Meeting of a Classis West
The Classis West of the churches that left us in 1953 has recently met. In the latest issue of the Reformed Guardian there is a brief report of this Classis which report contains some interesting and important decisions. The meeting was held in Manhattan, Montana on the first Wednesday of September. Some of the decisions of this Classis are worth noting and commenting upon.
There was, in the first place, a letter from the Church in Lynden, Washington informing the Classis that they were not sending delegates and that the congregation was in the process of disbanding, their last services having been held on the 4th of September. The congregation informed Classis that they were joining the Third Christian Reformed Church of Lynden.
There was also a letter from one of the ministers of their group. The editor of the Reformed Guardianwrites:
“Another disheartening letter was treated by Classis. It was from the Rev. S.T. Cammenga, formerly minister at Rock Valley, Iowa. It reads as follows:
“‘Since it is my conviction that it is my, duty under the present church situation to seek admission to the ministry of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church, I herewith inform you so, thus terminating my work in the Protestant Reformed Denomination . . .
“‘In order to apply to the September 20 meeting of Classis Sioux Center, it will be necessary for me to have a testimonial from Classis West attesting to my having been a minister in good and regular standing to date.
“‘Will the Classis kindly grant me such a testimonial at this time?
“‘Rev. S. Cammenga'”
The editor reports that “Classis could do little in view of the notice but to grant the Credential requested and recognize the step which the Rev. S. Cammenga has taken.” He concludes with his own comment, “The fact remains however, that, with our present shortage of ministers the number is again reduced by one. The congregation is left shepherdless at a time of crisis. All this will have an impact on our churches.”
In connection with this, the following notice appears inThe Banner of September 16, 1960:
“Classis Sioux Center in its fall session will examine the Candidates . . . .
“On the following day, the Classis will consider the request of Rev. S.T. Cammenga of the Protestant Reformed Church of Rock Valley, Iowa, to be admitted to the classis and denomination and eligible for call under Art. 9 (C.O.). A colloquium doctum and/or an examination of Rev. Cammenga together, with the candidates will take place according to the following schedule.”
Thus, another minister from their group joins the ever-growing list of those who have left them to return to the Christian Reformed Church. It would seem, however, that it is not true that Classis “could do little in view of the notice but to grant the Credential request and recognize the step which Rev. S. Cammenga has taken.” Certainly Classis would have the right to refuse to grant this request on the basis of the fact that: Rev. Cammenga had forsaken his flock and left them for another denomination. But this was undoubtedly impossible for them in view of the fact that their Synod had already principally committed themselves to the matter of returning to the Christian Reformed Church.
Another important decision was taken with respect to an overture of Rev. M. Gritters. The overture reads:
“The time has come that we seriously consider reuniting with the Christian Reformed Church, in fact, the time has come that we apply to the next Synod to implement the cessation of our churches.”
To this overture were attached grounds and a request for an early Synod to deal with the matter. This overture was not accepted by the Consistory of Bellflower since the motion for adoption ended in a tie vote. But Rev. Gritters circulated his document among all the consistories as a private overture, with the result that several consistories had answers, on the Classis. Chino suggested that the overture was premature since their. Synod had not yet acted upon the last letter of the Christian Reformed Church, although they favored an early Synod; Hull responded favorably to the overture and also informed Classis that they had had a congregational meeting in which the whole matter of reunion had been discussed. The matter, in as far as it pertained to their own congregation, was tabled in the light of the coming Classis.
The following decision was taken by Classis West:
“1. That in view of the documents before us, Classis seek for an early Synod, in accordance with the regulations for same in Rules of Order for Synod to consider the letter of the Christian Reformed Church in answer to our letter of 1960, to give its recommendations and present these to the consistories for their reactions.
“2. That Classis request such a Synod to be held on the last Wednesday of October at the Fourth Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, or if that is not feasible, at a later date this fall.
“3. That Classis vote for delegates to this session of Synod at this meeting.”
Classis also decided to ask the Legal Study Committee appointed to study legal matters and the use of the name Protestant Reformed to report if possible to this early Synod.
There are some comments attached to this decision by the editor. They read in part:
“That these decisions are unusual goes without saying. That our churches are facing a crisis is also evident to everyone. It is also evident that is becomes increasingly serious when such events, as are recorded here take place. While we do not have the space to comment elaborately upon these matters we would make the following brief observations:
“1. As far as we personally are concerned we decry the haste, the call for speed and hurry . . . .
“2. As far as our personal judgment of the whole matter is concerned, we believe that the decision of our last Synod, that the proper basis for unity is to be found in adherence to the Scriptures and the Three Forms of Unity, is a good decision, is correct and should be maintained . . . .
