The Banner, official organ of the Christian Reformed Churches, published in its editorial columns the following paragraph:
“Third, we feel that the unbrotherly propaganda which the so-called missionary of the Protestant Reformed Church is making especially in some of our Western churches must cease before there can be any consideration of ecclesiastical union or ecclesiastical fellowship with those brethren. We are wondering whether all the members of the Protestant Reformed Church are aware of the deplorable tactics employed by its “missionary.” This minister moves into one of our communities and seeks to create dissatisfaction among the members of the Christian Reformed Church. Thus the minister of one of our Western churches—we have information from others which agrees substantially with his—writes that this person rode through his church as though he was its pastor and called at every place whether he was welcome or not. He did not at once begin to hold services but attended all the meetings in the Christian Reformed church: services, weddings, and funerals, and even had the effrontery to come to the consistory meetings. At the public meetings he was very attentive and took notes, of which he made use afterwards. After some time he proceeded to hold meetings and announced them by weekly letters freely distributed. It was stated that the pure doctrine of sovereign grace, which is in eclipse in the Christian Reformed Church, would be preached in all its purity. Then this missionary created disturbance by claiming that the consistory was half-hearted in its devotion to the Christian School. He called a meeting in view of the alarming situation and before consulting the consistory of the Christian Reformed Church sent out a letter announcing that the meeting would be held in the basement of that church! Some time later this same minister served notice on the consistory that it must invite Dr. K. Schilder to come to this community or else he would be called to do this. Enough to show what deplorable methods are used by the Protestant Reformed missionary to undermine the peace and welfare of some of our churches. We do not write this because we hold all the members of the Protestant Reformed Church responsible for such conduct. In fact, we know that there are fair-minded men and women in that church—Christian people for whom we have high respect—who will refuse to approve such methods. We wonder if they are informed about the situation. Let us add that we have the written evidences for all the statements that we have just made. This is not mere hearsay.”
This was in the issue of March 23, 1939.
In the April 13 number of the same Christian Reformed publication we found the following:
“It is not our policy to refuse articles in which reply is made to criticism expressed in our editorial columns. Recently, however, we received an article of this nature which we cannot place. It was received from the Rev. Bernard Kok, minister of the Protestant Reformed Church, stationed at Manhattan, Montana, whose methods as home missionary, there and elsewhere in the West, where the Christian Reformed Church has congregations, we criticized in an editorial of March 23. The writer seeks to refute our charges that he used unworthy methods in seeking to gain adherents in some of our congregations. His lengthy letter of defense will not be placed because the language employed makes it unfit for publication. If it were not for this circumstance, we would not be at all reluctant to place his letter before our readers since the very explanations given prove the justice of our complaints. Let us add that all our statements were taken almost literally from a letter on the subject written by the Rev. A. H. Bratt, pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of Manhattan, in response to an inquiry on our part regarding the truth of the rumors which had come to us regarding the missionary methods of Rev. B. Kok. We don’t want a quarrel with the latter or with the Protestant Reformed Church, but we cherish the hope that what we wrote on this subject will lead to the removal of some of the irritations that are an obstacle in the path of better relations between that Church and ours.”
The reader understands that the article of the Rev. B. Kok, to which the editor of The Banner refers in the above paragraph, is the communication we published in The Standard Bearer of April 15.
In this article it is my purpose merely to call attention to the ethics implied in the policy pursued by The Banner. First, the editor makes a deliberate attempt to blacken the name of our home missionary. He speaks of the “unbrotherly propaganda” of our “so-called” missionary; of “the deplorable tactics employed” by him. He informs his readers that the Rev. Kok moves into a certain territory and “seeks to create dissatisfaction among the members of the Christian Reformed Church”; that he (“this person”) “rode through (Rev. Bratt’s) church as though he was its pastor”; that he attended all the services, weddings, and funerals; and that “he even had the effrontery to come to its consistory meetings.” He created disturbance, according to the editor of The Banner, “by claiming that the consistory was half-hearted in its devotion to the Christian School,” and on his own accord and authority called a meeting in the basement of the Christian Reformed Church for the purpose of delivering a Christian School speech. Later he practically compelled the consistory of the Christian Reformed Church in Manhattan, to invite Dr. K. Schilder, by the threat that otherwise he, the Rev. Kok, would do it. And thus the editor pictures the Rev. Kok as a man who, by “his deplorable tactics” would “undermine the peace and welfare” of the Christian Reformed Churches. The editor is, furthermore, wondering whether all the Protestant Reformed people, among whom the editor knows some fair-minded persons, are acquainted with these lamentable methods of our missionary.
