Of interest to our Protestant Reformed people will be the fact that also in Lynden, Washington there were those who refused to be deceived and intimidated by the Rev. De Wolf faction in the congregation there. The undersigned was recently called to Lynden to help and advise the few faithful families, and so we can furnish a first-hand report.

For a long time some of us had wondered what was going to happen in Lynden. That, as in the rest of our denomination, there was not unity even in that small congregation had been evident to those who were acquainted there or who had occasion to visit as ministers. But since that notorious September session of Classis West nothing had been heard from the far northwest.

Then, quite suddenly, action came. The consistory, whom we had surmised was pro-De Wolf, made an announcement on Sunday, November 22, that they supported the schismatic group of De Wolf. What their grounds were in detail was never quite clear, since they were merely orally announced, and since in at least one service they did not even announce them fully. That they knew quite well what they were doing, and did it intentionally, became very evident in the afternoon service of that same Sunday, when, in lieu of a reading service, they had a recorded service, very audaciously presenting as the guest minister by recording none other than the supposed leader of the schism, the Rev. H. De Wolf himself.

This was, of course, an act of schism. And the five faithful families and one or two individuals who intended to remain Protestant Reformed, instinctively recognized it as such, and for conscience’ sake immediately refused to worship with the schismatic group on the Lord’s day. They did not know yet what the future would bring, or whether perhaps, their church home was being ruthlessly torn away from them, so that they would have to move back to places where there were Protestant Reformed Churches. But they were convinced that as long as the schismatic decision of Lynden’s consistory stood in the way, they could not worship together.

Let it be added, for the sake of completeness, that all these families received a visit later from the Rev. J. Howerzyl and one of the elders, G. Buma and D. Scheele, which invariably began with the rather naive question, “We were wondering why you were not in church Sunday?”

Under these circumstances, having no pastor to turn to, nor having a consistory member to aid and support them, these brethren and sisters wrote to the undersigned for advice and help, and asked him to come to their assistance. Having received permission and advice from his own consistory, as well as advice from the consistories of Edgerton and Hull, the undersigned made arrangements to go to Lynden the week of December 6. In the meantime the members concerned presented the following protest and statement of position to the schismatic consistory, which we here, quote in full:

Lynden, Washington Dec. 4, 1953

To the “Consistory of the Lynden Prot. Ref. Church,” c/o D. Scheele, clerk.

Dear Brethren:

On Sunday, November 22, the consistory announced in the morning service its support of the schismatic group of the Rev. H. de Wolf. And in the afternoon service we already had a recorded sermon by de Wolf. By this action the undersigned families and members are offended. And we want you to understand clearly that we are in all good conscience before God and His church so seriously aggrieved, that unless and until you take back that stand we cannot recognize you as Protestant Reformed anymore, and, though we be few in number, will have to stand alone and to maintain that we are the faithful remnant of the Protestant Reformed congregation of Lynden. In such a case the fault of tearing the church apart will rest only with you, since by your action you depart from our Protestant Reformed churches both in doctrine and in church order in such a serious way that we cannot for conscience’s sake go along with you for a moment.

In order that you may thoroughly understand our position, we state it in detail below:

I. We request that the Consistory withdraw its decision in favor of the schismatic group of Rev. de Wolf; that it reject the decisions of Classis West in re the suspension of de Wolf and the deposition of the elders; and that it refuse from now on to recognize any ministers or consistories who have publicly and openly followed the schismatic group of de Wolf.

II. If this request is denied, we, the undersigned, declare that the Consistory:

  1. Is guilty of schism.
  2. That by this action they have separated themselves from the communion of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
  3. That the undersigned are the faithful congregation and members of the Prot. Ref. Church of Lynden, Washington, and will function as such. 

III. Grounds

1. By this stand you have principally adopted the heresy condemned not only by the First Prot. Ref. Church of Grand Rapids, but also by Classis East of the Prot. Ref. Churches. These heresies are:

a. That God promises to all men, head for head and soul for soul, that if they believe they shall be saved.

b. That our act of conversion is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

2. You have taken sides with those:

a. That were legally suspended and deposed as officebearers by the Consistory of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, with the advice of the Fourth Church of the above-named city, and on the basis of the previous advice of classis.

b. That, after they were suspended and deposed, illegally presumed to function as officebearers, thereby lost all right of appeal, and placed themselves outside of the communion of the Prot. Ref. Churches.

c. That, at the October session of Classis East, after having had full opportunity to defend themselves, were officially de­clared by that Classis, the only classis having jurisdiction in the case, to be schismatic and to be outside of the communion of our churches.

