On a warm summer evening at the end of August, Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Cardiff was packed for a prayer meeting to open the eighth International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC).
Ian Hamilton (Cambridge) preached from 2 Corinthians 2:14 on the theme of Christ always leading us in triumphal procession. The singing was heartfelt.
For one week, ministers and elders of Reformed Churches from every continent met to encourage and strengthen one another by the Word of God and prayer. On this occasion, the theme was the preaching of the Word of God.
The 32 member churches of the ICRC represent 1-2 million Reformed Christians, who desire intensely to make the glorious name of Jesus and the wonders of salvation by grace widely known in the world.
With that desire comes temptation — to try novel methods, to be ‘relevant’ to this age. But the emphasis of this conference was emphatically on trusting God and sticking to preaching. We were encouraged to be confident in God’s Word and Holy Spirit.
Consideration was given to communicating God’s Word in places where people do not read. One speaker was a 74-year-old pastor who, far from retiring, leads a vibrant ministry in Cambodia, where literacy rates are much lower than in Europe.
In Sudan, the Reformed Churches have just passed through 55 years of civil war that has left their country without infrastructures and with a lack of education. Not long ago, to be found with a Bible would lead to imprisonment; now they are free to have a Bible, but not many can read it.
Mission and fellowship
The conference was treated to three stirring reports on mission in France and China. Two North American churches have had an open door in China. It is estimated that believers there now number more than 100 million and are increasing. Their great need is for a deeper biblical grounding. One church sends ministers to China to train future pastors, and the hunger for God’s Word is strong.
Previously, the ICRC has met in New Zealand (2009) and South Africa (2005). One benefit is that ministers get to know local cultures. In South Africa, we were able to worship with black congregations in Pretoria’s townships.
In New Zealand, a group of young men of the church introduced us to the Maori war dance, the haka. In Wales, on this occasion, we heard a Welsh harp and sang a selection of hymns about the life of Christ, starting with Graham Harrison’s ‘See, he lies there in the manger’ (Suo Gan) and ending with ‘Worthy the Lamb’ (Ar Hyd Y Nos).
The visiting men and their wives were taken to Big Pit, Cardiff, or Caerphilly Castle, and the Museum of Welsh Life. Members of Bethel and Immanuel Presbyterian Churches in Cardiff worked to receive them in a manner worthy of the Lord (3 John). Their efforts were rewarded with rich fellowship.
What joy, a foretaste of the day when a multitude from every tribe and nation will unite around the throne of God and the Lamb!
On the Lord’s Day, both Bethel and Immanuel heard preachers from Scotland, the US and Canada. The ministry was recorded and some is available on those churches’ web sites. The conference proceedings will be put on www.icrconline.com
God willing, the ICRC assembles in Ontario in 2017 and New Delhi in 2021.
Rev. Dr Peter Naylor