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The final (published) version of the Acts of Synod 2006 is available as a single PDF file here.
The Acts available in HTML format are an "Approved Draft", and contain spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and typos.
These draft acts are being retained online for convenience and ease of access. Quotes should not be taken from these draft acts.
Address by Br Henk Hoogstra
on behalf of the Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad of the Canadian Reformed Churches
Monday 17th July 2006, Synod West Kelmscott, Western Australia, 2006 (Acts Article 84)

Mr. Chairman,
Members of Synod West Kelmscott,
Fellow Delegates,
Brothers and Sisters,

Two months ago, your Prime Minister, John Howard, visited our country and addressed the Canadian Parliament. He was only the second Australian high official to do so, following in the steps of Mr John Curtin in 1944. Both Mr Howard and our conservative Prime Minister, Steven Harper, are seen to revel in combating political orthodoxy. One of the most important issues on their agenda was finding an alternative to the Kyoto Pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in fighting climate change. Mr Howard bluntly told his hearers, "This is an issue where you have people who are very doctrinaire. They think the only path to environmental salvation is the Kyoto path and we don't hold that view ... No developed country is going to sacrifice a significant amount of [its] economic development and jobs mindlessly or carelessly ..." (The Vancouver Sun, May 19, 2006, p. A5 and May 20, 2006, p. A10).

How insignificant it seems, that two months later two conservative Canadians are visiting your country and address a gathering of sixteen Australian delegates and approximately ten foreign representatives. A number of interested local church members, some fifty people in all, are assembled to tackle a number of issues you deem of great important. The cameras are not rolling; not even an official correspondent of the Nederlands Dagblad neither a representative for Una Sancta are here to collect information on the proceedings to email these to their offices. No dissidents are holding up their placards outside the church building. Instead, ignorance of the significance of the discussions and decisions of this assembly are lost on the passers-by. No police and security forces are here for crowd control and to stave off any possible attempt to disrupt the proceedings. Perhaps the best way for the evil one is to prevent publicity to this synodical work, and thereby to avoid bringing it to the attention of the common Australian. After all, of what importance is a synod representing a church federation of fewer than 4,000 members in a country of just over 20,000,000 inhabitants?!

Brothers, you are here to do the Lord's work, to acknowledge the holiness of His Name and to promote the coming of His Kingdom. Several of the terms your Prime Minister used in his speech: orthodoxy, doctrinaire, salvation and sacrifice, are expressions we know well, and are labels which we are Reformed people do not mind to have attached to us. This sets us apart from the liberal mainline and Pentecostal denominations, their forward thinking and approaches to all matters religious. Sometimes we even pride ourselves on this designation, feeling that this judgment on our view of issues is a badge of honour. We should realize though, that our stated position must reflect the Biblical norm of expressing its teachings. The derived rules have to govern the style of our daily living and our congregational regulations and interaction. Gratitude must be the theme of our lives; thankfulness to God for choosing us to be His people, indebtedness for the redeeming work of His Son, our Saviour, and delight for the work of the Holy Spirit. There is thus no reason for pride in what we feel we stand for; only confidence in the all surpassing love of God. Therefore, with the apostle Paul we may encourage you with the words of Phil 2:12b, 13 (NIV), "... Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God Who works in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure."

We are happy to be in your midst. It has been a long time since delegates from the Canadian/ American Reformed Churches have been "down under" to extend their greetings and participate in the discussions at a synod of your Free Reformed Churches. Br Harold Leyenhorst and I feel privileged to have been appointed by our Committee for contact with Churches Abroad (CRCA) to bring you the greetings from our federation. Our churches, like yours, started from small beginnings, following the immigration waves after World War II. Presently we consist of 49 congregations spread across much of Canada and four in the northern United States of America. The federation is divided into eight Classes and the total membership hovers around 16,000. There are 44 ministers in active service, most of whom have been educated at our Theological College at Hamilton. Mission work is undertaken at home and abroad. Rev Frank Dong, well known to you; after all you sponsored his pastoral training, labours among the Chinese populations in the Vancouver area of Canada. We truly appreciate the close working relationship with the Church of Kelmscott in their sponsorship of his varied tasks. Rev Colin Macleod was recently installed to work with the aboriginal people of Babine, near Smithers, British Columbia. Street Light Ministries continues its activities in Hamilton, Ontario, in spite of the recent disappointing decline of the call which had signalled its next phase. Other missionaries and fields are found in Brazil - Rev Ken Wieske, Rev Bram DeGraaf and a vacancy; in Indonesia - Rev Edwar Dethan; and in Papua New Guinea - Rev Stephen 'tHart. (How come many of these names sound so familiar? you may ask). Support for the Eglise Reformée du Quebec denomination of our French speaking Canada is channelled through the church of Owen Sound, Ontario. Numerous elementary and several secondary schools as well as our own Teachers' College, three homes for the mentally handicapped and a number of homes for the elderly demonstrate the blessings God has entrusted to our federation.

