Kiev Conference, 24-27 April 2012 - Proceedings

European Conference of Reformed Churches Proceedings

Participating Churches

Member Churches

Eight churches are members of the ICRC.

  1. CRC Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
  2. EPCEW Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales
  3. EPCI Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ireland
  4. FCS Free Church of Scotland
  5. FCC Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)
  6. RCN Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
  7. RPCI Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland
  8. RCS Reformed Churches of Spain (not represented)

Invited Churches

  1. EPCS Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Spain
  2. ERCK Evangelical Reformed Church, Kyrgystan
  3. ERCR Evangelical Reformed Church, Russian (Kazan, St. Petersburg, Moskova)
  4. ERC-SC Evangelical Reformed Church, Sub-Carpathian Region, Ukraine
  5. ERCWC Evangelical Reformed Church, Westminster Confession (Germany)
  6. PCN Protestant Reformed Church in the Netherlands (Reformed Bond)
  7. PCU Presbyterian Church in Ukraine
  8. RCBel Reformed Church, Belarus
  9. RC-Dun Reformed Church of Dunajevtsi, Ukraine
  10. RCR-Lat Reformed Church, Riga, in Latvia
  11. RCStep Reformed Church of Stepanj
  12. UERC Ukrainian Evangelical Reformed Church

Session 1, Tuesday afternoon, 24 April 2012

1. Opening devotions (Todd Matocha)

1.1. Prayer; singing Psalm 22; reading Ephesians 1: 15 - 2: 10. Address: Paul's prayer is that the church would come to understand what was true of them: God was at work and they were his work. Singing 'To God be the glory'.

2. Opening address (Han Schenau)

2.1. Welcome to the Fourth EuCRC. The first and second conferences met at Soest in the Netherlands, the third at Edinburgh, Scotland, and now we meet in Kiev. At this conference we miss brother Theo Karelse, who died on 30 Jan 2012. Our hosts are the Ukraine mission post of the RCN. Thanks for preparation work.

2.2. Conference Theme: 'Marginal and Missional', taken from the title of a book recently published in the Netherlands. In Europe, biblical faith is marginal, and the author of that book sees it as a judgment of God that should humble us. The church is 'missionary' as long as it has life. Meeting in the Ukraine is a sign of hope because under Russian communism Reformed pastors had to flee but this became instrumental in the spread of the gospel in parts of Europe through the Russian language.

2.3. Programme introduced.

2.4. Personnel introduced:

2.4.1. Convening committee: David McKay; James Maciver; Lucius de Graaf; Han Schenau (chairman).

2.4.2. Proceedings: Peter Naylor

2.4.3. Hosts: Jos & Marlies Colijn and Henk & Ria Drost

2.4.4. Administration: Mrs. Gretie Enter.

2.5. There will be coverage of the conference in The Monthly Record and Lux Mundi.

3. Introductions

3.1. RCN Mission in Ukraine (Henk Drost and Jos Colijn). Around 1925, the gospel of grace entered West Ukraine but in 1939 communism came. In 1991, there was a new start. Now we have churches and groups all over the country. We support them (1) by means of our seminary, which trains pastors, church planters and theologians; and (2) we hold conferences for a wider range of pastors and students to introduce them to the Reformed faith; and (3) we support local churches when they ask for help. We see a movement among Charismatics and Baptists to welcome the Reformed Faith.

3.2. Sebastian Heck, Heidelberg, Germany. I was born a Roman Catholic, came to the Reformed Faith, and returned to Germany, when as yet there was no Reformed denomination, to plant a church. After two years, we have approximately 30 people. One candidate for the ministry is ready to be ordained. We are also engaged in publishing and theological education. We want to be able to train Germans in Germany. We have launched a small seminary, and have 8 students.

3.3. Viktor Pan, a pastor in Kirgizie, Russia. Our church is still in the process of coming to a Reformed confession of faith. Recently it decided to adopt the five points of Calvinism. We have eight pastors who meet regularly and learn the basics of Reformed theology and church history. Nowadays there is a crisis: churches are shrinking. We see rapid Muslim growth in the past six years. So we are asking God how to grow and I hope for insights. We go to homes for elderly; recently we began to organize home groups, because it is hard for Muslims to come to a Christian church.

