Here follows a m0re or less detailed report on the debates and actions of the Synod of 1963 of the Christian Reformed Church. Members of the Editorial Committee of the magazine have tried to cover the discussions on the more important matters before synod. Many things are not dealt with. But we hope we have covered the more significant issues in a way that will prove enlightening to our readers. – MANAGING EDITORS
CALVIN COLLEGE – KNOLLCREST CAMPUS DEVELOPMENT
Of the matters pertaining to Calvin College the most important had to do with the further development of the new Knollcrest Campus. The immediate concern of the Administration and the Board of Trustees is the construction of an auditorium-music-speech building and a physical education building.
Synod’s committee of advice recommended that authority be granted to the school to proceed with plans for and construction of these units. Each building is to cost about $1,000,000. A natatorium (unit housing a swimming pool) had originally been part of the proposed physical education plant, but this item was not included in the building proposed by the Board of Trustees and by Synod’s committee of advice. Synod approved these recommendations and allowed for the construction of a natatorium if funds for its construction could be raised outside of the usual church sources and methods. Synod also approved the eventual construction of a service building.
In the rather brief discussion Elder Jasperse raised the question of the total debt still burdening the Knollcrest development. President Spoelhof replied that no debt remains on the campus as such; a relatively small debt remains on the seminary building; a debt of about $90,000 remains on the new library-classroom building (built at a cost of $985,000), but this amount is to be retired by September 1, and no debt remains on the dormitories. Hence, said Dr. Spoelhof, except for some debt 00 the seminary building there will be no debt on the Knollcrest development when a campaign for the new buildings is begun this fall.
Elder Buist challenged the accuracy of the claim that d.ere was no debt on the dormitories, since the self-amortizing loan on these buildings must technically be regarded as a debt. Spoelhof agreed on the technical point, but stated that he simply meant that this debt was not one carried by our people. (These dormitories were built with the aid of a government loan of $1,200,000 at a low rate of interest to be amortized over a period of thirty-eight years by means of the receipts from the students using the buildings.)
These buildings have to be paid for. Hence the next item to be discussed was the proposed campaign to raise the needed $2,000,000. This campaign is to be denomination-wide, intensive, and is to run from October 1963 to December 31, 1966.
There was surprisingly little discussion before approval was given to so large an enterprise. Rev. C. Greenfield wished to know how the campaign is to be conducted with the white envelopes?
President Spoelhof replied that the white envelopes have been used as a kind of interim campaign, but there has been no intensive campaign for Calvin in ten years. Very likely the white envelopes will be used in the campaign, but there will definitely not be two sets of white envelopes used concurrently.
Rev. Wm. Van Rees asked whether it had been determined how much was to be expected from each family per year.
President Spoelhof replied that patterns of giving had not yet been agreed on as the committee that is to manage the campaign under the chairmanship of Bernard Zondervan of Grand Rapids is not yet organized. However due consideration will most certainly be given in establishing patterns of giving to factors like the ability to give, different circumstances of life, number of students at Calvin from a given area, etc. But no specific figures are as yet available.
The question was asked regarding the target date for completion of the two buildings. The answer: September 1965.
Should this well-known part of Christian Reformed mission enterprise be closed? Synod had to face this question. The Synod of 1962 appointed a study committee to evaluate the matter. This committee came to synod with the recommendation that the hospital be discontinued. This was also the recommendation of the Board of Foreign Missions.
That a prolonged debate might be expected on the floor of synod was suggested by the five-to-five split on the question in synod’s committee of advice. The committee came to the floor with two sets of recommendations. Recommendations Set “A” advised synod to sustain the recommendation of the study committee and close the hospital, on the grounds that the medical needs of the Indians can be adequately met in government hospitals in the area, that missionary personnel can receive medical attention in other hospitals with the aid of hospitalization insurance, that the hospital is no longer an effective aid to evangelism, and that continuance of the hospital would call for two full-time doctors, more nurses, more equipment, and in ten years a new building.
Recommendations Set “B” advised synod to continue the operation of the hospital without going into the expensive program of improvement envisioned by the study committee. Grounds adduced were that one doctor can handle the duties there with available relief, that the demand for the hospital’s services has continued without decrease in spite of the availability of free services in nearby government hospitals, and that the hospital does make a real contribution to evangelistic work. It was further recommended that fees for services to Indians be gradually increased and more strictly collected, and that the missionaries be diligent in follow-up work.
