In the November issue of Concordia the news item of Hull particularly struck our attention. Because the name of the undersigned was used in it, and because he with the people he served in Hull were put in the wrong light, we wish to comment on it now.
We quote the following from the item: “Most of our churches have gone and still are passing through a crisis, and there is much sad news in many of our churches as is well known to all of us and as has been published rather in detail in this paper, the Standard Bearer, or, The Guardian And Hull also shared in this sad news. Here, too, we have had our ultimatums, —walkcut,—action. By this time a sizeable part of our congregation has left us and meets separately on the Sabbath. And from all appearances and actions they are finished with us. They have chosen a consistory, have made a trio to call a minister, and the Rev. M. Schipper has labored here in Hull with the avowed purpose to widen the breach. They undoubtedly consider this church-destructive work as “building” the church. They call us the “schismatics,” a term which so aptly applies to those who have left us and acted according to the instructions from “headquarters.” However sad as this history may be we will not enter into any details at present. Besides, all was not sadness either. Furthermore, we are glad to know that our God in His providence does not only “uphold” all things but that His very conserving is at the same time “governing.” And also for all these things we all must give account to Him Who judges righteously both the outward deed and the very motive of the heart.” So far the article.
There is much in this paragraph on which we could comment which would make it as ridiculous as it really is. But the part on which I wish to reflect, as I said, has to do with the undersigned and the people whom ho served for six weeks recently in the Hull area. Rev. Schipper, so it is said, “has labored here in Hull with the avowed purpose to widen the breach.” Suppose, for a moment, that this were true. Why then didn’t the Rev. De Jong come to see me and warn me of this “sin”? Why didn’t he come up to me when he spoke to me one day while I was standing in front of the Post Office and call my attention to this “diabolical thing” my “avowed purpose to widen the breach”? Wouldn’t that have been the way of brotherly love? The opposition is always talking about brotherly love, you know. But no, he must simply publish before all this “nefarious action” of mine without making one attempt to correct me. If the Rev. De Jong should say that I was talking to others at that time and he didn’t want to interfere, he certainly knew where I was staying, and could have talked to me alone. Yes, he even could have asked me by phone to come to see him. But all he said to me in the six weeks I was in Hull was “Good Morning.” And mind you all the while it was not a good morning for him.
But maybe the Rev. De Jong would argue that it wouldn’t have done any good to talk to Rev. Schipper because he was only there in Hull to follow up “instructions from headquarters.” By the latter term I suppose he means, well,—what does he mean? He doesn’t tell us where headquarters is located, nor who the persons are who run it. He simply concluded that Rev. Schipper with the congregation for which he preached had no mind of their own. They were the simple dupes of some commanding officer or officers stationed in another place.
Now that is not a very nice conclusion to make concerning a man who has a mind of his own and knows how to use it. And even if he was so simple as to be the dupe of an imposing “headquarters”, what about those people in Hull whom he served? According to Rev. De Jong they must be dupes too. But I found them to be people who were not so simple as the Reverend would have you think. They are the dupes of nobody. I have never met people whom I could respect more for having minds of their own and knowing how to use them. It is true they are people who were afraid to do the wrong thing, and that is why they didn’t reveal their stand any sooner than they did. They knew for the last three years at least that someone was trying to dupe them. Someone who used dictatorial powers to make them cease speaking their mind, someone who tried desperately to mold their minds into hatred for the Standard Bearer and persons who defended “unconditional” theology in the Protestant Reformed Churches. Someone, who when he did not succeed in this method, used the method of discipline on those who dared to disagree with what they heard from the pulpit. Of this, I learned the people in Hull were fully aware. They even knew that if they came to Classis with their grievances they did not have a chance. This they patiently endured for as long as they could stand it. And when finally that Classis rode rough-shod over all decency and order and made itself guilty of schism, they took their stand. Orders from headquarters? Oh no! And Rev. De Jong after being with these people for more than three years certainly knows better.
It seems to me that the writer of the news item from Hull gives vent to two emotions of his when he he is rid of these “trouble makers”, and, he is sorry wrote as he did. He shows plainly that he is glad that for himself because in the whole mess which he brought upon himself he lost a flourishing congregation. As far as the undersigned is concerned, he is glad he could go to Hull and learn first hand of conditions which he could not possibly have imagined could exist in Protestant Reformed Churches. Mere rumor could not have convinced him. The split in Hull was not only necessary but it was also good. And the congregation for which he preached will prove this to all in due time when all the facts are known.
Rev. Peter Van Tuinen writes under the above heading in his department of The Banner of November 6th. We will not quote his entire article, but only give you the thread of thought running through it.
He tells us there are “unfortunate developments in our somewhat estranged but near relative and close neighbor, the Protestant Reformed Churches, during the past months.” The “rift in First Church,…has spread throughout the denomination, and has torn the Church beyond any apparent hope of repair.”
“The hopelessness of the split is apparent from the fact that it will be impossible to hold a General Synod which will be composed of delegates representing both sides of the issue.” According to the Reverend, because our Synod is composed of two Classes, and because one Classis is opposed to the stand of the other, and deems the other schismatic, no Synod will be possible. And this means that there can be no opportunity to appeal either the doctrinal or church-political matters involved.
He concludes with the following paragraph. “It is obviously not incumbent on an outsider to pass judgment on the merits of two opposing positions. But it is evident that something has gone wrong. The “Protestant Reformed Churches” as a whole has not had opportunity to speak its mind on the dispute. Nor, according to the precedent set in Classis East, will it be able to. One sector of the Church has declared itself to be the Church, thus closing the door to proper synodical action, and virtually cancelling the right of appeal. This looks like an overthrowing of the Church Order’s safeguard against the fallibility of minor assemblies (Church Order, Article 31).”
In commenting on this article, we recall a statement of one of our ministers made in a speech at the last special meeting of Classis East. He made the statement to the effect that “the Church never splits, and we didn’t have a split either.” I shall never forget that remark, and I don’t think others who heard it will either. It is true that individuals, and even churches may leave a denomination of churches, but the church never splits. And this is exactly what has happened in the Protestant Reformed Churches. There are those who have separated themselves from us, but the church is still intact. And we will go on without them who have chosen to differ with us until they repent.
Rev. Van Tuinen is correct that we had only two Classes and that the one is now separated from the other, and therefore there will be no Synod in which the Schismatics will be able to appeal. This is not because we have no regard for Article 31 of the Church Order, as Van Tuinen suggests, but this is simply due to the fact that our Churches of the past were so constituted. If we were composed of three or more Classes as the Christian Reformed Churches are, this situation would not obtain. And we are sure that we will never be so composed again if and when the matters which are now troubling us are settled. Either we will have to go back to our original set-up of one Classis (without Synod) or, we will have to have three or four Classes if we would have a Synod.
One more remark in closing. Rev. Van Tuinen does not tell us that the Schismatic element in our Churches lost the right of appeal and recognition when they became schismatic. This may not be forgotten. Had the Rev. De Wolf and his elders submitted to the decision of the consistory and then appealed, that would have been their prerogative. But this they would not do. They continued their schismatic way. Had Classis West gone the church-political way instead of schismatically jumping the gun, the grievances it had might have come to Synod for disposition. But Classis West separated itself from the communion of the Protestant Reformed Churches, and thus the faithful Church must go on without them. Those in the Protestant Reformed Churches that are not schismatic can live under the order of Article 31 of the Church Order. No doubt about that.