NAPARC: Missions “Thriving” and Organic Unity Discussed

 

2017 NAPARC1The annual NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council) met from November 14-16, 2017, at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI.

This was the 43rd meeting of the Council, which now consists of 13 member federations. As usual, denominational reports followed by questions and prayers for those organizations took a great deal of time. According to Rev. Ralph A Pontier, NAPARC’s newly-elected Secretary, “One theme was repeated in several reports, that the work of missions is thriving among the churches.”

A more unique feature of this year’s NAPARC meeting involved a lengthy discussion regarding organic unity. Four matters related to the subject had been forwarded from the previous year, and delegates had been encouraged to be prepared to discuss them this year. Discussion began Wednesday afternoon and continued Thursday morning on four topics:

  1. How important is organic union among dissimilar NAPARC denominations?  For example, do the denominations which focus on a specific ethnic/linguistic group in North America really need to merge with other NAPARC denominations?
  2. What denominational distinctives presently exist as obstacles to organic union?  (Examples: exclusive psalmody, delegated or non-delegated assemblies or synods, strict subscription or good faith subscription, unique denominational histories, etc.)
  3. What denominational distinctives should be considered as valid obstacles to organic union under biblical scrutiny?
  4. Discuss the possibility of a structure that allows for both distinctives and organic union.

Rev. Steve Swets, pastor of Rehoboth URC in Ancaster, ON, viewed this as the meeting’s most significant discussion. “It was good to hear the brothers speak openly about the joys and difficulty of unity,” he said. “Some churches asked the FRCNA why they are slow in uniting with the HRC. Some asked the URCNA the same questions about the CanRC. It was an honest dialogue.”

In the official press release, Rev. Pontier reported: “The discussion revealed different ideas about the importance and feasibility of organic (organizational) union, but also a common commitment to giving visible expression to that unity which is already ours in Christ.”

As discussion continued, a motion was made to appoint an ad-hoc committee “to explore concrete ways in which we could begin to bundle our resources for greater visible expressions of our unity in Christ.” The committee would include a representative from each member church. Because the number of official delegates per federation at this meeting ranged from one to four, the body adopted a procedural motion to allow one vote per delegation. The main motion, however, was defeated.

“One thought that was expressed in discussion was that we would be asking a committee to do what we all were supposed to be doing together,” Rev. Pontier said. “I think the majority thought that a committee was not necessary and would not be able to do any better than what we could all do together.”

Other business

Another item on the docket dealt with religious liberty in light of the US Supreme Court’s action legalizing same-sex marriage. Delegates approved the Interim Committee recommendation that this matter would be best handled within the member churches.

A World Mission’s Consultation has been held for more than three decades. The 2018 event is scheduled for September 18-19 in Willow Grove, PA. Mr. Mark Bube will chair the event and Rev. Douglas Clawson will serve as secretary.

Steve ParkNAPARC called for three additional consultations. The OPC will host one on relief and diaconal ministry, convened by Mr. David Nakhla, part-time administrator for the OPC’s Committee on Diaconal Ministries. The ARP will host an event on theological training, convened by Dr. Kyle E. Sims. And the ERQ will host a conference on youth ministries, to be convened by Rev. Ben Westerveld.

Dues for NAPARC remain at $1,000 per member church. The website committee requested and received a $200 budget.

In addition to the election of Secretary Pontier, delegates elected Rev. Dr. S. Steve Park (KAPC) as Chairman and Rev. David Kim (KPCA) as Vice-Chairman. Dr. Maynard Koerner (RCUS) agreed to serve another year as Treasurer. An official resolution of thanks was adopted to express gratitude to Rev. Ron Potter (RCUS) for his 15 years of faithful service as Secretary.

Interspersed with NAPARC’s regular business were evening worship services and opportunities for ecclesiastical meetings among member representatives.