3.4. Szilagyi Lajós introduced the Evangelical Reformed Church of South Carpathia in Ukraine (Evangelical Church Egyhaz). This church was formed with the aim to be Bible-based even though this would mean losing people. They decided to adopt the five points of Calvinism and to take the Reformed Faith seriously. They were expelled from their original denomination and many pastors lost everything because of that. They are relatively small but because the people give one tenth of their money to the church they have resources to exist and develop. Most people think that they are strange to take the faith seriously.

Session 2, Tuesday evening, 24 April 2012

4. Opening

4.1. Singing 'The Church's one foundation'.

4.2. David Miller: introduced a Survey of Church Planting Works, to be distributed. He invited delegates to offer revisions if needed.

5. Lecture 1. Marginal and Missional (Jos Colijn)

5.1. Paper presented. Jos Colijn, ‘Marginal and Missional’ (24 Apr 2012)

6. Plenary discussion

6.1. What can we learn from the early church in the time of Constantine? Psalm 2 calls on kings to acknowledge the Son of God but, when the church gained the support of the emperor and moved from the margins to the mainstream of society, it did not mean that all was well. In the Ukraine, for example, there are beautiful churches with impressive outward forms of religion, and the vast majority call themselves Christians, but all is not well. Sometimes, when there is opposition from the state, the church still flourishes, but when there is freedom it does not (compare China and Europe today). We may draw encouragement from the way in which Christianity gained ground in the early church but we must beware the façade of nominal Christianity, as discovered in the Netherlands in the last century: before the war, 90% called themselves Christians but by 1960 is was less than 60%.

6.2. It is not possible to make an exact comparison between our period and the early church. (1) There were factors present in the period of the book of Acts for example that are missing today (the presence of many Jews, the fact of one government). Modernity brings its own problems (doubt, the loss of identity). (2) The modern focus on the city, and usually that entails a focus on students, is not the same as the 'top down' approach in the Constantine period. 'Top down' means that religion was imposed by the civil authorities. When we approach the city and concentrate on students, we tend to emphasize the intellectual in faith; but this is not balanced and often people do not come into the church for the right reasons (how can they?) or even for the intellectual truth of the faith, but for other reasons. (3) Do not forget that the church went on to get a lot wrong and the Reformers and Puritans had to put much right.

6.3. Certain factors contributed to the growth of the early church and we can learn from them. (1) The reality of Christian love made a deep impression on society. (2) They had a strong identity. Conversion to Christ involved a transformation of one's life; it was not an empty profession. We need to have a clear identity as a Reformed Church. When people do not feel happy with that, we need to remember that Christianity is not about shopping for a church that pleases and suits one's tastes but about belonging to the community of the body of Christ. This is not about 'copying the early church' but following biblical principles. We must not be afraid to speak about church membership and what it demands. We must ask people, If you want to belong to the church, what are you going to bring to it? What contribution will you make to its life and well being? In the present day, there is an idea that we can make people Christians but leave them in the place in which we found them. 'Are they in the Eastern Orthodox Church? Let them stay there, even though they have become believers.' This is not possible. Faith and behaviour go together: it is not possible to believe the Reformed Faith and observe Eastern Orthodox practices.

6.4. Although we can identify factors that contributed to the growth of the early church, there is a limit to that process. We are responsible to play our part, but the work of the Holy Spirit is the key factor.

6.5. Because we are a minority, we can feel afraid. The antidote to such fear is to remember that we are pilgrims in this world. The world is spoiled by sin and we cannot find our home here. (Consumerism does not lead us anywhere.)

6.6. While we are rightly concerned with mission to the world around us, we must pay careful attention to the children within the church. Our pulpits must be 'missionary'. The example of William Still: he stopped all the extraneous activities of the church and concentrated on preaching and prayer.

7. Closing devotions (David Bergmark)

7.1. Singing 'How great thou art'; reading Isaiah 25: 6-12. Address: Swedish people are afraid of death, about our feelings, or to have a bad name. Verse 8 is the rescue that the Lord has for all his people: death, sadness, and the reproach of the world. He will reverse the intentions of the evil one. On that day, we will share in his fame and his glory. Prayer; singing 'Rock of ages.'

