RCJ Sinode groete boodskap – 30 Okt 2019

Hier volg die twee groete boodskappe van Dr. Gideon Van der Watt (Sekretaris: Missie Japan) en Dr. Gustav Claassen (Algemene Sekretaris: NG Kerk in Suid-Afrika). Ek het dit namens hulle oorgedra by die Christelik Gereformeerde Kerk in Japan (RCJ), by dié kerk se jaarlikse sinode vergadering in Osaka, 29-31 Okt. 2019.

9 October 2019 

The Synod 

Reformed Church in Japan 

Dear Brothers and Sisters 


We greet you on behalf of Mission Japan and all the participating churches: “To our sister church in … [Japan], 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: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. 1 Corinthians 1: 2-3 

The direct relationship between the Reformed Church in Japan and the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa and especially with the Free State Synod, commenced in 1971 (almost 50 years ago!) when a first request was received by the Dutch Reformed Church to do mission work in official and close collaboration with the Reformed Church in Japan. Miss Trienie Boshoff, then working as missionary in Japan, played a pivotal role in directing this request specifically to the Free State Church. The Free State Church was then facing many challenges and therefore hesitated to accept the invitation. However, at the Synod Meeting of the DRC Free State in 1972, an elder stood up and proposed: “Humanly speaking the Church cannot do this, but it is a divine imperative – a must!” And miraculously the Synod then decided to accept the invitation to officially commence with its work in Japan. Enough funds were raised and early in 1974 Rev Tobie de Wet and his young wife Annalie were sent out to Japan. Since then the Lord, who called the Church back in the 1970s, provided abundantly and the blessed relationship between the two churches could continuously grow en become ever more meaningful. Other synods and Reformed sister churches joined, lately also the Reformed Churches in South Africa. In 2000 Mission Japan was structured to coordinate the partnership. We are deeply grateful for this historical and close partnership. It is indeed mutually beneficial, built on trust, respect, a shared Reformed identity and our joint calling to serve our Lord Jesus Christ.   

We thank you for the continuous strengthening of our partnership, which is evident in the following: 

  • Our mission cooperation agreement with the Shikoku and Western Presbyteries and the Kobe Reformed Theological Seminary.    
  • Regular mutual visits, exchange programs and building of personal relationships. 
  • Mutual support of and hospitality to our missionaries to Japan:
    • We appreciate the excellent work done by Prof Stéphan van der Watt as lecturer at KRTS, the Kids-ministry of Carina and the support of their family. 
    • We are also grateful for the support given to the Olivier family in teaching at Seiwa Christian School in Koichi City
    • And we are thankful of your support in the preparation of Elmar and Nadine Durand in preparing for their ministry in Japan. 
  • Mutual assistance, especially your involvement in diaconal projects aimed at the most vulnerable children in Botshabelo, Free State Province and other projects aimed at disaster relieve.  
  • Coordination and liaison between Mission Japan and Mission Africa. 

We invite a group of ministers (including young ministers) to again pay a visit to South Africa in 2020. And we are looking forward to the Van der Watt family’s home deputation in 2020. 

The DRC General Synod convened early in October 2019. The DRC faces many challenges and had to deliberate on some very difficult issues. The Synod recommitted itself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and to be and to make a “life-giving difference” in our context. The Synod adopted reports and made decisions regarding: 

