Preview of CRC Synod
Rev. Halan Vanden Einde
The 2001 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church is scheduled to begin on Saturday, June 9, 9:00 A.M. at the Fine Arts Center on the campus of Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI. Election of officers, finalizing committee assignments, and advisory committee meetings will occupy the delegates time on Saturday. A Service of Prayer and Praise will be held on Sunday at 3:00 P.M. at the Church of The Servant in Grand Rapids, with Dr. John Timmer officiating. Regular sessions are scheduled to begin at 8:15 A.M. on Monday, though a good part of the day and evening will be devoted to meetings of the advisory committees.
A brief look at The Agenda would seem to indicate that there are few if any major issues coming before this synod. Though page numbers do not tell the whole story, there are some 340 pages of reports, overtures, etc. There is only one study committee report, along with fifteen overtures covering a variety of subjects.
Board of Trustees Report
All of the agencies and service committees of the CRC now report under the heading of the Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church of North America. Let me highlight a few items here.
The CRCNA will be observing its sesquicentennial in 2007, the Lord willing. The BOT is recommending for approval a yearly budget ($3500 for 2001-2004) and an eleven person committee whose duty it will be to present to Synod 2004 a set of plans for a church-wide celebration of this event. It is with gratitude and praise to God that we anticipate celebrating that historic occasion!
In view of the planned retirement of Dr. James De Jonge as President of Calvin Theological Seminary, the BOT has interviewed and endorsed the nomination of Dr. Cornelius Plantinga as the next President of the seminary. Synod will be asked to approve that appointment.
Classis Illiana submitted an overture
(20) to Synod 2000 relative to suggested changes in the Ministers’ Pension Fund. The BOT and pension trustees have reviewed that material and have basically decided to stay the course. Specific recommendations, involving some changes, are being made in the report of the Pension & Insurance Committee, referred to later in this report.
One other matter worth noting is the recommendation for an additional staff member for the Pastor-Church Relations Office. This recommendation originally came from the advisory committee for pastoral ministries at Synod 2000, because the current staff could not meet the increased demand for services. Without formally endorsing that recommendation, the BOT has approved and made provision in the budget for an additional staff person for the Pastor-Church Relations Office during the next fiscal year.
Agency & Service Committee Reports
There are ten separate agencies of the denomination and several service committees which report their activities at each synod. These reports generally contain a brief review of their work during the past year, along with the joys and challenges of their unique ministries. I would note just a few items from these reports.
Mr. John Kuyers, who served as Executive Director of the Back To God Hour, concluded seven years of service at the end of 2000. The board of the Back To God Hour has nominated Dr. Calvin Bremer to fill that position. We express gratitude to God for the faithful service of Mr. Kuyers, and pray for God’s blessings on Dr. Bremer as he takes up the challenge of his new assignment.
From the report of CRC Publications we find a recommendation asking synod to approve a $5 ministry share for four years for the development of a new curriculum for children. Though about 90 percent of CRC churches are on their customer list, it appears that the percentage of CRC churches that use their present curriculum has declined in recent years. Thus the need for developing a new curriculum.
Home Missions, World Missions and the CRWRC all report that the continued faithful support of the membership of the CRC has enabled them to carry on their respective ministries with God’s blessings. It is always with grateful hearts that synod acknowledges the people who represent our denomination in bringing the gospel of salvation in Jesus to a lost world.
From the Pension & Insurance Board comes a recommendation that will impact the amount of pension dollars paid to our retired pastors. The plan has recently been under review on the recommendation of recent synods. Among the changes being recommended, and if adopted, to go into effect on July 1, 2001, is a change in the multiplier used in the formula for figuring the pension amount (presently 1.1 percent of average salary times years of credited service through 12-31-99, and 1.46 percent for service thereafter). The change, if adopted, will involve making the 1.46 percent retroactive to January 1, 1985. This will benefit all current and future retirees since the final average salary for the year 2001 will be used to adjust the pension benefits. In addition to that, future retirees will be able to choose from several alternate benefit forms.
