Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Seoul Impressions (2)

Written by Rev. P. VanderMeyden
Anyohaseo-- that is, Hello in Korean (though they use different letters.) In the last article we reviewed some impression regarding the trip of Rev. Bilkes and myself to Seoul, South Korea as delegates to the International Conference of Reformed Churches. We reflected on our flight, the Korean hospitality we encountered, the prayer service and how the conference had grown from 14 to 21 member denominations. As we continue to consider more highlights of the conference we are moving into the weekend and the second week of meetings.
Reflections on the ICRC Conference in Seoul, South Korea

Visiting Delegates
At the ICRC there were not only the delegates of the member churches and newly received member churches. There were present also visit- mg delegates of "observer churches," that is, denominations who are interested in gaining more information about the conference and may even be considering joining in the future. Most of these are also extended the courtesy by the conference of being given an opportunity to introduce their denomination to the conference. As a result we were able to hear also some reports about developments in other denominations. For example, Rev. Allan M. Harman reported that since a split in 1977, the continuing Presbyterian Church of Australia has been moving back to the heritage of the Reformation. Prof. J.M. Vorster informed the conference that the Reformed Churches in South Africa (instituted in 1859) have withdrawn from the REC (Reformed Ecumenical Conference) because of its refusal to exercise discipline and is looking for a new ecumenical relationship. Dr. Joseph Michael Velazquez told us that the Independent Presbyterian Church of Mexico (instituted 1947 and started a seminary 1948) has withdrawn from the REC, broken ties with the Christian Reformed Church and needs assistance with its seminary. [An interesting footnote we may add here, is that Rev. Schouls just arrived back from delivering a series of lectures on the Covenant at the Seminario Teologico Juan Calvino of the IPCM.]

Rev. C. Richard H. Holst of the Reformed Presbyterian Churches in Cardiff (Wales) informed the meeting that this small denomination originated in 1968 as a desire to return to the reformed confessions and out of a rediscovery of the doctrine of the covenant. Mr. Prabhath de Silva mentioned that the Lanka Reformed Church (Sri Lanka) started as a movement away from the Dutch Reformed Church (of Sri-Lanka) as a reaction to Pentecostal and Arminian elements entering the pulpit. Rev. Hoseph Chien introduced the Taiwan Reformed Presbyterian Church and its Reformed Theological Seminary.

A soft-spoken but impressive introduction came from a brother who introduced the Church of Christ in Sudan among TIV. The Sudan is a district where some of the worst persecution of Christians by Muslim extremists is taking place. This minister had difficulties even getting out of his country to attend the ICRC. The CCST (which originated as a fruit of the mission work of the Dutch Reformed Church and later the CRC) has 215 local churches with a membership of 130,000 and is presently a member of the REC.

Prof. Ichikawa of the Reformed Church of Japan expressed thankfulness to God that the church buildings which were damaged in the earthquake three years ago have been restored. Since freedom of religion was secured after W.W.II, there has been some growth in the church. They are members of the REC but concerned about its direction.

Rev. John Ross of Christian Witness to Israel explained that this organization arose as a fruit of the interest of Puritan-minded men like Andrew Bonar and R.M. McCheyne in mission among the Jews. He called the churches of the conference not to neglect the need fur a Reformed witness to the Jewish people.

Rev. L. Kiemlo Pulamte explained that the Reformed Presbyterian Church North East India Synod (organized in 1979) now has 7 churches and a school. He asked for prayer for the work done among the widows and orphans of this poverty stricken area.

Dr. Young J. Son introduced the Missionary Training Institute which has been established in Korea. He recalled the challenge of Prof. J.G. Vos who urged the Korean churches to begin giving to the world. At that time, 15 years ago, there were 20 to 30 Korean missionaries in the world, but now, with God's blessing on the efforts of the MTI, there are 5,000. The delegates were invited to come to the Institute as guest lecturers, since all classes are given in English.

Korean Christians are not only found in Korea. Delegates of two Korean denominations in North America were also present: Rev. Myung Doh Kim (Korean American Presbyterian Church) and Dr. Jin Sup Kim (Korean Presbyterian Church in America).

