In what follows we present to our readers some of the most important decisions taken by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church and a summary of the discussions. In many instances literal quotations are given of the remarks made by the delegates. For various reasons we could not quote all the delegates. We are sure, however, that what is presented will give the reader a fairly accurate picture of the course of the discussion.
Synod convened on Wednesday, June B. The officers elected were: Rev. T. C. Van Kooten, President; Rev. Dr. W. Rutgers, Vice-president. Rev. George Gritter, Secretary; Rev. William Brink, Assistant Secretary.
We report only some of the decisions and discussions at Synod—those that in our opinion touch on or are related to matters basic and principal or which, though they concern individuals, are of general interest.
Our first report deals with matters pertaining to the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures. The study committee appointed last year reported that it plans to report to Synod in 1961. This is in accordance with the rule that synodical study committees ordinarily have two years for study and the preparation of their report.
As our readers may know, certain Classes had presented overtures to Synod in connection with what the Synod of 1959 had decided on Scriptural infallibility, particularly the following decision: “Synod declares that it is inconsonant with the creeds to declare or suggest that there is an area of Scripture in which it is allowable to posit the possibility of actual historical inaccuracies (cf. Article V, Belgic Confession, ‘believing without doubt all things contained therein’).”
Synod sustained the protest of Classis Chicago South that Synod had not answered the 1959 overture of Classis Chicago South in which Synod was asked not to take action on the subject of inspiration. The Advisory Committee (reporter Rev. E. H. Oostendorp) advised synod to declare that “although the overture asked Synod ‘not to do what Synod had not yet decided to do,’ this was Classis’ right since every Classis has the privilege of urging Synod not to take action on certain matters, just as well as it has the right to urge Synod to approve of specific issues.” In this case three overtures (Nos. 15,28,35) from as many Classes were asking the adoption of a synodical declaration regarding the inspiration of Scripture, and Classis Chicago South was entitled to register its reaction to these overtures.
We report on this matter though it is not of special importance. The recommendation to approve the protest was adopted after a rather brief discussion.
Three other overtures were of much greater import. They were designed to persuade Synod to virtually set aside the decision of last year about the historical accuracy of Scripture to the extent of asking the present Study Committee on inspiration to pass judgment on that decision. These two overtures came from Canadian Classes: Alberta North. Alberta South, and Chatham. Only one of these is found in the printed Agenda (Classis Alberta South) and reads as follows (abbreviated)! “Classis Alberta South protests to the Synod of 1960 the action of the Synod of 1959 in making a doctrinal decision in the interpretation of Article V of the Belgic Confession…without first having consulted the churches and requests that this doctrinal deliverance be committed for study to the study committee appointed in 1959. Grounds: (a) This decision violates the principle expressed in Article 30 of the Church Order; (b) the interpretation of Article V of the Belgic Confession should be one of the main subjects of study both for the churches and for the synodical study committee…; (c)…the Synod gave an interpretation of the creed in which a highly controversial issue, being debated not only ill the faculty of the Seminary, but also in the bosom of the church. was decided by an immediate and binding pronouncement.”
The recommendation of the Advisory Committee was “not to sustain this and the other similar protests, and that on the following grounds:
a. This action was not a violation of Church Order Article 30 since this was a matter which pertains to the churches of Synod in com man (namely, a doctrinal difference in the Seminary). Moreover, the matter on which Synod declared itself was before the minor assemblies in the form of several overtures to Synod—Nos. 15, 28, 35, 48. The appeal to the provision of the new Church Order of De Gereformeerde Kerken, although suggestive, has no direct bearing on the policy of our Church. On the other hand, there are many precedents for making such doctrinal pronouncements in a very similar manner, cf. Synods of 1922, 1924, 1937. b. The quotation: ‘the conviction of the church on such a crucial point of doctrine should not be decided. hastily’ (Acts 1959, Art. 139, C, 7, b, , [a]) does not refer specifically to the declaration under consideration, but to the decision to “withhold further judgment whether or not at this point the view expressed by President Kromminga is consistent with the creeds, and commit this matter to a thorough study.” Hence this is not a valid ground for this protest. c. The appointment of a study committee docs not involve a contradiction of the declaration under question, since there are many areas that need further elucidation, and the mandate of the committee is by no means limited to the single point made in the declaration. The appointment of the committee was also occasioned by the Report of the Board of Trustees and the recommendation of the Seminary Faculty.
The recommendation of the Advisory Committee concerning the request of Classis Chatham“ to pronounce that the declaration in question be understood not as definitive and binding at this time, but open for further consideration and study, by the study Committee” was that Synod should not accede to this request. The ground in substance was that “Synod clearly intended its decision to be of a piece with all synodical decisions adopted by majority vote, and considered ‘settled and binding’ and Synod acted accordingly in its disposition of the concrete case before it.”
Now the interesting and lengthy discussion which followed.
Rev. R Rienstra said he did not intend to make a long speech but he wanted to know about the proper interpretation of Article 30 of the Church Order and who should give that interpretation.
The Reporter, Rev. E. H. Oostendorp, replied as follows: Article 30 has two parts. The point that is especially relevant is the statement that in major assemblies only such matters shall be dealt with as could not be finished in minor assemblies, or such as pertain to the churches of the major assembly in common. This safeguards the rights of both minor and major assemblies. Now, this was not a matter of minor assemblies. It was brought to the attention of Synod because of the difficulty in our Seminary. It concerned a minor subpoint in eight declarations in connection with a protest of Dr. Prof. Wyngaarden against President Kromminga. This matter, though not taken by Synod from a minor assembly, pertained to the churches in common. Now, one may say that the minor assemblies should first have had the opportunity to express themselves. But the fact is that the matter was not taken up before the minor assemblies had been able to speak on it. (There is a reference here to the fact that several Classes had sent overtures to the 1959 Synod pertaining to the infallibility issue–K.)
The Reporter continued: The Classis appeals to a new article in the Church Order of the Netherlands which says that no decisions shall be taken in important matters unless they have first been referred to the minor assemblies. But we feel as a Committee, first, that that Church Order is not the Order of our churches; second, that it is open to question what that article intends to say. It pertains only to such important matters as the determination of the creed, the acceptance of an order of worship, and of a book of praise. That article says nothing about an interpretation of the creed. Our synods in the past have not considered it a violation to take such decisions. (Synods of 1922, ‘24, and ‘37 are mentioned. ) Synod, as the representative of aU the churches, has the right to make such pronouncements.
Rev. J. Hoogland said he remembered very distinct1y that when the Jannssen matter was adjudicated in 1922 a committee of investigation had been appointed beforehand (Speaker mentioned the names of the members). They were divided four against three. That Committee had worked two years. Therefore he could not see how anyone could say what the reporter had just said. As to the Synod of 1924 (Common Grace issue), Rev. Van Baalen had previously gone to Classis Grand Rapids West with his complaints. Speaker then asked: Is this historically accurate?
The Reporter replied: That is historically accurate in so far that a committee had been appointed for investigation. Yet when Synod spoke it did not refer its decisions back to the Classes for discussion.
Rev. Tymen Hofman (Classis Alberta South) then made a long speech and said in substance: Classis Alberta South does not say that it is not the right of the Synod to make doctrinal pronouncements. That is not only its right but its duty. We don’t want to do anything to take that away. We don’t say that the action of 1959 was contrary to the Church Order. But it violated the principle and the spirit of the Church Order. It was done without consultation with the Classes and without a study committee. And it was not a minor matter. We wish to take things seriously but we also want things to be formulated seriously. The whole procedure has violated the spirit of the Church Order. No deliberative body below Synod had come to grips with the infallibility question. There was no chance to discuss the material aspects of the matter. This statement about there being no historical inaccuracies in Scripture is ambiguous; it can be interpreted in different ways. If you let me interpret it in my own way I can agree with it. It is open to misinterpretation or a dual interpretation.
Rev. A. B. C. Hofland, also from Canada, took the same position as the former speaker. He said we must always ask what the underlying principle of the Church Order is. It deals with the limited authority of major assemblies. That quotation from the new Church Order of the Netherlands is not just suggestive but expresses genuine Reformed Church Polity. I want to stress the fact that the action of the Synod of 1959 was in conflict with the underlying principle of Article 30 of the Church Order.
Prof. M. Monsma: I am adviser to this Committee and am personally convinced that the brethren who have appealed to Article 59 of the Church Order of the Gereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands have misunderstood it. (The speaker reads the article.) What the article says so far pertains to the formulation of the creed, the acceptance of a praise book, etc, And then we read that the General Synod shall with a view to these matters make no definite decisions without giving the minor assemblies the opportunity to consider them. There is nothing here to the effect that if a doctrinal statement is made by the Synod regarding a protest, that then the matter must first be referred to a minor assembly. At the Synod of Dort (at which the Five Canons of Dort were adopted) and in the case Netelenbos (a few decades ago this minister denied the historical character of the story of the Fall in Genesis 3–K), did they then postpone action till the churches had been consulted? No, they went right ahead. The Synod of 1959 did not make all kinds of doctrinal pronouncements. But when that Synod felt it had enough light on the matter concerned they had the right to make a pronouncement.
Prof. H. Dekker: I want to pursue somewhat the matter of the first ground of the report of the Advisory Committee, namely, that the matter on which the Synod declared itself (no “historical inaccuracies” in Scripture–K) was before the minor assemblies in the form of several overtures to Synod. Those overtures did not deal with that material but with the article in the Chimes, etc. This ground is a fallacious one.
Rev. J. Hoogland: I wish we could get out of this in another way. Personally I would be satisfied if we would give the Study Committee the mandate to study that pronouncement of 1959.
A delegate from Classis Rocky Mountain whose name we did not know, though later we gathered that it was Rev. R. B. Vermeer, stated that this classis did ask Synod to reaffirm the position of the creed on the subject of Scriptural infallibility. That very thing, said the Speaker, was in the mind of Classis Rocky Mountain. This, he continued, referring to the decision in regard to the historical accuracy of Scripture, was the answer. It was an interpretation of our Belgic Confession and helped to satisfy the demand in the church for a statement. (That overture read as follows: “Classis Rocky Mountain overtures Synod to reaffirm the historic position. of the Reformed Churches in regard to the infallibility of the Word of God as expressed in the writings of the Reformed theologians, in the creeds of the Church, and by the Synod of the Christian. Reformed Church.” Three “grounds” were given: “(a) the historic position of the infallibility of Scripture has been questioned by a recent student publication in the Seminary and College; (b) this has occasioned serious concern by the Church; (c) this concerns a vital and basic tenet of our faith.”(–K)
One of the ministers whose name we did not know at the time and whose remarks we did not hear clearly stated that he did not agree with Prof. Monsma’s interpretation of Article 59 of the Church Order of the Netherlands. Prof. Monsma replied that the brother had misunderstood him. He had said that Article 59 says that in certain specific things the General Synod must first recognize the minor assemblies.
Rev. K. Hart: It seems that this has to do with the formal aspect of the matter only. But one would get the impression that we are considering the material aspects of the question. This is not an opportunity to get rid of the decision of 1959. I was at that Synod and disagreed with that doctrinal statement. I fought against its adoption. But the Synod of 1959 said: We need this, we are ready for this. When the Synod says that, we should be very careful to say now: Synod did not have that right. Now I say: It is valid, even though I don’t agree with it.
