The Reverend Henry J. Kuiper

“H.J.” is dead.

That sounds strange. He has been with us so long, in the kind of providence of God. He has been such a prominent figure on the Reformed landscape for so long. Mind you, he was ordained at the tender age of twenty-one in the year 1907. Has anyone ever been ordained in the ministry of the Christian Reformed Church at a younger age?

In these fifty-five years he has served Christ and His Kingdom with amazing industry, with exceptional effectiveness, with a consistent witness, and in a remarkable variety of capacities. His place in the life and work of the Christian Reformed denomination is strikingly evident in the fact that when this denomination celebrated its centennial in the year 1957, our departed brother had been active in its service for exactly half that time. This statement is true despite the fact that he became emeritus in the year 1956. His service did not stop then, decidedly not.

It was not long after his emeritation that “H.J.” accepted the invitation of the Reformed Fellowship to become Managing Editor of TORCH AND TRUMPET. The Reformed Fellowship was delighted with this development. Our brother had proved himself to be just the vigorous and fearless champion of the Reformed faith that was needed for this post. And he had exceptional editorial ability due to his long experience as editor of The Banner from 1929 to 1956. Coupled with these qualifications was an amazing industry that could produce at a rate that would leave most younger men faint and weary.

We take a brief look at his record of service. He was graduated from Calvin Seminary in 1907 and ordained at Luctor, Kansas, in the fall of that year. His pastoral labors shifted to Prospect Park, Holland in 1910; to Second Englewood, Chicago in 1913; to Broadway, Grand Rapids in 1919; and 10 Neland Avenue, Grand Rapids in 1929. In this same year he became part-time editor of The Banner, and relinquished his pastorate at Neland when he became the first full-time editor of the denominational weekly in 1944.

The broad range of his services to Christ’s church and kingdom is revealed by a further look at the record. He was the first president of the Chicago Helping Hand Mission Board, chairman of the Grand Rapids City Mission Board for fifteen years, first president of the Grand Rapids Christian High School Board, second president of the Young Calvinist League (then known as the A.F.R.Y.M.S.), and president of the Board of the Reformed Bible Institute from its inception in 1939 to his death. He was delegate to the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in 1908, 1918, 1922, 1924, 1928, 1930, 1932, 1936, and 1937. He was chosen as vice-president of Synod in 1928 and 1932, and the honor of being president of that body was his in 1936 and 1937. Mr. Kuiper was editor of The New Christian Hymnal. which appeared in 1929. He served on the committee that produced the Psalter Hymnal in 1934, and also contributed to the Centennial Edition of this book of praise appearing in 1959. He was one of the founders of the Evangelical Press Association, and its second president, 1950–1951.

No wonder “H. J.” became a kind of symbol in the Christian Reformed Church, and in Reformed circles generally. He knew the Christian Reformed Church most intimately. All of this first-hand experience in the life of the church contributed much to his becoming known as the “voice” of the Christian Reformed Church through his long tenure as editor of The Banner from 1929 10 1956. Not all readers of the paper appreciated that “voice.” He made enemies in his fearless devotion to the cause of the Christian Reformed Church as he saw that cause. He was never afraid to show his mind on an issue, and his position was always unmistakably clear. His writing was never fuzzy or marked by that delightful vagueness that lets everybody think that the editor is on his side.

These qualities endeared him to the hearts of his co-laborers on TORCH AND TRUMPET. But there was something else that was greatly appreciated. The members of the Editorial Committee of this magazine have not always been and are not now at aLI times of one mind on every issue. Not all members of the committee have always seen eye-to-eye with “B . J.” on every issue. These areas of difference have generally been on relatively minor matters. But the Managing Editor proved himself congenial and courteous at all times. He was not stubborn or overbearingly insistent on having his own way. He recognized what the members of the Reformed Fellowship always try to keep in sharp focus, namely, that we are a fellowship of people from several denominations dedicated to the exposition and propagation of the Reformed faith in its historic, creedal expression. To this larger cause “H.J.” bent his dedicated energy these past six years, both in his editorial capacity and in the workings of the Reformed Fellowship. For his contributions to this larger cause the members of the Fellowship will always be grateful, and the loss of his valued services will be keenly felt.

The character and spirit of this servant of Christ were well demonstrated a number of years ago when he was pastor of the Broadway church. He preached a sermon in which he expressed his opposition to the setting up of a proposed School of Religion at Ann Arbor. Directing his prophetic voice and insight against the local campaign on behalf of this proposed program, he spoke the following as quoted by the Grand Rapids Press: “We see dark times ahead for the church of Christ. A new religion is going to take the place of Christianity in this Christian land—a religion satisfying to the unregenerate heart; a religion satisfying to the unregenerate heart; a religion based on science and philosophy rather than the work of God; a religion whose big words are not ‘grace and ‘faith’ but ‘works’ and ‘service’; the pagan religion of liberalism not the saving religion of Christ, though is still makes use of his name.”

This prophetic voice has now been stilled. He died at 2:30 a.m. on December 12, 1962, in Grand Rapids, the place of his birth, just ten days short the the seventy-seventh anniversary of his birth in 1885. The editors of this magazine and the members of Reformed Fellowship extend their warm Christian sympathy to Mrs. Kuiper and to the two daughters, Mrs. Jay Noordewier and Mrs. Edsko Hekman and their families. Through the mists of sorrow we would have a deeper joy break forth, joy in the blessed state of a servant who has entered into that service of the Lord which knows no fault or tear. May the prospect of that we too shall enter into that richer service quicken us all to greater industry and devotion here and now.