Prof. Hanko is professor of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
Many events have taken place in the work of the Committee for Contact With Foreign Churches, and it is time to report to our people on some of these activities.
In the latter part of August and the first part of September, Prof. David Engelsma traveled with his wife to England to speak at a Family Conference in Wales on August 31 to September 2. On the Sunday of August 26 Professor Engelsma preached for the Covenant Reformed Fellowship in Lame, Northern Ireland. While there he baptized two children of members of the Fellowship. The Conference itself, held at a beautiful Conference Grounds near Abergele, Wales, was sponsored by the British Reformed Fellowship. Prof. Engelsma spoke five times fromEphesians 5:22-6:4 on the Reformed view of marriage and the family Twenty-five to thirty adults were present at the Conference along with some children. Most of the people from Lame also attended. Prof. Engelsma reported to the Contact Committee that his addresses were well received and much interest in the Reformed faith was generated. During times of fellowship between the speeches and sermons many different subjects were discussed, not the least important of which was the relation of the Christian to civil government. The British Reformed Fellowship is an organization formed for the promotion of the Reformed faith in the British Isles and will be an important organization for the work of a missionary when the Lord provides us with such a man.
While Prof. Engelsma was in England, he spoke also for a group of about 20 people in Bristol on the sovereignty of God in salvation and genuine Reformed missions. This group was hastily assembled and the turnout was encouraging to those in Bristol who have long worked and prayed for a Reformed congregation to be established there. Mr. Tony Horne arranged the meeting. Those who attended the International Conference held in First Church last June will remember Mr. Home, who was present at the Conference. He is the publisher of a small paper called The Presbyterian. If any of our readers are interested in learning of events in the British Isles, they ought to subscribe to this paper.
This will probably be the last work of the Committee for Contact in Great Britain for some time. The work there has been transferred to the Domestic Mission Committee, which committee is working with Hudsonville congregation in the calling of a missionary to Larne, Northern Ireland and the British Isles.
On November 8 and 9 a meeting was held in Atlanta, Georgia of NAPARC (The North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council). Our churches have been invited to send an observer to this meeting, and the Contact Committee appointed Prof. Robert Decker to attend. The member churches of this organization are the following: Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Christian Reformed Church, Korean American Presbyterian Church, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America. Eighteen other churches, including our own denomination, will be sending observers. At the date of this writing, Prof. Decker has not yet left for this meeting. We will have opportunity to report to you on his trip in a later issue of The Standard Bearer.
Last June Rev. Bernard Woudenberg made a trip to Romania and Hungary. Although he went for other purposes than as a representative of our churches, he discussed his trip with the Committee for Contact, and, upon his return, submitted a detailed report of his trip. He informed us that he had opportunity to visit with some of the key leaders in the Reformed churches in these countries to discuss with them their own heritage and problems. He also visited two Seminaries in Hungary and one in Romania. He found churches which had held up well, spiritually, under the adversities of communist rule, and who are now struggling with problems which arise out of their newly acquired freedom. He found a people who have clung throughout their history to the Heidelberg Catechism as their creedal basis, and he was able to distribute several copies of The Triple Knowledge among the leaders. In reporting to our Committee on his trip, Rev. Woudenberg opened up several lines of contact which the Contact Committee is now in the process of pursuing.
Preparations have also been made for Rev. Woudenberg to go to Burnie, Tasmania for four months. As our readers know, the Contact Committee has been trying tot obtain supply for Burnie since the time Prof. H.C. Hoeksema returned to this country. The Lord has now given us the opportunity to send Rev. Woudenberg. He will be leaving, the Lord willing, December 4 and will be staying till the first of April. Needless to say, the saints in Burnie are eagerly looking forward to his coming. For the most part, they listen to tapes of sermons in their worship services which are prepared in our various congregations here in the states. We commend Rev. Woudenberg’s work in Tasmania to the prayers of God’s people.
In the meantime, the contacts between us and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church continue. Two of the ministers of the EPC, Revs. Chris Coleborn and Philip Burley, were present at our Conference last June and also attended our Synod meetings. In a meeting with representatives of our Contact Committee, these two brethren gave some suggestions on how we could make our contacts more significant. Various matters relating to their plans to send their students to our Seminary for instruction were also discussed. While, for the present, it is impossible to have full sister-church relations with the EPC of Australia, we are exploring what precisely our Constitution means by “less than sister-church relations.” Their Contact Committee and our Contact Committee are also discussing the whole question of purity of worship, one of the differences between us. Both Contact Committees have submitted papers outlining their respective positions. The original papers are being published in our Acts of Synod, 1990.
The Synod of our churches which met in June, 1990 decided to send one delegate from the Contact Committee and one delegate from the Foreign Mission Committee to Singapore to discuss matters of mutual interest and concern. Decisions were made in our Contact Committee and Foreign Mission Committee to send Rev. Russ Dykstra and Prof. Herman Hanko. They are making plans to go from December 18 to January 14.
At a meeting between the Contact Committee and Revs. Lau Chin Kwee and Jaikishin Mahtani, held at the time of Synod, our two brethren from Singapore explained to us the work that is being done in Singapore. Particularly, they discussed with us the opportunities they have to do mission work, especially in India, and the pressing need for the establishment of a Reformed Theological School in Singapore for the training of ministers. Rev. Mahtani has twice visited India and finds there an open door to the gospel. A Committee has also been formed by the Classis of the ERCS to oversee theological instruction. These two matters especially have a high priority, and this is the reason why one delegate is going from our Theological School and one from our Foreign Mission Committee. While there are a number of problems which have to be worked out, the labors of the ERCS are exciting. Not only is a door to the spread of the gospel standing open in India, but a theological school in Singapore could, under God’s blessing, be a powerful tool in the spread of the gospel in Southeast Asia. A report will be given to you after the return of the delegates.
Money has been collected in our churches for needy causes throughout the world which warrant our help. Recently a check for $2,000.00 was sent to the Measbro Dyke congregation of Barnsley England of which Rev. Philip Rawson is pastor. Rev. Rawson was also present at our Conference in June and many of our people were able to meet him and speak with him. Rev. Rawson distributes Protestant Reformed literature throughout England and defends vigorously the doctrines of sovereign grace.
These are some of the more important activities with which the Committee has been busy since Synod met last June. As apostasy spreads rapidly in so many of the churches in the world, God preserves groups, often small, of saints whose desire it is to maintain the truth of Scripture. Some of these groups we have the privilege of knowing. With them we desire greater and closer contact. We earnestly seek the prayers of Gods people as we struggle with the work, for we know that without Gods blessing, all our labors are in vain.