Recommendation “A” (that the hospital be closed) was moved and supported.
Dr. Wm. Hendriksen presented certain facts and observations to synod for Dr. Gilbert Den Dulk, who had spent three months at Rehoboth Hospital in the past year. In these three months 4304 patients were treated in the clinic and 225 in the hospital. Hospital and clinic treated from 50 to 120 patients per day. In these three months some twenty-five to thirty babies were delivered. There me thirty beds in the hospital with an average daily occupancy of fifteen, with a peak occupancy at one time of twenty-six. The hospital can be made self-supporting if the Indians pay five dollars per day for care. They are generally able to pay and willing to pay to get the services of Rehoboth Hospital One doctor can take care of the needs and a nurse capable of administering anaesthesia should be on the staff. There are eight doctors who have offered their services t’o give a resident doctor the relief he needs. The several doctors who have given of their services to Rehoboth recently agree that the hospital should not be closed. The proposal that the hospital be converted to a dispensary only has its faults, since a doctor is needed to prescribe medications. With regard to the needs of the missionary personnel, the fact must be borne in mind many of them have to travel 130 miles for hospital care, since the nearby government hospitals for Indians do not take white patients.
Rev. H. Erffmeyer asked concerning the attitude of the General Conference toward the proposal to close the hospital. Committee reporter Rev. A. Brink replied that the missionaries had voted fourteen to one at their most recent meeting in favor of keeping the hospital open. (Two years previous, upon the opening of a nearby government hospital, they had voted in favor of closing the Rehoboth Hospital.)
Rev. B. Huizenga (Home Missionary, Albuquerque, New Mexico) pointed out that to close the hospital would make the Navajo to feel that we are giving with one hand and taking away with the other. The hospital is fixed in the Navajo mind as part of an image of Christian service and witness. Serious damage to this image would result from closing the hospital.
Reporter Rev. Arnold Brink indicated that if the hospital is retained it will have to be modernized at a cost of one quarter of a million dollars. We must vote with a sense of good stewardship and not out of mere sentiment.
Rev. H. Evenhouse, Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions, pointed out that two years ago the Board had decided the hospital should be closed. The General Conference came to the same conclusion. Also, Dr. Bas could not continue in the work with the feeling that this was a real missionary assignment and effort. Six miles from Rehoboth a hospital was erected whose services the Indians could have without cost. Furthermore, in the estimate of the Board the missionary warrant for keeping the hospital open was not adequate. The latest figures on the cost of maintaining the hospital are as follows: total cost per year, $66,900. Taken in through fees, $28,000. Cost to the church, $38,900. And finally, Dr. Cook, resident doctor for a year, came to the same conclusion that Dr. Bas arrived at.
Rev. H. Baker, a member of the study committee, spoke for the committee. He would personally prefer to keep the hospital open, as would most of the study committee. But the facts in the case call for the opposite decision. A leading premise of the committee’s thinking is the conviction that a second doctor is positively necessary. This conviction is based on the opinions of Dr. Bos, Dr. Cook and the General Conference. As far back as 1941 the Board was in doubt as to the need of the hospital. In 1946 it was reported to the Board that the need for the hospital was less urgent. In 1959 and 1960 inspection committees reported in the same vein.
Rev. Earl Dykema of Crown Point, N.M., spoke for the General Conference. In 1961 the General Conference voted in favor of closing the hospital by a vote of eight to seven. Since that time the Conference has come to feel for the kind of thinking reflected in Recommendations “B”. The native leaders all favor keeping the hospital. The medical work cannot be separated from the spiritual. We must not play into the hands of the secularism of our age. The hospital has great evangelistic value today, but this value is somewhat different from what it used to be. Today the value lies in elaborating and reaffirming the Christian message to those who come to the hospital for care.
Rev. Van Harmelen pointed out that this is a Christian hospital. Let us not take it away from the people there. The same principles hold here that hold in Christian education. He deplored the statement that the people can get medical care at another hospital.
Rev. Rook reminded the synod that the Indians keep coming to the hospital, in spite of the free care available nearby. This proves the standing that the hospital has among the Indians.
Rev. G. Holwerda (a member of the study committee) said they spent six days there in search of the facts. The Business Manager at Rehoboth indicated to the committee that to continue would call for the services of another doctor and the expenditure of some $50,000 to put the building in good condition. The plumbing was said to be in bad condition and in ten years a wholly new building would be needed, according to the Business Manager. The speaker asked whether we want a second rate hospital at Rehoboth.