Rev. C. Richard H. Holst of the Reformed Presbyterian Churches in Cardiff (Wales) informed the meeting that this small denomination originated in 1968 as a desire to return to the reformed confessions and out of a rediscovery of the doctrine of the covenant. Mr. Prabhath de Silva mentioned that the Lanka Reformed Church (of Sri-Lanka) as a reaction to Pentecostal and Arminian elements entering the pulpit. Rev. Hoseph Chien introduced the Taiwan Reformed Presbyterian Church and its Reformed Theological Seminary.

A soft-spoken but impressive introduction came from a brother who introduced came from a brother who introduced the Church of Christ in Sudan among TIV. The Sudan is a district where some of the worst persecution of Christians by Muslim extremists is taking place. This minister had difficulties even getting out of his country to attend the ICRC. The CCST (which originated as a fruit of the mission work of the Dutch Reformed Church and later the CRC) has 215 local churches with a membership of 130,000 and is presently a member of the REC.

Prof. Ichikawa of the Reformed Church of Japan expressed thankfulness to God that the church buildings which were damaged in the earthquake three years ago have been restored. Since freedom of religion was secured after W.W.II, there has been some growth in the church. They are members of the REC but concerned about its direction.

Rev. John Ross of Christian Witness to Israel explained that this organization arose as a fruit of the interest of Puritan-minded men like Andrew Bonar and R.M. McCheyne in mission among the Jews. He called the churches of the conference not to neglect the need for a Reformed witness to the Jewish people.

Rev. L. Kiemlo Pulamte explained that the Reformed Presbyterian Church North East India Synod (organized in 1979) now has 7 churches and a school. He asked for prayer for the work done among the widows and orphans of this poverty stricken area.

Dr. Young J. Son introduced the Missionary Training Institute which has been established in Korea. He recalled the challenge of Prof. J.G. Vos who urged the Korean churches to begin giving to the world. At that time, 15 years ago, there were 20 to 30 Korean missionaries in the world, but now, with God's blessing on the efforts of the MTI, there are 5,000. The delegates were invited to come to the Institute as guest lectures, since all classes are given in English.

Korean Christians are not only found in Korea. Delegates of two Korean denominations in North America were also present: Rev. Myung Doh Kim (Korean American Presbyterian Church) and Dr. Jin Sup Kim (Korean Presbyterian Church in America).

Theological and Practical Papers
Throughout the conference we also listened to several theological papers. We heard lectures on the "Principles of Reformed Missions," "Women in Office, with Particular Reference to 'Deaconesses,"' "Biblical Principles for the Relation Between Church and State," "Challenges of the Charismatic Movement to the Reformed Tradition," and "The Ministry of the Word Amongst Asian Religious Peoples." (For more details you may want to refer back to the press release in our December issue of the Messenger fur a summary of these lectures). The discussion on both of these papers was lively and challenging. Since I was made recording secretary of the Conference I was not able to be very much involved in the discussion of these.

Christianity In Korea
One of the highlights of the trip was worshipping with the Korean Christians. Missionary work in Korea is fairly recent, having begun in the mid 1800's. In 1912 the Lord worked a moving revival among the churches in Korea. The account of this is recorded in the book The Korean Pentecost by Rev. William Blair and Rev. Bruce Hunt (published by the Banner of Truth Trust). One of the most predominant characteristics of this reviving work was the spreading of deep conviction and open confession of sin among the people in the mission churches. Remarkable conversions took place and people went all through the country- side spreading the Gospel of Christ. God's special providence opened doors of access and confirmed the truth of God's Word. This was a period of widespread embracing of the Gospel. In the last session on Saturday afternoon, Rev. John P. Gaibraith prepared us for the Lord's Day by telling us something of the history of the struggle in which the Korean Presbyterian church developed. Let me just quote how it is recorded in the Proceedings of the ICRC:

