MTW Report Passes With Barely a Ripple of Discussion

Colorado Springs, CO (June 12, 1997)--Time was when the Mission to the World (MTW) Committee of Commissioners would meet a day early to consider the business referred to it. This year's MTW Committee of Commissioners finished up its business before lunch on the day it convened.
Reflective of that non-event, the General Assembly passed the MTW report with only a ripple of discussion. That discussion, however, centered around the missionary team in Madrid--an issue which, at least up to the time of the Assembly, continued to generate talk.
As part of the report, MTW Coordinator Dr. Paul Kooistra spoke of the shape his agency was in when he took over three years ago. He stated that more than the financial deficit of $4 million, he confronted a spiritual deficit. He asked the commissioners to "pray for Mission to the World, that God would humble us." He then stated that his three goals for 1996 had been these. First, he was interested in "building a team to direct the work of MTW." Second, he needed to address the question of missionary debt. Third, he wanted to answer specifically the question, "What has God mandated MTW to do?"
Dr. Kooistra believes in re-committing MTW to what he sees as its primary task, viz., church planting. He mentioned that he was hopeful of MTW developing a School of Church Planting. He stated that he had no buildings or full-time faculty in mind for this school. His desire is for such a training center to built "not on a sociological but a Biblical base." Encouraging his thinking in this regard is the fact that the Presbyterian Church in Brazil (PCB) "has asked us to help them plant churches." [The PCB, which historically had ties with "mainline" Presbyterians in this country, has essentially broken those ties and is now working more with conservative groups, including the PCA. The Brazilian church is also one of the major denominations in the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches, whose founding was implemented by the PCA--Ed.]
The basically upbeat tone of the report could not, however, prevent a question from the floor by TE Roland Barnes regarding the situation in Spain's capital city. Barnes is from Central Georgia Presbytery, the court which holds the membership of TE Tom Courtney, who has been at the center of the dispute.
According to documents presented to their respective presbyteries (Calvary and Potomac) in 1994, TE Jack Campbell and TE Tito Padilla had been prevented by team policy adopted by Courtney, the team leader, from practicing infant baptism publicly and from teaching on the subject. That team policy was eventually rejected by the MTW Committee in October of that year. However, in the ensuing situation, Campbell and Padilla were separated into a different team. Within a few months, Campbell resigned from MTW in order to continue his work in Madrid, now under the auspices of Reformed Ministries International.
In giving a brief overview of the scenario, Kooistra stated, "There are people on the field who see things differently." He added, "In that situation, it's not possible to be completely objective. I got radically different stories [from the parties involved]."
The Coordinator asserted, "I've sent my assistant over there, and on a regular basis Hugh Wessel [MTW missionary to France--Ed.]." He stated that he had "given careful instructions" to try to ensure that the church that is being planted there "is Reformed and covenantal."
He continued, "In the last few weeks I've become more resistant to answering questions . . . [in order] to protect Tom Courtney. . . . We say this is a fallen world, it's possible someone is lying to us." He concluded by stating, "We need to get over this [affair] as a denomination."

Smartt Remarks

TE Kennedy Smartt, widely known for his wit and story-telling ability, served as Chairman of the MTW Committee of Commissioners this year. Before he began the report, he entertained the Assembly with this story: "A man was bragging about how wonderful his new hearing aid was, and a friend asked him, What kind is it?, and the fellow said, Twenty-five minutes to four."