The last grounds which Classis West adduced to sustain its decision under “II” are taken from the protest by the Rev. W. Hofman, under “B”, 1-6. I will quote them here in full:
“B. The action of the Synod of 1951 in adopting the Declaration of Principles as likewise revealing a hierarchical spirit contrary to that of our entire Reformed Church Polity and as specifically militating against and violating Art. 29, 30 and 84 of our adopted Church Order. This is again evident from: 1) The disregard of Consistory and Classis, contrary to Art 29; 2) the failure to treat this material in the proper ecclesiastical manner, contrary to Art. 30; 3) the evident attempt of some to lord it over others, contrary to Art. 84.
“1. The Declaration was adopted by a small majority of Synodical votes:
“a. Over the protest of one of our two Classe without even answering that protest;
“b. Over the protest of at least two consistories, again without answering them;
“c. In spite of, and contrary to the advice not to adopt, of an overwhelming majority of our Consistories to whom it had been submitted for advice.
“2. The Declaration was adopted by a simple majority of Synod without giving any grounds for its adoption, or answering the question as to its necessity, even though both were repeatedly asked of Synod.
“3. The Declaration was adopted without Synod’s expressing itself positively on its legality though this was questioned. In fact, Synod never decided that it was a legal document, though this fact was protested. Synod simply presumed this legality while it refused to produce grounds or declare it to be so; though it was asked to do so.
“4. The Declaration was adopted over protests of its legality and necessity even though Synod refused to express that it was through with these aspects. See Acts of 1951: Art. 210, page 184 and Arts. 254 through 257, page 190.
“5. The arbitrariness of hierarchical action is clearly evident in the expression by Synod to limit the force and scope of this Declaration so that it is ‘to be used only by the Mission Committee and Missionaries for the organization of prospective churches…’ Such action is not only inconsistent and contradictory but also contrary to all Reformed Church Polity.
“Finally, the Declaration was adopted directly contrary to a decision of Synod of 1950. See Acts of 1950, Article 117, page 90, and Arabic 2 immediately above this article on the same page.”
There is very little new in these grounds, and I will not repeat myself. All the alleged grounds in this protest are evidently adduced to sustain the contention that the action of Synod 1951 was hierarchical. It was not adopted in an ecclesiastical manner, but in a manner that is contrary to all Reformed church polity. The Rev. Hofman refers to Article 84 of the Church Order, which reads as follows:
“No church shall in any way lord it over other churches, no minister over other ministers, no elder or deacon over other elders or deacons.”
I am afraid that the Rev. Hofman thinks that when a decision by the major assembly is passed by a majority vote, it means that the majority lords it over the minority. That this is his notion is evident from all the grounds which are adduced. Yet this is evidently an error. In fact, the entire Church Order is based on the principle that a strict majority shall rule in the churches, and that the minority must submit to the majority.
Nevertheless, I will briefly discuss the grounds which the Rev. Hofman offers.
- The Declaration was adopted by a small majority of Synodical votes. This, of course, as I have already remarked, is perfectly legal, and according to the Church Order. Whether a majority is large or small, it is a majority nevertheless. Under this ground the Rev. Hofman mentions three sub-grounds, a, b, and c. All I can say about these is that they are simply not true. It is not true that the protest of Classis West was not answered. The fact is that it was very elaborately answered, as the detailed report of Synod 1951 that appeared in the Standard Bearer will certainly prove. The same is true of “b” under “1”. All the protests were answered and answered even in detail. And that the Declaration of Principles was adopted by Synod “contrary to the advice not to adopt of an overwhelming majority of our Consistories, to whom it had been submitted for advice,” is certainly not true, unless the Rev. Hofman means by “our Consistories,” only the consistories of Classis West. As soon as he has the grace also to include the consistories of Classis East, he will discover that “c” under “1” is not true at all.
Grounds 2-5, I already answered in my previous editorials on this matter. The Synod only had to answer protests of Classis West against the legality of Declaration of Principles. After it had answered those protests, which it certainly did, it did not have to establish the fact that its action was legal. The Synod of 1951 certainly proceeded from the assumption that it acted entirely according to the Church Order, and did not have to establish the legality of its own action, except in so far as Classis West protested against it. Nor, as I have said before, was it illegal of Synod to adopt the Declaration of Principles only for the Mission Committee and for the organization of churches. But in view of all the action against the Declaration of Principles by Classis West, I would not be opposed in the proper ecclesiastical way to adopt the Declaration of Principles as a document that is binding also for our churches. There is certainly nothing against such an action, seeing that the Declaration is only an expression of what is taught in our Confessions.
The logic of the sixth ground I fail to understand. In this ground the Rev. Hofman states that the Declaration was adopted directly contrary to a decision of Synod 1950. He refers to Art. 117 of the Acts of Synod on page 90. There we read:
“Motion is made to accept the document as drawn up by the committee, and to act according to the three propositions found at the conclusion of the document. This motion carries.”
Now the three propositions referred to that appeared at the conclusion of the Declaration of Principles as drawn up by the Synod of 1950 are as follows:
“If Synod adopts the above propositions, we advise,
“1. That Synod subject this entire document to the approval of the churches.
“2. If no objection is offered, to adopt this at our next Synod.
“3. To adopt this in the meantime as a working hypothesis for our Mission Committee and for our Missionaries in the organization of churches.”
Now the Rev. Hofman argues that the adoption of the Declaration by the Synod of 1951 is contrary to these decisions of the Synod of 1950. For this he appeals especially to Arabic 2 of the three propositions that appear at the end of the Declaration of Principles in the Acts of Synod, 1950. Evidently he understands this proposition as meaning that if any objection at all is offered by any individual or by any consistory in our churches, the Declaration could not be adopted by the Synod of 1951. However, if this had been the meaning of the Synod of 1950, it would certainly have opened the door for a minority, and even a very small minority, to rule over the majority. In that case you could never adopt anything whatsoever. But this certainly is not what the Synod meant. What it meant was only that if no objections were offered that were valid and weighty enough to “reject the Declaration of Principles, it would not be adopted. But this was not the case at the Synod of 1951. There were indeed objections. And they were properly weighed, and found wanting. And therefore, the Synod of 1951 did not act contrary to the decision of Synod 1950.
The Standard Bearer advises the coming Synod in re the protests of Classis West against the Declaration of Principles as follows:
- It advises Synod carefully to sift all the grounds offered by Classis West against the legality of the adoption of the Declaration of Principles in 1951, in order to discover and to determine whether Classis West actually brings up any new grounds, that have not been discussed and decided upon by the Synod of 1951. I doubt very much whether this has been done by Classis West, as certainly it should have been done. For, according to Art. 46 of the Church Order, “Instructions concerning matters to be considered in major assemblies shall not be written until the decision of previous synods touching these matters have been read, in order that what was once decided be not again proposed, unless a revision be deemed necessary.”
- It advises Synod also to enter into the contents of the protests by the several consistories of Classis West, concerning which Classis West offers no advice. Also in regard to these contents it advises Synod carefully to sift the arguments and grounds that are produced by these consistories of Classis West, in order not to enter again into matters that have already elaborately been discussed and decided by Synod 1951.
I am convinced that if this advice of the Standard Bearer is followed, it will not have to take a long time to dispose of the matter in the proper ecclesiastical way.