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Synod 2000
(An Overview of the Agenda)

 

Rev. John Westendorp

 

By the time some of us get around to reading this issue of T&S the R.C.A. Synod in Launceston (May 8th to 18th) will perhaps already be under way. Nevertheless, to give you some idea of what is on the agenda we continue on these pages our summary Synod reports and overtures. Full copies are available from local Sessions.

 

12 – R.O.A.D.

The committee, Resources for Outreach, Aid and Development, overviews and coordinates the work of various other workgroups in the denomination. The ROAD committee ran a ‘think tank’ last August, which drew up a vision statement that is being presented to Synod for adoption by the denomination (see March T&S). The various workgroups under ROAD report as follows.

Missions Coordinator, John Rietveld, serves the denomination, amongst other things by running training workshops in ‘Natural Church Development’, together with Joanne Van Wageningen leads seminars in Family Faith Nurture workshops, coordinates denominational involvement in the National Church Life surveys and runs CRMA Refocusing Leaders networks.

The Maclean Workgroup report that after nine years there has been a gradual shift in John and Lesley Zylstra’s work from separate work among the Aboriginal community to a work being done through the local Presbyterian church in Lawrence. Various other factors are mentioned which leads the workgroup to recommend that this mission work of the denomination be concluded as from July 2000. John and Lesley plan to stay in the area to work in a semi-retired capacity.

The Solomon Islands Workgroup report that with the mission base in Honiara now established and Kevin and Machi Reitveld becoming increasingly involved in ‘Word’ ministry the time is ripe for the appointment of a couple to focus on ‘Deed’ ministry – this will include coordinating the work of SWIM teams. Seven SWIM teams have visited in the base’s first year of operation. The workgroup recommends that Synod upgrade the work in the Solomons from ‘provisional’ to ‘full’ support.

The Tuit Support Group again gives a very positive report on the work of Pieter and Gail Tuit in the Philippines. Although currently on study leave in the U.S. (at Calvin College) they will soon resume their work. This work is done in partnership with the Christian Reformed Church.

The World Relief Workgroup reports that in the past three years it has assisted with relief in many emergency situations (such as the PNG Tidal Wave) but its ongoing focus is in development assistance in more than half a dozen countries (such as supporting a boys home in India). Their report expresses concern that our churches’ involvement in refugee resettlement has virtually come to a halt. In the 1998/99 financial year the workgroup disbursed more than a quarter of million dollars on behalf of the churches.
 

13 – Reformed Churches Youth Committee

A name change is proposed for our National Children’s Worker and National Youth Worker – they are both to be known as ‘Directors’ (both Joanne Van Wageningen and Jonathan Vandenberg have included brief overviews of their work). This report broadly reviews the current status of children’s ministry, youth work (seven youth workers now serve in the RCA), Catechism and other aspects of youth ministry. Separate sections are devoted to SWIM (Seasonal Workshops In Ministry), RCYA, Cadets and Calvinettes.

The report calls for Synod to make it mandatory for churches to develop ‘child protection policies’ and a sample of such a policy is provided. Another area of concern is that young adults beyond youth-club age often do not have a network for fellowship locally. The committee is providing a YAC-PAC to help those who want to give leadership to young adult groups. Synod is also asked to extend the Children’s worker’s paid time from two days per week to four days per week.

A rather different proposal is for ‘junior delegates’ to attend parts of Synod. Such ‘delegates’ would be chosen at Classis level and would be given the opportunity to have some input into certain subjects on Synod’s agenda, by means of a presentation during Synod. It is proposed that the Children’s Worker and Youth Worker would work with the young people involved.

 

14 – R.T.C. Deputies

The Reformed Theological College in Geelong is, strictly speaking, not a denominational seminary. It is run by an independent board. Since the R.C.A. has a vested interest in the R.T.C., where most of its ministers are trained, it liaises with and oversees the work of the R.T.C. through ‘Synodical Deputies’. These deputies hold discussions with both the faculty members and those students who are training for the pastoral ministry in the R.C.A.

In view of the ‘vacant pulpits’ in the denomination it is disturbing that in 2001 only one student for the pastoral ministry will become available and in each of the years 2002 and 2003 only 2 students complete their studies. That gives some urgency to the Deputies’ recommendation that Sessions be urged “to keep encouraging suitably gifted persons from their congregations to avail themselves of the teaching and training provided at the college.”

