Synod 2012 of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA) met in the Crete Protestant Reformed Church in Crete, Illinois. On Monday evening, June 11, 2012 the pre-synodical worship service was held in the beautiful and spacious sanctuary of the Crete PRC, under the supervision of Crete’s consistory. Rev. James Slopsema, president of last year’s synod, preached the sermon. Rev. Slopsema expounded: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” The congregation, as well as the synodical delegates, were edified by a sound exposition of the Word of God that made special application to the work of the synod.
Organization of Synod: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” ()
Tuesday morning, June 12, the first order of business was the organization of synod. Synod consists of twenty delegates, ten minister and ten elder delegates each from Classis East and Classis West. As the rules of synod require, the seminary professors also attended the meetings of synod with “advisory vote,” that is, the privilege of the floor—the right to speak—during the sessions of synod. They also served as advisors to the committees of pre-advice. After opening devotions by Rev. Slopsema, synod voted for functionaries. The results of the voting were that Rev. Steven Key was elected president; Rev. Kenneth Koole, vice-president; Rev. Doug Kuiper, 1st Clerk; and Rev. Rodney Kleyn, 2nd Clerk. Rev. Key capably guided the synod, always allowing adequate discussion of the issues, while at the same time moving deliberations along in a timely manner.
The first order of business for the new president was the reading of the “Public Declaration of Agreement with the Forms of Unity.” While the “Public Declaration” was read, all the delegates rose to express their agreement with the Reformed confessions and their conviction that these confessions do “in all respects agree with the Word of God.”
Representatives from the sister churches of the PRCA were recognized and seated as delegates with advisory vote. Representing our sister church in Northern Ireland was deacon Philip Hall. Representing our sister church in Singapore, the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, was deacon Felix Chan. Deacon Chan was accompanied by his wife, Angela. Also visiting some of the sessions of synod were a group of young people from Singapore, who have been visiting friends in our churches.
Examination of Mr. Vernon Ibe: “… the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” ()
Much of synod’s work—a very joyful aspect of the work—was the examination of Mr. Vernon Ibe. For the past five years Mr. Ibe has studied at the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary. Mr. Ibe is married to Melody; the Ibes have two young sons. Synod examined Mr. Ibe at the request of the Berean Protestant Reformed Church in the Philippines. Although representatives of the Berean consistory were not able to attend the sessions of synod in order to witness the examination of their student, one of our missionaries to the Philippines was present during the meeting of synod, missionary Rev. Daniel Kleyn.
Mr. Ibe began his examination by preaching a specimen sermon on: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” After unanimously approving the sermon, synod proceeded to the rest of Mr. Ibe’s examination, which consisted of oral examination in the Six Loci of Reformed Dogmatics (Theology, Anthropology, Christology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology), Church History, Knowledge of Scripture, Knowledge of Confessions, Church Polity, and Practica.
The examination extended into Wednesday afternoon. After the examination was concluded, synod unanimously approved Mr. Ibe’s examination. Synod adopted a motion to inform the Berean PRC consistory that brother Ibe had successfully sustained his examination and that we judge him worthy of receiving a call.
We rejoice with the Ibes and with our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. The Lord has given another laborer for the harvest, another worker to be busy in His vineyard. May the Lord give to our brother a long and fruitful ministry. And may he be a great blessing in the church in the Philippines. The Ibes plan to return to the Philippines in mid-July.
Sister Churches: “For as the body is one, and hath many members….” ()
One of the most significant decisions of Synod 2012 was the decision to approve implementation of the sister church relationship with the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore (CERCS). This was done in light of the fact that our sister church in Northern Ireland informed us that they had no objection to our establishing a sister church relationship with the CERCS.
What a joyful moment this was! What a goodness of God in preserving a remnant after the disruption of the sister church relationship that the PRCA once had with the ERCS denomination, when there were those who wanted to be more broadminded, showed an openness to common grace, the well-meant offer of the gospel, and the conditional covenant, and also desired the permissibility of remarriage after divorce. Now, six years after the dissolution of the denomination in Singapore, and with it the dissolution of the sister church relationship, the Protestant Reformed Churches again have a sister church relationship with a congregation in Singapore, the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church. Thanks be to God!
