I have some CRC people who read this site. Which stands to reasons since I am an ordained minister in the CRC. I have cross posted (something I very seldom do) a post here from another CRC pastor who was a delegate to the CRC Synod this year. The reason I cross posted it is that I wanted this news to come from somebody else, since I suspect that sometimes this chicken little isn’t heard because he screams so much. I have put in bold relief some points that I think need to be emphasized.
Since I reported late last night I’m reporting early today. The big topic of the day (all day in fact) has been our relationship to the Protestant Churches of the Netherlands. For many out there you may say, “Why would that be a big deal??” Well, there is a huge historical connection between the CRC and the PCN (which was formerly the GKN, our “mother” denomination, so to speak). Anyway, the Inter-church Relations Committee was asking that we establish full ecclesiastical fellowship with the PCN. When it was the GKN (which merged with two other denominations to form the PCN) we restricted our relationship because they began ordaining practicing homosexuals and there are some questions on how they view Christ. Now, under the CRC’s new ecumenical charter which promotes broader and less restricted relationships, the IRC would like those restrictions removed.
With underlying practices such as those, you can imagine there was a ton of debate. That began in the Advisory Committee as they ended up with both a majority and minority report basically as follows:
* Majority Report: enter into full ecclesiastical fellowship with the PCN
* Minority Report: enter into a relationship of dialogue with the PCN
Full ecclesiastical fellowship is a deeper relationship which allows for fellowship at the Lord’s Supper together and exchange of pulpits. Dialogue means just that – a talking relationship. So do we overlook these differences in the spirit of Christian unity or do we continue to send the message we’ve been sending them that their practice is sinful – but we’re willing to maintain contact in the hopes that God’s Word will prevail in the future.
Over the course of the debate, it came out from a poll done in the Netherlands that 14% of the pastors in the PCN consider themselves atheist or agnostic. Yes, you read that right. (Further,)39% of PCN pastors cannot deny the statement that God is a figment of human thought… eek!
But it was also reported that the percentage of atheist pastors is going down and the number of orthodox pastors is rising – so God is bringing some hope there… Praise the Lord!
Procedurally, there were a couple of recommendations. The first was to declare the restricted relationship with the GKN moot in respect to the PCN because it was in effect a new denomination. That passed – so we didn’t have any officially relationship with the PCN. Next the majority report to establish full fellowship was tabled almost immediately and the minority report taken up. That was debated for a long time but then defeated by less that 10 votes. The majority report was taken off the table and discussed for quite a while again, but that was also defeated, but by a little more than 10 votes. So back to the drawing board – and for a few hours today we have no relationship with the PCN – the committee is meeting to come up with a third option – however, our new ecumenical charter doesn’t have a third option… so what’ll they come up with next???
More than the specific relationship to this church is what does this mean for the CRC. Does hopping in bed with the PCN give defacto credence to homosexual practice and loose Christology?? Or is it our opportunity to be a witness to them? I guess if we look back on the 20 or 30 years of strained relationship we’ve had – trying to be a witness to them – have we had more effect on them for orthodoxy or they on us for liberalism? An unrestricted relationship would only give us more of the same.
On top of that, what does our relationship with them convey to our local congregations?? To other denominations (the fraternal delegates from the CRC in Nigeria were fairly vocal about this in the gallery)… to our communities?? Lots of implications.
I won’t go through all the debates, but the parallel I drew was to I Corinthians 5:9-13.
“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
If that doesn’t speak here, it doesn’t speak anywhere. Of course, we speak the truth in love… but we still speak the truth. But does God’s Word mean that much to these kind of debates?? By now you know my answer to that question… maybe I should make that a motion on the floor to see what Synod thinks. More later….
A few comments from Bret
1.) One must keep in mind that the three denominations in the Netherlands that merged to form the new denomination (PCN) each individually before the merger affirmed homosexuality in one way or another. Does a new denomination that is comprised from three denominations that affirmed homosexuality in one way or another end up not affirming it, itself?
2.) One wonders if the putative increase of ‘orthodox’ ministers in the PCN is anecdotal. Is there hard evidence that shows this?
3.) Note it was the bureaucracy of the CRC (inter-church relations) that asked for fraternal relations with the PCN. What does that tell us?
4.)Note also it was the majority report from the bureaucrats (advisory committee) that recommended full ecclesiastic fellowship with the PCN.
postscript — The 2008 Synod dealt with this issue by asking their bureaucratic structure (the one that gave the majority report recommendation to restore full ecclesiastical fellowship) to see if it could come up with a relationship that is not full ecclesiastical fellowship but is more than what is referred to as “churches in dialogue.”
The motion that passed on Thursday afternoon comes out of a desire of the CRC “to develop and maintain a relationship with the PCN that … does not obscure the seriousness of the issues that led to restrictions being placed on the GKN prior to formation of the PCN – issues that appear to continue today in the PCN,” says the IRC’s recommendation.