The decision referred to in the heading of this article concerns the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN). The request for our support of this united, interdenominational training school for native African ministers in our Nigerian field was the subject of much debate at and before the Christian Reformed Synod of 1959. That Synod decided, first,“ to participate in TCNN only to the extent of loaning Dr. Boer as teacher of Reformed theology in the TCNN.” This meant, of course, that no contributions should be made by our Church to the erection of buildings or to the support of students. Second, Synod decided, in view of a previously expressed declaration concerning “its total commitment to the Reformed faith,” to “instruct the Christian Reformed Board of Missions and the Nigerian General Conference to maintain and develop the Reformed Pastor’s Training program in Nigeria with a view to hopefully establishing a Reformed Theological Seminary.”
It is no exaggeration to say that these decisions are being flaunted by the General Conference of missionaries on the Nigerian field and that our Mission Board does not seem determined, at least as far as a bare majority of the members are concerned, to insist that these decisions shall be carried out.
To begin with the Reformed Pastors’ Training program, the Mission Board reports regarding this as follows to next month’s Synod: “It was decided to establish a pre-seminary course at Lupwe. This was considered by the Nigerian General Conference to be in harmony with the decision of 1959 to ‘instruct the Christian Reformed Board of Mission and the Nigerian General Conference to maintain and develop the Reformed Pastor’s Training program in Nigeria with a view to hopefully establishing a Reformed Theological Seminary.’ But it was reported in The Banner by the principal of the School (Dec. 4, 1959, page 6) that this pre· seminary course is merely intended to prepare the future ministers of the Benue and Tiv churches for their seminary training at the TCNN! In this manner those who represent us in our Nigerian field will be circumventing the decision of our 1959 Synod. That decision did not call for a Reformed pre-seminary course to prepare for TCNN but for the eventual establishment of a Reformed Theological Seminary.
We trust the coming Synod will express its displeasure with this particular plan of the leaders on our Nigerian field and insist on the execution of the 1959 decision.
In regard to the financial support of the TCNN wruch, according to the 1959 decision of our Synod, should be restricted to “the full cost of Dr. Boer’s teaching, for salary, housing, and traveling,” the General Conference now comes to the Board with a request that “a special gift found” shall be established for TCNN. It is strange that the Mission Board does not even recommend to Synod that such a fund shall be established but merely reports: “It was decided by our Board to heed the request of Conference”—though it adds: “In this connection we feel we should inform Synod that there was considerable division of opinion in the Board concerning this matter. There was question as to whether Synod’s decision re TCNN in 1959 closed the door to such a gift fund as approved in 1958.” As if this was a question! Synod stipulated that our Church should “participate in TCNN only to the extent of loaning Dr. Boer as teacher of Reformed theology in the TCNN” and that this should cover only “the full cost of Dr. Boer’s teaching, for salary, housing, and traveling.”
There was indeed “considerable division of opinion” among the members of the Board on tIris particular matter of a “special gift fund.” An overture from the Seattle Consistory informs Synod that the Board agreed to the request of General Conference “after extensive debate, by a 15–14 vote.” Moreover, nine of the members who voted against the request are sending an appeal to the coming Synod urging it “not to approve the action of the Board, and to re-emphasize Synod’s stand on our relationship to TCNN.” This appeal is supported by the overture from the Seattle Consistory declaring that the General Conference is opposing rather than executing the decisions of 1959 regarding TCNN and continuing in its course of participation in the unorthodox TCNN, in disregard of Synod’s decisions to the contrary.
The Appeal signed by nine board members contends concerning the request for a “special gift fund” that (1) it arises out of dissatisfaction with Synodical Decisions, (2) is based on faulty presuppositions, (3) is not in accord with the Synodical Decisions of 1958 and 1959 (italics not ours). It seems to us that the interpretation which this Appeal gives of the various synodical decisions makes it clear as day that the request of General Conference is in conflict with all that previous Synods have decided regarding our participation in the TCNN. That applies even to the decision of 1958. The Synod of that year did authorize the collection of foods, but “this was but a temporary arrangement due to the fact that we had not yet defined our relationship to TCNN”; and “because Synod feared the implications of that decision, it stated that this did not commit the Christian Reformed Church to TCNN.” Moreover, a number of classical protests against that cautious decision were registered at the Synod of 1959. And that Synod stated clearly and definitely that the Christian Reformed Church shall “participate in TCNN only to the extent of loaning Dr. H. Boer as teacher of Reformed Theology in TCNN.”
The men who signed this Appeal are Rev. Peter Vander Weide, Rev. J. B. Hulst, Rev. F. Einfeld, Rev. J. H. De Haan, Rev. C. Huissen, Rev. G. H. Vande Riet, Dr. Peter Y. De Jong, Rev. Peter De Jong, and Rev. C. J. Toezet.
Another “Appeal,” signed by four of the signatOries to the document just reviewed, asks Synod not to support the request of the General Conference, backed by the Board of Missions, to pay the cost of those who study at TCNN. The contention of the appellants is that paying student costs at TCNN is a considerable step beyond merely loaning a teacher. The four men who signed this Appeal are Rev. Peter De Jong. Rev. C. Huissen, Rev. C. H. Van de Riet, and Dr. Peter Y. De Jong.
There is, in addition to these two protests against the recommendation of the Mission Board, an overture by the Seattle Consistory already referred to above. Besides, two of our Classes are sending separate overtures to Synod requesting it not to approve the Special Gift Fund proposal of the Board. These two bodies are Classis British Columbia and Classis Orange City.
It would appear, in view of all these protests and of the fact that the vote in the Mission Board was a very close one (15 to 14). that the requests of the General Conference will have hard sledding at this year’s Synod.