Committee to study Ordination and “Official Acts of Ministry”
Earlier in this report, reference was made to a study committee report coming before this synod. The committee was originally appointed by Synod 1995 with this mandate:
That synod appoint a study committee to consider the matter of ordination and “official acts of ministry” (C.O. Art. 53-b) as these apply to youth pastors and persons in other specialized ministries who attain their positions by pathways other than the M. Div. degree”. (Acts of Synod 1995, p. 744).
This committee reported to Synod 1999, but, influenced by a number of overtures on this subject, synod referred the matter back to the committee with a broadened mandate, including …exploring the relationship between “official acts of ministry” and the nature and function of office and ordination, identifying practical implications for church ministry today, providing guidelines to help the church deal with matters of ordination and office, and being sensitive to the various cultural and ethnic communities in which our churches minister. (Acts of Synod 1999, p. 626).
Covering the subjects of the history of this issue and the meaning of ordination and office, the committee takes the next thirty pages of the agenda to report its study in a very thorough fashion. At the end of their report, they present a series of conclusions and guidelines which are recommended for adoption by Synod 2001, covering the subjects of mission, leadership, “official acts of ministry”, ordination and office. The most significant new material comes under the heading of “office”, where it is recommended that “the office of evangelist” be designated as the office to cover “a variety of ministries, provided that these ministries fit the definitions for ordination” recommended earlier in the report (where the church recognized that a person has 1. the appropriate excellencies for ministry; 2. the callings of Christ and the people of God; 3. a call to a role of pastoral responsibilities). Practically speaking, that means that, assuming that all these conditions are met, the office of evangelist would include the ministries of education, evangelism, and music and ministries to children, youth, adults and other within and outside of the congregation. By this broader application of the office of evangelist, the church would avoid the multiplication of offices and allows us to recognize a variety of pastoral positions in the church.
One other recommendation comes out of their study. It is recommended that the following changes in Article 55 of the Church Order be presented to Synod 2002 (additions underlined; subtractions struck through): The sacraments shall be administered upon the authority of the consistory in the public worship service by a -the- minister of the Word or an ordained evangelist, with the use of the prescribed forms or adaptations of them which conform to synodical guidelines. If a congregation is financially unable to support a minister of theWord or an evangelist, the elders may request authority from classis to administer the sacraments and perform the other “official acts of ministry”.
The committee argues that the gifts of leadership, and particularly the gifts of the “official acts of ministry” are an integral part of the relationship between Christ and the church and thus ought not be denied to a congregation because it is unable to support clergy. This would be a relatively significant change, and our churches would do well to study this matter and its implications carefully before Synod 2002.
Finally, among the fifteen overtures being presented to synod, three of them are calling synod to form a special committee to study the issue of Christian Day school education, to solicit input from the churches and report to Synod 2002. In view of the continually rising cost of education, and the unique challenges that face us in the area of education today, such a study and re-affirmation to this cause would seen very valuable for our churches and membership.
Your prayers are certainly coveted for all the delegates to Synod 2001. Jointly our prayer must be that God will lead by His Spirit so that His will is accomplished through the deliberations and decisions of synod, and the Kingdom of Christ be advanced through the ministries of the denomination we know as the Christian Reformed Church.
Anticipation of the URCNA Synod 2001
Rev. Peter Kloosterman
As I write this article, the latest excitement buzzing around our household is that our youngest child has taken his first two steps. What a delight this past year has been, not only for us as parents but for our other children, as we watched him grow and develop from a helpless baby to a crawling bulldozer.
The anticipation of his walking thrills my family and we all take our turn to encourage and coax him to take those brave new steps. Yet, there is the reality that with this growth there will be bumps and bruises. We know that these first teetering steps will develop into a stable gait, and soon the slowness of walking will hasten to a run. This matured mobilization will mean skinned knees and scraped palms through the summer.
