appointed to deal with correspondence received, along with a letter from the Protestant Reformed Churches, and to “take such action as they deem necessary.” This committee is composed of Revs. P. Vellenga, R. Stienstra, R. Pontier and Elders R. Poll, P. Hopkins, and E. Kreykes.

Following the adjournment of the Alliance meeting, the Independent Churches met to discuss the possibility of federating. The Lynwood Church will act as calling church for a meeting of the Independent Churches to be held before summer. The churches will soon receive information about the forthcoming meeting along with an agenda.

The letter from the PRC referred to above was composed by the Contact Committee of the PRC in response to the PRC June 1994 synod’s mandate to the committee: “That synod authorize the Contact Committee to send observers to the Alliance of Reformed Churches this coming year if we are invited provided that the Alliance of Reformed Churches gives our observers the time to address the real issues between the Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Protestant Reformed Churches.” The letter went on to say, “… you will understand that we see little benefit in continuing to attend the Alliance meetings unless there is some real possibility of frank and open discussion of issues in doctrine, church polity and liturgy which divide us. Only through such discussion will it be possible for us to labor towards greater unity…. Brethren, we earnestly seek such discussion. We would even be delighted if the ARC would appoint a committee to discuss these matters with our committee in the interim between Alliance meetings. We wish you God’s blessing in the way of faithfulness to His truth.”

During the course of the Alliance’s, discussion of this letter, The Banner reports that the Rev. Edward Heerema commented, “Common Grace is not a confessional issue, we shouldn’t even discuss it. It’s synodical baggage we left behind US.” Rev. Heerema, longtime pastor in the CRC, son-in-law of R. B. Kuiper, now retired and a member of an Independent Reformed Church in Cape Coral, Florida, certainly knows better! The CRC herself, in her formulation of the Three Points of Common Grace, made reference to specific articles and parts of articles in the Three Forms of Unity to attempt to prove her statements re Common Grace. Common, Grace is much more than “synodical baggage.”

What is more, three ministers and their consistories were suspended and deposed by Classes Grand Rapids East and West of the CRC because they refused to subscribe to the Three Points. The CRC synod of 1926 upheld those suspensions and depositions. The result was the formation of the PRC. Heerema hasn’t forgotten this, has he? Now simply to call all this “synodical baggage” is untrue and grossly unfair.

If Heerema’s opinion prevails among the brothers of the Alliance churches, there will be no discussions between the Alliance churches and the PRC. That, in our opinion, would be tragic indeed. From day one the PRC has been willing and has pleaded with the CRC on several occasions to sit down with us and discuss these issues in the hope of resolving them and healing the breach. The CRC has persistently refused to do so. Now it appears that the Alliance will also refuse.

Undersigned is reminded of some personal correspondence between himself and his longtime friend, Rev. Jelle Tuininga, pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Lethbridge, Alberta. In one of my letters to Rev. Tuininga in which these matters were being discussed I wrote, “Jelle, we’re so near and yet so far.”

Acts of Synod of the PRC, 1994

The Banner

Christian Renewal

Minutes of the Alliance of Reformed Churches, 1994

Report of the Meeting of the Alliance of Reformed Churches, 1994