After the motion unanimously passed to implement the sister church relationship, the representative of the CERC, deacon Felix Chan, addressed the synod. He brought greetings from the session and congregation in Singapore. The letter that he read spoke of the gratitude of the CERC for the love and labors of the PRCA. He spoke of the great joy of the CERC over the establishment once again of the sister church relationship. And he spoke of the fervent desire of the saints in Singapore that the sister church relationship be mutually beneficial to our churches, and that God may be glorified by our united witness to the truth of His Word. The letter will be printed in its entirety in the 2012 Acts.
Not only did the synod approve the implementation, but synod also granted the request of CERC for the calling of a minister-on-loan (MOL) to labor in their midst. Synod approved the recommendations of the Contact Committee (CC) that the arrangements for the MOL be patterned after the arrangements set forth by Synod 1991. On the recommendation of the CC, synod appointed Grandville PRC as the calling church for the MOL .
Synod was also favored with a representative from the congregation in Northern Ireland, deacon Philip Hall. Brother Hall was also given opportunity to address the delegates. In his remarks Mr. Hall expressed the continued joy of the congregation in Northern Ireland over the sister church relationship with the PRCA. He thanked our churches for their continued spiritual and financial support of the cause in Northern Ireland, including the mission work being conducted in Limerick through Rev. Martyn McGeown. He extended a cordial invitation to the membership of the PRCA to attend the biennial British Reformed Fellowship Family Conference, which will be held July 28 – August 4 at Lorne House, County Down, Northern Ireland. The theme of the conference is: “Ye Shall Be My Witnesses.” The featured speakers are once again Prof. D. Engelsma and Prof. H. Hanko.
Contact Committee: “To them that have obtained like precious faith with us.” ()
The Contact Committee reported to synod that Rev. Chris Connors was granted release from his duties in the Brisbane EPCA due to ill health, leaving the EPCA with only two full-time ministers. Synod assured the EPCA that we hold them up in prayer in this time of great need.
Since last synod, the CC has continued its contact with the Bekennende Evangelisch-Reformierte Gemeinde (Confessing Protestant-Reformed Congregation— BERG). A letter of greeting from this congregation was received by synod and will be included in the published Acts. The CC was able to have a face-to-face meeting with Dr. J. Klautke and elder Carsten Linke in September 2011. The BERG has endured several hardships this past year, particularly the hardship of the split of the faculty and board of the ART seminary in Germany over the question of whether or not Dr. Klautke would continue as professor at the seminary. This controversy was occasioned by the fact that Dr. Klautke stood firm on the infallibility of Scripture, opposed women in office, dared publicly to refute error, and maintained contact with the PRCA. As a result, one of the professors at ART resigned, and some students transferred to a new (rival) seminary that was founded by former colleagues of Dr. Klautke. Notwithstanding, the ART continues to train men to preach the Reformed faith in Germany and Dr. Klautke continues to teach in the ART. The seminary is also looking for another full-time professor to teach alongside of Dr. Klautke.
Synod approved the plans of the CC to send a delegation of Prof. B. Gritters and Mr. Peter VanDerSchaaf to Germany this summer. The BERG requested this visit and has invited Prof. Gritters to preach at one of their worship services.
The CC reported on the visit of a delegation of Rev. G. Eriks and Rev. K. Koole to the 2011 meeting of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), hosted by the PCA in Atlanta, GA. The delegation presented a brief introduction to the PRCA and had opportunity to engage in further discussions with a number of representatives from various member churches. The delegation reported that NAPARC is wrestling with the meaning of “organic union” referred to in their constitution. NAPARC has extended an invitation to the PRCA to send observers to the 2012 meeting hosted by the United Reformed Churches at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana. Synod accepted this invitation and mandated the observers to give a brief introduction to the PRCA, report to Synod 2012 the results of NAPARC’s continued dialogue concerning “organic union,” and investigate whether any member denominations might be candidates for future contact with our churches.
The CC reported that there has been only informal correspondence between members of the CC and individuals in Namibia. These churches and individuals are members of the Gereformeerde Kerke van Suid Afrika (GKSA), which denomination is on the road of apostasy. For now the CC has decided to maintain informal contact with the saints in Namibia as these churches struggle to know the Lord’s will as their denomination continues to depart from Reformed orthodoxy. The CC reported that it oversees fundraising for the translating of RFPA books into Afrikaans.
