Mr. Kregel is a member of Grandville PRC and serves on the denominational Contact Committee.
The motion carries that a committee of correspondence be appointed to perform all preliminary work toward correspondence with the churches in the Netherlands. Revs. J. DeJong, H. Hoeksema, and G.M. Ophoff are appointed by the chair to serve on this committee” (Article 69, Acts of Synod, 1945). Sixty-one years ago, the Committee For Contact With Other Churches had its origin as a “committee of correspondence” with a very narrow mandate from synod. Over the ensuing years, both the committee itself, and, more importantly, its mandate, have grown.
In 1951, the committee was instructed by synod to draw up a constitution as a standing committee of synod. In 1953 that first constitution was adopted. It contained the charge to the committee to “study the advisability of entering into correspondence with certain churches or church federations, but only after Synod has charged it with some preliminary investigation.” In 1972, a revised constitution expanded the duties of the committee. Not only were they to “carry out all mandates of synod with respect to the investigation and negotiation of contacts with other churches,” but now there was this added mandate: “The committee shall study the advisability of seeking official relationships with other churches, even without any specific synodical mandate; and when it deems this proper, it shall put forth every effort to contact such churches, in harmony with the principles and requirements set forth in this constitution.” And what are these “principles”? The constitution describes them as these: “In general, Holy Scripture, together with the subordinate standards of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Specifically, the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 54, the Belgic Confession of Faith, Articles 27-29, the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches, Article 85.” Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in writing to young Timothy describes the church as the “pillar and ground of the truth.” The Catechism in answer 54 speaks of “…a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith.” The Belgic Confession (Article 27) says this of the church: it is “joined and united with heart and will, by the power of faith, in one and the same spirit.” These principles must guide the committee in all its work, as we “seek to manifest the true unity and catholicity of the church on earth in as far as that is possible” (Constitution, Preamble).
The current makeup of the committee is as follows: Revs. Ronald Cammenga, Kenneth Koole, and Ronald VanOverloop; Professors Robert Decker and Russell Dykstra, and Elders Norwin Brower, David Ondersma, and the undersigned. What follows is a short synopsis of our labors in the past year.
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland
The difficult events of the past year in Northern Ireland have been chronicled by another writer in a recent issue of this magazine. The work of the Contact Committee now lies with the congregation itself. This is, in part, because synod 2000 decided fully to implement sister-church relationships with this congregation. With joy we can report that their commitment to the Reformed faith remains strong. They look forward with great anticipation to the day when they will have their own undershepherd. Angus Stewart graduated this spring from our seminary, and will be able soon to take up his labors there. At the request of Covenant, our synod conducted Sem. Stewart’s examination. This examination was another blessed result of our sister-church relationship with Covenant. In the interim, the committee arranged for several of our ministers to travel to Northern Ireland over the past eight months. Rev. Gise VanBaren was also able to spend about six weeks there this past winter.
Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore
Rev. Kortering continues to be very busy. Again this year he took on added preaching and pastoral responsibilities in First ERCS while Pastor Lau finished his studies in our seminary. He also is busy in the mission work of the ERCS. In late March, he traveled to India for a week. Then, two weeks later, he went to Myanmar for a month to teach the pastors there. In addition there are Youth Group meetings, Theological Training Committee meetings, Joint Mission Committee meetings, and messages to prepare for the Family Camp. Pray that the Lord may continue to give Rev. Kortering the strength to continue his labors. Rev. Kortering’s term in Singapore ends in June of 2002. To that end, Hope PRC Walker (the calling church) has sent out several calls for his replacement. We pray that the Lord will send the man of His choosing, in His time.
Acting on a recommendation of Rev. Kortering, the Contact Committee has combined three funds: Scholarship, Book, and Emergency, transferred them to the jurisdiction of the Synodical Treasurer, and set it up as an Endowment Fund. These monies can now be invested according to synodical guidelines, and should then provide and ongoing source of support for the Theological School of the ERCS.
The Committee has also been busy with conferences this past year. In keeping with synodical decisions of 1999 and 2000, we held a day-long conference with the Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity of the United Reformed Churches. This conference was held at our seminary on September 11, 2000. Papers were exchanged on the doctrine of the covenant, and also the confessional status of both the doctrine of the covenant and of common grace. A follow-up conference is tentatively scheduled for fall, 2001. The topics for discussion include the scope of the covenant and the relationship between election and the covenant.
Also in keeping with synodical decisions, we held a conference with a delegation from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The purpose of this meeting was the discussion of a set of propositions that had been drawn up by the respective committees. These propositions had to do with the preaching of the gospel and the free offer. A further discussion has been proposed for the coming year, the Lord willing. This discussion would center in the Murray-Stonehouse Report, which is the prevailing position in the OPC regarding the free offer of the gospel.
In March, a delegation of two committee members traveled to Rowlett (Dallas), Texas to visit the First Presbyterian Church. During this Friday to Monday visit, the delegation laid out for Pastor Richard Bacon and his Session our history, doctrinal positions, distinctive practices, and our organic life as PRC. We were very warmly received by both the Session and the entire congregation. Much agreement was found, specifically regarding God’s sovereignty as it relates to salvation, creation, providence, and Scripture. It is the desire of our committee to develop this contact further.
Tentative plans also have been made for a conference with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia to be held in Australia in the summer of 2002. Consideration is being given to inviting also the sister churches of the PRC, as well as some contacts which the EPC has.
In all of our conferences and contacts, our men speak forthrightly, without compromise, and without apology for the great heritage which the Lord in His grace has entrusted to our care. So few today stand with us in the Reformed faith. We ask for the prayers of the churches as we seek to “manifest the true unity and catholicity of the church” (Constitution, Preamble).