Session 3, Wednesday morning, 25 April 2012

8. Opening devotions (Michael Mulder)

8.1. Singing Psalm 25; prayer; reading 2 Kings 5: 1-16. Address: (1) Naaman's slave girl is a voice from the margin and a missional voice. She could speak like this because she knew the Lord from her early age. (2) The content of the message: had the prophet told you something great, you would have done it. Naaman came with talents and changes of clothing thinking that if God is to give me something great I must give him something great as well. Naaman has to learn that he is healed by grace, not with many shekels. Be marginal, missional, confident that God will give fruit, and do not fall to the temptation of thinking about the Lord in a pagan way. When I am weak, then I am strong. Prayer; singing 'Praise my soul the King of heaven'.

9. Lecture 2. Rational or Practical: Communication of the Gospel Today (Wim Verboom)

9.1. Paper presented. Wim Verboon, ‘Rational or Practical: Communication of the Gospel Today’ (25 Apr 2012)

10. Group discussion

11. Plenary discussion

11.1.The value of the Heidelberg Catechism (HC) in mission. It can be used in a wide range of contexts, because it addresses basic needs that everyone has: everyone seeks comfort. So you connect with people's hearts. One benefit of the method of question and answer is that it confronts you with the truth: it is a learning path that demands commitment. This is an advantage in evangelism.

11.2.Concerns were expressed over the whether the HC was satisfactory as an instrument for mission. (1) It starts with man, with me. (2) It is governed by the central question of Justification by Faith. The central question is how to be accepted by God. But other cultures have different questions.

11.3.How much should we listen to the questions that modern society asks? We must not allow the world to set the agenda. It never asks the right questions. The Bible must give us the questions. Sin and guilt are common to all men and the Bible has the answer. But, today, people consider 'substitutionary atonement' as cruel. Nowadays we have a culture of emotion. And it seems that the Puritans made more room for experience than the present Reformed Churches in the Netherlands do. Scotland and Ukraine have more room for 'experiential' religion. And in the Netherlands young people are drawn to the Charismatics. And yet, it is possible to focus too much on being born again and on subjective Christian experience: not the Christian but God and Christ must be the centre.

11.4.Cultures vary. We make allowances for differences and do not seek uniformity. However, we hold the same fundamental doctrines.

12. Business Meeting - 2 voting members for each church.

Session 4, Wednesday evening, 25 April 2012

13. Evening devotions (Stephen Spanjer)

13.1.Singing Psalm 100; prayer; reading Revelation 2: 1-7. Address: There is a pattern here that fits us today. There was a time of great conquest (Joshua), then consolidation (David), and then becoming sluggish and calls for repentance (The Prophets). In Acts we have the vitality of Pentecost, the establishment of the churches (Acts 15), and then by AD90 decline and a remnant and calls for repentance. Islam is not to blame for our low condition; the church is to blame and the liberal failure. But there is hope. There was a Josiah and a reformation. This can be applied to our churches but also to us personally. Which period are we in? Singing 'A Mighty Fortress is our God'.

Session 5, Thursday morning, 26 April 2012

14. 'Ukraine Day'

14.1.Today is 'Ukraine Day' for our conference. Several Ukrainian pastors and students have joined us for the day. Han Schenau welcomed these brothers.

15. Opening devotions (Slavik Murza)

15.1.Singing 'Send forth O God of my salvation'; Reading Psalm 95; Address: Today in Ukraine it is fashionable to go to church and churches are growing, but they go for the wrong reasons. They treat is as a 'show' and ask whether they enjoyed it or not? Reformed Churches could gain lots of members by this way. But does God want this? Psalm 95 tells us that we come to worship him, and that we must also live in the presence of the Lord. Centre of worship is our Lord. We are not the main spectators. The rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ is this for us. The second part of the Psalm focuses on hearing God's Word. Singing 'Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation'; prayer.

