The reply concerns Kok’s use of my explanation of Art. 31 of the Church Order. In the Reformed Guardian for Feb. 12, 1954, Kok writes and I quote:
“This is exactly the issue involved from a church political point of view. Must a minister of the gospel, against whom there has never been lodged a single complaint against his preaching, be immediatelysuspended, merely because on the previous day he refused to consider a decision of the classis, which to his own mind was in conflict with the word of God, as settled and binding, while he is protesting it? And must a consistory who refuses to suspend its pastor on such grounds, be considered illegal and schismatic? The Rev. H. Hoeksema and Classis East say emphatically, Yes, such an officebearer must immediately be suspended, and if the consistory refuses to do so, it must be declared illegal and schismatic. The Rev. G.M. Ophoff, in his article which we will quote presently, says, that such a conception of Church Polity is “the most horrible and dreadful popery conceivable.” Far worse, and far more destructive certainly, than was ever perpetrated in 1924.” Thus far Kok.
Kok is quoting me here out of connection. It means that he is up to his old tricks again. But I shall let this go. It makes for the case at hand no essential difference.
Let us quote Art. 31 of the Church Order. For this is the article involved here. It reads:
“If anyone complain that he has been wronged by the decision of a minor assembly, he shall have the right to appeal to a major ecclesiastical assembly, and whatever may be agreed upon by a majority of vote shall be considered settled and binding, unless it be proved to conflict with the word of God and with the articles of the Church Order, as long as they are not changed by a general synod.”
So reads the article. Let me give my interpretation of it. The ruling of the article, as I understand it, is as follows: and whatever may be agreed upon by a majority of vote shall be considered settled and binding except for him that to his own satisfaction has proved it to be contrary to the word of God. The solemn duty of such a one his to try to make this plain to the churches—next Classis and Synod, if need be. And the churches shall not hold him to the decision while he is thus occupied, providing, of course, they can so do without doing violence to their conscience.
This is my understanding of Art. 31.
Now certainly it must be held that in advising suspension and deposition of De Wolf and the elders that supported him, the classis was persuaded that necessity was laid upon it by the word of God. For conscience sake, therefore, it had to hold the De Wolf group—the elders that supported De Wolf and De Wolf himself—to its decisions, while these aggrieved ones protested. And the same is true of the faithful consistory of Fuller Ave.
But according to Kok, Art. 31 is for all cases without exception. The consistory and with it the Classis should have allowed De Wolf and the elders supporting him to reject the advice of Classis that they be suspended and deposed, while protesting the advice and accordingly be allowed to continue functioning in their office. This, according to Kok is the requirement of Art. 31. But, of course, Kok is dreadfully wrong. The Article as Kok interprets it—that is, the Article without the qualifying statement, “if conscience permit,” is in conflict with Art. 79 of the Church Order. This Article reads: “When ministers of the divine word, elders or deacons, have committed any public, gross sin, which is a disgrace to the church, or worthy of punishment by the authorities, the elders and deacons shall immediately by preceding sentence of the consistory thereof and of the nearest church, be suspended or expelled from their office, but the ministers shall only be suspended . . . .”
Mark you well, shall immediately be suspended or expelled from office. Certainly, this may not be taken to mean: “shall immediately be suspended or expelled from office unless they protest. In this case they shall be allowed to continue functioning in their office, i.e. be allowed to continue to preach and to teach and to administer the sacraments and partake of the Lord’s Supper until they have done protesting.
If this were the requirement how could the church ever take effective action against impenitent gross sinners in her midst? If the offender protested his censure would have to be lifted until he had done protesting. And in the meantime he would have to be allowed to continue in the full enjoyment of his rights as a member including partaking of the Lord’s Supper no matter how gross the sin into which he had fallen.
It must also be held that in seating the delegates of the faithful consistory of Fuller Ave. and accordingly in refusing to seat the delegates of the De Wolf group the last Classis East was persuaded that necessity was laid upon it by the word of God. The Classis was therefore also obliged to ask of Kok that he submit to the decision that called for this action, while he protested it, that is ask of him that he recognize the two delegates that Classis had seated. How otherwise could Kok have worked with the Classis? Impossible. But Kok refused. What it meant is that he and the Classis had come to the parting of the ways. And so Kok left, but without the Classis later on expelling him from his office. Where then does the hierarchy of Classis come in? Can Kok say? He cannot.
What Kok, of course also fails to tell his readers is that before suspending De Wolf with the advice of Classis, his consistory had labored with him for over a year. And what Kok should also have revealed is that on the Classis De Wolf and his party including Kok received all the opportunity they desired to argue the point that the suspension of De Wolf and the deposition of the elders supporting him as advised by the previous Classis was wrong, contrary to the word of God.
And finally this statement from Kok (see above): “Must a minister of the gospel, against whom there has never been lodged a single complaint against his preaching be immediately suspended . . .”
Of course, Kok knows t that he does not write the truth also here. Fact is that previously several complaints had been lodged against De Wolf’s preaching.