Rev. Coleborn is pastor of the Brisbane Congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia.
Brethren of the P.R.C. Synod,
Thank you for the privilege of inviting me to address you. I bring Christian greetings from the E.P.C. Synod, and the prayer that the Lord would keep you in. His truth, and use you in His service in these days in which we live.
Pastor Burley and I have come from a far land to observe your Synod and to address you. This is most unusual for us, and I think unusual for you too. Why is it unusual that we would visit one another’s churches, and address one another’s Synods? It is not because we are so far removed that we do not have others to visit and address us. It is not a geographical or social reason. It is unusual because we do not often find churches who are fully committed to the absolute sovereignty of God and His particular grace. We do not often find churches who are unashamedly historic Reformed/Presbyterian Confessional churches. We are thus glad to be here because of this commonness, and to encourage one another in these things.
We are also here to give expression to our belief in the great biblical truth of the catholicity of the church. We believe in “the holy catholic church.” It is difficult in these days of a perverted ecumenical spirit to give a proper expression of our belief in the essential unity and universality of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is easier in fact for us to stay at home, and for you to stay at home: you in your small comer and we in our own. But this calling to recognize the doctrine of the catholicity of the church is from the Lord Himself, and we cannot fail to heed His call. For this reason also we desire contact.
There are differences between us. We are in the process of discussing them with your Contact Committee. Only time will tell where and to what extent these differences will affect our relationship. These differences are in areas important to both our denominations, and therefore we must seek in the grace of the Holy Spirit to respect one another as we discuss them, and to walk with understanding and patience. We trust these differences will not be stones of stumbling to us, but stepping stones to a greater understanding and appreciation of one another, and a stimulus to a greater study of the Word of God. May it be as iron sharpens iron to make us better instruments in His service.
We have things in common not only in the crucial area of the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty but also in our respective histories, and the various experiences the Lord has led our churches through. We also have much in common in seeking to apply the doctrines of God’s Covenant to our daily life, such as in Christian education.
The Lord in His providence has brought our paths to cross. It is not chance. I trust and pray we will be able to have a relationship such as our Reformed fathers of Scotland and Holland had, where they assisted and helped one another in the good fight of faith in their generation. May our generation do likewise. In this day and age, the glory of God and the welfare of the church demand it.
Because of our differences, your churches’ definition of a “sister church” makes it impossible for us to be “sister churches.” We therefore plead that your Synod would spell out in practical terms what a “less than sister church” relationship means.
May the Lord Jesus Who walks in the midst of His churches by His Spirit be in your midst, to guide you in all your deliberations, and to bless you in all your labors in His cause.