Next meeting

The KAPC is slated to host the next meeting of the Council in the Philadelphia area on November 13-15, 2018. According to the minutes, the docket will include these topics:

  1. As North American culture is becoming increasingly pluralistic and secular how might we develop a vibrant Reformed witness, although we are a small, minority group?
  2. Retaining the integrity of Reformed Confessionalism and Ecclesiology in a secular world.
  3. The Reformed Church and norms for gender, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

NAPARC Member churches

  1. ARPC – Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
  2. CanRC – Canadian Reformed Churches
  3. ERQ – Église réformée du Québec
  4. FRCNA – Free Reformed Churches of North America
  5. HRC – Heritage Reformed Congregations
  6. KAPC – Korean American Presbyterian Church
  7. KPCA – Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin)
  8. OPC – Orthodox Presbyterian Church
  9. PCA – Presbyterian Church in America
  10. PresRC – Presbyterian Reformed Church
  11. RCUS – Reformed Church in the United States
  12. RPCNA – Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
  13. URCNA – United Reformed Churches in North America

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the January 18, 2018, issue of Christian Renewal.43rd (2017) Meeting of NAPARC

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By-law changes implemented at NAPARC

When NAPARC (North American Presbyterian Reformed Council) met from November 11-13, 2014, new practices streamlined reporting and increased interaction.

According to NAPARC Secretary Ron Potter, recent changes to the organization’s constitution and by-laws affected the November meeting in a positive way. Each member church prepared a standard form that included current statistics, significant actions, and matters of importance to the Council. These reports were distributed to member churches prior to the meeting and supplemented on the floor by delegates.

As each church reported, the chairman assigned another delegate to question the reporter and lead the assembly in prayer for the reporting member church. All delegates were also given opportunity to ask questions.

“The benefits of this newer approach to reporting and questioning were immediately apparent inasmuch as there was much more substantial interaction than in former years,” Rev. Potter said.

He explained that in anticipation of the increased interaction, NAPARC had scheduled an extra day for this meeting. He added, “This extension also facilitates an evening devotional service on the Tuesday night of NAPARC, which is open to the public.”

Because the Canadian Reformed Churches hosted the 40th annual NAPARC meeting, the Covenant CanRC in Grassie, ON, welcomed delegates and observers to a service at which Dr. Gerhard H. Visscher, president of the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary, preached on church unity.

Forty delegates represented 13 member churches, including the newest, the Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin). Two observers from the Protestant Reformed Churches in North America were also present.

Delegates elected Rev. Bernard Westerveld as Chairman, Rev. Joel Overduin as Vice-chairman, Rev. Ron Potter as Secretary, and Rev. Maynard Koerner as Treasurer.

New by-law changes now provide time for Interchurch Relations Committees to meet before, between, and after Council sessions.

“NAPARC has proven to be the ideal venue for these meetings,” Rev. Potter said.

Another change requires the Secretary to compile statements and studies of member churches, and delegates took action to facilitate that process in preparation for the information’s inclusion in Council minutes.

In the past, delegates have heard report from two consultations associated with member churches: World Missions and Home Missions. Newly-adopted changes added Christian/Church Education, Relief/Diaconal Ministries, Theological Training, and Youth Ministries. Rev. Bernard Westerveld was appointed as convener of the new Youth Ministries consultation.

NAPARC’s only operating committee is its Website Committee, which regularly updates the website with member churches’ contact information and events as well as Council minutes.

Following an evening banquet on Wednesday, Mr. Hans VanDooren spoke on “Reformed Christian Day Schools.”

Member churches of NAPARC include: Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC), Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC), Église réformée du Québec (ERQ), Free Reformed Churches of North America (FRCNA), Heritage Reformed Congregations (HRC), Korean American Presbyterian Church (KAPC), Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin) (KPCA-Kosin), Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Presbyterian Reformed Church (PRC), Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), and United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA).

Église réformée du Québec is scheduled to host NAPARC’s next meeting on November 10-12, 2015, in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

[The above report is based on information contained in a press release written by Rev. Ron Potter, Secretary of NAPARC.]

This article appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the January 14, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.

NAPARC changes by-laws and constitution

Photo from ARP Magazine’s Facebook page

When the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), met on November 19-20, 2013, in Flat Rock, NC, it adopted new by-laws and approved changes to its constitution. The new by-laws are already in effect, but changes in the constitution must be approved by NAPARC member churches.

Those actions arose from a report by the Committee of Review (COR), which several years ago had been given a mandate to evaluate NAPARC’s function, constitution, and by-laws and bring its recommendations to the Council.

The new by-laws will soon appear on the NAPARC website (naparc.org). Beginning in 2014, the Council will meet over the course of three days (instead of two). Time blocks will be scheduled to allow interchurch committees to meet between NAPARC sessions, rather than squeezing in these meeting before the Council convenes or after it adjourns.