Rev. William Brink: It is stated here that this matter was before the Classes. But the matter of this decision was not before the Classes. There were two overtures requesting Synod not to make such a declaration (Speaker quotes one of them). Classis Chicago South was afraid of such a thing as Synod did and Classis Holland asked Synod to refrain from hasty pronouncements. Now these overtures say that Synod did that which those overtures asked Synod not to do. This statement is an extra-creedal explanation, not just an adjudication.
Prof. A. A. Hoekema: At the Synod of 1959 I spoke against the adoption of the statement because it might lead us into difficulties. However, Synod did adopt it and we are bound by it. We should be very careful about rescinding a Synodical decision. I teach Reformed Dogmatics at our Seminary and I have difficulty with this statement (concerning the historical accuracy of Scripture–K). This statement does not tell us whether it applies to the autographa or to the text which we have. That certainly should be spelled out. As to the overture of Classis Rocky Mountain, it mentions our Reformed theologians. One of these is Dr. H. Bavinck. Let me quote one sentence from his Gereformeerde Dogmatick. I am giving my own translation. (The Speaker then quoted a sentence from vol. I, p. 474, third edition, reading as follows [translation mine but we quote also the preceding sentence]: “Nevertheless, the entire manner in which history is written in Holy Scripture witnesses that it follows its own course and has its own design. It does not give us in the determination of place and time, in the order of events, in the grouping of circumstances that exactness which we often would wish.” In another place [next issue] we shall make clear that Prof. Hoekema has misinterpreted this sentence.–K.) Task myself that when Synod said there are no historical inaccuracies in Scripture, did it want to say that Bavinck was wrong? If not, what did Synod want to say?
At this point several of the delegates protested that the Speaker was out of order because he was discussing the doctrinal aspect of the matter. The chairman so ruled.
In reply to a question by Rev. A. B. C. Hofland, the Reporter made the remark that the protests should have been made against the decisions of the Ecumenical Synod as adopted by the Synod of 1959, and that the Study Committee is bound also by those decisions. Then Rev. Hofland said: I have no objection that in the case of protests Synod gives an answer from the creeds. But this was a declaration on a crucial point of doctrine. Some say: this is an interpretation of the creed. But every declaration of a Synod is an interpretation of the creed. I may have no objection against the interpretation but I do have against the formal side of it. I am thinking of the principles of Church Polity. We must not refer things to committees but to our churches. These two Classes are not fighting against the contents of that decision. The churches in the Netherlands learned something about adopting binding declarations; they have suffered because of them.
At this moment a motion was made to vote on the recommendation but not on the ground. The result was a hassle about technicalities. Some one else suggested to vote on the grounds before voting on the recommendation. The result: more confusion. There was also a motion to vote on the recommendation and the first ground only. All these suggestions met with disfavor but much time was consumed in discussing them pro and con.
The following day Rev. N. Veltman was making a speech while we were coming in. The substance of it was that the Synod of 1959 had acted in haste and that therefore its decision should be referred to the Study Committee which was appointed last year and will report in 1961.
In his reply the Reporter, Rev. E. Oostendorp, contended that the mandate given that Committee to study the subject of Bible infallibility did not conflict with the decision that there are no historical inaccuracies in the Bible; that there were many other aspects of the subject of infallibility which deserved special study and that these had been spelled out by the 1959 Synod in circumscribing the task of that Committee.
Rev. C. W. Flietstra: Prof. Monsma spoke about the Article 59 of the Netherlands. We want to make a declaration about Article V of our Confession; but that same article of the Church Order in the Netherlands also mentions the adoption of a Church Order as having to be referred back to the churches. We have spent four or five years drawing up a new Church Order; but a declaration concerning the Belgic Confession can be spelled out in a few days. Rev. Guillaume said he was amazed at the hastiness of Synod. Are we in such a hurry that we can’t engage in honest discussion with our sister churches? We have already accepted the decisions of the Ecumenical Synod on Infallibility. Last night I read the communication from the Protestant Reformed Churches. It concerns the declarations of 1924 on common grace. There I read: the term common grace should not be determined by ecclesiastical decisions that go beyond the creed. I agree with Rev. Veltman that haste makes waste.
Reporter Oostendorp: We as a Committee have decided to ask Synod to recommit this matter to our Committee. Very likely we shall be able to come with some suggestions which might give some guidance.
Rev. W. Brink spoke against this suggestion on the ground that to recommit at this time would be to nullify the discussion which has just been held.
Prof. Ralph Stob: I am not impressed as some are with the haste of 1959. But to recommit now has all the earmarks of haste.
Rev. Bartel N. Huizenga: We must act very wisely in this matter. If we do not try to reformulate, to give satisfactory answers, and to give assurance to our denomination in this matter, we are not acting wisely.
There are two important matters with which we have to deal: the appeal of these Classes and the statement of Synod made last year. We can’t brush these aside. This will take a lot of study. (Note: Rev. Huizenga spoke as one of the members of the Advisory Committee.–K)
Rev. George Gritter, Synod’s Secretary: There are a number of speakers on this list who have not had a chance to speak. My name happens to be on this list. The discussion has been a bit one-sided from my point of view. We should be permitted to speak. Then perhaps it may be all right to recommit.
Some one whose name we did not understand when it was mentioned stated that he was concerned about the influence which these protests, if adopted, would have on the peace of the church.
A motion was made to recommit the matter to the Advisory Committee. This was adopted after some discussion.
Notes by H.J.K.
At a later session the Advisory Committee presented its revised recommendations.
The Advisory Committee now recommends that “Synod do not accede to the protests of Classes Alberta South and Chatham Grounds: (a) Article 30 of the Church Order has not been violated; ( b ) The doctrinal declaration…is intended as an interpretative statement of our Creed in the adjudication of an appeal; (c) The declaration of Synod 1959…, ‘the conviction of the church on such a crucial point of doctrine should not be decided hastily’ has no direct reference to the decision…against which protest is made; (d) the Study Committee appointed to study Inspiration and Infallibility has not expressed difficulty for the lack of specific inclusion of this declaration in their mandate;…e. Until proved wrong the declaration of Synod 1959 has the same validity as do all other similar rulings.”
Rev. Tymen Hofman of Calgary asked for the floor to defend the overture of his Classis. He registered disappointment with the recommendation of the committee since it had failed to find a common ground in the mind of the Synod, but bad rather further re-trenched its original position and that with great finality. With this he addressed himself to each of the grounds. He said: Alberta South did not say that Article 30 had been violated but that the principle in it–viz., that each assembly has its own rights had not come to its own. He further accused the committee of not affirming its former first ground because it had lost its validity. (Parenthetically it may be stated that the reporter refuted this by saying that their former reasoning still was sound but had been boiled down to a shorter statement. The Committee had held in the first instance that since this was a matter (namely, a doctrinal difference in the Seminary) which pertains to the churches of Synod in common, the Synod’s declaration was not a violation of Article 30, C.O.
Against the second ground Mr. Hofman said that he was not willing to settle for the principle that we must always adjudicate a case by an expository statement on the Creeds. (To this Prof. Woudstra later replied that the only way a Synod could answer a matter without repeating the creed verbatim [and interpreting the words of the Creed was the issue] was to give in its own words the meaning of the Creed on a given matter.)
Concerning the third ground Rev. Hofman said that this was one of the most specious arguments on the page, for Synod says that on such a crucial point of doctrine no hasty decision should be made, and then it proceeds to give a verdict forthwith…To this we object. (This was also answered later by the reporter who said that the declaration of Synod 1959 concerning a crucial point of doctrine had reference to the decision to “withhold further judgment whether or not at this point the view expressed by President Kromminga is consistent with the creeds, and commit this matter to a thorough study.”)
In regard to the fourth ground (point d above) Rev. Hofman wondered whether the Advisory Committee had actually talked to the Study Committee on inspiration and infallibility, since he had received a different impression from one of its members. The speaker was willing to grant that ground five (point e above) might be correct in itself but, said he, “that is not a ground against the protest of Alberta South.”
Point 2 of the Advisory Committee’s report read as follows: “Although Synod has not sustained these protests in view of the fact that these appeals also contain specific requests that this declaration be ‘open for further consideration and study, your advisory committee recommends: ‘Synod declare that it is the right of the churches and any ecclesiastical committee to study and test in the light of Scripture all creedal statements and synodical declarations.’” Rev. Hofman said: This is the Committee’s way to try to appease us. The Committee says nothing that we do not know! This does but one thing! It but increases the authority of the statement of 1959…making it like that of 1924…it does not meet the mind of Synod. Therefore, we must face the issue very concretely and realistically. There is, indeed, a real problem…I have no personal problem with the statement of 1959…no problem with infallibility…I am a simple minister and willing to abide by the decisions of Synod…but we protest with utmost vigor against what we are convinced to be an infringement upon the churches of Jesus Christ…and against the trend all too evident…that we expect the top to do everything and the bottom to do nothing…We feel there must be a return to responsible action by consistories and classes and our protest asks this…This is a classical concern, a synodical concern, an ecumenical concern…for this is a violation of C.O. Article 30, and we ought to deal with it as such.
The reporter agreed that whether Article 30 of C.O. had been violated was truly the issue and that his committee was of the opinion that this was not the case.
Rev. W. Brink got up to defend the overture of South Alberta and that of Chatham, since they were a protest against the summary treatment which had been given to the overtures of Classis Chicago South and Classis Holland in 1959, asking Synod to make no extra-creedal statements which shall bind the churches and to refrain from hasty pronouncements or rash judgments, respectively. Speaker contended that the Synod of 1959 did the very thing which it had been asked not to do, and that it had not given the Classes time to reflect on these matters.
Rev. G. Gritter got up to say that something ought to be said on the other side. He read Article 30 of the Church Order and denied that the spirit of that article had been violated since the matter before Synod had not come from the minor assemblies, but dealt rather with a matter that had arisen in the Seminary, which was the concern of all the churches and hence rightly a matter of which Synod could dispose. In that light we must interpret the decision of 1959…History marches on! Synod of 1959 judged that in the common interest of peace and unity a doctrinal statement was needed concerning something which had been contested Synod merely reacted to what it considered to be an incorrect interpretation of the Belgic Confession. That was not rash or hasty.
The Chair opened at this point that Article 30 of C.O. had been sufficiently debated and warned speakers against repetition. Prof. Woudstra said that he would heed the admonition of the Chair, but reminded Synod that the two Classes protesting were on weak ground since it was their responsibility to prove that Synod 1959 had made extracreedal statements, which they had not done. Synod itself did not elevate this explicatory statement to an extracreedal character. It is not something new.
Rev. W. D. Buursma said that he was pleased with the remarks of the former speaker but did not share his conclusions. “I recall a speech given in Chicago that every minister and elder ought to subscribe to the statement of 1959. I like to ask the Reporter, Does the statement of 1959 have relevance only in adjudicating a case or does it also apply to me and others?”
The Reporter responded by saying that this statement in question was not the only one of a doctrinal nature made by Synod of 1959, but that the other, which concerned the second charge of Dr. Wyngaarden versus Dr. Kromminga, had not been objected to. That one had more implications than the one now under dispute. In direct answer to Rev. Buursma: I would say that 1959 gave an interpretation of a legal matter before Synod (supreme court) on the basis of its constitution (the Confession). It is sometimes said that the Church made a new law…but there are never two identical instances of variance from the creed…the decisions of Synod are settled and binding unless proved contrary to Scripture and the Church Order…Synod did not out of the blue make a doctrinal or creedal declaration…It took up the case of Wyngaarden versus Kromminga and felt that there was sufficient light to settle this case…What they said we all believe, Rev. Hofman being my witness.
