1968 Acts of Synod

The report of tile activities and actions of Synod is presented by Rev. Edward Heerema. He lias attempted to offer an accurate presentation of the positions of the speakers and the nature of the debate. Only the most important matters in the judgment of the reporter 000 editorial board are hereby presented. The Board of Ref. Fellowship expresses its sincere appreciation to Rev. Heerema for his very interesting and accurate report of the deliberations of Synod.

The Christian Reformed Church, made up of six hundred and thirty-four congregations throughout the United States and Canada, met in Synod in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 12 to 22, 1968.

The excellent facilities of Calvin College at its Knollcrest Campus furnished the setting for the meetings, with the sessions held in the comfortably air-conditioned and beautiful Fine Arts Center auditorium. Before the Synod convened delegates and other interested members of the church gathered in special prayer service at the East Leonard Christian Reformed Church on Tuesday evening with the pastor, the Rev. William Haverkamp, in charge.

Serving also as president pro-tern, Rev. Haverkamp opened the sessions of Synod on Wednesday morning, June 12, at 9:00 o’clock. Election of officers brought the following results: president, the Rev. J. C. Verbrugge, pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of Rochester, N.Y.; vice-president, the Hev. T. C. Van Kooten, pastor of Fourteenth Street Church of Holland, Mich.; first clerk, the Rev. B. Nederlof, pastor of the Rehoboth Church of Bellflower, Ca).; and second clerk, the Rev. J. A. De Kruyter, pastor of the Seymour Church in Grand Rapids. In previous service as officer of Synod Hev. Verbrugge was president in 1962, vice-president in 1959 and 1965, and second clerk in 1956. Rev. Van Kooten served us president in 1958 and 1960. Rev. Nederlof was second clerk in 1964.

Each delegate to synod is particularly interested in the matters that he will have to. give special attention to. This is determined by the work of the Program Committee. This committee, made up of one delegate from each c1assis together with the officers of Synod, appoints each delegate to one of the working committees of Synod, often called committees of pre-advice. This year there were fourteen such committees, each composed of ten men. Last year there were twelve such committees. Much of the first day is usually taken up by the work of the Program Committee, with the delegates reassembling later in the day to receive the report of this committee. When this had been done and the work assignments given with the advice of Dr. R. J. Danhof, denominational Stated Clerk, the substantial work of the Synod got under way.


The first matter of major concern and one of the more delicate and controversial items on the agenda of Synod was that of race relations as brought by a number of communications and overtures. Discussion centered on the elements of the overture brought by the consistory of the Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church of Berwyn, Illinois. Although the overture failed to meet certain technical requirements to qualify for synodical consideration, Synod decided to accept it as legally before the body.

The first recommendation of Synod’s advisory committee, taken over from the Ebenezer overture (except for the specific date) asked “that Synod declare Sunday, July 14, a day of prayer and fasting for prayers that Almighty God bring about a renewal of our society through the gospel of His saving and reconciling love, and that men of different races may be cleansed of their sinful antagonisms…” With very little discussion the recommendation was adopted, but after its adoption Rev. H . R. De Bolster (Alberta South) asked a question about the precise meaning of the word “fasting.” “Does it mean that the people not eat?” he asked. “And does it mean that the minister preach twice, or even three times, and not eat?”

A motion to reconsider in the light of the question about fasting did not carry. Rev. E. Bradford (Chicago North) and president of the consistory bringing the overture, declared that it was his judgment that each consistory would have to determine its own idea of the meaning of fasting. Thus the matter was left at this point. Much later in the sessions of Synod P. Meeuwsen, Business Manager at the Publishing House, raised the question again. He said the resolutions adopted by Synod on the matter of race relations were on the press ready to be printed, but he was constrained to ask about the matter of fasting. The subject was a point of considerable amused discussion among the people at the publishing house and he wondered whether Synod really wanted the reference to fasting in the text of the resolution. With this sampling of public reaction before it Synod decided to drop the words “and fasting” from the resolution.

The second recommendation asked Synod to call upon the members of the Christian Reformed Church to “labor unceasingly to cause the light of the gospel of reconciliation to shine upon all men so that the hate engendered in the present racial crisis by the prince of darkness may speedily be dissipated.” The grounds for this recommendation, taken over from the Ebenezer overture, are worthy of repetition. They stale that “All humanistic efforts and programs, however much good they may accomplish in certain aspects of the race problem, are quite incapable of providing radical and enduring solutions. The hatred and strife existing in the human race can be overcome only as men know themselves to be sinners alienated from the holy God and submit to His reconciling love in Jesus Christ, His Son.” This recommendation was adopted without debate.


This was not true of the next two recommendations. Here the debate warmed up considerably. The next recommendation was as follows:

That Synod declare that members of the Christian Reformed Church ought freely to receive as brethren, regardless of race or color, all who repent of their sins and make a credible profession of Faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; that exclusion from full Christian fellowship on account of race or color is sinful; and that if members are judged responsible for such exclusion they must be dealt with according to the provisions of the Church Order regarding Admonition and Discipline.

The word “credible” was promptly singled out for questioning. Rev. Bradford declared that it meant a “true believer in Jesus Christ, one who makes a bona fide confession of faith.”

Dr. Kooistra moved the deletion of the word credible and in support of his amendment said: There is a good reason for this amendment. We have to be very careful in this matter of race; there must be no loopholes, and the word credible could be a loophole.

Rev. E. Bradford: If the amendment would remove a loophole for prejudice, I’m for it.

Rev. J. J. Matheis (Alberta North): There are those who profess faith in Christ as Lord and Savior whom I do not accept as brethren in Christ, such as liberals. I am therefore opposed to the amendment to delete the word credible.

The amendment was adopted. With respect to the main motion with the word credible deleted Rev. T. C. Van Kooten (Holland) spoke as follows: This statement is superfluous. Not because I don’t agree with it, but it should be obviously true that it is superfluous. I am not even saying that we shouldn’t pass it. The tragedy is that we have to say it, after 100 years of teaching that the gospel is for men of all races and colors. I have been preaching all through my ministry that all Christians are brothers, regardless of race or color.

Rev. Bradford; It is tragic that this has to be said. It has always been said. The Church has not made any other decision. But we have a situation now in which the Church does not keep up with its standards. On Sunday, April 7, a fire made it necessary for some of our Negro people to be taken by bus to another church. When a family in this Christian Reformed Church saw the Negroes entering, they left in a huff. We live in an area where only Negro children of high school age enter Christian schools. We have had this problem for five years now and there has been no progress. Our overture was not brought to Synod for the purpose of dealing with a local situation. We are asking Synod to address itself on the high level of principle to a tragic situation that exists in 1968, sad to say.

Hev. W. Witte (Chicago North) read Overture No. 50, which expressed the objection of the Western Springs consistory to points 3 and 4 of the Ebenezer overture. The Western Springs consistory said they “are deeply concerned about the effect that approval of this overture will have upon the Christian Reformed community in this area.” Rev. Witte indicated that they faced “serious problems” if the point under discussion was adopted.

Rev. J. De Kruyter (Grand Rapids East): I’m not sure this resolution faces the issue. Doesn’t this mean to say that we accept a Negro first when he professes faith in Christ? There is a sense in which we should say that members of Christ should receive all men as brethren, regardless of race or color, in a sense different from that spoken of here.

Rev. L. Hofman (Grandville): Is it within the province of Synod to decide in each case that “exclusion” is sinful?

Rev. H. Hoekstra (Hackensack): We have a language problem here in the words “regardless of race.” In our language we are being racists. When we use the word race we are using racist terminology. We recognize not races but the human race, biblically and biologically. We should use the words “ethnic groupings” rather than the word race.

Rev. Bradford; In answer to Rev. Hofman’s question I would refer to the capital letters in the words “Admonition and Discipline.” These words are found heading a section in the Church Order. We use them broadly, but they can be used more narrowly according to the provisions of the Church Order.

Dr. G. Stob (Hudson): I want to refer to the question raised by Rev. De Kruytcr. Do we accept fellow Christian Negroes or other Negroes as well? And then I wish to raise the question of Christian preaching. The pulpit is too largely silent on the race issue.

Rev. Bradford: With respect to the question raised by Rev. De Kruyter and Dr. Stob I would say that our purpose is not to deal with biblical teaching on this matter in relation to the world, but we are dealing with internal attitudes and problems. The other comes in a later recommendation.

