Synod 2000 of the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) met from June 13 through June 19 at the Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI. Included were unusual sessions late into the evening on Friday and much of the day on Saturday. The reason was the necessity to finish the work before the beginning of the 75th anniversary celebration of the denomination on Monday evening, June 19. Synod made it with barely two hours to spare.

At the worship service that traditionally precedes the meeting of synod, Rev. R. Cammenga, president of last year’s synod, preached on Joshua 4:1-9, 19-24, the memorial to God’s grace at Gilgal.

Officers of the 2000 synod were Rev. B. Gritters (Hudsonville, MI), president; Rev. C. Haak (Bethel, IL), vice-president; Rev. C. Terpstra (Holland, MI), first clerk; and Rev. R. Smit (Doon, IA), second clerk.

Contact

Synod approved the implementation of a sister-church relationship with the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland (CPRC, NI). The CPRC, NI addressed synod by an official representative, Mr. Allister Pattison. The address thanked the PRC for the ministry of missionary Rev. R. Hanko and for the training of Mr. Angus Stewart in the Protestant Reformed Seminary. The complete text of the address is printed elsewhere in this issue of the Standard Bearer.

In view of the expiration of Rev. J. Kortering’s term of labor in June, 2002, synod advised the council of Hope PRC, Walker, MI to call a minister to replace Rev. Kortering as minister-on-loan to the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore (ERCS). The intention is that a man will accept this call in time to work together with Rev. Kortering for a year before Rev. Kortering leaves Singapore. Rev. Kortering was present at synod and informed the delegates concerning his work with the ERCS, particularly the establishment of a theological school.

Rev. Chris Coleborn, moderator of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia (EPC) and official delegate from that Church with Rev. David Higgs, brought the greetings of the EPC. He conveyed the thanks of his church for the training of its seminarian, Mr. Mark Shand, in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

The Contact Committee of the PRC informed synod of meetings with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the United Reformed Churches in North America, and the Reformed Churches in South Africa. Contact with these churches will continue.

Domestic Missions

From its Domestic Mission Committee (DMC), synod heard reports of the work by missionary Rev. J. Mahtani in the Pittsburgh, PA area; the work by missionary Rev. T. Miersma in Spokane, WA; and the work by missionary Rev. R. Hanko in the United Kingdom.

Synod adopted a policy of confession of faith by converts on the mission field. Confession of faith may take place on the mission field when the work has developed to the point that there is “compelling reason” to believe that a congregation will be organized according to the judgment of the missionary, the calling church, and the DMC. The budget for domestic missions in 2001 is nearly $300,000.

Foreign Missions

The Foreign Mission Committee (FMC) reported on the work of Rev. R. Moore in Ghana, West Africa. Synod authorized the purchase of property in Ghana where the preaching services can be held.

The FMC sent a delegation consisting of Rev. D. Kleyn and Rev. R. Miersma to the Philippines in October, 1999. They met with various interested groups and persons, preached, and lectured. Synod directed the FMC to continue to labor in the Philippines through correspondence, literature, and visits with a view to the calling of a missionary to the Philippines, whether in 2001 or later. Two delegations will visit the Philippines before next year’s synod. Synod adopted a budget for foreign missions in 2001 of $100,500.

Theological School

The Theological School Committee reported that there were seven full-time students in the seminary this past year, including three who aspire to the ministry in the PRC. In addition, a number of men from other Reformed churches took courses at the seminary as special students. The faculty licensed two seminarians to speak a word of edification in the PRC, Mr. Rodney Kleyn and Mr. Angus Stewart. The rector, Prof. R. Decker, informed synod that the faculty has arranged an internship for seminarian Angus Stewart in the Hudsonville, MI PRC from July through December, 2000. The internship-program for fourth-year students in a congregation under the close supervision of an experienced pastor is a valuable aspect of the training of men for the ministry in the PRC.

Synod approved a partial sabbatical for Prof. Engelsma the coming school-year and a partial sabbatical for Prof. Decker during the 2001/2002 school year. Prof. Engelsma will work on an exposition of Old Testament history from the viewpoint of the covenant. Prof. Decker will develop a course on world religions. Both will teach a course during their sabbatical.

Synod declared Prof. H. Hanko emeritus as of January 1, 2001 because of age. Synod expressed its “thanks to God for Prof. Hanko’s many years of service in the ministry of the Word in our churches and especially for his untiring labors in our seminary for the past thirty-five years. It is our prayer that the Lord will bless Prof. and Mrs. Hanko in his retirement and continue to use him in the cause of the gospel for many years to come.”

