Church & World January 1996

Former Christian Reformed Congregations Federate to Form “Fellowship of Uniting Reformed Churches”

LYNWOOD, IL (November 27, 1995) URNS — After eleven meetings over a period of ten years, most of the 55 independent congregations in the Alliance of Reformed Churches have decided they want to “federate” into a new denomination. What the federation will look like, what it will be called, what church order it will use, and who its constituting membership will be are still somewhat in doubt, but one thing is certain: the decision by all but 21 of the Alliance’s 135 voting delegates to take part in the federation discussion indicates a strong desire to federate.

The large majority didn’t mean the decision came easily, however. All but two of the seventeen overtures and communication sent to the November 14–15 meeting of the Alliance addressed either the matter of federation or the proposed church order—and a number of them urged major changes to the proposed church order, postponement, or, in one case, an almost entirely different church order. The result was that the “federation”—a term derived from the Latin work “foedus” meaning a written covenant—gained its large majority of support only by agreeing to set aside the propose church order for the time being and use the 1934 edition of the Christian Reformed church order pending further work.

Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer United Reformed News Service

WASHINGTON D.C. (EP) — “Republicans for Choice” is a group dedicated to removing the pro-life plank from the Republican party’s national Family Research Council, the organization was founded by Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading abortion provider. And, it’s being run by Ann Lewis, deputy manager of President Clinton’s re-election campaign and sister of homosexual congressman Barney Frank (D–Mass.).

Alliance Minority Declines to Join Federation

LYNWOOD, IL (November 25, 1995) URNS — Not everyone at the November 14 to 16 meeting of the Alliance of Reformed Churches thought federating was a good idea. Echoing earlier concerns, 21 of the Alliance’s 135 delegates assembled for a meeting of those committed to continuing the Alliance of Reformed Churches apart from a synodical structure.

Convened by Elder Pete Elzinga, chairman of the ARC interim committee, the 21 delegates in the Lynwood CRC (Indep.) consistory room met to discuss how to continue as non-federated churches while the majority of the Alliance delegates were meeting in the main sanctuary of the church to discuss how to federate.

“What this meeting is for is to discuss in embryo what we will do,” said Elzinga. “We will do everything we can do to continue the Alliance; I will contact the remaining churches of the Alliance, inform them that we intend to continue the Alliance, and get feedback.”

Elzinga emphasized that he wanted to maintain good relations with the federated churches of the Alliance and with the other denominations which had sent fraternal delegates to the Alliance in past years. “We want to continue to maintain the best relationship with all the federations we have been in contact with,” said Elzinga. “I will try to operate as constitutionally and as properly as I can under-the circumstances.”

Although no formal decisions were made at the continuing Alliance meeting, much of the discussion at the continuing Alliance meeting focused on concerns that the Alliance majority had failed to cite Scripture in its church order proposals or to conduct a thorough evaluation of whether Scripture requires federation at all.

“We need to be looking at Scriptural principles to see what Scripture says about church structures,” said Rev. Jim Graveling of Salem (OR) Independent Reformed Church. “Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of Scriptural principles first.”

Elder Bob Knaack of Messiah’s Independent Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan, told the delegates that much of this work had already been done by the authors of the Cambridge Platform, the historic church order of the New England Puritans, and by the Belgic Confession. Noting that the men of his church had conducted an extended study of the latter document, Knaack urged all present to study existing documents giving Scriptural principles of church polity and to test them against the Scriptures themselves.

Several delegates warned the delegates that if they wanted to adopt a non-synodical form of polity they needed to be prepared to do some very hard work in each local church rather than simply leaving things to those in higher positions. “If you want to make Congregationalism work as a system, you have to make it work through having the ministers really work together, not just sit back and throw stones,” said Rev. Ray Lanning of Cutlerville (MI) Independent Reformed Church. “If you’re interested in Congregationalism, you have to look back at its more vibrant periods, and you will see that the churches came together for weekly and monthly teaching, fasting and prayer.”

Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer United Reformed News Service


All fourteen theological professors at Calvin Seminary who are associate pastors of churches in Classis Grand Rapids East of the Christian Reformed Church recently petitioned classis to affirm clearly the Christian Reformed Church’s official position on homosexuality. That position was adopted by the denomination’s annual synod in 1973.

The occasion for the professors’ petition was classis’ handling of the report “Ministry with Persons who are Homosexual” on October 19. “The classical report is not controlled by the synodical stance, fails explicitly to affirm 1973’s theological and ethical guidelines, and in several places raises fundamental questions about the CRC position,” wrote the professors. Confusion and unrest have resulted, they point out. The faculty members ask classis at its January 1996 meeting to endorse explicitly the 1973 guidelines, and thus to go on record that homosexuality is “a distortion of God’s plan for sexuality” and that homosexual practice is inconsistent with the Bible’s teaching.

The professors’ letter affirms the importance of compassionate, Christian ministry to homosexual persons. It acknowledges that the church’s effort in this regard has been inadequage. And it commends classis for taking initiative in developing ministry guidelines for its churches. But it regrets that classis did not speak with moral clarity on the subject of homosexuality itself.

Many of the professors also conveyed their concern about the report and classis’ action directly to their own church councils.



Twelve men in Western Michigan have established the Dutch Reformed Translation Society. Laymen, pastors and academicians, all are familiar with the literature of the Dutch Reformed tradition and are committed to making the best of it available in English.

The founders are members of five different Reformed denominations. Among them are professors on three different seminary facillities. The Board of Directors is made up of the following men: Dr. Richard Muller (secretary), Rev. Peter Vander Meyden (president), Dr. John Bolt (executive director), Professor David Engelsma (treasurer), Dr. James A. De Jong, Rev. Dr. Joel Beeke, Dr. Eugene Oosterhaven, Dr. Arthur, Dr. Arthur De Boer, Dr. I. John Hesselink, Rev. Dr. John R. De Witt, Mr. Allan Fisher, Mr. Henk I. Witte.

The board members are united in their appreciation of a common Dutch Reformed theological legacy. As a result, the society has an ecumenical dimension.

The first project, already well underway, is the translation of Dr. Herman Bavinck’s four-volume work on systematic or doctrinal theology. This translation, an $80,000 project, will be the first complete translation of Bavinck’s systematic theology.

The first publication will be a selection from Bavinck’s work that deals with the doctrine of the last things, or eschatology. It is due to appear in the spring of 1996. Baker Book House of Grand Rapids, MI, is the publisher.

After completing the Bavinck project, the society will move on to other worthwhile devotional and doctrinal literature. Dutch Reformed theology, the board believes, offers the most mature and comprehensive development of the Calvinian or Reformed faith available, but has been kept from wider Christian readership by the relative obscurity of the Dutch language.

Membership in the society is open to all who pay a one-time membership fee of $100. This assures members of newsletters on forthcoming projects as well as substantial discounts on pre-publication prices for all society projects.

Six Female Seminarians Licensed to Exhort by Calvin Seminary Board

GRAND RAPIDS, MI (November 24, 1995) URNS — Meeting in Grand Rapids on November 17, the executive committee of the Calvin Seminary Board of Trustees gave six women seminarians their licenses to “exhort” in the pulpits of Christian Reformed churches. The six became the first-ever women to be officially licensed to “exhort” by the seminary board.

“This gives them the same status as men for essentially doing the same thing,” said Calvin Seminary president Dr. James DeJong, noting that many of these women had previously been “expounding” without official authorization by the board under procedures first established by Synod 1992 allowing women to “teach, expound the Word of God, and provide pastoral care, all under the supervision of elders” of local churches.