Rev. D. Houseman (also a member of the study committee) said that he spent thirteen years in Gallup and had been close to the situation. He asked the question as to why the Indians continue to come. In many instances it is because they love the Christian care. But it must also be noted. that there are some who come because they have become disgruntled for one reason or another with the care at the government hospital. Furthermore, if we tried to work out an arrangement of relief for one resident doctor with some local physician who is not a professing Christian, the Indians would be unable to understand such an arrangement. It was also pointed out that if we would expect the Indians eventually to take over the hospital, we would have to wait at least a hundred years.
Dr. B. De Groot, who had also spent time at the hospital in a professional capacity, stressed the missionary value of the hospital. Our missionary endeavor there would be injured if the hospital were closed. Dr. Bos’ decision favoring the closing of the hospital was predicated on his feeling that the new government hospital would be so magnificent in the eyes of the Indians they would no longer care for the humbler Rehoboth Hospital. This fear has been proved groundless. The census at the hospital has increased. Also, Rehoboth is not a second class hospital. It is an excellent general practice hospital.
Rev. H. Minnema asked about the average daily census.
Rev. E. Dykema replied that in 1962 there were 606 in-patients, 120 births, and 9880 out-patients. In 1963 from January 1 to May 15 there were 294 in-patients, 43 births, and 5909 out-patients. The average daily figures would not be supplied.
After some more debate in which nothing especially new was presented, the vote was taken. The motion to close the hospital at Rehoboth was decisively defeated.
THE “DEKKER CASE”
A delegate to synod remarked that every synod has its own peculiar character and reputation, and that this synod would prove to be no exception to this tendency. It was further stated that this synod would probably go down in history as the synod that dealt with the “Dekker case.”
Possibly this speaker was right. Because of the high degree of interest that this matter stirred up in the church at large, among the delegates to synod, and also in the Reformed world generally, we here reproduce the overture from Classis Orange City that figured so centrally in the discussions and the decision. The text of the overture is as follows:
In regard to the theological position reflected in Prof. Harold Dekker’s articles published in the Reformed Journal, Dec. 1962, and Feb. 1963 under the title of “God so loved—all men” we register serious objections. We cite as crucial expressions of his position the following; “By no strain of exegesis can God’s redemptive love be confined to any special group. Neither the language of this verse nor the broadest context of Scripture win allow any other interpretation but that God loves all men.” (See Reformed Journal, Dec. 1962, p. 5.) The latter expression “God loves all men” in the context can mean only redemptive love. Again we quote from the Reformed Journal, Feb. 1963, p. 14, “Nevertheless, those who do not believe are included in the number of those whom God loves with a redemptive love, for they are included in the category of the ‘world’.” This we believe is an unscriptural interpretation. Since we believe that if God loves all men redemptively, all men must be saved, Prof. Dekker’s position conflicts with the creedal statement of articles 8 and 9 of Chapter II of the Canons of Dort.
We are of the conviction that the voices raised in objection to Professor Dekker’s articles within our own denomination are indications of suspicion. Since Professor Dekker has promised by signing the Form of Subscription “that upon sufficient ground of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine -we do hereby promise to be always ready and willing to comply with such requisition,” namely, of “further explaining our sentiments respecting any particular article,” we petition to synod that synod require Prof. Dekker to give further explanation of his position, so that if Prof. Dekker’s position be truly Reformed and Scriptural, synod may clear him of suspicion; and should synod find his position not in harmony with the Scriptures and the creeds, that synod take appropriate action “to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine” in our church and seminary.
The overture was given to synod’s committee on Seminary Matters. The committee came with a majority report and a minority report. The majority report came with a recommendation that Professor Dekker be questioned before synod concerning the views referred to in the overture.
Very quickly the question was raised as to the legality of the overture, since the matter had not been dealt with by a consistory. But synod had earlier accepted the overture as properly before it, and thus a motion that it be declared out of order was overruled by the chair. Another technical matter was the question of an open or closed session in which this subject would be discussed. Professor Dekker was asked what he desired, and he said he preferred an open session. It was so decided.
