More than 500 Dutch Reformed Church leaders flocked to the Moreletapark Congregation, a megachurch in Pretoria East, this week to discuss the impact of a liberal agenda that many feel is being pushed by the General Synod leadership.
The summit on Tuesday and Wednesday was organised by the Moreletapark Congregation to create a platform for local church leaders across the country to voice their stance on the situation and to discuss possible ways for church leaders to push back against the agenda.
According to the megachurch, the synod’s liberal position has, over time, developed into a crisis in the church, affecting the attendance of NG congregations across the country, as membership numbers have been dwindling because of mistrust in the church.
“We have to acknowledge the damage already done to the church group, and decide on a way forward as individual church congregations, and the steps we might have to take to preserve the integrity of Scripture,” Pieter Badenhorst, spiritual leader of the Moreletapark Congregation said.
“As a congregation, we don’t pretend to have all the answers to complex questions, but we want to establish a network so that church leaders can find an answer together.
“We have to let God lead us, by His Spirit and humble ourselves in prayer, and to seek out His will for our future,” he said.
Badenhorst further highlighted his point by saying: “The Church exists within the Kingdom of God, and we cannot operate to only serve the world; we have to respect the integrity of Scripture, otherwise we put the church’s needs before the Kingdom of God.”
Norma Rossouw, former chairperson of the Goudland Synod and current leader at NG Vaalrivier was one of the panel leaders at the summit. She explained some of the processes local church leaders could follow, should they disagree with the current liberal agenda. “If you feel that you are not concerned about the current agenda on the table, you can go ahead and serve in your church as always, or you can see the problem but don’t want to face it, and do nothing. Or you can exhaust some of the steps within the church structures to voice your dismay,” she said.
She said church leaders should earnestly pray about the matter and then go back to their churches and talk to their local councils in discussing the next step to be taken. Various local churches have already taken action to express their unhappiness with the liberal shift.
Rossouw urged church leaders not to take a strong “anti” stance against the agenda, which could be perceived as being “anti-gay or anti-anything”.
“We should unite because we want to preserve the Bible’s integrity, not because we want to win a cultural war,” she said.
Last week Gateway News reported on a view that the DRC has already split over the issue of gay marriage, evidenced by a synod’s withholding of its financial contribution from the national synod, with others likely to follow and mounting calls from disgruntled congregations across the country for their regional synods to hold extraordinary sessions to reflect on the way forward.
This week’s special summit in Pretoria, however, ended on a high note, with many local church leaders, who had been feeling isolated, expressing gratitude for being given an opportunity to voice their concerns within a peer network.
“We want to support you in your journey in any way possible,” Pieter Breytonbach, business manager of the Moreleta Congregation said to DRC leaders during the closing session of the event.
Asking leaders to pray in groups, he said: “At least we are encouraged by each other and this gives us hope for the future.”
He invited church leaders to use the email address firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for support or for additional information on the summit.
“We want you to go back with enough information to make an informed decision on the way forward. There will definitely be another summit soon, as the need for a platform to discuss these controversial issues is great. This is just the beginning.”
Economist, author, and Christian marketplace leader Dr Arno van Niekerk, who attended the event, told Gateway News that he was encouraged to see church leaders coming together in humility to restore unity in the church, and to search for real answers to address the problem.
“It was great to see the church leaders and congregation members come together to voice their concerns and share their perspectives. In this, they supported each other. There is light at the end of this tunnel,” he said.
Commenting on nine options for the road ahead that were identified at the Moreletapark summit, Dr Gustav Claasen, general secretary of the DRC, said it was disappointing that dialogue over differences was not one of the options, reports kerkbode.
kerkbode lists the nine options, briefly, as:
1. Do nothing.
2. Accept synod’s decision (presumably the 2019 decision on same-sex commitments)
3. Become a “church splitter”
4. Leave the church
5. Go to court
7. Break ties with the General Synod (Article 37).
8. Declare a dispute.
9. Explore new church relationships / networks that extend beyond the confines of current “rings” and synods.