The position of the former consistory of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, according to its answer to the protest of brother Meninga, is that any aggrieved party, aggrieved, that is, by a consistory, classis, or even synod, cannot be bound by such a decision “until” it is proved to be in conflict with the word of God or the Church Order. In other words, when a decision is made by any ecclesiastical assembly, and someone feels convinced in his own heart that such a decision is, contrary to the Word of God and the Church Order, he can remain in the church without being bound by such a decision “until” he shall have proved (or shall not have proved) to the assemblies that the decision is in error.
This position, however, is in direct conflict with the Church Order.
It may be true, that in cases of minor importance the ecclesiastical assembly concerned can decide to allow this freedom, but certainly not in cases in which the Confessions are involved. And this was the case with the decision of Classis East in October 1953 with which the delegates of Kalamazoo disagreed and to which they refused to submit.
That this position is in direct conflict with the Church Order is clear from the Formula of Subscription.
This Formula is considered to be of fundamental significance in the Reformed Churches.
That this is true is evident from the fact that, according to the Church Order, this Formula of Subscription must be signed by all candidates for the ministry, by ministers, elders and deacons, as well as by professors of theology. Cf. Arts. 4, 53, 54, and the decisions under those articles.
Now, in this Formula of Subscription we read:
“And further, the consistory, classis or synod, upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine, may deem it proper to require of us a further explanation: of our sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, the Catechism, or the explanation of the National Synod, we do hereby promise to be always willing and ready to comply with such requisition, under penalty above mentioned (suspension from office, H.H.), reserving for ourselves, however, the right of an appeal, whenever we shall believe ourselves aggrieved by the sentence of the consistory, the classis or the synod, and until a decision is made upon such an appeal, we will acquiesce in the denomination and judgment already passed.” (Italics is mine, H.H.) . . . . Knott c.s. will probably object that this concerns only a decision in which the confessions are involved.
But to this I reply, in the first place, that the former consistory of Kalamazoo left no exception to its position that one is not bound by a decision of the ecclesiastical assemblies “until” it is proved that it is in error.
It is very evident from the language of the reply to the protest of brother Meninga that they will brook no exception to their position. No matter what consistory, classis or synod may decide, no one has to submit to its decisions “until” it is proved-that it is in conflict with the word of God or the Church Order.
But, in the second place, the decision of Classis East in October 1953 certainly concerned the Confessions!
What was the situation?
The preceding classis had decided that certain heretical statements made by De Wolf and supported by some of his elders were contrary to the word of God and to the Confessions, the Three Forms of Unity.
At the same time classis had decided that the guilty parties had to apologize or be deposed from office.
The consistory of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, adopted these decisions of classis and carried them out in its meeting of June 1-23, 1953. It did this in the presence of the committee that was appointed by classis.
At the October session of Classis East two sets of delegates presented themselves, one sent by the legal consistory, the other by the deposed minister and elders, who claimed that they were not legally deposed.
The classis, after hearing all the parties involved, and after listening to the report of its committee, decided that the legal delegates were those sent by the consistory of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and that, accordingly, the delegates sent by the deposed and suspended group had no right to be seated.
Knott and his elder refused to submit, even for the time being and pending a possible appeal to synod, to this decision.
In other words they held and insisted that officebearers, who had been found guilty by Classis East and the Consistory of the First Church of heresy and conflict with the Confessions, should be seated as legal delegates to classis.
The Confessions, therefore, were most certainly concerned with the decision of classis, and with the refusal on the part of Knott and his elder to acquiesce in this decision even “until” a decision should be made upon a possible appeal to synod.
Hence, the position of Knott and the former consistory of Kalamazoo, maintained in its reply to the protest and brother Meninga, is in direct conflict with Art. 31 and other articles of the Church Order, considered in the light of the Formula of Subscription.
The conclusion of this part of the reply to the protest of brother Meninga is a foolish as it is bold.
It reads as follows: “That when the delegates of the consistory disagreed with the classis in seating schismatic and improper delegates they did not leave the truth and the Church Order, but were exercising the right given them by the Church Order as it was their conviction that the Classis was doing the wrong thing as stated in their motivated negative vote.”
The Rev. Knott still reads the Standard Bearer and I hope he also reads this article. And I challenge him to prove, and offer him space in our paper for the purpose, that this statement is not “as foolish as it is bold.” Let him prove the following:
1. That the classis actually seated “schismatic and improper delegates” when they seated the Rev. C. Hanko and elder G. Bylsma.
