Pastor Paula Irik is a minister of the combined congregation of the Nassau and Prinsesse churches (Reformed, GKN and “state,” HK) in Amsterdam. Nederlands Dagblad, a Dutch periodical, relayed from the Waarheidsvriend the report of an interview with the minister which appeared in her church’s monthly bulletin, which we translate.
The occasion for the interview is the happy news that Paula is expecting a baby in September and because she wants to arrange her life somewhat differently than is perhaps expected we asked her several questions.
Question: What do you plan for the future?
Paula: My friend Hans and I are going to live together in July; we have found an apartment on Watteaustreet.
Question: You are not getting married. Why not?
Paula: In my circle of friends are many who are not officially married and who would feel alienated if I were. It is a matter of feeling. The church can be very hard on people who choose another lifestyle than marriage. I hope for a church with more room for people who want to live differently, such as lesbians living together, or living singly.
Question: How can you solemnize a marriage if you yourself do not choose to be married?
Paula: That belongs to my job. I keenly enjoy it, and I am not against church marriage. It is good if people want to express their happiness over their convenant in the church, with their weal and woe. It grieves me that church marriage is played off against other lifestyles The joy of homosexual relations, for example, I would also like to see celebrated in church. Now that can often not be done.
Question: Don’t you think that the minister, as leader, must be an example to the congregation? What about the teenagers?
Paula: Are we on the way of the Messiah? Has our way anything to do with the way that Jesus took? To that I want to be held. The minister does not stand above the congregation, but with it. How do we live together as Christians? The Shepherd must go the way of the good Shepherd; the Teacher is concerned with opening the Scriptures together. The congregation may not call me to account for the form, but only for the content of my relation And that is going very well; I have full confidence in it. Parents of teenagers may be shocked – I can readily imagine that – thinking, “I hope that my child doesn’t …” Children may freely choose the lifestyle that suits them. Are they happy? Are they good to each other? Children are not an extension of ourselves; they are entrusted to us. In our congregation, there is, fortunately, room for various opinions and a readiness to talk about them.
Question: What kind of person is Hans? Many of us do not know him. And he is outside of the church. What about that?
Paula: We met each other shortly after I came to work in the Prinsesse church. All of the good things then occurred together. Hans is a political scientist and he has an office at the Bureau of Economics in The Hague. He commutes each day by train and in September will be working three days a week. Just like Hans Mos and Rev. Hibma. we are choosing to take care of this child together, and both to continue working. When Hans was 17 he left the Dutch Reformed Church after much thought. I see much Calvinism in him. We have good talks about my work and my faith; he supports me completely in what I do. He listens critically to my sermons, especially development of the theme. We can freely discuss discoveries I make in a Bible text. He doesn’t go to church because he doesn’t want to appear to belong to a fellowship of which he is not a part. If Hans had been a church member I would gladly have celebrated my commitment and joy in the church. But Hans thinks that it is hypocrisy to bring something into a church in which he doesn’t believe. No one must get the impression from me that I am opposed to marriage. I only oppose using fixed norms and values against people. Do people get their rights? That is what it is about. I ask the freedom to live in that way. We are very happy with that.
The interview demonstrates again what can and may be expected to happen when the church discards the norms of God’s Word to replace it with mere personal opinions – as also our denomination is doing.