Resume of Synod 1971

Following is a digest of the decisions of Synod 1971. Meetings began on Tuesday morning, June 8, and continued until almost midnight on Friday, June 18. THE OUTLOOK appreciates the kindness of Leonard T. Schalkwyk, pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of St. Thomas, Ontario, and a synodical delegate from Classis Chatham, in preparing this report for publication.

Prayer Service – On Monday evening, June 7, the delegates assembled for the Synodical Prayer Service. While in former years this worship service was held in a church building, this year it was convened in the Fine Arts Center of Calvin College. Synod later decided to make this a rule for the future. Rev. Leonard J. Hofman preached on James 4:8: “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.”

Officers elected and Candidates for the Ministry – Synod convened at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, June S.

Elected as officers were: Rev. George Gritter, President; Rev. Peter M. Jonker, Vice President; Rev. Arnold Brink, First Clerk; Rev. Andrew Kuyvenhoven. Second Clerk

The Board declared forty-five applicants to be candidates for the ministry.

It was strange that Dale J. Cooper. who had accepted a teaching position in a high school, was nevertheless declared a candidate for the ministry. This was done after considerable debate.

Fraternal Delegate – The moderator of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Rev. Edgar, expressed his concern about Bible criticism in The Netherlands. He said that Bible criticism in the Gereformeerde Kerken places the fellowship in the Reformed Ecumenical Synod in jeopardy.

Rev. Bassam M. Madany, of the Arabic Back to God Hour broadcast was educated in the Seminary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

In a personal interview afterwards Rev. Edgar said to me that in their church there was no difficulty with higher criticism of the Scriptures. But there is a growing demand for liberalizing their strict code of life. Their Geneva College does not allow smoking, drinking, or dancing. They also insist in their churches on total abstinence from alcoholic beverages.

Rev. LeRoy Oliver was the fraternal delegate from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a church no doubt well-known and well-loved by all of us. Rev. Oliver is the O.P. Executive Director of Domestic Missions.

Homosexuality – A book has been published in The Netherlands by two ministers. It is called: We Too Are Homosexuals.

In Canada there has been a change in the law concerning homosexual acts.

The Council of Christian Reformed Churches in Canada has stated the following about this (Acts of Synod 1970, Overture 23, p. 540): “a. It is not the task of the Government to legislate morality” (see Article 36 of the Belgic Confession). “b. The new provisions change the conditions under which the sinful act of homosexuality is deemed to be punishable by law. They do not express approval of the act of homosexuality itself.”

The Council requested Synod 1970 to appoint a study committee to prepare a report in which the attitude of the CRC toward its homosexual members is to be critically examined, and to give proposals for setting up counseling services for homosexuals. Synod added to this committee Dr. Melvin D. Hugen, who replaced Dr. P. Y. De Jong at the Seminary.

Salary for Ministers – Synod decided to raise the ministers’ salary in needy churches from $6500 to $7000. The children’s allowance is $256 (or each child up to the age of 19. The term “Mileage Allowance” was changed to “car allowance,” since also car-depreciation should be included in this amount.

New Forms for Baptism – Many remarks were made in the Synodical discussion on these new formularies. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the vow. It was pointed out that only the Holy Spirit can bring a child to discipleship. Why such stress on human responsibility at the expense of God’s Sovereignty? It was requested that mention be made of the recognition of the Holy Spirit’s work in the parental vows.

Another complaint was that in the form for adult baptism the vows do not mention sin or repentance.

Rev. Vander Ploeg has written about the deficiencies of this form in The Banner and an overture from the Dutton CRC reiterated them.

Nevertheless Synod decided to offer these forms to the churches for a three-year trial period. Synod also requested the Liturgical Committee to consider at its July meeting some changes on the basis of the discussion held at Synod.

Synod gave final approval to the new Form for the Ordination of Ministers,

Calvin College – The following overture was submitted by the Dutton Christian Reformed Church:

The Consistory of the Dutton Christian Reformed Church overtures the Synod of 1971 to instruct the Calvin College Administration to reverse its present permissive policy with respect to campus programs and entertainments and student publications which leaves what is to be presented on campus or printed in the Chimes to student control and to replace such matters under faculty control.


