Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
“This was no Christian meeting,” said Faye Short about the RE-Imagining Conference partially sponsored by the United Methodist Church. Short, a representative of the Evangelical Coalition of United Methodist Women (ECUMW), said the November meeting was heretical, neo-pagan, and blasphemous. The meeting, held in Minneapolis and attended by 2,150 women and 60 men, was designed to celebrate the midpoint of World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity With Women.
The speakers, most of them feminist theologians, led participants in “re-imagining” a church where everyone shares common visions of spirituality. Attenders borrowed from Native American and Eastern faiths, in what critics called a syncretic approach to Christianity. (“Syncretism” is a combining of conflicting beliefs. In other words, it’s a compromising of the truth of Scripture with unbelief.) A very unorthodox liturgical blessing and communion-like service was held in which milk and honey were used. The ceremony invoked the wisdom spirit of “Sophia, Creator God” in a celebration of women’s sensuality and “warm body fluids.” Themes of goddess worship and the invalidity of the concept of sin were pervasive, said Presbyterian Layman Editor Parker Williamson. Because the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) helped fund the conference, several churches have voted to withhold financial contributions to- the denomination’s headquarters.
National & International
Dutch Churches Adopt New Church Order
For a number of years we have been reporting on the unification process involving three Dutch denominations. The process, called samen op weg (together on the way), involves the Netherlands Reformed Church (State Church), the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (formed out of the secessions from the State Church in 1834 and 1886), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Netherlands.
The union is now about to be realized. In November delegates from the three churches adopted a church order by a vote of 179 to 19. Most of the 19 negative votes came from conservatives within the State Church.
The new church order contains an article on baptism which does not mention infant baptism. An amendment was proposed that specified that children of the congregation should be baptized, and that others should be baptized after making confession of faith. The amendment failed.
The new church order appears to allow children to the Lord’s table. Conservatives protested that this was still under discussion in the Netherlands Reformed Churches. In the end the article was adopted with only 20 negative votes.
The new church order has no statement on marriage. This provoked a lengthy discussion in which questions were raised concerning the church’s role in “covenant relations,” homosexual relationships, and people who lived together without being married. Several proposed amendments were defeated. The synod appointed a study committee to deal with these issues.
We wonder about a number of matters once the union is completed. What will the relationship be between the united church and the Christian Reformed Church in North America? The CRC has maintained close ties with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands for many years. The two denominations in fact instituted the Reformed Ecumenical Synod (now known as the Reformed Ecumenical Council) in the late 1940s. Will the new church apply for membership in the Reformed Ecumenical Council?
One thing about which no one need wonder is the fact that the union will do nothing to promote or maintain the Reformed faith as that faith is taught in Scripture and set forth in the Three Forms of Unity.
REC News Exchange
North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council
This body met in Grand Rapids, Michigan on November 9 and 10. NAPARC consists of six member denominations: The Christian Reformed Church, The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, The Presbyterian Church in America, The Reformed Presbyterian Church, The Korean American Presbyterian Church, and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Sixteen other Reformed and Presbyterian Churches, including the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, were invited to send “observer representatives.”
Though the interim committee recommended that the Reformed Churches in the United States’ application for membership be approved, the plenary session once more decided to postpone action on this application for one year. Concern was expressed by delegates from the larger denominations at last year’s meeting and again this year, that admitting the RCUS and other smaller denominations would give these denominations a majority in NAPARC. Other delegates were opposed to admitting the RCUS because of the latter’s participation in the Alliance of Reformed Churches, which consists largely of independent congregations which have seceded from the CRC in recent years. It will be interesting to see what NAPARC does with the RCUS next year.
The Council also passed a motion proposed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to send a letter to the CRC expressing concern about its violation of Scriptural principles and its own Belgic Confession in the 1993 decision to allow congregations to ordain women to the offices of minister and elder. Following this another motion was passed “out of deep love for our brothers and sisters in the CRC and with a humble spirit to establish a pastoral committee” to meet with representatives of the CRC about women officebearers.
Alliance of Reformed Churches
This group of churches (59 churches and 130 delegates) consists largely of independent congregations which have seceded from the Christian Reformed Church. The Alliance met in Lynwood, Illinois last November. As was true last year, the Protestant Reformed Churches were invited to send observer delegates. Revs. Charles Terpstra and Ronald Van Overloop represented the PRC.
Recognizing the need to federate, the Alliance appointed a committee to work on a church order. Among other decisions the Alliance adopted a procedure for the examination of those seeking ordination into the ministry of the Word and Sacraments.
The Alliance also adopted a recommendation to contact specific conservative Reformed bodies with two questions: “Are they interested in working toward federative unity with the independent churches, and if so, what procedure would they suggest?” The churches to be contacted are the Canadian Reformed Churches, the Free Reformed Churches, the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches, the Protestant Reformed Churches, the Orthodox Presbyterian Churches, the Christian Presbyterian Church, and the Reformed Church in the United States.
Reformed Believers Press Service