The Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches convened on June 4 in South Holland, Illinois. Rev. J.A. Heys, president of last year’s Synod, led the pre-Synodical worship service on Tuesday evening. He preached on Colossians 3:16a: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Synod elected Rev. C. Hanko to preside over its deliberations, which lasted until mid-afternoon on Tuesday, June 10.
The consistory of Oak Lawn overtured Synod to reject the Social Security program recently enacted by our government for ministers. Oak Lawn felt “that this program infringes upon a right and duty of thechurch,” and appealed to Article 1 of the Constitution of the Emeritus Committee: “The Protestant Reformed Churches wish to conform themselves to the stipulations of the original article 13 of the Church of Dordt which reads as follows: ‘Ministers who by reason of age, sickness, or otherwise, are rendered incapable of performing the duties of their office, shall nevertheless retain the honor and title of a minister, and the church which they have served shall provide honorably for them in their need . . .'” Classis West decided not to approve the overture on the ground that the law on Social Security for ministers leaves no exemptions for our ministers. After consulting a lawyer through an ad hoc committee, Synod decided “that payment or non-payment of self-employment tax and acceptance or non-acceptance of social security benefits is an individual, not an ecclesiastical, matter.” With regard to a question by Oak Lawn whether the churches still intend to provide for the needs of a minister who might reject Social Security and with regard to Classis West’s overture that Synod review the denominational emeritation program, Synod decided “that the principle and the requirements of Article 13 of the Church Order (together with the regulations of the Constitution of the Emeritus Committee) are an ecclesiasticalmatter and are not as such affected by Social Security regulations. It remains the duty of the church(es) to determine the need of any retiring minister and to provide honorably for him in his need.”
From both the Theological School Committee and the Rector of the Seminary, Synod received reports that spoke of God’s blessing upon our Seminary. There are now seven young men in the Theological School, one seminarian and six pre-seminarians. Synod decided to eliminate tuition, because of the financial burden of the students. It also increased the amount of aid which a student may receive. Taking note of the workload of the professors, Synod authorized funds to provide assistance for them in their clerical duties of typing and stenciling.
Synod spent much time deliberating the various aspects of the mission calling of our churches. In accordance with Synod’s mandate in 1967 and 1968, the Foreign Mission Committee presented a report that dealt mainly with the possibility of work with those “who in their generations have not belonged to the covenant.” Because the delegates did not have time to study this report, Synod delayed treatment of this report until 1970. The radio broadcasting will continue the same as last year. We will broadcast the “Reformed Witness Hour” over stations in Oskaloosa, Iowa; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Yankton, South Dakota; Lansing, Illinois; and Loveland, Colorado at a cost of about $9,000. The Mission Committee in conjunction with the Radio Committee of First Church plans to make a survey of all the stations by means of a “letter month” in order to “determine listening strength.” Synod heard a report on the work being done in Pella, Iowa, where various ministers have been working steadily from January of this year. The Mission Committee was granted approval to continue the work in Pella at its discretion, at the request of the Pella consistory. The men sent to Jamaica gave full reports to this Synod, Rev. J.A. Heys and Elder T. Feenstra, who worked in Jamaica in 1968, and Rev. G.C. Lubbers and Elder H. Meulenberg, who returned from Jamaica shortly before this Synod convened. We may expect these ministers to summarize their reports in the Standard Bearer. The ambassadors were unanimous in judging that God gives us work to do in Jamaica. Rev. Heys, at the time of this writing, has the call to be missionary in Jamaica. Concerning the call to Jamaica, Synod determined that “the tenure of the call to serve as missionary to Jamaica be a minimum of two years: after this time the missionary can request termination of his services and be declared eligible for call within our churches.” Synod established a “Study Fund” which can eventually be used in preparing young Jamaican men for the ministry. If in the future there are Jamaican young men who desire to prepare for the ministry but who are financially unable to obtain the required education, this fund may serve to assist them. This “Study Fund” is recommended to the various Sunday Schools, societies and other organizations within our churches that want to contribute money to our work in Jamaica. Synod also requests that each church again take four collections during the coming year for the church building needs of the Jamaica churches. In addition, the diaconate of Hudsonville is responsible for collecting money to help the poor of Jamaica.
Throughout the year, the ministers in Michigan and many elders do a large amount of work on behalf of our churches, especially, in the Theological School Committee and the Mission Committee. All of this work they must perform in addition to the work within their own churches. We owe them a large debt of appreciation.
Synod was forced to raise the synodical assessments for 1970 from $133.50 to $150.50 per family per year. This was due mostly to the increase in requested subsidy from the “Needy Churches.” In 1969, $48.00 per family per year was needed to fill the subsidy requests of these churches; in 1970, the requests for subsidy require $62.50 per family per year. In view of the steady increase in subsidy requests, Synod adopted some guidelines and advice for the churches asking subsidy. This advice includes: 1) A Church asking subsidy should itself raise a minimum of $8.00 per family per week. 2) Subsidy from the churches through Synod is not to be asked or given in order to assist our members in their calling of educating their children in our own schools, even indirectly. 3) Any help a church may need to provide for the needs of the poor should not be obtained through subsidy, but through benevolent collections. A copy of these guidelines, in full, will be sent to all subsidized churches.
Rev. Dale H. Kuiper was re-elected Stated Clerk of Synod, and Mr. Charles Pastoor was re-elected Synodical Treasurer. Synod thanked both of these men, on behalf of our churches for their work in the past.
Those who are interested in more than these brief sketches of some of Synod’s work should buy the “Acts” from the clerks of the consistories, when in a short while the “Acts” are printed.