What’s Coming Up at the CRC Synod?

Beginning June 14, the 1977 CRC Synod is to meet at the Fine Arts Center of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. To assist our readers to know what is coming up, Rev. Peter De Jong is once again giving a preview of Synod’s business. Rev. De Jong is pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of Dutton, Michigan.

Again it is time to look over the Agenda for the CRC Synod about to meet. Every consistory member is given a copy, but how many will read it? Even for many delegates working through its 479 pages may appear to be a hopeless job. A review of it may help them as well as interest other readers.

Although this years book contains no long reports and introduces little new material, it brings up some matters which are important to every member of the church and to any outside of it. Instead of following the order of the book (reports of boards, standing committees, representatives, and study committees, overtures and appeals), it may be more interesting and useful to group its items under some general subjects, even though that means beginning at the back of the book.

Faithfulness to the Bible and its Doctrine – One of the first items of business of every Synod is the reading of the declaration of agreement with the forms of unity and the assent of all of the delegates to it. That might seem to be only routine, but it is not. The agreement with the Bible and its doctrine is what brings and holds the churches together. Without it there would be no real reason to meet at all. The Lord has promised to build and rule His church, but He told us that He would do this through His Word.

Our place and service in the church depends on our faith in and obedience to God and His Word. Without such submission to the Lord and His Word, churches and their leaders become blind leaders of the blind, and the Lord will repudiate them and their works (Matt. 15:14). Therefore it seems appropriate that we begin our survey by looking at items that deal with this fundamental matter.

The Verhey Case – What turned out to be the most discussed matter at last years Synod was the appeal against the decision of a Classis to approve ordaining a candidate to the ministry after he had denied and questioned events of biblical history. The Synod after long discussion dismissed the appeal without deciding on its merits because the man was already ordained and then by a very close vote of 72 to 69 approved the action of its representatives in sanctioning the ordination. (See articles on this subject in the April and May issues of THE OUTLOOK as well as this issue.)

During the past year a number of other churches and classes throughout the denomination have been disturbed by these decisions. The Synod’s dismissal of the appeal and approval of the ordination brings the denomination’s own faithfulness to the Bible as God‘s Word into question. In the Agenda, two overtures and an appeal bring the matter before this year’s Synod.

Classis Alberta North (Overture 4, p. 462) asks the Synod to examine “Dr. Allen Verhey’s view of Scriptures, in particular regarding his acceptance and interpretation of scriptural historical data in the light of our confessions.” Grounds include: (1) the concern of the denomination at large as it has learned of these views. (2) “The concern of the churches regarding faithfulness to the Scripture on the part of her ministers demands synodical action,” and (3) Dr. Verhey as a CRC minister “is presently working under a cloud of suspicion because of public allegations neither sustained or denied.”

Classis Minnesota South (Overture 23, p. 477) also asks for an investigation of Dr. Verhey’s view of Scripture. It expresses its grievance against the approval of the work of the Synod’s deputies in permitting the ordination. It observes that the Synod’s approval was given “with full knowledge of” the “erroneous views in regard to biblical facts” and that therefore the Synod failed in doing its own duty under the Form of Subscription. “When it had sufficient grounds for suspicion,” it “did not require a full explanation from Dr. Verhey concerning his views of biblical facts” as the Form of Subscription places the responsibility for making such inquiry on “consistory, classis or synod.” It also quotes the Van Dellen and Monsma Commentary‘s (p. 40) observation that in such inquiries “The major assemblies need not wait for minor assemblies.” It therefore asks this Synod to require Dr. Verhey to appear and explain his views on biblical facts, specifically in the two passages mentioned, if it finds them unscriptural and anti-confessional that it [shall] try to dissuade him from his error, and if that is not successful, that it advise the Neland Ave. Consistory to begin discipline under Art. 89 and 90 of the Church Order. Its ground is that last year’s decision endangered the “foundations of our faith . . . in God’s Word, and . . . failed to uphold the confessions . . . .”

Classis Pacific Northwest (Appeal 2, pp. 478f.) asks the Synod to reconsider the Dutton appeal because it was dismissed last year on the ground that proper procedure had been followed, whereas the issue was not proper or improper procedure, but the rightness or wrongness of the classisdecision. It asks the Synod to decide whether the Classis decision was right or wrong, and to reconsider the Synod’s approval of the work of its deputies because no ground was given for that approval of the ordination of a candidate whom the deputies said “expressed ambiguous and imprecise views of inspiration.” The Classis is convinced that “the many voices heard both within our churches and in other churches concerning interpretation of Scripture demand a clear and unequivocal voice from Synod on this matter.”

