Besides the Sunday gatherings in Christchurch, there were three other meetings, two on Monday, June 30, and one on Thursday, July 3, on the eve of our departure from New Zealand.
Our first meeting, though small, was one of the most significant of our New Zealand tour. In the office at brother van Rij’s home we met with the two elders of the Christchurch Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the brethren van Rij and Young. It was at this meeting that we received concrete and official evidence of the fact that the Orthodox Presbyterian Churches are looking to our Protestant Reformed Churches for ecclesiastical fellowship and help. For at this meeting the brethren of the Christchurch Session extended to us as emissaries of our churches, and through us to our churches, a Macedonian call, “Come over and help us.” Rev. .Hanko and I were rather overwhelmed by this evidence of the esteem in which our churches are held by these brethren, as well as by the tremendous implications of this request. We discussed the matter at some length, making plain that we were not empowered to commit our churches on this request, but promising, too, that we personally would recommend favorable action. Rather than leave the conveying of such a weighty request to our word-of-mouth, we advised the brethren to follow this oral request with an official letter to our Committee for Contact With Other Churches. This was done in a letter dated July 29. Hence, I am in a position to let their request speak for itself. Here is the letter:
Committee for Contact With Other Churches,
Protestant Reformed Churches in America,
c/o Prof. H.C. Hoeksema, Sec’y
Greetings in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
By the time this letter is brought to your notice Professor Hoeksema and Rev. Hanko will, we trust, have furnished you with a report on their Australasian visit. That assumed, there is little need to introduce this letter, except to express our deepest gratitude to your committee and all who were used of God to make this tour possible. Its memories remain as an unforgettable and unspeakably blessed expression of the mercy of our covenant God.
While in New Zealand, Prof. Hoeksema and Rev. Hanko met with the session of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Christchurch on June 30 to discuss possible future ties between respective churches. Further to that meeting, we would submit the following for the prayerful consideration and action of your committee.
1. Since the organization of our congregation in June 1974, we have been without a minister of the Word of God. From that time we have been constant and earnest in our prayers that God would mercifully lead us to a man well fitted to labour among us in this office.
2. Over the months, two things have become increasingly evident to us all:
(a) that professing “Reformed” Presbyterian ministers in New Zealand have shown little interest (rather skepticism) in the endeavors of the O.P.C. to stand uncompromisingly upon Scripture and the confessions.
(b) that as our knowledge and understanding of the Reformed Faith has grown, bonds of unity and like-mindedness with the Protestant Reformed Churches in America have developed. The reality and degree of that unity will, we trust, be witnessed to you by Prof. Hoeksema and Rev. Hanko.
3. For some time prior to the arrival of the representatives of the Protestant Reformed Churches in New Zealand, it was the expressed desire and intent of the congregation in Christchurch to discuss with them the possibility of a minister from the Protestant Reformed Churches coming to New Zealand to help in establishing a Church in Christchurch faithful to the Word of God and. the Reformed confessions.
4. This matter was discussed at some length with Prof. Hoeksema and Rev. Hanko, and upon their recommendation, the session of the O.P.C. in Christchurch would submit to the Protestant Reformed Churches in America through its Committee for Contact with Other Churches the following request:
“that an ordained Minister of the Protestant Reformed Church in America be sent to Christchurch, New Zealand to serve as a minister of the Word of God to the congregation of the O.P.C. in that city, and to help in establishing a testimony faithful to the Word of God and the Reformed Confessions in that land.”
Professor Hoeksema and Rev. Hanko are familiar with proposals concerning the support and duration of the ministry, and we are confident that they will wisely represent this request as they are led of God.
Meanwhile, we prayerfully await your consideration of this request, confident that “He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Yours in His Name,
I will not comment in detail on this request at this time; I prefer to let this letter speak for itself and to make its own impact. It is plain, I think, that this is a matter of tremendous import for our churches at their next synod. Our Contact Committee has gone on record unanimously as favoring this request in substance; and we are in the process of getting information and studying various details with a view to presenting a carefully worked out proposal to our next synod.
The second meeting, on Monday evening, and the third, on Thursday evening, were well-attended cottage meetings at the home of Mr. and Mrs. van Rij. Those who attended were mostly young people who have rather recently come to the Reformed faith. At these two meetings we did not have any fixed subject; but we had received in advance a long list of questions in which the Christchurch people were especially interested. These were questions both of a doctrinal and a practical nature. These young people take their Reformed faith very seriously, and they mean to put it into practice in their lives. But this very fact gives rise to many serious questions on their part. And many of these questions became the subject of our discussions at these two cottage meetings.
