By now, all the delegates of the upcoming Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches have received and begun to study the agenda for the meetings. Each officebearer of every consistory has also received a copy of this year’s relatively slim agenda. Because the agenda is not private, also the membership of the PRC and any interested observers may know what issues the churches will be deliberating at this gathering.
Synod is the PRC’s broadest (denomination-wide) assembly. Classis meetings are not as broad; they are regional assemblies, with two delegates from each consistory in the classis. For synod, each classis delegates ten men (five elders and five ministers) to represent the classis at synod. So the synod is the broadest representation of the churches. Because synod asks the seminary professors to attend the meetings as non-voting advisors, the tables are usually circled by twenty-four or twenty-five men.
This year’s synod will be held at Faith PRC in Jenison, MI, on June 13, 8:30A.M.
The agenda is slim—fewer than 100 pages this year.
There are no controversies set before synod for adjudication. No signs of division or proposals for departure. This agenda may be significant for its proportions. Fifty-three of the ninety-two pages treat the mission labors of the denomination. The other thirty-nine pages include everything else.
But the pages in the agenda do not reflect accurately what will occupy a great deal of synod’s time. Again, the first few days will be devoted to an examination of seminary students—this year, Mr. Andrew Lanning and Mr. Clayton Spronk. May the Lord strengthen these men to sustain the exams. Visitors are welcome to observe. Call a delegate or the church to find out the times.
The major items in the agenda include:
Committee for Contact with Other Churches (CC)
The CC reports on contacts with our sister churches in Singapore, the Evangelical Reformed Churches. The Lord took suddenly from their midst one of their pastors, Rev. Cheah Fook Meng. The CC sent a delegation to express the PRC’s condolences and to offer assistance if any was needed. But the relationship between the PRC and the ERCS is strained on account of differences on the doctrine of divorce and remarriage. The ERCS Classis (their broadest gathering) planned to meet again at the end of April to make final decisions regarding the doctrine and, thus, the future of the denomination. The CC asks for synod’s permission to send another delegation to Singapore if the ERCS’s decisions would make a visit necessary.
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia (EPC) cancelled on account of “present circumstances” a planned conference that would have included Protestant Reformed representatives. The EPC desires to reschedule as soon as possible. Good to report is the decision of the EPC to send one of their members, Dr. David Torlach, to study for the ministry in the PRC’s seminary. Dr. Torlach and his wife have five children. Their needs will be overseen by the CC and a local congregation. They will be arriving in the States, God willing, this summer.
The Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship of Northern Ireland seeks to be reorganized as a congregation this summer. Hudsonville, MI, PRC’s council (calling church for the mission work in Northern Ireland) requests that sister- church relations be established between the newly organized church and our denomination, as existed in the past. Normally the process to establish such a relationship takes two years. The CC is asking synod to shorten the process to one year, so that the new congregation will not be independent, without a “court of appeal,” for so long. Also good to report are the plans of a member of the fellowship, Mr. Martyn McGeown, to enroll in the PRC seminary. The CC asks authorization to assist in the support of the brother during his studies.
The active CC reports on contacts with three other groups, contacts too new to publicize names.
Classis East and Classis West
In addition to delegating representatives to synod, each of the classes submits request for financial assistance for the needy churches in its region. Each classis requests subsidy for three churches, totaling nearly $190,000US for 2007 (approximately $2 per denominational family per week).
At Synod 2004’s request, Classis East gives its annual report on the viability of Covenant (Wyckoff, NJ) PRC. Classis recommends that synod declare that Covenant is a viable congregation and worthy of continued subsidy. Classis grounds its recommendation on the availability of men to serve in office, and the desirability of a witness on the US’s East coast.
Domestic Mission Committee (DMC)
The DMC reports on its work in four areas: Northern Ireland, Western USA, Eastern USA, and “other contacts.”
Because of increased membership and attendance, the fellowship in Northern Irelandis requesting organization this summer. The fellowship has nine families and seven individuals, and men qualified for office. Both Hudsonville PRC (calling church) and the DMC are recommending approval of this request. After organization, if missionary Rev. Angus Stewart receives and accepts a call to the new church, his membership would be transferred there from Hudsonville. The DMC also asks synod’s permission to consult with Hudsonville and the church in Northern Ireland about further mission work in the United Kingdom.