We are informed that there have also been other overtures or appeals dealing with this matter but that they have been denied a place in the printed Agenda. (Another article elsewhere in this issue deals with this violation of the right to overture and appeal.) (Passing Classis Hamilton‘s Overture 9, p. 466, to exclude items not printed in the Agenda from Synod‘s consideration would make this abuse even worse.)

“Report 44” on Biblical Authority – The Verhey case has been one of several matters which have exposed the unsatisfactory ambiguity “doubletalk” if one likes a blunter word) of the 1972 Synod’s report on the Nature and Extent of Biblical authority. 1t has been cited both to forbid and to defend Dr. Verhey’s views. Classis Zeeland in Overtures 6 and 7 (pp. 463–465) asks the Synod to appoint a committee to provide a more popular and simpler version of that report and to answer a number of questions about what kinds of views it permits. It points out some of the evident inconsistencies in the report and the confusion which it increases rather than removes. The matter was brought to the classis’ attention by an overture originating with an elder, Mr. Thomas Spriensma, which asked that the 1972 report be repealed. Mr. Spriensma, who was also a member of the Classiscommittee which worked on the matter still felt after the study that the church would be better served by repealing the ‘72 decisions than by trying to popularize and simplify them. The Rules for Synod Procedure list among “matters legally before Synod,” “D. Overtures, or communications which have failed to gain the endorsement of Classis but which the consistory or individual sponsoring the same desire to submit for Synod’s consideration.” Despite this rule Mr. Spriensma’s Overture to repeal those decisions was denied a place in the printed Agenda although its existence is indicated in the list on page 479. Because his Overture sheds light on those of the Classis, it appears to be in order under Synod’s rules, and it is both right and desirable that the church and the delegates in particular, know what it is. It may be found elsewhere in this issue of THE OUTLOOK.

The Boer Case – In 1973 Dr. Harry Boer attacked the Form of Subscription by which everyone who holds office in the Christian Reformed Churches must promise to be faithful to the churches’ creeds, as too restrictive. In 1975 he also, in violation of his own promises in signing that form, publicly questioned the biblical grounds for the doctrine of reprobation as it is expressed in the Canons of Dort. Last year‘s Synod, after three years of discussion, decided to keep the old form but to change the way in which it would function. It recognized two kinds of formal objections to the creeds, or “gravamens,” one a confessional difficulty gravamen to be handled pastorally and personally without publicity in which the “burden of proof” does not lie on the subscriber to defend his objections to the creeds, and the other a “confessional-revision gravamen which does place the burden of proof on the subscriber who wants to change the creeds and which must be handled in a more judicial way. Having made this distinction, the Synod decided that the attack of Dr. Boer on the doctrine of the Canons should be classified as a “confessional-difficulty” (of the first kind) and be handled pastorally and personally by a committee which it appointed. This committee in a report of less than one page (p. 460) informs the Synod that its work was cut short by Dr. Boer who informed it, “I declined the offer of counsel on the ground that no amount of counseling could meet the one irreducible demand that I lay upon the church, namely that it, i.e., the denomination, either make an official and public statement of the scriptural basis for the doctrine of reprobation or declare the doctrine to be no longer binding on the church and its office bearers.A concluding note (p. 479) states that Dr. Boer‘s Confessional Revision Gravamen will be sent to all the Synod delegates. That “gravamen” together with especially whatever biblical grounds it may advance will have to be studied.

It ought to be observed that De Boer, up to this point, has not attempted to argue the case about scriptural teaching. He merely stated that “the two texts adduced in Article 6 are certainly not perspicuous in teaching what they are alleged to teach” (Acts 15: 18 and Eph. 1:11) and “Scriptural support adduced for it by Reformed theologians does not impress me and in any case I am not bound by their exegetical judgments” (The Reformed Journal, April 1975). It ought to be remembered that Dr. Boer last year also publicly attacked the infallibility of the Bible as meaning free from errors and defended “higher” criticism of it (The Reformed Journal, March 1976; cf. also my article in THE OUTLOOK of June 1976).

