Church & World July/August 1997

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) met at Village Seven Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs for tis 25th General Assembly meeting June 9–13. This denomination was founded in December of 1973. It separated from the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) in opposition to its long-developing theological liberalism. The PCA operates as a distinctively Reformed church in its doctrinal position, reflected by the emphasis on Biblically-based teaching and preaching and significant emphasis in evangelism, church planting and missions.

This year’s General Assembly affirmed the unanimous recommendation of its advisory committee to “terminate our recognition of the Christian Reformed Church as a church in ecclesiastical fellowship immediately.” This action came as a result of the failure of the CRC to rescind its 1995 decision allowing classes to ordain women as ministers and elders.

In its communication to the General Assembly, the Interchurch Relations Committee of the PCA reported that it had challenged the stand of the CRC which maintains that the Bible allows for opposite positions on the matter of the ordination of women to the special offices of the church. The IRC stated that “God is not divided on the matter.” The IRC also noted that “sufficient numbers among you abandon the conviction of the inerrancy of the Scriptures” which renders the CRC defenseless against other issues. “We are afraid for you out of our great love for you. That is why we spoke as bluntly as we did.”

Prior to the vote of the PCA General Assembly to terminate relations with the CRC, it heard from the CRC fraternal delegate, Dr. David Engelhard, General Secretary of the Christian Reformed Church. Speaking abrasively and with passion, Dr. Engelhard stated that the “report [of the PCA IRC] has not treated the CRC very fairly…” Engelhard maintained that the report was scandalous, contained factual errors and deliberate distortions of the truth. He maintained that “Christian charity, the command of love to believe all things, a concern for the effects of false accusations, (for the ‘tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…and it is set on fire of hell’), a recognition that works of the flesh include ‘contentions…dissensions, factions,’ and a reminder of the admonition to ‘avoid foolish disputes…contentions…for they are unprofitable and useless,’ ought to have tempered our brothers’ actions.” Engelhard was the only fraternal delegate whose speech was received in total silence, no applause.

Former PCA Interchurch Relations chairman, Rev. Ric Perrin said in an interview, “We’ve come to the conclusion that the change in the position of women is symptomatic of a far greater change on Scripture that leaves the CRC very, very vulnerable to other changes.”

The General Assembly also instructed its Interchurch Relations Committee to “initiate discussions with the CRC with a view toward issuing a recommendation to the 26th General Assembly [1998] concerning the future relationship between the two denominations.”

BEAVER FALLS, PA — The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the oldest and once closest sister church to the Christian Reformed Church, voted on June 10 at its General Assembly meeting to break fraternal relations with the CRC over the issue of the ordination of women. The 22,000 member denomination meeting at Geneva College, too about 12 hours over the span of two days to decide whether to break its 60-year long relationship with the CRC. While the OPC cited a number of reasons for concern in recent years, the formal motion adopted, cited only the CRC’s 1995 decision to allow the ordination of women to the offices of minister, elder, and evangelist. Rev. John Galbraith, this year’s final OPC fraternal delegate to the CRC synod, expressed pain and sorrow at having to relay the message. After voting to break ties with the CRC, the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church voted to open “corresponding relations” with the largest group of churches seceding from the CRC, the United Reformed Churches, and voted to express “thankfulness to God for their love for the truth of God and the purity of the church of Jesus Christ, welcome them to the family of Reformed Churches and pray for the blessing of God on their ministry.”

(In the September issue of The Outlook, we will publish an article written by J. Gresham Machen, the founder of the OPC, in which he rejoices at the newly formed ecclesiastical fellowship between the OPC and the CRC. The contrast between the CRC of sixty years ago and today is startling. The Editors)

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — After a year and a half of planning, East Side Christian School will emerge at 2800 Michigan Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI. This preK–9th grade facility will open its door for the first time in September at its temporary home, the lower level of the First Protestant Reformed Church. Mrs. Victoria DeKrager will teach PreK and kindergarten.; Ruth Dykstra, grades 1–3; Mark Ondersma, grades 4–6 and Pete Adams, grades 7–9.

Miss Agatha Lubbers, having recently retired as a teacher and the administrator of Covenant Christian High School, will provide guidance and fulfill administrative responsibilities.

By combining the unique blend of creative energy the staff possesses with nearly 100 years of combined classroom experience, the board is confident that it can provide an enviable learning environment.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — In its annual meeting at Grand Rapids, MI, June 16–21 the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church made the following decisions:

• Synod defeated efforts by Classis of the Heartland to call Dr. Hessel Bouma to account for his view that “abortion is not the moral equivalent of murder” and “that under exceptional circumstances, abortion occasionally may be recommended, cooperated with, or tolerated,” and that “the Synod 1976 decision supporting the Human Life Amendment to the US Constitution is an emotional response to the dramatic increase in abortions in the wake of Roe v. Wade, based on minimal Scripture exegesis.” Synod did approve sending a communication to the President and Congress “lamenting the presidential veto of the ban on partial birth abortions and calling upon the government to enact legislation which would protect ‘the unique value of human life’ and ‘prohibit the wanton or arbitrary destruction of any human being at any stage in its development.”

• Synod approved a new set of model articles of incorporation for CRC congregations specifying that the property of churches leaving the CRC belongs to the group or groups defined by classis as remaining “true to the purposes of this church as a member church” of the CRC (see the article of Dr. Cornelis Venema on this subject in the June issue of The Outlook). The CRC General Secretary, Dr. David Engelhard, indicated that all new churches joining the CRC will be required to adopt the articles of incorporation, as well as all existing churches receiving financial aid from the denomination. Self-supporting churches will be encouraged to change their articles of incorporation to follow the synodically-endorsed model.

• Synod rejected a proposal that theologically conservative churches be allowed to form four new classes which would allow them to remain members of the Christian Reformed Church but adopt a set of conservative theological affirmations on such subjects as gay marriage, women’s ordination, worship and feminine language for God.

• Synod rejected calling God “Mother,” “She,” or other “feminine pronouns and other linguistic structures that imply personal gender.”