Thereupon, the Rev. B. Kok, reading these public indictments and innuendoes, sent the reply to The Banner, which we published in our last number of The Standard Bearer, in which he calls the insinuations by the editor of The Banner, a concoction of lies, and challenges him to prove them or to retract.
And now the editor of The Banner gives notice to his readers:
1. That he has received such a communication from the Rev. Kok.
2. That the language the Rev. Kok employs makes it unfit for publication.
3. That the contents of Rev. Kok’s communication is such that they prove the truth of the editor’s first insinuations.
Let me assure the editor of The Banner that The Standard Bearer considers the methods pursued by the editorial department of The Banner positively immoral.
May I not remind the editor of the judgment our Heidelberg Catechism expresses upon slander and backbiting? They are the very works of the devil.
Hard language, not fit for publication in The Banner, the editor of that publication will probably exclaim with Pharisaistic indignation. But let him consider his own corrupt policies, be ashamed of himself, and remove the beam from his own eye, that he may better see the mote in his brother’s eye.
What did he do? On the testimony of one witness, and this by no means an impartial one, he painted a very black picture in public, before some twelve thousand onlookers, of the Rev. Kok. The latter, considering the product of the editor of “The Banner” a fraud, a gross misrepresentation, asked for redress. But the editor refused! Kuiper uses his editorial power to tell twelve thousand people how corrupt Rev. Kok is, and again employs the same editorial power to prevent Kok’s self-defense. Nay more. Instead of sending Kok’s communication back to him by private mail, he adds to his back-biting by assuring his twelve thousand readers, whom Kok cannot reach, that the latter’s language is too abusive for publication, and that he painted his own picture just as black as the editor of The Banner had done before.
And so it happens that our missionary stands accused, slandered, abused, as a low, mean, sneaky character, in the eyes of some twelve thousand people, by the testimony of one man, Kuiper, without an opportunity to defend himself, all because the vile pen of that one man, Kuiper, has editorial power!
This I consider deeply immoral, un-Christian.
Granted even, for the sake of argument, that there is some rather strong language in the reply of the Rev. Kok, was not the language of the Rev. Kuiper far more abusive in contents and implication, though, no doubt, less direct? And is the matter involved here not an attack, made by the editor of The Banner upon the personal character of the Rev. Kok? Is it not perfectly understandable that the latter became a little “warm under the collar,” when he saw his cartoon, drawn by the Rev. Kuiper in public? And should not the latter have made a little allowance for this, rather than refuse the reply? If the matter in dispute had been of a doctrinal nature, there might have been some justification in refusing to publish a reply on the ground of unfit language. But I believe that it is immoral, corrupt, quite contrary to all the teachings of Holy Writ, to refuse a man the right of redress when an attack is made upon his character.
Who, as the case now stands, is judge, jury, and attorney in the case of Kuiper vs. Kok? Kuiper.
On whose testimony must we accept that Kok is as bad as Kuiper described him? On Kuiper’s.
How do The Banner readers know that the language of Kok’s reply was unfit for publication? Kuiper says so.
How can we be convinced that the contents of Kok’s reply corroborated Kuiper’s insinuations? By the statement of Kuiper.
Has Kuiper the only right to speak in this matter before his twelve thousand readers? Not the right but he has the power and abuses it.
But may not Kok appear in the witness stand? Must he take all this abuse of Kuiper without even an opportunity at self-defense? He must, and others must, as long as Kuiper is editor of The Banner, and the “Big Four” support his methods.
It is our turn to ask: are there no fair-minded people in the Christian Reformed Churches, that will openly condemn and put a stop to such corrupt methods? Or are they so cowed by hierarchical oppression that they allow their leaders to abuse their power any way they please?
First, the editor of an official organ uses his editorial power to boycott Dr. Schilder, though he is a professor in good standing in a sister denomination in the Netherlands, an attempt which almost succeeded.
Then all the “big men” of the church, professors and some ministers, including the editor of The Banner again, get together, and write a long letter to him, to persuade him not to come.
Now the editor of The Banner uses his editorial power to refuse a man redress when he is publicly slandered by the same editor.
Are not the people better than these leaders?
I believe that the reception the people gave Dr. Schilder proves that they do not agree with such leadership.
And the time will come when they will prove this in other ways.