Rev. H. N. Erffmeyer of Chicago North said: We must regard the matter in the light of its historical context. Chicago North also had an overture at the 1959 Synod of the same import as that of Chicago South, but the particular case of Wyngaarden versus Kromminga was not in consideration at that time; hence it had no difficulty with the statement at all. No voice at Classis had made any objection to the controversial statement made by the Synod of 1959.
Rev. R. Opperwall of Racine said: Here at Synod we tend to become specialists in ecclesiastical law…we look at things from a legal viewpoint. But let us put it in the light of the Reformed doctrine of the Church, i.e., that the Church is not a hierarchy, but rather a collection of congregations, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 16:13). The Church does not simply mean the Synod, but all the people…I would be the very last to deny that the statement of 1959 was not given by the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit speaks to all the churches…not just once here to the Synod…what are we afraid of? Why not entrust this thing to the study committee…for a deeper apprehension of the truth? Therefore we ought to sustain the overtures.
Rev. N. Veltman had some difficulty with the formal phraseology of the recommendation before Synod, namely, “Synod do not accede to the protest.” This protest of Alberta South is not answered, for the burden of the protest is that the doctrinal deliverance of 1959 should be delivered to the Study Committee appointed by the 1959 Synod. In my opinion the Advisory Committee does not touch that point…If we can get the material of 7-B-2 into the hands of the Study Committee many of us will be satisfied…What our Church needs is a clear, definitive statement on infallibility…Our people have to be instructed as to what is involved.
The Reporter replied that since Cl. Chatham had spelled out the matter more in detail than CI. Chicago South the Committee had addressed itself to that overture more in particular; but, said he, “we cannot undo what Synod of 1959 did.”
An elder called for the question, which was sustained by the body, and the first recommendation of the Advisory Committee, not to accede to the overtures of Alberta South and Chatham was passed.
Thereupon the Reporter moved the second recommendation: “Synod declare that it is the right of the churches and any ecclesiastical committee to study and test in the light of Scripture all creedal statements and synodical declarations.”
Prof. R. B. Kuiper asked for the floor and said: It is highly desirable to have the Committee study the decision of 1959, since it is not perfect. At the time I asked the question, “Does that statement apply to the original manuscript?” and the reply was, “Of course!”
I did not press the point, since it went without saying. But I have discovered that for many in the Church it does not go without saying. And I have also made the amazing discovery that there are intelligent people who are shocked to hear that there are inaccuracies in our English Bible, as we have it today. They know nothing about textual criticism—a very necessary discipline. Our people need to be told that the statement of the Synod of 1959 refers only to the original manuscripts. Dr. Klooster asked then whether the term “inaccuracies” was not a bit inaccurate. The Dutch has onnauwkeurigheden. What does one mean? Some think that the use of round numbers in Scripture constitutes an inaccuracy. Discrepancies would have been more correct, which refers to a contradiction. Is there a real discrepancy? Certainly not! Now the committee is to study these matters.
After a few more remarks the second recommendation of the Advisory Committee was also passed.
Notes by H.R.V.T.
The Position of Our Seminary Professors at Synod
Another important matter which Synod decided on was the matter whether the theological professors, particularly the retired theolOgical professors, should be permitted to continue to serve in an unrestricted advisory capacity. At the 1959 Synod there was an overture from Classes Alberta South requesting that the advisory capacity of the emeriti professors should be limited on the ground that the increase of Seminary professors had unwarrantedly increased the number of men who are not delegated to Synod but who nevertheless have a permanent voice in the deliberations of Synod. The two men who were then and were now also at this Synod involved in this matter are the Emeritus President of the Seminary. Rev. R. B. Kuiper, and his brother, the emeritus professor, Dr. Herman Kuiper.
The Synod of 1959 gave two reasons for rejecting that overture. These were: (a) The danger mentioned by Classis Alberta South is not substantiated; (b) It is to the advantage of Synod to use the wisdom of the emeritated professors, which has been gained by years of experience.
At this Synod of 1960 two overtures asked for reconsideration of the decision of 1959 regarding this matter. Three other overtures also dealt with the same subject, one of them going so far as to request that the emeriti professors should be excluded from all participation in Synod’s business.
The Advisory Committee, reporting through Rev. Raymond Opperwal, recommended. first,. that S y nod should reconsider the decision of 1959 anent this matter. That recommendation was adopted, after Rev. Clifford Vander Ark had remarked: Synod has increased in size; so has the number of professors. They have not made themselves a nuisance.
The second recommendation concerned the emeriti professors only. It offered the following revision of the present rule: “The emeriti professors shall have a limited advisory capacity, their advice to be given upon the request of the chairman of the Synod. They shall function as advisers to advisory committees upon the request of the Synod or an advisory committee.” Two considerations (“grounds”) were offered in support of this recommendation: “(a) The increase in the number of seminary professors in the last five years, which will ultimately lead to a similar increase in emeriti professors, has greatly increased the number of men I who are not delegated but who bave a permanent voice at Synod; (b) Emeriti professors are not active office-bearers in the church.”
Let us at this point explain that this matter is of greater importance than may appear at the surface. Personalities were involved in this matter, at the 1959 and also the 1960 Synod. There were a number of delegates at the former Synod who more or less openly showed their impatience when the emeriti professors spoke on important matters, especially the infallibility issue. A number of visitors at Synod observed manifestations of that impatience and expressed disapproval. One of those present even predicted that at a following Synod “their wings would be clipped.” We do not say that this was the motive behind all the overtures that dealt with the matter. Doubtless, some sincerely believe that sometimes the professors speak more frequently than is necessary. Others perhaps were influenced by the fact that at the General Synods of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, only a few of the theological professors serve as advisers. Nevertheless, we feel that our readers are entitled to know something about the behind-the-scenes aspect of this issue.
Dr. W. H. Rutgers; There would be little desire on the part of the emeriti professors to come to Synod if this should pass. These are men with many years of experience; we should appreciate their advice. If I were such an emeritus professor I would feel that I might as well stay home if this is adopted.
Rev. Henry Petersen; Does this recommendation imply that these men would be present here among the delegates? May I assume that they would be sitting in the regular place?
Rev. B. J. Haan; Would this mean that the delegates may ask their advice and would there first have to be a motion to do so? If they were once asked to speak on a certain matter, would they be permitted to speak again on the same subject? It seems to me we are quibbling about an insignificant matter. We are getting more and more Classes and delegates. This year we have 120 delegates; next year there will be 124. I don’t think I have seen one emeritus professor bog down the works and cause a lot of unnecessary discussion. We are forgetting something else also. What about the new professors? Should we then not make a rule about them also? Now we are putting age and wisdom on the shelf. I think we ought to respect these men and vote this down.
Reporter Opperwal: We don’t list among our grounds that a particular emeritus professor is in the way. These grounds appeal to a principle. It is a simple fact that a professor is not a delegate. Yet he has a permanent voice every year. I think no one in our Committee wishes to regard our emeriti professors with anything else than honor. This is a matter of principle.
Rev. A. W. Schaafsma; I go along with Dr. Rutgers and Rev. B. J. Haan. As to the grounds, I should like to see the second ground eliminated. It is not necessary to be an office-bearer in the church to have the right to speak at Synod. I remember reading an article in Gereformeerd Weekblad by Dr. H. Ridderbos. He believes that even a minor assembly can delegate a non-office-bearer.
Rev. J. T. Malestein: Chicago South, our Classis, it seems, is receiving about the same treatment as last year. We are calling for a more radical action. Our overture should be considered first. It is not receiving the consideration in this report which it deserves.
The Reporter admits that his report is not a complete answer to the particular overture of Classis Chicago South. This Classis says: Give them no advisory capacity at all. We propose that they shall have a limited advisory capacity.
Rev. H. N. Erffmeyer; I believe that the advice given in recommendation No. 2 does make undue discrimination bet wee n active and retired professors. I believe the overture of Classis Chicago North is a better one. There should be a certain limitation to all the professors. Their advice should be limited to the particular area of theological discipline in which they teach. Thus suspicion will be avoided that they have too much influence at Synod. Speaker would like to see point 2 defeated.
Dr. P. Berkhout; I am in favor of this motion. The remark has been made that the professors don’t speak long. I recall that at one Synod a certain professor made a long, impassioned speech; but I also believe we ought to cut our delegates in half (Laughter). The chairman remarked: “Not much would be left of you if you were cut in half” (More laughter).
Rev. Raymond Haan : I agree with the Speaker who said that the professors are worthy of honor. Some of these grounds are not too relevant. We can limit the professors according to the rules we already have. There are other factors. Most of us live only a short time. It is only a short time that an emeritus professor can serve us after he retires. As to the principle, we might go to the Old Testament where we learn that the priests who were retired were kept in service.
Prof. Ralph Stab: Though we recommend that professors receive an “indefinite appointment” we do not continue indefinitely. Actuarial statistics will not support the statement in this recommendation that “The increase in the number of seminary professors will ultimately lead to a similar increase in emeriti professors.”
Rev. C. H. Vande Riet: I don’t like this word: limited. This sounds too much like muzzling a dog. I believe the professors will use their discretion. Our turnover at Synod is great. We need the benefit of their advice.
At this point the chairman remarked that nothing new was being said any more, intimating that Synod should vote. Question was called for and Synod decided to vote. From the oral vote it seemed doubtful what the result was. Hands were counted and the ayes won with a count of 74. Synod decided not to accede to the overture of Chicago South on the ground that “It is to the advantage of Synod to use the wisdom of the emeritated professors, which has been gained by years of experience.”
After the adoption of point 2 the two emeritated professors did not appear among the professorial advisers for a day or more. Later they presented a letter to Synod in which they registered the conviction that the grounds for Synod’s action, as recorded in the minutes, in restricting the advisory activities of the emeriti professors, did not present a complete picture of Synod’s reason for its action. One of the delegates registered objection to the letter but Synod refrained from asking the signers for an explanation of their statement. A motion to reconsider the decision of Synod regarding the emeriti professors, for which one or two members made an eloquent plea, was lost by one vote. Rev. T. Van Eerden moved that the chair should ask these two men to come back to sit with the Advisory Committees on which they had been serving. This was adopted. Thereupon the men referred to again met with their respective Committees. Synod also decided that the new ruling would not go into effect till next year after this one of the two men concerned resumed his place at Synod. The other did so a bit later. We understand that Synod also decided later on to refer the whole matter of the position of active and retired theological professors at Synod to a committee to report at a following Synod.
Notes by H.J.K.
Should We Have a Full-Time Educational Secretary?
The reporter on Educational matters was Rev. J. Petersen.
Synod approved the proposed Sunday School lesson plan for 1961 and then addressed itself to the proposal at its standing committee on education (which takes precedence over the report of the Advisory Committee): A. “That Synod appoint a Committee of Education, responsible to and reporting regularly to Synod, composed of nine persons who are appointed out of consideration for their competence, interest, and experience, and not with primary regard to geographical distribution,” B. “That the present Sunday school program be incorporated in the work of this Department of Education, and that the Sunday School Committee function as a sub-committee of the Committee of Education, and that the personnel of the S. S. Corom. and the program on which it is working shall continue through such transition as may be determined by the Committee of Education, as approved by Synod.”