Rev. Van Kooten: I feel the strength of what Rev. L. Hofman said. Couldn’t the last part be added to every decision carrying a moral directive or implication? Why is it added here?

A motion was presented and supported that the last part of the resolution regarding Admonition and Discipline be deleted.

Rev. E. Marlink (Central California): The issue is precisely this: “they must be dealt with.”

Rev. R. Kooistra (Toronto): We should not drop this part but rather make it stronger. To drop this is to take the teeth out of it.

Rev. Bradford: If we delete the last clause we might as well delete the whole thing.

The amendment to delete was lost.

Dr. J. Kromminga (Calvin Seminary): What is the sin in this race matter according to this resolution? We must be clear as to what this censurable sin is. There is ambiguity here.

Elder J. Stoepker (Grand Rapids East): I have a problem with the exact meaning of “exclusion from full Christian fellowship.”

Rev. Bradford: To deny full Christian fellowship to a fellow Christian is sinful. The intent of the overture is to say that when there is union to Jesus Christ by one of another race, the most intimate part of Christian fellowship may not be denied him.

Other proposed amendments to the resolution were defeated and it was finally adopted.


The next recommendation also called for dealing in terms of Admonition and Discipline with a person denying “full Christian fellowship and privilege for reasons solely of race or color” to anyone in the church or in “related organizations such as Christian schools, institutions of mercy or recreational associations.” The recommendation related such denial of full fellowship and privilege to “fear of persecution or of disadvantage to self or our institutions arising out of obedience to Christ.”

Rev. Bradford: There are situations in which people say, “We would be glad to integrate, but we must think of the community attitudes.”

Elder B. Breuker (Grand Rapids West): Up to now we have been doing very well. But this recommendation does not say what it intends to say. The church has no authority to legislate on things done in private agencies such as recreational organizations. And this is also unreasonablc. The church can’t judge these private institutions in the way required by this recommendation.

Rev. J. Blankespoor (Zeeland): I agree with Me. Breuker. There are all sorts of problems here. When is one prompted by “fear of persecution”? Who is going to determine that? The same holds for “disadvantage to self.” There is a big subjective factor here. How shall local consistories handle these questions?

Rev. A. P. Veenstra (California South): Speakers who say this is going too far are not facing the facts realistically. In this resolution we are saying that a Christian or a Christian School Board must act as a Christian. We can discipline men on this board if they are not behaving as Christians.

Rev. E. Marlink (Central California); The issue here is the word “Christian.” If we are to call such institutions Christian, they must be fully that. To be Christian means not to be sectarian. If a person is a member of the Christian Reformed Church, then he must be fully accepted in all our Christian institutions.

A motion was put on the Boor that the reference to “related organizations, such as…” be deleted.

Rev. W. Vander Hoven (Grand Rapids East): If we delete these specifics we are saying no more than we said in the previous resolution. Should we not rather delete all of this resolution? It isn’t proper for Synod to enter into these matters and the principle has already been stated in the preceding resolution.

Rev. Bradford: We need to spell things out today on this subject. We say a lot more in this declaration than we do in the previous one. There is an idea abroad that our institutions are our own little cultic possessions. We must say that if we call them Christian institutions, then they’d better be Christian with an open Christian policy.

Rev. F. Handlogton (Wisconsin): What do we mean here? Is the reference to those of other races or colors in the Church or outside it, or both? Are we saying that a Christian home for the aged must now be fully integrated?

Rev. Bradford: We are saying here that we may not disobey Christ out of concern for one’s own well-being. We may not deny Christian fellowship to any one on the ground that it might hurt. There is no attempt here to regulate institutions, but rather to admonish and warn those who run these Christian institutions.

The amendment to delete the reference to “related organizations” was lost.

Rev. P. M. Jonker (Toronto): I have problems with this resolution and with this whole business, to be quite honest. What is the meaning of “related organizations”? And, secondly, I see problems in connection with the Christian school. Let us say a Negro comes to admit his child and he is voted down. Must the consistory ask each one on the board how and why he voted? Furthermore, if this is handed to the secular press, do we mean to tell them that only Christian Negroes are welcome in these institutions? What is the intent of the consistory that brought this? Do they want the help of Synod to solve their local problem?

Rev. W. Buursma (Grand Rapids South ): This resolution is a fine reminder to the Church that for far too much of our history we have been in fear of persecution and disadvantage to self. I am pleased with this resolution. It is essential to what our Church ought to say to a world divided on the race question.

Dr. G. Stob (Hudson): This is one of the most crucial items in the race matter, especially in the face of the situation today. Fear of results to self is the point at which we cease to apply Christian principles. It has been said here that we have to be a bit realistic with respect to civil authority. Where are we going? Is the Christian faith acceptable in a place of comfort, but is it to be set aside if we are in a difficult place? We are facing the fact in the race issue that Christians are not willing to do what they should do as Christians. If we say on the race issue that we must be careful, must avoid trouble, then we have no gospel any more except to say, “Believe on Christ and you’ll go to heaven.” We do talk to Christian schools. Would anyone of us hesitate to talk to a Christian school if a threat of false teaching was introduced? We are at the moment of “yes” and “no.” We’d better say “yes.”

Elder J. Stoepker (Grand Rapids East): We all want to eliminate racism. And the preceding resolution answers the problem. We are treading on dangerous ground in the present resolution. Now we are beginning to legislate. Synod must not legislate things into future problems.

Rev. L. M. Tamminga (Sioux Center): I fully back the resolution of the committee. The committee signals the real problem—“fear of persecution.” We live in a complex society. But let’s not be too glib either. I would like to see Synod mold this resolution more in the form of an exhortation to exercise in self-denial.

Rev. B. Nederlof (California South): Why are labor organizations left out here?

Rev. R. E. Van Ham (Lake Erie): The discussion shows how much we need this pronouncement. Much has been said out of fear of consequences.

The resolution was finally voted on and it was adopted.


Synod set up a special committee to handle just this matter. And this committee had a big job on its hands. This committee’s report indicated that already in 1936 there was concern for the unification of the Church’s educational efforts. In the years since then the matter has engaged the attention of Synods. Synod 1966 instructed a study committee to “investigate the desirability of consolidating the work of producing Sunday School materials, Daily Vacation Bible School materials, and Catechetical materials under one committee.” This study committee reported to Synod 1967, which decided to refer the matter to Synod 1968 with the added instruction to give serious consideration to the inclusion of the Publication Committee in the plan of consolidation.

The study committee proposed the erection of a denominational Board of Publications composed of fourteen area representatives together with six members-at-large, a Board that would combine the present Committee on Education, the Sunday School Committee and the Publication committee. Two members of the study committee, however, recommended a board made up of one representative from each classis. Synod’s advisory committee recommended the latter proposal, and after much debate this proposal was adopted. Other details of the new arrangement are that the larger board, which is to meet annually, shall elect a nine-member Executive Committee “conveniently located” which shall meet monthly. The responsibilities of the Board of Publications of the Christian Reformed Church are to be carried out by three committees, namely, an Education Committee, a Periodicals Committee and a Business Committee. Each of these committees is to meet monthly and to elect its own officers.

The Education Committee, composed of twelve members (three from the Executive Committee and nine others not from the Board of Publications representing “specialized competencies”), shall be responsible for the production of materials for Sunday School, Catechism and Daily Vacation Bible School, and other related ecclesiastical educational materials. The Periodicals Committee, composed of seven members (three from the Executive Committee and four others representing “specialized competencies”), shall “supervise the publication of all denominational periodicals,” that is, The Banner, De Wachter, Yearbook. The Business Committee shall be composed of eight members—two from the Executive Committee, two from the Education Committee, two from the Periodicals Committee, and two representing “specialized competencies,” and it shall administer the business affairs of the Education Committee, the Periodicals Committee, and of the Publishing House and Denominational Building.

Since this whole matter is primarily a question of administration and not of doctrine or life, it seems unnecessary to repeat the extended and involved debate that this elaborate proposal occasioned. Perhaps the main point in the discussion was the fear, expressed especially by the Rev. Wm. Vander Haak of the Committee on Education, that the lumping together of educational concerns with complex business matters having to do with the Publishing House and the Denominational Building under one board would be injurious to the effectual implementation of primary educational responsibilities. But the drive for consolidation carried the day and the Christian Reformed Church is to have a new denominational Board of Publications which is to convene for the first time on November 12, 1968, with Dr. R. J. Danhof, denominational Stated Clerk, to act as convener.