I have been asked to write about the upcoming Synod of the United Reformed Churches in North America and I see much that is analogous between the growth of my son and the upcoming Synod. Like a sibling holding his breath when his brother lets go of the furniture, I await the Synod with eager anticipation. I look forward to witnessing first-hand the development and growth of the churches of the Federation through the upcoming Synod. I pray that God may further unite and build our churches so that our federative unity may testify to His guidance and oversight.
After I read the agenda, I wondered, will the Federation take a step forward or will she stand with a hand placed on the furniture for security? Will the steps taken lead to a tumble or give further strength and stability for future steps? And while these questions flood my mind, I am comforted by the assurance of God’s word, that the Federation of churches will mature “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit…” (Zech. 4:6).
Comparatively speaking, the United Reformed Churches in North America is a young Federation. The Synod of 2001 which is meeting in Escondido, June 5–7 is only the fourth Synod in the Federation’s six year history. This year’s agenda for Synod demonstrates the maturing of the Federation. The churches that comprise the Federation (and I trust churches of other denominations) watch with anticipation as the Federation begins to walk on her own. The number and substance of the overtures and the reports of the various committees evidence the maturing of the Federation. To convey the different points of the Agenda I will address the overtures first and then the reports.
As the Federation grows there has been a steady decline in the number of overtures. At the Synod of 1997 there were 82 overtures the majority of which addressed matters of the Church Order. At the Synod of 1999 there were 19 overtures which dealt mostly with organizational matters. According to the Agenda for Synod 2001 there are 12 overtures. These overtures display the maturing of the Federation in the substance of the items that they address. In saying this, I must add one clarification. I am not suggesting that the matters addressed at previous Synods were unimportant. On the contrary, they were fundamental to the character of the Federation. They put the feet under the Federation on which we as churches must now learn to walk.
The overtures coming to Synod 2001 can be divided into the following matters: practice, procedure, and doctrine.
Matters of Practice
These overtures petition the Synod to adopt practices that will be helpful to the churches in the Federation. They include publishing the agenda and the minutes in a bound format, publishing news information in a quarterly report, and the rotation of synodical meetings among the classes.
Matters of Procedure
These overtures address items pertaining to the Church Order. One asks that the subject of Reformed Apologetics (the defense of the faith) be added to the examinations found in Appendices 2-4. Another asks that Synod not adopt a recommendation of the Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity (CERCU hereafter). Another overture asks that Article 4 of the Church Order be amended to account for the difficulty of having the entire consistory present at a candidate’s examination.
One other item that the Synod is asked to address is not an overture but a request for advice. Classis Michigan is seeking the advice of the assembly about the permissibility and/ or procedure for examining a man for ordination who doesn’t have a formal seminary education.
Matters of Doctrine
The remaining overtures for the upcoming Synod address matters of teaching or doctrine and the tolerance of those teachings within the boundaries of the confessions. Though the previously mentioned overtures are also important, those that I will deal with under this heading will be the ones where the Federation will feel the bumps and scrapes of learning to walk within the fence of the Three Forms of Unity.
The overtures that I consider to be matters of doctrine concern the interpretation of Scripture, especially the creation account of Genesis, and the teaching of Scripture about the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The way Synod handles these overtures will be indicative of the future direction of the Federation.
The overtures that deal with creation focus on the definition of the word “day” in Genesis 1. They petition Synod to affirm that the days of creation must be interpreted as ordinary days. These overtures arise from a desire to address the teaching of the framework hypothesis. The framework hypothesis interprets Genesis 1 as literary or poetic framework rather than a strict chronological succession of days.
Another overture, brought by Classis Southwest U.S., deals with the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The overture is asking Synod to pastorally admonish the CERCU regarding some of the things it wrote in pursuing ecumenical relations with other denominations. There is a lengthy explanation attached to this overture that addresses areas where the Classis believes the CERCU to be misrepresenting the Federation’s position and at points in error regarding its statements on the covenant of grace and the covenant of works.
