Intemational Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC) Meets in South Korea

There have been significant shifts away from liberalism in the Reformed family of churches this century. But the approach of a new millennium signals a reaching out across the globe, of Reformed denominations for greater unity in edification and the propagation of the gospel. The recent meeting of the International Council of Reformed Churches in South Korea is a significant example of this. For this reason we are presenting a full report of its proceedings. It is offered with the hope that Reformed people everywhere will realize the importance of solidarity in these chaotic times.
The Editors

“There are other church organizations in the world, and I want to pay tribute to those who had the foresight to begin the International Conference of Reformed Churches because it is established on the Word of God rather than the word of man.”

That was the message delivered by Rev. John Galbraith to the delegates attending the opening worship service of the ICRC, a conference of fourteen conservative Reformed denominations. Originally begun in 1985 by the Vrijgemaakt (Liberated Reformed) family of churches, in more recent years the ICRC has admitted a number of denominations which were formerly members of the Reformed Ecumenical Council. The REC has lost a number of conservative member churches upset by the council's refusal to expel the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederlandsynodaal despite the 1979 decision of the GKN to allow the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

The REC, while not endorsing the GKN’s decision to support the ordination of practicing homosexuals, has also declined to expel one of its largest members.

ICRC 1997 also marks the first time that a Korean denomination, the Kosin Presbyterian Church, has hosted a major international conference of conservative Reformed churches. Meeting at the SeoMoon Presbyterian Church in Seoul, the ICRC convened its quadrennial meeting with an October 15 evening worship service.

Galbraith, who served twelve years as moderator of what was then known as the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, is a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church which withdrew from the REC in 1988. Other ICRC members which were formerly in the REC include the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ireland, Free Church of Scotland, Reformed Presbyterian Ch urch of Ireland and Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia.

Galbraith urged the ICRC delegates to stand in the line of the Reformation in standing for Biblical truth in the face of both liberalism and broad evangelicalism. “We are sons of the Reformation and we are not ashamed; Luther said, ‘Here I stand, I can do no other, and I hope that firm dedication is present in all of us tonight,’” said Galbraith. ‘We are Reformed; as there are neo-evangelicals there are also neo-Reformed. We have a ministry to them, we also have a ministry to the whole church of Jesus Christ.”

However, Galbraith said that holding orthodox positions is not enough; the ICRC also needed to implement means of promoting orthodoxy and do so by providing a means for denominations to seek the advice of other denominations about their problems. “In five decades of ministry I have become acquainted with many different churches. I have found that in congregations and denominations and interchurch bodies, the common problem is often that we do not have common problems,” said Galbraith. “We are to lay our needs before our brethren. God says in Romans 12:15, we are to weep with those who weep, we are to rejoice with those who rejoice, but our emphasis in warfare has to do with those who are weeping, and in sorrow, and hurt.”

“We need to bring together the minds, talents, gifts and needs of the churches to the whole body,” said Galbraith. “How are we going to respond? I do not know, but if we love one another, we will find a way. Perhaps even this ICRC 1997 will find a way we can truly help one another.”

What will happen if the ICRC fails to help and admonish member churches when necessary?

“Other bodies have wandered away in the last fifty years,” said Galbraith. “They too started out with noble purposes, but they didn’t find help, not the help that they needed, nor at the time they needed it,” said Galbraith. “May the ICRC be the instrument used in the hand of God to speak the truth while there is still time.”

In all things, however, Galbraith urged the ICRC to act in a spirit of prayer and humility.

“We are gathered here in the name of unity, but I see, and I hope you do also, that unity requires humility,” said Galbraith. “It means that no one of our churches may say of itself, ‘I am the great church,' we may not say We have all the answers.’”

“The church of Jesus Christ does not go to war in its own wisdom and power; the church of Jesus Christ goes forward in prayer and on its knees,” said Galbraith.

Four of the seven denominations applying this year for ICRC membership the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland, Reformed Churches of New Zealand and Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America — were formerly REC members. A fifth, the United Reformed Churches in North America, is mostly composed of members who seceded from the Christian Reformed Church in North America which for many years had been one of the REC’s strongest supporters. The other two applicants are the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales and the Gereja Gereja Masehi Musyafir NTT.

Six other denominations and one independent church attended as observers. Four of the seven are current or former REC members: the Christian Reformed Church of Myanmar, Independent Presbyterian Church of Mexico, Presbyterian Church of Australia, Reformed Church in Japan and Reformed Churches in South Africa. The Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Taiwan Reformed Presbyterian Church, Korean Presbyterian Church in America and Reformed Presbyterian Churches in Cardiff (United Kingdom) also sent observers.