The current practice of the host church arranging for an evening meal and speaker will continue, although it will take place on the second evening. The first evening will ordinarily be designated for a devotional service, conducted by a congregation of the hosting member church.

Informational documents produced over the years by NAPARC will be published on its website and in its minutes to be available for use by member churches. Additionally, NAPARC will maintain a cumulative listing of studies completed by member churches.

The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC) hosted this 39th meeting of NAPARC at its Bonclarken assembly grounds. Delegates were present from it and the rest of the 12 member churches: Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC), Église réformée du Quebec (ERQ), Free Reformed Churches of North America (FRCNA), Heritage Reformed Congregations (HRC), Korean American Presbyterian Church (KAPC), Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Presbyterian Reformed Church (PRC), Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA), and United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA). The Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin) is applying for NAPARC membership and its observers were present as well as visitors and members of interchurch relations committees.

The Council elected Rev. Peter Holtvlüwer (CanRC) as chairman and Rev. Ben Westerveld (ERQ) as vice-chairman. Delegates re-elected Rev. Maynard Koerner (RCUS) as treasurer and Rev. Ron Potter (RCUS) as secretary.

Each member church presented a report, followed by a delegate offering prayer for the reporting church.

“It was plainly evident to all in attendance that the Kingdom of our LORD is advancing,” wrote Rev. Potter in a NAPARC press release. “What was evident in these reports is scriptural and creedal fidelity among the member churches of NAPARC, the distinguishing characteristics of the three marks of the true church, the active missionary efforts of the churches at home and abroad, the evident working of Christ and conversely, the attempts of the Devil, in some cases, to cause disruption.”

Following the evening meal, Dr. Mark Ross of Erskine Theological Seminary spoke on church unity from John 17. “Dr. Ross demonstrated from John 17:21 that the apologetic before the world for the glorious existence of the Triune God is the church, and specifically, the visible unity of the church,” wrote Rev. John Bouwers in a pastoral report to his congregation. “One challenge we must also continue to face, is that though we speak well of our commitment to unity in contexts like NAPARC, and very much enjoy the tastes of it we experience there, the actual fruit of such unity needs to come to expression in and between our local churches.”

In addition to the member church reports, NAPARC received a report from the observing church as well as reports from the treasurer, auditor, Interim Committee, and the Foreign Missions Consultation committee, before taking up the COR recommendations.

The 40th meeting of NAPARC is scheduled for November 11-13, 2014, and will be hosted by the Canadian Reformed Churches near Hamilton, ON. An invitation to observe the meeting was extended to the Bible Presbyterian Church, the Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin), and the Protestant Reformed Churches of North America.

One of the interchurch relations meetings that occurred within the context of NAPARC was between representatives of the URCNA and the CanRC, who focused on efforts toward merger.

A joint press release from the URNCA’s CERCU and the CanRC’s CCU committees stated, “In an effort to understand one another better, we discussed covenant views in the CanRC and the URCNA. The discussion then moved on to why the CanRC dislike extra-confessional statements. We also discussed the status of the doctrinal statements adopted by recent URCNA synods.”

The press release additionally stated, “We discussed CERCU’s intention to move the relationship to Phase 3A, which would mean a commitment to making concrete preparations for an eventual merger. It is CERCU’s intention to present Synod Visalia 2014 with a preliminary outline of such a plan leading up to a finalized proposal to Synod 2016. Part of this plan would be to encourage URCNA churches to interact with those issues that need resolution before merger. Furthermore, to enhance understanding of the issues involved, the hope is that a colloquium can be held at Synod Visalia 2014 in which two representatives from the URCNA and two from the CanRC will address covenant views and perhaps other theological issues.”

Rev. John Bouwers reported that CERCU held additional meetings with representatives of the ARP, ERQ, FRC, HRC, OPC, RCUS and the RPCNA. CERCU also met on its own to discuss its work related to each of the NAPARC churches, but particularly regarding merger with the CanRC.

