In your article entitled “The Stocking is Finished” in the last issue of the Standard Bearer (Jan. 1, 1952) you state the following, in connection with a letter sent by our deputies of correspondence to the Reformed Churches (Art. 31); “However, when the work of the committee for correspondence was reported at the Synod of 1948, the latter condemned, (I underscore, B.K. that letter, and decided to rewrite it, and send a different letter to the same deputies for correspondence in the Netherlands, and to their Synod which was to convene in Amersfoort the same summer.” Although there are several statements with which I cannot agree in the aforementioned article, this is one of the most outstanding ones. As delegate to the Synod of 1948 I deny that the Synod condemned the letter of its deputies of correspondence, yea it did not even speak one word of disapproval, but rather, upon the advice of you, expressed “That the Synod in the main agreed with the sentiments expressed in that letter. ” In the light of this I am at a loss to understand how you can state that the Synod of 1948 condemned that letter.
To let our reader’s judge, I shall translate both the letters as they appear in the Acts of 1948, as also the action taken in regards to them by Synod. (See Acts 1948 pp. 37-39, and 53-54). Here follows the translation of the first letter of the deputies of correspondence.
Grand Rapids Michigan February, 1948
To the Deputies of Correspondence:
Esteemed Brethren in the Lord:
The undersigned send this letter to you as Committee, appointed by the Synod of our Protestant Reformed Churches, to do preparatory work, which we hope, will lead to correspondence with our Churches.
The need is felt in our Churches to seek closer contact with your Churches. And this desire, which has been present with us for some time, has especially been strengthened in the past years. And from the voices we hear in your circles, this desire is also evident in your midst.
We are convinced that as Churches we have much in common. Both Church groups stand on the basis of the Three Forms of Unity. Added to this we can find several points of agreement as to the occasion and origin of both of our Church groups. We are firmly convinced that our Churches are the continuation of tile original Reformed Churches, and that the origin of our Churches in 1924 was characterized as an act of Reformation. But we also believe that the origin of your Churches was a Reformation and a return to the old and tried Reformed paths. Both, your Church group, and ours, know of no binding Synodical decrees, which are products of additions to the Confessions. Further, as far as Church Polity is concerned, we are entirely agreed. Dogmatical differences, which possibly may exist between you and us, are no confessional differences. We may believe, that it is our very heartfelt desire, to be subject to, and to be led by, the Word of God, and we know ourselves to be bound to the Confessions we have in common.
The visit of Prof. K. Schilder in our midst has been conducive to strengthening the tie between us. Prof. Schilder, who is also one of your deputies, will undoubtedly further enlighten you concerning us. We thought also to notice in him a desire for closer contact between us.
Finally, the fact that at present many Reformed, Holland immigrants are moving to America and Canada, is all the more reason why we, if at all possible, would like to have correspondence with your Churches. We do not know where the Liberated families are to be found, because we do not have their addresses. If at all possible we would like to do something for the members of your Churches. We would also like to receive them in our Churches, or to organize them into congregations wherever possible. In the present circumstances this is rather difficult because we do not know where they now live, or are planning to live. Under these circumstances it is very well possible that your members may find a church home in the which they eventually will not feel at home. Also in this respect, close contact between our Churches, would indeed be desirable.
Brethren, we could write much more, but this letter is only intended as an initial attempt to come to closer contact with one another. With keen interest we look forward to an answer from you, to know your thoughts in the matter. Perhaps your committee has some definite propositions in re this question. Our Synod convenes in the beginning of June, and if we receive an answer in time, then perhaps our Synod can make some definite decisions and regulations in this matter.
With high esteem and brotherly greetings, we remain, yours in Christ,
G.M. Ophoff J.
D. de Jong
In Art. 46 (Acts 1948) we read:
“Motion is made and supported to adopt the advice of Committee of Pre-advice under II, B, 2, that Synod express its agreement with the contents of the letter.
“Substitute motion is made and supported to refer this matter to Rev. H. Hoeksema for his suggestion and advice.
“The Substitute motion carries.”
From the same Acts we find under Art. 51 the following.
“Synod returns to the material under Art. 46. Rev. Hoeksema serves Synod with advice in the form of a proposed letter to the Synod of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (Art. 31).
This letter reads as follows: (I translate B.K.)
‘To the Synod of the Reformed Churches (Art. 31) “Esteemed and Worthy Brethren:
“The (Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the United States brings the following to your attention:
“1. That our deputies for correspondence with Churches in other lands, have brought to our attention a letter, containing a request for correspondence with the Reformed Churches maintaining Art. 31 (This is the letter translated above. B.K.). This letter had already been sent to your deputies for correspondence, and will undoubtedly be brought to the attention of your Synod for further consideration, which Synod we believe is to convene D.V., in September.
