Independent Reformed Church at ICRC 2005, Pretoria

[Acknowledgement: The Independent Reformed Church (in Korea) was invited as a visiting delegate at the 2005 International Conference of Reformed Churches. Rev. Heon Soo Kim gave an introduction of IRC at the conference. Below is the transcript. I thank Rev. Kim for his kind permission to reproduce it here. 한국어 번역은 성약출판사 자료실에 있습니다.]

Introduction of the Independent Reformed Church (in Korea) (II)

– The Sixth Assembly of the ICRC, 12-19, October, 2005, Pretoria –

Rev. Heon Soo Kim

Mr. Chairman and esteemed brothers in Christ,

At the last ICRC conference in Philadelphia, the Independent Reformed Church (in Korea), for the first time since her formation in 1964, was introduced to other churches. In our introduction, we submitted to you our confessional basis (the ecumenical creeds, Westminster Standards, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dordt), along with our history and background as a church. For your convenience, we have included this in a pamphlet which we wish to make available to you during this meeting.

After our short presentation, you, our Presbyterian and Reformed brothers, warmly welcomed us for being faithful to the Bible as summarized in the historic confessions. Some brothers from the continental reformed background, as part of their interest in the Reformed church in Korea, wished to know the precise meaning of the first word of our federation, “Independent.” In church history, “Independent” has been associated with the congregational form of church government. In the Korean language, however, “Independent” has the same connotation of “liberated” or “free.” The meaning of this word may become clearer to you if you understand how we began as a church. In the late fifties and early sixties of the last century, the Korean Presbyterian churches were in great turmoil, partly because of the ecumenical movement represented by the World Council of Churches (WCC). After several schisms, some churches sent delegates to the WCC, others to the International Council of Christian Churches (ICCC), and yet others to the Reformed Ecumenical Synod (RES). Regrettably, there was very little theological discussion on what the word “ecumenical” meant. More regrettably, the alluring prospects of financial support from abroad through personal relationships with foreign missionaries, and the deep-rooted provincialism of the Korean churches, were the real factors that underlay most decisions. In a time of national economic destitution, material support from a missionary was quite tempting. The founding minister and charter members of the IRC, however, wished to express their “independence” from overseas financial support, domestic church politics and native provincialism as a church that depended solely on the triune God.

Since the background, early history and church government of the IRC were set forth in detail at the last conference, permit me to say a few words about the grace that our Heavenly Father has granted us over the last four years.

In July 2003, the founding minister of the IRC, Dr. Hong Chun Kim, was called to be with the Lord after finishing his service on earth. To start a reformed church in Korea, God equipped him with many gifts – for example, deep insight into the Word, powerful delivery of sermons, a comprehensive knowledge of law, history and music, and organizational ability. Though his absence has been a great loss to us, the church of the Lord is going forward steadily. The IRC wants to be a church that depends not on a man but only on God.

The ministers of the IRC, now under the leadership of the Rev. Nack Jae Choe of the Riverside Church, meet every other week to conduct preaching sessions, translate confessions and forms, and discuss various matters in the congregations. The Weekly Assembly of the Ministers, Elders, and Deacons of the church order of Geneva, I believe, will give you a good idea of these proceedings.

Four years ago, the IRC was a federation of three congregations; in 2005 the fourth congregation was organized after ten years of planting work. The IRC now consists of four congregations under the guidance of five ministers. The churches number 552 souls, of whom 310 are communicant members.

We are currently taking care of some Korean Christians in Canada in the hopes of their becoming a church. God has called another man to be a candidate of the ministry of the Word; he has just begun his study of the Word and theology.

Concerning the means of grace in our congregations, let me say that on every Lord’s Day, the Word of God is preached and the members receive the preached Word as the Word of God (1 Thes. 2:13). We strive to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27); to that end, we also preach on the Heidelberg Catechism every Lord’s Day and teach it in the catechism classes, where candidates for baptism and public profession of faith learn the catechism by heart in order to confess their faith with knowledge and confidence.

Our worship is conducted decently and in good order according to the biblical regulative principle. Preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit has been and is a means of grace to the members; thus discipline is done with love and authority. Participation in Holy Communion is granted to the members and visitors who make their profession of faith to the consistory. In the restricted communion of the Independent Reformed congregations, the Lord’s Table, I believe, is kept holy. By using some of the liturgical forms of both the Church Order of Dordt and the Presbyterian tradition, we have made more explicit the unity among the congregations. And some congregations have started part time schools for their covenant children.1

We have done our best to explore and preach the riches of the Word and publish them for our fellow Christians in Korea. Since 1973 our press has published seventy five titles, with total sales somewhere around three hundred seventy thousand copies.

