Dark clouds were above the horizon of Asia Pacific, specifically in the islands of the Philippines, when the storm of schism hit the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA).

The schism that has crept into the PRCA due to the controversy that started back in 2016 made a great wave of impact that reached the ears of God’s people here in the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines (PRCP hereafter). Since then, many of the brethren and sisters in Christ waited for the development and eagerly anticipated the conclusion of the controversy. For that reason we know and understand that the storm is imminent in the PRCP too.

The saddest day in our history as a small band of Protestant Reformed Churches on this side of the world has come. On May 16, 2021, the Protestant Reformed Church in Bulacan (now, First Reformed Protestant Church in Bulacan), sent a letter to the Classis of the PRCP, withdrawing its membership from the federation. And as I write this article, the First Reformed Protestant Church in Bulacan has been accepted by the Reformed Protestant Churches in America as their official sister church.

It is not my intention to recount the details of Bulacan’s decision to withdraw its membership from the PRCP, neither to discuss whether their reasons of departure were legitimate. Nonetheless, it will suffice to say that there is no valid reason to leave the denomination as far as the orthodoxy of our ministers in relation to their preaching and teaching in our churches is concerned! For the record, there was and there is no controversy in the PRCP.

Be that as it may, we know that just like every storm, such schism and secession have their aftermath. The turbulent and raging seas of words that were tossed to and fro brought so much hurt to everyone. Some who were really affected evacuated and sought refuge from the neighboring churches where they could be nourished with spiritual food and their weary souls cared for.

But sad to say, we lost some as well, because the raging torrents and strong winds led some to depart from our midst. From three seminarians, we are down to one; from four churches, there are now only two, the Berean PRC in Antipolo City and Provident PRC in Marikina City (Maranatha PRC in Valenzuela disbanded in March of the same year). And with Rev. L. Trinidad now retired, that means there is now only one active minister in the federation. The official mission labor of the PRCP in Albuera, Leyte went also with Bulacan. All forty-two or so families expressed in their letter that they were in full agreement with the decision of Bulacan’s withdrawal from the PRCP.

With this disastrous storm that had struck both the PRCA and the PRCP, the damage that it created among colleagues in the ministry, by families torn apart, and by friends made enemies, cannot be calculated. Countless stories of pain and broken hearts cease not.

What now?

The rainbow comes after the storm. We know that all things, even the storms, are in the hands of God. For He is the One who is in sovereign control over all the events in time and history. And whatever He has purposed and decreed will surely come to pass.

This is not the first time we hear of a controversy within a federation of churches, let alone in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA). Certainly, this will not be the last one, though some, if not all, might be praying that it would be so. The reasons are understandable. We understand this as well, however, that we shall enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations.

The Word of God is clear. Our endeavor as individual saints and as Protestant Reformed churches, daily and continually, is “earnestly to contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). The “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” is clearly and beautifully expressed in the Three Forms of Unity. Its principles are likewise explicit in the Church Order of Dordt, 1618-19. The Formula of Subscription is to the point in ensuring that all faithful officebearers (in any Reformed churches established by God in Christ through the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit) will do well to take heed (by the grace of God) to these aforesaid doctrines and not to militate against them. They are to defend them and to write well about them, and to preach and teach about them so that the body and bride of Christ is built up and nourished well in that faith once entrusted to the saints!

We are all clear and together on this! But the church is not infallible. Nor are the men in the ministry. The elders and all leaders in the churches are weak and sinful men besides. We need to live in the consciousness not of our own power to do and follow what is right, but of God’s power in us through the operation of the Holy Spirit who works all His good pleasure upon us for His glory and for the honor of Christ Jesus our Lord.

