During recent months at least four issues of the Standard Bearer have referred to the undersigned in connection with what he has said, written or implied with reference to current issues among us, or more explicitly: The Declaration of Principles, and our position over against the so-called “Liberated” brethren. These references have somewhat put us in a rather peculiar (if not questionable) light. For this reason it might be well for us to give an account of ourselves in as far as this is necessary.
First of all, we wish to refer to a statement of the editor, the Rev. H. Hoeksema, in his editorial of January 15th, last, page 172, where he offers proof for the need of the Declaration, stating: “The missionaries themselves evidently felt the need of it (the Declaration, A.C.) as a basis for their labors and for the organization of churches. At least the Rev. A. Cammenga, who was present at our last Synod, strongly expressed himself in favor of adopting this declaration.”
Rev. G. M. Ophoff makes a somewhat similar statement in the Standard Bearer, Dec. 15, 1950, page 137, “Besides, on our last Synod we all heard Rev. Cammenga plead as many as fifteen minutes for exactly such a thing as ‘The Declaration.’ ”
In connection with these statements we wish to point to the difference between the testimony of Rev. Hoeksema and that of Rev. Ophoff. Rev. Hoeksema states that the undersigned expressed himself in favor of adopting “this Declaration,” (italics mine, A.C.). Which means that we actually expressed, on the floor of Synod, that we favored the Declaration as we have it today in its present form. Rev. Ophoff merely states that we pleaded for “exactly such as thing as ‘The Declaration,'” (italics mine, A.C.). Hence, according to Rev. Ophoff, we did not plead for this Declaration, but for something like it.
Let us emphasize that the statements of both Rev. Hoeksema and Rev. Ophoff are incorrect. The facts are these: Neither Rev. Hofman nor the undersigned ever personally felt the need of a so-called Declaration, neither of anything like it. Neither did Rev. Hofman nor the undersigned ever feel the need personally for what the Mission Committee requested of Synod: “a form that may be used by those families requesting organization into a Prot. Ref. congregation.” (Acts of Synod, 1950, pg. 54). This request of the Mission Committee was solely the work of the Committee; the Mission Committee felt the need, not the Missionaries!
When the request of the Mission Committee for a “form” for congregational organization had been treated by Synod’s committee of pre-advice the latter’s report (Acts 1950, pg. 54) was not favorably received by some brethren. These brethren wanted more. They wanted something so clear-cut that none could mistake the sense of it. The document must be so clear, said a brother delegate, that a particular group (they were mentioned by name) “know we mean them”. What this document was to be called no one knew as yet, because the desired product had not yet taken form in the minds of the several delegates. So, whether it was to be called a “binding” or a “declaration” or a. . . something else, no one knew—but some kind of document, the brethren thought, was needed.
After lengthy debate on this matter one of the delegates to Synod suggested that they hear the missionaries. Hence, the only missionary present, the undersigned was asked to speak on the matter. (He had to be requested to speak since he had no voice, not being a delegate). The undersigned conceded to this request. In his discussion he pointed to the following;
a. People have come to distrust the Prot. Ref. missionaries as true representatives of said churches. (Of late this has often been felt among the immigrants, and was once publicly stated at a lecture given on the covenant by the undersigned in Canada. The following reasons were publicly given: Rev. Hoeksema’s hint of disloyalty in our ranks, Standard Bearer, March 15, 1950; Rev. Ophoff’s hint of disloyalty in our ranks in his article in regard to Prof. Holwerda’s letter, Standard Bearer, August, 1949.
b. At present we lack “propaganda” material that is concise, clear-cut and with abundant Scriptural proof.
This is a brief summary of the undersigned’s statements on the floor of Synod of 1950. However, let it be borne in mind that all this was said before the present Declaration of Principles was composed. At the time of these remarks there was nothing definite before the body of Synod which indicated how or what the discussed document might be like. No one knew what said document was to be like until three days later.
The question might be asked whether the undersigned spoke on the present draft of the Declaration when it finally reached Synod. The answer is: “Absolutely no!” In fact, when the undersigned asked the Synod’s chairman whether he might ask a question about the present draft, the chairman was very hesitant in granting such permission; said he: “I doubt whether you have any voice in this matter at all”. When we assured him that it was a question very intimately related to our mission work, since the proposed document stated that this proposed declaration shall be used in the meantime as “a working hypothesis for our mission committee and for our missionaries,” he finally granted us to ask the question. And we did nothing more than just that.
Hence, we state again that we never publicly expressed at Synod, nor that we do so now, that the Declaration is just what we need. We contend that the Mission Committee did not receive in this Declaration what they were asking for, and this can be proven. Nor has the undersigned received in this Declaration what he claimed would be helpful in our mission endeavors, as expressed in point 3, above. We contend that for any stranger the Declaration of Principles is far from clear. It is unfit for mission work. Let alone the question: What is this document, called: “Declaration of Principles?” Is it an informative instrument? Or, is it a signatory document? How must this document be referred to in any form requesting organization of a new congregation? Do the signatories to said formal request express wholehearted agreement with the said Declaration, or must they merely express knowledge of said Declaration, declaring willingness to be instructed according to its tenets?