In these matters of doctrine, communication of what the Synod does with the overtures and why it rules the way it does will be critical. These overtures are dealing with matters that seek to narrow the confessions to a particular understanding. The question that faces Synod is twofold: Is this the right time and is this the right way to narrow the teachings of Scripture found in the confessions? That the overtures have come to Synod suggests that many believe it to be the right time. But as a Federation we must also deal with the second question, is this the right way to narrow the teachings of Scripture that unite us?
Think of the Three Forms of Unity like a fence on a playground. A fence on a playground provides security but it also provides freedom. If I, as a parent, know the fence is sound and there is only one gate for my child to go in and out, as long as I stand by the gate, I can allow my child to run freely within the fence. I trust the fence to do its work. So too, the Three Forms of Unity and the Church Order are a fence for the Federation which is designed (following the teachings of Scripture) to keep those who subscribe to them within the boundaries of Biblical orthodoxy.
These overtures see doctrinal matters that threaten our Federation. They petition Synod to make our confessional fence smaller as a means to protect the churches from these threatening issues. So the question is this: Is a Synodical affirmation or rejection which makes the confessional fence smaller the right way to remove the threat?
This is the matter of extra-confessional binding. It’s a matter that the church has wrestled with throughout her history. The results have not always been positive and we must honestly assess, carefully and with foresight, where we are walking as a Federation. Living as confessional churches within the Federation requires a commitment to the Word of God, an understanding of the role of our confessions and Church Order, and a willingness to trust one another to do our tasks. Mutual trust, like walking, takes practice and patience and an endurance of bumps and bruises. May God sustain us as a Federation so that our churches may be a witness of God’s glory to the world.
There are ten reports from the Advisory Committees. Some deal with various financial considerations of the churches in the U.S. and Canada. The reports that stood out for me were the ecumenical reports and the reports on missions. If the overtures show the fact that the Federation is maturing, the reports offered by the Advisory Committees show the Federation’s maturity. The tenor of these reports show the committees’ reflection on the teaching of God’s word and their commitment to the confessions in their approach to the various subjects.
Of the three committees that dealt with ecumenical matters the report of CERCU is the lengthiest. This committee has approached her task with diligence and persistence. It has pursued, in varying degrees, ecumenical relations with many other denominations. One helpful aspect of the CERCU report was the supplemental report offered as a response to the overture of Classis Southwest. This report should alleviate some of the misunderstanding and answer the concerns raised by this Classis. The interaction shows the precariousness of the pursuit of ecumenical relations. The CERCU has been asked to relate positions on theological subjects, from a Federation that has not taken formal positions on certain theological subjects. The wisdom of the CERCU is shown in its recommendation that the Synod approve its work without ruling on the positions it publishes. In this manner, the committee tries to avoid an extra-confessional position.
The most noteworthy item reported by the CERCU is the continued progress that is being made with the Canadian Reformed Churches. In a three-phase process that culminates in complete church unity, the committee has completed the first phase and recommends that the URCNA proceed to the second phase. Proceeding to the second phase, known as Ecclesiastical Fellowship, requires ratification by a majority of the consistories according to Church Order Article 36.
The URCNA-OPC Study Committee gives another helpful report. This committee was charged with comparing the confessions and polities of the URCNA with the OPC. The committee offers a helpful comparison of both standards. This comparison shows the high degree of similarity that can be found between these two bodies. It should serve to further unity at a local level and open the way for dialogue on some of the differences.
Last of the reports that should be noted is the report of the committee charged with developing a Biblical and confessional view of missions. The report of this committee shows a hardy commitment to follow the calling of God’s word for the churches and their missionary outreach. In an age that thrives on programs and follows fads, it was refreshing to read an articulation of the Biblical and confessional call to missions. This is a call that the Federation must heed, for it is the call of the Lord, and demands a whole-hearted and urgent commitment.