16. Three ten-minute reactions to the paper 'Traditional or Experimental' by Neil MacMillan

16.1.Half hour reading break. Neil MacMillan, ‘Traditional or Experimental' (26 Apr 2012)

16.2.Reaction 1 (Philip de Coster). Must we choose between traditional and experimental? (1) Our main purpose is to glorify of God in true worship. That does not change. (2) Our churches must be missional. Each time and culture demands its own way. (E.g., we have a mix: an organ and psalms but also a music group and modern hymns). Why do we find it difficult to make contacts and grow slowly? Consider MacMillan's list of criticisms. Most striking is the one about community: people come and go but there is no true community. The initial enthusiasm of converts soon cools off. This criticism is justified, and fundamental. Other problems can be addressed if we first overcome this one. How? Love (see page 6 of paper). This has implications: Christians must be 'dedicated', to the gospel, to one another, to the world that does not know Christ. If not dedicated, they divide their time between the church and other things and community is not achievable. We need 'total Christian life'; this is Keller's holistic concept of church and Chester's 'Total Church'. Mission and evangelism is about ordinary people doing ordinary things with the gospel in mind.

16.3.Reaction 2 (Szilagyi Lajós). We need to be holy but we face the temptations of laziness. The Word of God is sufficient. Jesus sent his disciples to preach; he did not send congregations. We speak to people one by one. Community is important. Unity among our congregations may help us to clarify questions about liturgy.

16.4.Reaction 3 (David McKay). We need to be willing to listen to criticisms of our churches and open to learn from others. The paper's focus on the centrality of God is healthy. The church exists primarily for God, not the outsider. If we lose that focus we will become pragmatic and consumerist. Pioneers of the seeker sensitive movement are beginning to see the weaknesses of their approach. We cannot make everything accessible to the outsider. We must be governed by God's Word but it requires discernment. What is a principle, what is detailed commandment, and what is left to our judgment? Perhaps we should add mission as a fourth mark of the true church. Something is wrong with a congregation that is not reaching out. The multi-coloured grace of God should be reflected in the congregation. The emerging churches sometimes claim that they integrate with the community and reach out better than we do. It is not true.

17. Group discussions

18. Plenary discussion

18.1.The church's failings at this time: we are not like the Reformers who addressed current topics of their day with the Bible; we have been weak in training elders; we parents have not trained our children to be missionary Christians. However, it is too simplistic to blame ourselves. Modern culture is strong and the devil is like a lion.

18.2.Should we redefine everything - ordination forms, theology of preaching, systematic theology - in order to put 'mission' in the centre? A warning: this has already been done. Missio Dei has already been done - by liberal churches such as the PCUSA, Princeton, and the Church of Scotland - and the result is a gospel that is not the gospel, a definition of sin that is not sin, and of atonement that is not the atonement.

18.3.We are not putting needed emphasis on the church as the chief motor (or mover) in mission and evangelism. In the Anglo-Saxon world, mission is often conducted by para-church organizations. By-passing the church has led to other moves away from Scriptural practices of mission. For example, women have often been given a teaching role that they can never have within Christ's church. Mission is redefined very broadly. We need to define mission more narrowly and biblically as the preaching of the gospel of salvation. Some speak about diaconal mission to the poor and needy. But does that mean the poor of the church or of the world? In Acts 6 we find a diaconal ministry to widows who were within the church, not to all the widows in the society around. When we care for the poor and needy within the church, it contributes to our witness.

18.4.Should we add a fourth mark of the true church, that it is missional? These 'marks' are a theological formulation, not Scripture as such. Some feel that we need an extra stimulus to evangelize because the church has become introverted. However, if we do add it, we are admitting that the first mark (the pure preaching of the gospel) has not been kept in fact.

18.5.We must have firm confidence in the Word of God preached. We are missing a clear emphasis on the work of the Spirit with the Word and earnest prayer. Preaching should be with passion and compassion.

18.6.How to approach the alien culture? One view: we should go and listen to the world first and not come to it with pre-prepared answers. The contrary view: we should first ask 'What does the Bible say?' and afterwards consider the world's questions. They call it 'double listening', first to Bible then to world. A pastor must do the work of an evangelist. He starts with the Word but he is also informed by his experiences of the world.

