Editorial

Congratulations to a New Sister

We have a new sister in the family of our Protestant Reformed Churches. Our baby sister’s name is Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church. She was born on October 20, 1983; and as far as size is concerned, appears to be a healthy baby: 24 families, with 72 children, and 1 individual were the charter members of the congregation.

Congratulations, sister! We wish you a long and prosperous life and healthy growth, and we pray that you may be a faithful and undaunted witness of our Protestant Reformed heritage in your community. 

For many of our readers the name Byron Center is undoubtedly a strange one, although this is not the first time that there has been a Protestant Reformed Church in Byron Center. If your memory goes back as far as this, you will recall that the late Rev. G.M. Ophoff was for many years pastor of a little flock there—until the congregation was dissolved in mid-1944, at which time the Rev. Ophoff became full-time instructor in our seminary, with the status of minister emeritus of First Church. 

And now we have a congregation there once more. 

For those who are unacquainted with the geography of this region, Byron Center is a little village in what might be termed the far southwestern region of the greater Grand Rapids area. The location of the town is at 84th Street and Byron Center Rd., approximately 10 miles to the southeast of our Hudsonville church and some 13 miles to the southwest of First Church. The temporary meeting place of the congregation is the Byron Center Christian Junior High School, located a couple blocks south of the main intersection on Byron Center Ave. 

From one of the elders I received a summary of the history leading to the formation of the new congregation, from which I have gleaned the following items (accompanied by photos of the congregation and their temporary meeting place): 

—During the summer of 1981 the church extension committee of Hudsonville church, with consistorial approval, began a class (at the Byron Center Library) for the study of the Canons of Dordt. The purpose was to extend our witness to the truth in this area, and the eventual goal was the formation of a new congregation. This class met during the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons under the leadership of Prof. H.C. Hoeksema. 

—With the encouragement of members of our various churches, the committee was expanded during the summer of 1982 to include interested members. During the fall of 1982, after permission was received from each of the consistories involved, various potentially interested families were contacted with a view to determining whether there was adequate support for a new church in the area. Eighteen to twenty families expressed an interest. After two informational meetings were held, it was decided to petition Classis East for approval to institute a new congregation. A request was filed at that time with eighteen signatures attached. Although we were somewhat disappointed at the classical decision to postpone action until September, our desire and prayer persisted that we could once again establish a Protestant Reformed witness in this area.

—In July of 1983, at the request of several members of Hudsonville church, the Consistory of Hudsonville decided to begin conducting worship services in Byron Center as church extension work and with a view to the establishment of a congregation. On August 7 the first services were held; at that time a Sunday School, with 35 children present, was also begun. 

—At the September session of Classis East approval was granted to organize the new congregation. And the organizational service was held on October 20, 1983, with Prof. Hoeksema preaching the sermon onIsaiah 66:11 (“Nourished By Breasts of Consolation and Glory”), and Rev. G. Van Baren leading the congregational meeting and installing the newly elected elders and deacons. As stated above, at this occasion 24 families (with 72 children) and 1 individual presented their membership attests and were declared to be charter members of the Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church. Three elders and two deacons were chosen (by free election) and were duly installed in office. 

—We thank our heavenly Father for this joyous occasion and for the opportunity to labor in the cause of His kingdom and in our Protestant Reformed outreach and witness in this community. 

Postscript. At its annual congregational meeting the Hudsonville congregation voted to give the new congregation a gift of $50,000.00—you might call it a birthday present.

Has the Leopard (WCC) Changed Its Spots?

A month ago we called attention to the fact that there was a considerable number of “evangelicals”—among them the Secretary General of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod—who claimed to see a change for the better in the World Council of Churches at its recent Vancouver Assembly, even sufficient change to warrant working together in such a World Council. At that time we looked at the matter especially from the point of view of possible consequences for the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, which will again face the issue of dual membership at Chicago in 1984. Especially since some member churches have already flatly rejected such dual membership as that presently held by the GKN, there is the possibility of a serious clash at RES Chicago. 

But we may also face the question whether the leopard has changed his spots, whether there has indeed been any significant and far-reaching change on the part of the WCC, such a change as would enable “evangelicals,” let alone Reformed churches, to participate. 

Our answer to this question is No. 