In addition to the three Vrijgemaakt members — the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (Vrijgemaakt), Canadian Reformed Churches and Free Reformed Churches in South Africa — the conference’s current membership includes the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ireland, Free Church of Central India, Free Church of Scotland, Free Church in Southern Africa, Free Reformed Churches of North America, Gereja Gereja Reformasi di Indonesia NTT, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia, Presbyterian Church in Korea (Kosin), Reformed Church in the United States and Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland.

JCRC CONVENES IN SEOUL, ELECTS KOREAN CHAIRMAN

The International Conference of Reformed Churches elected as its chairman Dr. Soon Gil HUT, president of Kosin Theological Seminary in the South Korean city of Pusan. Rev. Jack Peterson, chairman of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, served as vice-chairman, and Rev. Pieter Vander Meyden, synod president of the Free Reformed Churches in North America, served as recording secretary. Rev. M. van Beveren of the Canadian Reformed Churches was re-elected, as interim committee secretary, a post he has occupied since the beginning of the ICRC at the 1982 constituent assembly in the Dutch city of Gronigen.

BENEFITS OF ICRC

Most of the seven new members of the International Conference of Reformed Churches have attended prior meetings of the ICRC, and some have been involved as observers for years. One new member denomination, however, couldn’t have attended previous ICRC meetings for the simple reason that the denomination didn’t exist when the ICRC last met in 1993 at the Dutch city of Zwolle.

Rev. Joghinda Gangar of the United Reformed Churches in North America did attend that 1993 meeting as an official observer from his local congregation, Wellandport Orthodox Reformed Church in the Canadian province of Ontario. When the URC held its first synod last year in the Chicago suburbs, Wellandport ORCbecame one of the charter members of the new denomination, and this year Gangar attended the ICRC as an official delegate from the United Reformed Churches.

Several other URC member churches which had seceded from the Christian Reformed Church by 1993 also attended the Zwolle session, but only Gangar attended this year’s meeting because the United Reformed synod session in Canada overlapped the ICRC session in Seoul.

“I think basically the purposes of the ICRC reflect our reasons for joining,” said Gangar, citing inter-federational contacts and the establishment of formal ecumenical relations with other denominations as the key benefits of ICRC membership for the United Reformed Churches.

SEVEN DENOMINATIONS ADMITTED AND ARP QUESTIONED

In its first business session, the International Conference of Reformed Churches admitted seven new denominations, increasing its size from 14 to 21 members.

Most of the new denominations are groups which previously pulled out of the Reformed Ecumenical Council due to concerns over theological liberalism. However, a history of objections to theological trends in the REC wasn’t enough to satisfy all ICRC members that the applicants were sufficiently Reformed to be ICRC members. One ofthe new North American members, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, came in for significant criticism.

“What I am concerned about is that the ICRC continue on its course giving due regard to our constitution,” said Dr. Rowland Ward of the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia. “We are not a conference of people who are reforming, but of people who are Reformed.”

In response to questions from Ward and other delegates about toleration of freemasonry and a history of Barthianism, ARPC representative Rev. Jack Whytock presented a summary of the recent history of his denomination.

“From 1978 onwards there has been a change of direction of the synod,” said Whytock, noting that the ARP decision not to allow the ordination of women as ministers and elders proved to be the beginning of a conservative shift in the denomination that is now being reflected in the denomination's changing ecumenical involvements.

“We have removed ourselves from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, we have been an active participant in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Counci!,” said Whytock. “Part of our desire is to join the ICRC to realign ourselves with likeminded Reformed Churches.”

Rev. Jack Peterson, chairman of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s interchurch relations committee, explained why his denomination — not generally viewed as tolerant of theological deviations — chose to establish fraternal relations with the Associate Reformed Presbyterians, encourage their admission to NAPARC, and now sponsor them for ICRC membership.

“Admittedly when we took this step it was a risk,” said Peterson, describing the early history of OPC-ARP relations. “This is a church that was on the way out, down, in sad shape. The Lord has done a marvelous work.”

Assurances from the OPC weren't adequate for all ICRC delegates. “I did not quite hear an answer on how the church would deal with freemasonry, if there are officebearers involved in that,” said Rev. C.J. Haak of the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (Vrijgemaakt). “Are there precedents on the matter, decisions on this?”

Whytock said the denomination had no formal position on affiliation with the Masonic Lodge and that such matters would be handled by the local elders, subject to church order procedures for handling any complaints or appeals against decisions by local churches.

The concerns of Ward, Haak, and other delegates led to postponement of the vote on admitting the ARP from the morning to the afternoon session. The rest of the denominations applying for membership — the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland, Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales, Gereja Gereja Masehi Musyafir NTT in Indonesia, Reformed Churches of New Zealand, Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and United Reformed Churches in North America — were admitted by unanimous vote.

When the conference next took up the ARP application, the advisory committee on the matter proposed that the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church be admitted with the proviso that its delegate be asked “to take with him the concerns about the issue of Freemasonry as discussed in this meeting.”