1. To give the student body decisive power in these areas of school activity is an abandonment of the biblical principle of the authority of parents and elders which must in the long run prove detrimental to real Christian education.

2. The Church which owns and is responsible for the school has the right and duty to insist that God-given standards of faith and conduct shall be maintained also in the areas of student publications and entertainment.

3. Putting these matters under student control has contributed to the loss of confidence in the school by membership of the church. Such episodes as the “Father Groppi” meeting and the publication of “the Bananer” and of favorable Chimes reviews of objectionable movies are prompting an increasing number of our members to become reluctant to or to refuse to contribute further.

(This Overture which was submitted to Classis Grand Rapids East and adopted by it in January, and which appears in the Agenda as Overture 9, was withdrawn by the Classis at its May meeting. Accordingly the Dutton Consistory which originally proposed it to the Classis now sends it on to Synod as its own overture.)

The reporter for the Committee on Educational Matters, Rev. Tymen E. Hofman, read the following Observations and Recommendation:


The overture of the Dutton Church seeks a very simplistic solution to what is a very complex and difficult matter. The affairs of Calvin College are governed by a Board of Trustees’ elected by the churches, each classis delegating a minister as member of the Board. The Board of Trustees is responsible for the governing of Calvin College, subject to the approval of Synod. The task of government is laid upon the administration of Calvin College with the President of the College bearing the responsibility of carrying out the mandate of the Board of Trustees. As such, the President and the Board of Trustees are responsible for the affairs of Calvin College.

However, in the actual functioning of the College, the Administration, the Faculty, and the student body all have duties and responsibilities, and all are involved in the ordering of the day-to-day student activities of the College. The regulations governing “campus programs and entertainment and student publications” have been drawn up so as to involve student and faculty and administration participation in a responsible manner; those regulations are so formed as to attempt always to maintain significant student participation and responsible faculty-administration supervision and are constantly subject to study revision and improvement. All significant regulations governing student affairs are approved by the Board of Trustees; when experience Indicates that a change in regulation would bring forth more responsible student participation and administrative supervision, such change is made. Any suggestions or demand for policy change coming from the churches ought therefore to be submitted in good faith to the Board of Trustees.

Considering the very sensitive relationship between students and administration in the college world today, it is indeed remarkable that the occurrence of “objectionable episodes” has been so limited in comparison with colleges in general.


That Synod does not accede to the overture of the Dutton Church.


1. The “campus programs and entertainment and student publications” are not under the types of student control as alleged by the overture. They are under the jurisdiction of faculty-student committees, working together as a unit, the actions of which can be subject to executive veto. Such an administrative arrangement ought not to be equated with “permissive policy.”

2. Approval of the overture would, in essence, bring to an end a cooperative student-faculty approach to the management of student affairs and thus remove from the students the opportunity to exercise and develop a responsible Christian maturity in the ordering of student activity.

3. The Board of Trustees has at its February and May meetings this year taken further steps to improve the guidelines governing student activities, including film presentation and student publications, thereby indicating its keen sensitivity to its responsibilities and to the good of the College, its students, and the Church it serves.

This recommendation with its grounds was adopted by Synod.

Synodical Committee – Synod had before it a proposal to have a Synodical Committee for the coordination of the total denominational effort, to receive reports from the agencies of Synod, to be a consultant to these agencies, and to evaluate all budget requests.

The creation of such a committee has been criticized as a “Super-Board,” and as an ongoing trend to centralization.

Objections to such a Synodical Committee as proposed had been received from The Back to God Hour Committee, the Board of Foreign Missions and the Fund for Needy Churches Committee.

The rules for this Committee were somewhat revised by the Advisory Committee at Synod, but remained basically the same.

This proposal was accepted by Synod.

It was decided to put the proposed arrangement into effect for a period of five years, after which its effectiveness would be reviewed.

Also accepted was a new job description for the office of the Stated Clerk of the denomination.