“In our discussions together as CERCU,” wrote Rev. Bouwers, “we observe that three types of concerns remain regarding the unity process. One is theological; we need to be convinced as churches that the doctrine of the covenant taught in our respective churches can live healthily side by side in one federation within the bounds of our Confessions.  The second is church political; given our negative past experiences, there are continued fears concerning perceived hierarchical tendencies in the Proposed Joint Church Order.  The third has to do with the will to ecumenism generally; some are not convinced that churches that share a confession are required to seek organizational unity. As a committee we are of a mind that if the first two types of objections can be addressed to our mutual satisfaction, the hesitations with regards to the third will also be alleviated.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 17 & 18 of the January 22, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Word & Deed ministry expands it borders and broadens its reach

Rick Postma photo courtesy of Word & Deed
Rick Postma
photo courtesy of Word & Deed

Word & Deed has a holistic approach to child sponsorship that addresses the physical and spiritual needs of the entire family. But it is much more than a child sponsorship organization. It also promotes Christian education, orphan care, disaster relief and vocational training as it addresses the spiritual and physical needs of people in the developing world. And it does all this according to biblical principles.

W&D communicates needs and opportunities to North American Christians, while providing accountability and encouragement through partnerships with Christian organizations in other countries. In its work with indigenous organizations, it focuses on the gospel and emphasizes self-sufficiency.

Recognizing its steady growth and increasing network of connections in the Reformed community, Christian Renewal talked with Word & Deed’s Director of Public Relations, Rick Postma, about the organization and its decision to merge with another ministry.

Christian Renewal: Rick, some of our readers may not be acquainted with Word & Deed Ministries or its history. When was Word & Deed organized?

Rick Postma: The Canadian arm was started in 1994 and the US arm in 2001. We work together as Word & Deed North America with sub-committees consisting of board members from both sides of the border overseeing our projects and promotion activities.

CR: Who or what was the driving force behind its organization?

RP: Woord en Daad (Word & Deed in The Netherlands) which began in the 1970s in response to the major earthquake in Guatemala, planted the idea of starting a sister organization in the 1992 timeframe. Key founders of Word & Deed Canada included Rev. Cornelis Pronk (of the Free Reformed Churches) and Bernie Pennings (our Project Director). Key founders of the US arm included Peter Van Kempen and Heidi Pronk.

It was recognized early on that Word & Deed should be a cooperative effort involving like-minded churches and individuals. From the beginning, the board consisted of United Reformed (URC) and Free Reformed (FRC) members with Heritage Reformed, Canadian Reformed and Orthodox Presbyterian board members joining us since then.

L-R: Bernie Pennings, Kara Luiting, John Otten, Heather VanMeppelen-Scheppink, Rich Postma, Hanna Korvemaker, John Kottelberg photo courtesy of Word & Deed
L-R: Bernie Pennings, Kara Luiting, John Otten, Heather VanMeppelen-Scheppink, Rick Postma, Hanna Korvemaker, John Kottelberg
photo courtesy of Word & Deed

 

CR: How long have you been involved with the Word & Deed team?

RP: I had the privilege of joining in November, 2005. I visited Colombia one week later in what I have called “a tour de force” as far as an introduction to a new job is concerned, including a heart wrenching visit to a home for abused girls just outside Bogota. I haven’t looked back since.

Bernie Pennings, our project director, has been involved since Word & Deed’s inception and John Otten, who ran a hospital in Cubulco, Guatemala, for 17 years before returning to Canada and joining our team is our administration director (he is also project manager for the majority of our Latin American projects).

CR: Word & Deed recently announced its intention to merge at the end of this year with an organization called Children of Light (COL), which is a Canadian charity supporting needy children in Indonesia. In what ways will this merger benefit both organizations?

RP: We have been delighted to welcome a number of organizations to the Word & Deed family over the years. Many readers will recall Adoration Christian Centre (Haiti) joining us in 2011 as well as the St. Luke Hospital Construction Project in the Dominican Republic, earlier this year (CR articles covered both developments).

COL had grown to the point where Andy & Gerda Vandenhaak, founders of the Canadian charity supporting the work, along with their board, realized that it was exceeding their capacity as volunteers to shoulder the workload.

CR: The leaderships of both organizations have met several times and W&D made two investigative trips to Indonesia prior to finalizing merger plans. What led to these meetings exploring merger options and how will the merger work?

RP: Word & Deed’s approach to having other organizations “join the family” includes ensuring that our respective mission and mandate align; that there is agreement on the why/how/who of running projects and that a strong relationship has begun to develop.