A spirited debate, lasting several hours, followed at this juncture. Rev. B. J. Haan said that he was not at all in favor of adopting the motion now (perhaps never) because of the uncertainty in the church on this matter, and because nothing could be proved in advance as to its workability.
Chairman Van Kooten explained that there were three possibilities: to accept the proposal of the Study Committee to initiate the program now; to accept the proposal of the Advisory Committee “That Synod appoint a Committee of Educational Services for three years, responsible to and reporting regularly to Synod, composed of nine persons…” etc. the rest being practically identical with the proposal of the Study Committee; or that Synod turn down both proposals if it does not favor either of them.
Rev. W. Van Antwerpen observed that the Church had expressed its desire for such an educational committee since 222 churches had sent in a favorable reply to the questionnaire sent out by the Study Committee.
Rev. W. Vander Haak made an appeal to Synod to appoint a Director of Education now since we need such a person to unify the various curriculums of catechism study. “If we continue to carryon with piece-meal efforts we won’t get unified results. We need an expert in the field to give us guidance in catechetical instruction.”
Rev. A. W. Schaafsma said he was not opposed to movin g in this dino:ction, but at this point Dr. Rutgers called for a division of the question, thereby restricting the debate to the issue of whether or not Synod wished to initiate such an educational program now, without considering all the ramifications of the plan. The chair ruled that this was a valld motion. which was challenged by Rev. A. De Kruyter; but Synod sustained the chair.
At this point Rev. B. J. Haan moved that the matter be tabled so that the Synod could take up the report of its own Advisory Committee. To this Rev. W. Brink responded that no argumentation had as yet been given against the proposed plan. “Why not hear the merits of the case first and then vote it down if we do not want it?”
Rev. W. Van Antwerpen agreed that “We cannot say we considered the report.” At this point Rev. B. E. Pekelder. president of the standing committee of Synod on Education, who. although not a delegate, was given the privilege of the floor on this matter, said: “I appreciate the voices that say this report has not been discussed, but it has been before Synod in the Agenda, and it was before Synod last year also. I have no serious objection to tabling it.”
Rev. Paul Holtrop was disturbed by the motion to table since the Synod would never be faced directly with the question of whether to set up a department of education. To which Dr. H. Stob replied that the report of the Advisory Committee (of which Dr. Stob was adviser) would present Synod with tile same challenge; and, furthermore, that to set aside the report of a Study Committee was not discourteous or immoral; it was quite the usual procedure. since Synods are usually perceptive, this one being no exception, since it judged that the reports are pretty much alike. with but this difference: Should Synod set up such an Education Committee now, June, 1960, or try it for three years and then settle the issue?
Prof. H. Dekker complained that he had once been a member of Synod’s Committee on Education (1948–51) and that the proposal now before Synod came after fourteen years of work. The first report in 1954 was disposed of in 1957 Synod had asked for another plan which was voted down in 1959, and therefore this report ought to be put to the vote of this assembly. It would be a rather flippant thing for Synod to dispose of this work of its Committee by a parliamentary maneuver. It would be far better to discuss the matter itself.
Rev. R. B. Vermeer said that Synod had been wasting the Lord’s time and called for the question. The motion to table was lost.
At this point Rev. B. E. Pekelder once more stressed the careful work of his committee in finding out what the mind of the church was and he cited the fact that the Orthodox Presbyterian Church had such an Education Committee which had been functioning with good results for four years.
Elder Breuker complained that the plan was not definite enough and that Synod would be voting for something of whieh it could not foresee the ramifications. Rev. J. Geuzebroek stressed the importance of the decision to be made, and said that tile Synod is moving in the direction of Boardism, with its secretaries and specialists. This, he said, has great dangers in the Church. “You get a certain position and people will say, ‘You are the man who knows it’ and, at last you are going to believe yourself that you know everything and can do everything. This is the danger of a specialist directing all things pertaining to educational matters…if we get the wrong man then the church is gone…” Hence, said the speaker, we ought to move more slowly, as the Advisory Committee proposes.
Prof. A. A. Hoekema, also formerly a member of Synod’s Study Committee, urged Synod to do something now, since our churches have been working with inferior materials. He said, “We cannot continue to get along with part-time people.” Elder Benckhuyzen from Eastern Ontario also pleaded for the immediate establishment of a Department of Education since our children are in need of the very best in Christian Education.
After some further debate about the feasability of introducing such a department now or later, Rev. J. Schaal was given the floor.
It was generally conceded that though the trend ran strong in favor of a permanent Committee of Education with very broad powers and a full-time Secretary of Education, the two speeches by Rev. J. H. Schaal, representative of Synod’s Sun day School Committee and editor of our Sunday school papers, turned the tide, contributing much to the final decision not to appoint such a committee. The vote was close, 54 to 52.
Because of its great influence at Synod we reproduce here major parts of Mr. Schaal’s speeches, in combination, as given to us afterwards by the Speaker himself. We quote:
“This is the record of a conversion. The conversion went this way: The Sunday School Committee was the only committee that went along with the committee on Education and was interested in a permanent Department of Education with a secretary. Several years ago a member or members of the Committee on Education…came to Grand Rapids and talked with many of our agencies in the city, unofficially per hap s, and of the groups polled only the Sunday School Committee of that time lent an interested ear.
“Since the Committee of Education had a representative on our Sunday School Committee, the pros and cons of the matter of over-all coordination were discussed and the Sunday School Committee went along, for after all, we do want the best work for our Catechism and Sunday Schools. There were fears and misgivings but we thought that on a modest scale progress could be made under a Committee of Education.
“Then came the Synod of 1959 and it was at that Synod that the Sunday School Committee saw the full impact of what a permanent Committee on Education with a full-time director would involve. If such a committee would really answer its purpose and do what the Committee very honestly and plainly outlined as possibilities, the work would be much too broad…All these things would not happen immediately, all of them might not happen in the far distant future, but it indicates what we are letting ourselves in for if we appoint a Committee on Education and an Educational Director. That is the story of the conversion.”
After quoting from the report of the Standing Committee, Rev. Schaal said: “The Committee says here there is still more which could be done. (What we suggest here is not to be taken as exhaustive or carefully definitive, but only as some indication of important educational projects that could and should be carried out by such a department.)
“The Advisory Committee of 1959 Synod saw that danger too for it wrote and recommended to Synod the following: ‘The domain of such a department is too broad. It is for the preparation of materials for Catechism, Sunday School, Daily Vacation Bible Schools, manuals for Home Missions work, Back to God Hour study materials, audio visual aids, summertime Bible Conference materials, and programs and materials for adult religions education.
“‘The addition of such a Department of Religious Education appears to be unnecessary. Apart from the preparation of Catechism materials, the areas which would be served by this Department are already being served by such existing organizations as the Publication Committee, the Sunday School Committee, the Board of Home Missions, the Back to God Hour Committee, the American Federation of Reformed Men’s Societies, the Young Calvinist Federation, and the Calvinist Cadet Corps.’
“‘The work is too broad. If the committee really is to do its task well, it will need not merely one director but a huge staff of assistants who will become too powerful. Such a development of bigness and concentration of power, of course, does not come at once, but history has shown the pattern and that, once being enmeshed in the web, it is virtually impossible to curtail and break that power—for such power is the tendency of the ecumenical movement today.
“‘This permanent Committee on Education would be doing work that could be better accomplished by the individual agencies which Synod has already set up in our church. Rev. Jerry Pott as one of the missionaries has just spoken and he has held up some pamphlets of information and inspiration that the Home Mission Board has put out. There is an example of the thing I was talking about, which could be done better by Home Missions than anyone else. Who can best get out promotion material or study material for missions than the Home Missions Board and the Foreign Missions Board? Who is more conversant with and feels the pulse beat of the Sunday school better, the Sunday School Committee or an Educational Board so broad that it cannot have its ear close to the ground on any one subject?’”
Rev. Schaal also presented the following thoughts:
“The Christian Reformed Church should not have a permanent, full-time educational director with a permanent Committee on Education to control all educational matter in the denomination:
“1. Because such concentration of power leads to an ecclesiastical bureaucracy that is the death of grass roots initiative. This in turn leads to a loss of the autonomy of the local consistory, classis and such local organizations as the Sunday school. Such bureaucracy strikes a death blow to the root of the Reformed system of church polity…
“2. Because history has proved that stagnation has a way of creeping in from the top, which will be much more easily possible if there is great concentration of power at the top…
“3. Because such an educational agency is not working satisfactorily, in the true sense of the word, in other denominations…
“The Christian Reformed Church rather ought to have:
“1. A Catechism Editor” who would be appointed for a definite short-term assignment. His task would be, with a staff of writers, to produce a series of catechism books, pedagogically and doctrinally sound and usable. These books could be revised periodically by the Synod with workers who would be released from their pulpits, classrooms or business endeavor for a short leave of absence, giving them full time to stay at their task until it was completed.
“2. A committee appointed by the Synod consisting of the heads of existing educational, mission, youth, Sunday school and related agencies which would investigate to determine if greater coordination and cooperation would be advantageous for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God by presenting a unified curriculum and method of approach, thus avoiding too much duplication and overlapping.
“If, as a result of the study and work of this committee, it should prove essential to have such a coordinated program, the same committee or another synodically appointed temporary committee could be empowered to carry out such an assignment and upon completion of the task be discharged with thanks.”
To the first part of Rev. Schaal’s speech Rev. B. E. Pekelder replied that the speaker had been addressing himself to the report to the 1959 Synod, that the proposed committee would be responsible to Synod, and that it would not become immediately a sprawling organization.
At this point Rev. P. Holtrop called for the question and the proposition of the Study Committee on Education was voted down.
Now the Synod was ready to address itself to the recommendation of its Advisory Committee and Reporter Petersen moved the adoption (cf. above). Immediately Rev. W. Brink got up to say that this proposal suffered from the same short-comings as the previous one, to which his eyes had been opened by the speech of Rev. J. Schaal. He also wondered if such a proposed committee on Education would swallow up the Synodical Tract Committee, the Bible outlines of the Young Calvinist, the Cadets, etc.
To this Reporter Petersen replied that they had envisaged such fears and therefore they proposed that such a committee should serve the church when called on in definite matters, adding that “It cannot succeed in being a big sprawling octopus at this stage.”
Rev. B. J. Haan also gave Rev. J. Schaal credit for shedding a new light on the matter and cautioned Synod not to &rive such a committee, if established, a free hand but to restrict it definitely to one or two items, e.g., preparing catechism books and Daily Vacation Bible school materials.
Several speakers reiterated what had been said and the Chairman warned Synod to be brief and not to repeat. Rev. J. Schaal spoke once more (see above).
Elder Kuipers at this point said that he thought our fears were imaginary since Synod at all times would have the power to say “NO.”
After further debate the Chairman called for the question and the motion was lost (52–54) after which Rev. R. Haan moved that the matter should be referred back to the Advisory Committee to formulate a motion to establish a committee empowered to produce catechetical materials and Daily Vacation Bible School materials. This was passed.
Rev. Hofman asked for the right to protest since the report of the standing committee on education had been attacked by the Sunday School Committee with materials not found in the Agenda. This the chair allowed. Rev. J. T. Malestein complained that the reporters of various committees had too much chance to speak and that a regular delegate could not get the floor, to which the Chair responded that he had to follow the rules and had given everyone his rights, according to the rules.
Notes by H.R.V.T. and H.J.K.
