PRC Synod 1997

The spacious, comfortable church building of the Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, MI was the site of the 1997 synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC). Synod lasted seven days, from Tuesday, June 10, through Wednesday, June 18. Three days were devoted to the oral examination of three graduating seniors of the Theological School of the PRC. The 20 delegates from the two classes of the denomination finished all the other business of the 100-page agenda in four days.

In the pre-synodical worship service on Monday evening, Rev. James Slopsema preached on Acts 1:8, "... and ye shall be witnesses unto me...." 

The officers of synod were Rev. Kenneth Koole, president; Rev. Ronald Van Overloop, vice-president; Rev. Barrett Gritters, first clerk; and Rev. Steven Key, second clerk.

Seminary

One of the most important matters on the agenda was the oral examination of senior seminarians Daniel Kleyn, James Laning, and Martin Vander Wal. The three preached before synod on Tuesday of the first week of synod on texts assigned them earlier. The whole of Wednesday was taken up with examination in dogmatics. On Thursday, they were examined in church history; church polity; New Testament history; Old Testament history; and matters of their own life and calling. In addition, the seminarians turned in written exegesis on assigned Hebrew and Greek passages of Scripture. 

Synod approved the examination and declared the three men candidates for the ministry of the Word and Sacraments in the PRC. They are eligible for a call on July 12, 1997. 

Graduation exercises, under the auspices of the Theological School Committee of the PRC, were held on Monday evening, June 16. The families and friends of the graduates and many supporters of the seminary filled the auditorium of the Southwest PRC. Prof. Robert Decker gave a stirring address on the topic, "The Reformed Pastor: A Biblical Profile." In addition to the three who aspire to the ministry in the PRC, Darren Thole graduated. Mr. Thole intends to enter the ministry in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. 

Other decisions regarding the Theological School included synod's approval of the admission of three men in the fall of 1997. Two come from Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland; the other, from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia. A fourth, from the "Bond" of the Hervormde Kerk in the Netherlands, had been admitted to the seminary in the 1997 school year by decision of the synod of 1996. A number of men from the Heritage Netherlands Reformed denomination will again take several courses at the seminary this coming year. 

In response to information in the rector's report that no one from the PRC is entering the seminary this fall, synod urged consistories to bring the need for men for the ministry to the attention of their congregations. There will be three men from the PRC in the school this coming year, one in each of the last three years of training.

Contact with Other Churches

Synod heard an encouraging report from its Committee for Contact with Other Churches (CC) concerning a conference with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia (EPCA). The conference was held in Launceston, Tasmania in January, 1997. Synod expressed its desire to continue to seek closer fellowship with the EPCA because of the agreement in doctrine and life between the two denominations, particularly as regards the gospel of salvation by sovereign, particular grace. Nevertheless, synod rejected the advice of the CC to establish "a less complete fraternal relationship" with the EPCA under the constitution of the CC. The ground was that there are "significant doctrinal differences between us, particularly ... the matters of marriage, divorce, and remarriage; the EPC's interpretation of the regulative principle; and eternal justification." A major barrier to ecumenical relationship is the position of the EPCA that "purity of worship" condemns such practices of the PRC as the use of instrumental accompaniment of congregational singing, observance of Christmas, and the presence of crosses in and on the church buildings as sin against the second commandment. For this reason, synod authorized the CC to set up another conference with the EPCA on the subject of biblically regulated worship. 

The EPCA will be sending another man to the PR Seminary for training in a three-year program. The PRC will help in the financial support of this man in the amount of $6,000 per year.

In response to information concerning the condition of the Protestant Reformed Church of New Zealand (PRCNZ), synod discouraged this sister church from calling a minister. The PRC in America will not financially support a minister that the PRCNZ might call. Out of concern for the spiritual welfare of the saints in the New Zealand church, synod advised the New Zealand congregation seriously to consider disbanding. A main ground was the very small size of the church.

Following the recommendation of the CC, synod extended the term of Rev. Jay Kortering as minister-on-loan to the Evangelical Reformed Churches of Singapore (ERCS) for five years. The ERCS have requested this, and Rev. Kortering is willing. Both the ERCS and Rev. Kortering are convinced that there is much work for him in Singapore and environs. Specifically, he will work at "the continued development of the ERCS as Reformed churches; theological training of future ministers for the ERCS as well as other churches; and assisting the ERCS in their mission work."

Synod authorized collections in the PRC for the support of foreign students (from Myanmar, the Philippines, and other places) who will study in the Bible School that is being set up by the ERCS in Singapore. A minister or professor from the PRC will visit Singapore this fall to help with the work.

Again in 1997, the PRC will send observers to the meeting of NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council). The meeting will be in Atlanta, GA.

Missions

The Foreign Mission Committee (FMC) reported that the Hull, IA PRC continues to call a missionary to Ghana, Africa. 