[Rev. Galbraith] noted that when, in 1884, the first missionaries came to Korea the Koreans responded quickly to the Gospel. In 1906 the Japanese occupied the land but for some time the church continued to flourish. When the Japanese instituted obligatory shrine worship the Korean Christians, who insisted that they would worship only the true God refused to submit to shrine worship. When the Rev. Bruce F. Hunt, an Orthodox Presbyterian minister, and several Korean Christians were being led away in chains to be tried in court, the streets were lined with Christians shouting "To the end." Later, during the communist rule, Christian ministers and elders were sought out and executed. Many sent their wives and children to the south and the Kosin church started in extreme poverty. Yet these widows would save a few grains of rice each day as offerings to the Lord. It is dear that the Korean Christians have been blessed richly by our Lord. Dr. Hur responded by acknowledging that the Korean Christians are indeed thankful to God for what He has given them and thanked Mr. Galbraith for his words.

Sunday In Korea
On Sunday morning, Rev. Bilkes and I, together with the Dutch delegates and others were picked up by a church bus of the Jamsil-district Presbyterian Church (Kosin). Prof. Gootjes (of the Canadian Reformed Seminary, who had taught in Korea for 9 years) preached in English and a Korean pastor (Dr. Yoo) translated. It was a very impressive experience: we attended the third service which was attended by some 450 people. The Church reports that a total of some 1,400 attend the 3 church services. At the same time (in other parts of the building and in a rented room across the street) there are Sunday School or Catechism classes from pre-school to high school attended by an average of 550 students. This Jamsil church has a pastoral team consisting of 1 senior pastor and about seven assistant pastors involved in visiting, teaching or leading worship. The church is governed by 15 elders and 29 ordained deacons who also attend the meeting of the church board.

Some things struck us as not being in keeping with the Reformed practices which we have become accustomed to. In the Kosin churches there are also some women called "deaconesses" who assist the ordained (men) deacons by means of visiting and teaching children's classes; but in the Kosin church these are clearly distinguished as not ordained. Another thing was the use of a choir during a worship service.

The Koreans are such a meek and hospitable people. After the morning service we were escorted to the consistory room and, seated in the elders' high-back arm-chairs, we were treated to a lunch of the very best food. We felt like a royal delegation. We were then all presented with a gift, a plaque with a Korean inscription: "Immanuel: God is with us" (The church's name is Immanuel Presbyterian Church).

After being escorted home and having a brief rest, that after- noon, we gathered in our motel room ("we" being Rev's VanderMeyden, Bilkes, DenButter, Westerink, Mr. Overwater, Dr. Velema, Morrison, and Rev. John Ross). We had a small informal service of our own. We had borrowed a cassette-player and listened to a tape of Al Martin on Mark 10:45. We also enjoyed some fellowship afterward.

Contemporary Western Influences
That evening, more out of curiosity, we walked around the block to a very large glass-walled Methodist church building to attend the evening service. It was very impressive as to the size of the building and the grandeur of the sanctuary, but it was not so edifying--not simply because we could not understand the language either, but there was little sense that the Word of God was central. It was a cultural sensory "experience." It was hardly noticeable that anyone took the time to preach a message. But this was not a surprise to us. We knew where it came from. This contemporary worship style has been imported Into Korea, as a result of the charismatic influences on western churches. It gave us a broader experience of the variety of religious life in Korea. What is somewhat disturbing is to notice in both Korea and back home that these trends are making their way into conservative Reformed denominations. The regulative principle of worship is losing its effect in both the continental Reformed as well as Presbyterian churches. The choir, the orchestra, and soon movies and drama will push the pulpit aside and soon it will be imagined that faith comes by seeing Jesus acted out, Instead of hearing Him preached. We were glad that on Monday evening Prof. Richard Gaffin delivered a lecture about 'the Challenges of Charismatic Movement to the Reformed Tradition." We hope that the churches of the conferences are willing to do the home- work needed to keep back the influx of subjectivism. Not our experience, but God's Word defines not only the truth to be preached, but also the manner in which God is pleased to be worshipped and what means He has ordained to apply saving and strengthening grace.

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