Particular Synods The Advisory Committee (reporter, Rev. T. E. Hofman) recommended:
1. that the institution of particular synods be postponed indefinitely. Grounds: a. The necessity, desirability, and feasibility of particular synods at this time have not been sufficiently demonstrated. b. The grounds given in 1957 for particular synods have not been convincing to many of the churches, as demonstrated by the many overtures in 1959 and this year, challenging those grounds. c. It would be unwise to impose particular synods upon the churches until more receptivity towards them is evidenced.”
In support of the recommendation of the Committee, Mr. Hofman said that he was for wiping the slate clean…not to let this thing be imposed from the top down, but to let it come up out of the churches themselves. We hope the churches will take their time…those churches desiring regional synods ought to start with a regional conference…give us an experimental type of a thing.
Rev. B. J. Haan: I appreciate the last comment of the Reporter…there are many delegates that think I am interested only from the point of view of Dort College, but that is false. I was present at 1951 Synod. At that time, Rev. G. Hoeksema was interested in it…I was head of a com mittee with Griffioen, Van Tuinen, et al., all able men, and none of us were for it to begin with, but the more we studied the more we came to the conclusion that we must have particular Synods. Our report was made and Synod decided to wait a while, although we proposed establishing particular Synods. Later more overtures came, and 1957 said we ought to study it since the churches are not ready for it. Now Canada is crying for an opportunity to work together (this is not sectionalism) and they are told to work through Grand Rapids. I am very sorry that the committee did not come with a formulation so we could take the first step. We tried to work together as Classes on OUf common problems and we were declared out of order.
Rev. W. Vanden Haak rose to make a few remarks in favor of regional Synods, although he thought the ground had been pretty well covered. At no time has there been a minority report, which is quite significant…I think they (regional Synods) would be beneficial to the churches. This matter of regional Synods is now before the 14th session of Synod. Prior to 1957 the argument was that we were not big enough, which no longer holds. I think regional Synods would do justice to area interests, which ought to be dealt with in a wholesome manner. I think sectionalism grows out of frustration … if we could allow sections to handle their own problems it would bring about a wholesome attitude in the churches…I sincerely hope that to postpone does not mean the death-knell of particular synods.
Prof. M. Monsma said: I have a great deal of sympathy for regional synods, yet I also have much sympathy for the report of our committee. Unless there are overwhelming reasons for which regional synods should not be introduced we ought to move forward toward the establishment of regional synods. Our synodieal gathering tends to become a kind of Convention just as many assemblies
of the churches in America which have from 200 to a 1000 delegates and are no longer deliberative assemblies. It is for the spiritual welfare of the whole church to work for a general assembly that can deliberate, but the regional synod is a link in the chain. However, we need unity or it will not work. If we now merely say that we postpone indefinitely, our study material will go into the discard….Can we not say that the committee is continued. Then if any of our churches has some new light and there should be overtures, we can analyze them.
The Reporter pointed out that postponing indefinitely simply meant that we do not implement this now. but wait until the churches come again. But this does not mean that we invite a plethora of overtures at the next Synod. Rather that various Classes should study the matter when a church within its jurisdiction comes with a request…Let the Classes figure out a plan and Synod wi1l approve the plan…then we’ll catch on and soon we’ll have regional synods…no one will be mad at anybody else…
Rev. R. B. Vermeer of Denver said that his Classis was not convinced that regional synods have a place in our ecclesiastical system…they would hold very little advantage for us (Rocky Mt.). We could not be expected to work together with Classis Pacific…How much of the material on our table could a regional synod handle? Have regional synods lessened the burden of the general synod in the Netherlands? We of the West see a lot of problems. Through regional Synods Classis Rocky Mountain might lose contact with the Church as a whole.
After several other speeches had been made Rev. A. W. Schaafsma of Ontario said: We realize that many Classes in the U.S.A. will not receive the same benefit from regional Synods that we envisage…we realize that our desire for Canada may be a danger for the Church…we would not urge you to favor regional synods if you think there is a real danger…we do not want to put the whole church in jeopardy for the sake of Canada…but we do want to come together to discuss our common problems.
After further debate Rev. R. Rienstra moved to delete “indefinitely.” This motion was passed by 65 votes and the whole recommendation was also passed. The Synod also recognized the detailed plan of the Study Committee as being worthy of further consideration at some future date and discharged them, thanking them heartily for their work.
Notes by H. R. V. T.
Theological College of Nigeria (TCNN)
This undenominational theological school in Nigeria has caused much controversy in our Church because the Benue and Tiv churches which we are sponsoring and practically all our missionaries there are favoring it, notwithstanding widespread opposition in our churches, even on the part of a strong minority in our Foreign Mission Board. The matter now came to Synod by way of recommendations by the Board and no fewer than 13 appeals or overtures. When our Church took over part of the Nigerian field from the Sudan United Mission it was agreed that our Church would have the right to conduct the work in this field in accordance with the Reformed conception of mission work. Our Board approved the establishment of a two-year pre-seminary course at Lupwe and interpreted this course as a step toward the establishment of a Reformed Theological Seminary, declaring that this was in accord with the decision of the Synod of 1959. At the same time the Board also decided to heed the request of the Nigerian General Conference (of our missionaries on the field ) to establish a special gift fund for TCNN and interpreted this as being in harmony with the decision of 1958, though large minority disagreed with this interpretation. Finally, the Board also decided to approve the decision of the Nigerian General Conference to give subsidy to students in training for religious leadership at TCNN but “with the understanding that TCNN students will be supported until a Reformed Theological Seminary has been established.”
The missionaries in the field (General Conference) reacted strongly against the idea of a Reformed Seminary. Their “statement on TCNN” disagrees with the Board’s interpretation of the setting up of the pre· seminary course at Lupwe and of other training projects and says that such action “should in no way be construed as steps toward an eventual establishment of a separate seminary in competition with the TCNN.” It further gives the decision of the Tiv Church Synod of April, 1960, “to continue her participation in the TCNN and her request that the Christian Reformed Church pay her proportionate share of the financial support of the TCNN.” The Nigerian Conference further declares that it “cannot in good conscience support the founding of a separate seminary in competition with the TCNN and therefore requests counsel from the Home Board.” The Executive Committee now comes to our Synod and says: “The question now is what action the missionaries, feeling themselves unable to comply with the decision of 1959, should take.” The Board wants Synod’s advice.
The factual material in the above two paragraphs is taken from the report of the Advisory Committee, the reporter being Rev. H. Petersen.
This Committee stated: “From these materials it becomes evident that there are three main points at issue. The first regards Reformed theological training in Nigeria and the impasse created by the stand of the Nigerian General Conference on this matter. The second concerns the setting up of a special gift fund for TCNN and raises the question of the interpretation of the decisions of Synod of 1958 and 1959 having a bearing on the matter. The third raises the question of whether the decision of 1959 permits the Board to approve subsidy for students, some of whom will study at TCNN. Your Committee addresses itself to these points.”
The recommendation of the Committee regarding the first point (Reformed Theological Training) reads as follows: “That Synod refer the matter...to the full Board of Foreign Missions for consideration and action as soon as possible in the light of the decision of Synod of 1959…: “Synod 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.”
Two “grounds” were adduced.
Comment of this writer: Not an enviable position for the Board! However, the wording of the decision is so dear that there are only two alternatives: either the Christian Reformed Church, speaking through its Board, will have to back down from its position that our mission work in Nigeria must be Reformed mission work, or the missionaries will have to change their stand.
This writer came to Synod at the session in which this matter was discussed while the first point was being debated.
Rev. H. Evenhouse (Mission Secretary): When Nigeria receives its in· dependence (in a couple of months–K) the white missionaries may be forced out of the country. That may not be true of all the missionaries. Our government has taken a favorable attitude toward the new order and our missionaries may be permitted to stay.
Rev. D. Hoitenga: I believe I feel for the whole report but there is one thing I miss. Our missionaries have been criticized in print. There is nothing in this report to vindicate them as being Reformed. I wish there were something here that the missionaries are not flaunting the decisions of Synod.
Rev. W. Brink: We have to address ourselves to the problem. We cannot reflect on everything that appears in print. We are at an impasse. I believe this is a very wise recommendation. After all, our Board is made up of delegates from the entire denomination. I don’t think we should discuss this point very long. One Committee wants to give this problem to the Board.
Elder Kolenbrander: May I ask Rev. Evenhouse this question: Is it not advisable to have our own Christian Reformed men teach in t hat Seminary? We should make the School as strong as possible.
Rev. R. Rienstra: That question has no reference to the point under discussion. The recommendation is to have the Board decide.
Rev. H. Evenhouse: We all feel it would be most wonderful if we could have all Christian Reformed men to teach. But the TCNN is a joint effort. We hope to make our influence felt.
Rev. H. N. Erffmeyer: I have been listening to several speakers and I don’t think we should debate this any longer.
The recommendation of the Committee was adopted, namely, that Synod should refer this matter to the full Board of Foreign Missions for consideration and action as soon as possible in the light of the decision of the Synod of 1959…: “Synod 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” (italics ours–K).
The next recommendation of the Committee concerned the request that a Special Gift Fund should be established for TCNN. That recommendation was that no such fund should be established, on the ground that the establishment of such a fund could be construed as constituting official participation in the TCNN, c0ntrary to the decision of the Synod of 1959. This was contrary to the recommendation of the Board of Foreign Missions.
A minority report signed by one member of the Advisory Committee, Rev. W. Van Antwerpen, pleaded for the establishment of such a fund. This report was withdrawn.
Rev. B. N. Huizenga: My conscience speaks now. I am sorry the Minority Report has been withdrawn. I don’t think it would hurt anyone to leave it there. I believe we must vote this recommendation down. There is a principle that we must be all things to all men. Our missionaries in Africa know the situation. I have not yet found one missionary in favor of certain articles in The Banner and other papers in the Northwest. If this is passed I would be in conscience bound to protest.
Reporter Petersen: We can’t look at this recommendation without considering the one that follows. (This was that the request of the Benue church for aid in meeting her share of the capital expenses of the TCNN should be granted–K. ) There are differing interpretations of the decisions of our Synods. (The reporter then reads first the decision of 1958. [“Synod permit special gifts to be solicited for the native church which desires to participate in TCNN, and that it be understood that this does not further commit the Christian Reformed Church to the TCNN at this time as the support is given to the native church and the responsibility for the expansion of the TCNN at this time is the responsibility of the native church.”] Then he reads the decision of 1959. [“The Christian Reformed Church participate in TCNN only to the extent of loaning Dr. H. Boer as teacher of Reformed Theology in the TCNN. The Christian Reformed Church make funds available to pay the full cost of Dr. Boer’s teaching for salary, housing, traveling…])
Rev. P. Vander Weide: I have a formal point. It concerns the ground for this recommendation. In a sense we are already participating to an extent by loaning Dr. Boer. It would be better to speak of a broader participation. To test the mind of Synod I move that we amend the recommendation by changing “official” to “broader.”
that this would change the meaning. The point is not how much participation there is but what kind. The motion to amend, seconded by Rev. J. Griffioen, was withdrawn.
Prof. J. H. Kromminga: I’d like to have this question answered: Is it possible to have special gifts without having a special gift fund?
Rev. H. Evenhouse: The majority report was quite aware that this is possible. Special gifts can be solicited for the Benue churches.
Rev. C. H. Vande Riet: I suppose it is clear to every one that it was not the entire Board’s decision to establish such a fund. Almost one half of the members were not in favor of it. We talk about unity on the mission field but we should also be considerate of the entire brotherhood, including Synod and our people. I feel we should vote in favor of this motion.
