Soest Conference, 6-9 March 2007 - Proceedings

European Conference of Reformed Churches Proceedings

Session 1: Afternoon Tuesday 6th March

1. Opening

Rev Ruud ter Beek opened the conference at 3:35 p.m.

Convening Committee: James Maciver (FCS); John Scott (EPCEW); Han Schenau (CGK); Wim Kuipers (GKV); R ter Beek (GKV).

2. Opening Devotions

Rev Dr Peter Naylor


Singing: Psalm 100

Reading: Revelation 1:1-8

Dr Naylor spoke on Revelation 1:5-6. 1. Christ is the faithful witness. He spoke the truth while on earth (John 8:40). Looking deeper, Christ reveals God (John 1:18). His word was true and reliable. He was faithful unto death and did not turn away from his course. Why is Christ so described in Revelation 1? The answer lies in Rev. 1:9; 2:13; and 12:17: John was on the island of Patmos for the witness to Christ; Antipas had been killed because he was a faithful witness; the devil made war upon those believers who were witnesses. Our calling is to be faithful witnesses. We must endure in it. And we know that as Christ was received, so we shall be received. 2. Christ is the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of earth. Here is Christ's exaltation. The whole of Revelation 1 draws on Daniel 7:13-14. Christ has been given dominion. This is his reward from God, Acts 2:36; Philippians 2:10-11. God has divided him a portion with the great, Isaiah 53:12. This also applies to us. You, as witnesses, have a share in Christ's reward, Rev. 3:21. But here, there is a contrast too. Christ was worthy; we are not, we are unworthy. 3. Therefore he loved us and washed us (or loosed us) from our sins in his blood and has made us kings and priests to his God. Christ has lifted us from our disgrace to a place of honour. He has made it possible for us to share in his reign by his great salvation. Here is motivation to us to endure in our ministry and to serve Christ, perhaps in discouraging, testing, or even grieving circumstances. Consider Christ, his faithfulness, his reward, and his grace towards us, and let us pray that his light will shine on Europe.


Singing: Let us of Christ, our Lord and Saviour sing.

3. Opening Address

Rev Rutger ter Beek

Welcome. We are overwhelmed by the numbers coming here. It shows that there is a need in Europe. We have that many further meetings will follow this first ECRC.

The background to the ECRC. There were two causes: 1. We noticed various small reformed churches in Europe desired to meet more often, facing small numbers, short history, hostile environment; 2. The network of church relations of GKV has spread and since 2002 we have been looking for a way to be more effective. We have been looking across the seas and perhaps forgetting our own situation close at hand in the continent of Europe. The ICRC members at Pretoria 2005 saw this and formed a convening committee from the following churches: EPCEW, CGK, FCS and GKV. It was agreed that the ICRC member churches would invite their contacts to the ECRC. We never intended to restrict it to the ICRC only, and included independent seminaries with strong missionary involvement.

The intention is to know each other better and reformed church life in this continent. We have different needs. It is good to know who is with us. If we don't know each other, we cannot love or be loved by one another. In evangelism and church planting in Europe, we may share our interests and energies.

Are reformed convictions important for Europe today? What Europe do we live in? There is a strong emphasis on material, economic values, a strong motive for political unity. But churches and religions are being confined. There is ethnic diversity, a huge collection of minorities. This causes a strong desire for peace. There are at least two painful scars: the East-West divide; and the twentieth century two world wars and holocaust. Europe believes in the existence of evil. Man is not good by nature. Europe wants peace. What can a Calvinist minority, reformed churches, the Bible as the word of God, mean for this?

1. The power of morality and civilisation. We have a strong past. There is now a desire to regulate religion. What will it leave? We need living congregations. Do not look at numbers.

2. Cultural, political, and ethical diversity. God's word teaches us to value diversity. There are more than 100 reformed confessions. We have 1 Corinthians and Ephesians (the reign of Christ puts into perspective diversity).

3. Biblical thinking: how to deal with existence of evil. Society is too impressed with the achievement of sin and evil will lose its drive to fight evil. Needs people who know that evil does not have the last word in history. Jesus Christ is overcoming Satan.

Rev ter Beek introduced the programme. There will be business meetings. We must decide whether to ask our General Assemblies to continue this initiative.

Man of Macedonia. The cry for help will not die out as long as so many have no shepherd and live in the illusion that they can help themselves. A man who has ears will hear this cry of need - to be brought back to the living God that they may live

Our help is in the name of the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth

Singing: Psalm 146

4. Introduction of Churches 1

4.1 Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (CGK)

Rev C den Hertog.

