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The GKN(v) and ecumenicity: organisation and contacts

This document intends to present an overview of how the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (vrijgemaakt) (GKN(v) – Reformed Churches in The Netherlands (liberated) – www.gkv.nl) organise their ecumenical activities of an international character. “Ecumenical activities” is considered to comprise missional activities (with a view to church planting), theological activities (training offered to or in indigenous churches), and aid-related activities.

The GKN(v) are organised according to a church polity that is typically described as presbyterial-synodal. In the GKN(v) the emphasis tends to fall on the ‘presbyterial’. The maxim is that what the local church can profitably do, is to be done by the local church. However, it has become clear that some activities are better done in conjunction with other local churches. As such, certain activities are arranged on a broader scale.
Historically the GKN(v) have been against seeing aid-related activities as ecclesiastical. Hence this work was in the past often done by private organisations. During the 1990s much of this work was brought under the umbrella of the churches and their assemblies.
Finally, some theological and charity activities are undertaken by GKN(v) members in private foundations. These organisations are not answerable to the churches, but are often perceived by outsiders to be GKN(v) institutions. One might consider these para-church activities.
These three factors – a movement from decentralisation to centralisation, a movement from private institutions to ecclesiastical institutions, and the existence of private foundations for theological assistance – create a kaleidoscope of activity.

The GKN(v) are arranged into a bond or federation of churches. The tri-annual general synod (GS) functions as the assembly regulated matters for the GKN(v) as bond.
* A committee of deputies receives a specific mandate. All committees of deputies theoretically cease to exist when the churches assemble in general synod. Deputies are thus always appointed for a three year term and committees of deputies only exist for three years. Many committees of deputies, however, are of such a nature, that they are recreated every general synod with the appointment of new deputies. It is an household rule that deputies in the GKN(v) never serve more than 3 successive terms on any one committee of deputies. As deputies only communicant members of the GKN(v) can be appointed. Because deputies are ‘executives’ of the churches (i.e., they have no authority in themselves) deputies need not be office-bearers and may be male or female.
GS Amersfoort-Centrum 2005 appointed two committees of deputies* to concern itself with GKN(v) international ecumenical activities. These are:
Deputaten Betrekkingen Buitenlandse Kerken (Deputies for Relations with Churches Abroad), generally abbreviated BBK.
Deputaten Zending, Hulpverlening, en Training (Deputies for Mission, Assistance, and Training), generally abbreviated ZHT or ZH&T.
For ecumenical activities within The Netherlands GS Amersfoort-Centrum 2005 appointed the following committee:
Deputaten Kerkelijke Eenheid (Deputies Ecclesiastical Unity), generally abbreviated DKE.

DKE is concerned with the national ecumenicals of the GKN(v). They maintain contact with bonds of churches with a reformed background and groups with a reformed background in pluriform churches.
Intense contact is maintained with the Christian Reformed Churches in The Netherlands (CGKN – www.ckg.nl) and the Nederlands Gereformeerde Kerken (NGK – www.ngk.nl). On behalf of the GKN(v) DKE also participates in an informal platform for contact among churches of the reformed persuasion (COGG – www.gereformeerdgezind.nl).
The relationship between the GKN(v) and CGKN is hearty. The churches have recognised each other as true and faithful churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the desire of the GKN(v) that the GKN(v) and CGKN merge into one church federation.
The relationship between the GKN(v) and NGK is – federationally speaking – strained. The NGK was formed by ex-GKN(v) churches during the late 1960s and early 1970s over the issue of confessional subscription. While progress has been booked in coming to a common understanding on this issue, the decision of the NGK taken in 2004 to open all offices to women calls the relationship into question. Because the NGK is more congregationalist in her polity, at a local level the relationship there can be hearty, with local churches recognizing each other as true and faithful churches of the Lord Jesus Christ.