Tuesday, July 1, at 10 o’clock in the morning, we boarded the plane for Dunedin, at the south end of the South Island. Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Young accompanied us. Dunedin is the nearest we came to the South Pole during our tour; and frankly, the weather felt like we were near the South Pole. We were told that the temperature had hit a record low that morning of -13 Celsius. After a long ride in from the airport, we had noon lunch at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Andre van Rij, who were also Rev. Hanko’s hosts during our brief stay. Mrs. Hoeksema and I had as our hosts Mr. and Mrs. Alan Kerr. Mr. Kerr is a student at the notorious Knox Theological College of the Presbyterian Church—the school where Prof. Geering (who denied the resurrection) taught. Some of you may remember that a few years ago Prof. Hanko commented on this matter in All Around Us. During the course of our stay with Mr. Kerr, we learned that there is not a single faculty member who even holds to, the doctrine of vicarious atonement. That will give you some idea of the low estate of Presbyterianism in New Zealand.
There is no Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Dunedin at present. The people with whom we had contact were of a very mixed background. Some were from the local Reformed Church, of which the Rev. P. Berghouse is pastor. We also had the opportunity to meet a couple of serious-minded Reformed young men from other parts of New Zealand who are studying at the university in Dunedin. Others whom we met were from the mainline Presbyterian Church. And some were members of an independent People’s Church. I should also mention that in Dunedin we noticed for the first time on our tour considerable influence of the AACS, or Toronto movement.
On the whole, we were not favorably impressed by what we observed in Dunedin. Nevertheless, we kept rather busy in the afternoon and evening; and we had opportunity to testify of the Reformed truth; and we may safely leave to the Lord the results of our labors there. During the afternoon Mrs. Hoeksema talked to a group of some 14 ladies concerning child training and Christian education. There is some interest in this area in establishing a Christian school; however, the movement appears to be rather AACS oriented. Rev. Hanko and I met with a group of students at the home of Mr. Kerr during the afternoon. We also had the opportunity through this meeting to learn firsthand what inroads heresy has made within the church. Sometimes it does one good to come into personal contact with these things to learn how serious the situation of the church of today really is. During that same afternoon we had occasion to visit for a while with the Rev. Berghouse. And while his reception of us was hospitable, he made it very plain that he resented the Standard Bearer’s attack on Dr. Runia’s doctrinal position and that he himself to this day does not believe Runia’s position to be heretical. However, he declined our invitation to document his claim that Runia was orthodox in his teachings at Geelong.
In the evening there was a public meeting at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church. Although the weather was rather cold and damp, we had an audience of 29. We had been advertised as speaking on the topic, “Our Calling As the Salt of the Earth in Relation to the State.” It was not a subject which lent itself to a direct discussion of vital issues of the Reformed faith. And although I attempted, in the limited time available, to draw the line of the antithesis, the line of sin and grace, of church and world, there was apparent in the course of the discussion a disinclination to discuss vital issues. The questions of the evening centered more about politics, our calling in society, labor unions, etc. And again, there became evident not a little of the leaven of the AACS in the thinking of some of the audience. While there were exceptions, we did not find in our contacts in Dunedin much dedication to the Reformed position. It is to be hoped that our brief visit kindled some serious thinking about these matters.
Lest I forget, there was one more event at Dunedin—an important one! While in that faraway city Mrs. Hoeksema and I received a cablegram informing us of the birth of our second grandson, Matthew Allan Kamps.
