Shortly after the conclusion of our Australasian tour in 1975, the Committee for Contact With Other Churches received the gratifying word that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia acknowledged our Protestant Reformed Churches in America as a true church. Working on that basis, we have since that time been in contact with one another, striving to reach a mutual understanding as to the shape a relationship between our two denominations should take.
Last year the Contact Committee reported to Synod that the EPC of Australia had adopted and sent to us a set of “Guidelines for Correspondence.” A copy of these “Guidelines” may be found in the Acts of Synod, 1977, pp. 10.5, 106. In response to these “Guidelines,” Synod expressed “that the Guidelines of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the provisions of our Constitution (the constitution of the Contact Committee) are together a proper working basis on which to pursue a formal relationship of correspondence.” Further, Synod authorized the Contact Committee “to continue to work toward a mutually acceptable correspondence relationship.” In pursuance of this mandate, the Contact Committee addressed the International Relations Committee of the EPC “to inquire as to what they consider to be the implications of a correspondence relationship,” and “to inquire as to their reaction to our description of a sister-church relationship, as per our Constitution.”
At this year’s Synod there was nothing further to report, due to the fact that the EPC of Australia for various reasons was not able to reply prior to the meeting of our Synod.
Recently, however, the Contact Committee has heard from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia. In a letter dated August 14, Mr. V.J. Connors, Clerk of Presbytery (their Presbytery is their broadest assembly) wrote as follows:
“For, and on behalf of the Presbytery, I am to write you expressing our sincere desire to. have a closer relationship with your church in the terms of the second part of your article 5, ‘Churches other than sister churches.’
“We deem it advisable, for a stable relationship, to clarify our respective areas of difference, not for the sake of controversy, but so that we might better understand our common areas of belief. Furthermore, that we respect one another’s differences, and decline raising them between us unless by mutual consent.
“We desire to work together in those areas which we have in common, and when we have principally clarified the differences that we labor together to mutually propagate and encourage one another in our mutually held faith.”
We refrain from comment on the substance of this letter, since this is the domain of our Contact Committee. We furnish the above as information to our readers, since this is an item of interest and concern to all our churches. We are glad and thankful for this progress, first of all, because we have discovered that with regard to the fundamentals of the Reformed faith our two denominations, small and far-separated though they be, stand shoulder to shoulder. Rev. Hanko and I experienced this in a very real sense when we visited the various congregations of the EPC and had fellowship with them in 1975. Secondly, we are of the conviction that it is both proper and beneficial for both of our denominations that we—again, small and geographically distant though we be—should express, and also practice in as far as possible, our unity in the faith and in the bond of the fellowship of Christ’s body. It is our hope, therefore, that real progress may be made in the near future in further defining our relationship as churches, in harmony with the paragraphs quoted above.