I have been debating whether to write this post. I don’t like to be the one who breaks bad news. I don’t like to point out the failings and weaknesses in other churches. Yet putting our collective heads in the sand does no one any favours either. There is a need to be up front about what is happening among our sister churches and we need to speak up — because we care and because there is no guarantee that we will not head down the same road.
Een in Waarheid has a story here (rough English translation here) about a church planting project in the Netherlands that’s sponsored by the Reformed Churches (GKV) — those would be the sister churches of the Canadian Reformed Churches. The work (“Stroom” — “Stream” or “Current” in English), in Amsterdam, is close to institution. However, the GKV classis involved (Amsterdam/Leiden) is faced with a problem because Stroom already has a provisional council which includes female elders. The church planter, Martijn Horsman, defends the practice. As a church plant, Stroom comes from a different context and that needs to be taken into account.
What we have here is a blatantly unbiblical practice being smuggled into the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands under the cover of mission and church planting. Forget about what the Bible teaches — that doesn’t even really figure into the equation. Stroom is about the freedom of Jesus and finding new ways of bringing that into practice.
Thankfully, there are voices within the GKV protesting this. The story reports how a GKV missionary in Ukraine, Rev. Henk Drost, has voiced his opposition. He argues that this has do with disconnecting Reformed identity and the Reformed confessions from mission. He is correct. There are those who see being Reformed and being mission-oriented as being antithetical. To be missionary churches, we have to give up our Reformed identity and therefore also our confessions. This makes our Reformed identity more about culture than about confessing and holding to the truth of Scripture. To be sure, there are certain aspects of our identity that are more culturally conditioned than we have previously recognized. But is the restriction of the offices of the church to men only one of them? If the GKV accept that argument it’s a dangerous step away from the authority of Scripture. Let’s pray that the brothers in Classis Amsterdam/Leiden will have the wisdom to draw the line with Stroom and call Rev. Horsman and his fledgling congregation to repentance.