Occasionally I am asked by members of the Protestant Reformed Churches the point-blank question: is there a church political ground for the Forbes-Isabel churches to “withdraw” from the Eureka Classis? And the second question is: if any, what is the doctrinal reason for leaving the Eureka Classis?
Eureka Classis has just met this summer in their “48th Annual Session” at Eureka, South Dakota, although they were incorporated as a corporate entity as late as 1928 under the Statutes of the State of North Dakota, having their “residence” at Ashley, North Dakota.
Due to my close contact with Rev. Mensch and the Isabel congregation during the past few years, and being intimately acquainted with the recent history of the Isabel-Forbes churches during the past few years, being even an eye- and ear-witness of several “sessions” of the Eureka Classis, I can write the following in good conscience:
1. That although Eureka Classis, in its Constitution, recognizes four ecclesiastical bodies, to wit: Consistory, Classis, particular Synod, general Synod, in practice these churches do not have all these church bodies (assemblies) as their very name suggests, and as is evident from their very articles of Incorporation. It is simply a fact that the larger body of which Eureka Classis used to be a part, namely, the Northwest Synod of the Reformed Church, USA is not extinct as a denominational entity. Eureka Classis is really a remnant Classis, a fragment of the once larger denomination. This is not said disparagingly but factually.
2. Eureka Classis does not conceive herself to be a discontinued “Classis” at the end of each gathering, but considers the Classis somewhat as an institution of officebearers in the church. Hence, they do not designate themselves to be the Classis of 1958, but rather they had the “48th Session of Eureka Classis.” It is a kind of super-consistory! It is the only appellate body in those churches. Rightly or wrongly there is no possibility of seeking redress from the decision of this body. They are the sole court of redress.
3. The members of this Classis (a corporate body with the State) are not simply those who come with a credential from their own consistory and congregation, showing that they have been duly delegated by such a consistory, and, therefore, members of a particular Classis, (as Protestant Reformed Churches conceive of a Classis) but ministers too, even though they have for many years not even been in office in a local congregation or charge, having been duly and properly installed in their local church. Also it has often and rather commonly occurred that a minister does not even serve a church, resorting in the Classis, but that he is still a member of the Classis. One sees here a conception of doubtful Reformed Church polity. Such ministers straddle the fence between Eureka Classis and E. and R. Church, often leaving the sheep in the Classis itself without a shepherd! And these ministers serve on committees, permanent committees bedecked with such awe-inspiring names as “judicial committee,” Andy in these committees they do not merely have an “advisory vote” but they cast’s deciding vote. Thus it happens, sad to say, that such ministers toot the loudest horn and exercise dominion over ministers in the Classis with a bonafied standing, properly installed in a congregation. The danger is more than imaginary that such ministers, consciously or unconsciously, form the tiling oligarchy, cracking the ecclesiastical whip. In such a set-up a rule by men, not- according to Christ’s ordinances, is inevitable.
4. Since Eureka Classis meets (has a “Session”!) but once a year, it stands to reason that expediency dictates, that, in the interim between these “Sessions,” the Classis function through Committees. There is one such committee which often virtually arrogates to itself the prerogative of being a “Classis Contractum,” a small Classis, and that, too, in rather important and far-reaching matters. That Committee is the “Executive Committee,” rather fondly called by the president of the Committee, Rev. E. Bosma, “the Executive.”
5. It was especially this Executive Committee that made itself particularly obnoxious to the brethren and sisters of the Forbes Church and the congregation here at Forbes with its Consistory. They felt the impact very painfully of this “boardism” of the Executive Committee. Precedent simply becomes rule. It is then right because it was done before. First we act and then investigate, when the damage is done, whether it was Constitutional and Scriptural.* Thus the brethren and sisters experienced the dealings of this Executive Committee in putting Rev. H. Mensch out of office on November 28, 1956 at Leola, South Dakota. Without a hearing, simply by stating the facts slantedly, the Executive Committee gave its version of the facts in the case, and sent a circular letter to the “members of Classis” (also ministers out of office and not in the Classis) and if no dissenting vote came, this committee simply issued, a decretal that Rev. Mensch was no longer in office! A trial, without hearing by a correspondence course. And that in flagrant transgression of the “limiting clause,” limiting the cases in which this Committee can act, in Article 95 of the Constitution of the Reformed Church in US.According to this Article, as plain common Christian sense should even dictate, the Executive Committee can execute matters of a routine nature, except “in all cases when between parties concerned there is no question at issue.” Now there was an “issue” between Rev. Mensch and the Consistory of Leola.
6. The “Spiritual Council” (elders and minister) of Isabel challenged this assumed authority of the committee and desired, according to Article 131 of the Constitution to institute an inquiry into these matters which had come to them by the “circular letter” of the Executive Committee, and by means of a counter-circular letter of Rev. Mensch. Rev. Mensch was at this time-also the duly installed minister of Isabel. To be ousted by the Committee out of Leola did not change the status of Rev. Mensch in Isabel. It would be the duty of the “Spiritual Council” to try this case in their judicatory. However, when asked for the record and minutes, the Executive Committee hedged and obstructed! They preferred to work, keeping the Consistory of Isabel and also Rev. Mensch in the dark. Hence, they first told the Consistory in a high-handed way that the Consistory’s meeting was illegal since a deacon had presided at the meeting. (Meetings in Leola were legal even though meetings were held, prior to Rev. Mensch’s ousting from office, not merely in his absence, but without his knowledge!) When the Consistory of Isabel gave full measure later, held another meeting, under such cracking of the whip by the “Executive,” the Consistory was told that it was none of their concern what was happening to Rev. Mensch in Leola! (See letters of Dec. 17, 1956 and Jan. 16, 1957, from Executive).
7. After being given the high-handed run-around by this “Executive,” the Consistory waited to see whether Classis would enter into its protest against all of this. Classis met in “executive session” and approved of Rev. Mensch’s being deposed from office. I doubt whether Rev. Mensch himself ever received a verbatim copy of the decisions. Being thoroughly convinced that Eureka Classis was not interested in truth and righteousness, but subscribed tacitly, at least, to this boardism, the rule of an oligarchy, they informed Classis that Classis had lost its usefulness and purpose of Christ for them, and that they irrevocably severed relationships with them! Even this letter would not have been sent by the Committee to the members of Classis verbatim. Fearing this the Consistory sent a mimeographed letter to all the members of Classis. This was branded publicly by the “Executive” as being “sinister” on the part of the Isabel consistory!
The Isabel people smile a bit when they read the report of the “Executives” president in the “Acts of Classis, 1958” which is as follows: “The Hope Church of Isabel, having received substantial aid from Classis in the past, which could no more be granted, informed Classis that it resolved to withdraw from membership in Classis.”
It is difficult to believe that Rev. E. Bosma did not consciously write this, knowing that he was not speaking all the truth, and that what he did write is not wholly true. At least we may believe that the letter, written by Isabel, was so lucid that intellectual honesty need not be called in question, because of lack of clarity on the part of Isabel’s missive!
* Classis Eureka has in its last Session appointed a Committee designated “Interpretation of Art. 95.” As far as Rev. Mensch is concerned a rather meaningless gesture. However, the undersigned has good and solid reasons to believe that more ministers in Eureka Classis see the hang-man’s rope when a mere Committee can set aside an explicit stipulation and depose a minister by correspondence course.