Remembering Rev. Woudenberg
I was very happy to see the “In Memoriam” article on the late Rev. Bernard Woudenberg, written by Prof. Douglas Kuiper in the SB of October 1, 2022.
One morning after an Orthodox Presbyterian church service (I was, in the late 1980’s a member there), a bearded young man who was visiting the church approached to offer me three pamphlets, which I found out later were some of the little white pamphlets published by the PRC years earlier. This fellow was then receiving Rev. Woudenberg’s “Studies in Bible Doctrine” cassette tapes by mail. At that time I knew nothing of the Protestant Reformed Churches or of Rev. Woudenberg, who was then the pastor of Kalamazoo PR Church in Kalamazoo, MI.
When I read the pamphlets at home, I was especially interested in one entitled “The Christian and the Film Arts,” written by Prof. Herman Hanko of the PR Seminary in Wyoming, MI. I wrote to the author, and shortly thereafter received a letter from him. Prof. Hanko said he would be giving a lecture soon at Covenant PR Church in Wyckoff, NJ, where his son Ron was the pastor. He said he’d like to meet me and asked if I would be able to attend.
I made it to the lecture, and despite the fact that I had very little background in the PRC and did not fully understand what was said, I was definitely interested in learning more about the denomination. In the year that followed, I subscribed to the SB and read some books by PR ministers. I became convinced of some important points of PR doctrine that I had never been taught. The literature from the denomination had made enough of an impact on me that I quit a job I liked in New York and moved to New Jersey. It was a move I did not regret, and I was able to find an apartment and temporary jobs.
At Covenant PRC I learned much more about the denomination and became a member of that church. Five years later, as Covenant was quite small, the denominational “church visitors” advised that we close the church and transfer to other PR churches, and I was the first one to do so, it being easier for a single person to pick up and move. I knew when I moved to Michigan in May 1997 that the PRC was the religious “home” I had been looking for. That was 25 years ago.
I came to know Rev. Woudenberg himself when I telephoned him from New York to find out about the “bearded young man,” and I met him in person when he and his wife Fran moved into Sunset Retirement Home in Jenison, MI, where I live. They had an apartment in Village I where they made their home four years until the reverend’s death.
Prof. Kuiper’s article in the SB made me realize that had it not been for Rev. Woudenberg probably supplying the bearded young man with pamphlets, I might never have discovered the PRC. Professor Hanko played an important part, as did others. My saga shows (does it not?) that only the God of heaven and earth could have engineered all these little “coincidences” that resulted in the churches I call home.
Southwest PR Church
A question about reporting sexual abuse
I appreciate your recent articles on reporting sexual abuse, the work you have done and care you exhibit to help the church community and those who have endured abuse. These matters are not easy to wade through and from my experience and the many resources I have read we can agree that no abuse case is cut and dried. The answers to the hard questions we must ask ourselves as a church community and those who have been affected personally aren’t so easy to come by.
I wonder if you could elaborate further on a couple of things. You say in the first part of your second article that “for everyone involved, reporting a sexual crime is necessary.” Does this apply only to ongoing abuse or would this apply to past cases as well? If a person is penitent, has confessed their sin and from all appearances has turned from that sin, is that enough, or do we still report it? As far as reporting goes, should it be reported only to the church and to his/her consistory and not to the civil authorities? Or should it be reported to both for the sake of this person’s soul but also for the safety of the body of Christ? What are the practical factors pastors, consistories, parents, and teachers must consider when helping a person bring these sins into the light?
Thank you for your encouragement in walking according to God’s Word, this should always be the basis for all our decision-making in all things.
Thank you for your letter and your suggestion that our private correspondence be revised and published for the sake of all our readers. I cannot answer all your questions, but your questions give opportunity to say that it is wrong to adopt a cookie-cutter approach to all cases of sexual sin. Consistories need to look at each case and make judgments: 1) does the case warrant reporting to the police? 2) does the case warrant publicity to the congregation even if we do not report to the police?
The variables are so many, and often many of these questions need to be answered at the same time:
No consistory may minimize the seriousness of sexual sin. But to make the matter simple is not wise either. The above 6 points and perhaps others must factor into any particular case. The consistory must make a judgment and that’s not easy.
As to your case, I do not know enough about it to make a judgment about reporting. I am thankful that you are getting advice from others who know the case better than I do. In addition to the above points, I think these are some of the factors to be considered in making the decision:
I will pray for you more again now that you have written. God give you wisdom, courage, grace, patience, and everything else you need to care for your family and bear your heavy burdens. Take them to Jesus. He has been touched with the feelings of all our infirmities, and so has grace to help in time of need. God is with you.
Prof. B. Gritters