Professor Dekker presented to synod a statement which he had previously presented to the advisory committee. In this document the following main points were elaborated. (1) “The overture represents and calls for ecclesiastical action which is precipitate and premature. It does not allow suffiCient time for the development, clarification and testing of theological views through patient and responsible discussion.” (2) “The procedures followed in bringing this overture to Synod have been in important respects improper.” (3) “The overture consists largely of mere assertion and is almost wholly lacking in analysis, evidence and argumentation.”
Upon motion the recommendation of the majority report was tabled so that synod might take up the minority report. The rust recommendation of this committee, later adopted in a revised form, was that synod reply to Classis Orange City that “Classis should supply grounds for its charge or submit sufficient grounds for its suspicion.”
Rev. A. A. Koning made reference to a somewhat similar case in 1936. At that time synod said the matter should go back to the consistory. This is really the correct way to proceed.
Elder B. Zondervan wished to know whether the Board of Trustees had dealt with this matter. Rev. J. Schuurman, secretary of the Board, stated that the subject had been raised at the February meeting, but it was agreed that to deal with the matter then would be premature. The matter was not dealt with at the May meeting.
Dr. H. Stob raised a formal point as to the wording of the recommendation. Is it the prerogative of synod to tell Classis Orange City to supply grounds, or is it merely synod’s task to point out the inadequacy of the grounds given?
Elder Volkema referred to the biblical texts given in the Minority Report in support of Professor Dekker’s position. He said these texts were not relevant, and that he wished to hear an explanation of a text that he would like to refer to. The chairman ruled that synod was not entering into the material aspects of the subject.
Professor M. Monsma reflocted on the remarks of Rev. Koning by saying that the case referred to in 1936 was the Wezeman case. Synod felt it had no right to enter into the case at that time.
Rev. B. Huizenga felt the wording of the committee’s recommendation was not clear. He suggested that synod should reply to the overture by saying it was not valid because classis did not supply grounds or submit sufficient evidence for its suspicion.
At this point synod recessed for a reformulation of the recommendation. The motion as reformulated was that “synod not accede to the overture of Classis Orange City because Classis did not supply adequate grounds for its charge nor submit sufficient grounds for its suspicion.”
Then something happened that prompts certain questions to rise in the observer’s mind as to synod’s method of dealing with the Orange City overture. A member of synod requested that Professor R. B. Kuiper, President Emeritus of Calvin Seminary, state his opinion on the question under conSideration, namely, whether Classis Orange City had presented sufficient grounds for its overture that synod question Professor Dekker on certain of his doctrinal positions. Before Professor Kuiper could rise to his feet the president of synod warned him sharply that he would be speaking under restrictions. When the professor inquired as to the nature and extent of those restrictions, he was informed that any evaluation by him of Professor Dekker’s doctrinal positions would be out of order. Professor Kuiper replied that he could not possibly answer the question put to him without some such evaluation. Thereupon he sat down. When Professor Kuiper had been told that he could not speak on the doctrinal issue, there was some applause among the visitors at synod. This unseemly demonstration brought quick rebuke from the president of synod.
A veteran observer at synod has described the above incident as follows:
SYNOD’S DISGRACEFUL MOMENT
One shameful incident marred the Synod of 1963. It involved the public insult of the Emeritus President of our seminary, the Rev. R. B. Kuiper. Here was one of our elder brethren, one who has made a record in the church that one can truly envy. The doctrinal issue raised by Professor Dekker was under discussion. It is a matter of public record that “R.B.” had taken a dim view of Dekker’s position. One of the delegates directed a question to Professor Kuiper. He had hardly begun to answer the question and he was called out of order by the chair. The rightness or wrongness of the president’s action I here refrain from judging. But the moment the speaker was stopped there was a burst of applause from the visitors. True, the president called the audience to order. But here was this veteran, honored and honorable servant of God exposed to public ridicule. It was an insult. But perhaps this is a demonstration of that “love” we hear so much about. This incident depicts for this reporter, more than anything else, the mood of a segment of the Christian Reformed Church on doctrinal controversy. He went home sick at heart. And it was the last he cared to see of the Synod of 1963.
The same day Professor Kuiper presented the following protest to synod:
The 1963 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church Esteemed Brethren:
The undersigned feels constrained to protest the treatment accorded him by the President of Synod when his opinion was requested by a member of Synod.