Prof. M. H. Woudstra: I am in favor of this recommendation for the follOwing reasons. First, the Conference in Nigeria has expressed its clear disagreement with the decision of 1959. The request was made also on the baSis of the decision of 1958 which cannot he upheld. I think we must not accede to the request of the Board and the decisions in Nigeria. Any appeal to the decision of 1958 is to pass by the decision of 1959. We can’t go back to the decision of 1958. The Synod of 1959 was faced with aU the arguments and made its decision. To express disagreement with 1959 and in the face of it to make a request for a special gift fund is wrong. I contend that the Synod of 1959 offered to participate in TCNN but in an altogether different context than in which it has been set. That participation is restrictive in character.
Dr. W. H. Rutgers: I have listened with great interest to the discussion. I know there are deep convictions on the part of many brethren. I compliment this Committee. It has agonized. This is about as balanced a report as we can expect. I call for the question.
The recommendation not to establish a special gift f0r TCNN was adopted with a large majority.
A final recommendation of the Advisory Committee was that we should grant the request of the Benue Church for aid in meeting its share of the capital expense of the TCNN.
This would amount to $12,000.00.
Rev. D. J. Haan: The implication of the whole debate was that if we accept point I (no special gift fund–K) we would also adopt point 2. 1t would be unethical to seek to get no. 1 across and then defeat no. 2.
Rev. P. Vander Weide: Who is going to solicit this money?
Rev. J. Schaal (member of the Mis· sion Board): It is the hope of the Board that if there are any special undcesignated gifts we could give that money to them. It is my hope we don’t have to ask for offerings.
Prof. M. Monsma: What is meant by “capital expense?”
Rev. H. Evenhouse: This is a request for $12,000. At the present time over $3500 has come in unsolicited. We don’t anticipate carrying on a special campaign.
This recommendation was adopted without further discussion.
Later on it was announced by the Chairman that the gift to the Benue church to aid in paying its share of the TCNN was for capital expense. This means that the $12,OOO is to be paid only once. It was called a “one shot deal.”
Should We Support TCNN Students?
The Nigerian General Conference had also decided that “in view of the demonstrated inability of our Nigerian churches to pay the cost of the religious leadership training programs, to give their Evangelism Department permission to give up to 60% of the cost of each student in training for religious leadership, the funds to be taken as available from the Veenstra Memorial Fund.” That was a decision, not a request, but the Board of Missions approved it and Synod’s approval was now asked. The Advisory Committee recommended such approval of the Board’s decision with the understanding, as expressed by the Board. that TCNN students will be supported until a Reformed Theological Seminary has been established” (italics mine–K). The “grounds” adduced by the Advisory Committee were: (1) Such support is given to the students personally and is not to be construed as implying our participation in the schools involved. (2) The TCNN is the only school at present where the native students on our Nigerian field can obtain higher theological education.
(Question by this reporter: Did the General Conference have the right to decide this matter and then merely ask for approval instead of making a recommendation and then waiting for Board action?)
Rev. Clifford Vander Ark: In regard to the establishment of a Reformed Theological Seminary, I read an article in The Banner by Missionary Holkehoer. If I construe his remarks correctly he said: There is no intention on the part of the missionaries on the field to go for the establishment of Reformed missionary training.
Elder De Lange: This TCNN has been with us some years and has caused a lot of unrest. There is only one way to solve this problem. This proposal is not strong enough. We should take definite steps to implement the decision for a Reformed Seminary. I challenge the Synod to do this. This should be amended. We should ask that this be done in the very near future.
The Chairman: The establishment of such a Seminary is involved here but it is not in the motion. However, last year it was decided that such a Seminary should be established.
Elder De Lange: I realized that I would be called out of order. I wanted to say this under the heading: Reformed Theological Training but then the question was called for. So I thought I would say it here.
Rev. G. H. Vande Riet: In regard to the expression regarding “demonstrated inability of the students to pay, what about the principle of indigeneity?” (Note: This has refered to the principle approved by a former synod or synods that churches in the mission field should be self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating. Ed.)
Rev. Evenhouse replied but we could not understand what he said.
Rev. E. Oostendorp: That expression refers not to the demonstrated inability of the students but of the churches.
Rev. R. Baker (Missionary in Nigeria): We don’t intend to pay the salaries of pastors and teachers when these are installed in their respective offices. But we do feel it is defensible and desirable to help these men while at school. They have no financial backing. We feel we can support them while they are at school without sacrificing the essential principle of indigeneity.
Emer. Professor R. B. Kuiper: I have a question to Rev. Baker. He did not quite answer Rev. Vande Riet. After all, there is the great principle of indigeneity. One important aspect of that principle is that the mission should be self-supporting in so far as possible. I’d like to know whether our missionaries on the field insist on indigeneity? Are they insisting that the native churches shall support themselves as far as they can?
Rev. R. Baker: We have always stressed the self-support of the churches. We don’t pay for buildings and pastors’ salaries. But if we don’t train men to serve these churches, how will the latter ever support themselves? These men are proved men. Their inability to support themselves has been demonstrated. We say they should be supported only up to 60%. The treasurer of the Church which pays these men was always having these men on his doorstep saying: We need money. Of course, these churches should give more, I suppose, but that is true of us too.
The recommendation was adopted with a practically unanimous vote.
This important discussion was concluded with the remark by Reporter
H. Petersen, that “in the coming months we ought to pray much for our missionaries and our Board. Here today we have evidence for the fact that the Lord has definitely answered our prayers.”
Appointment of a New Secretary of Home Millions
Synod was called upon to appoint a successor to Rev. H. Blystra who has retired. from this important and strategic position. The Home Mission Board presented to Synod a nomi· nation of three: Prof. Harold Dekker of Calvin Seminary, Rev. Hennan Hoekstra of Berwyn, Illinois, and Rev. Chester M. Schemper of Oak Lawn, Illinois. The Advisory Committee (Rev. Esler L. Shuart, reporter) ree· ommended that the name of Rev. Marvin C. Baarman, home missionary at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, should be added to the list. It was stated that this brother had been entrusted with counseling other missionaries and had taken post graduate work in mission administration.
It was moved that Rev. Baarman’s name should be added to the nomination.
Emeritus President R. B. Kuiper: I question seriously the wisdom and fairness of this procedure. If we adopt this, Rev. Baarman gets some very special attention for his qualifications. The others do not get it. am not disputing that Rev. Baarman is well qualified but we have no special qualifications mentioned for the other men.
Chairman Van Kooten: Has the Board any rules for the nomination?
Rev. H. Blystra: Not as far as I know.
Rev. J. T. Malestein: I think the addition of the name is warranted and necessary also in view of the fact that Prof. Dekker is also under appointment for the Back to God Hour.
Rev. T. E. Hofman stated a precedent had been set when the name of Rev. J. Vander Ploeg was added to the nomination as editor of The Banner when he was a delegate to Synod (Note: Rev. Baarman was a delegate at this Synod.) But we should have executive session when we discuss these men.
Rev. N. Veltman: Rev. Baarman is also on this Advisory Committee which recommends that his name be added; but he had nothing to do with this.
It was decided to add the name of Rev. M. C. Baarman.
Synod then went into executive session. Afterwards it was announced that Rev. Baarman had been elected. It was also decided that Rev. Herman Hoekstra, the runner-up in the voting, would be the alternate.
When the announcement concerning the election just mentioned was made Synod was discussing the report of the Budget Committee. Its recommendations concern denominational quotas and causes for recommended for denominational support—a long list. One institution on this list which elicited considerable opposition (sad to say–K) was Westminster Theological Seminary. The proposal of the Committee to continue to recommend this cause to our churches carried with a vote of 54 to 48.
Let us also add that Rev. John Vander Ploeg was re-elected as Editor of The Banner for two years with age majority. The vote was: Rev. J. Vander Ploeg, 85; Professor John H. Bratt, 19; Rev. Peter Van Tuinen, H. Rev. Emo F. J. Van Halsema was re-elected as Editor of De Woehter for two years. It was not deemed necessary to present a nomination for this office.
A United Mission Fund?
One of the matters which occasioned a lively discussion, when budget matters were before Synod, was the proposal to create a United Mission Fund from which especially the Board of Foreign Missions, The Board of Home Missions, and the Back to God Hour could draw. The occasion was the request of the Board of Foreign Missions for pennission to employ a full-time layman charged wth the duty of implementing a public information service. The recommendation of the Budget Committee was to approve the request for only one year since this position may be incorporated into the work of the United Missions Fund’ should the recommendation of the Standing Advisory Budget Committee be adopted. The Advisory Committee recommended that a Study Committee should be appointed to consider the proposaL
Dr. W. H. Rutgers: I’m in principle against this. We get money when we appeal for a definite cause. But I for one will make no appeal for a general fund…Brethren, this will kill the spirit of giving. One objection our people have now is that their giving for various causes is so impersonal. This would make the various causes even more remote. Our people like to give for specific causes and then they do so with burning hearts.
Rev. J. Van Harmelen: Can’t we appoint a study committee and pass on to it the remarks that have been made?
Prof. H. Dekker: This matter should not be disposed of too lightly. The argument for this idea is not here very adequately. One of the key ideas is that the promotion of missions is one cause, one program, and it would help our missionary program if it were presented in correlation. The alternative is a costly competition: each miSSion program setting up its own promotional program.
Mr. C. Van Malsen, treasurer of the Home Mission Fund: We were not aware originally that tltis would come before Synod. But there is a danger in our Church of duplication in our denominational funds. For example, we have at present six organizations which are keeping track of the addresses of our people.
Mr. Boer, member of the Standing Budget Committee (this Committee of financial experts meets annually before Synod to review the financial reports and requests of our various institutions and to make the recommendations to the Advisory Budget Committee of Synod): The Foreign Mission Board here proposes the appointment of a financial expert. He will come out with a beautiful booklet, a promotional film, etc. What will happen? Missions is a rapidly growing enterprise. If the Foreign Mission Board appoints a promotional agent, so will the others. Is it not better to have one promotional agent for all these mission funds (Foreign, Home, Back to God–K)? I realize that arguments can be brought against this but I urge that the matter should at least be studied. When I talked to Rev. Evenhouse about this, he suggested the setting up of a United Mission Fund. The competition for the denominational dollar is becoming stiffer. There is every reason to appoint a study committee to find a way out of this difficult situation.
It was decided to appoint such a study committee and that it should report to the Synod of 1961.
Notes by H.J.K.
Regarding Possible Union With The Protestant Reformed Churches
(De Wolf Group)
This important matter was discussed in one of the later sessions of Synod. We preface our report with a review of the negotiations between the two committees representing both denominations, as presented by the Advisory Committee of Synod.
“Background: The Synod of 1957 appointed the committee: Revs. Henry Baker, John Weidenaar, Martin Momma, Adam Persenaire and Messrs. Hero Bratt, Cornelius Van Malsen and Cornelius Zylstra in response to a communication from the Protestant Reformed Churches (Rev. H. De Wolf group) to discuss freely the differences and similarities between the Protestant Reformed and the Christian Reformed Churches (cf. Acts 1957, pp. 83–84, 531–33). At the Synod of 1958 the committee reported respecting the similarities and differences and recommended continuing conferences. Again in 1959 the committee reported to the Synod concern· ing its diSCUSSions with the committee of the Protestant Reformed Churches (Agenda Report No. 38 Acts of Synod 1959, pp. 417-424). The Synod of 1959 decided in the interest of fraternal understanding, address a communication to the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches (De Wolf group) based on I and II of this report in order to pave the way for further considerations regarding an eventual unification’ (cf. Art. 196 Acts of Synod 1959 for Communication). Further, Synod of 1959 decided to continue its committee for further conferences should they be desired by the Protestant Reformed Church to work out various details necessary for effectuating such a possible reunion (Acts of Synod 1959, Art 76. V.; pp. 23, 24).
