Before I proceed quoting Kok e.a. about Art. 31 of the Church Order, I would like to ask Meyering where he obtained what he alleges to be a certain literal quotation of mine. The alleged quotation is as follows: “that the classis is the ruling body of the denomination and that it has jurisdiction over the consistory.” Evidently, he cannot understand this quotation himself for when he translates it for his readers he makes of “denomination” the church concerned, which clearly refers to a local church rather than to the denomination: “dat de classis het regeerend lichaam is over de betrokken kerk, en dat ze rechtsbevoegdheid heeft over de kerkeraad.” Now surely the church concernedis not the same as “the denomination.” I surmise, therefore, that Meyerin; himself felt that there must be something wrong with the quotation, and that I could not possibly have said in court that the classis is the ruling body of the whole denomination! There would have been some sense, at least, in the statement that the synod is the ruling body of the denomination, although even such a statement I. would never make and never did make in court. But that the classis is the ruling body in the denomination is, of course, sheer nonsense.
Hence, if Meyering reads this article, as he ought to read it, he will also read my earnest request to him to inform me of the source of this quotation. I cannot find it in the court records, Nor can he.
Now let me return to the interpretation of Art. 31 of the Church Order as offered by the opposition in court.
First of all, I quote again from the court records and the testimony of Kok. Vol. I, pp. 137, 138.
“As a delegate from one of your churches you have attended the meeting of Classis East?”
“Yes, I have attended practically all, of the meetings.”
“And Classis East, in its deliberations, is bound by the Church Order as interpreted from time to time by classis and by the synod, is it not?”
“Would you repeat that, please?”
(Question read thereupon by the reporter).
“If that interpretation is agreeable to my conscience, yes.”
“You have always the reservation that your own conscience could overrule the Church Order, is not that true?”
“Not overrule the Church Order, but it could overrule any interpretations that classis or synod might give to the Church Order.”
“The Church Order itself, however, provides that you must prove it to be in violation to the Word of God, does it not?”
“That duty is placed upon me that I must make that attempt.”
“To whom does that proof go?”
“If it is my conscientious conviction that classis has made a decision contrary to the intents and meaning of the Church Order that proof would have to go to synod.”
“And synod would thereby decide whether your protest was proper or not?”
“They would decide the matter, but they would still leave me the freedom guaranteed by contract, that if I would be if I would not be in agreement with the decision, and it would still not be in agreement with my conscientious conviction, they would still give me the guaranteed right to reject it.”
“But the decision as to whether the action that had been done either by classis or by consistory was in violation of the Word of God, would rest with the synod; would it not?”
“Formally yes, but in the last analysis, it would rest in my conscience.”
Let us stop here a moment.
Kok repeatedly speaks of a contract which, evidently, he is supposed to have with the Protestant Reformed Churches.
What is this so-called contract?
It is nothing but an obligation which the churches placed upon him and which he voluntarily assumed by, solemn promise, that he would adhere to the Confessions and to the Church Order. It is, therefore, a very strange and one-sided contract. He had nothing to do with its formulation; he could not have changed it; he could not change it now. That so-called contract of which Kok prefers to speak is nothing but a solemn promise which he made when he entered the ministry of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
The second element that strikes us in Kok’s testimony is that he repeatedly speaks of his conscience, of his conscientious conviction, and of the freedom the churches are supposed to give or to have given him to reject any and all decisions that are in conflict with his conscience or his conscientious conviction.
This is a very dangerous position and certainly is false.
We understand very well, of course, that Kok cannot and may not do anything against his conscience. We also realize that the churches may not force his conscience.
But, in the first place, never forget that one’s conscience and conscientious conviction are subjective and individualistic, while the objective standards in the Protestant Reformed Churches are the Word of God, the Confessions, and the Church Order.
Secondly, it certainly is not true that the Protestant Reformed Churches gave Kok the right or freedom to reject any and all decisions that are in conflict with his conscientious conviction. The very opposite is true. As far as the churches are concerned they leave him no freedom outside of the Three Forms of Unity and the Church Order and that, too, as they are interpreted, not by Kok’s conscience, but by the churches themselves, ultimately by synod. If Kok and his conscience will not be bound by these, he and his conscience may leave the churches or be deposed from office.
This is the truth.
And this truth Kok denied repeatedly in court.
If Visee, Meyering c.s. in the liberated churches of the Netherlands agree with Kok in this respect, I hereby let them know that the Protestant Reformed Churches do not and never did agree with them.
Now let us continue to quote from the record.
“But under the Formula of Subscription, if you did not agree with it, and act under it, you would no longer be a member of the ministry of the Protestant Reformed Churches, would you?”
“The Formula of Subscription has nothing to do with the decision of classis or synod.”
“The Church Order itself, however, is the constitution of your church, is it not?”
“And the Church Order, Art. 31, allows, when it states that all decisions by majority vote shall be binding unless—that means unless in my conscience it is contrary to the Word of God and the Church Order, then it is not binding.
“is the word ‘conscience’ in Art. 31?”
“That is our interpretation of Art. 31.”
“What is your interpretation?”
“The same as Professor Ophoff.”
“What is the interpretation of your church?”
“I don’t think we have any—let me look up Art. 31. (Referring to Church order) Doesn’t say anything about it.”
“Now the use of the word ‘proved’ in that article has meaning, has it not?”
“Yes, do you want me to read from Professor Ophoff what it means?”
“No, I want you to answer my question.”
“Yes, it has meaning.”
“To whom is the proof given?”
“To whom is that proof given under Article 31?”
“You must attempt to give that proof to either classis or synod.”
“You must not only attempt, you must actually furnish the proof, must you not?”
“Not necessarily. If I do not actually furnish the proof that is satisfactory to synod or classis, I still have the right of my opinion.”
“Under Article 31?”
“Under Article 31.”
“You reserve the right to have your own opinion?”
“That is right.”
“But action of synod or classis is binding on you?”
“It is not.”
“You mean you can flaunt a decision of classis?”
“Yes, guaranteed me by contract.”
“And still remain a minister of the gospel in the Protestant Reformed Church?”
“Of the Protestant Reformed Church, of a Protestant Reformed congregation, yes. Whether they want to put me out of the association, that is their privilege. They have the right to deny me the fellowship, but they have no right to touch my office as a minister of the Protestant Reformed Church of the congregation that I represent.”
The meaning of all this is clear: It implies:
1. That Kok’s individual conscience is supreme, even over the interpretation by classis or synod of the Confessions of the Church Order.
2. That “by contract” the churches have given him the right to flaunt any decision of classis or synod.
3. That, even if he should be declared, by classis or synod or both, to be outside of the Protestant Reformed Churches he would still be a minister of the Protestant Reformed Churches and have a right to that name.
That was Kok’s church polity in court.
Do you, Meyering, agree with it? We do not and never will.