The first “news” about the synod is that there was a PRCA synod in the year 2020. The Board of Trustees and the calling church (Trinity PRC) together examined the executive orders of the state of Michigan and concluded that it would be possible to hold the sessions of synod in Trinity PRC, provided that certain regulations were followed. The consistory of Trinity and delegates of synod and their wives scattered throughout the sanctuary for the pre-synodical service on Monday evening, June 8. Shortly after officially convening on Tuesday, synod adopted the regulations proposed by the Board of Trustees. Attendance at the synod was granted only to twenty delegates (five ministers and five elders from both classes), the five seminary professors (advisors), and anyone who had official business at synod, that is, a member with a protest or appeal.
Trinity PRC is a fine place to hold synod with an abundance of space and classrooms. The excellent and thorough preparation and culinary skills of the caterers were obvious, and much appreciated by the delegates.
The bulk of the decisions has been reported to the churches through daily emails, as well as on the website of the churches (prca.org). Rather than repeat these reports, we call attention to only a few decisions with comments.
Synod adopted a significant statement of “Affirmations regarding Marriage, Sexuality, and Gender Identity.” This document sets forth the Reformed, biblical position on these practical issues facing the church of Jesus Christ especially in Western culture. The PRC has never considered it her calling to influence culture, and adopting this document is not intended to do so. The PRC has only spoken to “social issues” when the government policy was 1) contrary to Scripture, and 2) directly affected the lives of members. Two notable examples can be found in PRC history. The first has to do with Sabbath observance. The federal government was encouraging certain industries to work seven days a week to support the war effort, and the PRC synod wrote to federal authorities with her concerns and convictions. The second has to do with labor unions. The PRC synod wrote to government officials to ask that the unions not be allowed to force all workers in a business to join the union, again, demonstrating the biblical basis for this stand.
At this time, in the year 2020, United States government polices promote and support lifestyles in the areas of marriage, sexuality, and gender identity that are wholly contrary to God’s Word. Adopting such a statement makes it manifest that the PRC do and will by God’s grace maintain what the Bible requires. A denial of a specific request, for example, of a homosexual couple to use a church facility, will not be judged as an arbitrary discrimination against one couple but as an established religious principle and conviction. For the same reason, synod recommended that some form of this policy be adopted by each local congregation.
Synod adopted some changes that will affect children (and their parents who teach them). The memory verses of some of the catechism books were changed, upon the recommendation of the Catechism Book Committee. In some instances there is some relief in the length of the verses; in other books, memory verses will appear for the first time. Watch for future editions.
The two synodical committees with the longest reports are the Foreign Mission Committee (FMC) and the Committee for Contact with Other Churches (CC). The Lord has blessed the churches with much work in both these areas. The mission work in the Philippines constitutes the bulk of the FMC’s labors, with Doon PRC (the calling church). God continues to open many doors for preaching and teaching. And that is not merely for PRC missionaries. The ministers of our sister churches in the Philippines are likewise overwhelmed by requests for help, and several times a month they conduct Bible studies and preaching services in mission stations. The white horse continues to run. The Lord is pleased to use the PRC.
The Contact Committee reports with thanksgiving on good relations with the sister churches (Covenant PRC in Northern Ireland, the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore, and the PRC in the Philippines), as well as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia, with whom a corresponding relationship is maintained. The CC reports on a notable change in the situation of our sister in Northern Ireland in that the session voted to discontinue the mission work in Limerick in the Republic of Ireland. Subsequently, the missionary, Rev. M. McGeown, accepted a call to Providence PRC in Hudsonville, MI and awaits U.S. government approval for immigrating to the States. Word is, it could be many months.
The other notable element in the CC’s report is that the coronavirus has hindered travel to and from other churches. None of our sister churches was able to send a delegate to our synod this year. The CC has been unable to help Covenant (Singapore) with pulpit supply since March 8, and there is no end in sight for the restrictions in Singapore. Travel to South Korea, Namibia, Mexico, and Northern Ireland has been cancelled or postponed. We pray that God will open the way to maintain the relationships and give mutual aid and encouragement through personal visits and conferences.
The Lord abundantly provides for the PRC financially. This enables the small denomination to support four missionaries, five seminary professors and staff, and care for eighteen emeritus ministers or widows. Obviously there is no need to limit spending on a central part of the churches calling to “go…into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). In addition to the money coming by assessments and special collections, the PRC have benefited from many sizable bequests. Especially interesting are bequests from two individuals who were not members of the Protestant Reformed Churches that total over two and a half million dollars. One is covering the expenses of the transition of three professors in the seminary. Another is given specifically to the two mission committees for special projects. Let us use the money wisely, but also be encouraged to expand our labors as we have opportunity.
That brings us to another significant blessing, namely, that synod approved the entrance of two men from the churches into the seminary for the coming school year. We thank God, but continue—at synod’s urging— to petition for more ministers of the Word.
Synod appointed Georgetown PRC as the host for synod 2021, to convene Tuesday, June 8, 2021, the Lord willing. Synod completed her labors in four days, concluding at 6 p.m. Friday.
May God bless the work and decisions of the 2020 Synod. Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it (Ps. 127:1).