2. That the Church Order gave him the right to follow his own “convection that the classis was doing the wrong thing” instead of properly appealing to synod and, in the meantime acquiescing in the decision already made.
3. That by following his own sweet way he himself did not become guilty of schism.
We now proceed to the second part of the protest of brother Meninga and its reply by the former consistory of Kalamazoo.
Brother Meninga protested as follows:
“In the case of the doctrinal dispute about the statements by the Rev. De Wolf, I remind you that the Declaration of Principles which our consistory adopted some time ago is based on the word of God and our Confessions as the truth.” (I took the liberty to correct and complete the wording of the protest without altering its sense, H.H.)
This part of the protest the former consistory answered as follows:
“B. In answer to your further statement: “the truth which was adopted some time ago by our consistory, namely, the Declaration of Principles,” the consistory would make the following observations:
“1. The consistory made a statement of agreement with the doctrine contained in the Declaration of Principles, but advised against their adoption.
a. However, in view of their adoption by the synod of 1951 they are a settled and binding decision on the consistory.
b. It must also be borne in mind:
1). That the Declaration of Principles do not constitute an expression of all possible truth
2) That they are: “A brief exposition of the confessions regarding certain points of doctrine as maintained by the I Protestant Reformed Churches.” (From the official copy of the Declaration printed by the Mission Committee, authorized by Synod)
a) They are “A brief exposition of the confessions . . . .”
b) Also “regarding certain points of doctrine . . . .”
c) And therefore may be “true”, but certainly not “THE TRUTH.”
“2. That the Declaration of Principles has no bearing on the case in question as is evident from the Preamble of the Declaration which reads as follows: “Declaration of Principles, to be used only by the Mission Committee and the Missionaries for the organization of prospective Churches on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions as theses have always been maintained in the Protestant Reformed Churches and as these are now further explained in regard to certain principles.” (From the official copy of the Declaration; Acts of Synod, 1951, Article 285, page 196)”
I am certainly glad that the consistory of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, has a decision on their books stating that they agree with the Declaration of Principles, and that, after 1951 they considered this decision settled and binding.
That proves, indeed, that, at that time, the consistory was Protestant Reformed. It proves, moreover, that, at that time, they could not possibly have agreed with the statement made by De Wolf in April 1951, that “God promises to every one of you, that if you believe, you shall be saved.”
It also proves that the consistory of Kalamazoo has utterly departed from the truth they once embraced, that they never took the truth seriously, that, in fact, they can change like the wind.
For, when the schismatic synod, from which those that now call themselves the consistory of Kalamazoo now take their order as to what is to be considered settled and binding, repudiated the Declaration of Principles they also repudiated it, just as easily as one wipes his mouth after lunch. First they express that the Declaration is the truth, now they declare just easily that it is not the truth; first they consider that the Declaration is settled and binding, now they just as readily declare that it settled and binding no more!
O tempora! O mores! Cicero would exclaim.
I will refrain from characterizing the attitude of such a consistory.
But let us examine the contents of this reply of the former consistory of Kalamazoo a little more closely.
The former consistory replies to the protest of brother Meninga “that the Declaration of Principles do not constitute an expression of all possible truth.”
I would say, to use a Dutch expression, “dat is een waarheid als een koe,” a truth as big as a cow. The Declaration does not express the truth that two times two are four, that the square of the hypotenuse is the sum of the squares on the two sides of a rectangular triangle, that the month of August has thirty-one days, that God is triune, that the sinner is totally depraved, that the church is the gathering of believers and their children, that the dead shall rise, etc. etc. No, the consistory that used to be Protestant Reformed did not need to remind us that the Declaration is not an expression of all possible truth. It pretends nothing of the kind.
But what it did, chiefly, intend to emphasize, and what it actually did emphasize very clearly and definitely, is the truth that the promise of God is unconditional and for the elect only.
In this respect it is, indeed, “a brief exposition of the confessions regarding certain points of doctrine as maintained by the Protestant Reformed Churches.” In this regard it is a “brief exposition of the Confessions regarding certain points of doctrine.”
And with regard to those certain points of doctrine, it is not only true, but it is “THE TRUTH.” This the former consistory of Kalamazoo now denies.
And in regard to this fundamental truth, the Declaration of Principles has indeed “bearing on the case in question.”
But about this next time, D.V.