Growing contacts with GKV at the local level with pulpit exchanges and between theological universities. CGK's university is in Apeldoorn. 184 congregations. 140 ministers. 75,000 members. Mission workers in the Republic of South Africa and Mozambique. Some are working on Bible translation. CGK are members of ICRC since 1989. Its European mission is within Netherlands and Belgium (Antwerp).


Rev Todd Matocha.

Referred to the Presbyterian Network 20th anniversary issue. 9 congregations. 470 members. 14 ministers. ICRC member since 1997. Theological education draws on various places: Reformed Presbyterian College in Belfast, Greenville, RTS or Westminster in the USA. EPCEW has ecclesiastical relations with GKV, EPI, RPI, FCS, FCC, Poland.

EPCI not represented

4.3 FCS

Rev David Robertson.

Prospect Magazine, Nov 2006, "God returns to Europe", the bottoming out of secularism. 70 congregations. 70 ministers plus missionaries. 5,000 members, 7,000 adherents. ICRC since beginning (1985). Free Church College. The FCS regards every ICRC church as sister church. Church planting and Evangelism: the aim is to have five new church plants on the go at any one time (currently, Cobham; St Andrews; Western Isles; Dunfermline; and one near Aberdeen - all in areas with no reformed witness). These are real attempts at outreach. They have just decided to look at new fields, especially Islamic work; and Eastern Europe for Christ, but also Sweden, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

A change is occurring in Europe. Their International Cafésed to be dominated by Chinese, who were easiest to evangelize, and Muslims are the hardest. But this year there were more Germans that Chinese for first time ever. Secular Europeans.

They are looking for more real co-operation in practice in church planting and apologetic evangelism. Not to be inward looking. The door is ajar for evangelism.

They work with MTW.

4.4 IRE Reformed Churches of Spain (Iglesias Reformadas de Españ(IRE)

Rev Francisco (Paco) Gomez. They joined the ICRC 2005. 8 congregations. 300 people. 8 ordained ministers. Ministers trained in a variety of places: Kampen, Aix-en-Provence; distance learning. Spain: protestants less than 1%. Spain as a mission field.

4.5 RPI and Scotland - Samuel McCollum

36 Congregations. 3,000 members. 10 congregations without pastor - 26 ministers plus retired men. ICRC from an early time. Theological college in Belfast. In Scotland now only two congregations. Recently greater emphasis on reaching out - within Ireland. Mission in Nantes, France.

4.6 GKV

Rev Rutger ter Beek. 300 congregations. 320 ministers. 125,000 members including children. ICRC since start 1985. Kampen Theological University: 6 full time professors and a few lecturers. European Sister churches: ERC Russian Federation; EPCEW; EPCI; RPI; FCS and FCC; Evangelical Reformed Church Ukraine. Church plant projects in Netherlands Amsterdam and around; Rotterdam evangelism among Hindus and Muslims. The Hague Muslim project. Belgium: Ghent; Limburg, Maastricht, Achterhoek Hope: for contact of co-operating; acting together side by side for the preaching of the gospel in Europe.

Session 2: Evening Tuesday 6th March

5. Opening devotions

Rev David Miller

Reading: Psalm 145 part

Singing: Psalm 90


6. Conference Paper 1. The Reformed Tradition in Europe

Rev R ter Beek introduced Rev Dr J W Maris

Prof. Maris gave a paper on Reformed Churches and the Unity of the Church in a European context.  J. W. Maris, ‘The Reformed Tradition in Europe’ (6 March 2007)

R ter Beek thanked Prof. Maris.

7. Plenary Discussion

Two questions were raised for discussion: 1 Should we re-write all church orders to make room for the international character of the church? 2. Is the conference broad enough?

1. We are not that far yet. It is good to feel the pressure of the question. Christ and his Church are international. An international synod is not easy from experience with the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, and Reformed Council. Reality of contacts should mean more to the church than just being interested in foreign guests. Being part of each other's church life is NT reality. More than now, it was reality in the sixteenth century. Could this be applied to students: asked them to visit other churches? It did happen more in the past. (For Workshop on Friday morning on Theological Education.)

2. In principle, if we can enjoy Luther's writings, because he knows the same Lord Jesus and preaches the same gospel, then what of his followers? Spurgeon? But there is the problem of baptism: we must be practical. We can be enriched by others. Sometimes we too easily refuse contacts. It can still be valuable to speak with Roman Catholics on the issues at stake. If the Word of God is there, the Spirit may work in the remnant there. I am not selling out the treasures of the reformation but we must look as broad as possible. Only at the second coming will unity be a full reality, but that does not release us from our obligation to find what is possible.

