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Synod Legana 2009
Address by brother J Bronsema
on behalf of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (lib)
Monday 22nd June 2009, Synod Legana, Tasmania, 2009
(Acts Article 65)
Dear brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
We thank you for your invitation to attend your Synod again this year.
How wonderful is our Lord and full of love for all His people.
All over the world He calls to His Kingdom every one that hears the Gospel.
By His Holy Spirit He gives faith to every one our Lord Jesus received from the hands of His Holy Father.
The Holy Spirit makes us live in open communion with Him, teaches us His commandments in love and lets us grow in love and respectful life for and with the Lord.
Through faith we also live in communion with each other.
That is one of the reasons we are here.
To experience what we have in common as sister churches:
faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, hope for the fulfilment of all his promises and love of God our Father.
Praised be His Name.
Our churches have recognised each other as true churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. That means that we together confess the unique truth of His Word and our confessions based thereon.
This is the only foundation that matters to your and our churches. And based on that same foundation we are given to each other as members of His worldwide catholic church. To what end? Most striking to me at this moment is: to proclaim the gospel in the world where we live and to tell people the way in which they can be saved: Jesus Christ, the only Lord and saviour.
In performing this calling we are given to each other in teaching and conducting the so called "old path" leading to the fulfilment of all His promises. And at that time the number of all His children will be full. The same will be true for all those who did not accept Him as their Lord and Saviour. In performing our calling as churches we need our relationship as sisters.
That relation is one that recognises reciprocity: teaching each other where necessary, but first of all building each other up in love for the triune God and also for our neighbours, those who live next door to us and even those who live far from us.
Reciprocity is not a matter of procedures but a matter of our hearts, seeking what is ultimately the best for our counterparts in the (social) context of their daily life, stained by hedonism, post-modern Christianity and selfishness. In my opinion there is much to gain, because our relation sometimes seems to carry a burden of one way criticism.
This is the place to say that we are looking back with thankfulness to the contribution of your delegates to our last synod. We sensed love for our churches as a fountain giving good remarks and even critics in a positive manner. Yes, our churches suffer from disagreement between church members regarding topics as "Men/Women in office", divorce and remarriage, young people leaving the church to other sometimes charismatic groups and denominations, just to mention a few. But the Australian delegates proved that they have understood what the real drive and threats are in a sister church placed in an ungodly world.
And so our General Synod gave us the task to maintain the sister-church relation with the FRCA.
We will do this by praising the Name of our Lord together. We will together admire His great works and mighty deeds. We are also here to help you and advise you if necessary in the same manner as your deputies did at our GS in Zwolle-Zuid.
We live in a world where in one place there is freedom of religion, but people think they can take care of themselves and they have no need for salvation. They are not interested in the Gospel. The poor and the needy have a feeling that it is necessary that they be delivered from misery. Very seldom they come to understand what their real misery is.
This is also the case in the church. Members, who have been baptised and even confessed faith, leave the church. Ego´sm and materialism are some of the idols of this age.
Others leave the church because they are attracted by the evangelical movement. They want there emotions satisfied. That is self-centred too.
Do you recognise this conduct in Australia as well?
When looking at the paperwork of this synod (many thanks for that!) it was more or less striking to us to see that the major part of business is dedicated to relationships with other churches! Within this item the relation between our churches by far is the most important one.
Can our conclusion be that the churches of the FRCA, assembled in this synod, do not have to struggle with the same problems in the Australian context as your sister has in Holland?
Hard to believe!
Reading a big part of the report of deputies for relations with sister churches regarding the GKV and the overtures synod received we got the feeling that being against or in favour of our churches is the only decision that matters. Is this kind of a new shibboleth? Hopefully not.
We would be really sad and disappointed if the choice pro or contra GKV would make or break the unity of your bond of churches.
At this place I would like to quote rev. Jo Plug from his speech to your Kelmscottsynod in 2006.
Quote: " Some of you may be thinking: but where do we begin? May I offer a few observations to get you on your way. In love, but also in honesty.
As a church federation, you are unusually issues-oriented. My memory of church life here goes back only to the 1980's, but since then at least it seems to have been that way. Church matters, but some church matters start to pre dominate when they should not. They get a disproportionate amount of attention in the church press and elsewhere. Don't get me wrong: the issue's are real. And they need discussion. But they sometimes seem to take over. To overshadow the simple life and joy of faith. And they are discussed in ways which are not necessarily to the edification of the reformed way of life.