While the Form of Subscription demands that the objector prove from Scripture that the creeds are wrong, Dr. Boer has been demnnding that the church prove to his satisfaction that the cloctrine of the creeds which he has promised to uphold are right. Although his gravamen must be studied, he must be held responsible for living up to his promises of faithfulness to Scripture and the churches’ creeds and not permitted to attack them with impunity as he has flagrantly and repeatedly been doing. A church which will not maintain the discipline of God’s Word will be disciplined by Him (Rev. 2:2, 6, 14–16, 20ff.; 22:18,19).

Confessions – The Committee for a new confession (pp. 449–457) recommends that we keep Catechism Answer 80 as still valid and that we prepare a “testimony” against modern secularization of life.

The Lodge Issue – We have an exclusive religion. Our Lord said, “No one cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6) and “No man can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). Therefore our churches have always said that a Christian may not belong to a lodge which involves a religion that is not Christian.

This view has been attacked as too exclusive. Especially Classis Lake Erie over a period of 5 years, repeatedly attacked this stand of the church. In 1975, despite the reports of 3 synodical study committees and Synod’s decisions it again asked for a new committee to restudy the matter, and got its way. The Classis, although it “accepts the position of the church regarding the false religious character of the lodge” (p. 373), argues that lodge members should be admitted into our churches because they may not “feel” that the lodge involves such a religious commitment.

The committee now brings a 21-page report (pp. 371–392), which shows that the oaths of various lodges do involve a religious commitment which cannot be reconciled with membership in Christ’s church. It also presents an abbreviated version of the 1975 statement of the position of the church without the cartoons that decorated that document. It asks that the Synod maintain the stand that church-andlodge membership cannot be reconciled and approve the summary statement for publication.

Classis Columbia (Overture 15, p. 471) while admitting that lodge membership is wrong in principle wants the Synod to be lenient in enforcing the rule arguing that “It is important not to insist that new members make a choice before he/she is ready to make that choice. To force the issue before he/she has become mature enough to face it could cause him/ her to break his/her relationship with the church.” Similarly the Avery Church of South Windsor, Connecticut (Overture 19, p. 475) asks the Synod “to allow exceptional cases for lodge members to be members of the church . . . where membership in the lodge carries no confessional, religious commitment for the individual involved.” The Conrad Church (Overture 21, p. 476) asks the Synod if it adopts the overture of its classis (Columbia, No. 15), to add to that a third point that also provides for partial or “selective participation in membership” in the church. The argument is that if we are going to allow for people being half-way lodge members we ought also to permit them being half-way members of the church. Conrad’s approach is unusual, but it may help to expose the fallacy of the lodge defendersargument.

While the Lord was patient with people, did He ever scale down His exclusive claims to accommodate their prejudices—or the competition of other religions? Faithfulness to Him and His Word demands taking a firm if kindly stand, not the compromise that some advocate.

Marriage Guidelines and Divorce – The Report on “Marriage Guidelines” (pp. 306–344), carried over from last year when the advisory committee was too busy to deal with it, now comes up for decision. In 1973 the Synod rejected a report that broadened the grounds for divorce because it was “not convinced” that this was “in accord with the biblical teaching concerning marriage.” Now this Synod finds itself confronted with a report which, while its makes many strong-sounding statements concerning marriage, at the critical ·point again throws the door open to other unspecified reasons that will justify divorce. After saying that “physical infidelity” is the “unique possible ground for divorce” the report immediately contradicts itself by suggesting other kinds of “actions, situations and conditions” which a consistory may judge to be the equivalent to it (p. 324).

Objections to stretching our Lord’s teaching in this way are aptly pointed out in a POSTSCRIPT by Rev. A. Persenaire, one member of the committee. While he agrees with much of the report on the Bible teaching concerning marriage, he strenuously objects to stretching the statements of our Lord to cover the equivalent to unrepentant unchastity so that “each consistory can make its own interpretation of what constitutes the equivalent of pornea” (p. 337). By this kind of word-juggling and further bringing in the question of people’s “intention” (p. 341), something which does not enter into Jesus’ teaching on this point at all, “the committee recommends that the church can even bless what Jesus calls adultery”! And so divorce, instead of being recognized as “a gross, public sin, giving great offense to both God and His church” becomes for the committee merely “a serious shortcoming among many others” (p. 343).

Classis Zeeland (Overture 5, p. 462) also asks the Synod to “affirm Christ’s singular exception to the permanency of marriage as that of fornication . . . and [to] reject the proposed and broadened scope of fornicationin the Report because the latter lacks biblical ground.”

