Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Report of Synod 1995

Written by Rev. H. Overduin
The Free Reformed Churches of North America had their annual synod meetings on June 7, 8 and 9 in the Hamilton church. On the evening before June 7, a Prayer Service was also held in this church building, with the minister of the calling church, Rev. G.R. Procee, leading the service. Almost all of the delegates were there as well as many members from surrounding Free Reformed churches. The purpose of this service before synod is to direct our attention to the triune God and to His Word and will for His church. The prayer service helps to remind us what we always need to remember, namely, not to be issue oriented, but God-centred, Word-based and Spirit-minded in all our thoughts, words and deeds, especially in our labours in God's service for His church.

Rev. Procee chose Isaiah 57:15 as his text. It reads: "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose Name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." The theme for the sermon was, "The Lord God is holy"--1) Holy in His being; 2) Holy in His dwelling place; and 3) Holy in His work. The sermon made clear what is also stated in Psalm 138:6, "Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knoweth afar off." The gospel message helped remind especially the delegates to synod, what is the only proper mind-set and attitude of heart in our lives, especially also as office bearers in the church? Strikingly, Isaiah 57:15 was somehow, in some way referred to each of the three days of synod.

In the morning of June 7, at 9.30, the minister of the calling church, Rev. Procee, led the opening devotions for Synod 1995. He read from Hebrews 13:1-21 and spoke briefly on a phrase in verse 6, "The Lord is my helper." After the opening meditation, the credentials of the delegates were affirmed and the voting process for the executive officers was begun. It is not unusual that for each position we have to vote one, two, three, and even four times. The result of this year's voting was that Rev. L.W. Bilkes was chosen as Chairman, Rev. C. Pronk as Vice-Chairman, Rev. G.R. Procee as First Clerk, and Rev. C.A. Schouls as Second Clerk. After this was decided, the delegates had a coffee break, while the new executive officers met to make plans for the meetings for the hours and days ahead.

One of the first things we do even before we begin going through the items on the agenda of synod, is to declare together as delegates, our wholehearted agreement with the doctrines of Holy Scripture as summarized in the Three Forms of Unity. A Public Declaration of Agreement with the Three Forms of Unity is read by the Chairman while the delegates stand, and then a song of praise is sung in response. This is a long-standing Reformed tradition, one that we hope will never become obsolete or an empty ritual among us. How important it is that as confessing members and as office bearers, we take time to again and again read through and study the Three Forms of Unity. Let us not allow this gold mine of doctrinal truth to become unknown and unappreciated among us!

The Chairman made a point of saying "thank you" to Rev. Procee for leading the Prayer Service and for opening the synod meeting. A special thank you was also extended to the Hamilton Free Reformed Church which served both as calling church and host church for this year's synod. In every respect they did an excellent job in all the preparations for synod.

We were privileged to have with us an official representative of our "mother" church, the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands (CGK), Rev. J. Westerink. He was given advisory status and more than once he gave his advice on some of the matters at hand. When Rev. Westerink gave greetings on behalf of the churches in the Netherlands, the students of the Rehoboth Christian School were also present. Rev. Westerink emphasized how in our age of increasing secularism, the great need is to stay with the unchanging, infallible Word of God. The Free Reformed Churches and the CGK have a real bond, especially because of our common conviction for the continuous need for Scriptural, confessional, experiential preaching. As much as Rev. Westerink evidently enjoyed being with us, so we enjoyed having him with us. How wonderful and encouraging is the bond of fellowship in the Lord!

At the first day of Synod most of the committee reports were discussed and dealt with. The following are some newsworthy items:

1. Once again we are blessed with a student for the ministry. He is John R. Koopman, who was born and raised in the Chatham area and has been a life-long member of the Chatham Free Reformed Church. John is thirty-one years old, is married to Susan (Rintjema) and has four young children. Starting in September, D.V., John will begin theological training at the seminary of the Canadian Reformed Churches in Hamilton, Ontario. We wish him well and God's blessings as he takes up the four-year curriculum there, supplemented by different assignments and readings under the direction of our Theological Education Committee.

2. Synod approved the institution of a "daughter" church in Cubulco, Guatemala. Every Sunday about fifty to seventy-five people come together for worship with Rev. K. Herfst preaching the gospel. Several men give evidence of having the qualifications necessary for office bearers in the new church. The date for the institution of the "Iglesia Reformada Libre" is not yet decided. We praise God for the way the work in the Cubulco region has been blessed over the last few years. May the Lord continue to prosper His Word among the Achi Indians and may many more come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the only and all-sufficient Saviour of sinners in all places, among all peoples, and in all ages (Acts 4:12).

3. The committee reports on Radio Evangelism and Home Missions demonstrated that the gospel is not only proclaimed to us in the Free Reformed churches, but we may say the gospel by God's grace also proceeds from us. The congregation in Bellevue (Seattle, WA) is increasing in number and growing in understanding of the Holy Scripture as summarized in the Three Forms of Unity. What reasons to rejoice about this good news of God's blessings on the gospel ministry there! We look forward to the day when the Bellevue Home Mission station may also become an instituted church.