Publication Committee – Growing centralization can be seen in the appointment of no less than three new full~time persons on the staff of the Publication Committee.

As Theological Editor Rev. Andrew Kuyvenhoven of Wallaceburg, Ontario, was appointed.

As Pedagogical Editor Robert Rozema, a teacher at one of the Christian High schools in Grand Rapids, was appointed.

A Journalistic Editor is to be proposed for appointment at next year’s Synod.

Relations with the Gereformeerde Kerken in The Netherlands – Classis Eastern Canada presented the following overtures to Synod 1971:

A. That Synod, through its Inter-Church Relations Committee, carefully test not only theological trends, but especially the official pronouncements and decisions of the Synods of the Gereformeerde Kerken with respect to the so-called “new theology,” so that the Christian Reformed Church can come to a definite decision on whether or not to maintain our sister relationship with these churches.

As the first grounds for this proposal the following was stated: Our rules for church correspondence require that we take heed mutually lest there be deviation from Reformed principles in doctrine, worship, and discipline (Acts 1970, p. 51).

B. That Synod instruct its committee on interchurch relations to come with a full report of their findings to the Synod of 1972 and with definite advice whether or not a change in our relationship with the Gereformeerde Kerken is warranted. Among the grounds for this proposal are the following:

1. There is a growing concern in our church about recent theological trends in our sister church in The Netherlands and about the effect of these trends on our relationship with these churches (Acts 1970, p. 51).

2. The “New Theology” is causing confusion also on this continent, and consistories should know where our denomination stands on this issue.

Background – Synod of 1969 instructed the committee on Inter-Church Relations to consider “whether any of the changes which have occurred in the Gereformeerde Kerken (Synodical) would warrant a change in our relationship to these churches and to advise the next synod of its findings” (Acts 1969, p. 53, V, B. 2).

Synod of 1970 authorized the committee on InterChurch Relations to “continue its inquiry into and evaluation of recent theological trends in our sister church in The Netherlands, and to advise the next synod whether or not such trends warrant a change in our relationship to these churches” (Acts 1970, p. 51, I, C, 1). In addition, a letter, in the spirit of a concerned sister church, was sent to the Gereformeerde Kerken (Acts 1970, p. 51, I, C 2).

The Synod of Sneek in The Netherlands (November, 1970) made several decisions in dealing with a report concerning the authority of Scripture and the authority of the confession. These sessions were attended by our fraternal delegate, Professor Henry Zwaanstra, who has reported to our Committee on Inter-Church Relations. In addition, the Synod of Sneek in a letter dated April 6, 1971, responded to the letter sent by our Synod 1970.

Synod’s Decisions – I. Synod decided to reiterate its instruction to the Committee on Inter-Church Relations to continue its inquiry into and evaluation of recent trends in our sister church in The Netherlands and to advise whether or not such trends warrant a change in our relationship to these churches.


a. The Committee could not fulfill its mandate in keeping with the decision of Synod 1970.

b. There is a continuing concern in our churches for the theological developments in a sister church.

2. That Synod instruct the Committee on InterChurch Relations to include in its inquiry the letter received from the Gereformeerde Kerken and offi cial pronouncements and decisions of the synods of the Gerefonneerde Kerken.


a. The letter of April 6, 1971 was received after submission of the committee’s report to Synod and too late for proper analysis by the Committee. (This letter will be printed in full in the Acts of Synod.)

b. Since official decisions have now been taken, these should be carefully scrutinized.

3. That Synod instruct the Committee on InterChurch Relations to submit its recommendations to the Synod of 1972.

Ground: The issue is urgent and has affected the life and peace of the church.

Birth Control Testimony – There was an overture at Synod to restudy the church’s Birth Control Testimony of 1936.

Synod of 1936 declared: “According to the teaching of Holy Writ marriage is a creation ordinance instituted by God with a twofold purpose: the loving companionship of husband and wife in a lifelong physico-spiritual union, and the begetting of children in and through this marital love life . . . In the light of this twofold Scriptural principle there can be no doubt that it is the duty as well as the privilege of normally endowed married people to produce as large a number of children as is compatible with the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the wife and mother on the one hand and of the children on the other hand.