What did surprise us at the first reading of said Declaration at the time of Synod is the fact that it was far milder than predicted, for which we were thankful. We expressed this to Rev. Hoeksema personally, after Synod. Why was it milder than expected? Predictions were that the whole covenant conception as prevalent among us should be incorporated!
There is still another reference in The Standard Bearer to which we would like to refer. It appears in the editorial of Jan. 15th, last, page 196. The editor refers to a letter received from a certain Mr. A. van Dischoven (we think this should be: van Dixhoorn), who states that the undersigned and Rev. W. Hofman, at the time of the organization of our congregation at Chatham, Ontario, gave the assurance that: “‘Freedom of Prophecy’ existed,” and that both views (Covenant views, A.C.) could be tolerated in one church connection.” To this Rev. Hoeksema remarks, page 197, “. . . .the above paragraph of Mr. van Dischoven is a reflection on the work of our missionaries; and it is up to them to contradict him. The churches surely have a right to know the truth in this regard.” This reflection, we take it, indicates a sort of desertion of the Reformed truth, and of the Protestant Reformed camp.
Personally we don’t believe that Rev. Hoeksema means this at all! Has it really come to this after all these years? We don’t believe it! Are things so upset amongst us that a man is guilty until he is proven innocent? Has the reputation of the undersigned and his partner, the Rev. W. Hofman, fallen to such an all-time low that a single letter of the above nature requires them to give a public account of their being faithful or unfaithful to the truth ? Ah, brother Hoeksema, we don’t even believe that we should discuss the above letter! Let the undersigned speak just a personal word: Has he not, brother Hoeksema, served faithfully with you in the ministry of the Word for almost twenty-two years? Did you ever hear that he was afraid, or hesitant or failed to speak the truth as he was taught and now preached it with you these many years? He knows you haven’t! Neither shall you ever hear it! Why, then, must an account be given because of just one single letter? Did not the enemy in years past speak most horrible things about our men?—yet we never asked for an account, simply because we loved, lived and labored together in the truth! As far as is known to us it is the same today. Why, then, must a public account be given? And what is true of the undersigned we know to be true of the Rev. W. Hofman. No, really, we are not guilty until we are proven innocent—we are innocent, our record bears this out, until we are proven guilty of deserting the truth. And should an account be necessary, we shall only be too glad to give the same, but then only via our consistory and the Mission Committee. But we are confident that Rev. Hoeksema is also convinced that this is not necessary.
And finally, as long as we are giving account, just a brief word in answer to brother Reitsma’s long article against what almost seems the undersigned’s duplicity. (Standard Bearer, Jan. 1, 1951).
Brother Reitsma could have saved himself all this writing had he interpreted rather than interpolated our articles in Concordia. When we wrote as we did about the evil conceptions of the immigrants relative to our Protestant Reformed Churches we did not refer, neither by suggestion nor in word, to the so-called “Liberated” brethren. We wrote about people of Reformed circles who were “pumped full” of the spirit of “hatred and antagonism” toward our churches, who look upon us as “schismatics; a church, or rather a sect, with a very strange and never-heard-of-doctrine.” Did Mr. Reitsma ever meet such a “Liberated” brother?—We never did! Hence, there is no discrepancy in our articles in Concordia and those in The Standard Bearer.
And as to brother Reitsma’s questions: “Is a person fundamentally Reformed when he believes that God loves all the children who are baptized and would save them all? Is a person fundamentally Reformed when he declares that Christ died for all, or that Christ at least merited the chance of salvation for all?—we would answer: A good “Liberated” brother would most certainly condemn such doctrines, and so would a good Protestant Reformed brother. But if our dealings with the different types of people whom we contact are questionable to or under suspicion by brother Reitsma, we would refer him to the Mission Committee and our consistory to whom both the undersigned and Rev. Hofman give a full account every month, and that black on white.
Note by the Editor:
1. I still have an entirely different impression of the expressed reaction to the “Declaration” by the Rev. Cammenga on the floor of the synod. I wish that others that were present at delegates to synod would express themselves on this matter.
2. Must the Rev. Cammenga turn his comment on the published letter by Mr. van dixhoorn, published by Mr. van Dixhoorn himself as a contribution in The Standard Bearer, into a tirade against me? It was he, not I, that cast suspicion on the labors of our missionaries. I merely asked our missionaries to contradict him, and let our churches know the truth in this matter. What is wrong with this? I still ask them to do this, for we have the right to know. I will be glad to give Mr. van Dixhoorn the lie. In fact, I will openly state here and now, that Mr. Dixhoorn did not write the truth. But let the missionaries support this statement of mine, instead of turning a statement of Mr. van Dixhoorn against me.