Develop congregation to congregation (e.g., Netherlands and England)

8. Closing devotions

Rev John Scott

Reading: Luke 11:1-2a Â... Your kingdom come.

Remarks. It is hard to believe that grown men ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Why? Perhaps they had witnessed Christ's praying and felt we know little of that kind of engagement in prayer. 'Your kingdom come' is what our conference is about: the increase of the kingdom.

Singing: The church' one foundation


Session 3: Morning Wednesday 7th March

9. Devotions

Rev Han Schenau

Singing: Psalm 121 verses 1 and 4

Reading Matthew 28:16-20

Remarks: 1. A broken dish can still be used but is not beautiful. To lose a son - one piece is missing. There were eleven disciples. Not twelve. Soon the number would be made up, then Paul, eventually us. This ministry brings us together. 2. They were called to the mountain where Jesus waited. So are we every morning, as he waits to hear us. 3. Some doubted. Surrender to Christ; free from all hesitation. Time for renewed dedication. Time to grasp his promise.


Singing: Great is Thy Faithfulness.

10. Introduction of Churches

10.1 Free Church of Scotland Continuing

Rev John Macleod.

40 ministers, some over 65 years old, 20 in charges in Scotland, and 4 overseas; 30 congregations, 1 church planter and 1 missionary in Scotland. Noted the large number of Polish people in Scotland. The FCC views the ECRC as very important. Seminary: W Macleod principal: encouraged by the interest of students from Korea, Sri Lanka, Italy, Germany.

10:2 Evangelical Reformed Churches in Ukraine

Rev Cor Harryvan

He came alone because visas were expensive. Next time, he hoped more would attend. The ERCU formed in 1925. By 1939, 40 congregations, almost destroyed. One elderly pastor of 95 years is the only one left. 3 ministers and 5 students at seminary. Congregations are spread out across the country so it is hard to enjoy unity. 1990 was new start: now 7 congregations. Many Arminian Baptists now want to hear about grace: the gap is closing. There is new interest in the reformed faith.

10.3 Evangelical Presbyterian Church Ukraine

Mr Alexander Bukovietski.

Want to work together. Seminary. Battle over owndership of buildings. Largest oongregation 500 members. 9 congregations and 2 church plants. They face the problem of nationalism: divide Russian/Ukrainian. 12 ministers. Come and visit us.

10.4 Reformed Church Belarus, Minsk

Rev Albert Feijen.

Since the reformation there were several hundred reformed churches. Calvin dedicated a commentary to them. Destroyed by communism. With freedom, they started a small church in Minsk, 1994-99. In 1999, a dictator. Started again 1999. Westminster Confession and Heidelberg Catechism. They develop but have problems: how to deal with disagreement; political matters in the church; no model to follow; discipline; cultural matters and nationalism; society; alcoholism; the authorities - freedom is decreasing. The Last Dictator of Euope: strong state control. Relations with GKV since 1990.

10.5 Reformed Church, Norwich

Rev Stephen Quinton.

Independent. Three Forms of Unity. Started October 1994, a congregation of 20-30 people, 2 pastors, which shows the commitment of the people. Contacts with the GKV and Egypt.

10.6 Evangelical Reformed Church, Sweden

Rev David Bergmark

One congregation in Tranas, 40 people. State church is Lutheran. Contacts with a French Reformed Church in Stokholm since 1740. The culture does not need the church but on a small scale people are attracted and they are encouraged. 7 young men feel called to the ministry. Eager for contacts.

Interlude: Ukraine ministers sang in Ukrainian.

10.7 Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central Europe (Hungary)

Gyula Bagoly.

National church is in need of reform. In 1638 Hungarian puritans signed a covenant when the Scots signed their national covenant. They were expelled by the bishops and that ended their movement. Liberalism and Barthianism destroyed the church.

In 1990, there was input from the USA. 18 places of worship. Contacts with FCC and GKV. Growth not spectacular. Publishing company. Youth camps.

Interlude: Gaelic singing of Psalm 23 Rev James Maciver

Workshops followed.

Session 4: Afternoon Wednesday 7th March

11. Introduction of Churches

11.1 Evangelical Reformed Churches (Westminster Confession), Austria

Rev Reinhard Mayer

Prepared a Church order in 1984 and started the church in 1987. Further congregations: Neuhofen (1998, Wintertur (2005) and Vienna (2007) led by some American ministers. Westminster Confession and Heidelberg Catechism. Looking for pastors and missionaries.