“2. That our Synod in general is agreed with the sentiments expressed in that letter. (I underscore, B.K.). We are eager to seek closer contact with the Reformed Churches maintaining Art. 31. As was stated in the letter sent by our deputies, we stand with you on the basis of Scripture and the Three Forms of Unity, and maintain the unadulterated Reformed Church Polity, averse to all hierarchy.
“3. That we, of course, do not expect that your Synod, at its first meeting, shall definitely decide to establish the relationship of sister churches, between you and us, no more than you expect that of us. However if your Synod should decide to take steps in that direction, then we request that your deputies correspond, or meet with ours, in order to advise your Synod as well as ours, in re the question of contact between our Church groups, and then to make definite decisions.
Wishing your gathering the Lord’s blessing, we remain with high-esteem,
The Synod of the Prot. Ref. Churches.
“Substitute motion is made and supported (for Art. 46) that Synod adopt this letter as its own, and send it as such to the Synod of the Reformed Churches (Art. 31). It is so decided.”
In the light of these facts, how is it possible for you to write, that the Synod of 1948 condemned the first letter of its deputies? It did no express one word of condemnation of the first letter, it did not retract a single statement of it; it did not even decide to substitute the second letter for the first. On the contrary, it not only expressed its agreement with the first letter, but substantiated it with a second. I agree with you that neither the first, nor the second letter express the sentiment of our Churches today, but they certainly expressed the sentiment of our Churches in 1947, 1948. I do not care to discuss with you the reasons for this change in sentiment in our Churches, but I do not agree with you, that the cause of this is only to be found in the Netherlands. But whatever the cause let us not distort history. By such careless and erroneous statements the cause of God is not prospered. I know only too well, as i have always known, that there are differences between us and the Liberated, but let us seek to remove them in the way of truth.
I could be very hard on the Rev. Kok for writing the above contribution. He accuses me of distorting history, and of making careless and erroneous statements. To this I reply: not guilty. But I will not be hard, just as I was mild in my answer to friend Schilder’s “De Kous is Af”. Perhaps, this is due to the fact that I am mellowing with age, but it is more probably to be attributed to the fact that I love brother Kok as a brother. But I would, nevertheless, give him this piece of brotherly advice, that he must not rush into print the moment he reads an article, as he evidently did (I received the above contribution the fourth or fifth of January), but first give it some quiet thought and consideration.
Now, I most emphatically deny that I was guilty of distortion of history and of careless and erroneous statements in the article “The Stocking is Finished”. And this I will prove.
First of all, I must say a few words about that word condemn, on which the Rev. Kok bases his entire article. The Rev. Kok underscores that word, and that is, of course, his writer’s right. But it nevertheless, leaves often a wrong impression, the impression namely, as if the original author also wanted to place emphasis on that word and use it in the strongest possible sense of the word. I did not do so in my editorial. If brother Kok will look up the word in the dictionary, he will find that it means: “to pronounce to be wrong, to disapprove, to pronounce unfit for service.” In that sense I used the word in my editorial, and in that sense it is certainly applicable to the decision of synod in regard to the letter which the committee for correspondence had sent to the Netherlands.
In proof of this I offer the following:
1. The very fact that, when the motion was made to adopt and express agreement with the letter sent by the committee, first a substitute motion was made to refer the matter to the undersigned for advice, and afterwards synod substituted an entirely different letter, proves that synod did not approve of the first letter. I claim that when a substitute motion prevails the original motion is dropped. And when synod adopted the second letter instead of the first, it discarded the latter, disapproved of its contents, and judged it unfit for service.
2. Anyone who compares the two letters, that of the committee for correspondence and that of the synod, can see for himself that they are two entirely different letters, and will, at the same time, readily surmise, why synod disapproved of the first. In his article, the Rev. Kok again underscores a sentence: “That our synod in general is agreed with the sentiments expressed in that letter.” But to interpret synod correctly, he should not have underscored the entire sentence, but only the words “in general.” Synod meant to have that sentence read as follows: “That our synod in general is agreed with the sentiments expressed in that letter.” This means that it did by no means agree with the entire contents of the letter. That is the reason why it deemed it unfit for service, and sent an entirely different letter.
3. To this I may add that anyone who was present at the sessions of synod 1948, and who followed the discussions on the letter in question, will agree that synod certainly did not approve of the letter sent by the committee, but was rather surprised that such a letter could have been written.
If the Rev. Kok desires that I point out to him the essential difference between the two letters, and to show him why synod could not possibly approve of the first, I am willing to do so. But I think the matter is self-evident.
Hence: 1. There is no need for correction. 2. I did not distort history, but presented it very correctly. 3. I did not make any careless and erroneous statements.