Another Farewell to the RCN
Not a lot of news has been coming out of the CanRC Synod in Edmonton. So far, they’ve published some Acts from the beginning of the assembly, but there’s nothing really substantial in there. The live-streaming has only been happening for the sessions with the speeches from fraternal delegates. However, they did publish this announcement on the official CanRC website:
With sadness the General Synod 2019 of the Canadian Reformed Churches decided unanimously to discontinue the sister church relationship with the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands (GKv) and to implore the CanRCs to remain in prayer for the GKv. May the Lord have mercy on them and on us.
This isn’t surprising. We all knew it was coming. Yet it is still lamentable — not the decision itself, but that the RCN didn’t listen to repeated admonitions from Canada, Australia, and elsewhere.
What’s going to happen from here? Like with the Aussies last year, the Canadians and the Dutch go their separate ways. Meanwhile, there is a movement in the RCN to get the next RCN synod to revise the decision about women in office. This is their website. On Saturday there was a meeting in Bunschoten for concerned people in the RCN. According to this news report in Reformatorisch Dagblad, the meeting saw about 325 people in attendance. One of the speakers was CanRC seminary professor, Dr. Arjan de Visser. He was the most sharply critical of the decision about women in office.
Is it possible to roll back this decision in the RCN? In principle it would be. But practically speaking, it would seem to have some insurmountable obstacles. What do you do with local churches that not only decided to have women in office but have already implemented it? According to this story from September 2018, there are at least 50. What do you do with the women who have been ordained? Do you defrock them? Or do they get “grandfathered” (or maybe “grandmothered”) in? From where I’m sitting, it seems next to impossible to put this back together when it’s already fallen apart this much.
Speaking historically, how often does a church with women’s ordination later on repudiate it? It is rare. Historically, the only realistic way forward for those who value the authority of the Word of God in such matters is separation. You can’t be part of a church or church federation that insists on undermining the Scriptures. This is why the United Reformed Churches exist in North America. There were people who lingered in the Christian Reformed Church because they thought they could perhaps sway the church back the right way. Did it happen?
Moreover, just like with the Christian Reformed Church, it would be short-sighted to think that overturning one synod decision about women in office would salvage the RCN. There are more things going on that undermine the authority of Scripture — I think particularly of issues connected to homosexuality. There’s also the whole problem of a compromised Theological University and the relationship with the NGK. One revised decision doesn’t magically undo all that.
My heart goes out to the faithful brothers and sisters still in the RCN. You’re in a tough spot. You love the RCN. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to leave — but I also can’t imagine how much worse it would be to stay.