Rev. Cammenga is secretary of the Committee for Contact with Other Churches.
The Constitution of the Committee for Contact with Other Churches expresses the conviction of the Protestant Reformed Churches that it is “…their sacred duty to manifest the true unity and catholicity of the church on earth in as far as that is possible, not only in their denominational fellowship but also in conjunction with all churches which have obtained like precious faith with us, both domestic and foreign.” This constitution binds upon the Protestant Reformed Churches an ecumenical calling, that is, a calling on behalf of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ catholic. Not only are our churches committed to missions, both domestic and foreign, but we are also committed to promotion of the unity of Christ’s church worldwide. This involves seeking out and establishing sister-church relations with those churches with whom we are in fundamental agreement. And this involves discussion of differences with various churches with whom we have disagreements. The Contact Committee has been busy this year carrying out various aspects of this calling, as well as mandates given to it by synod 1999. The following is a brief report of some of the highlights of our labors.
Our committee is made up of eight members: two seminary professors, three ministers, and three elders. Professors Robert Decker and Russell Dykstra presently serve on the committee, along with the undersigned and Revs. Kenneth Koole and Ronald Van Overloop, and elders Henry Boer (Hudsonville PRC), Gerrit Boverhof (Southwest PRC), and David Ondersma (Georgetown PRC).
As in previous years, the Contact Committee has been deeply involved in ongoing relations with our sister churches in Singapore, the Evangelical Reformed Churches (ERCS). Along with the Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Walker, MI, the Contact Committee supervises the labors of our minister-on-loan, Rev. Jason Kortering. This year marks the eighth year of service rendered by Rev. Kortering in the capacity of minister-on-loan to the ERCS. The Contact Committee, Hope Council, and Rev. Kortering continue to enjoy a good working relationship. Our minister-on-loan is to be commended for the zeal he brings to his work. Rev. Kortering took on additional labors in the ERCS this year because Pastor Lau Chin Kwee was in the United States pursuing further education at our Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary. He also continues to preach in the churches on a regular basis, takes part in ministering to the pastoral needs of the members of the ERCS, teaches various classes, assists the elders, and is deeply involved in the work of the ERCS to establish their own theological seminary. In addition to the work in the ERCS, Rev. Kortering is active in the mission work of the churches, particularly the work in Myanmar. Rev. and Mrs. Kortering enjoy good health and express their joy in the work among the saints in Singapore. For their part, the ERCS continue to express their deep appreciation for the labors of Rev. Kortering and the Protestant Reformed Churches in America for our willingness to make our minister-on-loan available to them.
The Contact Committee takes this opportunity to remind the churches to bring the needs of the Korterings regularly before the throne of God’s grace. In our congregational prayers, as well as family prayers and prayers in the Christian schools, let frequent intercession be made on behalf of the Korterings and the saints in Singapore.
Of great encouragement to the Korterings was the six-month visit to Singapore this past winter of Prof. and Mrs. Herman Hanko. The main purpose of Prof. Hanko’s stay in Singapore was to assist in the establishment of the ERCS’s theological seminary, especially development of the school’s curriculum. Although that was the main purpose of the visit, it was by no means the only purpose. Prof. and Mrs. Hanko became involved in many other aspects of the life of our sister churches. Having recently returned from Singapore, the Hankos have conveyed their gratitude for being privileged to be involved in the cause of God’s kingdom in the churches in Singapore.
One of the main items to which the Contact Committee has recently turned its attention is the matter of securing a replacement for Rev. Kortering as minister-on-loan. Rev. Kortering’s present term of labor expires in June of 2002. Synod 1999 went on record as favoring a year overlap in labors of Rev. Kortering and his replacement, in the interests of a smooth transition. In order to make this possible, the Contact Committee and Hope Council have been working together to approve a gross list of ministers from which the Hope congregation can presently begin to call. This promises to be a significant aspect of the work of the Contact Committee in the coming year.
In conjunction with the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church, the Contact Committee has also been deeply involved with the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland (CPRC). Although the supervision of the labors of our missionary, Rev. Ronald Hanko, belongs to the Domestic Mission Committee, the Contact Committee has been involved in working toward the establishment of sister-church relations. Synod 1999 approved the establishment of sister-church relations with the CPRC, but held in abeyance the implementation of this relationship so that our sister churches, the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore, might be given the opportunity to indicate whether they had any legitimate objections to our establishing sister-church relations with the CPRC. The ERCS have informed the Contact Committee that they have no objections to our establishing sister-church relations with the CRPC. The Contact Committee will be recommending to synod 2000, therefore, immediate implementation of sister-church relations with the CPRC.
What a joy that our work in Northern Ireland reaches this point! How thankful to God we are for His blessing on our joint efforts in Northern Ireland! May our prayers continue to be with the Hankos and with the congregation! And may the sister-church relation strengthen our ties and further the witness to the Reformed faith in the British Isles!
In keeping with the decision of synod 1999, the Contact Committee expressed to the Committee on Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity of the United Reformed Churches our desire to have another conference with them in order to pursue discussion of the issues that separate us, including specifically the doctrines of the covenant and common grace. A conference was originally planned for the spring of 2000, but because of scheduling difficulties it has been postponed until the fall of 2000.
Recently a delegation from the Contact Committee attended an afternoon conference with the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). The conference was held at the OPC denominational headquarters in Willow Grove, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. The focus of the conference was a discussion of the well-meant gospel offer. Our representatives were able to present our objections to the teaching of the well-meant offer, as well as set forth positively our view of the content of the preaching of the gospel. At the end of the afternoon, the men from the OPC expressed appreciation for our willingness to meet with them. A number of them stated that our representatives answered questions and clarified their understanding of our Protestant Reformed position, as well as removed certain misconceptions. They also suggested the possibility of another conference in order to continue the discussion of the well-meant gospel offer and to give us the opportunity to set forth the distinctive Protestant Reformed position regarding marriage and divorce. No definite decision has yet been made on a follow-up conference. Our respective committees will undoubtedly be considering this in the coming year.
The Contact Committee is grateful for these opportunities to set forth the doctrines and distinctives held by our Protestant Reformed Churches. We trust that our faithful witness will be blessed by God, so that others not only come to know us, but also desire to stand with us in the defense of the gospel of sovereign grace.
Our committee covets the prayers of the members of our churches. As we carry out the important calling that the Lord gives to us, may we do it in conscious dependence upon Him.