3. You have taken sides against those who were rightfully recognized to be Protestant Reformed by Classis East of our churches.

a. Classis East, the only body that could treat the de Wolf case other than the consistory of First Church, did so, and condemned both the doctrine and the disorderly actions of the de Wolf group.

b. Even should you disagree with that decision, the orderly way would have been to submit to the decision and in the meantime bring a protest or appeal against it in the orderly way of consistory, classis, synod. Instead you have refused to recognize the discipline and decisions of sister consistories and a sister classis.

4. The action of Classis West in its September session in regard to the discipline of de Wolf and his elders must be condemned:

a. Because it is illegal, seeing that it was not even on the agenda of the classis, which it should have been by classical decision. 

b. Because it is contrary to all Church Order:

1)   Art. 36: “The Classis has the same jurisdiction over the consistory as the Particular Synod has over the Classis and the General Synod over the Particular.”

2)  Art. 84: “No Church shall in any way lord it over other Churches, no Minister over other Ministers, no Elder or Deacon over other Elders or Deacons.”

c. Because the action is schismatic, seeing that they support doctrines that according to the decisions by the Consistory of the First Church of Grand Rapids, and according to the decision of Classis East, are contrary to Scripture and the Confessions, and besides, are directly contrary to the Declaration of Principles, which has been legally adopted as the expression of our Confessions by the Synod of our churches. Besides, by their action Classis West supports schismatics.

d. The action of Classis West was premature, because at the time of the September classis, Classis East had not even made a final decision.

IV. Hence, we declare:

  1. That what calls itself Classis West has broken with the fellowship of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
  2. That only those churches which reject the stand of Classis West, and refuse to follow the schismatic and disorderly path of the de Wolf group are the faithful remnant of Classis West.
  3. That we the undersigned must for conscience’ sake recognize those churches and stand with them, and shall have to ask the Synod to take the same stand with us.

This is the position which we maintain over against your announced decision favoring the de Wolf group. It is the only possible position we can take. And we hereby submit it to the consistory for consideration. Since there has been plenty of time for you to be acquainted with this whole affair, we request that you answer this on or before December 9, 1953. And in case we have no answer by that time, we shall consider that you maintain your schismatic stand in favor of de Wolf, and shall act accordingly.

Respectfully,

 

To this protest not one word of answer was ever received. This was taken by all concerned to mean that the consistory maintained its stand, and would not even so much as talk about it or try to answer the grounds offered for repudiating their stand. And so, after December 9, the families involved took action.

On Friday, Dec. 11, the undersigned delivered a publicly advertised lecture concerning the split. Opportunity for question after the lecture had also been advertised. But although there was an attendance of about 60 souls, about half of them not from our churches, only one family of “the other side” put in an appearance. And undoubtedly the three questions asked after the lecture, and easily answered, were presented by this one representative of the De Wolf group.

On Sunday, Dec. 13, we held our own services, as the continuation of the Lynden Protestant Reformed Church, in the Legion Hall. In the emergency a congregational meet­ing was held after the morning service, and the elected officebearers were installed in the afternoon.

And so a small, but faithful congregation of Protestant Reformed people remains and continues in Lynden also. They were indeed small, being reduced in numbers approximately to the size of the congregation when it was first organized a few years ago. But they are convinced of the truth, and they are determined, by God’s grace, to go on. Encouraged they were by the news that after my departure the Rev. G.M. Ophoff would come for a few weeks’ stay in their midst.

The undersigned is convinced, furthermore, that with the blessing of our God and by means of some consistent Protestant Reformed labors by one or more of our ministers the congregation will also grow in numbers. Last May and again during my most recent visit, I saw many indications that there is still much interest in the Protestant Reformed truth in the Lynden area. Attendance both at lectures and at services was one indication.

We commend the little flock at Lynden to your prayers and to your assistance. And especially would we urge that if at all possible they be provided not only with financial help but with pulpit supply from our ministers and candidates.    

—H. C. Hoeksema