But we wish to finish our New Zealand tour in this article; so we must hasten on to Nelson, a beautiful harbor city at the north end of the South Island. We left the Dunedin airport a little after noon on July 2; catching our only glimpse of the rugged and snowy Southern Alps aloft, we arrived at Nelson in midafternoon. We were warmly welcomed at Nelson by the Rev. Ivo Bishop, the local Orthodox Presbyterian pastor, and were immediately taken for afternoon tea to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Scott Hunter, where Mrs. Hoeksema and I were to lodge. The flock at Nelson has a membership, if I remember correctly, of 30 to 40 souls. Pastor Bishop and his flock only recently separated from the Presbyterian Church (April of 1974), and did so at considerable material sacrifice. At our evening meeting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Button, Rev. Hanko’s hosts, not all of the congregation could be present. But there was a group of 21, to whom Rev. Bishop gave us a very warm and friendly introduction. The subject for the evening was Sovereign, Particular Grace, in connection with Ephesians 2: 8. While our instruction encountered some opposition, especially with respect to the doctrine of predestination, there was evident a receptive spirit in the meeting and a willingness to be instructed from the Word of God. As Pastor Bishop himself made plain at the conclusion of the meeting, there is need for instruction and growth in the knowledge of the truth in this relatively new little congregation. All in all, we had a pleasant stay in Nelson; and we welcomed the opportunity to get acquainted with Rev. Bishop, with whom we had been in correspondence for a few years, dating back to the time when he was still in the mainline Presbyterian Church.
On Thursday morning, July 3, we had time for a fast sight-seeing tour of the beautiful countryside surrounding Nelson. The irrepressible Mr. Hunter was our tour guide; and he managed, I am sure, to show us as many sights as possible in the limited time available. Then it was back to the airport after noon lunch with the Bishops, and back to Christchurch at about 4 P.M. It was our last evening in New Zealand; and at the conclusion of the evening’s meeting we were presented with a few remembrances. Even without those remembrances, we shall long remember our stay in New Zealand and our fellowship with God’s people there. And it was with a certain amount of sadness that we bade our friends farewell the next morning at Christchurch airport. But it was time to depart. Our Air New Zealand DC-10 took us to Melbourne, Australia, where we had a 5-hour layover; and from thence we flew to Wynyard, in the northwest corner of the island-province of Tasmania. That was the way we spent the 4th of July!
A few concluding remarks about this section of our tour are in order.
In the first place, we were deeply impressed by the experience of genuine fellowship with likeminded brethren and sisters in Christ nearly everywhere we went. Of course, in theory we knew all along that God has His people everywhere. But to experience this in actual fact is just a little different. In many places we stayed only a little while; but how often we had the feeling of being thoroughly at home in a short time and of talking and discussing with people of God just as though we had known them a long time. What we were experiencing, of course, was the communion of saints. Arid how blessed that is!
In the second place, a word about the Orthodox Presbyterian Churches in New Zealand. Let me put it this way. If I were in New Zealand and were faced by the question of my church membership, judging according to the marks of the church, I would not hesitate to cast my lot with the Orthodox Presbyterian Churches. Yes, they are small and struggling. From an outward and material point of view they do not have much; they face an uphill battle. No, they are not perfect by any means. There is much room for instruction and growth in the Reformed faith. They undoubtedly will face many problems in the near future. They are a young communion of churches. In some ways they remind one of the earlier days of our own churches. Some of their little congregations reminded me of some of our own struggling little churches. But one thing impressed me as we sojourned among them, and that was their dedication to and their interest in the truth of Scripture and the confessions. Personally, I am certain that if ever one of our ministers should go to labor in New Zealand, he would have no difficulty on that score: he would soon feel himself thoroughly at one with the brethren and sisters in principle.
In the third place, the little group of Orthodox Presbyterian Churches are to be encouraged to persevere. There is much work to be done among them and by them. They must expand their witness. They must themselves become more thoroughly founded in the truth. In the not too distant future they should, I believe, complete their ecclesiastical organization, form a presbytery, adopt a church order. And we as Protestant Reformed Churches must encourage, and, where possible, assist them. Personally, I am convinced that if at all possible, we should loan them one of our ministers. On a longer range basis, one of the best ways we could assist them, if this could be implemented, would be to train their future ministers in our seminary. And above all, pray for them! In our prayers we often pray for God’s church in other lands, wherever it is represented. To me personally, this tour has brought the reality of God’s church in other lands a little nearer. And I hope that this report of our visit to New Zealand has also made the churches there a bit more real to you, our readers. If the report has accomplished that, it has to a degree succeeded.
[Note: Our friend and brother, Bill van Rij, underwent open-heart surgery a few weeks ago. According to the last report which we received, the operation was satisfactory, but his convalescence was a bit slow. We are thankful that the Lord has restored thus far, and we hope and pray that He will continue to sustain our brother and, if it be His will, restore him to health and strength and to useful service in the labors of His church there.]