Classis Hackensack (Overture 17, p. 472) asks that the report’s recommendations about remarriage be rejected because at a number of points they evade biblical teachings and misuse consistory authority. Bethel Church of Paterson objects to the report because with its talk of “mutual submission” it denies the submission the Bible demands of a wife to her husband, it denies the biblical fact that “headship” implies authority (Eph. 1:22), and it makes the wifes respect for her husband depend upon his “merit” instead of on the Lord’s will. It also asks “the Synod maintain that adultery alone is the biblical and therefore only permissible ground for divorce.”

At this point the church is again under great pressure to conform to the spirit of the age and let those who want to divorce and remarry do so with its permission and even blessing. Even the texts in which the Lord most strenllollsly denounced such conduct are getting twisted to justify it. If our churches are to be faithful to the Lord and His Word they will have to reject the report’s unbiblical concessions even though that may incur the Herod-like wrath of those who are irked by the churches’ daring to resist their desires. (Note also the articles in the May and June issues of THE OUTLOOK on this subject.)

Liturgy: A New Marriage Form – The pressure to conform to the spirit of our age which detests every kind of authority also comes to expression in the new marriage form which the liturgical committee asks the Synod to approve (p. 217ff.). In it the emphasis falls on covenanting of the two partners who each promise to lovingly serve the other and who each promise exactly the same thing. Must the church be so fearful of the current unisex fad that it hardly dares to suggest that there is any God-ordained difference between a man and a woman even when it marries them? Victorian prudishness at its worst could hardly have reached this level. And must we tell the Lord how to counsel them when they get bored and give them “perpetual renewal” like Cana’s “choice wedding wine”?

Form for Adult Baptism – The new form for adult baptism (pp. 213ff.) is a modernization in style of the old one. Although the wording is improved, unfortunately some of the faults of the old one are retained. Why do we have to make unwarranted concessions to Baptist ideas by saying “baptism, whether by immersion or sprinkling” when as Dr. John Murray showed “baptism” does not mean immersion? Why not drop that phrase that refers to method since it adds nothing here? “Third: Because all covenants have two sides, baptism also places us under obligation . . .”, (like the old form) expresses a bit of scholasticism that is, strictly speaking, not true. It is just not true that “Baptism places us under obligation because all covenants have two sides.” The reason why we arc placed under obligation is not found in any necessary structure of “covenants,” but because God placed us under obligation. Dare we say God could have not made a covenant with less or more than two sides? That phrase ought to be dropped. When the phrase “evil lusts” is replaced by “evil attractions” (p. 215) doesn‘t that change the meaning?

Women‘s Liberation – The pressure to conform to the spirit of our time comes to expression again in the “Report on the Use of Women‘s Gifts in the Church” (p. 395). The committee which produced it was, historically, a by-product of the unsuccessful effort to get women’s ordination approved by the Synod of two years ago (Acts 1975, p. 78). Despite the restrictions of its mandate (“biblical guide-lines” and “Church Order,” it has tended to be a pressure group for the “woman‘s liberation” movement. Its report repeats with emphasis what it said last year, that society is radically changing, and it threatens the church with dire consequences if the church docs not try to ready people for those changes. The report therefore asks that this committee be replaced by two new committees, one for “service” and the other for “study” to do this job. That the churches should seek to encourage all of their members to use their gifts in the Lord’s service is undeniable. That they need or could profit by having one more such pressure-group committee, let alone two of them, appears very unlikely. Those who are convinced that we need an “ERA” in the church don‘t need further convincing.

Those who believe the trend is unbiblical must resist it. The activities of such partisan committees threaten to further divide the churches. The committee to study hermeneutical principles on women in church offices (p. 345) which was to have reported at this synod is unready and asks for an additional year for study.

The Ministry – Classis Chicago North (Overture 9, p. 466) asks the Synod to reconsider the question of the offices to which evangelists should be ordained, and Classis Hamilton (Overture 10) raises essentially the same question. Classis Cadillac (Overture 20, p. 475) wants to authorize evangelists to administer the sacraments.

Classis Northcentral Iowa (Overture 11, p. 467) wants some provision made for a “tentmaker ministry” (for a minister who like Paul works at some trade).

By way of contrast with this last suggestion, the Fund for Needy Churches Committee recommends that the minimum salary paid to ministers in subsidized churches be raised another $1000 (it was raised $1500 last year) to $12,000, plus $500 per child, plus $800 for car allowance with another $800 for the same cause required from the church.