Synod received six protests and/or appeals with respect to the decision of Synod 1967 in the “doctrinal matter” involving the love of God and the atonement. Three of these were from individuals and three from consistories. None of these consistories had been able to get the support of its classis in this appeal. Synod’s advisory committee came with two reports, one being a minority report signed by one member of the committee.

The president of Synod spoke as follows: Let us rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit in this matter and let each one seek this leading in his own heart. Our work must be the work of the Lord. Neither report seeks to reopen the entire discussion of last year. The question is simply one of the best way to respond to these appeals that have been addressed to Synod.

Rev. C. Terpstra (Chicago South): It appears to me that the Bradenton consistory makes an appeal for a doctrinal pronouncement. The second part of the Bradenton communication and also the appeal from Telkwa are really not in the nature of appeals from a decision of Synod, but are rather requests that Synod make a doctrinal pronouncement.

Rev. E. Bradford (Chicago North; committee reporter): These appeals seem to be representative of a feeling that the decision of 1967 left the church in some doubt as to where the church stands in the doctrinal matter discussed at Synod 1967. No harm can be done but hopefully the air can be cleared if Recommendation No. 1 of the majority report is adopted.

Recommendation No. 1 asked Synod to “declare that the decision of the Synod of 1967 in no sense permits deviation from or compromise of the confessions of the Christian Reformed Church…” and then follows a citation from the Canons of Dort, II, 8. No grounds were given for this recommendation.

Rev. G. Stob (Hudson): There is a difference in procedure here. I have no difficulty with the pronouncement as such, but it seems to me to be the first step in entering into the issue. The minority report proceeds more simply and makes the same pronouncement in its ground four. The question is, should we enter into the issue? We should table Recommendation No. 1 and go to the minority report.

The minority report contained two recommendations. The first advised Synod not to sustain the three personal appeals and the second advised Synod not to sustain the appeals from the three consistories. The fourth ground of the second recommendation stated that “The decision of Synod 1967 in no way permits deviation from or compromise of the confessions of the Christian Reformed Church on the extent of the atonement in the gracious purpose of God as stated so succinctly in the Canons of Dort, II, 8…”

Dr. J. Kromminga: It is important that we follow one road or the other. The two reports differ not so much as to what is to be said but rather on how it should be said. I ask the reporter, is there anything in the appeals to which Recommendation No. 1 of the majority report is a response? Have the appeals demonstrated that there is need for this kind of reassurance? If they don’t ask this, it is gratuitous. If they do ask this, then we enter into the substance of the matter. Rev. E. Bradford in reply read from the Protest and Appeal of the Bradenton consistory and then stated that all the protests declare that Synod 1967 was not clear in its decision in the doctrinal matter.

Dr. H. Stob (Calvin Seminary): One hesitates to speak on this, but I must endorse what was said by Dr. G. Stob. We all endorse what Canon II, 8, says. This is the truth of God. The formal question is whether we should enter into the matter. I suggest we table this recommendation so that we can get at Recommendation No.2. Then the first recommendation could be taken up again. Or Synod could go to the minority report. There reaffirmation of Canon II, 8, appears also. The heart of the debate is in Recommendation No.2 of the majority report.

Recommendation No. 2 of the majority report called upon Synod to “interpret the decision of the Synod of 1967 to mean that, because the following statements are ambiguous and abstract, they are unacceptable.” Following are three statements of Professor H. Dekker referred to and questioned by the Telkwa consistory in its appeal.

Rev. E. Bradford: This motion (to adopt Recommendation No. 1 of the majority report) itself projects us into Recommendation No.2. In defense of the advisory committee report I would state that c1ariScation is asked for. This desire for clarification is sincere. We ought to take up the first recommendation first.

A motion was made to table the motion to adopt Recommendation No. 1.

Rev. H. Dekker (Calvin Seminary ): 1 would just like to say that 1 had no chance to express myself to the advisory committee. The reporter relates Recommendation No. 1 to Recommendation No.2. He says the former is needed to get at the latter. Recommendation No. 1 has no grounds, please take note. What are the grounds for this recommendation? Anyone not present here and reading it later would not know why this action is taken. If there is a need to speak clearly on this matter, then let this need be spelled out in the grounds. In case of all three of these appeals Classis judged that such statements were not necessary. The minutes of Classis Sioux Center state that the Hills consistory has not proved that Synod did not speak clearly. There is no need to reaffirm the position of the church that salvation is by God’s sovereign and irresistible grace alone. I say unequivocally, absolutely and unambiguously and from the bottom of my heart that I have always affirmed this and I do so now. I believe this. Who has compromised the confession? If no one has, then why say this? The motion should be tabled.

Rev. B. Nederlof (California South): I want to address myself to the formal aspect of the matter. We must distinguish between the documents the committee had to study. Keep in mind Article 30 of the Church Order. What is on trial here? It is not Professor Dekker or anyone else, but the Synod of 1007 and its decision. Then the Synod of 1968 has to sit in judgment. So there is protest here against the decision of 1967 and there is request for clarification. This distinction has not been made in the majority report, though I have no disagreement with Recommendation No. 1. This is not the ecclesiastical way of doing it. First Synod must address itself to the protests and then to the requests for clarification. The minority report does this. We ought to table the motion before us and go to the first recommendation of the minority report.

The motion to table Recommendation No. I was carried. Then came a dispute over whether Synod should now take up the first recommendation of the minority report or Recommendation No. 2 of the majority report. The chairman ruled for the latter and the adoption of the second recommendation of the majority report was moved.

Dr. L. Praamsma (Hamilton): I would like to answer Professor Dekker in his statement that he was not consulted by the advisory committee. The committee didn’t feel there was any reason to invite Professor Dekker to appear. The committee did not find in the documents before it any call to renew the “Dekker case.” We found in all these protests and appeals one constant line involving two things. In the first place there is the question of the adherence of the Christian Reformed Church to its own creed. There is the proposal to declare Question-Answer 41 of the Compendium as a kind of doctrinal standard of the Church. We didn’t want to raise part of a semi-doctrinal standard of the Church to the level of a standard. We only wanted to assure the protestants of the truth of the doctrine in the Church. Then, in the second place, there is the question of the real meaning of the decision of 1967. Was it only a formality? Was it only a case of formal logic, a kind of scholastic method? Or was it also a material thing? Reference has been made to interpretations of 1967 by prominent men in the Church that said that the abstractness and ambiguity were only a formal thing, and that Dekker could teach the same things still. We as a committee say, let us help the brethren by quoting the decision of 1967. We want to deal just with the decision, not with all its background.

Rev. J. Blankespoor (Zeeland): I feel the majority report is grossly misunderstood. We don’t enter into the content of the matter. We feel the minority report does. The question is, what did Synod 1967 say? What may we say? Mayan office-bearer say “the atonement is inherently universal”? The moment we say the statements of 1967 are clear or not clear, adequate or inadequate, good or bad, we pass judgment on the content. The majority renders the decision of 1967. It comes down to three statements and these finally are considered. Of these statements the Synod of 1967 did not say they are good or bad, right or wrong. Synod said they were ambiguous and abstract, that’s all. Because of these statements Synod admonished Prof. Dekker. From that we conclude that it is not acceptable for Prof. Dekker or anyone else to use these statements. We feel that with this kind of decision we can close the matter. If we say these statements are clear or unclear, adequate or inadequate, then we open the matter Rev. R. Van Ham (Lake Erie): Recommendation No.2 is the heart of the majority report, and the word “unacceptable” is the key word. When I read “unacceptable” in the light of the summary at the beginning of the report, I must ask, “unacceptable” for what? If it means these statements are unacceptable as statements of biblical truth, then Recommendation No. 2 goes beyond the orientation at the beginning. As it stands the recommendation is incomplete.

Rev. E. Bradford: Recommendation No. 2 addresses itself to the overture of the Telkwa church, especially to the question they ask: May such statements be used by office-bearers as truthful1y expressing the teaching of our faith? When Synod said these statements are ambiguous and abstract, then it is only logical to say they are unacceptable against the background in which the admonition was given. This is our interpretation of the record.

