On Tuesday evening, June 21, 2005, the synod of the PRC adjourned, after having worked carefully and hard for seven days. The ten delegates from each classis joined Byron Center congregation in prayer and worship on Monday evening, where Rev. Kenneth Koole preached a fine sermon on John the Baptist’s declaration, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Each day, the delegates joined in prayer and worship before the Lord, seeking His wisdom and blessing for the work they recognize as His.
Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma capably led the synod’s sessions as president, assisted by the vice-president, Rev. Ronald VanOverloop. The synod’s clerks were Rev. Steven Key and Rev. Allen Brummel. The hosts—the Byron Center PRC family—were kind and generous.
The PRC Synod of 2005 will be remembered for many things, but not least for its painful struggles with regard to her relationship to the ERCS, her sister churches in Singapore, and her decision to conclude the foreign mission work in Ghana, West Africa. The work in Ghana will come to an end. Hull, IA, PRC, the calling church for Ghana, and the FMC are mandated to do what is necessary to close the field “in an orderly and brotherly manner and report to Synod 2006.” The grounds to close the field are compelling, if not sad, and reflect more on the PRC than on the field. May the Lord of the harvest teach us.
The relationship between the PRC and the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore (ERCS) is strained. That strain was evident when Mr. Dennis Lee, member of those churches, asked to be examined by the PRC synod with a view to candidacy in the PRC. Synod approved his request, but expressed the prayer that reconciliation would be accomplished by way of the ERCS adopting the biblical view of the permanency of the marriage bond, in order that Mr. Lee could serve in the ministry in the ERCS. Later, synod adopted the recommendation of the Committee for Contact with Other Churches that the relations between the churches continue as is (for the careful wording of and grounds for this motion, consult the official Acts of Synod). However, synod determined that the relationship would be suspended if the ERCS classis in August adopts “the unbiblical position allowing for remarriage after divorce…which may God graciously forbid…” (emphasis mine: BG). Then a delegation of three was appointed to travel to Singapore to speak at the special classis meeting, pray with the brothers, and express the PRC’s love-motivated concern for this most crucial matter of marriage. Rev. Jason Kortering, Rev. Carl Haak, and Elder Sid Miedema were appointed to make this trip.
The work was not all painful.
The joy of synod climaxed in the approval of the examinations of the two seminarians. Mr. John Marcus was declared a candidate, eligible for call mid-July. Synod made a provisional declaration for Mr. Dennis Lee’s candidacy—if he becomes a member of the PRC. A festive graduation ceremony was held on Monday evening, when the graduates were presented with their diplomas and congratulated by a church full of thankful members, friends, and the “Trinity Men Singers.” The four current seminarians were given good reports by the Theological School Committee. And synod granted student status to two more young men of the churches—Mr. Nathan Dykstra of Hudsonville PRC, and Mr. Cory Griess of Georgetown PRC (a son of our Loveland congregation). The Lord continues to provide capable and godly men for the churches. And a new policy was adopted that would increase the churches’ ability to give financial support to the seminary students through private collections.
Not any less joyful was the appointment by synod of Rev. Kenneth Koole to take the chair of Dogmatics and Old Testament Studies in the seminary, replacing Prof. David Engelsma, who has taught since 1988. Rev. Ronald Cammenga was elected alternate appointee, and will consider the appointment if Rev. Koole declines. Both men are seasoned preachers and capable theologians. From here, the process of replacement continues with the older professor continuing to teach while the newly appointed man prepares himself for the work. How long this process takes depends in part on the capability to continue of the man being replaced (as synod determines each year), and in part on the new man’s abilities to begin teaching. In connection with appointment of a new professor, a new procedure was adopted for the promotion and tenure of professors. Criteria were adopted for judging the competence of the man when he is “up for reappointment.”
Decisions on mission labors included a mandate to work toward the goal of a second missionary in the Philippines; the approval of the works in Northern Ireland, Spokane, WA, and Pittsburgh, PA; broadcast of the Reformed Witness Hour on stations near our mission works; and monies for investigating new fields. Synod declared that a calling church may administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper on the mission field under certain circumstances. And synod made a significant decision about the membership status of believers on the mission field: that they “are not, and need not be members of an instituted church. Ordinarily, as long as the mission continues, they are simply members of the mission.” This new direction for mission work will be read with interest and care by the PRC membership—as well as by those “joining” our mission works.
The Committee for Contact with other churches rescheduled an “International Conference” with our brothers from the EPC of Australia for 2006. Synod encouraged the Contact Committee to work with the EPC on “having their students admitted to our seminary and authorized to speak a word of edification” in our churches.
An important new study edition of the creeds called “The Confessions and the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches,” in the works now for many years, was finally approved by synod and will be printed and distributed among the churches at a selling price of nine dollars. May the Lord use this for our development in the knowledge of the biblical faith, especially among our youth!
Synod approved finances for support of emeriti ministers and/ or their widows and dependents, for support of the needy churches, and an annual budget for 2006 of $1,406,700, and $825 per family per year—a decrease of $41 per family from 2005.
Next year’s synod will meet, if the King is willing and tarries, in Faith PRC, Jenison, MI. May God preserve the Protestant Reformed denomination.