First of all, anyone who followed the reports of the secular press concerning the Sixth Assembly has to be aware of the fact that the WCC continues to be deeply involved in social and political action, especially with respect to so-called Third World countries. We do not believe that this is the business of the church or of a council of churches. Many so-called evangelicals do not as such object to this. But the striking thing about the Sixth Assembly, as in the past, was that it came down hard on the social and political injustices of which the United States was supposedly guilty, while it trod lightly, ever so lightly, when it came to the injustices of communist countries and those with pro-Marxist philosophies. But remember: to be communist and Marxist is to be antichristian!

In the second place, the WCC is guilty of what is called syncretism. What is that? The dictionary defines it as “the reconciliation or union of conflicting beliefs, especially religious beliefs, or a movement or effort intending such.” In other words, syncretism is really a euphemism for idolatry and for polytheism. There was a glaring instance of this at the opening worship service of the Sixth Assembly, a grand affair with 15,000 people in attendance, a choir of some 600 persons, a host of dignitaries, and an Indian tribal band from British Columbia. The Rev. Charles T. Fennema refers to this in an article in Calvinist Contact (Aug. 19, p. 8):

Two events in the liturgy I found rather distasteful and unbecoming for a Christian worship service. There was first of all the Indian tribal band. It’s great to see the indigenous people of our land at a Christian worship service. After the creation story of

Genesis 1

was read and an appropriate hymn was sung the Indian band had its performance. 

First there was an Indian dance. Very interesting. But then one of the Indian chiefs gave an Indian account of the beginnings of mankind. Again very interesting but really a pagan account of the birth of men into this world. I could not—and still cannot—see what this story had to do with the Christian confession that God created the heavens and the earth. 

If this event was added to appease the indigenous people of Canada it was in very poor taste. If it had been added as part of the worship service to show delegates our Canadian folklore it was a farce and degrading for the Indian tribal band. If it was a part of the worship because also our Indian culture might contribute to a broad-minded, all-inclusive “witness” about man’s origin, it was plain syncretism—an accommodation which is evil in the sight of a jealous God who alone is the Creator of heaven and earth.

The latter is exactly what it was. In other reports I read that this Indian tribal service was complete with totem pole and that the totem pole was to be shipped to Geneva, Switzerland to have a place on the grounds of the WCC headquarters. 

Only, it should be called by its right name: idolatry! 

How, I ask, can evangelicals, let alone Reformed men, defend such a WCC? 

Does such worship arise as a sweet smelling savor to the Holy One? Or did this idolatry not rather make the entire grand worship service a stinking abomination to the Lord of heaven and earth? 

Nor was this an isolated instance of such syncretism. 

In the statement issued by a minority of dissident evangelicals headed by Dr. Peter Beyerhaus we find the following in paragraph 7:

Non-Christian religions are presented as ways through which Christ Himself gives life to their followers and also speaks to us as Christians. The fear of many that the WCC could move into an increasing syncretism is confirmed by the inclusion of Indian mythology in the worship program, by the invitations to leaders of other religions to address the Assembly, even on its central theme (“Jesus Christ The Life of the World” HCH), and by the explicit statement of a leading WCC official, Professor Dr. D.C. Mulder, that an evangelistic revival endangers our dialogue with other religions.

Space does not permit the quotation of the complete statement of the Beyerhaus-led evangelicals, from which one receives an entirely different impression from that left by the so-called “radical evangelicals.” Nor does the Beyerhaus statement furnish mere opinions; it cites concrete facts and events. Let me conclude by quoting three more paragraphs from this statement:

3) The very words of the Bible, although used more lavishly than at previous conferences, often seemed to assume another meaning. We sensed a general trend to mis-use the Christian heritage as a forum and language for social-political ideologies. Under the disguise of a biblical and trinitarian terminology, supported by dramatic illustrations of a threatening nuclear holocaust and by communicating fascinating human dreams of peace in speeches, worship services and audio-visual presentations, a pseudo-christian view of salvation which equates God with the driving forces within the process of history, is developed. 

4) Only this ambiguity can explain the seeming inconsistency of speakers who represented traditional Christian doctrines featuring side by side with others who expounded radical beliefs incompatible with orthodox biblical convictions. One outstanding example was Dr. Dorothy Soelle. She denounced the biblical concept of God and His Lordship, speaking of a “god-movement,” and even encouraged her listeners to write “new bibles.” 

5) Other speakers encouraged women to make their female experience the starting point of developing a profoundly new theology in which the reverence for the biblically revealed God as our Father is changed into the cult of god mother.

These quotations from the Beyerhaus statement are quoted from Christian News, October 17, 1983. 

Obviously, the leopard has not changed his spots.