Gangar noted that the URC member churches had maintained contacts with some of the ICRC members even before the URC was formally established and its churches were grouped more loosely under the umbrella of the Alliance of Reformed Churches. A number of ICRC member denominations, including the Canadian Reformed, Free Reformed Churches of North America, Reformed Church in the United States and Orthodox Presbyterian Church had sent formal or informal observers to the ARC meetings. Two of those denominations, the Free Reformed and Orthodox Presbyterians, served as the URCs official sponsors for ICRC membership.

“We found two denominations that churches in the United Reformed Churches could relate to; we picked one from the US, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and one from Canada, the Free Reformed Churches,” said Gangar. According to Gangar, the URC doesn't have any particular issues it would like to bring to the JCRC. “We’d like to participate in the growth and the purposes of the ICRC; we don’t want to change it in any direction; we like the purposes,” said Gangar.

Instead, Gangar said the ICRCs production of study papers and potential role as a forum for assisting churches in resolving difficulties would be of assistance to the United Reformed Churches as a denomination. “When more specific things come up we need to be more open and humble with acknowledging to others that we don’t know all the answers,” said Gangar. “When you join this body there is already an understanding and acceptance of the fact that you are true churches, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to join the body.”
The understanding that ICRC members are true churches could be particularly useful to United Reformed consistories and members in their local ministries, according to Gangar. “There can be more cooperation between the churches, pulpit exchanges, those kinds of things,” said Gangar.

“I think the size of our denomination, to us it may seem pretty big, but it really isn’t,” said Gangar, noting that the URC currently has about 11,000 members and could benefit from the help of other denominations that had a longer history and larger membership. “With the great number of liberal trends that are hitting our churches, we need to stand firm.”

That proviso didn’t please either side of the debate. Professor Clement Graham of the Free Church of Scotland moved that the ARP be admitted without specifying a qualification; Ward moved instead that the conference “rejoice in the positive report of the renewal and reformation in the ARPC, but defer reception of the application until it receives information to satisfy it that the integrity of the Reformed system of doctrine is maintained.”

After further concerns were raised about the ARP’s addition of qualifying notes on theWestminster Confession of Faith , Rev. Vern Pollema of the Reformed Church in the United States informed the conference that the RCUS had voted not to sponsor the ARP for ICRC membership due to concerns similar to those being expressed on the floor of the conference.

The objections raised by Pollema, Ward, Haak, and others weren't sufficient for Rev. John Galbraith of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. “I think the letter of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church makes clear what is required for the ruling office in the ARPC,” said Galbraith. “I don’t think that the ICRC would be on good ground in rejecting this application without clear evidence that the standards of what is required are not being adhered to.” In light of the concerns, Rev. Paul Den Kerken in Nederland moved that the conference defer action until more information on the ARP is received by the conference, with the intent that Whytock might be able to provide that information later in the conference session. That wasn’t any more acceptable to Galbraith than Ward’s motion.

“It’s not going to do us a service to have this done because it is not a practical way to find out what this. church believes,” said Galbraith. “It’s always nice to put off the day of decision, but I would appeal to the assembly not to put off the day but to act.”

By a 16 to 8 vote of the delegates, the ICRC voted against deferring action until later in the session:and then unanimously voted not to defer action until additional information could be more formally received. Finally, by a roll call vote of member denominations with each denomination having a single vote, sixteen of the nineteen ICRC member denominations present voted to admit the Associate Reformed Presbyterians without the proviso expressing concerns about freemasonry. Ward's Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia formally recorded their abstention, and two other member denominations abstained without formally recording their abstentions. Despite the lack of unanimity, some delegates said they thought the debate was good for the ICRe. Rev. A. de Jager of the CKN-vrij. told the conference that the discussion was helpful because it did send a good message to the member denominations about the importance of adhering to strict membership standards.

Even though he had been placed on the “hot seat” in defense of his denomination, Whytock also agreed the debate was helpful and that he would be bringing the freemasonry concern back to the ARP’s even apart from a formal request by the ICRC to do so.

“I think this is valid to raise; it’s helpful to our church,” said Whytock.“There are questions we will have to wrestle with as an interchurch relations committee. It will force us to think this over clearly with regard to whether there is a consistency with membership in the church and of secret societies.”

According to Whytock, the last significant vestige of the ARP’s former involvment in mainline ecumenical affairs is a fraternal relationship with the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA) that is quite informal and dates back to the denomination’s much earlier history.

“We no longer send fraternal delegates nor are we receiving them anymore,” said Whytock. “If we are no longer doing that, the question is, should we do some housecleaning.”

In any case, Whytock said that the ARP's major ecumenical connection now is with the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council, of which Whytock is currently the chairman.

AMENDMENT OF CONSTITUTION AND REGULATIONS

After debate in its October 17 session the International Conference of Reformed Churches voted unanimously to adopt several changes to the organization’s Constitution and Regulations.

