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Heidelberg Catechism and Belhar Confession to go to full Assembly

Theological Issues and Institutions Committee agrees with recommendation to include Confession of Belhar in The Book of Confessions

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The 55 members of the 219th General Assembly Committee on Theological Issues and Institutions gathered Monday for an overview of their work: considering the adoption of two confessional statements; approving the staff, trustees, and covenants for theological institutions and retreat centers; and amending sections of the Directory for Worship.

During the daylong session, representatives from the Heidelberg Catechism Special Committee – the Rev. Neal Presa, chair (Middlesex Presbyterian Church) and the Rev. Dawn DeVries (professor of theology at Union Presbyterian Seminary) – gave background information and reasons for a new translation of the 16-century catechism.

The committee concurred, 51-4, with the report to appoint the presently constituted Special Committee to recommend to the 220th General Assembly (2012) a new translation of the present Heidelberg Catechism in The Book of Confessions in cooperation with the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) and the Reformed Church of America (RCA), and to consider inclusion of appropriate scriptural citations and/or textual references that correspond to each article.

Following a lengthy and thoughtful process, the committee concurred, 43-11-1, with the Special Committee’s recommendation that the 219th General Assembly (2010) approve the inclusion of the Belhar Confession in The Book of Confessions, and that the amendment be sent to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative votes by June 2011.

Two amendments were attached:

- Scripture references should be added by footnotes, using those references found in the earlier versions of the Belhar Confession published by the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa.  The “Accompanying Letter” to the Confession should be printed in The Book of Confessions as a background document without confessional status, and

- The Office of Theology and Worship is directed to create a fully inclusive language version of the Belhar Confession for the Web similar to the inclusive language version of the Confession of 1967.