It may be a summer of bumps and scrapes not only in the Kloosterman household, but also at Synod. We need not fear this. We must learn to walk together, in a manner that glorifies God. God has blessed our Federation with wise pastors and elders and a rich heritage. We should listen and learn from our history and the history of others, to avoid our natural proclivity to walk in harm’s way. But more importantly we must learn to listen to each other and grow in truth and trust. As churches, may we recognize and assist each other in our task of preaching, our love for others, our desire to follow God’s word, and our calling to live as the Bride of Christ. May we be united in these, even as we are united in name.
Synod Neerlandia 2001 Canadian/American Reformed Churches
Mr. Pete De Boer
A prayer service will be held in the Canadian Reformed Church at Neerlandia, Alberta, Canada on April 30 at 8:00 PM. Rev.R.Aasman of Edmonton, AB will conduct the service in which the Lord will be implored for a blessing over the work of Synod 2001. It is not unusual to ask the Lord for a blessing over work in the Church. It is the expected address for all our help. Every Lord’s Day we are reminded of and confess together that “our help is in the Name of the Lord Who made heaven and earth.”
As a delegate to Synod and an avidly interested church member one soon comes to the realization that without that very ‘help’ of our heavenly Father the Church and its members are busy with a losing proposition. The sin and its effect have taken a toll in all aspects of life. The Evil One surely attacks throughout the battlefield of mankind, but he definitely does not leave the covenant people of God alone. Where defense of the truth is desperately pursued, the devil is bound to be near by.
The agenda of Synod speaks clearly about the hopes, dreams and struggles of the Church and its members. Based on the clear injunction of Scripture that all God’s people must be one in faith, the Church continues to struggle for unity with all that show a sincere desire and effort to worship the one true God according to His Word. There is likely no one among the believers in Church who does not hope for a unity with so many who have the Reformed understanding of God’s Word. Surely there are also many that visualize the effect that, according to human standards, unity of believers can have on the work of the Church.
But there is also a great struggle that accompanies the pursuit of unity. No one will agree that unity must be attained even at the cost of compromising the truth. At the same time many will explain that numerous differences are not of an essential nature. One must expect that the work of the Lord that has taken place in various countries and on different continents will have some differences. In the pursuit of unity the struggle of the Canadian Reformed Churches has been to unite in an approach toward other federations. This struggle is obvious when the agenda of the upcoming Synod is scrutinized.
Since the establishment of the Canadian/American Reformed Churches (CanRC) in the 1950’s unity with others has been a matter of the agenda of Synods. Throughout the years committees have been established to approach other federations and their committees for discussions and interaction. At Synod 2001 in Neerlandia an extensive report will be tabled from the Committee for Contact with Churches in the Americas (CCCA). This committee will report on discussions with the committees for contact of the Eglise Reformee du Quebec (ERQ), the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) as well as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). With all of these federations contact has been ongoing for numbers of years. New contact has also been established with the Independent Church of Mexico.
A variety of appeals and overtures from churches and individuals regarding the CCCA report and decisions of the last Synod (Fergus, 1998) will have to be dealt with.
Most of these deal with issues that are seen as hurdles to some and obstacles to others. The fencing of the Lord’s Supper table has become a pivotal issue in many of the discussions with Presbyterian churches. It appears that many of the issues would fall away if agreement could be reached about what the Church really is, according to God’s Word. The matter of pluriformity of the Church has not been in focus during the discussions but does appear to be the fundamental theme that lies behind the difficulties in coming to grips with the matters that are to be dealt with. Concerning the RCUS the discussions include the fencing of the Lord’s Supper table as well as some other differences in practice. Synod could well establish Ecclesiastic Fellowship with both or either the OPC and/or the RCUS. On the other hand, the number of appeals and overtures regarding the recommendations of committees and subcommittees does indicate an active disagreement within the federation. The struggle of unity seems to include disunity within the CanRC.
