The South Votes No!
It is no longer news that the proposal to unite the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (North), the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (South), and the United Presbyterian Church of North America has been defeated because of failure to gain approval from the required number of Southern presbyteries. By February 1 thirty-five “U.S. Church” presbyteries had rejected the Plan of Union. Eighty-six is the total number of Southern presbyteries, and three-fourths approval was required to put the Plan into effect.
It is significant as well as interesting to note that Presbyterian Life, outstanding Northern publication, indicates the following as factors in the merger discussions leading to defeat in the South:
1. Not the ministers but the elders were most active in the defeat of the Plan.
2. The overwhelming strength of the “anti” forces was a great surprise to pro-union advocates in the Northern Church; although antiunion victory was anticipated, it was expected to reflect closer margins of voting in the presbyteries.
3. Anti-union forces were well organized and heavily financed. “The Association for the Preservation and Continuation of the Southern Presbyterian Church” set a budget of $98,000 with which to fight the Plan of Union. Presbyterian Life estimates that “from all indications they spent much more than this.”
4. A lack of concerted, vigorous action on the part of pro-union forces lies at the basis of the defeat. “Race” and “regional pride,” although strong factors, are not the real reason for union defeat.
5. Both Northern and United presbyteries are voting overwhelmingly in favor of union.
6. It is the opinion of pro-union forces in the North that even Southern “antis” realize that this is only a temporary obstacle to eventual merger.
To all of these another ought to be added, we hope!
It is our suspicion that much of the impetus given to antiunion effort stemmed from a desire to retain whatever degree of orthodoxy the Southern Presbyterian Church still manifests. This means that the real issue surrounds the doctrine of the Church as reflected in Scripture and the Reformed creeds. “The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan” declares the Westminster Confession of Faith, XXV:4. Especially in such a day as this, with apostasy and heresy obvious on every hand, one might do well to tread very carefully in matters calling for church union, thereby taking heed to the warning of this creedal statement.
We hope, however, that “The Association for the Preservation and Continuation of the Southern Presbyterian Church” will go on to do a mighty work of real reform in its denomination. This is not to suggest that reform is not always needed everywhere, hut rather to hope that through this organization the Southern Presbyterian Church will be summoned to the only task and program Scripturally warranted for a body truly worthy of the name church: the preaching of the pure doctrine of the gospel, the maintenance of the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ, and the exercise of church discipline in punishing of sin.
Or, to use the excellent summary statement of the Belgic Confession*, “in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church.” If the Association will insist upon that as the standard of all Southern Presbyterian action it can rest assured that, come what may, it is laboring for the true unity of Christ’s Church. For then it may say with all boldness, “Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself” (italics added).*
New Reformed Theological School in Australia
The coming of immigrants to Australia from the Netherlands after World War II resulted in the formation of a new denomination, The Reformed Church of Australia. Some eight ministers are now serving congregations located in the various cities of the continent, and now a Theological College with a five-year course for the training of ministers has been established in the city of Victoria. The brethren Schep and Barkley, the latter a minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Geelong, the former a Dutch Gereformeerd minister serving in Australia, constitute the teaching staff. Instruction is in both the Dutch and English languages.
Many young men are eager to oHer themselves for the work of the Gospel ministry, it is said, and the churches are longing for the day when the masses of Australian people can be reached with the Gospel proclaimed by men sent out by a church with a vigorous, true Reformed confession.
This is wonderful news, indeed! God bless this inauspicious but significant expression of the Christian faith on the continent “down under” the Southern Cross!
If you have tried, you know how difficult it often is to design and promote a successful missions emphasis program. With me all Christian kingdom workers realize, however, the great importance of presenting the challenge of this very important Gospel activity.
Here is a sample of a missions emphasis program which did “go over big” with a full house of eager listeners and participants. It took place February 25, 1955, in the Plymouth Heights Christian Reformed Church. Grand Rapids. The program itself was built around a panel discussion on the topic: “The Challenge and Obstacles in Missionary Endeavor Today….Panel members were Andrew VanderVeer, local lay evangelist; Dr. John A. Cremer, medical missionary in Ethiopia; Dr. Ralph Blocksma medical missionary in Pakistan; the Rev. Henry Evenhouse, secretary of the Christian Reformed Board of Missions. The Rev. Edward Heerema was panel moderator.
The discussion followed this outline:
1. The Command of our Lord –The Great Commission, introduced by Dr. Cremer.
2. The Joy of Seeing a Sinner Converted, introduced by Mr. VanderVeer.
3. Factors of Challenge in the World Situation Today, introduced by Dr. Blocksma.
4. The Changeless Christ for a Changing World, introduced by Mr. Evenhouse.
1. Apathy and Lack of Vision in the Church, introduced by Mr. VanderVeer.
2. Difficulties in Establishing an Indigenous Church, introduced by Dr. Blocksma.
3. The Rising Tide of Nationalism, introduced by Dr. Cremer.
4. Conflict in Ideologies, introduced by Mr. Evenhouse.
From this schedule it is easy to see that this was a well-planned, profitable meeting. Perhaps the greatest advantage of this type of meeting is not so much the comment of the panel members as the opportunity for audience participation. The work of missions must be presented not as a work of and for certain experts alone, but as the proper and natural expression of the Spirit-led, Spirit-filled New Testament church. The work of Gospel witness is not merely desirable, but actually indispensable to the life and task of the believer as member of the Body of Christ.
“Jehovah Calls at Our Homes”
This is a free translation (my own) of Jehovah Longs De Huizen, 36 point page 1 headline of the February 11, 1955 issue of The Guardian, “a Dutch-Canadian weekly for Reformed Expression” published in Edmonton, Alberta. Editorial committee for this journal is the Rev. John Hanenburg, the Rev. Anthony DeJager (both Christian Reformed clergymen), Messrs. P. Mos and P. G. Van Rhijn.
Mr. DeJager is the author of the stirring article which appears under the striking title referred to above. This article is a plea for generous cooperation on the part of them who will be receiving callers in the interest of raising funds for the Calvin Christian grammar school in Edmonton.
After all, argues Mr. DeJager, not salesmen nor beggars are making these calls, but in and through them Jehovah, the God of the Covenant, is asking for the loyalty and support of his own elect children.
Accompanying this article is a well-designed, well-written advertisement for the same cause. In addition to a picture of the very adequate, although simple, school building, erected recently by our brothers and sisters in Edmonton. this advertisement contains a splendid summary of the reasons for Christian day school education. We quote in full:
Christian Education—God Demands It
“And Jehovah said…For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice” – Genesis 18:19.
Christian Education—Parents Owe It
“Train up the child in the way that he should go” – Proverbs 22:6.
Christian Education—The Child Needs It
“The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge” – Proverbs 1:7.
Christian Education—The Church Must Be Concerned About It
“Lovest thou me? . . . Feed my lambs” – John 21:15.
Christian Education—The Nation’s Welfare is Served By It
“Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready uInto every good work” – Titus 3:1.
‘“Happy is the people (nation) whose God is Jehovah” – Psalm 144:15b.
This reveals an understanding of the Christian education task which augurs well for the future of the church and kingdom in Canada as represented by our Reformed people there.
*Belgic Confession, Article XXIX.