The PRC’s eastern home missionary is stationed in Pittsburgh. When Missionary Mahtani accepted a call elsewhere after eight years in Pittsburgh, Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma accepted the call to labor there. Southwest (Grandville, MI) PRC, the calling church for eastern home missions, reports that the fellowship remains at six families (including the missionary’s) and one individual. A proposal for organization is not being made. Missionary Bruinsma is also active with a group in Fayetteville and other contacts in the east.
The Western Home Missionary, Rev. Thomas Miersma, is stationed in Spokane, WA. The group of believers there is five families (including the missionary’s) and seven individuals. Although the reports of the calling church (Loveland, CO) and the missionary are positive, the group is not yet ready to request organization.
The DMC has contacts in other locations in the US and Canada, and in other parts of the Western Hemisphere.
Because synod supports some of the broadcasts of the Reformed Witness Hour (approximately $30,000/yr), the DMC also reports on radio. Significant is the report of about 10,000 downloads of radio sermons permonth.
The DMC proposes a small but significant change in its constitution. Presently, the calling church for a mission field proposes nominations for calling a missionary, which nominations are approved by the DMC. From this list, the calling church forms a trio and calls a missionary. The DMC proposes that the DMC present the list of nominees. Grounds are that this would harmonize the DMC’s constitution and the Foreign Mission Committee’s, and that the present setup has been a source of tension between the two supervising bodies.
Foreign Mission Committee (FMC)
Last year’s synod approved discontinuing the mission work in Ghana, Africa. The FMC reports that this has been done in a timely and orderly way, and recommends that synod thank all those who participated in the work.
Regarding the Philippines, Missionary Spriensma, the calling church (Doon, IA), and the FMC all heartily recommend approval of the request of the Berean Church of God Reformed to be organized in the fall of 2006. The main object of the work of the missionary, this group has grown to number thirteen families, with six others in less regular attendance. The BCGR also makes request for a relationship with the churches of Doon, Hull, and Edgerton, “for advice and accountability (on discipline, protests, examination of pastors, or other serious problems).” Missionary Spriensma reports on the BCGR’s desire for the “continued work of a missionary both in their congregational life and in their evangelism efforts.” Synod 2005 instructed the council of Doon and the FMC to continue working toward the goal of calling a second missionary for the Philippines. The FMC advises against the calling of a second missionary at this time.
The PRC’s proposed mission budget (foreign and domestic) of approximately $406,000 for 2007 amounts to a little over $4 per week per family.
Emeritus Committee (EC)
The EC supervises the support of the retired pastors/professors and their wives or widows. This year they make request of approximately $250,000 for ten ministers and spouses (ten households; eighteen individuals). This works out to be a little over $2.50 per family per week. Because the laborer is worthy of his hire even after he is unable to work, the churches thankfully provide this support for these servants of the church—many of whom are still very active in their service.
Theological School Committee (TSC)
One of the “centers” of denominational work is the seminary, where all the future ministers, missionaries, and professors are trained. The TSC oversees this work for synod. This year they report on the activities of the five full-time faculty. Prof. R. Decker and Prof. D. Engelsma are both in the process of retiring, since both are between ages 65 and 70. Prof. R. Cammenga and Prof. B. Gritters are busily preparing to take up the full load as soon as possible. Prof. R. Dykstra already teaches a full load of classes. As noted above, the TSC recommends for examination the two senior students and proposes an examination schedule for synod. Four students will continue their studies in the coming year—fourth-year student Mr. Nathan Langerak; third-year student Mr. Heath Bleyenberg; and second-year students Mr. Nathan Dykstra and Mr. Cory Griess. Three new students are being recommended for admission: Daniel Holstege, a son of Southeast, Grand Rapids, PRC; and the two abovementioned foreign students from Australia and Northern Ireland.
The TSC presents a proposed budget of $479,000 for 2007, down significantly from 2006. When the transitions to the two new professors are complete next year, the budget should be yet lower. Each family contributes approximately $5 per week for the training of gospel ministers.
The agenda includes the denomination’s work through her Board of Trustees (which oversees the churches’ treasurer and bookkeeper); the Catechism Book Committees (which print, distribute, and recommend regarding publishing new books); the Stated Clerk (whose work includes publishing synod’s agenda and Acts); and the Synodical Deputies in both classes (who attend the meetings of the other classis and this year are recommending approval of Classis West’s actions in approving the examination of two candidates for the ministry—now Rev. Dennis Lee and Rev. John Marcus).
The Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, IL, offers to host Synod 2007.
May God bless the labors of an undeserving people who find their worth in Jesus Christ alone.
Please remember the synodical delegates and deliberations before Jehovah’s throne of grace.