Receiving an exhorting license from the Board of Trustees of the official seminary of the Christian Reformed denomination is the first step in the ordinary process toward ministerial standing in the CRC and is normally granted after the first year of seminary studies. The exhorting license allows students to fill pulpits in the CRC which maintains fairly strict regulations on whom churches may invite to fill their pulpits. Unordained people may fill pulpits only if they have an “exhorting license” either from a classis or from the seminary Board of Trustees.

DeJong emphasized that the licensure process was an action of the seminary board, not the seminary itself. “It’s really important that you mention that,” said DeJong. “It’s not a seminary action, it’s a Board of Trustees action as a committee of synod.”

DeJong said the executive committee acted when it did because the regular fall meeting of the Board of Trustees took place before any classis of the CRC implemented Synod 1995’s decision allowing classes to declare parts of the Church Order “inoperative” to allow the ordination of women ministers, elders and evangelists. “We dealt with the regular fall licensure of men at the September meeting,” said DeJong. “It was only after a number of classes took action they did that the executive committee did what it did.”

While the six history-making women are sure to be grateful for board action, it is unlikely that they are surprised. “This is the logical outcome of synod’s decision of last summer,” said DeJong. “I’m always happy when the Lord gives us qualified people who are ready to preach the Word of God to people.”

Darrell Todd Marurina, Press Officer United Reformed News Service

WASHlNGTON, D. C. (EP) — In a recent news release on 1995 inretrospect EP News said that when the Congress Was not debating the budget, members of Congress were debating abortion. For the first time since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand, the House and Senate voted to place direct restrictions on abortion. Both bodies approved a ban on “partial-birth” abortion, a particularly grisly procedure in which the generally advanced unborn child is partially delivered before being killed by having its brain removed and skull crushed.

President Clinton has indicated that he will veto the partial-birth abortion bill, casting new light on just who the “extremists” in the abortion battle really are. The House vote for the ban is veto-proof and includes a number of reprensentatives who generally vote pro-choice but just could not stomach this procedure. In the Senate, however, it’s likely that the Washington Influenced Multi-Party Senators (WIMPS) will sustain Clinton’s veto.

The US Supreme Court, whose backing of abortion is responsible for such a vile procedure as “partial-birth abortion” being seen as Anything other than the obvious murder that it is, didn’t have too much to do with abortion in 1995. TheSupreme Court decisions ruled that a homosexual group may be constitutionally excluded from Boston’s 51. Patrick’s Day parade. The Court also issued a ruling permitting student activity fee funding of a religious paper at a university, and another ruling permitting the display of a cross in a public park at Christmas. Both rulings upheld the general principle that the government may not regulate, speech based on its content, and may not foster hostility toward religion.

The Court dabbled in the abortion question during 1999, mostly in cases involving pro-life picketing of the homes of abortionists. The Court let a home picketing ban stand in New Jersey. Then the Court refused to reinstate an Ohio ban on residential picketing. Then the Court let stand a residential picketing ban in California. Seasoned observers of ,theSupremeCourt said the justices appear to be deeply divided on the question of home picketing—or have begun making decisions by flipping coins.

Lower courts dealt mortal blows to the pro-life movement in 1995, awarding millions in damages to abortionists for “infliction of emotional distress” and “invasions of privacy” inflicted through residential picketing and other pro-life activity.

A court in New York struck a blow against abortion when it convicted abortionist Dr. David Benjamin of murder for letting a patient bleed to death following abortion. A state jury found that Benjamin had shown a depraved indifference to human life”—not too surprising, given his chosen profession.

The biggest abortion-related story of the year 1995, had to be Norma McCorvey who reported finding new life in Christ during 1995. Better known as “Jane Roe” of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion on demand throughout the nation, McCorvey announced August 10 that she had undergone a religious conversion and was joining the pro-life group Operation Rescue. In an interview with ABC News, McCorvey said, “I think abortion is wrong. I think what I did was wrong. And I just had to take a pro-life position.”