How Should the Schismatics Return?

We continue the report of the advisory committee that was appointed by classis in re the protest filed against the consistory of Southeast Church in the matter of their receiving schismatic members that formerly belonged to Creston and First Church.

The report speaks further of the main issue in the case as follows (I abbreviate):

The committee warns the classis emphatically against dealing with all kinds of side issues and claims that there is only one main issue.

This main issue is that the Gritter families sinned against the First Church when, in 1953, they joined the schismatics. The consistory of First Church contends that, before these families can become members of any other of our churches, they must confess their sin before the consistory and congregation of First Church and thus become reconciled. And since Southeast Church accepted these families as members of their congregation in spite of the protestations of the consistory of First Church, they also accuse the consistory of Southeast with definite sins as mentioned in their protest.

The committee agrees with the consistory of First Church in this matter. The sin of the Gritter families cannot be confessed to a third party and where this is not done no reconciliation can be made.

The committee makes this clear by the following illustration: “A steals 500.00 dollars from BA repents of his misdeed, but he goes to C to make amends. What will C do when A so approaches him? Will he say to A: “I am very happy that you saw your sin, and I heartily accept your confession?’ Of course he will not talk this way if he wants to do what is right, both over against A and B. Rather, he will say to A: “You stole the money from B, not from me, so go to B and tell him your fault and reconcile with him. And only when you do that can you be a friend of mine, for when you hurt Byou also hurt me.” This the committee applies to the case that was before classis. The Gritter families sinned against First Church. They supported heresy. They rebelled against the legal consistory. They stole their property. Now they want to return but instead of going to First Church, against which they had sinned, they go to Southeast. And Southeast accepts them. This certainly is not and cannot be right.

The committee also agrees with First Church when, in their protest, they charge Southeast consistory with several sins which the latter committed by receiving the Gritter families. According to the committee, only when the one that sinned moves to another place may he confess his sin to the consistory in that place, although even then the consistory against which he has sinned must know of and approve of his confession. But the Gritter family lived in the neighborhood of First Church, not of Southeast.

The committee then answers the arguments presented by Southeast consistory in answer to the protest of the consistory of First Church as follows:

1. Southeast insists that it is an autonomous church. The committee agrees. But First Church is also autonomous and, therefore, has the sole right to discipline its own members. When Southeast consistory assumes the right to discipline members of First Church, it is guilty of lording and of breaking the denominational bond.

2. Southeast consistory contends that the Gritter families were no longer members of First Church. And the committee agrees. They were dismissed or rather they dismissed themselves by refusing to sign the declaration that was sent to all the schismatic members. But this does not mean that the consistory of First Church has nothing to say over them when they desire to return. Besides revealed it was to the consistory of Southeast by that of First Church that, if the Gritter families were to return to the fellowship of our churches, they must first of all be reconciled to First Church against which they had sinned. This Southeast ignored.

3. The committee also agrees with Southeast consistory that there are discrepancies in the way First Church handled the entire matter. (By the way, these so-called discrepancies will still come up in the April classis.) But this, according to the committee, has nothing to do with the main issue.

The committee concludes this part of their report by stating: “More perhaps could be said about the arguments of Southeast, but which your committee feels is not necessary. Fact is, none of their arguments hold water when they neglect to do what is right with the main issue.”

Then follows the advice of the committee to classis. I will quote this in full because it is brief. It is as follows:

“1. That Classis adopt the statement of the facts in this case as expressed under I, A of this report.

“2. That Classis adopt the expression re the main issue of this case as described under I, B of this report.

“3. That Classis express that Southeast Consistory had no right to receive members into their membership who are in an unreconciled state with other of our churches.

“Ground: Matthew 5:23, 24.

“4. That Classis express that Southeast Consistory has erred when, regardless of the stated objections of First Church, they nevertheless received as members the Gritter families.

“Grounds: Articles 71, 75 and 84 of the Church Order.