Rev. W. J. Dykstra (Cadillac): I get the impression we arc most hesitant to use any kind of ambiguous or abstract language at all. Our Athanasian Creed is in a sense ambiguous. The Creed says that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is Cod. But it says there are not three Gods, just one God. Here is ambiguity for a rational mind. We have a paradox before us now, and faith must accept the paradox. Christ wants us to accept this paradox. We look through a glass darkly.

Elder F. Huizinga (Chicago South): I suspect many delegates may wonder about the word “unacceptable.” We must remember that the highest ecclesiastical body of our Church admonished a brother for making certain statements. Any other office bearer can also be admonished for making these statements. We are in no way altering or departing from the decision of 1967.

Dr. H. Stob (Calvin Seminary): I should hope that Synod will adopt the recommendations of the minority report and not those of the majority report. Both reports claim one thing: they do not want to reopen the case. Admirable. The Church addressed itself to this matter after five years. Does the proposition before us reopen the case? It obviously does. Rev. Blankespoor has asked, Can a man say, Christ died for you. I said last year and I say again, Of course he can. Only, don’t say it abstractly. This is a challenge to believe. What is any man to believe except this, Christ died for me. All that Synod said was when you speak, let it not be abstract or ambiguous. Many of these statements are sound, but they can be expressed wrongly. Last year’s Synod on every occasion refused to accept propositions of this sort.

Rev. J. P. Vosteen (British Columbia): I must disagree with Prof. Stob. The Synod of 1967 said Prof. Dekker “erred in making ambiguous statements.” Your committee is not opening the matter at all, but is rather putting together things Synod said last year and on the basis of this declares such statements are unacceptable.

Rev. L. Van Drunen (Sioux Center): Both Professors Stob and Dekker are reading more into the action of Classis Sioux Center than is warranted in the rejection of the overture from Hills. The Classis did not say there was no need for clarification.

Dr. R. Kooistra (Toronto): I understand the decision of 1967 to mean that these statements are ambiguous and abstract and have caused controversy. Doesn’t Appeal No.8 (Telkwa) ask us to do what Synod 1967 already did? Why not just take out the word “unacceptable”? Why not simply say what 1967 said?

Rev. Bradford: Recommendation No. 2 really deals most narrowly with the request of Telkwa. It asks about three statements and calls for a positive declaration regarding them. Ground a simply points out what last year’s advisory committee said was the background of the decision to admonish. Ground b of our recommendation is simply a citation of the grounds used by Synod 1967 for its decision. So we put together materials from the advisory committee report and from the grounds adopted by last year’s Synod for its action. So the word “unacceptable” is established by what the 1967 Synod said.

Dr. J. Kromminga (Calvin Seminary): In the first place I want to refer to what Classis Sioux Center said with respect to the Hills overture. It said that Hills did not demonstrate the need to take up this matter. Secondly, I’d like to point out that the report before us (majority report) is hard to take hold of because it does not come to grips with the protests and appeals. There arc several appeals to which the report says neither yes nor no. What about Telkwa, for instance? Did Synod last year speak satisfactorily, yes or no? This must be answered. Then, thirdly, I come to the word “unacceptable.” What docs this mean? In what context? And finally, let us be very careful before going on. We are on the verge of making a doctrinal assertion. Such a procedure, as in the case of the Canons of Dort, can plunge us into the bog of casuistry. For these reasons I am for the minority report.

Rev. C. Kromminga (Calvin Seminary): We do well to review the Acts of Synod 1967. This is germane to the issue before us. Article 177 gives a list of observations, among them this one: “Professor Dekker has erred in making ambiguous statements and using them in an abstract way.” But this was not the proposal before the house. If so, Synod would still have been deadlocked. The recommendation before the house was “that Synod admonish Professor Dekker for the ambiguous and abstract way in which he expressed himself in his writing on the love of God and the atonement. Synod now must be cautious lest it equate these two.

Dr. G. Stob (Hudson): After a year my stomach is turning again and my head is whirling. Synod 1967 is coming back now. I was there. I hear these things now, the same things over and over again. Synod 1967 wearied of it, decided to adjourn, only to go through the whole process over and over again. Here we go again reopening the case again, only confusing it by bringing in semantics. After five years Synod last year brought the matter to an end and asked the Church to live in peace. Why go over it all again? Three consistories and three individuals bring protests. That’s a mighty low score. Not everybody is satisfied with the substance of the decision of last year. I was not, nor were many others. We were operating in the area of ambiguity, theologically and semantically. It ought to be beyond the dignity of Synod to go into such a thing in view of the fact that there is so little call for it.

The motion to table Recommendation No.2 of the majority report carried and Synod turned to a discussion of the minority report.


As Synod began to consider the recommendations of the minority report a point was promptly made of the fact that the delegates had not read the three personal appeals. Dr. Danhof pointed out that they were not in the printed agenda because personal appeals came under the category of “notification.” After these appeals were read the first recommendation that they not be sustained was adopted. Synod then turned to a consideration of the second recommendation, which called for the same action with regard to the appeals from the three consistories on the basis of four grounds.

Dr. H. Kooistra: Ground three says that “any positive action by Synod on these appeals will re-open the issue.” That may be true. But that is not a sufficient ground for the recommendation. It suggests that we must have peace at all costs.

Rev. E. Knott (Grandville): The grounds given here are not grounds for rejecting the appeals. The second statement of ground a cannot stand. It says, “If Synod of 1967 did not make itself clear, then it is outside the competence of the Synod of 1968 to interpret what the Synod of 1967 meant.” Historically many Synods have interpreted actions of previous Synods. I would not be here today if a later Synod had not re-interpreted the decision of the Synod of 1924. Ground b says Synod last year did not choose to use words like “unwarranted” and “cannot use” with respect to statements by Prof. Dekker, but used the words “ambiguous” and “abstract” instead, thus avoiding that which the present appeals request. The fact is that the terms “abiguous” and “abstract” were based on what the advisory committee in 1967 said, namely, that Prof. Dekker had erred. Ground d says that the decision of 1967 does not permit deviation from or compromise with what the Canons in 11, 8 teach. This is true, perhaps. On the other hand Prof. Dekker reaffirmed his devotion to this article of the Canons. The difficulty is precisely that in some of his writings the professor gave an opposite impression. So this is not a ground on which to reject the appeals from these three consistories.

Dr. L. Praamsma (Hamilton): I want to address myself to these grounds also. Ground d is essentially the same as the first recommendation of the majority report. Ground a is not valid. A Synod may interpret the decision of a former Synod. Ground b says that Synod last year did not use the terms “unwarranted” and “cannot use.” We must use the language of faith. We take exception to saying that we may use ambiguous and abstract terms in a certain context. The Synod of 1967 called certain statements erroneous. “Professor Dekker has erred” the advisory committee said as basis for the terms ambiguous and abstract. The minority report says that erroneous language is not unacceptable. I would return to the simple majority report.

On motion Recommendation No. 2 of the minority was tabled and on motion Recommendation No.2 of the majority report was taken from the table.


Elder B. Span (Toronto): After the explanation of Dr. Praamsma we don’t have to debate this matter any longer. I hope we carry this through as he explained it.

Rev. C. Terpstra (Chicago South): Several speakers have said that Synod last year said that certain statements were ambiguous and abstract. The advisory committee did this but not Synod. Synod did not pass judgment on these statements. ,Secondly, the majority report wants an interpretation. How can this be done without entering into the substance of the matter? In the third place, I must ask how it can be said of any propositions that they are unacceptable if there is no context? And finally, I insist the majority of the advisory committee did not take care of a first order of business in clarifying what is an appeal or a protest and what is a request for a new statement. I would like to see this whole business recommitted so that the committee can do this basic piece of work.

Rev. J. D. Hellinga (Hamilton): I can understand that those who were at Synod last year are getting sick and tired of it. And we are looking for all sorts of ways to get out of the matter. It has been said that most of the churches are satisfied with the decision of 1967. This is not what I find. Wherever I go I hear questions about this decision. Elders all over are saying, “We are not satisfied.” When we saw the protests in the Agenda for 1968 an elder said, “We don’t have to duplicate these; it will come up at Synod.” This is a big issue. The statement “the atonement itself is inherently universal” ought to bring tears to our eyes. Last year Synod said more than that certain statements are ambiguous and abstract. Professor Dekker erred, Synod said. Now a host of men are saying that these statements are not unacceptable. Please, let us adopt; if we don’t there will be a rash of protests next year.