“The Synod of 1960 has before it Communication No. 10 which contains the report of the Christian Reformed Contact Committee to Confer with Protestant Reformed—De Wolf Group Contact Committee and Communication No. 11 which is the Reply of Protestant Reformed Churches of America. The latter is the official reply of the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches dated June 11, 1960.”
The Advisory Committee continues as follows: “The thrust of this reply is a request ‘to consider the three Points of Common Grace as without any further binding force.’ We as your Advisory Committee have met with several members of our Contact Committee and discussed the matter at length and the Contact Committee has formulated a reply to be sent officially to the Protestant Reformed Churches as follows: (Editor’s Note: For the sake of avoiding repetition we are reporting that reply as reformulated after the discussion. Our report on the discussion will follow the reformulated text of the reply. The only important change in the reformulation was the omission of a paragraph to which reference will be made in the discussion as reported here.)
“To the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“We thank you for the fraternal and cordial reply to our Synod’s letter to you in June 1959. In reply to this, your communication, we wish to observe that we appreciate the general tenor of this document, which indicates that there is on your part a sincere desire for reconciliation and unification with our church.
“Addressing ourselves to tIle main thrust of your letter (paragraph 4, page 1): ‘May we urge you, therefore, to consider the Three Points of common grace as without any further binding forcer we conclude that this question is the heart of the matter which you present to our Synod. You are asking our Synod simply to set aside or discard, without any restrictions or qualifications, that which was done by our Synods of 1924 and 1959. This is evident from your statement (second part of paragraph 3, page 1): We, therefore, do not desire to maintain the Three Points or any new formulation or interpretation as necessary for a church to stipulate and insist upon for unification of churches.’
“Synod may on occasion be compelled to make emergency decisions which serve a definite purpose in a given historic moment. Such emergency decisions are dated and may in time become inactive because they have served their purpose and are no longer needed. The result could be that such decisions are in effect set aside. Reflecting. however, on the synodical decisions of 1924 respecting the Three Points, we believe that an out-right and official setting aside of them is unwarranted for the following reasons:
“a. The serious situation in 1924 which called these Three Points into being.
“b. The salutary effect of these Three Points in producing· rest and peace in the ·churches.
“c. The fact that such setting aside of the ThreePoints would run counter to and virtually nullify a large measure of agreement which had been achieved.
“We are of the opinion that such a simple discarding of the Three Points, as well as of the elucidations and interpretations of these given in the letter of our Synod of 1959, is not desirable. We would rather point out to you a more positive basis upon which we may seek for unification. This positive approach is not to be sought by requesting our Synod virtually to discard what it deemed to be necessary to state in 1924, and what is still necessary to maintain at the present time; nor in demanding of you an expression of total agreement with the Three Points as formulated by 1924 and further elucidated by 1959; but rather by accepting a basis on which we can unite.
“It is our considered judgment that inasmuch as both your denomination and ours subscribe to The Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity, unification of our churches could be effected,
“a. If you will agree that the Three Points are neither Arminian nor Pelagian; that in the light of the official interpretation given by our Synod of 1959, the objection that the Three Points ate in conflict with Scripture and the Forms of Unity is not valid; and that you will agree not to agitate against official interpretations.
“b. If we do not require submission in the sense of demanding total agreement with the Three Points, we recognize and hear with scruples which you may have, in the expectation that we together may come eventually to a better understanding of the truth; and not bar those who have certain misgivings or divergent interpretations as long as they refrain from propaganda for their interpretations.
“As to the method of effecting such a union we suggest that:
“a. If this is to be worked out on a denominational basis, a committee of your church be appointed to confer with a committee of our church;
“b. If this is to be worked out on a local basis, this be left to the individual consistories and classes in which such attempts towards union would be made.
“1. Synod send this letter as its official reply to the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches (De Wolf Group).
“2. Synod reappoint the Contact Committee for further conference with the Protestant Reformed Committee.”
These two recommendations were adopted.
Now our report on the discussion:
Rev. J. Hoogland: Is this procedure similar to that used when Grace Church of Kalamazoo reunited with our church?
Rev. G. Critter: There is a difference here in that then we were dealing with an individual congregation and not a denomination, and that the dealings were handled on a classical level.
President Van Kooten: But what was the basis of union in the Grace Church case?
Rev. C. Critter: I was not a member of that classis at the time this was done, but the impression I have is that the basis was simply the Three Forms of Unity. With respect to the Three Points of Common Grace the Grace Church consistory stated that it ought to be assumed that they were willing to come into the Christian Reformed Church without objection to these declarations.
Rev. H. Baker (member of the Synodical Contact Committee): Synod should notice that the proposed letter provides alternative possibilities, that is, for reunion on a denominational or on a local congregational, or individual basis. Details in this respect will have to be worked out as we come up to them. Personally I feel that our local churches should have something to say when the actual reunion takes place.
Rev. N. Veltman: We are all very grateful for the progress which this represents. It is good to see that we are approaching something like unity, and I am very happy that the conferences have been as successful as they were. However, I am trying to put myself in the place of one of the Protestant Reformed ministers as I read the letter we propose to send to this group. It speaks of ‘acquiescence,’ and if I understand that word correctly, it means to bow your head and keep still. The point I want to plead for is that although we have made a great deal of progress here during the last few years, and although we may happily anticipate reunion, can we ask this of our Protestant Reformed brethren? On page 4 we find items b and then c. (Reads these items.) Is what is stated here really true? In a colloquium doctum we ask for agreement with respect to past synodical decisions, and we require it to be said personally. We require this with respect to our stand on the lodge, and also on amusements. We demand that young people making profession of faith say these things. Can we ask someone who will have to obey our church’s rules on such matters to do so on the basis of mere acquiescence? I don’t like to muzzle people who have profound convictions on a certain matter, and then expect of them that they teach our young people, for example, something else. I don’t like to pressure people in that way.
Rev. R. Rienstra: The question I’d like to present is this: Will this letter constitute a guide for all our consistories with respect to the admitting of members into our churches? We need such guidance, and I believe that this is a good letter as I read it hastily.
Prof. A. A. Hoekema: I feel that there is something missing in this proposed reply, and that is the well-meant offer of salvation. The 1959 report devoted considerable space to that doctrine, which is certainly very important in this discussion. Is this sufficiently dealt with in this letter? That it is perhaps the most important aspect of the matter goes without saying. By it we say that God sincerely desires the salvation of all to whom the Gospel is presented. This weighed very heavily in 1924, and it still weighs heavily, especially if we consider our mission approach. We ought to know if our Protestant Reformed brethren agree with us on this point. I think it ought to be spelled out in far greater detail than it is here.
Rev. A. B. C. Hofland: I have a question, Mr. Chairman, and it is because we have earlier appointed. a committee with regard to the decisions of 1908, and this committee has the mandate to study the matter of the principal authority of doctrinal pronouncements as made by our synods. Do we answer the question which this study committee was appointed to study by adopting this letter?
Rev. H. Baker; I would like to answer a few of the remarks that have been made. With respect to Reverend Veltman and the word acquiescence; The Synod of 1926 stated that the Three Points of 1924 were binding, and that it was obligatory to abide by them. Now, when you speak of full agreement or complete agreement you must include the very construction of these decisions also. Many among us have been heard to say that perhaps the construction of the Three Points is faulty, even though we agree with them in principle. I think that some among us feel that although the Gospel offer is well-meant this does not necessarily demand the deduction that God is in fact good to all. Right from the beginning some of us did not agree with the wording of the Three Points.
With respect to Reverend Hofland; We read in Schaver of the fact that synod has declared the Three Points to be official and binding for every member. No one is questioning whether the Three Points arc binding. The Protestant Reformed brethren are asking that the Three Points be declared no longer binding, which is an admission that they are now binding.
Prof. M. Monsma; Strictly speaking, the Three Points do not cover the matter of the general offer of salvation. Differences of opinion on this matter can be likened to the differences between adherents of the “supra” and “infra” positions. We certainly ought to confine ourselves to the Three Points as such. There will be differences of opinion on related matters, no doubt, but this is not a factor here. With respect to Reverend Hofland and the matter of the binding force of synodical pronouncements, I agree that this is a very important matter. In view of this question I think that synod should not go ahead with this proposed letter unless we are all in virtual agreement. If there is anything like a sizable minority which is unwilling, we ought to wait, and give all matters further consideration. It is true for me that everything that is “binding” is not “binding” in the same way or on the same level. In some things “binding” means that acquiescence is possible in the sense of the Dutch expression, “lk kan mij er bij neerleggen.” Binding is not always absolute.
Rev. J. Geuzebroek; My conscience demands that I say that the same thing which is troubling Reverend Veltman is troubling me. Schaver says that although the Three Points are not a new confession, they are an “official interpretation” (I refer to the same material mentioned by Reverend Baker). How can we say that they are “binding” but not in the same way as the creeds, when they are so closely related to the creeds? Let us be careful! The church must speak straight so that all who read or hear may know where to stand. Otherwise I would rather have the church refrain from making too many synodical pronouncements.
Rev. H. Baker: I am sorry that the discussion is shifting to the general question as to whether synodical decisions are binding. The question now is, Shall we discard the decisions of 1924 on Common Grace? A general discussion on the authority of synodical decisions will take a long, long time. Specifically we face the question, Shall we discard or set aside the Three Points? Our proposed letter to the Protestant Reformed brethren tries to answer that question. We say, No. We say so because we are convinced that we would adopt them again today, if that were necessary.
Dr. W. H. Rutgers: From the Acts of 1959 the report of the Contact Committee seems to indicate that the Protestant Reformed brethren are able to agree with the Three Points. Now it seems that they do not agree with them. I’m disappointed and a little confused by this. Further, I don’t like the term “relative authority” as it is used in the proposed reply. How much agreement do we demand? I think we ought to be unafraid to spell out exactly what we do mean, lest we find ourselves talking out of two sides of our mouth.
Rev. H. Baker: In fairness to the Protestant Reformed brethren I must say that in 1959 we as Contact Committee reported on how we felt with respect to the members of the Protestant Reformed committee, and we felt that it could he said as we presented it in our report. The Protestant Reformed Church has not said these things.
Rev. R. B. Vermeer: I can’t help but believe that if we set aside the Three Points as is asked by the Protestant Reformed brethren we also set aside tile authority of the Forms of Unity. These can’t be separated so easily.
Prof. M. Moruma; It is true that the 1959 Report is more favorable than the official letter from the Protestant Reformed Church. We in the committee found that the longer we talked together the more we had in common. I think that we can say that many misgivings and misunderstandings were removed, and that the Protestant Reformed brethren would say the same thing. This Committee of the Protestant Reformed Church had to report to their synod, however, and the letter which was then produced is not quite so favorable. This accounts for the difference which Dr. Rutgers spoke of a few moments ago.