Classis Minnesota North (Overture 1, p. 461) wants the Synod to fund half the cost of ministerial student internships through the seminary budget.

Classis British Columbia (Overture 22, p. 476) would increase ministers’ pension benefits as the cost of living rises.

Article 13A of our Church Order deals with ministers engaged in extraordinary work. It permits such work as long as it is judged to be “spiritual in character and directly related to the ministerial calling.” A study committee on this matter (which now involves 12% of our ministers) recommend extensive changes in the Church Order (pp. 440–448) Articles 11–13. The committee wants to limit such ministerial work to that which is under the officially approved supervision of the church and to stop considering it to be “for life.” Although the suggestions have merit the problem with the committee’s view is that following the exclusively functional and pragmatic approach of the 1973 report on the nature of church office, it assumes that “the nature and extent of ecclesiastical office is what these church says it is” (p. 447). While the Bible may not give us a detailed church order it certainly gives us more guidance than this. In this view, what the Presbyterians have called the “regulative principle” of the Bible is being discarded to throw us back into Roman Catholic authoritarianism. This matter needs wider, careful study.

Church Order Changes – Classis Grand Rapids North (Overture 2, p. 461) would have changes in our Church Order ratified by vote of 2/3 of the classes to make them valid. Such a rule might be desirable.

The Committee on the Proposed Judicial Code (pp. 399–409) brings a revision of that code which it desires that the Synod adopt. While some improvement of our church procedures in dealing with appeals may be in order one wonders whether such an elaborate system of regulations as this, copied from the practice of our civil courts, is desirable. The injustices perpetrated by the courts and their endless appeals, so often based on technical arguments regarding procedure, have become notorious. Will such a heavy dose of that medicine improve the churches’ health?

Church Education – The Publication Board (pp. 88–122) reports in some detail on its educational materials, giving special emphasis to that which is being prepared for young adults. It is evident that much planning and work is going into this material. No matter how well the details of this curriculum may be worked out, they will likely be of little concern to many of our churches because those churches are still convinced that the over-all “one-track” framework as it has been set up cannot provide the kind of Christian training we need for our children and therefore they will not use it.

Last year’s committee report stated that only 41% of the churches used the whole curriculum; I could find no figures in this report. The general complaint seems to be that the new system does not teach children and young people to know either the Bible or its doctrines as well as the older system did anddoes. Recall that the general plan of the new materials provides a variety of lessons for younger children which do not teach them to know the Bible and its history in any systematic way, shortens the systematic teaching of its doctrine (“catechism”) to two years, and then in the young adultsprogram here outlined includes many individual subjects. The lists include music, film, TV, sports, work and leisure, school, dating and sexuality (p. 113) and “world hunger . . . poverty, abortion, euthanasia, war, ecology, truthfulness, self-abuse, racism” (p. 117), “marriage,” “divorce,” “remaining single” (p. 118) “vocation” (p. 118) etc. (The suggested definition of the Bible’s “Inspiration” also seems very inadequate: “Scriptures are the product of the Spirit of God. The writers of Scripture preserved God’s purpose without error” (p. 114.)

Many of the churches are convinced that the older systematic teaching of the contents of the Bible first and then of the Bible’s doctrines, each spread over a number of years (with the many practical matters the new curriculum tries to treat separately brought in connection with the Bible and doctrine teaching) is a simpler and more effective way to train children and young people in the Christian faith than the complex mix offered by the Publication Board. These churches are asking for “catechism books” to help them do the job. If the denomination will not supply the need, others are having to do it. One must also question the fairness of expecting the many churches who do not find the material suited to its purpose to pay a quota (even though reduced) for producing it.

Calvin College and Seminary’s Board (pp. 27–41) was instructed in 1975 to study the return of the examination of candidates for the ministry to the Synod. The Board now recommends that the board continue to do the examining. Its proposed list of appointees for teaching positions also should get some attention by the Synod. (Note the article in last month’s issue of THE OUTLOOK about the expressed views of one appointee.)