“To be sure, the mother may at no time be sacrificed to the production of numerous progeny . . . but it is equally true that her supreme glory as woman lies in motherhood . . . Disparaging remarks about large families as such should not be heard among Christian people.” (Dr. Joel Nederhood of the Back to God Hour stressed this decision recently in a radio sermon.)

It was argued in the overture that due to “overpopulation and environmental deterioration” the church should change its attitude about the blessing of having children.

It was pointed out that some even advocate State regulations on the limits of family size. Synod decide not to revise its statement on birth control.

Youth Evangelism – On pages 128-139 of the Agenda for Synod 1971, one can find an interesting report by the Board of Home Missions on Youth Evangelism.

This report is disturbing, because a shift of emphasis is seen in certain unexpected statements.

Consider the following excerpts: “While the Bible speaks to the heart of every man, it is largely a book about adults. While it elicits repentance, faith and obedience from persons of all ages and life situations, it is more clear as to the specifics of this response for adults than it is for children.”

“The biblical doctrine of the covenant was significantly developed … But now . . . ” (Agenda 1971, p. 132).

As to conversion we find this sentence: “The goal of an evangelistic program is to make children and young people aware of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ.” Read also the remarks on “pre-evangelism” and “pre-conversion.”

Synod rejected the guidelines based on this report. This and other decisions made one delegate remark: “This was a rather conservative Synod.”

Television – Synod adopted the following Overture of Classis Sioux Center: Synod encourages our people to correspond with the major television broadcasting corporations and their sponsors from a biblical and Reformed perspective, urging them to present cleaner and better programs and objecting to programs that are contrary to biblical emphasis.

Ground: We believe that many programs on television contribute adversely to the attitudes and actions of children, young people, and adults and thus encourage moral and spiritual decline.

Ministers from other denominations – A lengthy discussion developed on the floor of Synod about the need for ministers from other denominations.

This was occasioned by two matters before Synod:

1. The admittance by Classis Hudson of Rev. Brent Averill as a candidate for the ministry. Rev. Averill was a minister of a Congregational Church.

2. The other matter was the refusal by Synodical Examiners to admit Rev. Robert Eggebeen to such candidacy at Classis Muskegon.

Rev. Eggebeen is a minister of the Reformed Church in America.

The question around which the discussion centered was: What is “the need” mentioned in the Church Order?

Is it the desire of the minister who wants to leave his denomination? Or is it the need of a congregation for a certain pastor with special abilities? (It was said that Rev. Averill had a special gift to work with “sex-and drug-problems.”) Or is the need present only when there are not enough ministers available?

Synod decided: “That this means that there must be a very special need in the Christian Reformed Church that cannot readily be met by ministers of our denomination.”

Thus the door that was opened wider in a previous decade, was put ajar again, in view of the many candidates coming from our denominational seminary.

Abortion – Synod appointed a committee to search out and set forth the Scriptural teaching relative to (induced) abortion.


a. Proposed alteration of various state laws demands a consistent Christian approach in this area.

b. Such a statement could give moral guidance for our membership in this complex problem.

Timothy-Lawndale – On the Timothy-Lawndale question some of the decisions taken are the following:

1. Synod declares that Classis Chicago North has refused to comply fully with the decision of Synod and has not directly appealed these decisions.

2. Synod urges Classis Chicago North to continue to insist upon a change of policy with respect to the admission of black covenant children to the Cicero facility of the Timothy Christian School Society.

3. Synod admonishes Classis Chicago North with respect to its failure to address the Cicero civic and social community, reminding it of its obligation to obey the law of the land, specifically by not obstructing compliance with the law, or allowing others to obstruct compliance with the law.

4. Synod urges Classis Chicago North to instruct its negotiating committee to function in harmony with the above decisions and the deliverances of Synod.

5. Synod urges the Lawndale consistory to meet with the negotiating committee of Classis and to accept its share of the responsibilities necessary to bring this delicate problem to a successful conclusion.