11.2 Riga Reformed Church, Latvia

Rev Alvis Sauka.

2 congregations with 80 people in each. Started from scratch. Involvement with Westminster Theological Seminary, and Covenant Reformed Church (USA). Pastors should be trained in the church (St Helens Bishopsgate, London as a model). Seminaries do not prepare preachers.

11.3 Evangelical Reformed Church of Lithuania

Rev Romas Misiunas.

45 years old. Second Helvetic Confession, Heidelberg and Dort. 14 congregations, 7000 members, 10 empty pulpits. Acute problems over property. Soviet rule for 60 years, 1940 confiscations, now difficult to recover properties.

11.4 Presbyterian Church of Portugal

Rev Francisco Moura da Silva.

Founded by PCA. Facing secularism, materialism, atheism. Strategy to train men and plant churches. Brazilian contacts and learning from their methods.

Session 5: Evening Wednesday 7th March

12. Opening devotions

Rev Manuel Ló Franco.

Singing: Trust and Obey

Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21


13. Panel Discussion

Rev R ter Beek introduced Bert Groen, who had been the mayor of Bunscoten and was now involved in politics through the ChristenUnie, and Rev Herman Speelman, a church historian.

14. Closing devotion

Rev C den Hertog

Singing Psalm 96 verses 1, 4 and 8

Reading Ephesians 3:14-21

Brief remarks.

Session 6: Morning Thursday 8th March

15. Opening devotions

Rev Dr L J Joosse (IRTT/DVN Missions Committee)

Subject: mission mandate from historical perspective. Matt 28. In earlier days, at the Reformation, people did not think in a political and geographical way. They had a religious perspective. They did not think about evangelizing 'China' but evangelizing Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc., the heathen.

Singing: Ye servants of God.


Reading: Romans 10:11-17.

Remarks: verse 14, How can they hear without someone preaching to them? A mission mandate! The preacher is Christ's messenger, and Christ speaks through him. The preacher must address the gospel to everyone personally. In the reformation, if the political leader became a Christian, the society came with him. But this is not enough: it is necessary to build up the church from individual believers.

16. Introduction of Churches

16.1 Evangelical Reformed Churches Poland

Rev Marek Kmiec.

2 congregations in Wroclaw (or Breslau) and Poznan. Breslau was the birthplace of Ursinis (author of the Heidelberg Catechism) and of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 2 church plants: Legnica and Gdansk (or Danzig). 6 pastors, and 1 more to be ordained. These have been trained in various places: Oregon, the Evangelical Theological College of Wales, and within Poland where the seminaries are influenced by liberal ideas. They publish reformed material in Polish. They are concerned about Christian education and approach this mainly by home schooling. Contacts with the EPCEW. Poland is predominantly Roman Catholic and people feel that conversion to reformed positions is a betrayal of identity. The old reformed church has become Barthian. 70 members. Pray for us.

16.2 Evangelical Reformed Baptist Church, Italy - CERBI

Rev Matteo Clementi.

Contacts with the Free Church of Scotland. 7 reformed Baptist churches in their group, but others are looking towards them. Started 2006, based on the Reformed Baptist Confession of 1689. CERBI is not a denomination but has a Congregationalist ecclesiology: a coming together of free churches, with an attitude of openness and co-operation with others. Conference in May in Padua. Italy needs a biblical reformation: pray for the gospel there. Their approach: 1. tracts for massive distribution; 2. a dictionary of evangelical theology, aimed at students; 3. a strategic book on church planting, aimed at pastors.

16.3 Misson to the World

Rev William C Traub.

Rev Traub worked for 12 years in Germany. MTW has over 500 missionaries worldwide. In Europe working with FCS, GKV, EPCEW, etc. How can we help?

16.4 World Witness Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

Rev Andrew Howard.

Three areas of work in Europe: Russia, Germany (Berlin) and Wales. Rev Howard, his wife and one other worker, have sought to address social problems, such as addiction, as a means of gospel outreach.

16.5 Colloque Francophone

Rev Malcolm Ball.

CF is a smaller scale conference similar to the Banner of Truth Conf at Leicester. In 2008 we hope to deal with various aspects of Calvin and his teaching, as neither are really appreciated in France. We are encouraged to have people from Eastern Europe where French is often the second language. There is a real need for sponsorship for such people as well as for French pastors.

16.6 Missions Committee of the ICRC

David Miller.