Social and Political Matters – Christians are all called to honor and serve their Lord also in their political and social relationships. It is a question, however, whether or to what extent churches should officially involve themselves in these matters. The Lord said to a man who wanted Him to divide an inheritance, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” (Luke 12:14). And our Church Order states (Art. 28) that church “assemblies shall transact ecclesiastical matters only.” One notices a widespread tendency for churches as they become less concerned about the Bible and its teachings to become increasingly engrossed in social and political action. It seems that as they become less sure about the gospel they become more sure of their political wisdom and ability to tell the world how its business must be run. And those expressed church opinions usually follow the current humanistic fads rather than the teachings of the Bible.

War – The Committee Report on “Ethical Decisions about War” (pp. 346–370) is a product of the anti-Vietnam war hysteria of a few years ago. Begun in 1973, referred back for study in 1975, it now returns with some alterations, some added Scripture references and a recommendation for approval. It still contains a lot of sweeping generalizations often with little support: “(2) God is for peace and is determined to end all war” is declared to be a “biblical principle,” “not negotiable” which “must underlie all decisions about war,” but no proof is advanced for it. Pacifism is said to be mistaken (p. 355) and yet is called an old and respected position which the church should tolerate (p. 365). The report lists a series of nine questions about the nation’s motives and the legality of its actions and the propriety of the weapons and strategy it uses which the Christian is supposed to ask before he consents to work for “companies that . . . in any way stand to profit from war” or even decides to pay his taxes (p. 367, item 2 and p. 369, items 14 and 15)! The questions might be useful to diplomats although it is doubtful if any of them could answer them. The report elsewhere also admits that it is “extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine the pertinent facts that must be known in order to judge the morality of participation in any given war” (p. 366)! In other words, we must all answer unanswerable questions before we pay our taxes! ‘What has happened “to the Bible’s plain instruction to pay “tribute to whom tribute is due” (Rom. 13:7)? Despite the true things it says, this report because of its unsupported and sometimes anti-biblical generalizations and its ambiguities and contradictions offers little help to anyone and might better be laid aside.

Race – One gets a somewhat similar impression from reading the dispirited report of the Race Committee (SCORR) (pp. 235–247). Given the mandate to seek to “eliminate racism, both causes and effects through the world . . .” (p. 236), the committee complains of “frustrations” (p. 235) as members have resigned, “mainline denominations have dismantled much of their social justice machinery” (p. 237) an“SCORR has failed to capture the interest and support of the church” (p. 244). It has helped some minority students get into college, and has given some support to activities of other agencies. A questionnaire circulated among its friends brought some expressions of support and it recommends that Synod continue it with an increased quota of $1.60 per family. Is it not time that this committee too be dismissed? Does this mean condoning racial injustice? Of course, not. But the financial report (p. 248) shows that the committee, burdened with an impressibly broad mandate and no assigned job, has had to spend half of its budget on administration and the other half mostly on gifts to other agencies which could as well be financed directly. Do the committee’s expressed frustrations after six years on such operation not suggest that we seek more effective ways to combat injustice?

Political Power – The most direct efforts to involve the churches officially in seeking political power come in the form of two overtures from Classis Hackensack (No. 16, p. 472) and from Alpine Ave. Church of Grand Rapids (No. 14, pp. 468–471). The first would have a Standing Committee on Social Justice to help the plight of the powerless throughout the world especially through a lobbyist in Washington; the second would have the World Relief Committee appoint a denominational ambassador to deal with international poverty through such lobbying in Washington and Ottawa. This proposal maintains that “the redemptive work of Christ is, among other things a political redemption” and therefore “political evangelism is a task to which the church is called.” It maintains among other things that the U.S. must be made to stop discriminating in trade against the socialist countries!

In 1975 the Synod rejected an overture from Classis Lake Erie (p. 107) that would have a committee study the “inequitable distribution of wealth and power” because the classis had not demonstrated “that a task of this scope and magnitude belongs to the instituted church rather than to concerned groups of Christians.” That position needs to be reaffirmed as more people among us seem to be forgetting about what the Lord and His apostles said was the work of the church and the nature of its gospel.

World Relief – The work of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (pp. 123–139) gains wide interest and support as it brings help in many parts of the world to people who are hard hit by floods, earthquakes, famines and other disasters.

Problems arise in this work, in the words of the Board of World Missions (pp. 46, 47) from “a noticeably increasing tendency toward the separation of word and deed, particularly in the arena of the programmed or longrange benevolent activity.” The compassionate deed should not . . . be divorced from the call to repentance and faith.”

One wonders about the Relief Committee beginning to finance literacy work and basic adult education (pp. 127 and 128), and has even more misgivings about it financing a family and marital counseling program in the city of Edmonton where we have eight mostly good-sized Christian Reformed Churches. Is this proper denominational help of the poor?