6. Synod encourages Class is Chicago North and its churches to continue to use the discipline of the Word to effect necessary changes in the situation.

7. Synod instructs Classis Chicago North to fully inform the Synod of 1972 of what it has done to bring its policy and practices into harmony with these decisions and with the 1968 Declarations on Race.

Korea – Rev. Kye Suk Hwang, General Secretary of the Hapdong Presbyterian Church of Korea was present at Synod.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee is working in cooperation with this church and gives agricultural and medical help. Rev. Hwang stated that their church is a member of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, but is not a member of the World Council of Churches. Rev. Hwang spoke the Korean language. His address was translated by a Korean who has studied at Westminster Theological Seminary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Van Ess, Executive Director of the CRWRC, spoke about the bleSSing he had received while visiting Korea. Calling this “a real Maranatha Church” he said: “While the Lord tarries, let us work together showing the love of Christ in word and deed.”

Race Relations – Synod decided to appoint a Committee on Race Relations, directly answerable to, and directly funded by, Synod. This committee replaces the Race Commission of the Home Missions Board.

The new committee shall continue for a period of three years, at the end of which Synod shall determine its future.

The committee will produce materials, plan conferences, serve as “agents of reconciliation” and “alert the church to existing racial problems.”

Closer Relations with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church – For twelve years the Committee for Closer Relations with the OPC has been functioning under the mandate “to increase its efforts . . . that the way may be paved for possible eventual union.”

At the OPC General Assembly of 1967 the charge of liberalism in the Christian Reformed Church came to the fore. An entirely new OPC committee was formed, with the added mandate of investigating alleged liberalism in the CRC.

Points of discussion have been such matters as the special creation of man, the CRC attitude toward the WCC, the question of particular atonement, biblical infallibility, and faithfulness in discipline. At the request of the OPC, the committee discussions will be continued for another year.

Synod instructed its committee to report to the Synod of 1972 about progress in the discussions for union.

Creeds – Classis Chatham requested Synod to declare that it is necessary and desirable to re-express the faith of the church in a new confession which will replace the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort as a statement of truth and as our standard of unity.

An overture of Classis Alberta North proposed the elimination of the phrase “which will replace.” Classis Central California suggested: “in addition to.”

Synod decided the following:

1. Synod, recognizing that it is always desirable for the church to express its faith in contemporary ways, and recognizing that at times it becomes necessary for the church to augment its confession, appoints a committee to study:

a. How the church can confess its faith in contemporary ways today.

b. Whether the churches consider it necessary to augment their confession at this time.

c. In what areas the church desires to augment its confession.

2. Synod requested this committee, on the basis of this study, to present recommendations to the Synod of 1972.

Neo-Pentecostalism – Classis Sioux Center requested Synod “to make a declaration on our church’s position regarding the special gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongue-speaking, healing, prophecy, baptism of the Spirit, etc.) especially in the light of Neo-Pentecostalism as it is creeping into our denomination.”

Classis Chicago North requested Synod to “appoint a committee to prepare statements of counsel and interpretation regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Synod decided to appoint a committee of seven members to study, in the light of the biblical teaching on the Holy Spirit, the doctrines and practices associated with that which is popularly called “Neo-Pentecostalism” and to explore the reasons for its growing appeal in the Christian Reformed Church.


a. There is much unrest and confusion concerning this matter in our denomination.

b. The creeds of the church are not explicit in reference to this subject. The committee was requested to submit its report to the Synod of 1972.

Synod urges especially ministers and elders to give careful attention to the doctrines and practices of Neo-Pentecostalism in order to be ready to face responsibly the complete issues involved.

Synod urges those with special competence on the subject of Neo-Pentecostalism to serve the church with published articles on the subject, evaluating the movement from the biblical perspective.

The Stated Clerk will send a letter on these decisions to all consistories.

Guidelines on Marriage – Classis Toronto presented an overture requesting a study committee to draw up new guidelines on marriage and divorce and remarriage. This was granted, became the Toronto study is significantly different than the approach of the statement made by the Synod of 1956. The Study Committee will report, with recommendations. Generally a study committee is given two years for its work.