The final matter I would like to touch on today concerns the hymns we sing in praise to God. The IRC uses its own hymnal, Hymns for Worship, the entire contents of which the late Dr. Kim composed.
In the report on his visit to Korea in 1998, the late Dr. J. Faber of the Theological College of the Canadian Reformed Churches wrote, “the hymns we sung in the worship service have a Scriptural, Trinitarian content.”2

These Scriptural and Trinitarian hymns are arranged in an order similar to the Ordinarium in the ancient churches. This order is followed in the worship on every Lord’s Day. The Service begins with a Prelude, the purpose of which is to lead the congregation to the heavenly throne. The first hymn is the Gloria, to sing the glory of God. This is followed by the Sanctus, to praise God in three persons, the Holy Trinity. The third kind of hymn we sing is the Worship, through which we bless the redeeming and creating work of the triune God. Next in order is the Offertorium, through which we confess that all we have is God’s, and through which we give ourselves and all that we have unreservedly to God. The other parts of worship – the reading of the Psalms, the Lord’s Prayer, the pastoral prayer, the reading of Scripture, and the preaching of the Word are well arranged within the order of the hymns to lead the congregation to deeper covenantal fellowship with the triune God. The last hymn is the Doxology, which is followed by the benediction.

We believe that these hymns are a precious gift to us, something that we would like to share with other churches abroad. This hymnal, currently in the process of being translated into English, contains 133 selections of the Gloria, Sanctus, Worship, Offertorium, and Doxology, along with some Psalms and biblical hymns, as well as one Oratorio. The latter is based on the book of Ruth and is favored for special occasions. Dr. Kim composed twenty four Preludes for worship, all of which have been collated and published as a separate book.

The author of all of these hymns, Dr. Hong Chun Kim, concentrated on piano and composition early in his life and devoted his musical and literary talents to the praise of God. It might be of interest to you to know that in 1951, he received an honorary Doctor of Music from the Central Conservatory of Chicago.

It was during the severe persecution of the Korean people under the Japanese that Mr. Kim, convinced that God should be praised always and everywhere, began to compose hymns to the glory of His Name. During the last stage of its occupation of Korea, the Japanese colonial government compelled Koreans to bow down to Shinto shrines, and to the East, towards Tokyo, where the Japanese King was living, at the beginning of worship in church and the beginning of each school day. Disobedience to this edict meant the closing of churches and schools and the confiscation of one’s ration card. To our shame, the General Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Korea submitted to this edict in 1938. During this dark time, ecclesiastically and nationally, biblical and Trinitarian praise was being offered to our Heavenly throne at Mr. Kim’s house. In the pamphlet we are making available to you today, we have included Worship I and Sanctus I, both composed in 1941,as clear examples of this reverent praise. The earth was full of darkness, distress, and the roaring of the adversary, but the Kim family appealed to God’s covenantal love and praised the Holy One seated on the heavenly throne (cf. Is. 5:30-6:3).

Four fifths of Dr. Kim’s hymns were composed after the establishment of the IRC in 1964. Gloria VIII, Offertorium IV, and Doxology II, included in this pamphlet, have been used since 1965. As your Psalter is one of the means as well as the fruit of the Reformation, so our hymns have been essential to the reformation of the churches in Korea. In a worship that is focused on our triune God, not our sentimentality, worshippers in the IRC come to the heavenly Jerusalem through these hymns. Most hymns were composed in four parts; the melodies are not difficult to follow and are very beautiful. The hymns listed in your pamphlet were recorded in a special meeting at the Riverside Church. You can read the musical score, listen to the attached CD, and join us in praising the Lord.

We admire your Psalters and hymns. The Holy Grace Church, of which I am a minister of the Word, has begun to learn to sing the Genevan Psalter. So far, we have translated seventy Psalms and other biblical hymns into Korean. Since we are all called into one holy catholic church by God’s word and Spirit, your hymnal tradition is ours, and, I believe, the biblical and Trinitarian hymns of the IRC are yours (cf. Rev. 7:9).

Mr. Chairman and beloved brothers in Christ, thus far the IRC has been conscious of being in a developing state, concentrating on her build-up rather than pursuing ecclesiastical fellowship with other reformed churches. In God’s providence, however, during the last four years, we have had at least one guest preacher or lecturer from the Canadian Reformed Churches, the Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, the Reformed Churches in New Zealand, the Free Reformed Church in Australia, and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated), respectively. Some of our guests are here, and, I believe, they could bear witness to the IRC. In His mercy and guidance, I hope that the IRC can enter into ecclesiastical fellowship with you, the member churches of the ICRC, as well as the ICRC itself.
May God bless your churches and our churches that His light may shine on both apostate assemblies and the unbelieving world.

Thank you for your kind attention.

On behalf of the Independent Reformed Church,

Rev. Heon Soo Kim

  1. Heon Soo Kim, “Introduction of the Independent Reformed Church (in Korea) (I)”, Sungyak Press Letters, 37 (Mar 2003). 

  2. J. Faber, “Our Korean Connection”, Clarion, 47 (1998), pp. 556-558. 

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