God Gives a Gift to His Church in Turin
At the Synod of Dort in 1619, the pastors, professors, and elders who served as delegates drafted the Form of Subscription to the Three Forms of Unity. This Form, which is still in use today in several Reformed denominations around the world, was designed to hold officers in the local church accountable for their beliefs. Ministers, elders and deacons were required to uphold the confessional standards of the Reformation.
Among the many delegates was one Italian, Dr. Giovanni Diodati. He died in 1649, without ever seeing the Form of Subscription used in his native country. Now, almost four hundred years later, because of the gracious purpose of God, we are beginning to see something for which Diodati must have long hoped and prayed.
On Sunday, December 17 of 2017, the Italian Reformed Church of Turin made a very important step in its path to become a Reformed church in all respects. We were blessed to see the ordination of three men whom God has prepared over several years: Vincenzo Coluccia and Giovanni Pecora to the office of elder, and Giovanny Valencia to the office of deacon. All three men signed the Form of Subscription. Rev. Andrea Ferrari, pastor of Chiesa Riformata ‘Filadelfia’ in Milan, participated in the ordination service. God has allowed us to form our first Consistory and Council.
The Reformed tradition has historically adopted a Presbyterian form of government because it is biblical. The ancient church of Israel was governed by the council of the elders (Heb. Zâqên, Greek presbuteros). The apostles confirmed this system of government for the church of our risen Lord. "From Miletus (the apostle Paul) sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. When they came to him, he said to them… ‘Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseeers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood’” (Acts 20:17,28). The church of Ephesus, like all the other churches, was governed by several overseers who, as we read in Acts 20, were summoned by the apostle Paul for some final instructions before his departure.
The Protestant Reformation helped re-establish this biblical model of the apostolic church. The Presbyterian form of government is neither congregationalism, in which every member holds the keys and government, nor hierarchical, in which a single individual is in command. These two systems of government lead to serious difficulties and profound imbalances that deviate from a healthy and biblical church government.
We are grateful to God that in Italy there are now two churches adhering to this form of government: one in Milan and one in Turin. Both churches have ministers, elders and deacons that have signed the Form of Subscription of 1619. We pray that God will establish many more churches in our country so that the gospel will be passed on to the next generation, and times of refreshment will come to our land.
Pastor Ivan Forte