The Missions Committee has four tasks. 1. To produce a booklet, a survey of the member churches' missions. 2. To encourage co-operation. 3. To ensure that mission is on the agenda. 4. to produce a regular newsletter.

16.7 Fundament

Rev Jaap Doedens.

Working with Hungarian speaking reformed churches in Europe.


Session 7: Evening Thursday 8th March

17. Opening worship

Raymond Blair

Reading: Revelation 7:9-12 - the ultimate outcome of world mission.

Singing: Psalm 100


Singing: Psalm 113

18. Lux Mundi

Rev Kim Batteau introduced Lux Mundi and members of the editorial board: Ruud ter Beek, Piet de Vries, Paul Waterval, (and Sue Wierenga-Tucker not present).

19. Paper 2. European Islam - Threat and Challenge for the Reformed Churches in Europe

Rev Lucius W de Graaff presented his paper. Lucius W. De Graaff, ‘European Islam – Threat and Challenge for the Reformed Churches in Europe’ (8 March 2007)

Discussion followed. 1. How many muslims are secularized? It is difficult to answer this. In England, muslim young people who were fully integrated into society nevertheless became radicalized. All muslims feel that they belong to one umma, one congregation. 2. How to react to the stranger in our cities? Begin to make a relationship: I love muslims; I hate Islam. One part of the Bible that it particularly useful is the parable of the prodigal son. Muslims cannot understand the Father waiting for the son. Allah has 99 names but not Father. Show the love of God to muslim people. 3. Trinity. Muslims say that you cannot understand this. Islam is very rational. So they think it is blasphemy and crazy. But they have not clearly understood their own confession: allah aqbar means allah is greater, not is great. Greater than what you can understand. If they cannot understand allah, they cannot attack the Trinity because it is beyond understanding. 4. Infant Baptism and Israel. For us, Israel still has the promises. This creates difficulties for missionaries in Egypt because Christianity legitimizes Israel. The land promise and covenant theology. 5. Islam is holistic. Evangelical Christianity is not holistic; but reformed faith is. In Islam, there is a mix of spiritual and political power. In Reformed theology, life is unified. Islam is not the only theocracy. Reformed faith is relevant to Islam.

20. Closing devotions

Rev James Maciver

Thanks to Stayokay staff, Peter N (re Lux Mundi), Gretie Enter, hostesses Mrs Loes ter Beek and Wimke Delhaas, and Ruud ter Beek.

Reading: Jonah 4:5-11

Remarks: Questions in Scripture that require each generation to answer for itself. We don't have Jonah's answer. Should not I pity Nineveh? Jonah's watching the city is an attitude that we have sought to avoid by this conference. It stemmed from his initial reluctance to evangelize that city. God directs us to the great cities , whole world with gospel of Jesus Christ. God's great mercy - we take back to our own people. The great message of the cross. God in Christ. As the Father sent me, even so I send you. The ethos of the incarnation, the Lord's self-giving


Singing Psalm 96 verses 1-4

Session 8: Morning Friday 9th March

21. Opening Worship

Rev Paco Gomez

Read Lamentations 3:22-25.

Singing: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation. Prayer.

Remarks on John 1:16: Christ is the fullness of God, a huge contrast with our sin and weakness. We desire to reach our continent with his fullness. This gives us gratitude and expectancy.

Singing: To God be the Glory.

Business Meeting and Workshop on Theological Education

22. Prayer Service

Rev James Maciver led a period of intercessory prayers and preached.

Singing: Psalm 25

Intercessory prayer was made as follows:

Stephen Quinton for old Europe.

Henk Drost for the congregations of our churches to grow in their recognition of the need for the gospel in Europe.

John Macintosh for theological education.

David Bergmark for new and small churches.

Hans Schenau for Israel.

Alvis Sauka for political justice.

Reading: Matthew 16:13-28.

Address: Matthew 16:13,16-18. Jesus began with a question that is vital for Europe: Who is Jesus? We have 1. A Confession and 2. A Confirmation. Peter represents the confessing church. His confession of Christ is basic to the building up of his church. Peter, the Confessor of Christ, is the Rock. It is a confession received from heaven. We have a confession of Christ. 2. 'I will build my church.' Notice who the builder is. The church does not build herself. When it doesn't go forward as we would like it to, we must remember this. We have an assurance: that work will not fail. 'The gates of Hades will not prevail'. Gates are defensive: the gospel advances! We must retain our confidence in the Word of God, the Gospel. An example of this is Acts 12: Herod opposed the church; the account of his death concludes with the statement that the Word of God grew and multiplied.


Singing: Psalm 121

Around noon, the conference was closed.