Session 6, Thursday afternoon, 26 April 2012

19. Introduction of Ukrainian brothers

19.1.Presbyterian Church of Ukraine (Ivan Bespalov). We have 4 organized churches and 10 mission churches. New starts. A young and growing church. First missionaries came in 1992. Biggest congregations in Kiev and Odessa (c. 150 members). We co-operate in theological education with Dutch. We try to be relevant to the needs of society. People are interested in the end of time, so I am preaching from the book of Revelation. We set up a musical and take it to colleges.

19.2.Sergei Udalov (Reformed Churches in Belarus). The Reformed Church in Belarus has a long history: in the 16th century we had 200 churches, one of the biggest Reformed denominations in Europe at that time. Today, only two buildings left, one now owned by the Russian Orthodox Church and one by Roman Catholics (in Minsk and Mahilov). We cannot possess our historical buildings. It is a hard time for evangelism in Belarussia. No opportunity to do public evangelism. Hope God will change it. Relationship with RCN. Developing now.

19.3.Independent Local Church (Covenant of Grace) (Volodomir Mikita). We believe in God's sovereignty in saving, and in planting churches. Began with evangelism work. 1990s studied in Presbyterian seminary. Decided to follow Reformed way. We preached in open spaces between buildings on the street, also in hospitals and schools. 2006 registered our church. Independent does not mean that we do not want relations with other churches. It means that when we became a church no one was with us but God was. Therefore self financing. Glad that we can make ties here. Our heart is open to you, brothers.

20. Spain

20.1.Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Spain (Carlos del Pino, leader of IPB in Europe). Westminster Confession of Faith. Talking with IRE, Jose de Segovia. Three objectives preach gospel; collaborate with reformed theology in Spain; to plant more churches mainly in Spain. I support our missionaries from Brazil throughout Europe. Want to maintain contact here.

21. ICRC 2013

21.1.Notice given that the Eighth International Conference of Reformed Churches will convene, d.v. 28 August - 4 September 2013 in Cardiff, Wales. Information will be sent out and will also be put on the web site:

22. Presentation: Missional Co-operation (David Miller)

22.1.The main objective of the Missions Committee of the ICRC is not to do mission work but to encourage our churches to co-operate in mission work. We are gathering information and making it available in booklet form. Many countries in Europe do not have a Reformed Church. Can we unite to do some work there and enter into fresh ground? 1. Request delegates to submit information. 2. Members to indicate what other works they know of. 3. Non-member churches, please talk to members' representatives. 4. Other groups. MTW. Redeemer network. ICRC Missions Committee meets September this year.

23. Workshops

24. Workshops

Session 7 - Thursday evening, 26 April 2012

25. Devotions

25.1.Singing the Apostles' Creed.

26. Closing sermon (Szilagyi Lajós)

26.1.Prayer; reading Revelation 3: 7-13.

26.2.Not many churches are faithful to the end - Philadelphia was. The bruised reed he will not break. Good Friday looks humanly hopeless. This is the way our God acts. There is no healing until it is understood that it is outside of us. In Exodus 6, we read of God's call to Moses, and we hear Moses' doubt: the people will not listen. What shall we say to the preacher or the believer who wants to witness but no one will listen? The problem is that the people will not listen to God - not Moses, preacher, witness. The preacher must remember, 'I am here to speak the Word of God'. God has promised to the bruised reed to become a pillar in the temple (Rev. 3: 12). My life is just a bruised reed. Remember, God opened the door (Rev. 3: 8). My task is to speak. Don't be afraid that people won't listen.

26.3.Singing 'Abide with me'.

26.4.Why we are here at this conference? If a soldier is injured, the aim is to get him back on his feet so that he can go back to a very important fight and he can fight again. Sometimes we are hurt. When we meet those who have the same faith in our Lord, it helps us to stand up again and go further and serve our Lord.

27. Easter Songs (Ensemble of the Reformed Church in Kiev)

27.1.Members of the church in Kiev presented some music and songs to the conference. This was greatly enjoyed and appreciated.

Session 8 - Friday morning, 27 April 2012

28. Opening devotions (Malcolm Maclean)

28.1.Prayer; singing Psalm 87; reading Acts 18: 1-11. Here Paul is in Corinth and he is afraid, which is strange since many had already believed. It is alright to be afraid. The Lord knows and says to Paul, 'Fear not.' He cares about our feelings. He was always coming to his disciples with those words. The comfort is 'For I am with you'. Ours too. He is told to keep on speaking the message. Prayer; singing 'How deep the Father's love for us.'

