Rev. Kortering is a Protestant Reformed minister-on-loan to Singapore.
It was my privilege to be present at the annual meeting of the Classis of the Evangelical Reformed Churches of Singapore which met at Covenant Church on Saturday, February 27. It was with great joy that we could observe as well as participate in the discussions which led to the decisions which had to be made. Besides the delegates, Pastor Mahtani was also present to participate. The Lord has greatly blessed these churches, and there is abundant evidence of their increasing ability to handle ecclesiastical matters.
Though the denomination consists of two churches, Covenant and First, they have in place the necessary checks and balances which distinguish a Reformed-Presbyterian system of church government from an Independent system. The Committees and Sessions prepare their material for the agenda and forward it to the Stated Clerk, who publishes the agenda at least one month prior to the meeting of Classis. Both Sessions meet ahead of time and go over the agenda and decide what points they desire to raise at the meeting of Classis. This is quite important; for the six men delegated to Classis (three from each church) carry quite a bit of weight, and they want to be sure that they understand the mind of the Sessions. In some instances the members of a Session might want to suggest a certain course of action with respect to an item on the agenda for Classis. Such a recommendation is not binding upon the delegates, but is taken as information to be considered in the process of making a decision that is according to the Word of God and our Reformed Confessions. In this way, reports of committees and requests for action which are not contested by either Session are treated with dispatch. The Classis focuses attention on matters which have to be worked out in greater detail, matters on which the Sessions may have expressed different viewpoints. This works very well, since the Classis meets only once a year, on Saturday afternoon, and the delegates do not have the luxury of extra time.
Under the capable leadership of Pastor Lau, the meeting moved right along, and enough time was given for discussion and careful consideration. The meeting lasted from 2 P.M. until 8:30 P.M. The decisions that were taken will be prepared by the Stated Clerk and made available to the membership of both churches.
Since the work of the churches is a spiritual work, time is taken at the beginning of the meeting for a devotional. Pastor Lau gave an exhortation on the prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17. He gave a refreshing overview of this prayer and reminded his listeners that Jesus prayed that the Father might “sanctify them through thy truth, (for) thy word is truth.” The true unity of the church is their oneness with the Father. It is this which motivates the church to work hard for the great gathering of the entire church of our Lord. This message set a good tone for the work which followed.
The reports which came to Classis were the following: General Reports from Covenant and First; and reports from the Denominational Study Committee, Contact Committee, Joint Mission Committee, Theological Training Committee, and the Denominational Finance Committee.
By way of explanation, the General Reports from each Session include a rather detailed description of the present state of the congregation and what activities are going on in the furtherance of the gospel. This includes the preaching ministry, the teaching ministry, pastoral visitation, discipline, evangelism, diaconate work, and statistics of the membership. In this way there is a certain accountability, much like the work of church visitation by the Classes in the PRC.
Among the statistics given, we take note that FERC has 73 brothers (50 married, 23 single) and 83 sisters (46 married and 37 single); 49 families, 67 children (31 males, 36 females); 4 adult baptisms were held last year, 2 confessions of faith, 8 infant baptisms, 1 transfer in, 4 transfers out, 3 resignations. CERC has 18 brothers (12 married, 1 divorced, 5 single) and 22 sisters (13 married, 9 single); 12 families, 24 children (15 males, 9 females); 5 infant baptisms, 1 transfer out, 2 resignations.
The reports indicate too that much work is being done to build up the church spiritually.
The Denominational Study Committee has just completed its work, and the Classis has set up a more permanent Denominational Development Committee. The former committee was entrusted with a number of important projects. The most time consuming was to formulate the Constitution of the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore. This is a legal document which is now being filed with the Registry of Societies, a necessary move in order that they can function officially as a Classis and hold property and bank accounts. The committee was also instructed to prepare documents on “Overture,” “Protest,” “Appeal,” “Classical censure,” and “Procedures Dealing with Doctrinal Controversies.” All of these were submitted to Classis and approved. These now constitute the ground work for orderly dealing with issues within the churches. The supervision of the registry with the government will be made by the new DDC. The new committee is also instructed to study and recommend the adoption of a Church Order. A constitution for this committee was also adopted.