At the same time the Committee for the Promotion of Ecclesiastical Unity (CPEU) will report on discussions they have had with the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA), the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches (OCRC) and the Free Reformed Churches in North America (FRCNA). This committee has also had contact with churches within the CanRC to give guidance and conformity with regard to local contacts with these three church federations.
The CPEU has come to the point of agreeing to a specific agenda for full federative unity with the URCNA committee for contact. Both committees have addressed their respective Synods for approval of the timetable they have agreed to. Such approval would mean that the CanRC and the URCNA would unite into one federation in the year of our Lord 2004. Who would not rejoice at such an occasion? Yet, there are voices that question the speed of this agreement. Discussions and public meetings have also been held with the FRCNA. Also in the discussions of the CPEU the matter of pluriformity lies at the background.
Another committee that has brought an extensive report is the Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad (CRCA). Their report deals with Church federations that the CanRC already have sister-church (Ecclesiastic Fellowship) with. They are the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland – Vrijgemaakt (GKN), the Presbyterian Churches of Korea – Kosin (PCK), the Free Reformed Churches of South Africa (FRCSA), the Free Church of Scotland (FCS) and the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA). This committee also deals with the membership of the CanRC in the International Council of Reformed Churches (ICRC).
With regard to the GKN the committee has reported on a number of decisions made at the recent Dutch synods that have raised some question about the direction being taken. As many of the members of the CanRC have a common heritage in the GKN, developments in her midst are not only of an ecclesiastic concern but also touch the human emotion. Many expressions of surprise and sadness have been heard when word of the various decisions has come to the churches whose members have their roots in those churches. Issues of concern in the report of the committee include a change in understanding of the fourth commandment. A change in the marriage form has also taken place.
The number of hymns for the worship services has increased dramatically. Women as well as the men are voting for officers of the church. In some cases Synod did not follow the accepted practice for receiving material and recommendations for change via the churches (the concern of hierarchy has been expressed). Concern has also been expressed about the lack of communication and cooperation in the establishment of relationships between the GKN and churches where the GKN already has sister churches. One of the adopted rules for Ecclesiastic Fellowship states that such communication and discussion is to take place before further relationships are established.
The reports concerning the Australian and South African churches are heart-warming. Even though the South African churches have gone through difficult times in the past years it appears that the Lord has given them a period of relative peace.
Developments in the relationship with the Scottish and Korean churches are a bit more troublesome. In Scotland the FCS has suffered a terrible split. At present there are two separate groups that claim to be the continuation of the original Free Church. At the same time the lack of correspondence with the Korean churches brings up questions about the purpose, function and benefits of ecclesiastic fellowship with this federation.
As mentioned the CRCA has membership in the ICRC as part of its mandate as well. There has been some discussion about our involvement in recommending new members to this organization. Some argue for a restricted involvement while are others would like to see a broader involvement. This will also have the attention of the delegates at Synod.
The only standing committee in the CanRC is the Committee for the Book of Praise (CBOP). This is because the CanRC consciously strive to prevent hierarchy. All committees are reappointed and mandated at Synod. The exception for the Book of Praise committee is because of the legal requirement to have an entity to address and be responsible for the patents and other legal issues that surround such a book. It was mandated by the previous Synod to aspire to a book with musical notations on all pages. Although this mandate has not been fulfilled, work towards this goal is ongoing.
Synod will have to deal with a request from the eastern regional synod that asks for an increased mandate for the CBOP to cover the handling of proposed changes that may come from a variety of sources. At present the committee does not have such a mandate and those who wish to propose changes are left with no other alternative but to address Synods. Some changes are also suggested for the Church Order. (This has to do with accepting ministers from other federations when they come without a congregation.) Amendments have also been suggested for the language in the Heidelberg Catechism.
