It gives me great pleasure to be able to write this article under the above title. Such a title is possible because the Lord in His mercy and grace has blessed the preaching of His Word unto the organizing of the Protestant Reformed Fellowship of Wellington into an instituted church of Jesus Christ. It is our privilege to be able to share this joy with them, for the Lord has seen fit to use us as Protestant Reformed Churches in America as a means to bring this to pass.
Organizational services were conducted on the Lord’s Day, March 17, 1985, during the morning worship service. The undersigned preached on Ephesians 2:20-22, emphasizing that they as an instituted church of Jesus Christ were a visible manifestation of the church invisible, the spiritual habitation of the living God as He dwells with His covenant people in Jesus Christ through the Spirit. Their strength, therefore, could only be found in the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as its chief cornerstone, that is, in the Word of God as recorded and preached by the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being that Word, the revelation of the God of our salvation. The small flock was instructed that as a church this was the Word that they were commanded of God to preach, and that too, in all its purity. In addition, the officebearers which were to be elected during that service were duty bound to carry out that mandate as officebearers of Christ.
After the sermon those who desired to become charter members of the church were asked to bring forward their membership papers which they had received from the churches which they had left. Five families, representing eighteen souls, came forward to have their names recorded as charter members of the Protestant Reformed Church of New Zealand, a church which would stand on the Word of God, a church which would hold high the Three Forms of Unity as her standard bearer, a church which would be governed by the principles of Scripture as set forth in the Church Order of the Great Synod of Dordrecht (1618-1619). Having received and examined the membership papers, they were declared to be organized officially as an instituted church of Christ. Thanksgiving was given to our covenant God for His faithfulness. These details are mentioned because we often wonder to ourselves and to each other what kind of churches are organized by our mission efforts. In that light it can be said that if it were not for the many miles of ocean between the Americas and New Zealand they would be heartily welcomed as a church within our denomination. For this we can be thankful to the Lord our God and repeat what was on the cover of the bulletin on that blessed day, “To God . . . Be glory!”
After the above organization the confessing male members proceeded with the election of officebearers which would comprise the session (consistory) of the church. Where churches are organized for the first time this is done by way of a free election which means that there is no nomination ahead of time, but that all confessing male members are eligible. Two elders and one deacon, thus elected, were then ordained into their respective offices.
The above described event was cause for joy and thanksgiving unto God. The significance of being a church was impressed upon the hearts of the little flock again that day during the evening service, at which time the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was celebrated. Some of the saints had not been able to partake of the Lord’s Supper for fourteen years. One can not fully appreciate how much this means to one who has been deprived for so long. On March 31, the Lord willing, the sacrament of Baptism will also be administered. As we look at the members of the flock and the history which stands behind their organization we can truly see that God does indeed gather His people from every nation, tongue, and tribe. Among these eighteen souls we find saints of Dutch, English, Irish, Scottish, and native New Zealand descent. Their church background is just as diverse, coming from Anglican, Brethren, Catholic, Presbyterian, and Reformed Churches.
How did we as Protestant Reformed Churches come into contact with these fellow saints? Let me brief you a little on the history. In the mid 1960s there was a certain Prof. Dr. Klaas Runia serving as professor in the Reformed Theological School in Geelong, Australia. In a paper called the Trowel And Sword, as well as in the class room, he began 1) to question the teachings of the Canons concerning the sovereign decree of God with respect to reprobation, 2) to question the historicity of beginning chapters of Genesis, and, 3) to teach that the authority of the Scriptures was qualified, not dependent on its infallibility. To review this in detail one can read issues of The Standard Bearer printed in 1970-1972. Concerned men in the Reformed Churches of New Zealand became alarmed, for their young men were being trained for the ministry in that school. Since they were denied access to the pages of the Trowel And Sword in which Dr. Runia was writing they formed the Reformed and Presbyterian Fellowship for the purpose of publishing a paper called theReformed Guardian. This sounds very similar to the beginnings of our own RFPA and the publication ofThe Standard Bearer. Included in the membership of this Fellowship was W. van Rij (now of Christchurch OPC), B. van Herk and A. Vooys (now of the newly organized PRC of NZ), and A. van Echten (now of the Palmerston North PR Fellowship). The first three mentioned brought their concerns to the sessions of their respective churches. But the Reformed Churches of NZ did not stand up for the truth even at their Synod. Consequently the brethren were disciplined for voicing their objections to the heresy being taught, even to the extent that two were suspended from the office of elder. They now had no choice but to leave the Reformed Church of NZ. During this history, contact had been made with our churches through The Standard Bearer and Prof. H.C. Hoeksema. Little groups of families began to meet in homes to hear tapes from Hope Church, Walker. The immediate result was the formation of the Christchurch OPC in 1974 on the south island. In 1975 Prof. Hoeksema-and Rev. C. Hanko made their Australian trip and visited these men and others on both the north and south islands. As a result of this trip Bob Kane from Wellington, upon hearing a lecture by Prof. Hoeksema, began worshiping with the Wellington group. In Christchurch, plans were set in order for one of our ministers to help them.
Rev. R. Van Overloop and family were in Christchurch for the first part of 1978, with Rev. Heys and his wife coming in the end of 1978 and the beginning of 1979. Soon calls were extended for a minister-on-loan to Christchurch, but they refused to accept the man called—Prof. Hoeksema. Since then they have turned from us, and our efforts were directed to helping the saints on the north island.
The saints on the north island clearly wanted to be Reformed in every sense of the word. Thus, they did not join with various church groups that courted them. They met in their homes listening to tapes from Hope Church, Walker, asking in 1981 permission to use the name Protestant Reformed in naming themselves the Prot. Ref. Fellowships of Wellington and Palmerston North. They also asked our churches for help. In 1982, at which time they began to meet in St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, Rev. J. Heys came to help them for a period of seven months. He returned in 1983 for a similar period of time. In the fall of 1984 the Holland congregation, having sent its pastor emeritus for two seasons, now sent its pastor and family for seven months. It was in this latter stay that the fruit of our labors in the past years has manifested itself in the organization of this church of Christ.
In conclusion we may as a denomination extend to this little flock our warmest greetings as we share their joy with them. As expressed in the Holland congregation’s greetings to the new congregation “We rejoice greatly that the Spirit of Christ has filled your hearts and brought you to this milestone. We are filled with joy that God has used our congregation, and more specifically our pastors, past and present, in a small way to accomplish His purpose. The comparatively slight sacrifice of our pastor’s absence is far overshadowed by the blessedness we experience in this communion with the saints in a far land. May the God of all grace lead you all in the future as He has in the past.”