  • Our church’s missional identity and calling (missional transformation), especially also the calling to missional diaconate in our impoverished country. 
  • Broadening of the scope for and training of different forms of missional ministries (second career ministers; specialised ministries like social workers, youth workers, missionaries, etc.; training of elders for specific ministries; etc.)  
  • Our stewardship regarding land (the need for land reform and creating living space for all). 
  • Different ecumenical relationships. 
  • A new literal translation of the Bible in Afrikaans to be completed next year. 
  • Gender sensitivity and how to deal with the prevailing racism in our societies. 
  • After many years (more than 2 decades) of studying and considering the contentious issue of same-sex relationships  and the conducting of civil unions between same-sex partners, the church 
    • Maintains that marriage can only be a union between one man and one women
    • All promiscuity should be condemned, whether it is committed by hetero- or homosexual persons.   
    • However, the Synod also recognises civil unions between partners of the same sex and that congregations and ministers who are willing, could participate in seremonies conducting such unifications. 
    • Homosexual persons could also be called and ordained as ministers, depending on the decision of a local church. In this regard the synod reiterated several criteria, amongst others biblical spirituality and integrity of relationships, for persons to qualify for the ministry, but no discrimination solely based on sexual orientation is acceptable.  
    • Synod acknowledges the existence of different interpretations of Scripture in this regard, and it even made space for differences of opinion, because different interpretations of Scripture on particular ethical issues do not have to divide the church on the core issues of our faith.  
    • Rather than dealing with the issue merely on ethical basis, the synod chose for a pastoral approach. (The full decision on this matter is available in English) 

Allow me, on a personal note, to express my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for the more than 20 years that, together with many others, I could be serving the goal of strengthening the relationship between our churches, of supporting our missionaries in Japan, help building Mission Japan into a sustainable support network en enjoying so many wonderful friendships. It has been a deeply enriching journey. I am humbled and thankful to the Lord. Early next year I will retire and will DV be succeeded by Rev Nico Mostert, who has also been involved with Mission Japan for some years.     

We pray that your Synod Meeting will be blessed. We pray for your calling as Reformed Church in Japan, reaching out to all the people of Japan. We pray for your country and the many difficult challenges it is facing. 

May God bless you all. 

Dr Gideon van der Watt 

(Secretary: Mission Japan)         

18 October 2019 

The Synod 

Reformed Church in Japan 

Dear Brothers and Sisters 


I greet you in the wonderful name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Dutch Reformed Church wants to wish you well at this meeting. We pray that your deliberations will be guided by the Holy Spirit so that the decisions you reach may bring transformation, not only in the church but to the whole of God’s creation.

Together with you, we would like to thank God for the Reformed Church in Japan. Through the years God has been faithful in gathering and building you into his flock, caring for you as the body of Christ and using you in his mission to the people of Japan and across your borders. We thank God for all the faithful servants who, in the past, dedicated their lives to serving the church and the kingdom and those who are still today working diligently and sacrificially in the Lord’s service. We are greatly privileged to be your sister church. We thank God for the Reformed Church in Japan and our partner relationship! 

The members of the Dutch Reformed Church took with sadness note of the devastation and loss of life that was caused by Typhoon Hagibis. We pray for the RCJ to be an instrument of God’s grace and love reaching out to so many effected.

Thank you once again also for welcoming and caring for our missionaries. Your hospitality and support for our missionaries and families are greatly appreciated.

As Dutch Reformed Family of Churches in the Southern African context, we are still facing several challenges. Politically it is a very uncertain time in South Africa. We face the devastation of corruption under the governance of the previous president. Due to prevailing problems of inequality, poverty and joblessness, our country is going through a phase of political and economic turmoil. Our new president however is a beacon of hope. He has the mammoth task to deconstruct the bad legacy he has inherited and to put our country on a path of growth and prospering.

From the 6th -11th of October we gathered for our 17th General Assembly. Your greetings and well wishes were accepted with appreciation. I will not report on the outcome of our meeting since dr Gideon van der Watt addressed it in his message.

We pray that our partnership, facilitated through Mission Japan and Mission Africa, will grow and become even more meaningful. May we grow in mutual trust and in our sense of sharing founded on our history, Reformed tradition and confessions, and the joint calling that bind us together. 

Please also pray for the Dutch Reformed Church Family in Southern Africa as we continuously strive to be an obedient church amidst the many challenges in our own context. Pray that we will remain faithful participants in God’s mission to the world. 

Thank you for inviting me to your meeting. Circumstances make it impossible to attend this year. I would have tried my best to come, being a big supporter of both the Japanese and South African rugby teams!  

May God bless your synod meeting: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the Holy Spirit be with you all”.

Together in His service.

Dr Gustav Claassen