After a lengthy debate, Synod 2014 voted 90 to 85, with six abstentions, to move into ecclesiastical fellowship with the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. That is the closest level of ecumenical relationships between churches. The relationship with the PCN was estranged many years ago when its stance on some issues, such as same-sex marriage, was in conflict with that of the CRC.
Delegate Joshua Van Til, Classis Columbia, expressed surprise at the recommendation. “What is the hope here?” Deputy executive director Peter Borgdorff said that the PCN had indicated its desire for this closer relationship. He explained that Synod 2008 had set the CRC’s Ecumencial and Interfaith Relations Committee in this direction.
Van Til asked again, “Is it at the grassroots level? Do we have a common ministry with the PCN?” Rev. John Tenyenhuis, Classis Toronto, stated that we have varying ecumenical relations for different reasons at different levels of relating, reminding delegates of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 expressing a desire for unity as the church’s testimony to the world. He suggested, “Now is not a time to be sectarian in a world of oppression, hatred, violence. . . . We partner with those who are concerned about justice and peace.”
Rev. Rich DeLange, Alberta North, questioned moving into closer relationship. “I don’t follow why we need to raise the level of dialogue to ecclesiastical fellowship,” he said. “[The] PCN’s theology has not changed.”
Elder Mack Randall, Classis Grand Rapids North, said, “We excluded them. They did not exclude us. Have we taken care of the problem evident when we excluded them?” Rev. Douglas Bratt, reporter for the synod’s advisory committee on this matter, responded, “We can humbly help them with some of their discussions. They’re asking us to come alongside of them to be partners in their discussion.” Borgdorff added, “We’re in a better position to dialogue now with the PCN regarding their issues than we were in the 90s. We’re confident enough of our own theology.”
Some delegates questioned the recommendation, quoting information from Wikipedia. “Don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia,” said Rev. Andrew Beunk, Classis British Columbia North-west.
Borgdorff added, “Remember, those who have worked on this recommendation for years voted unanimously in favor. Facts from the web are statements of fear [that] we know little or nothing about. Please don’t make decisions based on such information. Judge the PCN by its written documents. It has the same creeds and confessions we do.”
Synod 2014 is meeting at Central College in Pella, Iowa, from June 13-19. For continuous Banner coverage, please follow The Banner on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at www.thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and live blogging, please visit www.crcna.org/synod. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.