The deputies also oversee Vicariate placement (a year of practical ‘internship’). They report that for cost reasons churches find it increasingly difficult to take on Vicars for their year of training. They propose that up to 75% of the cost (up to $32,500) be born by the denomination.

 

15 – Synodical Interim Committee

This committee works between synods to ensure, as much as possible, that the decisions of the preceding synod are implemented and to help prepare for the next synod. As such their work usually consists of rather mundane housekeeping types of tasks. Synod 1997, however, gave them a specific mandate to examine the place of Centralised Ministry Positions (CPM) in the denomination.

They now report that reviews were conducted into the work of the part time denominational Children’s Worker and the full time denominational Youth Worker and Home Missions Coordinator. These reviews are contained in appendices to the report. The bottom line is that the SIC recommends that the all three CPM’s be maintained.

 

16 – Women in Office (OT report)

This report is different from that on Women in the Diaconate (report 2) in the sense that is consists of a much broader study on the issue of the role and status of women in the Bible. Rev. Geoff Van Schie has been working away at some solid exegetical studies since he was part of a previous Synodical Committee on “Women in Office”. The Old Testament part of this report is now about to be released (Report 16 only contains an outline). He proposes that he be allowed to continue now with the New Testament part of this study.

 

17 – Committee for Ecumenical Relations

This committee (CER) is responsible for our dialogue with other churches ranging from our closest ‘sister’ church, the Reformed Church of New Zealand (RCNZ) through to our involvement with the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC). The CER ensured that our churches were represented at the synods and assemblies of churches with which we have close ties. Noticeable was our representation at the synods of South African Reformed churches. The reasons for this is the increasing migration from South Africa to Australia. Synod is being asked to set aside $150,000 over the next three years as funding for an outreach ministry to South African Migrants in Australia.

The CER has also been extensively involved in processing a request to change the wording of the Apostles’ Creed article in which we confess that Jesus “…descended into hell…!” The 1997 Synod decided to seek information from other Reformed Churches as to how this article of the Creed is understood. Feedback from other churches is included as appendices to the CER report. The CER is now recommending to Synod that the words not be changed but that a footnote be included to indicate what we understand that article to be saying.

 

Overture 1 – Abuse (NSW)

Amongst the various overtures (requests for Synod to take action) is one from NSW that proposes an alternate ‘Abuse Protocol’ to that proposed by the Abuse Committee (Report 11).

 

Overture 2 – Vicar Superannuation (Qld)

This overture proposes that the superannuation funds for Vicars be raised denominationally (by quota) rather than by the particular church employing (training) the Vicar.

 

Overture 3 – Synodical Representation (NSW)

Synod is asked to consider each church being represented at Synod (as is done in the Reformed Church of New Zealand) instead of being represented by the Classes.

 

Overture 4 – Candidate Examinations (NSW)

This requests that the practice of two examinations for ministerial candidates be replaced by an examination by the home Classis and a colloquium doctum in the Classis of the calling church.

 

Overture 5 – Fringe Benefits (NSW)

Classis NSW is calling for the establishment of a committee to draft up denominational guidelines on the use of ‘fringe benefits’ in ministerial stipend packages.

 

Overture 6 – Session / Council (WA)

This points out an inconsistency in the naming of the ruling body of the local church and asks that denominational correspondence uses both terms ie. as Session/Council

 

Overture 7 – A Name Change (Maroondah Vic)

Once again Synod is being overtured to change the name of the denomination – this time to the title ‘Christian Reformed Church’.

 

Overture 8 – Sliding Scale Quota (Gippsland Vic)

Synod is being asked to Synod, in calculating quota that is to be levied on the churches, take into consideration the proportion of elderly members over 70 and their ability to pay.

 

Moderamen

At February Classis meetings across the denomination elections took place for the moderamen (executive officers) of Synod. The result was:

  • Chairman - Rev. Geoff Van Schie (Perth)

  • Vice Chairman - Rev. Fred Vanderbom (Adelaide)

  • First Clerk - Elder Bill Meischke (Sydney)

  • Second Clerk - Elder Greg Tenni (Redlands Bay Qld.)

 

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