He was asked whether in his judgment Classis Orange City had presented adequate grounds for its overture that Synod question Professor Harold Dekker concerning doctrinal positions taken by him in certain of his writings. Obviously no adequate answer to that question was possible without some evaluation of 0 0se positions. Yet the President of Synod emphatically ruled out of order any such evaluation by the undersigned.
The undersigned requests that this communication be included in the Acts of Synod. Respectfully submitted,
R. B. KUIPER
When this protest had been read, the president stated that in effect this communication was an appeal from a ruling of the chair. By a majority vote synod sustained the chair in the ruling concerned. The president then ruled that both Professor Kuiper’s protest and the fact that synod had not sustained it would be recorded in the Acts. The following morning, however, by presidential 6at he deleted both from the minutes.
Now we return to the discussion. Rev. Erffmeyer spoke at some length, describing how synod’s Advisory Committee (of which he was chairman) had wrestled with the overture. He indicated that as a matter of fact they had agonized over it. On the one hand the overture has certain obvious faults. On the other band the matter dealt with is of such great importance, In the minds of a majority of the committee the gravity of the matter outweighed the technical faults of the overture, and therefore it seemed best to the majority that Professor Dekker should be questioned before synod. It must be borne in mind that the Form of Subscription exists not only to protect the church, but it also exists to protect the individual preacher or professor.
Rev. H. Van Dyken made the observation that the recommendation before synod really gave ground for suspicion.
Rev. A. De Jager expressed the opinion that the recommendation did not satisfy the overture, The voices in the church papers on the views of Professor Dekker certainly constitute reasons for suspicion.
Professor C. Kromminga argued that Classis Orange City makes a charge but the Classis does not clearly establish its case.
Rev. J. Vriend asked to have the continuing validity of the church’s creeds maintained. The ablest preachers are needed in the seminary to teach and preserve the creeds, To do this the professors need freedom. They can have this freedom only if the church acts responsibly, as a mother and not as a child. He added that it is dangerous to accede to an overture calling for clarification.
Elder J. Heerema expressed the judgment that it is not necessary always to read many articles by a man to gain a clear impression of his views. (Professor Dekker and others had argued that the discussion was still going on and that the action of Classis Orange City was premature.) A man may state his basic position in the very first article, and everything else is only further development of this basic position. If a man should take the position initially that “God is hate,” nothing he would write after that could alter that adopted position. The speaker argued that Professor Dekker had taken a position from the very first and that position gave reason for concern and suspicion. Furthermore, Professor Dekker’s distinction between “redemptive love” and “redeeming love” is untenable, as it is the same word in both instances.
Elder H. Meyer asked whether a favorable vote on the motion before the house would mean that Professor Dekker’s views were all right and that he had been cleared. Can we go home and tell our churches that this matter is settled? (The reporter does not know how or whether this question was answered.)
Dr. W. Hendriksen stated flatly that the overture does not have good grounds. The overture bases the charge against Dekker of conflict with the Canons of Dort on an argument of Classis rather than on the professor’s statements. Hence, said Hendriksen. I am forced to vote for the motion now on the floor. (The offending sentence in the overture referred to by Hendriksen and others is this: “Since we believe that God loves all men rcdemptively all men must be S3ved, Prof. Dekker’s position conflicts with the creedal statement of articles 8 and 9 of Chapter II of the Canons of Dort.”)
Synod voted in favor of the revised recommendation of the minority report and thus took no action on the doctrinal issue in the “Dekker case.”
THE PROPOSED REVISED CHURCH ORDER
One of the larger and more important matters before the 1963 synod was the question of the proposed Revised Church Order to which the 1962 synod had given preliminary approval. The question before the house this year was its nnal adoption, which would mean that the revision would replace a Church Order which dates back to the very beginnings of the Christian Reformed Church.
Especially during the last months before the 1963 synod various voices were raised questioning the desirability of this revision. The point at issue was the primary right of the local conSistory to rule according to the authority given to the office of elder in the New Testament This difference of opinion was reflected in the work of synod’s advisory committee. which presented a Majority and a Minority report. The Majority asked for immediate adoption. although it had made a number of changes in line with the overtures and suggestions which had come in. The Minority asked for postponement in order that a study might be made of the character of the authority which inheres in the various articles of the Revised Church Order.* The Majority was represented by Rev. Oliver Breen as reporter, the Minority by Rev. Herman Hoekstra.