Rev. H. N. Erffmeyer (reporter); Synod must understand that this is proposed as an official reply to the Protestant Reformed letter. It does not necessarily mean to be a pattern for admission into the Christian Refanned Church. The details for reunion will have to be worked out later according to the existing situations. We must remember that two congregations and their pastors have already come back to us, the church at Sioux Center and at Edgerton. This letter is not an extra-creedal deliverance. It is merely a reply to the Protestant Reformed Church, saying that we do not desire to set aside 1924, but that we do not regard the Three Points as equal in authority to the creeds.
Rev. E. H. Oostendorp; We do have a committee to study the whole matter of tile binding character of synodical decisions. To accept this letter would prejudice the work of this committee, at least somewhat. We can only send this letter, it seems to me, if we add a footnote to the effect that this is the present position of our church on synodical decisions, but that a committee is studying the matter, and that this is not necessarily the last word.
Em. Prof. R. B. Kuiper: I think that we are in a serious difficulty right now. I agree with the objections raised by Reverend Veltman and Dr. Rutgers. But how will we get out of this difficulty? I think that we’ll never get out of it unless we are ready to adopt a position that we have never before been ready to adopt, and are probably not ready to adopt now. It seems to me that the Three Forms of Unity have been too closely identified with the Word of God by us. I think we have been too hesitant to add to or to modify them a little bit. As a result we have a static sort of orthodoxy. These creeds were drawn up several hundreds of years ago, and they are very good! But things don’t stand still. New problems arise, and the church must face them. Now the church wasn’t ready in 1924 to add to the creeds, but we shouldn’t hesitate to do so at all when we are sure that what we have is necessary and true! Now some are saying that 1924 was only for the time being, and doesn’t apply now. Others suggest that we just shouldn’t cause a stir by insisting on these points, because they are not additions to the creeds anyway. I am firmly convinced that the only way to keep creeds alive is for the church to have the courage to add to the creeds. That is my opinion, Mr. Chairman.
Rev. N. Veltman: May I present an illustration of what I think this letter involves us in doing? Supposing a candidate appeared before us, and in reply to the decision of the synod of 1959 regarding historical inaccuracies in Scripture said that he thought synod was wrong, and Scripture did contain such inaccuracies. Would we say, if this young man promised not to talk about this matter, he could be a minister in our church, if he would only “acquiesce” with the stand of the church? Brethren, that isn’t the way to admit men to the ministry! We must call for essential agreement. And if we haven’t got it, we must go on working and conferring. As I see it, we just haven’t quite made the grade yet with our Protestant Reformed brethren. Let us continue to confer until we reach the point of essential agreement.
Rev. H. N. Erffmeyer: First of all. I don’t think the 1959 discussion on infallibility of Scripture and this matter are really parallel. And even the ‘59 statement on the Scriptures requires interpretation. If a minister would say flatly, “I don’t believe in Common Grace,” he wouldn’t be admissible as a minister in our church. If he would say, “I believe in Common Grace, but I have certain difficulties and problems,” that would be another thing. Secondly, remember that we must reply to the Protestant Reformed communication. They have written a letter to us. Common courtesy demands that we answer. It has to be this letter or something else. Perhaps this one isn’t 100% acceptable, but it would be almost impossible to get one that is.
Rev. T. E. Hofman: We should come to some definite and clear-cut opinion on the force of synodical decisions. This letter speaks of them in a way which doesn’t make them sound as settled and binding as we thought they were.
Rev. K. Hart: I am not ready to accept this letter. I am sorry that it contains a general evaluation of all doctrinal statements made by synod. We are now making different expressions to different people. To some we say, You must maintain the Three Forms of Unity and certain synodically-formulated doctrinal statements. To others now we are saying, You must merely acquiesce. And this to brothers not yet office-bearers in the church. We might say that to existing office-bearers under some circumstances. Admission demands full agreement. We must work until we can say, Now we are in full agreement.
Prof. A. A. Hoekema: I haven’t been completely satisfied on the well-meant offer of salvation. In the Reformed Guardian (published by the Protestant Reformed group) I have read that the presentation of the Gospel may never be regarded as an offer. Another of the Protestant Reformed ministers wrote a different opinion. We do believe that there is an offer of salvation. Is this letter incomplete on this point?
Rev. F. Guillaume: At first I thought this was a very good letter, but the longer I hear the discussion the more I am puzzled. The difficulty is, I think, that we are trying to find out what it means for church membership when someone agrees with us, and yet differs a little bit. Now, the Protestant Reformed brethren are children of the Lord, but they do not all agree with the Three Points. Is there a place only for that limited number which agrees perfectly willI everything we say? Shouldn’t the church be more open than that? Are synodical decisions on the same level with the Three Forms of Unity? I don’t believe it! Let us remember that we have to stay here until we have an answer for the brethren. In this letter we say correctly that synodical decisions are not “on a par” with the creeds. We are dealing with the question, How wide is the church? That was the question also in the Netherlands. Do we want to say that if you care to be Christian Reformed you must fall within such narrow limits? I doubt it!
Rev. H. Baker: There will never be reunion if there must be agreement on all things, not until the Lord returns anyhow! The question is, Can we set aside 1924? We don’t all agree perfectly with the stand on divorce taken by our synod a few years ago. We don’t all agree on the baptism of adopted children. We can expect such disagreements in this sinful world. Perfect agreement regarding 1924 is asking too much!
Rev. P. Holtrop: It seems to me that the members of the Protestant Reformed Church haven’t been told enough about the deliberations of the contact committees. Therefore the difference between the committee and the church. In view of that fact, I think we ought to take a little more time until we get a more solid basis of agreement. Everyone would be made happier by this.
Rev. R. Rienstra: The question for me is, What is the character of an official letter? Looks to me as if the second part of this proposed official letter tones down the first part. Part one says that 1924 still stands; part two says, Don’t take it too seriously!
Rev. A. DeKruyter: I don’t know if I’m off base with this suggestion, but isn’t it possible that we could answer the Protestant Reformed letter adequately even if we omit the part beginning with “In other words…” until the top of page 5?
Rev. H. Baker: I’m only a single member of the contact committee, but I’d say that to shorten the letter as suggested might be done and be acceptable. The Protestant Reformed brethren had inserted the matter of the binding character of the synodical decisions, and gave their interpretation of this. We have here given ours. But, in any event, a letter should be sent to them now, since otherwise it will not appear until their synod of 1962.
Elder H. Hoogerhyde: I would like to say something in this discussion as an elder delegate. The issue is, What will be our answer to their request that we say the Three Points are no longer binding? The committee answers this on page 4, items d, e and f. We say to their request, No, we do not say that they are no longer binding. But we do leave the door open for further consideration, and this along ecclesiastical lines. Now, I don’t like the wording of the Three Points either, but their thrust is in the right direction. Shall I make propaganda to build up this difference? No! Are we willing to go as far as the committee feels we can go, or shall we take another course?
Dr. W. H. Rutgers: I move that we strike out the words beginning with “In other words…” up to “We declare…”
Rev. H. N. Erffmeyer: This would be acceptable to your advisory committee, I believe, and would be better for the work of the committee on the matter of 1908. The material of this section of the letter which it has been moved to delete can be worked out later.
Rev. F. VanHouten: I don’t think we ought to entertain any pipe dreams about the effect of all this. I read the Reformed Guardian, and it indicates that our Protestant Reformed brethren ace very serious about these things. I don’t think that they ace ready to agree with the Three Points.
Rev. H. Petersen: It seems to me that in order to be consistent we will have to cut out more of the letter than has been moved.
Rev. R. B. Vermeer: I am opposed to this move for deletion. The letter states what we have always believed.
Hev. C. Vander Ark: Couldn’t the committee reformulate during the supper hour? They could do so hearing in mind this discussion.
A motion to send back the letter to the advisory committee for reformulation was adopted.
Notes by J. P.
Note: In this report that reformulated letter precedes the discussion as reproduced above by Rev. John Piersma (Ed.).
The Punt Protest
Persons die. Do issues also die with the persons who raise them? That interesting question was answered by Synod in the affirmative when it disposed of the protest of Mr. J. P. Punt of the Los Angeles Church against the pastor and consistory of that church.
The issue was a doctrinal one. The protestant had protested a statement by his minister in a sermon on the Lord’s Supper that Christ was physically present at this Sacrament in a spiritual way, contending that this was un-Reformed doctrine. The consistory and the c1assis upheld the minister. The protestant thereupon appealed to Synod but died before Synod convened. The Advisory Committee (Reporter Rev. B. J. Haan) raised the question whether or not Synod should deal with this matter seeing the complainant had passed away. It recommended that “Although the protestant is now deceased, Synod should consider his protest.” It based its view on three considerations: (1) “When an ecclesiastical assembly considers a protest the question is not who is right but what is right…;(2) the protest constitutes an indictment of a consistory and a classis, and Synod owes it to those bodies either to vindicate them or declare them at fault; (3) the protest deals with doctrinal matters which are of serious concern to all our churches.
Rev. J. T. Malestein: Don’t we have a precedent in the case of the late Prof. D. H. Kromminga? (Note: the reference is to a ‘gravamen’ which the processor presented against a statement in our creed which has a bearing on the question of the millennium. A committee was appointed to study the matter but the professor died before the Committee could report and Synod decided to discontinue the investigation–K.)
The Reporter said that the two cases were not similar.
Rev. L. Tamminga asked whether a matter could be dealt with in the absence of the accused party.
Prof. H. Stob: This recommendation should not be adopted. It may well turn out that the point of difference is due to a misunderstanding. Since the protestant has died the protest is virtually no longer in existence.
The Reporter: I don’t think it follows at all that when a party brings in a protest and has gone to cIassis and that party passes away, Synod should not deal with it. There are other bodies that are involved.
Rev. H. N. Erffmeyer: Does the Committee feel that the weUare and the peace of the church concerned arc involved?
Rev. L. Tamminga: I can see that the Committee wants first to have the permission to bring this appeal before Synod. But it is hard to judge before we know something about the content.
Rev. P. Vander Weide: Only the formal aspect of the matter is before us now. Is it a matter of truth and right and justice to take it up?
Rev. F. Guillaume: I think that the grounds for the advice are not very strong. Experience has taught us that we need the man who makes the protest. I am against this. I hope we defeat the advice.
Rev. B. N. Huizenga: I believe we have to recognize the minor assembly in such matters. The protestant is deceased. How can we take this up except at the request of the Classis (California–K ).
Prof. J. Kromminga opined that since the protestant had passed away he no longer needed the judgment of the Synod.
Rev. N. Veltman: The argument is centering around the question whether this man is living or not. We should not look so sharply at that. Suppose a person is in a hospital and in a coma. Would you act on his protest? Certainly. The last ground contains a lot of insight. This is a serious matter -one of real concern to all our churches.
Prof. H. Stab spoke once more, after which Synod decided to cease debate and vote. The motion to consider the protest of Mr. Punt was lost with a vote of 54–58.
There were a number of protests at Synod but we report only on a few which in our opinion are of special interest to the entire church. One of these was the protest of Mr. W. I. Buiten, one of the younger members of the Los Angeles church, against its pastor and the consistory and against Classis California. Since this matter was treated in an executive session we do not feel at liberty to tell our readers what we know about it. Suffice it to say that the Synod, convinced of the seriousness and urgency of the matter, decided to appoint a special committee to confer with the parties concerned in loco. Tills Committee is composed of Rev. H. N. Erffmeyer, Rev. Edward B. Pekelder. Rev. T. C. Van Kooten, and elders Jacob De Jager and Henry J. Kuiper.