29. Business meeting (recess)

30. Plenary session (evaluation)

30.1.Letter to churches to be sent out afterwards.

30.2.Our own website to be developed.

30.3.Evaluation, reflections, and suggestions.

1. Have an hour's break after lunch for networking.
2. Theological, devotional, historical material would be welcomed, as well as what we had, which was missional and practical.
3. Distribute papers beforehand, and give more time for prepared discussion, so that we can come to an agreed conclusion as a guideline for the future.
4. In Soest we had 'expert meetings' which would be desirable on specific subjects, e.g., missionary work abroad.
5. Report from each workshop to the plenary session.
6. Coming to the Ukraine was good and the hosting was excellent.

30.4.Planning. Ideas will be developed and we shall let you know about a future venue (Sweden; or, next year, ICRC in Cardiff and perhaps make use of those facilities). One suggestion for a topic could be 'Reformed Piety (or Spirituality)' or 'Holiness'. (Islam in Europe - but there was a paper on it last time). Another suggestion could be a comparison of the Westminster Confession and the Three Forms of Unity - what do they have in common?

31. Closing statement (David McKay for the committee)

'The 4th meeting of the European Conference of Reformed Churches took place from 24th to 27th April at Sanatorium Zjurawusjka near Kiev, Ukraine. The conference, by its choice of Ukraine, hoped to encourage the Reformed Churches labouring faithfully in a spiritually needy country. Although they are small in numbers, their love for the Lord and their zeal for the gospel was in turn a great encouragement to those from other countries. The conference delegates appreciated greatly the hospitality of the Ukrainian Evangelical Reformed Churches and valued the opportunity to get to know their work better.

The theme of the conference was 'Marginal and Missional'. This reflected an understanding that, whilst in former times Europe was a missionary sending continent, with the Church being mainstream and powerful and the Reformed Faith being a strong tradition in many European countries, nowadays the continent is a mission field, in a post-christian situation, with the Church increasingly pushed to the margin. The conference sought to address these issues through lectures, workshops discussions.

Three lectures were presented:

1. 'From margin to mainstream to margin' (Jos Colijn, Ukraine);

2. 'Rational or practical' (Wim Verboom, Netherlands)

3. 'Traditional or experimental' (Neil MacMillan, Scotland).

Opportunities for both group and plenary discussion were provided. The conference theme was also addressed through a presentation on 'Missional Co-operation' (David Miller, Scotland) and workshops on 'Missions in a Student Context' (David McKay, Ireland), 'Reformed Confessions in a Missionary Situation' (Ukrainian theological students) and 'Theological Co-operation'.

One of the key purposes of the conference is to promote co-operation in mission among Reformed churches. Information from all the churches on missions in Europe is being collected and made available to the member churches.

The conference also seeks to promote co-operation among the seminaries of the Reformed Churches. This project is ongoing and aims to provide opportunities for the stronger to help the weaker institutions. All of the delegates appreciated the conference and are going back to their home churches stimulated to apply the thoughts that they learned here.'


32. Closing devotions (Alvis Sauka)

32.1.Singing 'In Christ alone'; reading John 1: 1-18; prayer. Address: The prologue is a chiasm with verses 12-13 at the centre, which is the main theme of the passage, and corresponds with 20: 31. A golden cord around which John structures his gospel, and also around the miracles. He is truly Son of God, proven by his miracles. T. W. Wells, When People are too big and God is small. The source of our problems. 'Christ' is not a surname! I serve the Lord who is God through whom all was created. Singing 'When I survey the wondrous cross.'

33. Closing (Han Schenau)

33.1.Thanks expressed: to Maarten Groen for his musical accompaniment; and to our hosts, Jos and Marlies Colijn, Cor and Joke Harryvan and Henk and Ria Drost.

33.2.Did we solve the problem of being marginal and missional? No, but we have a lot to continue to think about together. In the end, it is all about salvation and not solutions. We come to this conference but that does not guarantee that we are saved. Let us make sure of our salvation and then preach the gospel of the grace of God with gratitude.