1998 Synod of the PRC

Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Walker, MI is the calling church for the annual synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America this year. Synod will convene on Tuesday morning, June 9, in the church building of the Hope church. The pre-synodical worship service will be held on Monday evening, June 8, at 7:30, in the Hope church's auditorium. Rev. Ken Koole, president of last year's synod, will lead the service and preach the sermon. 

Much of the agenda is devoted to missions.

Both the Domestic Mission Committee (DMC) and the Hudsonville, MI PRC report on the work of Rev. Ron Hanko in the British Isles. Missionary Hanko is working as pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland and as missionary in the British Isles. His work outside the area of the congregation is centered at present in Wales. The DMC arranged that candidate Daniel Kleyn and Prof. Herman Hanko helped with the work in Wales this past year. The DMC is recommending to synod that men be sent to the British Isles periodically to assist the missionary with the work. The purpose is to determine "whether or not to recommend in 1999 that synod approve calling a second missionary to the British Isles."

Home missionary Tom Miersma has been based in the San Luis Valley in Colorado for about four years. Synod of 1997 decided that this area has not shown the growth or interest which would warrant confining Rev. Miersma's labors to it. The DMC reports that this is still the situation today. With the concurrence of the DMC, the calling church—Loveland, CO—recommends that the work in Colorado be evaluated by the end of this year, to determine whether Rev. Miersma remain there "or be moved to another mission field."

The DMC informs synod that Rev. Miersma has been preaching once a month for the Sovereign Grace Reformed Church in Spokane, WA. This church has asked the DMC to work with them with a view to their "becoming a PRC mission work and church." The DMC, Loveland consistory, and Rev. Miersma hold out the prospect of moving the missionary to Spokane, to work with this church.

Synod will decide on the proposal of the DMC that a second home missionary be called "for the eastern part of the U.S." He would work primarily with a group of some five families, mostly from the Roman Catholic Church. Rev. Miersma and other ministers have been working with members of this group for about two years.

The denominational Foreign Mission Committee (FMC) informs synod that Rev. Allen Brummel and Rev. Arie denHartog made a trip to the Philippines last December. They visited contacts, preached, taught, and held conferences. At the request of the FMC, Rev. and Mrs. Jay Kortering will visit contacts in the Philippines on their way to the United States in May of this year. The FMC desires to send two more delegations to the Philippines before synod 1999 "to prepare the way for establishing a mission field in the Philippines." The FMC is asking authorization from synod to work "toward the possibility of calling a missionary to the Philippines in the next couple of years."

The FMC informs synod that after the 1996 synod's decision approving the calling of a missionary to Ghana, West Africa, the FMC approved the decision of the calling church—Hull, IA—to discontinue calling a missionary to Ghana. The reason was information that the government of Ghana permits foreigners to come into Ghana as missionaries only if an organized Ghanaian church sponsors them. The immigration officer of Ghana who was the source of this information added, "the Ghanaian authorities would then be looking at how and in what degree we were helping the people and the economy of Ghana. If we were building churches, schools, and hospitals, for example, the authorities would then grant us independent status." In subsequent correspondence with the Ministry of the Interior of Ghana, the FMC has learned that it would not be advisable to enter Ghana independently.

The FMC is recommending to the 1998 synod that "synod instruct the FMC to investigate the requirements associated with sponsorship and to proceed with sponsorship providing it does not conflict with the decisions of synod 1996 (Art. 70) and does not compromise the teaching and preaching of our Reformed distinctives." The committee is also recommending to this year's synod that synod approve a 1999 budget of $101,345 for the general operating expenses of the Ghana field, and $40,000 for the initial setup costs.

The Committee for Contact with Other Churches (CC) reports on official visits by its members to the meeting of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) and to the meeting of the synod of the United Reformed Churches (URC). The CC is recommending to synod that the PRC discontinue sending observers to NAPARC. The grounds include: "1. The important doctrinal differences between us and the member churches make membership in this organization impossible. 2. We ought not to continue sending observers if we have no intention of joining."