Rev. H. Dekker (Calvin Seminary): What are my rights in speaking on this issue? We are reopening the issue of last year in spite of protestations to the contrary. May I speak at any time without having to wait for a turn at the end of a long list of speakers?

The chairman ruled that he could not at this time grant Professor Dekker the right to speak at any time.

Rev. H. Dekker: Several speakers have said that Synod last year said my writings were erroneous. That is simply not true. Furthermore, I’d like to point out that the quotations given under point three of the recommendation before us do not run together in this way in my writings, but each had its own context. ( Prof. Dekker reads the full context.)

Dr. H. Stob: It is not a fact that the Synod of 1967 said that Professor Dekker erred. Rev. H. A. Venema moved last year that Synod declare that Professor Dekker erred, but this motion was voted down. Synod did that consciously. What did the Synod do last year? It did not decide a doctrinal issue, but simply addressed a personal reprimand to a professor. Why? Because, Synod said, the way he used certain expressions was abstract. Synod made no judgment about the statements as such. The reprimand was about the use made of certain expressions. If we make a judgment regarding these statements, we reopen the whole issue.

Rev. E. Bradford: It should be noted that Synod admonished Professor Dekker. The admonition was given in a very solemn context. The advisory committee declared that Professor Dekker had erred in making ambiguous statements and using them in an abstract way. It was because of this that the advisory committee recommended admonition and Synod did admonish. Professor Dekker was admonished not simply for unclear writing. Then we must all often be admonished. The broadest assembly of the Church admonished the brother against a background of all the discussion in which the advisory committee spoke of error. And the grounds used for Synod’s admonition are also very much to the point as they are repeated in our majority report. They speak of the writings of the professor as resulting in “considerable misunderstanding and confusion concerning the doctrine of the atonement” and in “widespread uncertainty concerning his adherence to the creeds.” All the recommendation before us says is that the three statements from the professor’s writings were involved in the admonition given last year and thus Synod meant to say that these statements are unacceptable.


Thus the debate went on and on. It was evident that a majority of the delegates felt that something had to be said on this matter, but just how to say it was the problem. More references to the desirability of recommitting the matter were heard. Finally Dr. R. Kooistra moved to recommit and in support of his motion he had this to say.

Dr. R. Kooistra (Toronto): It is a fact that the statement that Professor Dekker erred was involved in the decision of last year. But here seems to come the difficulty. We can put it as we have it in the majority report. Or, we can go to the second part of the decision of 1967 and say that these statements have caused extensive confusion and controversy in the churches and so ought not to be used.

Rev. L. Hofman (Grandville): I had hoped to move in the direction of recommittal for other reasons. Both the majority and minority reports want to reassure the churches and want to remain loyal to the standards of the Church. Can’t we bring them together with this thought in view?

Elder G. Sinclair (Hackensack): Recommitting will not accomplish what is needed. There is a lot of unrest in the churches about this matter. Synod owes something to the churches to allay the unrest.

Dr. A. A. Hoekema (Calvin Seminary): At the Synod of Dort when the death of Christ was discussed, the delegates asked, “What may we say? May we say, Christ died for all men?” The answer was, “Yes, you may say to any man that he must accept the gospel.” The question was asked, “Did Christ make reconciliation for all men?” The answer was, “Yes and no; if it means actually, then no. But you may and must preach it to all men, that all men repent and believe.” Maybe Synod could move in this direction. Any use of such statements that denies the unique love of God for his elect is not satisfactory, for instance.

The motion to recommit carried. At a later point in Synod’s proceedings the committee returned with a unanimous report. But it soon became obvious that in certain significant details it was not satisfactory. So a motion prevailed to table the matter until a later point in Synod’s deliberations. The next morning (Thursday, June 20) the matter was taken from the table. In the meantime the committee had removed the objectionable details from its unanimous report, and this time the recommendations were adopted without a dissenting vote.

In its first statement Synod declared that no decision of Synod 1967 in the “doctrinal matter” “is in any way to be interpreted to mean that the Christian Reformed Church no longer upholds the full statement on ‘The Death of Christ, and the Redemption of Men Thereby’ as expressed in the Canons of Dort, Chapter II.”

Tn its second statement Synod warned against “expressions on the love of God and the atonement which in any way deny:

a. The unique love-relationship of God to the elect…

b. The unique benefits of the death of Christ for the elect…

c. The saving efficacy of God’s love and of Christ’s death for the redemption of the elect only…

d. The unity of the work of Christ and of the Holy Spirit in man’s redemption…

e. That ‘the wrath of God abides upon all those who believe not the Gospel’…

f. That ‘the death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.’…”

(Note: the dots indicate points where creedal references occur.)


The consistory of the Fruitland, Ontario, church came to Synod with a request that a committee be appointed “to study in the light of Scripture and the Creeds the teachings made public by some professors and instructors in our Dutch Reformed sister-church, of which evidence has been given in the overture of Classis Hamilton to the Board of Calvin College and Seminary of January 17, 1968.” Classis Hamilton at its May meeting endorsed the request to Synod. Classis Alberta North overtured Synod to express to our sister church in Holland its “concern about certain views on Holy Scripture being taught by some prominent theologians of the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland.” Fruitland indicated in its overture that it had in view especially the published opinions of three men of the theological faculty of the Free University, namely, Dr. H. M. Kuitert, Drs. Tj. Baarda and Dr. C. Augustyn.

The advisory committee recommended that Synod not accede to either overture, on the ground mainly that either course of action would be a “premature intrusion into such measures as the Gereformeerde Kerken may take or are taking to deal appropriately with matters of their concern, would be a violation of such confidence as we ought to place in our sister church…” The discussion was addressed mainly to the Fruitland proposal.

Dr. L. Praamsma (Toronto): “As far as I know Baarda and Augustyn are not ministers in the Gereformeerde Kerken. They are professors, responsible for the instruction of future ministers of that Church and also of our future ministers. They are advisers to the Synod of their Church. They are also advisers to the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, which is one of our major assemblies. There the judgment of these men is sought on matters of concern to the member churches.

“I would also make some comments on this matter of ‘premature intrusion.’ Prof. H. Van Riessen has publicly accused Dr. Kuitert of heresy. The same accusation was made before the board of the Free University. Yet Kuitert was appointed full professor. Dr. H. Ridderbos accused Dr. Augustyn of striking at the roots of Christianity. Since then Augustyn has been appointed successor to Prof. Nauta. These steps have been taken in the context of full awareness by the Gereformeerde Kerken. At a meeting held in Utrecht recently Prof. Van Riessen aired his objections but he said he didn’t know what to do.

“The grounds speak of a violation of confidence. We should not carry this confidence too far. Jesus Christ criticized a church for leaving its first love. When we are aware of wrong in the church we love, we must admonish one another in love. Also, the second ground says that the action requested by our overture is not ‘properly within the province of Synod.’ We must make a distinction between national and international affairs. These doctrinal matters don’t stop at the boundaries of the Netherlands. I refer to the Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Fund, of which the rules say that the Free University is a school true to the Reformed Faith. Booklets are available for church members everywhere referring to ‘legendary materials’ in the Old and New Testaments. Prof. Kuitert was here recently and spoke not just to the ministers but also in public meetings, where he propagated his views.

“The third ground says that the churches can be fruitfully served by discussion of these issues in periodicals. Is this true? I don’t find any discussion in the periodicals from the Netherlands, only propaganda. There is a new theology in our Reformed family. According to some it is a new development of our faith. According to others, it is a deviation from it. If we adopt the recommendation of our overture we will render a service to Reformed churches all over the world. If we don’t, we will get division in our churches.”

On motion the matter was tabled. Dr. Praamsma then made a new motion to the effect that a committee be appointed to study these teachings on Holy Scripture being propagated in the international Reformed community, this committee to report to the Synod of 1969 in order that the Synod may pass a fair judgment on these teachings and, if it appears necessary, contact our sister church regarding these teachings.