According to a report of an ICRC committee appointed in 1993, the revisions were intended as “a reformulation of the wording of these articles so as to clarify their real intention,” namely, “to pay due attention to the unity and diversity of the member churches.”

“ICRC member churches are committed to the Biblical and Reformed faith which they confess in the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards — this is their unity,” wrote committee members Rev. Peter Gadsby and Dr. Rowland Ward, both delegates from the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia. “But it is a unity in diversity, for there are differences between the Three Forms and the Westminster Standards, and there are even differences in the Westminster Standards adhered to by several of our member churches. For example, the Free Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith, as received by the Church of Scotland in 1647, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church subscribes to a different version of the WCF, and the Free Church of Central India to a slightly different version again.”

“These differences have not been held to be a bar against cooperation and fellowship in the ICRC, which is neither a church nor a synod, but a ‘Conference’ of the delegates of like-minded, Reformed churches,” continued the report. “In reformulating the several artldes, we
have tried to do justice to the diversity-in-unity of this Biblical and Reformed conference.”

Constitutional revision issues have been the subject of conlsiderable discussion in previous ICRC meetings, especially the 1989 session wherethe Canadian Reformed Churches and Free Reformed Churches of Australia proposed that Hdelegates subscribe only to the
standards of the church of which they are members.” The proposal later defeated after much discussion led to a unanimous vote to require that proposals for altering the Constitution and Regulations be “submitted in accurate terms with clear indications as to the precise point in wording...at which the alternative addition is to be adopted.” A less heated debate continued in 1993 when the ICRC appointed Ward and Gadsby as a committee to review the membership requirements.

Ward and Gadsby noted that CRC member churches, which have reservations about parts of the documents mentioned in the Basis [ICRC doctrinal statement] have wished to have this section changed to language that would require them to subscribe to standards beyond those which they themsetves have adopted. 

“The major problem with this is that it effectively destroys the Basis of the Conference!” wrote Ward and Gasby. “A Basis must be shared if it is to promote commonality, but this proposal would divide the Basis, with each member church adhering to only part of it. There would effectively be two or more ICRC’s, each subscribing to a different standard.”

Ward and Gadsby, however, recognized that joining the ICRC with the current language could wrongly imply that member denominations accepted both the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity when they joined the ICRC.” ICRC has never been regarded as a ‘short cut’ to full church union. Rather, it is a means by which churches can come together to confer on an agreed basis, and facilitate those dicussions which are properly the business of each respective church.”

As a result, the committee proposed that the Basis be “reformulated...so as to refer now to ‘the Reformed faith’” but stating that “this does not require any applicant church to subscribe to all of the six documents or even to any of them, thus leaving open the possibility of admission of churches who subscribe to other Reformed Confessions than those listed.”

“Such churches and their confessions would have to be in agreement with the Reformed faith as summarized in the six documents, “the committee stated,  noting that the ICRC was already functioning with this understanding since at the time of its admission in 1993 the Reformed Church in the United States subscribed only to the Heidelberg Catechism. The RCUS has since formally adopted the Belgic Confession and Canons of Dordt.

“It should be said that having a ‘correct’ Constitution will not ensure the ongoing faithfulness of this organization,” added the committee. “The Reformed Ecumenical Council (Synod) began with a very fine sounding constitutional basis, but that did not prevent the declension of the organization which has sadly occured. The ICRC will remain faithful only as its constituent members remain faithful, and if it ceases to be faithful to the historic Reformed faith, then faithful member churches will (rightly) abandon it as they have the RES/REC.”

While the ICRC delegates present adopted the report unanimously, it wasn’t without cost. Prior to the meeting, the 1996 Synod of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia withdrew from the ICRC and sent a letter indicating that ICRC membership did not promote the unity and harmony of their denomination. ICRC interim committee secretary, Rev. M. van Beveren, a member of the Canadian Reformed Churches, submitted a report to the ICRC stating that “while we deplore the decision of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia to leave the ICRC, we welcome seven churches that are applying for membership.” The ICRC voted to send the Australian letter to the ICRC interim committee with instructions to draft a response to the Free Reformed Churches of Australia.

In other related matters, the ICRC adopted an advisory committee proposal to thank the Orthodox Presbyterian Church for submitting a document explaining its reasons for severing ties with the CRC in North America, to receive an OPC letter on proposed policies for interchurch relations and a document on Biblical Principles of the Unity of the Church “with deep appreciation,” and that “a special paper or papers on ‘Biblical Principles of the Unity of the Church’ be prepared for the ICRC 2001 utilizing the material submitted by the OPC, with contributing speeches from both the Presbyterian tradition and the (Continental) Reformed tradition, the speakers to be decided at a later session of this Conference.” Another OPC letter on “Restructing ‘Ecclesiastical Fellowship’” was submitted to the advisory committee for a summary report and later discussion.