The graduation exercises for Mr. Mark Shand were held on Thursday evening of the week of synod. The ceremony was attended by the members of the TSC, delegates to synod, faculty of the seminary, many members of the PRC in western Michigan, and the two delegates from the EPC, Rev. Chris Coleborn and Rev. David Higgs. Mr. Shand completed a three-year program at the seminary. He will return to Australia where he will seek the ministry in the EPC. Prof. Hanko spoke on “The Church and her Catholicity.” The SB plans to publish this speech in a later issue. Rev. Higgs expressed appreciation to the PRC and their seminary for the training of Mr. Shand. On behalf of the EPC, Rev. Higgs presented six volumes containing the works of John Knox; the volume, A Copious and Comprehensive Summary of the Laws and Regulations of the Church of Scotland, from A.D. 1560 to A.D. 1850; and the volume, Digest of Rules and Procedure of the Inferior Courts of the Free Church of Scotland, to the Theological School of the PRC. The inscription with this valuable gift of books reads:

In deep gratitude for your care, instruction, training and love of Mr. Mark Shand, during the period of his study, from 1997 until 2000. We hope that you find John Knox’s “Works” useful in gaining a greater understanding of Scottish Presbyterianism, from which foundation the Evangelical Presbyterian Church arises. Given in appreciation by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia.

Church Order

Adopting the recommendations of its special committee, synod made a number of changes in the Church Order. The proposal to leave Article 69 (concerning what the churches sing at worship) unchanged occasioned discussion. The result was a decision of synod to refer the matter of possible revision of Article 69 back to the Church Order Study Committee for further study and recommendation to Synod 2001. Synod instructed the committee to “spell out the biblical principles regarding singing in worship, the historical intent of Article 69, [and] our current practice, as well as the discussion and decisions made by our churches in 1960-62 re Article 69.” Article 69 of the Church Order of the PRC reads:

In the churches only the 150 Psalms of David, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Twelve Articles of Faith, the Songs of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon, the Morning and Evening Hymns, and the Hymn of Prayer before the sermon shall be sung.

Emeritation

In connection with Article 13 of the Church Order, concerning support of retired ministers, synod 1999 decided that “payment from the EF [Emeritus Fund] continue to be on a ‘needs’ basis, but with the added provision that some amount up to a maximum limit be made available to retirees and/or their spouses upon request but with no questions asked.” Synod set the amount at $15,000. The intent of the decision of synod 1999 was to relieve the emeritus ministers and widows of disclosing their income, assets, and expenses on the “Form to Establish Need for Emeritus Financial Support” for requests which are not relatively large and are below the defined amount. The synodical Emeritus Committee (EC) protested this decision to synod 2000 on the ground that the decision of synod 1999 radically changed, indeed “destroyed,” Article 13, which requires support of ministers in their “need.” Synod rejected the protest of the EC contending that emeritation support continues on a needs-basis with the one provision of granting requests up to a defined limit without disclosure of assets and that “synod should trust the judgment of the emeritus ministers that they will submit requests based on need.”

Protests and Appeals

Synod spent much time judging several protests and appeals. Most concerned discipline cases and, therefore, were treated in closed session. One was a protest against the decision of synod 1999 not to enter into a member’s appeal. Synod 2000 rejected the protest on the ground that the case that was appealed to the 1999 synod had not been finished in the minor assembly.

75th Anniversary of the PRC

The special 75th Anniversary Steering Committee reported that all was in readiness for the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the PRC immediately following the sessions of synod. Synod adopted a resolution on behalf of all the churches thanking the members of the 75th Anniversary Committee and sub-committees “for the diligence they have shown in planning this joyous celebration in the life of our churches.” The Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore sent special anniversary greetings to the PRC. The letter of greeting stated that “as you count your blessings and name them one by one, there will certainly be those who will look upon you with envy and hatred. But do be assured there are also others, like us in the ERCS, who are much encouraged by your many examples of faithful and undaunted struggle for the truth, which make this day of great rejoicing possible.” The complete text of the greeting is printed elsewhere in this issue.

Other Matters

Synod declared that it is appropriate for the PRC to receive gifts of life insurance, whether the denomination is named as beneficiary or as owner of the policy. Ministers who opted out of the Social Security program were advised to consider the government’s recent decision to allow them to re-enter the system so as to receive Medicare insurance when they reach the age of 65. Synod adopted a budget for denominational work in 2001 of $1,252,407. The assessment for each family is $741, the same as this year. Synod 2001 will meet at First PRC, Grand Rapids, God willing.

Members of the churches and other interested persons are encouraged to read the complete “Acts of Synod” when the book comes out later this summer.

May God bless the deliberations and decisions of the synod of the PRC unto the peace and witness of the churches.

—DJE