Rev. W. D. Buursma (Grand Rapids South): Rev. Praamsma referred to the future ministers of our denomination studying at the Free University. We do not say to our young men that they may not attend Princeton or other places. They are mature enough to decide for themselves. Then, there arc procedures for which deviant teachings may be evaluated. Is this motion before us implying that proper procedure in this matter is dead? Must we do this? The motion is premature. And is the procedure used here correct? Have the men whose views are challenged been approached by Fruitland and Hamilton? If challenged, would these men say the statements quoted are correct?

Dr. C. Stob (Hudson): Many of the things mentioned by Dr. Praamsma are known to the church. Certain teachings circulated in the Netherlands are known and disturbing. How shall we express our concern? Should we enter into a discussion of these things in the theological arena? It is alarmist and premature for us to precipitate ourselves into this matter. These teachings arc new. We have not had enough time to read or evaluate. Let’s be patient. It is easy to stir up feeling, for these teachings are disturbing.

Rev. H. Hoekstra (Hackensack): As advisory committee we do enter into the concern expressed by Dr. Praamsma. But the overtures did not give us a clear message. The new proposal is too broad, and we don’t want to go that way.

Elder C. Van Dongen (Huron): I agree with Dr. Praamsma in his concern. However, I wonder whether we should study this matter. Is this the official teaching of the Gereformeerde Kerken?

Dr. R. Kooistra (Toronto): This is a difficult matter and close to my heart, as 1 am from the Netherlands. I agree with much that has been said. The matter is stressed by the fact that Dr. Kuitert was here. 1 am not quite as concerned about this as some are. People write in the Netherlands in order to be heard, to get an audience and to get reactions. I am not for the recommendation of the overture, but also not for the recommendation of the advisory committee. We need something by which to look into this matter. Some action should be taken, and I don’t think we will shock them as much as we think.

Rev. W. Hofman (Holland); We will look at views that are already abroad in the international community. This can be done best and most quietly by a study committee.

Rev. W. Vander Hoven (Grand Rapids East): The Diamond Jubilee Scholarship brings this very close to us. This scholarship fund is related directly to the Free University because of national and doctrinal ties. This relation implies almost an extension of teaching at Calvin Seminary.

Rev. T. C. Van Kooten (Holland): If I recall correctly there is a definite stipulation that the beneficiaries of this Fund are to study at the Free University. Now with respect. to the positions of these men, I am deeply disturbed by them, I disagree with them, I am deeply alarmed at them. But I do not believe we have the right to make pronouncements on the views of men in other churches unless these views become official pronouncements. It is not our responsibility to appoint a study committee. We must study these matters and use proper means.

After some more discussion the motion of Dr. Praamsma was tabled. One further development in this matter deserves comment.

Rev. B. Nederlof (California South): The Board of Trustees failed to do justice to this matter. That’s why it is here. The Board could have said to its own professors in the Seminary, “You look at these teachings that alarm so many of our people.”

The following motion was adopted: That Synod assure the consistory of the Fruitland Christian Reformed Church that it has full confidence that the professors of theology at Calvin Seminary will study all these developments in theology and will serve the Church with advice. The ground for this action said that this is their duty according to the Church Order.


Synod 1966 instructed the Board of Foreign Missions “to review the church’s policy on the matter of seminary training in Nigeria that will maintain the demand for a consistently Reformed training of pastors and present to the Synod of 1967 a statement of policy that will meet the needs of the field.” Certain developments in the Nigerian church brought a delay in the fulfillment of this mandate. These developments were primarily one, namely, the receipt of a letter dated April 1, 1967, from the N.K.S.T. or Tiv church in Nigeria requesting the establishment of a Reformed seminary in Benue. The Board responded to this request by asking the N.K.S.T. (Tiv) to “reconsider her request in the light of the fact that we have not yet been informed of any consultation with other bodies who are affected by their request.” The response of the N.K.S.T. to this advice of the Board was a renewed request for a Reformed seminary, by letter dated. April 17, 1968. This second letter contains expressions like “We earnestly plead”….“please hear our plea”….“hear us and help us.” The letter also says, “We desire a positive Reformed training for our youth, something which cannot be done in T.C.N.N., because of its very character. This, in fact, is our greatest concern and the 6rst reason why we want our own Reformed Seminary.” This second petition was ad· dressed to the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church.

Synod’s special advisory committee on these matters came with a majority and a minority report. Before these were read Rev. H. Evenhouse, Executive Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions, presented the position of the Board, a position summarized in the communication referred to above in which the N.K.S.T. was asked to “reconsider her request.” Synod also decided not to hear the protest of ten members of the Board against the Board’s action, as the protest was published in the Agenda, pp. 381–382.

The majority report, presented by Rev. J. Hellinga, advised Synod to “defer action…and advise the Tiv Church to consult with EKAS (Hausa speaking—rep.) and with the Board of T.C.N.N. with a view to working out long-range plans for providing Reformed theological education for the Reformed churches in Nigeria.” The majority report also asked that Synod request the Board of Foreign Missions for a “more comprehensive investigation of, and report on, the request of the Tiv Synod.” The minority, presented by Rev. VanHarn, simply asked Synod to “defer action” on grounds (four of them) that stressed the need for united action in Nigeria in this matter.

Rev. J. Hellinga (Hamilton): This is strange, when the Board points out that these two churches should have consulted.

Rev. H. Evenhouse: Allowing them to consult is different from urging them to consult.

Rev. B. Van Antwerpen (Orange City): In the letter from the Tiv Synod they ask for a seminary for all the Reformed churches in the land.

Rev. Evenhouse: If an institution is provided for one group the other group will ask for such an institution too.

Rev. R. Kooistra (Toronto): It is actually negative to expand the already existing pastor’s training. The fact that there is no consultation should not amaze us; there is such great tension. There is only one hope that this Church has—this Synod. But both the majority and minority reports say No. We should vote down this recommendation.

Rev. J. Hellinga: We are not saying No. The majority of the committee is moved by this letter from an autonomous Church. We advise deferring action to activate and encourage the Church, to encourage contact with the sister Church, and to give our Church time for careful consideration.

Elder S. Van Til (Hudson): We are thankful for our Reformed witness in many mission fields and through the Back to God Hour. And now these babes in Christ come to us for help, needing a greater supply of pastors. We should investigate thoroughly and also encourage this Church.

Dr. L. Den Besten (Pella): We probably will never understand the situation in Nigeria. Remarks already made show that many do not understand. A t this point both the majority and minority reports say essentially the same thing. But there is a difference. Will we go on from Grand Rapids or Nigeria? Hopefully there will be a Reformed seminary. But the majority wants to do it from Grand Rapids. This will make the Tiv Church our agents in Nigeria. This Church is not full grown, and it is changing rapidly. We must not interpose ourselves in this change and development.

On motion the first recommendation of the majority report was tabled and the recommendation on this matter of the minority report came up for discussion.

Rev. E. Knott (Grandville): The grounds do not materially differ. I would like to ask Dr. Den Besten why this recommendation means we start in Nigeria rather than in Grand Rapids.

Furthermore, are we not putting too great stress on unity and thus pointing to the TCNN as the only solution to the problem?

Dr. Den Besten: I am willing to speak only to the matter of sensitivity. We must recognize that there is change and progress. But we must not push the matter before us. There is growing unity. People are questioning tribal divisions. I believe the time will come when we will have one united Reformed seminary.

Rev. H. Numan (Huron): What I mind is that it is an either-or proposition. Can it not be both-and? Could not a Reformed seminary help in providing Reformed pastors? Instead of a double refusal, why not a double acceptance?

Rev. E. Heerema (Florida): There is in these recommendations a negative accent. From the repeated request of the Tiv Church there seems to be an urgency that doesn’t permit deferring action. We should rather express our delight with this request. Much has been said about starting this matter in Grand Rapids. But the letter of the Tiv Church evidences that this desire for unity comes out of Nigeria. Furthermore, we should state that we are instructing our Board to investigate this matter further. Such a response would be much better than deferring action.

Rev. J. Stek (Calvin Seminary): Some speakers seem to suggest that the recommendation of the majority is a kind of ploy. It is not. There is misunderstanding as to what the word advise means in this report. It is regarded as being paternalistic and as placing the initiative on this side. It definitely is not so intended. We want to challenge the Tiv Church to do its homework. On the other hand the minority report places a greater condition before the Tiv Church, namely, that the request must be n united one.