The Contact Committee reported on the letter which they sent to the PRC regarding consideration of Pastor Mahtani for a call. They also informed Classis that they had written both Sessions requesting that they deal with the issue of the covenant, in view of the letter received from the Synod of the PRC. One Session responded, the other did not. Classis instructed the Session to reply to the Contact Committee in order that they may then compose a reply. The Committee also informed Classis they had received a letter of apology from the Free Reformed Church of Australia regarding insensitive comments in their Synod Report of 1990 and that the CC had accepted this apology. The Contact Committee also received oral information of a possible visit of a pastor from the FRCA to Singapore in March. This will afford opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings and to discuss possible dealings with each other. (A previous Classis decided not to work toward Sister church Relationship.)
The Joint Mission Committee Report included the information that the work in Penang, Malaysia was terminated, since the group there decided to request a Reformed Baptist pastor to work with them. The recommendation to continue to develop the Indian field by way of correspondence and printed material, including courses, tracts, books, Bibles, and audio and visual material, was approved. If this should prove effective, the funds were approved for a future visit for the purpose of intensive instruction in India for a brief period. Effort will also be put forth to develop evangelism work here in Singapore itself. The committee was instructed to continue to explore different possibilities in which the churches can cooperate in this work.
The Theological Training Committee reported with thankfulness to God that student Cheah Fook Meng is ready for his studies in the USA. He is finishing his work at Far Eastern Bible College and a course on the Belgic Confession with Pastor Kortering. FERC has agreed to administer the Student Aid Fund to raise one-half of his support while in the States. Classis also approved the request from FERC that CERC raise seventy percent of this amount, and FERC take thirty percent, since First Church has their building program and Covenant has no financial responsibility for a pastor. The TTC will also supervise the progress of the student’s work in the Theological School of the PRC while in the States. The program of lectures by Pastor Kortering was approved. These include lecture series on the church order, missions, and eschatology.
The Denominational Finance presented a financial statement of the work of Classis. They also proposed approval of the requests of each of the committees. Since the financial aid for the student will be administered outside the expenses of classis, the amount approved by Classis was US$6,000.00. Classis also approved a constitution for this committee.
After these decisions were made, Classis discussed the role of Pastor Kortering in the churches’ activities. Since he is loaned by the PRC to assist them, the churches together faced this question. Covenant requested Classis to approve his continuing as pastor in that church for one more year. The reason given was that the congregation was settling down after going through the difficulties, and that it would be helpful for the building up of the congregation if this could continue without interruption. Classis approved this request. They also decided that the oversight of Rev. Kortering’s work in the denomination be administered by Covenant in consultation with First Church.
The next meeting of Classis was set for February 26, 1994 at First Church. It was with particular gratitude to God that this motion could be passed, for, the Lord willing, their new church building will be ready for use by that time. We include a few pictures of the “model” and the construction site. This is quite an unusual structure, designed to take advantage of limited ground level space, and to expand as it goes up the hill. As a result it has five levels, the lowest being much like a “void deck,” open and usable for more informal meetings; the next level for offices and Sunday School classrooms; the third level for car parking and pastor’s study; the fourth level for auditorium; and fifth level like a mezzanine or balcony. I do not have available the square footage. The land cost about US$565,000.00 and the building will cost about US$750,000.00. The members have been very generous to underwrite the cost, so that only a rather small amount has to be borrowed from the bank. For those in the PRC who know what it is like to meet in public auditoriums, it will be easy to appreciate the anticipation of FERC and the entire denomination to see this building completed and put to use.
We trust this report will update the readers of the Standard Beaver concerning the work of the ERCS. Continue to pray for us that, though small in number, we may be a powerful influence for the good of the gospel here in Singapore and wherever Almighty God gives us opportunity to bring the good news of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ. Repeatedly the saints here express their appreciation for the PRC’s having arranged to have us in their midst. On their behalf, we extend greetings to our readers.