World Reformed Fellowship

General Assembly 2022

PCA engagement

Two of the 24 WRF Board members are from Presbyterian Church of Australia. While I’m just a board member, John McClean of NSW’s Christ College makes a valuable contribution to WRF by serving on its theological commission. More of the commission’s output later.

PCA’s representation at this year’s General Assembly is far in excess of expectation given the size of our denomination relative to all the others on this world stage. I’m grateful for the Aussie company of (L  R) Wilson Fernandez, Kamal Weerakoon, John McClean and Corrie Nel: the fab five from down under. John’s other contribution was to deftly moderate the panel discussions.

While one could resort too easily to overstatements of self-praise, it’s nevertheless noticed by others around the world that the Presbyterian Church of Australia is a both a consistent financial contributor and a denomination that invests personally in this fellowship. We want to be world Christians. By engagement with theologians and other church leaders from the USA, Scotland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Canada, South Sudan, India and South Africa I pray that we were a Christ-blessing to them as we listened to their experiences and shared their heart concerns. They certainly lifted and inspired us.

Why bother?

It’s to do with a wider perspective, mutual encouragement and purposeful advancement of the gospel.

  • As the name implies, WRF is global. The perspective that matters is God’s, and sometimes we miss it. In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, God’s Word reminds us of the world-wide reach of the gospel. Paul addresses the little congregation gathered at Corinth, and though he is about to confront their specific sins and problems, he makes sure firstly that they understand that God casts his net much wider than themselves:
    • “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours.”

I love the Greek that Paul uses here in the expression “all those everywhere” – while it’s still clear in the English – he uses the memorable duo of “panto” and “pantin” for “all” and “every” to describe the gospel’s reach.

  • The WRF is a fellowship, not a ruling council of churches, and that’s the emphasis in our meetings. The aim is that through genuine spiritual fellowship we are each made to feel stronger in Christ and better connected in Christ than we would otherwise.
  • Finally, the WRF works cooperatively in pursuing biblical framework projects for our edification – outstanding works that provide thoughtful aids to our faith and work. These are summarised in the following section.

WRF’s special projects

I mention four in particular (with a fifth one on the way).

It’s not intended to replace the traditional confessions of our churches, but this is composed by theologians wider in perspective than solely 16th century Europe. It is a freshly written summary of what we believe from a team of world scholars, and because it’s a 2011 production, it’s written in the light of some of the major issues which have faced the church throughout the 19th and 20th centuries such as liberalism, pluralism and postmodernism.

  • A document explaining what we mean by the term we often use: “reformed”. We often use this descriptor when we claim to hold to the “reformed faith” or if we might say that we treasure “reformed theology”. Yet, it’s not always easy to define what we mean.

Since 2015, the WRF has made available this “Statement of Reformed Identity” and this also may be found here

  • At this 2022 meeting, the WRF agreed to a statement outlining its position on what we understand by the word: “church”. It’s called the Statement on Ecclesiology (i.e. what we understand by the church).

This will shortly be found at the same place as the other two statements, but for now you’ll find it under the GA 2022 menu as a proposed statement.

  • Finally, jointly with the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), we launched a book written by WRF members on the Ten Commandments. “Do we really need another book on the 10 commandments?”, I hear you ask. Well, buy the book and see for yourself!

Highlights from this year’s speakers

Were there any? Rather, the question is: what to leave out? This is just a sample.

  • Hiralel Solanki convincingly spoke of his first hand understanding of the persecuted church in India. When he visits Bendigo Presbyterian churches in November as well as Scots Church, Melton and Clarinda – be sure to listen to his first-hand accounts and to his extra details surrounding the scandal of the Staines’ martyrdoms.
  • Scotland’s James Eglinton gave a valuable review of Abraham Kuyper’s massive work Pro Rege (Living under Christ the King) in which – in 1910 – Kuyper gave an explanation for the falling away of Christianity from the public square with such foresight that it might have been written 100 years later.
  • Richard Pratt was … well, typical Richard Pratt: engaging, crystal clear, provocative, satisfying in his exposition of the Lord’s Prayer sentence “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it in in heaven”. Powerful.
  • The final paper was from Scottish theologian Andrew McGowan who gave a stirring challenge to pursue church unity rather than division. He questioned why the reformed tradition has splintered into multiple denominations in Scotland, the US and Holland.
  • Gerald Bray came with a thoroughly prepared paper on the holiness of the church, saying, for example: “So often it’s taken for granted that the church knows what it means that we worship a holy God, but it may be that we do not really know what it means to be a holy church (1 Peter 2:9)”.

As the writer of the book of Hebrews says: And what more shall I say? I do not have the time to tell about the preaching of Michael Aitcheson (former Kentucky Wildcats football star), Michael Allen or Rob Norris on worship …

You will find these addresses, and all the others, already available for watching on the WRF website here

The concert

This is the sixth General Assembly of the WRF and it seems that there’s a tradition: the host church presents a concert on the Friday night. After Stephen Tong’s exquisite 2019 presentation in Jakarta, we thought perhaps that there might be a letdown. But, no, First Presbyterian Church Orlando (FPCO) gave us a heart-warming and very high standard musical concert, ending with the tear-forming rendition of “Is he worthy?” … a powerful song written from the question posed and answered in Revelation 5.

The WRF Board

Finally, here’s a pic of the Monday morning Board meeting. Part of its deliberation being establishing the next theological commission project of a statement defining “ecumenism”. I was going to close with “good luck defining that”, but what I really mean is “we’ll pray for a good and helpful outcome.”