Biblical Authority – Synod of 1969 appointed a committee to study the nature and extent of biblical authority. This committee was to study the manner of interpreting Scripture, as presently employed by some contemporary Reformed scholars. The Gereformeerde Kerken in The Netherlands and the Reformed Ecumenical Synod had requested this study.

On page 268 of the Agenda for Synod 1971 we read that in 1970 Synod referred to this committee the documents concerning Dr. Willis De Boer’s interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis as objected to by the Central Avenue consistory of Holland, Michigan.

Synod 1971 now considered this report. The discussion focused mainly on the “pastoral advice” (pp. 296–303) and on page 294 and 295 of the report.

On these two pages two approaches to Genesis 1–11 are mentioned.

The report stated on page 269: “The Gereformeerde Kerken and the other member churches of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod have a basic commitment to the inspiration and authority of the Scripture as an absolute and infallible rule for faith and life.”

Now we give some excerpts from pages 294 and 295, some of which is in italics. This italics is ours, to indicate key sentences.

On page 293/4 we read about Genesis 1–11 that the confessional statements “affirm that these chapters are historical, but they do not resolve questions concerning the kind of historical reporting contained in them.”

“Must these chapters be interpreted literally, thus implying that they arc for the most part literal descriptions of past events?”

“. . . an affirmation of basic historicity does not necessarily commit one to the view that the narrative is a literal description of an event.”

“There are in the Reformed community several approaches to this question, each having numerous adherents who themselves disagree with one another concerning specific questions.”

“Although granting the essential historicity of these chapters, one point of view argues that they [Genesis 1–11] should not be interpreted as a literal description of events.”

“Scientific evidence i.s only the occasion for reexamining the kind of historical reporting contained in these chapters.”

“We know that revelation is given in words, concepts and symbols known and used by the recipients of that revelation. This in these early chapters God makes use of such words, concepts and symbols in revealing to Abraham or to Moses this early history.”

“Within this view it is possible to suggest, for example, that although Genesis 3 communicates an event, i.e., the fall of man at the beginning of human history, it does so making use of concepts or symbols familiar to Abraham and to the world of that time. This position therefore makes a distinction between the event being reported and the form in which that report comes to us.”

“The other point of view is more closely related to the traditional interpretation of these chapters.”

“. . . basically it argues that these chapters as historical records are not essentially different from the rest of Genesis.”

“This view comes much closer to interpreting these chapters as literal descriptions of events.”

Then the report continues:

“We have not given all of the arguments for either of these positions, since it is not our purpose to judge the correctness of either.”

“Both positions preserve the intent of the confessional statements, both function on the basis of principles considered acceptable in the interpretation of Scripture.”

Thus, if this report would be accepted, it would give freedom to interpret certain Paradise situations in a non-literal way—for instance, that the snake was not a real snake or that we can take God’s making of the coats of skin or the breathing into Adam’s nostrils as symbolic.

A long discussion developed on the Boor of Synod. Everyone sensed the importance of the hour.

Finally it was decided not to take a decision about the report at this Synod in accepting or rejecting, but to refer the report and its recommendations to the churches for study and reactions.

The study committee was continued, so as to be able to receive the comments from the churches.

The committee was asked to evaluate these reactions, and structure the discussion as it deems best, with a view to presenting a report in 1972.

Synod will make this Report 1971 available to the churches in booklet form.

Society Control of Calvin College – There was an overture from the Niekerk Christian Reformed Church, Holland, Michigan (and a few other overtures), requesting that Calvin College be not owned and operated by the church as an Institute, but by an association of believers.

Synod decided not to accede to this request.

Two of the grounds listed, are: “No synod has ever asserted that maintaining a college is part of the primary task of the church, but synods have held that the church may exercise this right for the welfare of the church and the Kingdom, which right it exercises in a number of enterprises.”

“Synod has defined very explicitly the conditions that must exist before the church may cease to own and operate Calvin College (see Acts of Synod 1957, p. 49). These conditions do not in any way prevail today.”