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Dutch church merger opponents seek court ruling on not joining PKN
Confidence lost in broader assemblies
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
NEDERHEMERT - A group of at least thirty congregations of the Netherlands Reformed Church (NHK) who want to maintain the ‘Church of the Reformation’ by not joining the impending merger, are taking their case to civil court after failing to obtain concessions. The churches who oppose the emerging united Protestant Church in the Nether-lands (PKN) on principle want to establish their legal right to continue as the ‘Nederlands Hervormde Kerk’. Part of such a right is the ownership of buildings and other assets.
The initiative is spearheaded by Nederhemert minister dr. W. J. op ’t Hof. The Comité tot behoud van de Neder-landse Hervormde Kerk (Committee to preserve the NHK) has endorsed the plan. The court case, which is being prepared after a final attempt to obtain concessions from the moderamen of NHK’s Synod proved unsatisfactory. The NHK churches must decide by January 9 whether or not they become part of the merger with the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (GKNs) and the tiny Evangelisch-Lutherse Kerk (ELK).
The final meeting with the NHK synod moderamen failed to produce a clear understanding of the procedures involved for remaining outside the PKN. Also at issue was property division in congregations without unanimity on the church merger. The moderamen failed to assure the delegation (of Nederhemert, Gameren, Garde-ren, Loon op Zand, Montfoort, Schoonrewoerd, Stap-horst and Wijk bij Heusden as well as section church councils of the Ichthuskerk in Soest and the Morgenster and Noord in Katwijk aan Zee) that settlements would be proportioned and reflect the size of the dissenting faction.
Split in orthodox wing
The impending split in the NHK largely threatens to tear apart the orthodox wing which in the early 1990s increasingly opposed merger plans, pointing to a chance from their denomination’s exclusively Reformed standards (Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort and Heidel-berg Catechism). The PKN also would adhere to several Lutheran confessions which according to the Gere-formeerde Bond (GB, Reformed Alliance) compromises and changes the Reformed character of the new denomination. Furthermore, they warned that the new church order and new documents such as the marriage form, no longer would be exclusively Reformed.
The GB leadership steadfastly proposed that orthodox Reformed office bearers in the NHK man their posts. Two other groups emerged since from GB ranks of which in particular the Committee advocates the continuation of the NHK as a confessionally Reformed church. Office bearers supporting the Committee in essence fully adhere to GB’s original call to stay put. The GB although opposed to the merger, now is calling on its support base to join the PKN.
The timeline and circumstances for the GKNs local churches is different from those in the NHK. Since the GKNs up to now maintained the right of withdrawal without penalty, the synod has agreed to allow a period of adjustment during which a supervised withdrawal would be possible. GKNs opponents largely are organised through the Gereformeerd Confessioneel Beraad (Reformed Confessional Advisory) which for now will go along with the merger. It is not yet certain if the group of about forty GKNs churches which strongly opposed the merger will follow that recommodation.