“5. That Classis express that Southeast Consistory rectify the entire matter by rescinding their decision to receive as members the families in question, and instructing these families to reconcile with First Church, thus obtaining clear transfer papers which can be acceptable to Southeast Church. (The last two clauses of this sentence were elided, H.H.)

“Grounds: a. Not to do this would be virtually the breaking of the bond of church unity on the part of Southeast Church.

“b. All the Articles of the Church Order mentioned above point in this direction.”

Next is the part of the report of the committee that treats the protest of Creston.

Before, however, I relate this part of the committee report, I wish to make a statement concerning the following incident that took place before I knew of the fact that the Gritter family had applied for membership at the consistory of the Southeast Church. Mr. P. Knot came to my parsonage and informed me that he wanted to leave the schismatic De Wolf group and join the Southeast Church. I told him that this was perfectly well as far as I was concerned, but that, before he could do so, he would have to appear before the consistory of First Church, of which he was a member before the schism of 1953, in order to make confession of his sin of schism. He understood that this was proper and he took my advice and made the required confession before the consistory mentioned above and then he became member of Southeast Church. This, of course, was perfectly normal and proper even though I could not see the reason why he should give preference to Southeast Church. But the strange thing is that the brother acted upon the advice of the Rev. R. Veldman as the latter told me himself somewhat later. And my question is: why did the Rev. Veldman give brother Knott that advice, and why did he not give the same advice to the Gritter family? Why create all the present trouble in our churches? Regardless of the fact that the Gritter family lived far closer to the First Church than to Southeast, they might have become members of Southeast after they had made confession before the consistory of First Church. I can easily surmise an answer to the question why the Gritter family preferred to appeal to the consistory of Southeast Church. But I would rather the Southeast consistory themselves give me an answer.

But now I must briefly tell about report of the committeein re the protest of the consistory of Creston.

As is the case of the protest of First Church so also in regard to the protest of Creston, the committee first of all reviews the facts in the case. They are as follows:

1. Creston’s protest reveals that Southeast consistory accepted as members the family of J. Doezema, former members of Creston and later joined the schismatics, prior to August 1961.

2. After Southeast accepted this family they heard that the Doezemas were under censure. 3. Southeast consistory did not announce that the Doezema family had been accepted as members until they had investigated the matter concerning the censure.

4. A meeting of the two consistories, Creston and Southeast, was held on August 30. At this meeting the Creston consistory made definite objections against the action of Southeast in accepting the Doezemas as members, especially since they were under censure.

5. Nevertheless, the bulletin of Southeast Church, dated September 10, 1961, announced that the Doezema family had been accepted as members.

6. On September 29, 1961, the consistory of Creston sent another letter to the consistory of Southeast, pleading with them to undo the wrong, asking for a reply. If no reply was received Creston would protest to Classis.

7. On October 25, 1961, the consistory of Southeast sent a letter to Creston informing them that they cannot comply with Creston’s request. Hence, the latter protests to, Classis East.

Hereupon the committee defines the main issue in this case as follows:

1. They state that they can be very brief in this case since Creston’s protest is very similar to that of First Church.

2. In fact the cases are really identical. The fact that the Doezema family was under censure makes no essential difference.

3. The main and only issue is: Did the Doezema family become reconciled to Creston when, on the basis of some kind of a confession they were accepted as members of the Southeast Church? The answer is: they did not.

4. Many questions may, indeed, enter in. Nevertheless, the main issue is that when sin is proven, it must be confessed or the sinner remains in an unreconciled state. Until this is done Southeast may not receive this family. Creston is glad when some of the schismatics return to us, even when they desire to join another of our congregations. But Creston is rightly grieved when a consistory accepts members that live in. an unreconciled state with them.

5. Hence, the matter is very simple. The Doezema family live in an unreconciled state. Besides, they joined the schismatics. They must confess their sin to Creston. Only after this is done may another consistory and congregation receive them as members. This is in harmony with Scripture and our Reformed Church Polity.

Then follows the advice of the committee. About this next time, D.V.