Regarding the radio evangelism done by our denomination through its radio pastor, Rev. C. Pronk (for 26 years now), it may be reported that this work continues to be a blessing to many. It became clear that presently there is a great need for increased funding to keep the Banner of Truth broadcast on the stations. The delegates were not in favour of increasing the $7.00 per member quota for this work, but rather appeals to each congregation and its members to give liberally for this cause by way of extra collections and donations. For many years this work was supported by an estate donation which is now depleted. Perhaps more of such donations could be considered by members of our churches. Rather than having to cut back on this work because of lack of funds, may we be motivated and enabled to give in such a way for this most important gospel cause that this work may continue and even increase. It is an open door which we may still use and which gives us an opportunity to reach millions of hearers. May the Lord continue to bless the Banner of Truth Radio Broadcast!

4. Our denominational World Relief Committee was dissolved, but in a way that by no means negated the importance of relief work in the name of the Lord. Our relief collections, especially for the hospital project in Cubulco, Guatemala, will be channelled through Word and Deed Ministries Canada. Synod also appointed a three-man coordinating committee to facilitate the coordination of specific disaster relief efforts between the churches.

5. Among our publications, there are plans to publish a book of "Sermons on the Canons of Dordt" by Rev. Pronk. This is a major project that will take some time yet before it is completed. It is a worthwhile project and we look forward to this new book proclaiming gospel truths that need to be taught and learned, especially in our day of so much false religion and superficial religion. May the Lord use us as churches to make His blessed gospel known also by way of the printed page.

6. The Youth and Education committee work was well spoken of and appreciated by the delegates. The committee members are aiming for closer relations with the youth of our churches and working on being more helpful for their particular needs and struggles. This past February a Leadership Conference, organized by this committee and held in St. Thomas, was very instructive and well-received. It is our hope and prayer that this positive relationship with the youth of our denomination may continue.

There were three matters on the agenda that resulted in quite lengthy discussion and wholesome debate. The one matter concerned the overture from Abbotsford to set up a committee to study the reasons for adherence to the King James Version as the Bible we use in our churches. The result of the sometimes emotional discussion on this issue was that the Abbotsford delegates decided to withdraw their overture. The value of the discussion and debate was that it helped everyone understand the various well-meant viewpoints on this matter. Two points that seemed to be recognized by all is that there is room for some improvement and updating of the language used in the KJV and that the use of the pronouns you and your in reference to God is not a matter of principle but more a matter of preference. We hope that the various viewpoints on these matters will never become shibboleths of orthodoxy among us.

A second matter that raised quite some discussion was a second overture from Abbotsford that requested appointing a committee to look into getting more contact with the Canadian and American Reformed Churches. Synod decided not to appoint a committee for this, but to refer the entire matter to the External Relations Committee, which has the mandate to contact other like-minded churches also. The main point of the struggle about closer contacts with the Canadian Reformed Churches is as stated by synod, "that the Canadian Reformed Churches, in general, do not have the same definition of nor appreciation for 'experiential and applicatory preaching' that is prevalent in the Free Reformed Churches."

The third matter of lengthy debate was the proposal to go to a classis system with a synod meeting every second year instead of the unique system that we have now. The delegates felt that our present system of having an annual synod with delegates from each congregation helps to promote a spirit of unity and balance among us, which could well be lost with a three-way classis system and a synod meeting only every second year. We have become used to the format of denominational meetings we now have, and since it seems to be functioning quite well, it was felt that there was no need to change it. It was estimated that cost-wise there would be little difference between the classis system and our present system. While the matter may be raised again in the future, for the time being all agreed to keep the present arrangement.

Much time was spent listening to reports of the church life of each of the congregations. When a church has been visited by the appointed Church Visitors, they submit a report as instructed in Article 44 of our Church Order. When church visitation has not been made, the consistory submits a report as outlined in Article 41 of the Church Order. Sometimes both reports are given, depending on the situation. The reports (which are all given in executive session, meaning no visitors may attend these synodical sessions) demonstrate that there is reason for much thanksgiving for the many blessings we enjoy as churches, but there is also much reason for prayer for God's renewing, converting power among us. As we draw nearer to the end of the twentieth century and we live in days of increasing worldliness and apostasy in the visible church, how we need to take care to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints," as Jude exhorts (vs.3). May the triune God have mercy upon us and always [al]mightily bless us by His Word and Spirit, may the gospel of Jesus Christ always be dearly loved by us, faithfully proclaimed among us, and diligently promoted by us.

One final point is that next year's synod, the Lord willing, will be held in the Dundas Free Reformed Church on June 5, 6, and 7, with Langley being the calling church and Dundas the host church. This means the Prayer Service will be held on Tuesday evening, June 4, 1996, with Rev. J.W. Wullschleger leading the service.

During the synod meetings this year and following the meetings, one thought that kept recurring in my mind, is how blessed and important it is to work together as congregations within a denomination. May God make it so that we always sense our need for each other and that we always aim to be of strength and support for each other in a spirit of love and humility. May God bless us as Free Reformed Churches more and more, and make us more and more a blessing to others in our decadent, sin-sick, troubled and lost world. We hope and pray that the decisions of Synod 1995 will also serve to guide us further in that holy direction.

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