Former Reformed Ecumenical Synod Moderator Opens Prayer
Service for International Conference of Reformed Churches
"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 Nederland-synodaal despite the 1979 decision of the GKN-s 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 Seo-Moon Presbyterian Church in Seoul, Korea, the ICRC convened its quadrennial meeting with an October 15 evening worship service and was scheduled to adjourn the following Thursday evening, October 23.
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 Church 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 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 who applied 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 has been one of the REC's strongest supporters. The other two applicants were the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales and the Gereja Gereja Masehi Musyafir NTT.
Six other denominations and one independent church were attending as observers. Four of the seven were 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.
U.S. News: Opponents of Presbyterian "Fidelity and Integrity" Amendment Meet. By Julian Shipp.
©1997 United Reformed News Service