When the complete record of our case in the Superior Court. is published, which I sincerely hope will be done in some future time, it will be revealed that our opponents defended a congregationalistic or independentistic form of church government: the consistory alone has power, classis and synod have no power whatsoever.
I think it will even be shown that they testified that the consistory is the highest court, while classis and synod are the lower and lowest courts respectively.
That was their view.
And to defend and maintain this conception of church polity was, of course, their privilege.
But what is far worse is that they tried to leave the impression with the court that their view is the Reformed conception of church polity. In this they did not succeed, because the judge had before him in court a copy of the Church Order.
And what probably was worse still, they attempted to make the impression with the court that their view is the same as that of the Rev. Ophoff and the undersigned. They tried to show, by all kinds of faulty and partial quotations that the brethren Ophoff and the undersigned had always taught the same church political view as they.
The trouble is, of course, that just as those that apostatized from the Protestant Reformed truth (as every fair minded outsider will admit they did) never really understood that truth and certainly, never loved it, so they also failed to grasp the principles of Reformed Church Polity as taught in our seminary by Prof. Ophoff and as always maintained by myself.
Although, indistinction from some other Reformed writers and also from the Christian Reformed Church since 1926, we always maintained that no classis or synod could ever depose a consistory under normal circumstances, yet we understood very well and always maintained that, in the church connection and under the Church Order, classis and synod have real power and authority even over the consistory.
If this were not true, how could there ever be a possibility of appeal from the consistory to classis and from classis to synod? Does one ever appeal from a higher to a lower court?
Besides, although the classis or synod certainly cannot depose officebearers, no consistory can, in the church connection, depose them without the consent of the classis.
In this connection it is interesting to review my testimony in court in 1924. Even then I admitted that, although at that time there was still a controversy in the Christian Reformed Church about the question whether or not a classis could depose officebearers, nevertheless, classis has jurisdiction over the consistory.
I quote from the record:
“What classis is it that has charge of your church? That is, in what jurisdiction is the Eastern Ave. Church?
“We are resorting under Classis Grand Rapids East.
“You are within the jurisdiction of Classis Grand Rapids East, are you not?”
“And the classis Grand Rapids East is the next larger body in the Eastern Ave. Church with reference to its governmental affairs, is it not?
“The Classis is not a body in the Eastern Ave. Church.
“No, but it is the next higher body in the church?
“Next to the congregation, yes, sir.
“Which has jurisdiction over the church, is it not?
“There is a controversy in our church about that, Mr. Linsey.
“Yes, in your church there is, now that you have charge of it.
“No, I mean in the Christian Reformed Church.
“Well, in any event there is no dispute about this?
“There is a quite a little dispute about that, whether the classis has jurisdiction over the consistory, in our doctrine . . .
“It has not been very long, has it?
“It is quite a while. “
Bultema took that position didn’t he?
“Well, yes, Bultema took that position; I did not take that position.
“Do you take that position?
“No, I will admit here in court—otherwise I think the court will never understand—that the classis has jurisdiction over the consistory.
“All right, all right, we have got so far then. Now then it was proper for classis for these three men to appeal to classis, was it not?
“Yes, sir, it was.
“And this matter being before classis, classis could pass upon the question as the whether or not the censure should stand or whether it should be lifted, couldn’t they?
“They could advise the consistory, yes.
“And if they advised the consistory that the censure should be lifted, it then became the duty of the consistory to lift it, did it not?
“No, sir; no, sir.
“Because the consistory could appeal to the synod.
“Well, if they did not appeal to synod, it would be their duty at once to lift it, wouldn’t it?
“Yes, I think it would in the church connection.
Thus far the quotation.
Notice, that in court I took the position that the classis has jurisdiction over the consistory, even though I did not agree that this jurisdiction included the authority to depose officebearers. Notice, too, that I took the position that, in the church connection the consistory was bound to lift the censure of the three brethren that were censured, unless the consistory appealed to synod. This meant, of course, that although it could not depose the consistory, it had power to declare us out of the denomination.
The court record will show that, in 1954, the opposition even denied this.
I will continue this in the next issue, D.V.