The debate proceeded as follows:
Reporter Breen informed synod that all members of the advisory committee were agreed on the analysis of the materials before them. He reads and moves the Majority’s first recommendation, which is supported and becomes the motion before the house. Reporter Hoekstra then reads the Minority recommendations, as per synodical rules.
Rev. A. De Jager (Toronto) opened the debate by expressing appreciation for the changes recommended by the Majority, but soon revealed that he opposed the motion. He argued that delay would not produce a period of uncertainty (as asserted by the Majority) since we do have a Church Order, and he knew of no uncertainty with respect to the principles reflected in it. Nor did the speaker feel that agitation and unrest would result from postponement (another Majority assertion)—these might also result from adoption1 In his opinion too many changes were being proposed to justify immediate adoption, changes which include the deletion of an entire article (article 96, RCO).
Prof. M. Monsma spoke as a member of the synodical committee which had prepared the RCO. Prof. Monsma attributed the recent opposition to the nco as a result of agitation, and that from outside of our churches. He referred to Prof. Kamphuis of The Netherlands (teacher of church polity in the theological school of the Reformed Churches-Art. 31) whose comments on the RCO had been published in English translation here. This, in Monsma’s opinion, is agitation, and he felt that it was too late to be taken seriously, and that it breathed a spirit of independentism. The objections of the Committee for contact with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church were also very late in appearance—and also something coming from “the outside.” The speaker argued that the principles of church polity were not spelled out in the RCO, but that this was in line with Reformed church tradition and with the fact that these principles are clearly stated in the relevant articles of the Belgic Confession. Prof. Monsma also said that if future changes appear desirable they can come by way of amendment, a procedure allowed for in the RCO.
Rev. C. Flietstra (Chatham) felt that immediate adoption was called for since this thing has been in process for twelve years, and because the men who have worked, on it are of high reputation.
Prof. L. Praamsma (Calvin Seminary) argued for adoption in line with the Majority recommendation. He argued that the church can study principles indefinitely, and must, but that in a church order its task is to explain itself in terms of its confession of faith. He pointed to a consistent recognition of the authority of the Scriptures and the Headship of Jesus Christ as the basic principles of church government. The Reformed churches have fought for this position over against hierarchy, papalism, and episcopalianism on the one hand, against independentism on the other. History shows that the stress is sometimes on the authority of the local congregation, at other times on the church confederation. These two lines have to be balanced off against each other, he argued, and this delicate balance is reflected in the RCO.
Rev. W. Hendriksen (Grand Rapids West) spoke as chairman of the Minority against the Majority recommendation. Dr. Hendriksen pointed to the fact that the 1962 synod had recommended adoption “if at all possible” and that this could only mean that the present synod would have to make its decision on the basis of the actual situation now existing. The speaker pointed to the number and size of the overtures bearing on the RCO, and called attention to the fact that all directly or implicitly ask for postponement, and that these contain some recommendations which the study committee has not yet considered fully. Hendriksen did not feel that the influence of commentators outside of the Christian Reformed Church can be blamed for the feeling of his segment of the advisory committee, and that future changes in the way of amendment are so difficult to accomplish that this is hardly a way to calm the fears of the objectors. The speaker opined that the RCO was far too detailed in character, and that the emphasis ought to rest heavily on the principle of the autonomy of the local church rather than on regimentation from the top.
Reporter Breen offered the opinion that outside influence was of very little significance here. and that the Majority was recommending that the matter be handled in the “line of historical progression.”
Rev. R. Opperwall (Hudson) urged against the motion to adopt the RCa at this synod by injecting a humorous comparison. He felt that the church was to be compared to one who oversleeps and then is tempted to go out without the proper preparation for public appearance. “I think the church is still in its pajamas,” he said, and recommended that the people in the congregations be given all the time they need to ready themselves for an intelligent and enthusiastic acceptance of the RCO.
Rev. J. Rook (California) offered that the churches are ready to accept the RCO, and that agitation from outside the Christian Reformed Church ought not to make for delay. Rev. H. Hoekstra (Hackensack—reporter for Minority) pointed to the Acts of 1944 to show that the essential character of the problems which his segment of the advisory committee sees were already recognized then. He added that the RCO recommends that church business ought if at all possible be decided by common consent. In his judgment the RCO itself ought to be adopted with no less unanimity. Elder J. Spykman (Muskegon) felt that if the church was not ready it was because it had failed to take its task of studying the matters relevant to the RCO seriously.