“3. In view of the divergent opinions it becomes increasingly evident that a strong and clear decision will have to be made with respect to the question posed by the answer of the Christian Reformed Church to us. Since the matter comes first to Synod this will have to be a Synodical decision first of all. But it will ultimately be an answer which each consistory and each congregation will have to give. Personally we hope that our churches will be sufficiently strong to take a position, reiterating the stand of last year, not out of stubbornness, but out of the conviction that there must be freedom to believe, freedom to confess, freedom to preach, all these, of course, within the limits of Scripture and the Confessions. We should not be satisfied with a freedom to be silent.
“4. But it is also evident that a decision will have to be take, and that soon, so that the air may be cleared, and the course of our churches made clearly evident, so that everyone may know the direction in which we are going. It became clear we believe, at the meeting of Classis West that such a clear course was not evident to all and perhaps not even to a majority, and clarity we must have.”
In reading all this material, there are several remarks that come to mind.
In the first place, the whole matter of the treatment of the overture of Rev. Gritters was wrong. Church politically, that overture had no place on the Classis. An overture cannot come to a Classis without approval of the Consistory. If a Consistory refuses to send an overture through to the higher ecclesiastical body, the only course of action that is left is that the individual protest the actions of his Consistory and take the matter to Classis in this way.
This error is compounded by the fact that Rev. Gritters circulated the overture which he had drawn up as his own throughout the Consistories residing in the Classis. This is clearly in opposition to Article 31 of the Church Order, and shows his refusal to submit to the decisions of his own Consistory. He militated against this decision and became guilty of propaganda and schism. That Classis did accept this overture and treat it is a grave error.
In the second place, the impetus for returning to the Christian Reformed Church is increasing. Certainly, all these actions on the part of those who have left us indicate that the Lord had justified our action as churches in bringing the issues of 1953 to a head and condemning the views of a general and conditional promise. The Lord had given to us—let it be said in humility and thankfulness—the grace to carry on as Protestant Reformed Churches in our Theological School, our Mission work, our Christian Schools, our radio broadcasting, and above all, our preaching. While those who left us for an institutional life of their own are going backwards, and that with increasing speed.
In the third place, many of the people that left with their leaders are confused, troubled and even angry at recent developments. There is considerable division among them on these important issues. The only course of action that remains for them is to follow their leaders in going backwards, or to return to us to carry on the cause of Christ’s kingdom with us.
Finally, although it is probably expecting too much, certainly moral honesty before God and His church requires of them that they surrender the name “Protestant Reformed Churches” to us and frankly admit that they have no claim either to this name or to the property.
Under this title a brief article appeared in the September issue of Eternity which was also commented upon in Christianity Today. The whole subject has some bearing also on the coming election in our country. The article reads:
“The ‘legal’ kidnapping’ of three children of a Presbyterian father in Medelling, Colombia, which was instigated by a Catholic priest has been upheld by Roman Catholic officials in that country.
“Police seized the three children of Juan Osorio in April with an official warrant issued by the Juvenile Court judge and initiated by Msge. Tulio Botero-Salazar and the Archdiocesan Tribunal. The Church based the order on its teaching that its authority over baptized children takes preference over the rights of the parents and that a Catholic government is bound to protect baptized children when their parents ‘apostatize.’
“The Osorio children were baptized in infancy by the Roman Catholic Church. The father, a widower, was converted three years ago and now is a Presbyterian.
“Father Francisco A. Duque explained: ‘The children . . . received the sacrament of baptism at the direct request of their father, before he abandoned the Catholic faith and committed the crime of heresy by joining a Protestant sect . . . This means that the above mentioned children are subjects of the Catholic Church and are under its jurisdiction in everything related to their moral and religious education . . .
“‘In a matter so serious as the Catholic education of children in which nothing less than eternal salvation is at stake, responsibility may not be evaded by the capricious will of parents . . .
“‘And argument from history . . . During the pontificate of Pope Pius XI a child of Jewish parents was sick unto death. He was secretly baptized by a Christian servant of the parents. The child did not die, but recovered completely, and the matter was made known to the competent ecclesiastical authority. When the truth of the fact was established, Pope Pius XI, in order that this baptized child might not be perverted but educated in the Catholic faith, took him under his care, not permitting him to live with his parents, but educating him in a catechistical school which he had in Rome. In spite of the attacks of the enemies of the Church, the Holy Father upheld the educational right of the Church.’
“And so the crime of kidnapping, universally condemned by civilized nations, is justified by the Roman Catholic hierarchy.”
In The Banner of September 3, 1960, the following news item appears coming over the EPS news service:
“All Christian missionaries have been ordered by the government of Equatoria, the most southern province of the Sudan, to close down their bookshops and any other business-connected enterprises they operate.
“The move was the latest in a long series of restrictive measures imposed on missionaries by the government in a campaign for the ‘complete-Islamisation of the Sudan.'”