Rev. H. Dekker (Calvin Seminary): 1 speak in favor of the minority report in the light of my experience in Nigeria. Dr. Kooistra said it was impOltant for the N.K.S.T. to communicate with TCNN. Rev. Say is on the Board of TCNN. He had opportunity to present the matter and did not do so. Furthermore, I wish to speak to the indigenous principle. The minority leaves the initiative with the Tiv Church, where it should be. In the relationship between the CRC and the Tiv Church, E.K.A.5. feels that we treat N.K.S.T., a foster son, better than E.K.A.S., a natural son. Now if we suggest that Tiv (N.K.S.T.) confer with E.K.A.S., we will be suggesting that the foster son confer with the natural son. The minority report avoids this problem.

Rev. J. Verbrugge (Hudson – not in the chair as he is member of Board of Foreign Missions): I wish to make a few observations. People in Nigeria do not think the way the people in Grand Rapids think. Also, our missionaries are much closer to the situation and their position is unanimous. We must not show a lack of confidence in them. The people close to the situation indicate that there is no dissatisfaction with TCNN graduates. The basis of this request is not theological.

Rev. H. R. De Bolster (Alberta South): When this debate began I was convinced that we should grant these people their request. But I am impressed with what has been said here. We should make no judgment from this point. For this reason let us go back to the majority report and urge the N.K.S.T. and E.K.A.S. to resolve the problem over there.

Rev. J. G. Van Ryn (llliana): How would the letter of the Tiv Church be answered? If we include the grounds of this recommendation of the minority report, it would be considered a scolding. If there would be no grounds, the response would be very cold.

Rev. H. Evenhouse: There is no way of hiding what is printed in the Acts.

Rev. P. M. Jonker (Toronto): We are confused due to a complicated situation. The members of the Board, however, are close to the situation. But there is a protest of ten members against the position of the Board. Why? It is said that the minority report gives the initiative to the Tiv. But are they not immature and do they not need guidance? And also this question: Do the E.K.A.S. have a place on the Board of TCNN?

Dr. H. Boer (Nigeria – given the floor for the purpose of answering questions): Every church and mission is represented on the Board.

Rev. Jonker: Why cannot we grant this request with restrictions? We will establish a board wi th representatives out of both bodies. This would remove the problem of tribalism. Further, if we are going to make a Reformed witness, would not a Reformed seminary be the solution? Should it not be the concern of the church to build a new Christian community? For ten years a Reformed seminary has been our goal. Now these people ask for such a seminary. Can’t we find a way of giving it to them?

Rev. R. Van Ham (Lake Erie): There has never been a question as to whether we are going to have Reformed theological training there. The question has always been the form in which this training is to come.

Rev. L. Van Drunen (Sioux Center): These grounds do constitute a spanking for the Tiv Church. And further, these grounds are inadequate to support this recommendation.

Dr. R. Kooistra (Toronto): I would suggest that Synod honor this request of N.K.S.T. by loaning two teachers to this requested seminary.

Dr. R. J. Danhof (Stated Clerk): We must draft a reply to our sister Church. This is what we have to concern ourselves with.

On motion the matter was recommitted.


When the discussion of the Tiv request and TCNN was resumed the advisory committee again care with a majority report and a minority report, both reformulated. This time the minority report was signed by four members of the committee rather than by two as in the previous report. The reformulated majority report recommended “that Synod, gratified by the concern of the Tiv Church for Reformed theological education, take the request of the Tiv Church under advisement and charge the Board of Foreign Missions to re-evaluate this request in the light of the conditions on the Nigerian field, the plan of reorganization of the mission, and the great need for pastors, and then to serve a future Synod with advice.” A recommendation of the reformulated report asked that the officers of Synod write a letter of response to the Tiv Church “expressing our decision and concern.” The reformulated minority report had three recommendations, namely, a three-point expression of gratitude for the request, a recommendation to “withhold action” on the request, and the text of a suggested letter to N.K.S.T. The recommendations of the majority report were now up for consideration.

Rev. J. Stek (Calvin Seminary – adviser to the committee): No one of the majority is opposed to the first recommendation of the minority report. The majority report as it is now before us has in it the suggestion for further study with the possibility of a future “no” to the request. The minority report says gently “no” with the possibility of a future “yes” by reopening the matter.

Rev. E. Heerema (Florida): I have heard responsible and knowledgeable people declare on the floor of Synod that we should not respond to such a request with a “no.” Furthermore, our record of ten years calling for a Reformed seminary and the urgent tone of the letter to our synod make a negative answer seem very much out of order. The minority report calls for a polite “no.” The majority report calls for a cautious “yes.” We should answer with a cautious “yes” in view of the delicate problems involved. On occasion some delegate has said that he would find it hard to explain some decision of Synod to his home consistory. Well, I would find it hard to explain a negative answer to this request from Nigeria after our Church has repeatedly said that it wants a Reformed seminary there.

Rev. B. Nederlof (California South): I favor a Reformed seminary. But do they know what they are asking for? We have expressed a desire for Reformed training but is this request what we mean? Article 28 of the Belgic Confession speaks of the unity of the church. This refers to people in the same country. But this unity applies to regions beyond. We have this moving letter from the Tiv church. Is it realistic? Is it in harmony with the unity of the church? We cannot say “no.” Can we say “yes”? Why are our men on the field opposed to it?

Dr. H. Boer: “The missionaries arc against it. This question has been before the Church and the missionaries since 1954. From the beginning the missionaries have been united on this. Now we have 85 missionaries there, not including the wives. In 1939 the CRC was given a great opportunity to begin mission work in Africa. The conditions for taking over the field in Nigeria were two-fold: 6rst, we would be in control of the work on the field; and secondly, we would cooperate with the church aims of the Sudan United Mission. TCNN is an expansion of the church aims of the Sudan United Mission. Seven churches support the school and they are loyal to the unity of the churches in Africa. We believe if this request is granted a divisiveness will be introduced into that unity which we will not be able to defend or explain. We face the possibility that the E.K.A.S. will also ask for a school. Then there will be two schools within 100 miles of each other.

“We have a one relationship with the Lutheran Church there. 1£ they fear that continuance of the Reformed churches in TCNN becomes problematical, then the Lutherans might seriously consider starting a seminary of their own. If that happens, TCNN will disintegrate. We have had the largest hand in developing TCNN, both in men and money.

“There is one added consideration. The concern of the missionaries for the Reformed faith is as great as yours. We face a new situation there for which we find no precedent in our tradition. If present plans work out we could add another teacher. We do desperately fear that if we set up a separate Reformed seminary, we will mar the image of our Church, reduce its witness, and be charged with sectionalism.”

Rev. J. Hellinga (Hamilton): We have had a struggle in our committee. We were faced with this letter pleading for a Reformed seminary. We want to be frank; we did not dare to say “no” to this letter. We are a committee of synod and have kept in mind what Synod has said on this matter since 1959. On the other hand we say that E.K.A.S. is also an autonomous church. We would like to come with an answer that all their leadei:s somehow consult together so that we can get a Reformed seminary. We need more time. So we could not say simply “yes” either.

Rev. J. Pereboom (Eastern Canada): The letter from the Tiv Church makes an impression of prayer on us. Paul said that he was a Jew to a Jew, a Greek to a Greek, and he wished to be all things to all men. Synod must do this too. This is a request that comes to us all. Synod should come to a unanimous decision. The minority report asks too much, namely, that they be united. Should we not have one overall plan to develop a Reformed seminary? This takes time. I favor the majority report.

Dr. R. S. Wierenga (Grand Rapids South): I am opposed to the majority report. 1 have been on the Board of Foreign Missions for sixteen years. I was on the Board in the early years of our work in Nigeria. I have served on the Sudan committee of the Board and have visited Nigeria. Though our Church made commitments to the churches there, there was a constant undercurrent on the Board of opposition to the Sudan United Mission, though a majority favored it. Further, I have found visiting the field and meeting the missionaries here at home that we have dedicated people serving there. We applaud them for their work, but when they get home we look askance at them. When they come to Synod with proposals, they are not recognized. We should give more regard to what the missionaries are saying. We may not impose our culture on the people in Nigeria. We should not say to the Board: “Children, we know better than you what is needed in Africa.”

