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Heidelberg Catechism Special Committee approves final report

Recommends extension to 2012 to explore joint translation with Reformed churches

March 4, 2010

LOUISVILLE

The General Assembly Special Committee on Correcting Translation Problems of the Heidelberg Catechism has unanimously approved its final report to the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The report, approved March 2, recommends that the current special committee continue its work to 2012 in order to continue conversations with the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) and the Reformed Church in America (RCA) about a joint translation of the Heidelberg Catechism.

“The report brings great news to the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.),” said the Reverend Neal D. Presa (Elizabeth Presbytery), who chairs the committee.

Presa continued, “This group of 15 ministers and elders, who represent a true cross-section of the PC(USA) in theological, gender, racial ethnic and geographic diversity, unanimously approved the report. We are speaking with one voice, and our work together is demonstrative of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The special committee grew out of actions of the 218th GA (2008) to approve proposed changes that revolve around correcting “translation problems in five responses of the Heidelberg Catechism as found in The Book of Confessions and to add the original Scripture texts of the German Heidelberg Catechism.”

As the committee worked, it discovered numerous mistranslations of the five particular sections from its mandate, as well as other sections of the catechism, from the original German and Latin texts.

The committee also learned about a joint translation being completed by the CRCNA and the RCA. Committee members engaged in conversation with the CRCNA-RCA joint translation team, sharing with that team its own findings and recommendations for translation improvements.

The special committee’s two recommendations to the assembly are to: “Reappoint the presently constituted Special Committee on the Heidelberg Catechism 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 instruct the Special Committee on the Heidelberg Catechism to consider inclusion of appropriate Scriptural citations and/or textual references that correspond to each article of the catechism.”

The report also highlights the ecumenical possibilities of a joint translation of the Heidelberg Catechism.

“To work toward a joint translation with our partners in the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Reformed Church in America will have local, national and global implications of the unity we seek in the Reformed family,” said Presa. “This is a phenomenal opportunity where three Reformed churches are collaborating around the theological catechism that arguably has had the most widespread use in our Reformed heritage.”

The Book of Order (G-18.0200) calls for a special committee of no less than 15 people to be formed when a General Assembly proposes any changes to part of the PC(USA) Constitution. The Heidelberg Catechism is in The Book of Confessions, part of the Constitution.

In addition to Presa, the members of the special committee appointed by the Reverend Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the 218th GA, are the Reverends Heidi Husted Armstrong (Olympia Presbytery), Warner M. Bailey (Grace Presbytery), Shelly Barrick Parsons (West Virginia Presbytery), James R. Edwards (Inland Northwest Presbytery), Christopher Elwood (Mid-Kentucky Presbytery), Gary Neal Hansen (John Knox Presbytery), Lorna A. Shoemaker (Redwoods Presbytery), David L. Stubbs (Lake Michigan Presbytery) and Floretta L. Watkins (Charlotte Presbytery) and elders Dawn DeVries (James Presbytery), Sylvia Dooling (Plains and Peaks Presbytery), Susan N. Haskell (Sheppards and Lapsley Presbytery), Patrick Hunt (San Francisco Presbytery) and David Mulford (South Louisiana Presbytery).

The special committee’s report and recommendations will be available online the week of March 8-12.

The 219th GA will meet July 3-10 in Minneapolis.

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