Under the leadership of its president, Rev. Ronald VanOverloop, the 2003 synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) finished its work early Tuesday afternoon, June 17. Rev. Carl Haak was vice-president; Rev. Steven Key was first clerk; Rev. Charles Terpstra was second clerk.
Synod met in the building of the Hudsonville, Michigan PRC.
Rev. James Slopsema led the worship service with which synod always begins. The service was held on Monday evening, June 9. Rev. Slopsema preached onMatthew 16:18, “I Will Build My Church.” The sermon is the meditation in this issue of the Standard Bearer.
Much of the first three days of synod was taken up with the oral examination of Mr. William Langerak, senior seminarian at the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary. Synod approved Mr. Langerak’s examination and declared him a candidate for the office of the ministry of the Word and Sacraments in the PRC. Mr. Langerak will be eligible for a call on or after July 12, 2003.
The Theological School Committee conducted graduation exercises for Mr. Langerak and for Mr. Paul Goh, the other senior seminarian at the Protestant Reformed Seminary, on the evening of June 16. Prof. David J. Engelsma spoke on “The Indispensable Qualification for the Gospel-Ministry.” The first part of this address appears elsewhere in this issue. Elder Loh Peng Kee, official representative of the Contact Committee of the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore (ERCS), expressed the thanks of the Singapore churches for the help of the PRC particularly in training their seminarians. On behalf of the ERCS, he presented the seminary with the gift of a lovely clock.
Another important decision concerning the seminary was synod’s appointment of Rev. Barrett Gritters, pastor of the Hudsonville, Michigan congregation, as Professor of Practical Theology and New Testament. He is to replace Prof. Robert Decker, who is retiring. Rev. Gritters has three weeks to decide on the appointment. Synod chose Rev. Ronald Cammenga as alternate.
Synod granted Prof. Russell Dykstra permanent tenure at the seminary. Prof. Dykstra has completed seven years of commendable work at the seminary. The admission of one student to the seminary in the coming year was approved. That only one man is entering seminary this coming school year points up the need in the PRC for men who are moved by Christ to seek the ministry. There are three vacant churches; Hull, Iowa continues to call a second missionary to Ghana; in the next four years—the time of one’s seminary training—men now active in the ministry will reach, or be nearing, the age of emeritation.
Synod adopted a proposed change to Article X of the Constitution of the Theological School Committee that requires consistories to be more thorough in their recommendation of men to the seminary. The change requires a consistory’s recommendation to explain that the aspiring seminarian
is a member in full communion, sound in faith, upright in walk, and exhibits the qualities and personality necessary for a gospel minister. Such recommendation ought to contain the consistory’s evaluation of the applicant’s spiritual and intellectual gifts, as well as any areas of concern. The application shall also provide a certificate from a reputable physician showing him to be in good health.
Contact with Other Churches
The Committee for Contact with Other Churches (CC) informed synod of encouraging contact with the Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Wingham, Ontario, Canada. The consistory of this congregation has sought contact with the PRC. At the request of Wingham, synod approved occasional pulpit supply by Protestant Reformed ministers and the administration of the Lord’s Supper, subject to certain stipulations. All of the consistory members of the Wingham congregation were present at synod for two full days. During this time, the student was examined, and synod discussed the matters of contact with Wingham. Later, synod received a letter from the Wingham consistory expressing the appreciation of theconsistory members for their warm reception by synod and by members of the PRC and for the Reformed character of the deliberations of synod. Synod encouraged the CC to work with the Wingham congregation in seeking closer ties with the PRC.
Synod approved participation of the PRC in an international conference in Australia in 2005 that is being planned by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia (EPC). At the time of the conference, a professor of the Protestant Reformed Seminary will teach a post-graduate course for the ministers of the EPC, as the EPC has requested.
The CC informed synod that the Committee for Ecumenical and Interchurch Relations of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church has invited the CC to meet with them in Philadelphia this September to discuss the paper by John Murray and Ned Stonehouse on the “free offer of the gospel.” Synod approved the acceptance of the invitation by the CC.