Prof. A. Hoekcma (Calvin Seminary) argued against immediate adoption, and advised that the same study committee which had prepared the RCa be asked to review the overtures and recommendations made. He pointed to the ruling with respect to wedding ceremonies to indicate that the RCa seemed to offer ecclesiastical regulation for private affairs, since it prescribed that the official form be used by our pastors on these occasions. Rev. J. D. De Jong (Pacific) spoke for the Majority. and suggested that delay of the effective date of application would answer the critics and give opportunity for further corrections by another synod. The date he mentioned was August, 1965. Rev. H. Erffmeyer (Chicago North) argued that the study recommended by the Minority called for resolution of an irreconcilable dilemma, that analogous to “states’ rights” and “federal authority”, He moved the amendment: “effective August 1, 1965” to the main motion. This was supported, and the debate centered about it for a time.
Elder G. Buist (Grand Rapids West) said that this amendment does not answer the Minority. He offered that this was indeed the first time that the RCO was before synod in its present form, and that it must not be forgotten that the committee started de novo in 1959. He felt that to adopt the RCO as now before synod was to work along iu a patchwork fashion, and this was not to be recommended in connection with something as important as a church order. Rev. J. Guichelaar (Grand Rapids East) opposed the amendment because he felt that it suggested tentative adoption with agreement to come later, and he urged agreement first and then adoption. Reporter Hoekstra attempted to clarify matters by saying that the Minority was eager to have the relative authority of the many kinds of articles in the RCO clarified, and that therefore a deliberate study was indicated. Rev. P. De Jong (British Columbia) thought the amendment might have merit since it offered opportunity to keep what was good in the RCO and still give time for further reflection. Elder H. Meyer (Grandville) argued against the amendment because it was in effect to sign a contract with the express intention to make changes after signing. (The amendment was defeated.)
This brought synod back before the main motion, and, in effect, before the matter of accepting or rejecting the RCO together with the ten emendations recommended by the Majority. Some felt that this would soon develop into an interminable discussion, and since this was Friday of the second week, perhaps another tack ought to be followed. The result was a motion to table the motion at hand, which was duly supported and passed. The recommendation of the Minority was then moved, calling for postponement of adoption and further study of the nature of authority in the church as it is expressed in the various articles of the RCO.
Dr. J. Kromminga (President of Calvin Seminary and member of the study committee) argued that synod should not be afraid to take definite action because of the lateness of the synodical hour. In his opinion the Christian Reformed Church ought not so much to worry about what people of other churches think as to be concerned about expressing herself. Negotiation with other churches will have to be done in terms of our own character.
Rev. W. Brink (Holland) said that he hoped that passing the Minority recommendation would not imply scrapping the RCO. He argued that the RCO had certain prescriptions which might be regarded as trivia so far as a church order is concerned, and he suggested that they be culled out. Rev. Brink offered one of the most positive suggestions produced by the entire debate when he pointed to the special constitutional convention which drafted the new Michigan state constitution, and drew the inference that it might be desirable for the Christian Reformed Church to call a special constitutional synod.
Rev. R. Prins of the committee for contact with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church said that if synod would not study the matter of the principle of church authority it would run into the danger of contradicting its own ecumenical resolutions of previous years. Prof. C. Kromminga (Calvin Seminary) said that tentative or final adoption does not make impossible a study of the principles involved, and that adoption of the RCO was desirable since a church order is just a way of getting church things done. Reporter Hoekstra returned to the Boor to say that the Minority was not asking for a study of principles of church government in general, but of the relative authority of the different kinds of articles in the RCO.
Rev. W. Brink moved this amendment: “defer adoption of the proposed Church Order until the synod of 1965.” This was supported. Brink said that he was moved to make this amendment in order to ensure keeping the RCO as prepared by the study committee before the churches, to give the churches time for study and to get ready for adoption, to keep the issues now under discussion alive, and to make possible any necessary revisions.
And so synod decided that this was not the time to adopt the RCO, and decided that further work is required before a responsible decision can be made.
For the sake of clarity, we might say that the officers of synod this year were Rev. William Haverkamp of Kalamazoo, president; Rev. Henry Vander Kum of Jenison, vice-president; Rev. Peter Van Tuinen of Artesia, California, first clerk; Rev. John Vriend of Simcoe, Ontario, second clerk.
*For the sake of brevity, RCO henceforth.