The week began on a very positive note: three men who had been appointed to replace retiring seminary professors, had all received liberty to accept their appointments. The particulars are as follows:
- Drs. A. Baars (who served our Dundas church from 1981 to 1988) is to take over part of Dr. W.H. Velema's task, with the heaviest load falling in the field of homiletics and poimenics (preaching and pastoral care). He will succeed Dr. W.H. Velema as per February 1, 1996;
- Dr. H.J. Selderhuis to succeed Dr. W van't Spijker in church history and church polity as per February 1, 1977;
- Drs. T.M. Hofman to succeed Dr. J. De Vuyst in the areas of hermeneutics, canonics, exegesis and further textual studies in the New Testament, as per February 1, 1977.
Baars and Hofman, who both may use the title "doctorandus" (Drs.), have completed the course requirements towards their doctor's degree and will be full professors upon their respective promotions. In anticipation of this they have been appointed as "head lecturer." Selderhuis is appointed as "hoogleraar"--full professor. (Later in the week a fourth appointment was made to fill the remaining vacancy left by Velema. Drs. D.J. Steensma received a provisional appointment as lecturer.)
The rest of that day was spent discussing contacts with other churches. Sadly, one of the foreign brothers, Rev. Macleod from the Free Church of Scotland, had died on the way to the airport--synod was deeply shocked by this news.
Your delegate was invited to address the synod. I translate from De Wekker (the weekly of the CGK). "Rev. Schouls brings us cordial greetings and speaks of the situation and developments in the churches which he represents. The relation between the FRC and the CGK is the oldest and the closest. As small church in a society becoming increasingly secular, we may look to the great King. Mission work has been started in Guatemala and the Lord has richly blessed this. A Reformed church has been instituted of which about 80 people are members, people who recently lived in the darkness of heathendom. But where the Lord blesses, Satan works hardest. As synod we listened to a cordial and warm address. Rev. Tanis (chairman of synod, C.S.) responds on behalf of synod. There are close ties. The FRC developed from emigrants to Canada who came out of our churches. We need each other. Together we must stand on the basis of Scripture and Confession. The devil works as an angel of light to infiltrate the Reformed world. Besides the Word we have the rich treasure of the Confessions by which and out of which our parents lived and were strengthened, also in times of blood and tears. These treasures may never end up in a museum. That would be cutting the root from which our and your churches sprang and have life. You are a small church but wanted by the King of the Church. In the mission work the Lord gave you an open door. Bring our greetings. 'Fare well'"
It was my experience that these were not just words; delegates treated me warmly and most brotherly and I do believe that this was indicative of warm feelings for our churches.
Relations with CRC Severed
Although various matters in relation to other churches were discussed, none would be of as much interest and meaning to us as the decision to sever the relationship with the Christian Reformed Church of North America. In 1980 the CGK, despite our strong objections, entered into "Ecclesiastical Fellowship" with the CRC. Why the CRC was so desirous of this has always been a mystery to me. True, there were, at one time, real ties--but these were ties of a former age, a former century even and developments since the turn of this century were such that these ties, of whatever value they may have been, were never formalized. It is doubtful whether the formal relation between these two denominations, as it existed for these 15 years, has ever had any impact on the CRC. The warning voices of various GKN delegates addressing CRC synods were, for the most part, ignored. Although the bold speech by the representative from the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (GKN, the "mother" of the CRC), which brazenly set out their liberal course of action, from which there would be no return, was fully reported in The Banner, the sombre words of warning by the CGK delegates, Revs. den Butter and Westerink, were completely ignored. Their presence was not even acknowledged in the church press.
The CRC sent delegates to the CGK Synod but it was a delegation which was not well received. This has nothing to do with the persons sent; they were, generally, recognized as "a pair of nice men." The problem was that these two semi-retired ministers, Revs. J. Kuntz and G. Ringalda, who were delegated at the last moment, almost as an after-thought, had no standing on either the CRC Committee for Contact or on the Executive of the latest synod. They were available, they spoke Dutch and they were sent. This did not sit well with many of the brothers. But, what made it worse was that these delegates, no doubt sincerely trying to make the most of a bad situation, painted a picture of the CRC and of its relations with the CGK along various personal lines, which came over as less than accurate. I did not recognize that church; neither did Rev. den Butter who said, "I have great difficulty with your way of presenting the issues. You give a recital of emotions, not of facts."
Although various brothers asked for a decision in principle to be implemented at the next general synod (1998) if there would be no evidence of return and repentance on the part of the CRC, when the vote on the recommendation to sever this relationship was taken, it carried 42 to 10. A relationship which never should have been, is no more. It lasted only 15 years--in the annals of church history this is a very short period of time, indeed. An asterisk, a footnote and little more. But, perhaps also a lesson?
I sat at the executive table, between the CRC delegates and the members of the CGK who had been at the last CRC synod. Strategic placement! One of the CGK men asked if I would not speak to the issue, but they had done such a thorough job of exposing the wrong that I felt there was little to add to it. One does wonder if the CGK will stay on top of developments in the Independent movement here in North America and if they will be open to some form of contact with them, should they ever come to some federation.
International Council of Reformed Churches
This council, to which we also belong, developed in no small measure due to the apostasy allowed to fester in the Reformed Ecumenical Council (in which the GKN still has a large place!). The CGK withdrew from this body three years ago, after their efforts to call back to orthodoxy the entire Council by urging it to expel the GKN fell not only on deaf ears but on unsympathetic ears. (One of the staunchest defenders of the GKN was the CRC who now so emotionally pleaded with the CGK to "stay with us"). There was gladness when the synod voted unanimously to apply for membership in the ICRC. Its next meeting is scheduled to be held in Seoul, South Korea (home to a vital Presbyterian community) in 1997 at which time this membership application will be considered. The Lord willing, and with the approval of our synod, FRC delegates hope to attend this meeting. How fitting it would be if "daughter" FRC could co-sponsor the application of Ômother CGKÕ.
Are such trips and visits of value? The average church member may notice little of it but there is a great value in maintaining contacts with brothers of the same house. There is mutual encouragement, counsel, advice and support which cannot be given if there are no such contacts maintained. If we are to be counted as a church which takes seriously its calling, also with respect to other churches, then such contacts must be kept up.