On motion Recommendation No.1 of the majority report was tabled and Synod turned to a consideration of the minority report. We tum to the discussion of the heart of the matter, the second recommendation calling for Synod to “withhold action” on the Tiv request. The one ground given for this recommendation was that “the present request does not represent a united response of the Reformed churches in Nigeria to their needs.”

Rev. D. H. Aardsma (Minnesota North): The key word in the ground is “united.” How shall they achieve this? By saying “no” at this time, then they can work toward a “yes.”

Dr. G. Stob (Hudson): We have heard a lot about the urgent plea from the Tiv Church. I wish to ask a few questions. First, how many Tiv men have been unable to get theological training at TCNN?

Dr. H. Boer: No student who could meet the entrance requirements has ever been turned down.

Dr. G. Stob: How large a body of men from the Tiv are now waiting to get into TCNN?

Dr. H. Boer: Ten men are now in High School, nine of them Tiv. Sixteen men are preparing to enter TCNN next year, that is, preparing to take the entrance exams.

Dr. G. Stob: Is the Tiv Church making this request in awareness of the proposed plan for TCNN expansion?

Dr. H. Boer: In May 1967 the Board decided to double the size of TCNN. The Tiv were not informed.

Dr. G. Stob: Is the Board of Foreign Missions aware of complaints of the Tiv Church about the lack of Reformed character in TCNN?

Rev. H. Erffmeyer (president of Board): No complaints have been registered with the Board.

Dr. G. Stob: Does the motion to “withhold action” anticipate the eventual possibility of a Reformed seminary in Nigeria? Is this a realistic possibility?

Rev. R. Van Harn (Lake Erie -reporter for minority): Yes.

Dr. H. Boer: TCNN is the primary instrument for theological training in Nigeria. This serves our unity. We must retain this unity. But if the needs are there, I would not stand in the way of a new seminary.

Rev. E. Knott (Grandville): The ground is not an answer to the request. It is a very general statement. T want to ask what will be the reaction of the Tiv people to this answer?

Rev. H. Erffmeyer: This is hard to answer, especially because of the grounds.

Rev. F. Handlogten (Wisconsin): How many Tiv graduates of TCNN are now serving the Tiv church on Tiv fields?

Dr. H. Boer: Four are now serving. This year eight men will graduate from TCNN and will go back to the Tiv field.

Rev. Handlogten: “From the letter we got from the Tiv church it seems that there has been some sort of complaint with respect to TCNN. We have heard of the goal of a united Nigeria. This is idealistic. We have a Tiv tribe of a million people. There is tribalism. If they ever needed the firmest of foundations, they need it now. This foundation is the Reformed faith, the very Word of God. They have other teachings at TCNN, such as Arminianism, which is the first step to liberalism. We’re building, not for just a few years, but until the Lord Jesus Christ comes again. Let us continue to build well and so grant this request.

“We have heard delegates say this request is not prompted by theological concern. Are these letters from the Tiv Church false? We may not thus judge. We have to be honest with ourselves and with our sister church too. In 1961 synod said, “The special goal of Synod, that a Reformed seminary be established, shall be kept in view and held before the churches in Nigeria as the desired objective.” Are we going to be honest with ourselves and with the Tiv Church? I wish to ask Rev. Erffmeyer: what is your reaction to this particular recommendation to ‘withhold action’?”

Rev. Erffmeyer: I talked to Rev. Evenhouse this afternoon and the opinion of both of us is that it would be a bit easier to work with the majority report than with the minority report, particularly if we send a committee.


On motion the recommendation of the minority report was tabled and Synod took up the recommendations of the majority report. Both were adopted. Shortly after they were adopted two delegates declared that they had spoken to Rev. Evenhouse also and they had the distinct impression that he favored the minority report. While this was being discussed Rev. Evenhouse returned to the meeting. He was asked about the discrepancy. Synod decided to table the matter for ten minutes while Rev. Evenhouse, Rev. Erffmeyer and the two other delegates held a conference.

After the conference Rev. Evenhouse expressed himself as follows: If Synod should say “yes” to the Tiv request, then I would favor the majority report. But of the two reports the majority report leaves us where we were. If you take the minority report, then the door is left open for new information with the delegates going to Nigeria. It seems clear to me that the minority report makes some progress.

On motion Synod proceeded to reconsider, going back to the point where the discussion had been when Rev. Evenhouse’s opinion had been quoted. This meant going back to a consideration of the minority recommendation to “withhold action.” After some further. discussion a vote was taken on the recommendation. The motion was lost. So Synod went back to the majority report, and its two recommendations with respect to the Tiv request for a Reformed seminary were adopted.


Synod next turned to the matter of the relation of the CRC to the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. Since 1959 the Church has held to the position that it participate in TCNN only to the extent of loaning Dr. H. Boer as a teacher. This year the Board of Foreign Missions came with a recommendation that we “actively participate in TCNN.” The minority report recommended that Synod accede to this request of the Board “according to the provisions of the T.C.N.N. constitution.”

Rev. J. Groen (Eastern Canada): The Tiv Church does not stand fully behind TCNN. Their request for a Reformed seminary shows this.

Rev. E. Knott (Grandville): The recommendation of the minority report does not do justice to the decision of 1959.

Rev. R. E. Van Harn (Lake Erie): This recommendation calls upon the Church to bring her decisions into line with her practice. We have been involved in TCNN in many ways.

Rev. J. Mulder (Kalamazoo): It is true that our Church took this hesitant position in 1959. But history’s testimony must be considered. By cooperation we can help develop the Reformed witness in Nigeria.

Dr. L. Den Besten (Pella): Does Dr. Boer see much difference between participation and having another teacher there?

Dr. H. Boer (Nigeria): If we do not participate the school cannot count on us. We have acted as though we are participating, but in actuality we are not. At present we cannot count on the continuing moral support of the school.

Rev. H. Evenhouse (Exec. Secretary, Board of Foreign Missions): I do not like the insinuation that those who are for TCNN are un-Reformed. I am for TCNN. We entered an honorable agreement with the SUM long ago, and by the grace of God our biggest mission work is because of this agreement with SUM. There is no charge that the graduates of TCNN are un-Reformed. However, the opportunity to teach the Reformed faith is fully established. TCNN is proving to be an open door for us into all Nigeria. I do not think of the Reformed faith as being parochial. It is universal and it is ecumenical in a good sense. Let us avoid the stigma of being narrow and prejudicial against others.

The recommendation to participate more fully in TCNN was adopted. And thus Synod’s debate on some very moot matters came to an end at 1:00 o’clock Saturday morning, June 22.


Synod 1968 took action in many other significant areas, but this report has tried to deal with the more important matters before the Synod. It is hoped that justice has been done both in the choice of matters covered in the report and in the coverage itself. Any oversight is wholly unintentional and surely not calculated.

Good speeches other than those referred to above were given at Synod 1968. The delegates listened with much interest to addresses by the following missionaries: Dr. H. Boer of Nigeria, Rev. H. Bruinooge of Japan and Rev. H. Weerstra of Yucatan. The Rev. J. Peterson brought fraternal greetings from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in a most acceptable manner. Chaplain Ii. Bode spoke feelingly of his work with the men on “the very raw edge of society.” A high point of the Synod was the address by Professor A. A. Hoekema of Calvin Seminary in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Synod of Dort, given at a dinner gathering on Wednesday, June 19. This well received address will appear in print.

Another noteworthy address was that given on the floor of Synod by Dr. J. Nederhood, Radio Minister of the CRC. Among other things he said: I am deeply concerned about some of the ill winds blowing through the CRC at this time. There is a lack of critical response with respect to certain theological concepts in the world today. We live in a time of theological emphasis shifting from the authority of the Word to the reality of faith, from the data of Scripture to stress on relevance. There are those who think they can separate the doctrine of inspiration from the concept of inerrancy. We don’t have among us an enthusiastic rejection of those errors that will dilute the authority we have in the Word. The Bible must not only provide us with our themes but also our norms. There is already an erosion of trust in the CRC on the part of those who share the Reformed faith in North America. If we don’t find ways to counteract these theological trends, our message will be lost and the light will go out.

Rev. Edward Heerema is Pastor of the Bradenton, Florida Christian Reformed Church.