Synod heard a positive report from Rev. Jay Kortering concerning contacts in the Philippines. Rev. and Mrs. Kortering spent a week in the Philippines at the end of April and the beginning of May, 1997 at the request of the FMC. Rev. Kortering concluded his report to the FMC with the words, "I trust that God will inspire your committee and the PRC to take up this work in the Philippines." The FMC spoke of a "great opportunity" in the Philippines. Synod approved sending a committee to the Philippines before June, 1998. This visit will include a conference with several pastors and church leaders. 

The Domestic Mission Committee (DMC) recommended calling a second home missionary, to work in the eastern United States. Synod rejected this recommendation. It instructed the DMC to use the present home missionary for work that needs to be done in the eastern United States. It recalled the decision of the synod of 1994, that the home missionary is not to work only in Colorado but also in other areas. The report of the DMC concerning work in the San Luis Valley in Colorado informed synod that "numerical growth has been minimal."

The PRC learned from their DMC that there was fruit on their missions in Northern Ireland in that a church was organized. The congregation is the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland (CPRCNI). The date of organization was July 24, 1996. Synod disapproved the proposal that the CPRCNI enter into an "interim relationship" with the Hudsonville, MI PRC. Rather, the recommendation of synod was that the CPRCNI work toward the establishment of sister-church relationship with the PRC. A sister-church relationship expresses the unity of the church. Such a relationship with the entire PR denomination honors the principle of unity that is embodied in the federation. 

There are many contacts and opportunities for preaching throughout the British Isles. Missionary Ronald Hanko is energetically developing these contacts. The British Reformed Fellowship, an organized group in the United Kingdom, have asked the DMC for another missionary from the PRC in the United Kingdom. Following the advice of the DMC, synod decided against this for the present. It instructed the DMC to pursue contacts in other ways and periodically to send a man to the British Isles to help in the work.

The PRC are committed to help in the financial support of the two students from the CPRCNI who will study at the PR Seminary in the amount of $21,000 per year.

Synod received a warm letter of greeting from the CPRCNI over the signature of clerk John Clarke:

We rejoice that since the last meeting of Synod we have been organised as a true church of Jesus Christ on earth. Since our organisation we have been conscious of God's blessing upon us and are enjoying the benefits that church membership brings. The preaching and teaching of Rev. Hanko is highly esteemed by us all, as is the support and encouragement given by his wife and family. It is a privilege to have them live amongst us. We would again like to express our gratitude to the PRC and in particular Hudsonville PRC and the Mission Committee for all their faithful labours. So much of what we seek to do by means of outreach would not be possible without your help. We desire the closest possible bond between our church and your churches and hope that Synod will accept the proposals for future relationships that we have submitted. Our prayer is that God will bless you in all your labours and give you much wisdom in the decisions that you make.

Emeritation

Significant decisions were taken regarding the churches' financial support of "retired" ministers (emeritation). Synod decided that the net assets of emeriti ministers or their widows be used to determine their income and be used for their support. The portion of the assets to be used will be determined by the supervising consistory and the Emeritus Committee. Synod rejected the overture of the council of the Southwest PRC, to rescind the decision in Article 70, B. 2 of the "Acts of Synod, 1995." This decision urged all the churches "to insure that their pastors have a retirement program." The ground for the rejection of the overture was that "the decision of 1995, Art. 70, B. 2, calls the churches to face the calling of the churches to exercise legitimate stewardship and foresight in the issues of the retirement of our pastors." Synod 1997 went on to

instruct those churches whose pastors are not in the Social Security system and who are not contributing a reasonable amount (at least $2,000) to a retirement program for their pastors, to forward annually to the Emeritus Fund of the churches an amount equal to what otherwise would be paid in FICA taxes (the employer's portion).

This decision indicates that the occasion for the recent synodical concern over money to fund emeritation is the fact that many ministers do not participate in the Social Security program. 

That part of the overture of Southwest that asked for a synodical committee "to study the advisability of investing a portion of the Emeritation Fund in mutual funds" was adopted. Synod appointed yet another committee to study the entire matter of support of emeriti ministers. 

Gratefully, synod accepted a gift of $40,000 from the estate of Mr. Henry Koster. The money was deposited in the Emeritus Fund.

Other Decisions

Synod approved a number of corrections, mostly capitalization and punctuation, in the forms in the back of The Psalter. These are made with a view to reprinting The Psalter.

There will be a denominational celebration of the 75th anniversary of the churches in A.D. 2000, the Lord willing. The celebration will be held at Calvin College, June 19 - 23, 2000. The theme will be, "Living Out of Our Heritage."

The budget for 1998 will be $665 per family. This is an increase over 1997 of $15.

Hope PRC, Walker, MI is the calling church for the synod of 1998.

May the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who guided the synod according to Christ's promise and in answer to our prayers, make the decisions fruitful unto the gathering and preservation of Christ's church. 

— DJE