Our relationship to the United Reformed Churches of North America may be of special interest to you. It is a young federation, founded in 1985. Its membership originated for the greater part from disenchanted members of the Christian Reformed Churches in the United States and Canada. The progressive liberalism in doctrine and church life caused many to leave, so faithfulness to the Scriptures and confessions would not be impeded.

The Canadian and American Reformed Churches have recognized this federation as true and faithful churches of our Lord and agreed to commence a three-step process of achieving ecclesiastical unity. Presently we are working at the Phase 2 level. Three joint Committees are working on matters of great importance:
  1. The Joint Church Order Committee's work is fundamental in the development of unity. Its work has progressed very well to date.

  2. The Song Book Committee also reports good rapport and progress. Different mandates from the respective synods are a real challenge for the committee. Our synod's mandate calls for the inclusion of the 150 Anglo-Genevan versions of the Psalms, with the allowance for alternate renditions. The URCNA will consider the Genevan tunes for inclusion along with the appropriate Psalm and hymn sections of their Psalter Hymnal. Thus, while there is agreement in principle, much time and energy is spent on the practical application.

  3. The Theological Education Unity Committee has reached an impasse. The URCNA draws candidates for the ministry from various institutions, and places the oversight on the theological training with the local congregations. We desire to maintain a federational seminary, at which the governance, staffing, funding and oversight is under the auspices of the churches through the General Synod. The members of this committee have not been able to convince each other of a solution that would bridge these different views and present an acceptable solution.
All three committees will soon prepare their progress reports for Synod Smithers 2007. It will be interesting to see the exact findings and recommendations when they are published four months from now.

Your federation and ours are sisters of approximately the same age and come from the same background. We have enjoyed the presence of delegates at our synods. As we reciprocate, we wish to express appreciation for the confidence you have often shown in the continuation of this ecclesiastical fellowship. Surely, as the sisters grow to further maturity, they tend to demonstrate distinct characteristics. These often develop on account of the geographical and cultural influences. Yet this may result in scrutinizing the variations of practices, and cause our committees to study such divergences. Your deputies flagged our desire for additional hymns and the progress of our Joint Song Book committee with the URCNA. While they wish to maintain close contact with our Book of Praise committee, the deputies have also recommended to publish your own version. We understand your concern about the hymns and reassure you that it is not our intent to deny the primary place to the use of the Psalms in our worship services. Your desire for greater involvement in the training of your future ministers is commendable, and we express great appreciation for the solid support you have provided to the Theological College in Hamilton over the years. Your earlier concern that candidates for the ministry remain in Canada upon graduation was never seen as a negative in our federation; by now that complaint may no longer be valid!

Synod West Kelmscott has not been instituted for designing an alternative to environmental salvation to replace the Kyoto protocol. Surely, it would be interesting to see what you brothers would recommend if the topic had been placed on your agenda, especially since we as God's people have been charged to maintain and build our Creator's handiwork. Your charge for this august assembly is totally different, however. According to your calendar, you are in the middle of your winter. This season usually signifies a period of rest, dormancy if you like. The activity before us reflects anything but a time of tranquillity. Your Agenda reveals an ambitious plan, all to be covered in a matter of two weeks. Perusal of the reports that have been furnished by your deputies demonstrates the extensive amount of work that has already gone into the preparation for this major assembly. In addition, you must deal with several overtures and appeals; a veritable workload indeed! Your dedication to the task at hand, to be a willing worker in God's vineyard on this continent, is commendable and worthy of the prayerful support of your Free Reformed community.

A close examination of your recommendations and the discussions regarding the requests for Ecclesiastical Fellowship by three churches in your global area is of great interest to us. We have received identical requests, and as a result, are closely monitoring your reasoning and decision. As for your reports on sister church relations, we are grateful for your desire to continue your alliance with us. Several discussion points with other churches are similar to concerns that have been expressed in our federation. The occasional exchange of information on a number of matters is something to be stimulated for our mutual benefit. As sisters, yes, sisters - after all we're catholic, aren't we?! we need each other, both in providing mutual approval, and when the need arises, also constructive criticism. Therefore, let me paraphrase the expression of your Prime Minister and alter it somewhat to describe our situation: "no sister church is going to sacrifice a significant amount of ecclesiastical cooperation of this spiritual growth and development and then squander it mindlessly and carelessly to arrive at what others consider to be an acceptable road to salvation." We desire to stand shoulder to shoulder to promote the Kingdom of God.

Brothers, we express our most sincere wish that our gracious God will provide you with the wisdom and insight to carry out the tasks with which your member churches have charged you. May you receive these to do your work to the honour and glory of our Churches' King! The apostle Paul reminds us of this when he writes in the second letter to the Thessalonians Ch.2:15-17 (NIV):

"So then, brothers, stand firm
and hold on to the teachings we passed on to you,
whether by word of mouth or by letter.
May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father
who loved us
and by His Grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
encourage your hearts and strengthen you
in every good deed and word".

last updated 21 Jul 2006
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