When COL heard about Adoration Christian Centre becoming a project of Word & Deed, they approached Word & Deed about doing the same. In addition to the two visits to the field and discussions with COL, a survey was sent to all current supporters of COL and a strong majority indicated their approval of the merger and indicated that they would continue to support the project through child sponsorship. The continued commitment of current supporters was one of the key requirements for the merger to go forward.

As of January 1, 2014, all COL sponsorships and project oversight will be handled by Word & Deed in partnership with the indigenous COL team in West Timor [West Timor is the western half of the island of Timor and is part of Indonesia].

CR: In the past, Christian Renewal reported how Norlan De Groot was able to fulfill a desire for mission work by writing curriculum for Third Millennium while his family remained in their northwest Iowa home. More recently Renewal reported on the creative arrangement Word & Deed developed with Norlan De Groot, allowing him to continue his existing work of writing curriculum for Third Millennium while also performing public relations for Word & Deed. How is that arrangement working out for all those involved?

RP: Word & Deed is very pleased with the arrangement involving Norlan De Groot. We needed someone to help us in the mid-western states and he is a wonderful addition to our team. I met him for breakfast in SiouxCenter last spring [2012] and it quickly became clear that he would be a great fit. After lots of coffee, we came up with the idea of having his work for Third Millennium become a project of Word & Deed. This proposal was approved by both organizations. As a result, he is spending 50% of his time writing theological curriculum for Third Millenium and 50% doing promotion work for Word & Deed Ministries.

[Editorial note: Norlan De Groot has since reported to supporters that he is now spending about 60% of his time promoting Word & Deed and about 40% of his time on the Curriculum Development project.]

CR: What other creative efforts has Word & Deed made to promote cooperative work in Christ’s kingdom

RP: While we work with indigenous churches and organizations, we also partner with a number of the missions of our supporting churches. Some examples include an HIV/AIDS clinic in South Africa with the Heritage Reformed Mission and several projects in Ecuador in partnership with Ecuador Missions (an FRC missions group) which also involves MINTS (a URC ministry – Word & Deed pays for building rental, coordinator and materials).

On the promotion side, we now have 21 Business Groups across North America with members from Reformed and Presbyterian churches who support projects and then, when able, visit the projects they have supported. There are now almost 400 businesses and professionals involved in these groups which meet once per year. Several new groups are planned by the end of the year. For more information please see our website (wordanddeed.org).

CR: What plans has Word & Deed made for the future or what possibilities is it currently exploring?                          

RP: Word & Deed has positioned itself with NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches) member churches, at least those who attend the annual NAPARC missions meeting in Philadelphia (the URC, HRC, ARP, OPC, RPC, Can Ref) as a potential diaconal partner in their missions efforts. In a number of cases, this is already happening.

CR: Why should Reformed Christians support Word & Deed?

RP: As implied by our name, the boards and staff of Word & Deed North America are committed to maintaining a focus on the need for those we seek to help to come to know the Lord as their Saviour and for His people to grow in their relationship with Him. Sadly, far too many organizations having begun well have lost this critical focus. This is also reflected in our commitment to employing a biblical methodology and worldview.

Furthermore, Word & Deed also puts a great deal of focus on project sustainability and local leadership. If at all possible, we prefer to see local projects run by local Christians from day one. In partnership with Reformed churches in Nigeria, for example, we have two Christian schools which have grown to a total of 2,000 students. The project was run by local Reformed Christians from day one (local leadership) and after 12 years, is totally self-funded (sustainability) from an operating cost point of view. After we finish funding an auditorium construction project (designed and built by Nigerians), our support will end in 2014 and we will pull away (I often use the temporary nature of scaffolding in a construction project to picture Word & Deed’s role).

Word & Deed is careful not to take the role of the Church but rather partners with the Church by coming alongside local indigenous churches or the missions of a number of our supporting churches.

Word & Deed began in 1994 with one project – funding John Otten in his role as director overseeing a hospital in Guatemala (he has now joined our team as noted elsewhere). Today, we are supporting 53 projects in 12 countries. We, together with our partners and supporters are, and continue to be, astonished by what the Lord is doing. What a privilege to be involved in this work.

CR: If you could convey one final thing to readers, what would you like them to know about Word & Deed?        

RP: In addition to the three areas of emphasis highlighted above, we covet everyone’s prayers that God would bless all the projects to the salvation of sinners and the extension of His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria!

The above interview by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 15-17 of the December 11, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.