SPEAKERS, BUSINESS, AND BUDGETS

Before adjourning, the International Conference of Reformed Churches adopted a number of concluding motions to handle housekeeping and other matters.

The next ICRC meeting will be hosted in the year 2001 by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church at a location and date to be selected in consultation with the Interim Committee; seek a host church for the 2005 meeting; formulate a more detailed agenda for each day's business; ensure that all papers are distributed to delegates and observers and make them available to visitors and the press; and select topics for papers, speakers, and the number of papers which have not yet been determined by the ICRC. Suggested topics for speeches included “the Work of the Holy Spirit in the Believer,” “Preaching,” “Reformed Hermenetics,“ “the Church Growth Movement,” “Ecumenicity and Missions,” “Polygamy in Relation to Baptism and the Lord’s Table,” “the Task of the Church in a Secular Society,” “the Challenges of this Age” and “the Regulative Principle.”

The ICRC also adopted a four-year budget for the years 1998 through 2001 totaling $119,000, to be collected by assessments based on denominational membership and percapita income.

SPEAKERS AND TOPICS AT ICRC 1997

by Rev. John Galbraith and Rev. W. Peter Gadsby JCRC Press Release Committee Distributed by Darrell Todd Maurina

[The following edited text is excerpted from an offiCial press release produced by the International Conference of Reformed Churchesl SEOUL, South Korea (October 23, 1997) — Five papers were presented to the meeting and discussed. These papers will appear in the printed proceedings of the meeting.

The first paper, “Principles of Reformed Missions,” was presented by Elder Mark Bube, General Secretary of Foreign Missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Beginning with the premise that worship lies at the heart of the church's missionary endeavors, Bube outlined God’s decree to save a people for Himself, for the manifestation of His glory. He noted that God has foreordained all the means by which such is to be accomplished; that it is to the church that Christ has entrusted this ministry for the gathering and perfecting of the saints; that in this supernatural ministry, God is especially pleased to make the preaching of the Word an effectual means of accomplishing that end; and that, in His Word, God has fully supplied the elders in His church with all that is necessary for them to carry out this work. 

Dr. Soon Gil Hur, President of Kosin Theological Seminary in Pusan, South Korea, and a member of the Kosin Presbyterian Church, spoke on “Women in Office, with Particular Reference to ‘Deaconesses.’” He stated that eldership is restricted to male members of the church because its task is to exercise authority over the congregation. This is a clear teaching of the Scriptures (l Timothy 2:12). However, diaconal office does not involve the exercise of authority. Therefore, it seems possible that female members may be installed as unordained deaconesses or assistant-deacons, seeing that women were positively involved in the life of the apostolic church.

Dr. Robert C. Beckett of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ireland discussed “Biblical Principles for the Relation Between Church and State.” Dr. Beckett affirmed the total sovereignty of God over all the structures of authority in both secular and ecclesiastical realms. The New Testament does not give approval to any specific form of government. Democracy involves the determination of laws by the majority views of fallen man, and is a perilous substitute for the infallible Word of God. Both church and state are established by God under the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, and are distinct structures that should peaceably coexist and support each other. Complete separation of church and state is an unbiblical illusion, and Christians should be encouraged to act as “salt and light” within the political process. Involvement of pastors as politicians is forbidden by Scripture, and brings dangerous confusion to the gospel message. Within a pluralistic society, the church can best fulfill its duty to God and the state by prioritizing the Great Commission. Obedience is to be rendered to the state as far as humanly possible, without transgressing the law of God. When the demands of the state are in conflict with the law of God, God must be obeyed rather than man, and civil disobedience becomes inevitable.

The fourth paper was presented by Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, on the subject of “Challenges of the Charismatic Movement to the Reformed Tradition.” Gaffin addressed two issues: the meaning of Pentecost (being baptized with the Holy Spirit) and the cessation of certain gifts of the Spirit. On the first issue, Gaffin argued that Pentecost has its significance in terms of “historia salutis” (the completed accomplishment of salvation), not “ordo salutis” (the ongoing application of salvation). It does not provide a repeatable paradigm event for individual Christian experience. In the light of the truth of I Corinthians 15:45 (the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit), Pentecost reveals the unbreakable unity between the activity of the exalted Christ and the Holy Spirit in the church in all aspects of their conjoint activity. On the issue of cessation, Gaffin argued that New Testament prophecy possessed inspired and infallible authority, and was present in the life of the church only for the period when the New Testament canon was in the process of formation. The view that New Testament prophecy continues today with lower fallible authority was shown not to be sustainable exegetically and to undermine the final authority of Scripture.

