If you are privileged to attend the upcoming Synod of Dordt conference at Trinity PRC this April, you may notice a similarity between the actual Synod of Dordt and this 400th anniversary conference on the Synod of Dordt: Both are gatherings of many Dutch people, yet with an international character! Out of the over 100 delegates to the Synod of Dordt, 27 foreign delegates (including the two replacements) were seated and given full voting rights in the matters regarding the Remonstrants. There would have been more even than that, except the French King Louis XIII did not allow the French delegates to attend. Who knows how many Dutch people will be at the PR Theological Seminary conference celebrating the 400th anniversary of that momentous Synod but, the Lord willing, amongst them will be a healthy number of foreign “delegates.”
The PRC Committee for Contact with Other Churches (CC) decided to invite officebearers from our contacts throughout the world to come to Grand Rapids to attend this conference with us and to stay in our homes and fellowship with us. In select instances we are helping to finance travel costs of our guests through a generous, anonymous donation to the cause. Our prayer is that our visitors see the life of God’s covenant in the truths celebrated and defended, and in the way we live with each other and warmly welcome them into our lives.
The CC has invited attendees from our sister churches. This we believe is in line with the mandate of our Constitution. In regard to full sister-church relationships, the Constitution of the CC states that we are to “take heed to one another’s life as churches” (V, B, 4). To “take heed to” is to “be attentive to, diligently turn the mind to.” The CC is sending delegations to our three sister churches again this year in partial fulfillment of this calling. But in addition to that, inviting them to come to this conference will allow for our sisters to “take heed” to our life as churches. It will also allow for good discussion of our respective situations and callings as Reformed church bodies. The CC hopes to have official meetings with our three sisters as well as our other contacts while the attendees are here. Thus, we look forward to the visit of members of the Covenant ERC in Singapore, the Covenant PRC in Northern Ireland, and of our most recent sister, the PRC in the Philippines. At Synod 2018 this full sister-church relationship was officially established. We hope that this taking heed to one another’s life as churches will strengthen our bonds in the Lord.
Our Constitution speaks of corresponding relationships as relationships of “no mere formal ties,” but ones “that serve the actual welfare of the churches involved and the manifestations of our unity in the Reformed faith” (V, C, 2) It explains that part of the way this relationship must serve the welfare of the churches involved as, “discussion by means of…conferences on differences which are known to exist…as well as on those matters on which there is agreement” (V, C, 2, b). Thus the CC seeks to serve the welfare of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia as well as our own, by inviting attendees to the conference from this denomination with whom we have a corresponding relationship.
Additionally, the Constitution speaks to seeking relationships with other churches with whom we do not currently have an official relationship as a denomination. This part of the Constitution calls us to “put forth every effort to contact such churches.” Given the fact that some of our congregations have been developing relationships throughout the world and have asked for varying levels of involvement from the CC, we thought it would be wise to make more effort as a denominational committee to contact such churches. The Lord willing, some or even all of these relationships will develop into denominational ones someday. The CC has invited a minister and professor in Mexico with whom First PRC Grand Rapids has recently become acquainted. We have invited a minister and professor in South Korea with whom Southeast PRC maintains connections. Rev. JY Pauraj in Vellore, India, with whom Georgetown PRC has been working for years, has received an invitation. Rev. Titus in Yangon, Myanmar, whose ministry receives support and direction from our Hope PRC, was asked to come. Visitors from the BERG in Germany, with whom Faith PRC has established a connection, has been requested to join if they are able. In addition, the Lord willing, some from the Reformed Church of Namibia will be coming at our invitation.
Why not do the same as your CC and invite your personal contacts, neighbors, friends, acquaintances within your own area to come to the conference at the end of April? Whether they are Dutch or not! After all, the States General requested a delegate come to the Synod who, though living in Dutch lands, was not Dutch at all—a French delegate from the Walloon churches in the Southern part of the nether-lands.
May the grand, biblical religion that the Synod of Dordt defended, be celebrated, enjoyed, and still defended in a unity of faith in these last days.