What now? This is an important question, and the answer is not that difficult to discern. It is also clear from the Word of God: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Learn well the lessons of the past, take them to heart, but do not dwell on them for it will take you nowhere. And besides, our calling is to aim for the goal, personally and ecclesiastically, namely, Christlikeness. Our desire for each one of us is this one thing, to press on in and by the grace of God to hold forth “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Let us walk together in this endeavor, my co-bondslaves in Christ. The road may be dusty and rough and at times too impossible to tread upon, but the work is His and not ours! The road to Golgotha was yet more severe than we ever thought and Christ “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

This is our answer for “what now!” Now is the time most needful to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the sovereign Savior and Lord of the church! We confess that we are nothing and can do nothing altogether apart from the sovereign grace of God that works powerfully in us that we might be faithful in this endeavor. By nature, none of us will take heed; none will continue to walk in the path of faithfulness. Rather, we will utterly forsake the cross of Christ and follow idol gods! But God, our faithful, covenant-keeping God-Jehovah, gives us the assurance that we will persevere and be faithful till the end, for we rely neither upon ourselves nor upon the PRCA or the PRCP but upon the Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Cor. 1:31). Jesus Christ—and He alone—is “the author and finisher of our faith,” thus the certainty that we will stand sure and secure until He comes again for us lies upon Him and never ever upon us!

Canons of Dordt, Head II, Article 9 speaks to this:

This purpose, proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell; so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that there never may be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ; which may steadfastly love and faithfully serve Him as its Savior (who, as a bridegroom for His bride, laid down His life for them upon the cross); and which may celebrate His praises here and through all eternity.

After a storm comes a calm. Of course, we will never fully experience such in the church militant. For this life is full of troubles. What a glorious day that would be when the church is glorified, and we will enjoy that perfect peace! But as long as it is called the day, God’s work continues, and we continue in His strength and direction to fulfill His will.

What lies ahead?

Taking heed to our calling to pursue Christ is the steady development of our mission/outreach labors in the provinces, such as one in the northern part of Luzon. Berean PRC is holding an outreach in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija, the All of Grace Protestant Reformed Fellowship, situated in Barangay Bagong Sikat, Gabaldon Nueva Ecija, which was closed in 2014 and re-opened in 2017. We hope that God would sustain the work there and cause it to grow numerically and spiritually, so that a church may in the future be organized and instituted, if it is His will.

Likewise, Provident PRC is busy with ongoing church-extension labor in Guguinto, Bulacan. The pastor of this group is Ronil Domingo, a former pastor of one of the churches of the Brethren. But they are now separated from the Brethren and reforming.

The work began in 2018, and on behalf of Provident PRC, Rev. Daniel Kleyn goes there one Sunday a month (every second Sunday) to preach and teach (a Heidelberg Catechism sermon, a textual sermon, and a class on the Church Order). The work in our Seminary continues with one student. Bro. Ace Flores is in his second year of training in the Seminary. Bro. Ace and family are members of the Provident PRC. We heartily thank God for sustaining Bro. Ace and family during the time of the tumultuous tide brought by the secession of Bulacan from the federation. We know that it is only by the grace of God that we all now stand upon the truth of God’s sovereign, particular, efficacious grace in the cross of Jesus Christ!

What lies ahead of us all is the realization of God’s promise: For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call(Acts 2:39). God promised to realize His everlasting covenant of grace only to all His chosen saints in Christ, including the elect children of believers—not only then and today but until all of them are taken into His fold.

Not only those who are near and around Jerusalem, but even those from afar, even to the Far East in Asia Pacific and throughout the land of the living and the dead, God gathers, defends, and preserves His people to the end, that they may dwell with Him forever in His kingdom for Jesus’ sake!

Here in the Philippines, we average at least 16 to 20 storms per year from January to December. And during the times that a storm passes by us, we know that God is at work to keep our heads bowed down with grief—and yet not without His consolation in the cross of Christ, which is our only comfort whether the weather is stormy or peaceful!

Storms in the churches are good indicators that God’s work of sanctifying us continues until the notable day of the Lord comes to take us with Him in glory! They are not pleasant, and at times, if not all the time, unwanted and undesirable. But God must work His way through them for our good and to keep His name holy in our midst! For He alone is worthy to receive all our praises, love, service, and gratitude for so great and enduring mercy upon us all in Christ alone and for His sake only!

O God, be merciful, be merciful to me. For man with constant hate, would fain my ruin see. My many enemies against me proudly fight; To overwhelm my soul they watch from morn to night. What time I am afraid I put my trust in Thee; In God I rest, and praise His word, so rich and free. In God I put my trust, I neither doubt nor fear, For man can never harm with God my helper near.

(versification of Psalm 56, Psalter #151, stanzas 1, 2)