Finally, Rev. David john of the Free Church of Central India spoke on “The Ministry of the Word Amongst Asian Religious Peoples.” He gave information about Hinduism, Buddhism, jainism, and Zoroastrianism in India, stating that many Asian people respect their elders, worship ancestors, and seem to be very respectful and humble. They claim to be seekers of wisdom, peace, and light, desiring to become one with god and achieve salvation. To achieve this goal they go to extremes, such as “yoga,” transcendental meditation and asceticism. This often means a withdrawal from real life — its hardships, trials, and responsibilities Tradition holds that the gospel was first brought to India by Thomas, the disciple of Christ, in AD 52. Christian missions, now including Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, have been present in India ever since. Besides evangelism, educational work and ministries of mercy have been founded. It is said that annual church growth in India is about 3.4% and that there are now about 97,700 professing Christian congregations with 7.3 million members and 16 million adherents. It should go without saying that the only approach to all religions is by the Word of God and the only salvation is by the atoning work of the Lord jesus Christ.

KOSIN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF KOREA

In a brief morning business session following the presentation of a discussion paper, Rev. John Galbraith addressed the International Conference of Reformed Churches regarding the character of the people whom the delegates would meet the next morning in worship services.

“All I want to say is when you go to church tomorrow, remember the kind of people with whom you are worshiping,” said Galbraith, who before his retirement was the longtime General Secretary for Foreign Missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Galbraith noted that Presbyterian missionary work began among the Koreans in 1884 and was rewarded with spectacular church growth soon after the missionaries became fluent in the language. That success, however, led to significant problems after the Japanese government took control of Korea in 1906 and especially as Japan became involved in war against China and later the Allied powers. “As soon as World War II came along, the Japanese government felt it necessary to clamp down on the people who worshiped another God, and not the sun god of Japan,” said Galbraith, noting that one of the Orthodox Presbyterian missionaries was directly affected by the persecution of the church.

“One of those missionaries was our own Bruce Hunt who was the son of one of the earliest missionaries,” said Galbraith. “They were being marched down the street in chains to the court.”

Galbraith noted that the suffering of the American missionaries under Japanese persecution had led to widespread support for
the missionaries among Koreans, unlike some countries where missionaries were viewed with suspicion as agents of a foreign country.

“Remember, it was a capital offense to refuse to bow down to the shrine,” said Galbraith. “The streets were filled with Koreans and they were not silent, and even though they could have been shot on the spot, they cried out, ‘To the end! To the end!’”

Galbraith noted that the Presbyterian Church split following the end of World War II and that the host denomination for the 1997 ICRC, the Kosin Presbyterian Church, was composed ofthose Koreans who had refused to tolerate compromise with those church leaders who compromised with Shinto worship in the Japanese shrines. That wasn't the end of the persecution, however: after the expulsion of the Japanese, the Communist leaders in the northern portion of Korea began systematic persecution of the church and singled out ministers and elders for extermination in an effort to destroy the church organization as a rival to the Communist Party.

Galbraith noted that a number of church leaders in the portion of Korea that became North Korea saw the persecution coming, but instead of fleeing to the south they sent their wives and families south while remaining themselves to preach and evangelize until they were killed by the Communists for their faith. As a result, the South Korean churches were often filled with widows and orphans of ministers and elders who, despite severe poverty, insisted on tithing even grains of rice to the churches.

“You are worshiping with the descendants of the martyrs,” said Galbraith. “This is a church of martyrs such as we don’t know.”

INTERDENOMINATIONAL COOPERATION

Since its beginning in 1985, the International Conference of Reformed Churches has met every four years. What, if anything, should be done to encourage closer fellowship between the member denominations in the interval between the quadrennial meetings?

If a series of proposals urged by Orthodox Presbyterian Church delegate Rev. John Galbraith is successful, the answer will include regional conferences ICRC member denominations focusing on mission work, as well as seeking advice of other denominations before making changes in doctrinal basis or ethical practices.

In a series of decisions on October 20, the JCRC voted to “suggest to the member churches that they keep in mind the benefit of regional conferences on particular, timely topics and plan such conferences when deemed appropriate, “to ‘request the Missions Committee to encourage the member churches’ to hold regional mission conferences and assist the member churches in holding, and coordinating such conferences,” and to suggest that member denominations would do well to seek cooperation in areas such as evangelization, missions, and diaconal assistance, and to promote contacts and exchanges between institutions for training for the ministry.” The next day, ICRC delegates voted to put some “teeth” in the proposal by establishing an $8000 annual budget to be administered by the missions committee to assist in holding regional mission conferences.

Adoption of the proposals was by no means assured. In the ICRC interim committee report, the committee noted that only three member denominations had responded to a 1993 request for input on the desirability of regional conferences, and two of the three didn’t support the idea. As a result. the interim committee indicated that the reactions of member churches “do not give the Interim Committee reasons to advise the Conference to pursue the matter of regional conferences.”