BBK – www.bbk.gkv.nl
BBK is concerned with the international ecumenical contacts of the GKN(v). One might refer to it as the diplomats or ambassadors of the GKN(v). Deputies BBK maintain the bilateral relations that the GKN(v) has with other churches in foreign countries and represent the GKN(v) at ecumenical meetings such as the International Conference of Reformed Churches and the European Conference of Reformed Churches.
Deputies BBK consist of 18 professionals doing volunteer work. The committee of deputies subdivides into five sections, of which the last three are commonly referred to as ‘regional sections’.
Section 1: policy and ecumenical organisations
Section 2: Public Relations (web-site, magazine Lux Mundi, church press)
Section 3: contacts in the USA, Canada, and Europe (excluding Spain and Portugal)
Section 4: contacts in Asia, Australia and the Pacific
Section 5: contacts in Latin America, Spain, Portugal, and Africa
Deputies BBK meet several times per year as a whole. At these General Meetings matters that will have to be submitted to a general synod are decided upon.
Deputies BBK are supported in their work by an office with two part-time workers.
Following are those churches with which bilateral relations have been established; these churches are considered ‘sister-churches’ of the GKN(v).

The GKN(v) maintain a sisterchurch relationship with the following churches:

1   African Evangelical Presbyterian Church (in Kenai) (AEPC)
2   Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC)
3   Evangelical Presbyterian Church (Ireland) (EPC)
4   Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales,waaronder de Evangelisk-Reformerta
Kyrkan inSverige (ERKS) (Zweden) (EPCEW)
5   Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche Westminster Bekenntnis (ERK-WB).
6   Free Church of Scotland (continuing) (FCC)
7   Free Church of Scotland (FCS)
8   Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA)
9   Gereja Gereja Reformasi Calvinis (GGRC)
10 Gereja Gereja Reformasi di Indonesia (GGRI-NTT)
11 Gereja Gereja Reformasi di Indonesia (GGRI-Kalbar)
12 Gereja Gereja Reformasi di Indonesia (GGRI-Papua)
13 Gereja Gereja Reformasi Musyafir (GGRM)
14 Iglesia Reformada en Venezuela (IRV)
15 Igrejas Reformadas no Brasil (IRB)
16 Igreja Presbyteriana do Brasil (IPB)
17 Nongu u Kristu u Ken Sudan nen Tiv (in Nigeria) (NKST)
18 Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia (PCEA)
19 Presbyterian Church of Korea (Kosin) (PCK-K)
20 Presbyterian Free Church Council (Kalimpong) (PFCC)
21 Presbyterian Free Church of Central India (PFC(CI))
22 Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ)
23 Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS)
24 Reformed Church of East Africa (in Kenai) (RCEA
25 Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZ)
26 Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland (RPCI)
27 Reformed Presbyterian Church of India (RPCI)
28 Reformed Presbyterian Church of North East India (RPCNEI)
29 Reformed Presbyterian Church Taiwan (RPCT)
30 Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika (GKSA)
31 United Reformed Church in the Congo (URCC)
32 Vrije Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Africa (VGKSA)

And maintain contacts with the following churches or organizations as well as the ICRC members:

1   Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary and the Reformed Communitiesin the Baltische States
2   YACHAD (org. for sharing the Gospel with Jewish people)
3   Christian Reformed Church of the Philippines (CRCP)
4   Christian Reformed Church of Sri Lanka (CRCSL)
5   Église Réformée Confessante au Bénin (ERCB)
6   Église Réformée Confessante au Congo (ERCC)
7   Églises Réformées Évangéliques Indépendantes en France (EREI).
8    Evangelical Reformed Churches of Russia (ERCR)
9    Evangelium Reformatus Egyhaz (ERE)
10  Evangelical Reformed Churches of Singapore (ERCS: First and Covenant)
11  Iglesias Reformadas de España (IRE)
12  Igreja Cristã Presbiteriana de Portugal (ICPP)
13  Independent Reformed Church of Korea (IRCK)
14 Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC)
15 Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), via Mission to the World
16  Presbyterian Church of Korea (Hapshin) (PCK (Hapshin))
17  Presbyterian Church of Uganda (PCU)
18  Presbyterian Theological Seminary (Dehra Dun, India) (PTS)
19  Reformed Free Church of the Phillippines (RFCP)
20  Reformed Presbyterian Fellowship in Myanmar (RPCFM)
21  South Indian Reformed Churches (SIRC)
22 Churchesin Belgium, via  RCN in Gent and CGK te Antwerpen-Deurne (Belgium)
23  Hongarian Reformed Churches (HGK) en de Reformed Presbyterian Church in Central and
Eastern Europe (RPCCEE) as well as other reformed denominations in the
Hungarian linguistic area
24  Minsk Reformed Church (Belarus)
25  Ukraine Evangelical Reformed (of Presbyterian) Church (Ukrain)

