Act of Secession or Return

* This translation by Homer C. Hoeksema appeared originally in the February 15, 1984 issue of the Standard Bearer, p. 211.

We the undersigned, Overseers and members of the Reformed Congregation of Jesus Christ at Ulrum, having observed for a considerable time the corruption in the Netherlands Reformed Church (Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk), as well in the mutilation or denial of the doctrine of our fathers, based on God’s Word, as in the degeneration of the administration of the Holy Sacraments, according to the regulation of Christ in His Word, and in the almost complete neglect of ecclesiastical discipline; all of which matters are, according to our Reformed Confession, Article 29, distinguishing marks of the true Church; having received through God’s grace a Pastor and Teacher who set forth to us according to the Word of God the pure doctrine of our fathers and who applied the same both in particular and in general; the congregation was thereby more and more awakened to direct its steps in confession and walk according to the rule of faith and of God’s holy Word: Galatians 6:16Philippians 3:16; and also to renounce the service of God according to human commandments, because God’s Word tells us this is in vain, Matthew 15:9; and at the same time to make us watchful for the profaning of the signs and seals of God’s eternal covenant of grace; through this the congregation lived in rest and peace; but that rest and peace was disturbed by the highly unjust and ungodly suspension of our commonly loved and esteemed Pastor as a consequence of his public testimony against false doctrine and against defiled public religious services; quietly and calmly has the congregation with their Pastor and Teacher conducted itself to this point; various very fair proposals were made, both by our Pastor and Teacher and by the rest of the Overseers of the congregation; repeatedly investigation and judgment on the ground of and according to God’s Word was requested, but all in vain. Classical, Provincial, and Synodical Ecclesiastical Boards have refused this most just request, and on the contrary have demanded repentance and regret without pointing out any offense from God’s holy Word, as well as unlimited subjection to Synodical regulations and prescriptions, without demonstrating that those are in all things based on God’s Word; thereby this Netherlands Ecclesiastical Board has now made itself equivalent to the Popish Church rejected by our fathers; because not only is the previously mentioned corruption observed, but in addition God’s Word is rejected or invalidated by ecclesiastical laws and decisions, Matthew 15:4, 23:4Mark 7:7, 8, and they are persecuted who will live godly in Christ Jesus, according to His own prescriptions, recorded in His Word, and the consciences of men are bound; finally on the authority of the Provincial Ecclesiastical Board the preaching of the Word of God by a publicly acknowledged minister in our midst, the Rev. H.P. Scholte, Reformed Pastor at Doveren and Genderen, in the land of Heusden and Altena, Province of North Brabant, was forbidden, and the mutual assemblies of the believers, which were held with open doors, were punished by fines;—taking all of this together, it has now become more than plain, that the Netherlands Reformed Church is not the True, but the false Church, according to God’s Word and Article 29 of our Confession; for which reason the undersigned hereby declare: that they in accordance with the office of all believers, Article 28, separate themselves from those who are not of the Church, and therefore will have no more fellowship with the Netherlands Reformed Church, until it returns to the true service of the Lord; and declare at the same time their willingness to exercise fellowship with all true Reformed members, and to unite themselves with every gathering founded on God’s infallible Word, in whatever place God has also united the same, testifying hereby that in all things we hold to God’s holy Word and to our old forms of unity, in all things founded on that Word, namely, the Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of the Synod of Dordrecht, held in the year 1618 and 1619; to order our public religious services according to the ancient ecclesiastical liturgy; and with respect to divine service and church government, for the present to hold to the Church Order instituted by the aforementioned Synod of Dordrecht.

Finally, we hereby declare that we continue to acknowledge our unjustly suspended Pastor.

Ulrum, the 13th of October, 1834. (signed) J.J. Beukema, Elder; K.J. Barkema, Elder; K.A. van der Laan, Deacon; D.P. Ritsema, Deacon; Geert K. Bos, Deacon. [On Oct. 14 signed by 67 members in behalf of some 268.]

Note: At the meeting of the congregation on October 14, 1834 at the home of the Widow Hulshoff, almost the entire congregation agreed with this position of the Consistory and also signed the Acts of Secession or Return. —H.C.H.