The advisory committee dealing with the matter disagreed, arguing that “conferences dealing with particular matters such as missions. doctrinal church polity or ethical questions could well be of value and interest to the member churches.” The advisory committee also took note of correspondence from the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (Vrijgemaakt) warning of the need to “more concretely and effectively” express the stated unity of the churches and from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church warning against “our moving in different and divisive directions” as a result of lack of communication and cooperation.

The ICRC also voted to suggest that each member denomination adopt a policy specifying that “when a matter arises that would affect the relationship of the ICRC member churches to each other, such as a change being contemplated by a church in its doctrinal basis or ethical practices.” the denomination should take three steps: inform the other denominations’ interchurch relations committees, ask for their denominations’ official positions, advice. and help and keep the other churches informed of developments.

Speaking after the vote, Galbraith said the votes on interdenominational cooperation were the most important of the entire conference.
“I think that position we took is absolutely crucial to the survival of an organization that wants to be Reformed. because otherwise what’s going to happen is what happened in the past, everyone goes his own way,” said Galbraith. “The difference in that approach from what has always been done in the past is that it encourages churches to advise one another about things that might happen before they happen so as to avoid division.”

Galbraith said that the tendency to “go it alone” was a serious problem in fellowships of conservative churches and could easily lead a conservative church to become something quite different due to lack of opportunities for mutual admonition.

“All of us really are the result of sepawtion sowe felt alone; there’s nobody beside us to help us so we go it alone, and that’s exactly what we do. we go it alone,” said Galbraith.

According to Galbraith, the adoption of the motions meant the JCRC could “be what the Reformed Ecumenical Synod turned away from; it's to provide a fellowship that wants to be Reformed.”

Galbraith said the decision to establish a budget for the missions committee to promote interdenominational cooperation was a strong sign that the ICRC took the need for mutual admonition seriously. “We’re putting our money where our mouth is,” said Galbraith. “I think the things that have been done are positive; I think there has been a good foundation laid for the future.”

RESTRUCTURING ECCLESIASTICAL FELLOWSHIP

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church thinks it "flunked" the test of dealing with the Christian Reformed Church and wants to avoid making the same set of mistakes twice.

That was the message brought by the OPC interchurch relations committee chairman, Rev. Jack Peterson, to the October 21 session of the International Conference of Reformed Churches. As a result of its experience dealing with the CRe, the OPC intends to establish three tiers of relations with other churches: an entry level, a restricted fellowship, and finally full fellowship, and sought the advice of other ICRC members on whether this is a good method to handle ecclesiastical relations.

The OPC didn't get much in the way of unified advice from the October 21 discussion and saw the adviSOry committee report sent back to committee. On October 23, the ICRC took up the matter again.

"All we are saying is that this is our present thinking," said OPC delegate Rev. John Galbraith. "What is your reaction? Is this good? If not, what's wrong with it?"

Rev. Paul Den Butter from the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland said he liked the proposal but could only speak for himself since his denomination's interchurch relations committee hadn't had the opportunity to discuss the matter. "As far as we can see it looks like a good thing and is in accord with our own hopes for ecumenical activity," said Den Butter. Similar sentiments of appreciation for multiple levels of fraternal relations were voiced by Rev. Lawrence Bilkes from the Free Reformed Churches of North America, a sister denomination of the CGKN.

Rev. Jack Whytock of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America complimented the OPC not only on the content of its proposal but also its detail. "This is very well organized and it makes our procedures in the ARP look very ill-organized by comparison," said Whytock.

Other delegates were less enthusiastic.

"If you are on the American continent you think everyone speaks English. You see people come to your country; they learn English, and if you go to their country they speak English," said Dr. N.H. Gootjes of the Canadian Reformed Churches. "The knowledge of English in other countries varies and I wonder if this will work outside the English-speaking world. My reaction is, try this, see if it works, but you will have trouble implementing it fully."

ICRC chairman Dr. Soon Gil HuT, president of Kosin Theological Seminary in Seoul. echoed Gootjes' concern. HuT, a graduate of the Vrijgemaakt Seminary in Kampen, noted that the Kosin Presbyterian Church maintained full ecclesiastical relations with the GKN-Vrijgemaakt and with the Reformed Church in Japan despite significant differences between the two denominations.

"Our people in Korea could not understand fully this relation," said Hur. "Is this a corresponding relationship or full relationship? We are actually confused. The structure which was offered by the OPC seems to be very useful. but we were worried how we may carry out the task of restructure."

Despite the concerns of some delegates and the indications of others that they would not be changing their current procedures, the ICRC adopted a sixpoint advisory committee report on the matter. Among the points adopted were motions to "commend the letter of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to the member churches for their attention in ways which seem appropriate in each case" and to "urge the member churches to be mindful of the diversity of circumstances in the churches and to seek to further relationships with due humility."