A suggestion has been made to standardize the Subscription Form. At present there is no uniformity in this matter, although the gist of all the subscription forms in the federation is the same.
The Board of Governors regularly reports to the Synods. The College belongs to the Churches and as such the Board of Governors is appointed by the various Synods, as needed. At this Synod a new appointment will have to be made for professor in the New Testament department. Prof. Geertsema will be retiring.
Regional Synod East has asked Synod to appoint a committee to once more study the matter of women voting for officers in the Church. One of the reasons they express is the fact that the GKN has recently adopted this practice. Synod will have to decide if this is sufficient ground to reconsider the issue as it has been dealt with at several Synods in the past.
The Committee on Bible Translations reported to Synod that they have had no correspondence from the Churches. They feel their mandate has been fulfilled and see no need to be reappointed.
Some correspondence and private appeals round out the balance of the agenda for Synod.
One can hardly disagree that the foregoing is a formidable task for any group of sixteen men, no matter how learned they may be. Only in the strength of the Head of the Church can this task be undertaken. As the brothers study and prepare, discuss and debate may our Father and the Lord of heaven and earth strengthen and encourage them. May they be blessed with wisdom from above, basing all their decisions on the Word of God and to the glory of His name.
[By the time this issue goes to print, Synod 2001 of the Canadian American Reformed Churches will be finished. We hope to have the results of some of the above discussions in our next issue. – The Editor]
North American Fellowship of Reformed Churches Spring 2001 Meeting (Formerly Lake Michigan Regional Fellowship of Reformed Churches)
Philip A. Barker, N.A.F.R.C. Clerk
The Spring 2001 meeting of the North American Fellowship of Reformed Churches, was hosted by Reformed Heritage Community Church of Holland, Michigan on Thursday, April 12. The 6:30 p.m. business meeting of delegates from member churches was followed at 7:30 p.m. by a previously announced and advertised open-to-the-public meeting having Michigan State Senator William VanRegenmorter as its guest speaker.
Councils of the member churches, subsequent to the Fall 2000 meeting, had ratified proposed revisions to the Fellowship’s Articles of Fellowship including a name change from Lake Michigan Regional Fellowship of Reformed Churches to North American Fellowship of Reformed Churches. The name change reflects the participation and interest of churches beyond the Lake Michigan geographical area. The elders of Messiah’s Independent Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan, in a motion presented by Rev. Ken Anema, recommended a wording amendment of an in-progress draft revision of the Articles of Fellowship Supplement defining procedures for the Fellowship’s advisory-only mediation of properly appealed council rulings by members of individual churches. The wording recommendation, supporting the principle that oversight of a congregation rests ultimately with its own body of elders, was supported and approved by the delegates. The proposed Supplement, thus amended, was subsequently mailed to member church councils for ratification. With sorrow, the Fellowship received a March 11, 2001 letter from Rev. Richard J. Miller reporting the dissolution of the Independent Reformed Church of Cutlerville (Michigan), a member church.
Following prayer and business meeting adjournment, the Fellowship-moderated public meeting commenced in the sanctuary of the church. Moderator Peter Yonker introduced State Senator William VanRegenmorter who spoke on the topic of casino gambling in Michigan. Senator VanRegenmorter, who bears an effective Christian witness and perspective in the conduct of his office, specifically addressed the prognosis for defeat by the state senate of a new compact that would authorize establishment of such a casino south of Grand Rapids in West Michigan. He also assessed prospects for support of such state action at the federal level. He encouraged the prayers of all on this matter, and suggested letters commending Michigan Governor John Engler for his previously stated stand in opposition to any new casino compacts. After receiving and answering questions from the audience, the senator also gave brief updates on other issues of state concern including the state lottery, gay activism, hate crimes penalties, pornography, teaching of creationism in public schools, abortion rights, euthanasia, and the problem of violence among young children – in which children are killing children.
Refreshments served afterwards by the women of the church afforded opportunities for many to interact personally with senator VanRegenmorter.