GA 2010: Panel recommends retranslation of Heidelberg Catechism

MINNEAPOLIS – The Committee on Theological Issues and Institutions approved today (July 5) the recommendation of a special committee, calling upon the General Assembly to commission the retranslation of the Heidelberg Catechism. 

If adopted by the whole assembly later in the week, representatives of the special committee will join with an existing translation committee of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in America to produce a catechism for common use by the three denominations.         

            At issue is the fact that the original catechism was written in German, and the accuracy of the existing English translation in the Presbyterian Book of Confessions has been called into question by numerous scholars.  Among the many criticisms it specifies homosexual practice as sinful whereas the original text does not.

            The 2008 General Assembly commissioned a special committee of Presbyterian scholars representing a wide range of theological and ideological convictions to consider whether a retranslation ought to be undertaken. That committee identified numerous points of disagreement with the existing document, ultimately voting unanimously to recommend the retranslation.  Joining with two historic Dutch Reformed denominations – which had already determined that their English translation, arguably more accurate than the existing PC(USA) version, needs retranslation – ensured that the new work would have a life in the larger ecumenical community.

            The special committee reported to the GA panel that they had already been engaging in dialogue with the Reformed Churches’ committee, and that such discussions have been fruitful and enthusiastic.

            The committee vote was 51 in favor and 4 opposed.