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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Book Notes

Written by Frederika Pronk
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Directory of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, 235pp., paperback; September 15, 1995; published by the Christian Observer, 9400 Fairview Ave., Manassas, VA 22110-5802, U.S.A.; cost $25.00 US.
The Christian Observer, a Christian magazine with Presbyterian origins dating to 1813, is published twice per month with the object of being "the clearing house for the Presbyterian and Reformed world... Dedicated to encouraging and edifying God's people and strengthening the Christian family, the Observer uses a blend of short news items, background articles, and contact addresses to promote a sense of community." For several years its Managing Editor, Dr. Edwin P. Elliott Jr. and the editor of this publication have exchanged magazines--we get the Observer and he gets The Messenger. Consequently, a complimentary copy of this Directory of churches which also includes our own Free Reformed Churches, was received.

The introduction (p.iv) states that information is limited to those churches that "consider themselves to be the confessional Reformed community in North America. Congregations appear in order by state (USA) or province (Canada) and then by postal code. [A bit confusing--perhaps a listing by city would be more helpful, FP]. Each congregation has listed the particular Reformed group to which it belongs. A list of those groups appears in the front of this Directory... The Directory also lists prominent figures in the community and major suppliers of resources. These entries are for the use of the Reformed community and those listed do not necessarily subscribe to the Reformed confessions. This is particularly true of vendors and public policy organizations. A series of articles on topics of interest in the community reflects the desire of the Observer historian emeritus, Dr. Harold Parker, to revive the 19th Century custom of reviewing the trends of the entire community each year in a Presbyterian encyclopedia... The Directory also lists contacts for information about the Reformed community in over 100 countries outside North America..." We notice that these are generally churches which the North American churches have a corresponding or missionary relationship.

Because this is the first such project undertaken by the Observer it is hoped that it will become an annual series and "will contribute toward an awareness of our common heritage and better enable us to work together." Therefore, help is requested to send additions or corrections. We hope that this will be forthcoming, for it seems that the inclusion or exclusion of churches and names is rather arbitrary, especially when it comes to the list of "Resource People" on pages 183-196. Rather than having advertisements and articles on only several denominations, it would be better to either have information on all or none. The impression is given that those that are named in articles or advertisements are the most prominent "confessional" churches. We also notice that although the Canadian and American Reformed (Liberated)--a rather large denomination compared to some very small ones which are included and a denomination known for its "confessional" adherence, is mentioned only under abbreviations on p.3, but we could not find any of its congregations or names listed in the directory. On the other hand, CRC (Christian Reformed Churches) are prominent in the Canadian listing, whereas these churches are losing their "confessional" faithfulness. We also wonder how much the "Calendar," which takes up almost 30 pages, will be used. Perhaps it would be better if this space was used to provide a brief sketch of the doctrinal position and history of the denominations and groups represented in the Directory.

Nevertheless, the Christian Observer and its staff have done the "confessional" or conservative Reformed and Presbyterian community a real service by collecting this information and publishing this Directory. We hope the next one will be more complete and less arbitrary in the information it includes or excludes. We recommend that every church library obtain a copy. It will be a handy resource for finding a church to worship when on vacation and for becoming acquainted with the larger "confessional" Reformed and Presbyterian community. There is information on obtaining Christian literature, educational material, counselling services and organizations, and even "Resources for Home schoolers" are listed in its Yellow Pages. It should be noted, however, that the Observer does not guarantee the "confessional" adherence of these services. A perusal of a number of them indicates resources we can recommend, for example, God's World Publications and Christians for Armenia.

The cover states that this directory is "Dedicated to encouraging and edifying God's people and strengthening the Christian family." We hope and trust it will.

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