OPC delegate Rev. John Galbraith said he appreciated the attention given to the OPC proposals. "I appreciate very much the attitude of our brothers at this meeting, that they consider the subject important," Galbraith told the assembled delegates.

In other interchurch relations matters, the ICRC approved a letter of response to the Free Reformed Churches of Australia which withdrew from the ICRe. The ICRC letter urged the Australian denomination to return to membership. 

RESTRUCTURING ECCLESIASTICAL FELLOWSHIP

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church thinks it "flunked" the test of dealing with the Christian Reformed Church and wants to avoid making the same set of mistakes twice.

That was the message brought by the OPC interchurch relations committee chairman, Rev. Jack Peterson, to the October 21 session of the International Conference of Reformed Churches. As a result of its experience dealing with the CRe, the OPC intends to establish three tiers of relations with other churches: an entry level, a restricted fellowship, and finally full fellowship, and sought the advice of other ICRC members on whether this is a good method to handle ecclesiastical relations.

The OPC didn’t get much in the way of unified advice from the October 21 discussion and saw the advisory committee report sent back to committee. On October 23, the ICRC took up the matter again.

“All we are saying is that this is our present thinking,” said OPC delegate Rev. John Galbraith. “What is your reaction? Is this good? If not, what’s wrong with it?”

Rev. Paul Den Butter from the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland said he liked the proposal but could only speak for himself since his denomination's interchurch relations committee hadn’t had the opportunity to discuss the matter. “As far as we can see it looks like a good thing and is in accord with our own hopes for ecumenical activity,” said Den Butter. Similar sentiments of appreciation for multiple levels of fraternal relations were voiced by Rev. Lawrence Bilkes from the Free Reformed Churches of North America, a sister denomination of the CGKN.

Rev. Jack Whytock of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America complimented the OPC not only on the content of its proposal but also its detail. “This is very well organized and it makes our procedures in the ARP look very ill-organized by comparison,” said Whytock.

Other delegates were less enthusiastic.

“If you are on the American continent you think everyone speaks English. You see people come to your country; they learn English, and if you go to their country they speak English,” said Dr. N.H. Gootjes of the Canadian Reformed Churches. “The knowledge of English in other countries varies and I wonder if this will work outside the English-speaking world. My reaction is, try this, see if it works, but you will have trouble implementing it fully.”

ICRC chairman Dr. Soon Gil Hut, president of Kosin Theological Seminary in Seoul. echoed Gootjes’ concern. Hut, a graduate of the Vrijgemaakt Seminary in Kampen, noted that the Kosin Presbyterian Church maintained full ecclesiastical relations with the GKN-Vrijgemaakt and with the Reformed Church in Japan despite significant differences between the two denominations.

“Our people in Korea could not understand fully this relation,” said Hur. “Is this a corresponding relationship or full relationship? We are actually confused. The structure which was offered by the OPC seems to be very useful. but we were worried how we may carry out the task of restructure.”

Despite the concerns of some delegates and the indications of others that they would not be changing their current procedures, the ICRC adopted a six-point advisory committee report on the matter. Among the points adopted were motions to “commend the letter of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to the member churches for their attention in ways which seem appropriate in each case" and to "urge the member churches to be mindful of the diversity of circumstances in the churches and to seek to further relationships with due humility.”

OPC delegate Rev. John Galbraith said he appreciated the attention given to the OPC proposals. “I appreciate very much the attitude of our brothers at this meeting, that they consider the subject important,” Galbraith told the assembled delegates.

In other interchurch relations matters, the ICRC approved a letter of response to the Free Reformed Churches of Australia which withdrew from the ICRe. The ICRC letter urged the Australian denomination to return to membership.

JEWISH EVANGELISTIC OUTREACH

The International Conference of Reformed Churches received a report  of its committee on missions encouraged the committee to continue its mandate, including production of a semi-annual newsletters and promotion of regional missions conferences. Currently regional mission conferences are held in Latin America and in souther Africa by ICRC member denominations and mission workers; efforts to hold mission conferences in the Far East and in Europe have been unsuccessful.

The ICRC also decided to begin something new in missions in response to a sentence in the report indicating that the “issue of Jewish mission is not a hot item in the sending churches,” the ICRC voted to make Jewish missions a subject of special attention in upcoming years.

Rev. Paul Den Butter of the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland said he was “disappointed” to learn that Jewish evangelism wasn’t a priority. “If that is true we need to do something about it,” said Den Butter, arguing that Jewish evangelism ought to be particularly important for the church.

The ICRC adopted Den Butter’s motion that a “paper be presented to the 2001 Conference on work among the Jews,  not merely restricted to Jews living in the state of Israel but focusing on Jews wherever they live.”

The conference also adopted a motion to thank former missions committee chairman, Dr. K. Deddens, for his extensive work on behalf of the committee in previous years. Deddens suffered a stroke in 1995 and since then has been unable to serve the committee.

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