The CC also makes a recommendation concerning relations with the URC. (The URC are basically Christian Reformed churches whose secession from the Christian Reformed denomination was occasioned by the opening of the offices of minister and elder to women in that Church.) The CC of the PRC is asking authorization from synod to send the following to the URC:

1. That the PRC and URC discuss those issues which have kept us separate since 1924, viz., common grace and the doctrine of the covenant.

2. That the PRC and URC determine if there are other issues which need to be resolved, e.g., remarriage of divorced persons, labor unions, perhaps church polity issues, and the use of hymns in worship.

3. That the PRC send observers to the next synod of the URC if we are invited and if the URC has the above recommendations on its agenda. Ground: God calls us to strive to manifest the unity of Christ's church, but it must be unity based on the truth of Scripture as interpreted by the three forms of unity.

The CC reports on a trip by Prof. Herman Hanko to the Evangelical Reformed Churches of Singapore (ERCS), sister churches of the PRC, this past year. The main purpose was his speaking at a Reformation Day Conference in Singapore. He also preached and taught in Myanmar and in Singapore. Some of his teaching in Singapore was in the ERCS Bible School. The council of Hope PRC, Walker, MI, calling church of Rev. Jay Kortering (minister-on-loan to the ERCS), reports that the ERCS intend the Bible School to develop into a full-fledged seminary for the training of Reformed ministers in that part of the world. 

The CC informs synod that the Protestant Reformed Church of New Zealand has disbanded.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia, in a letter to synod, has addressed warm greetings to the PRC. The Presbyterian church particularly thanks the PRC for the training of their seminarian in the seminary of the PRC:

We would at this time officially extend our heartfelt thanks to you, both officebearers and people of the Protestant Reformed Churches, for so graciously opening up your seminary for the further training of our student, Mr. Mark Shand, for the ministry of the gospel, and your generous material and practical assistance.

We are grateful to know that you stand wholeheartedly committed to the Reformed faith as expressed in our respective confessions of faith. We deeply appreciate your firm adherence to covenant theology and particular grace. We value the emphasis you give to exegesis from the original languages, and your focus upon preparing preachers of the whole counsel of God. It is hard to put into words our gratefulness under God to you for extending a helping hand to us, a small denomination, in this vital task of preparing men for the ministry of the gospel.

One seminarian graduates from the Theological School of the PRC this year. Nathan Brummel will sit for his oral examination before the synod. With synod's approval of his specimen sermon preached before the synod and of his examination in various branches of theology, Mr. Brummel will become a candidate for the ministry of the Word and Sacraments in the PRC. In its report to synod, the Theological School Committee (TSC) recommends that two men from the PRC be admitted to the seminary in the fall of 1998. 

In 1997 synod appointed a special committee "to investigate the advisability of investing a portion of the Emeritus Fund in mutual funds, and also to recommend proper management practices for the Emeritus Fund, including the investigation of other financial sources." In its report to the 1998 synod this committee recommends that synod make the churches "aware of the significant need faced by the Emeritus Fund and to ask our constituency to remember this need through extra giving and estate bequests." The committee notes that in the next 15 years, the assessment is likely to double from the present cost of $135 per family. In the next 35-40 years, the prospect is that the costs will escalate to an amount that is about 10 times its present level. The conclusion of this committee is that additional study should be given to the following Emeritus Fund matters: "Actively pursuing other revenue sources for the Emeritus Fund; setting up administrative practices for the Emeritus Fund that are necessary to handle the increasing complexity of its operation; (and) presenting fair and consistent 'savings' techniques for ministers not in the Social Security program." 

The Yearbook Committee reports the continued, steady numerical growth of the PRC.

May God increase the churches in number and virtue!

And may they display their virtue by faithfulness, wisdom, and zeal in the major assembly that meets, deliberates, and acts in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord, this June, God willing.