Synod instructed its CC
to express to the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore (ERCS) the urgent need for the ERCS to come to a stand as a denomination on [the] divorce/remarriage issue…. The PRC urge the ERCS to see the need to place priority at this time in their denominational life to arrive at a denominational stance on the issues relating to divorce and remarriage…. Therefore, the PRC encourage our sister church—the ERCS—prayerfully and diligently to pursue their study on these issues, using the resources of our minister-on-loan as well as the development of these truths in the PRC, in order to arrive at a clear and biblical denominational position on the issue of divorce and remarriage, to God’s glory, the unity of our denominations, and the spiritual well-being of her members.
Synod decided to send emissaries annually to the ERCS and invited the ERCS to send emissaries to the annual synod of the PRC, in order to develop further the sister-church relationship.
Both Rev. Wayne Bekkering, missionary to Ghana, and Rev. Audred Spriensma, missionary to the Philippines, were present at synod. Both addressed synod concerning their work. The discussion of foreign missions resulted in synod’s appointing a study committee to investigate the existing policies in our various synodical committees regarding furloughs and vacations for missionaries and the existing policies in other denominations relative furloughs and vacations for missionaries. This committee is to advise Synod 2004 on establishing a coherent and equitable policy regarding furloughs and vacations for our missionaries and for our minister-on-loan. The study committee is Mr. David Ondersma and Mr. Donald Doezema.
On the recommendation of the Hudsonville Council and the Domestic Mission Committee (DMC), synod decided to continue the work with the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship in Northern Ireland with Ballymena as the base of mission labors in the British Isles. Consisting now of six families and five individuals, the Fellowship is united and committed to the Reformed faith in every respect. Hudsonville will be the calling church. Hudsonville Council has informed synod that it will propose to the congregation to call Rev. Angus Stewart by approbation as missionary to the British Isles. Synod had earlier in its sessions approved the actions of its synodical deputies in concurring with the decision of Classis East to receive Rev. Stewart as a minister of the PRC.
Synod heard a letter from the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship of Northern Ireland expressing the gratitude of the Fellowship to the PRC for their support during the recent troubles of the church in Northern Ireland. Mr. Ivan Reid, sent by the Fellowship for this purpose, addressed synod on behalf of the Fellowship, informing synod of the present condition of the work and thanking the PRC for their continuing support.
The DMC informed synod of the disbanding of the church in Spokane, Washington with which missionary Thomas Miersma had been working. Synod decided to renew the work in Spokane with some families that remain committed to the PRC and their work by means of Rev. Miersma.
Other Matters of Interest
The 2002 Synod had instructed Classis East to inquire into the viability of Covenant PRC, Wyckoff, New Jersey. Classis East reported to synod that Covenant, though small, is a viable congregation. This year’s synod decided to inform Classis East that if the present situation in Covenant continues, approval of subsidy by synod will be in jeopardy. The grounds include that the small size of Covenant is not conducive to good spiritual life in the congregation; that certain circumstances in the congregation are cause for serious concern, among which is that the majority of young people do not remain with the congregation; and that it is not good stewardship of finances or pastors to continue to support congregations of this small size to which God does not give growth. Classis East will monitor the condition of the Covenant congregation and evangelism activity of Covenant.
Synod was informed by its Yearbook Committee that the denomination grew by some 35 families the past year. The PRC now number more than 1,700 families and nearly 7,000 members.
Synod adopted a budget for denominational work in the amount of $1,599,415. Of this, about $705,400, or almost half of the total budget, is for missions, including the minister-on-loan to the Singapore churches. $445,900 is for the Theological Seminary. Each family in the denomination will be assessed $845 in 2004 for denominational work. This is the same as in 2003.
Synod accepted the invitation of the Hull, Iowa church to host the 2004 meeting of synod. Synod will convene in Hull, Iowa on June 8, 2004, God willing.
It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to the synod of the PRC so to decide.