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Topics of interest to Clerks of Session, Session Moderators and others who are interested in Presbyterian local-church governance.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

New Heidelberg Catechism Approved

At its most recent meeting, the Presbytery voted to approve the new translation of the Heidelberg Catechism. This project, based on work by an ecumenical panel of scholars who went back to the original German text, has resulted in a translation that is clearer and more faithful to the original than the translation that was rather hastily assembled around 1966, when the Book of Confessions was being put together for the first time.

It has recently been announced that the new translation has been approved by the necessary number of presbyteries, so it has now become a part of the Book of Confessions.

The translation is a joint project of the Christian Reformed Church, the Reformed Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It is a treasure of our common Reformed heritage.

You can access a copy of the new translation online, in the electronic version of the first volume of the booklet of proposed amendments that were sent to the Presbyteries.

The Heidelberg Catechism was composed at the instigation of Elector Frederick III, who ruled over a territory in present-day German that was then known as the Electoral Palatinate. One of the new Protestant rulers who were then flexing their political muscles, Frederick wanted a contemporary statement of faith that counteracted Roman Catholic teachings and that could be used to school young people and adults in the essentials of the faith. Written by a panel of theologians of whom Zacharius Ursinus was the leading member, the catechism seeks to unite the best of both Lutheran and Reformed doctrine.

The Catechism is divided into fifty-two sections, called "Lord's Days," which demonstrates that it was intended be used as a basis of weekly preaching and teaching throughout the course of one year. Ministers were encouraged to preach on the Heidelberg Catechism weekly, often at a Sunday evening service, to increase the knowledge of the people of God.

The clean, contemporary language of the new Heidelberg Catechism makes this centuries-old Christian classic sing. It's well worth exploring, either in an adult education class or in personal study.

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