Interchurch Relations – Since 1974 we have dropped the old restrictive term “sister churches” to replace it by a looser more comprehensive expression, “churches in ecclesiastical fellowship.” This had certain practical advantages since interchurch relations between denominations varied so widely, but it also involved a real danger of becoming more careless about our relations with a variety of other churches. Such increasing carelessness is becoming apparent. It is seen in the recommendation that the regular certificate for membership transfer within the denomination (or to sister churches) from now on be recommended for normal use in transfer to any church in ecclesiastical fellowship (p. 178). The number of those churches increase, as now the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is being recommended for inclusion (p. 177). The North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council of which we are members has tightened its commitment to the Bible as “the infallible Word of God” and as “in its entirety . . . the Word of God written, without error in all its parts . . .” (p. 185).

The Reformed Ecumenical Synod has been putting some pressure on the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands because of their continuing membership in the World Council of Churches and because of their failure to discipline their leaders who deny fundamental doctrines of the faith (pp. 196 and 197). On the other hand there are indications that our increasing associations with the Reformed Church of America are not likely to strengthen our biblical or doctrinal integrity. An “Evangelism Manifesto” (pp. 434–439) drawn up by a joint commission of the denominations, has had some Scripture references added to it, but is mainly devoted to social and community activity and cooperation.

Missions – The World Missions Report (pp. 42–70) gives an overall glimpse of the many foreign fields in which we are denominationally seeking to bring the gospel. Our involvement in the big Nigeria field is in a number of ways declining as the churches there take over the work or the government moves into the hospitals and schools. One is surprised at how few ministers are at present on the staff. The evangelistic work has long been mostly done by the native churches. Much of our work now is assisting the schools and hospitals. On the other hand, especially in Latin America the report is one of increasing activity in many countries, including training of pastors. The expansion of our missionary efforts has raised a number of problems, especially in connection with relations in various places with the work of the World Relief Committee.

These problems occasioned the appointment of a committee on “Mission Principles” (pp. 410–433). Its report is concerned especially with correlating the work of the missions with the relief work by putting the work of relief under the leadership of the mission‘s evangelistic effort, so as to avoid needless tension and conflict. We can appreciate that purpose, but at some points the statement of mission principles raises questions. “God is seeking to liberate his people from evil’s grip” (p. 415). The doctrine of election is almost completely overlooked in the emphasis of mans activity, and men are to be addressed as “honorable redeemable creatures of God” (p. 418). “There are biblical norms which we must obey, but the Bible nowhere spells out the ‘how’ of the missionary enterprise” (p. 419).

The report raises the question whether the chaplains’ committee which was once a part of home missions, but was expanded during the war, should now not be placed back under home missions instead of remaining a separate agency (p. 431). This suggestion too seems to make sense when one notices the relatively small number of chaplains now in various kinds of service.

We notice that the Home Missions Board raises a question about the propriety of a union of a Reformed Church (pp. 77, 78, 87).

Radio – One of the most encouraging reports prepared for the Synod is that which deals with the radio work of the Back to God Hour which now includes separate broadcasting efforts bringing the gospel in eight different languages and to all parts of the world (pp. 11–26). Read about the remarkable response beginning to come in from the Moslem world in which other missionary efforts are so restricted, and the Christian literature which is being sent out in the various languages to those who ask for it. No report is yet available on the direction in which the new venture into television will develop.

Conclusion – Although the survey of the Synod‘s Agenda unfortunately has to give special attention to problem areas which require decisions, the glimpse one gets even in this way of the extent and varieties of openings God has given us to bring His gospel is a wide and exciting one. The very extent and number of those opportunities, as well as the problems that arise in connection with them, all direct attention to the thought with which this survey began, the need to be faithful to that gospel if we are to have anything to bring.

Trying to evaluate these materials from this point of view, we began our review at the end and we end at the beginning of the book. On the covers in which it {as well as the Acts of ‘77, supposedly) is bound is a striking picture of the meeting of the Synod of Dort. Wouldn‘t it be ironic if between those covers we could read of the rejection of Dort’s biblical doctrines? Let us pray and work that the Lord may keep us as faithful to the “whole counsel” of His Word as He kept those Dort fathers whose faces appear on the Agenda.

O may His holy church increase, His Word and Spirit still prevail. . .