Which leads me to a second observation. There is some times an unusual vehemence to your discussions. I am not talking about the firmness with which people hold on to their convictions. But about the apparent assumption that when others hold different convictions, there is something wrong with them.
As I read the church press and as I listen to discussions, I sometimes sense a harshness, a bitterness which really, really concerns me. I may be oversensitive. You may not recognize what I am describing. But if you do, have you considered reflecting on why this is the way it goes? And wether this is the way you ought to be church?" End of quote.
Our observation is that the atmosphere in some of your congregations and even in your bond of churches is not that healthy anymore. Where does this come from and what caused this culture? You definitely will face the same questions in the church we do. We are very much looking forward to your answers. In our opinion the main question is not whether or not we agree with other churches about certain topics, but a biblical answer to the question: "How can we be church, from this moment on, in the context in which we have been placed.?
Brothers and sisters: be aware of the specific role and responsibilities you have in an Australian context to shine and to reach out to the world with the gospel. How do you want to be a true church of the Lord Jesus in 2010 and beyond? Perhaps you experience the same challenges we do in Holland. The answers given in the time of , let me say, after the liberation of the churches in Holland, are not necessarily the same we need today for our young people and neighbours.
In this discussion we have to meet each other to educate, to learn and to build up in true love.
The prominent topic in keeping our churches on track of God's Word is in the so called hermeneutics. Here we need your help in case you are convinced that you have the right answers and the study is already done. We invite you to publish those answers in our magazine Lux Mundi. Your and our churches have to work together in this field.
In pastoral care for the congregation office-bearers look after church members.
Talks with people that would leave the church are very demanding.
Pastoral care for parents of children that left the church for one reason or another takes a good deal of time not only from ministers and elders, but church-members have a responsibility too!
I come to my next point.
Let me tell you what activities can be mentioned.
In some places our church tries to reach people that came to our country from abroad.
In Wageningen they work with students from China.
In Amerfoort every other week a meeting is held with people from Iran in their own language.
In Amersfoort two churches started with a service in the English language each Sunday...
This is also the case in Rotterdam and in Wageningen. In Rotterdam and Den Haag the Gospel is brought to Hindustani and Muslims. In other places people in centres for asylum-seekers are visited.
The Lord blesses us with many means and opportunities to reach out with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And in this way we are privileged to work towards the coming of his perfect Kingdom.
Abroad we have mission activities and aid-programmes in various countries in the Second and the Third World. Differences in wealth and culture are hard to overcome. The Congo Committee from the Regional Synod Utrecht and DVN have made a profound analyses about what went wrong in Congo. In case you face the same kind of problems, these analyses are worth reading.
In the ICRC we meet Reformed and Presbyterian churches. We learn from each other. Dr. Chackoo from PTS in Dehra Dun in India spoke to us about bringing the Gospel to Asian people. That conference took place in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. What he said was published in our quarterly magazine Lux Mundi. The European Conference of Reformed Churches was held in Soest (NL) two times. Ds. De Graaf gave a lecture about Islam. As I said, we learn from each other also in this organisation.
It is still our sincere wish to meet your churches one day at the same table within the ICRC. Of course we know the grounds which caused the break in the past.
Is reconsidering this a "bridge too far"?
There is one additional point to mention. Our deputyship received a letter from our Australian counterpart pertaining a request to change our delegation in the way that our sister Ria Nederveen should be replaced by a male delegate. The reason is that some of your deputies, and I quote: "believe that giving advice is some kind of teaching. They also consider that a synod meeting is a meeting of office bearers and hence they consider those who are delegated by sister churches in the same capacity". We definitely do not support the view that advice is some kind of teaching as a general statement and on top of that we see that our church order does not say that a synod is a meeting of mere office bearers. May be yours does.
But since it is a matter of love and politeness, we decided to change our delegation in stead of not attending. And that changing caused the late arrival of the delegates.
Brothers, I have to conclude given the fact that the time granted to me has been used already.
We are here to bring you greetings in The Lord on behalf of our churches. It is our sincere wish that the FRCA will stay a true sister church. There is not a church without suffering as church history teaches us. But the unconditional desire to obey our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as he revealed Himself in this world, gives hope for the future, which will be glorious!
Delegates of the RCN (lib)
Mr. Jan Bronsema
Prof. Drs. Klaas Wezeman
last updated 24 Jun 2009