Missions: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” ()
The Domestic Mission Committee (DMC) reported on the labors of our Eastern Home Missionary, Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma. The DMC reported to synod that Rev. Bruinsma remains busy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania preaching the gospel, administering the sacraments, and leading various catechism classes and Bible studies. The group remains busy in outreach in their neighborhood, as well as throughout the city, making use of the radio and other means of advertising. There have been changes in the membership of the fellowship, with some leaving and others joining. There continue to be new visitors on a regular basis. The core group consists of 11 families and 7 individuals. Synod expressed thanks to Southwest PRC, the calling church for Eastern Home Missions, and to Rev. and Mrs. Bruinsma for their faithful labors on behalf of the gospel.
The Foreign Mission Committee (FMC) reported on the labors in the Philippines. The FMC reports that the two missionaries, Rev. Richard Smit and Rev. Daniel Kleyn, are working well together, and that the saints in the Philippines are very appreciative of their labors.
As noted earlier, Rev. Smit’s co-laborer, Rev. Daniel Kleyn, was present at synod. Rev. Kleyn and his wife, Sharon, are presently on furlough. They have visited a number of our churches and given a talk and slide presentation on the mission work in the Philippines. Rev. Kleyn addressed the synod and, besides giving an overview of the work, conveyed the gratitude of the Berean PRC for the labors of the missionaries.
The FMC reported on continued investigation of Myanmar as a possible field of labor for our churches. The Council of Hope PRC (Walker, MI) has been laboring for five years with the PRC of Myanmar (PRCM), and in particular with the senior minister in this denomination, Rev. Titus. The FMC continues to work with Rev. Titus, placing special emphasis on training officebearers.
Both the DMC and the FMC presented proposals to synod regarding the tenure of missionaries. These proposals differed in several points. For this reason synod instructed the DMC and the FMC to form a joint study committee with an equal number of representatives from each committee, including also Prof. B. Gritters as advisor, to make recommendations to Synod 2013. Synod instructed the special committee to take note of the significant principles and implications involved in the DMC and FMC proposals, taking into consideration as well the Church Order and the history of Reformed missions.
Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God….” ()
Besides Mr. Vernon Ibe, whom the faculty heartily recommended for examination, the synod was apprised of the progress of the other students in our seminary. Of special note is the fact that Mr. Erik Guichelaar, who is in his fourth year, is due to begin his internship under the supervision of the Loveland, Colorado PRC and the mentoring of its pastor, Rev. Steven Key. The Lord willing, Mr. Guichelaar will be examined by Synod 2013. There are no incoming first-year students for the 2012-2013 academic year. There are a goodly number of pre-seminary students, which bodes well for the future. But the fact that we have no incoming students underscores once again the need that our churches have for ministers of the Word.
Synod took the decision to employ Mr. Charles Terpstra as the seminary’s full-time librarian, part time archivist, and part-time registrar. Mr. Terpstra has worked in the library this past school year. Synod took this decision on the recommendation of the Theological School Committee, with the endorsement of the faculty.
Synod also approved a partial sabbatical for Prof. Dykstra for the 2012-2013 academic year. Prof. Dykstra will be developing a course on Reformed education. The fruit of his study will be the production of a book or syllabus on the history and principles of Reformed education.
In Conclusion: “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us…” to decide. ()
Synod treated one protest against the action of Synod 2011 releasing the Contact Committee from its mandate to suggest changes to its constitution that make clear that in the establishment of a corresponding relationship the ultimate goal remains the establishment of a sister church relationship. Synod rejected the main contention of the protest regarding the content of the decision of Synod 2011.
Synod approved support for twelve emeriti ministers or their widows. It also approved subsidy requests for financial assistance from nine congregations.
Synod 2012 adopted a budget that assesses each family in the denomination $840 for the year 2013. This represents a decrease from 2012 of $31 per family, a welcome relief for those families who are struggling financially in a depressed economy.
The denomination currently is made up of 1,971 families, up thirty-one from 2011.
The calling church for Synod 2013 is Hudsonville PRC, where synod will convene on Tuesday, June 11.
For all the decisions of the synod, as well as committee reports and supplements, look for the official Acts of Synod 2012, which should be available later this summer. May the churches receive the decisions of Synod 2012 as settled and binding.
May the confidence of the delegates having finished the work of synod be that of the apostles and elders who met in Jerusalem: “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us” to decide (). May the decisions promote the cause of Christ’s gospel, the gathering of His church, and the coming of His kingdom. And may labors done in weakness and sin be established by our sovereign God, who uses weakest means to fulfill His will, mighty enemies to still.