ZHT – www.deverrenaasten.nl
ZHT is concerned with the ecumenical activities of the GKN(v). Its task is two-fold: to co-ordinate the activities of the GKN(v) and to oversee activities that are undertaken on behalf of the GKN(v) as a whole.
Deputies ZHT consist of 9 persons.
Deputies ZHT are responsible for Platform Hulpverlening in het Buitenland (Platform for Assistance Abroad). This platform seeks to bring projects that are not ecclesiastically organised under the umbrella of ecclesiastical organisations.
ZHT forms the Board of the Institute for Mission, Ecumenical assistance, and Training known as De Verre Naasten (DVN). DVN has a director and alternative director, both of whom are paid employees of DVN (and thus not deputies ZHT). DVN is a professional organisation that works in various parts of the world in various missionary activities, sometimes on its own and sometimes in conjunction with other parties (in particular Wycliffe and MAF).
Under guidance of the two directors DVN consists of four separate sections:
– Public Relations and Funds: responsible a.o. for publication of the monthly missions magazine and the bi-annual DVN-day
– Intercultural Reformed Theological Training (www.irtt.nl): responsible for training those that are sent out by the GKN(v); for training foreigners, both in The Netherlands and on-site; and for developing missionary policy
– Administration
– Foreign activities (further subdivided into regions)
DVN has projects in the following countries: Benin, Brazil, DR Congo, Curacao, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia (various islands), Kenya, Middle East, Nigeria, the Philippines, Siberia, South Africa, Surinam, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
DVN is a member of Prisma, a Dutch association for Reformed and Evangelical Christian Assistance (www.prismaweb.org).

In various structures combinations of local GKN(v)’s co-operate in ecumenical activities. The following are answerable to some form of ecclesiastical organisation, be it an ecclesiastical assembly or a para-ecclesiastical assembly.
Region in The Netherlands Country Name of church or project
Classis Groningen Indonesia LitIndo, SETIA
Classes Appingedam, Warfum and Grootegast South Africa VGKSA
PS Friesland Indonesia GGRI Kalimantan
PS Drenthe Brazil and Venezuela; Middle East IRB, IPB and IRV
PS Overijssel and NOP Indonesia GGRI Papua
PS Gelderland and Flevoland Ukraine UERC
PS Utrecht Congo ERCC
PS Holland Noord Benin ERCB
PS Holland Zuid Curacao Zending
PS Zuid Nederland Indonesia GGRI Papua
Classis Axel* Belgium Gent
*Strictly speaking this is considered an evangelism work or home mission. However, since it takes place in a foreign country it is included on this list. Note that Classis Axel is also part of PS Zuid Nederland.

In some instances local churches have come into contact with a church abroad and developed a closer relationship that, for various reasons, has not (yet) developed into a broader contact. These are also ecclesiastical activities since project activities take place under direct supervision of a church council. The following may be listed.
Local Church Country Name of church or project
Krimpen a/d Ijssel Austria and Switzerland Stichting Steun Reformatie Oostenrijk (SSRO)
Assen-Noord England Norwich Reformed Church
Amersfoort-Oost Wales Ely Reformed Church – Cardiff
Haren Sweden ERKS
Ede, Wageningen India RCSI
Zwolle-South Kenya RCEA, AEPC
Meppel Middle East Various
Bussum-Huizen Spain IRE
Barneveld Byelorussia –
Hilversum Uganda UPC (Kampala Presbytery)

Local Church Culture Name of church or project
Den Haag Moslims Moslims – Groter Den Haag
Classes Rotterdam and Hoogvliet Hindus, Moslims and Antillians Rijnmond-gebied

Organisation Country Name of church or project
Stichting Fundament Hungary and surrounds Hungarian Reformed Church
Stichting Paulus* African continent
Stichting Broederschap Hongaars-sprekend Hungary and surround Hungarian Reformed Church
Landelijk committee Servië-Croatië Croatia and Serbia –
Gardanne France –
* Not exclusively GKN(v)