Esteemed Editor of The Standard Bearer:
Having read the Open Letter from Hamilton, many questions arose in my mind. In the first place, what have we really in common with the so-called Liberated Churches or De Gereformeerde Kerken, onderhoudende Art. 31? What binds us together, except that we both were thrown out, unjustly, out of our mother churches? Is there any more unity between us now then when we first came in contact with some of the leaders of this movement? Do they understand our doctrine better now, after all the literature sent to them, and did they come our way? What must we think of people who plead to become members of our churches, because we are according to their opinion the true church, but who turn around when the first man comes from their homeland, and follow him in his work of mutiny in the church? How can we at the same time have the same zeal for our mission work among the immigrants if we cannot trust them? What must we think of the royal treatments given to some of our leaders in their midst in the past? Does that not remind us again of the “Januskop”? What must we think when we hear that our preaching was so well received in the Netherlands, but still the immigrants long to have their own men preach to them, so much so that, oh, yes, they will become Protestant Reformed, but wherever and however possible they hold on to their Arminian and Common Grace conception of the covenant and baptism? Must we think that it takes years to come to a clear understanding of each other? Why do they not answer questions put to them? What must we think of a church divided against itself? One leader advises his people to be sure and join the Protestant Reformed Churches, whereas another great one among them sends out the alarm: “BEWARE! If you are compelled to become really Protestant Reformed, that is, also with a view to their covenant conception, then never join!” Has there been anyone who ever protested against this? We have never read or heard of it.
What must we think of their conception of church polity? Especially with a view to what recently happened in Canada, where a minister of the Liberated churches, on his own hook, organized churches, without any charge or mandate?
How can we still be anxious to become sister churches whereas we even doctrinally disagree?
Should we not have first of all a clear understanding of one another’s doctrine, before we become closer related?
It could very well be that we are much closer to the so-called “synodical” group than to the Liberated.
The undersigned has also spent some nine weeks in his homeland; has also attended church services there both in the Gereformeerde Kerken and in the Gereformeerde Kerken, onderhoudende Art. 31. And insofar as he has heard, he must say that the contents of the sermons in the Gereformeerde Kerken (the so-called “synodicals”) were closer to what is Protestant Reformed than those of the “Vrij gemaakten”. And I can testify that what I heard in the “Vrij gemaakten” was different from what we hear in our churches, although we admit that we heard only two against five of the others.
My impression differs somewhat from others who have visited the “old country” in the past. They seem to have seen nothing but sunshine, but we had different experiences.
We also had the opportunity to be present when a number of young people made public confession of their faith in the Liberated Churches. And one thing struck me: they asked these persons not only the three well known questions, but at least four or five more, which must be, of course, also binding.
In conclusion, if we do not receive in the near future a definite clear-cut answer to questions which were put to the brethren in the Netherlands, recently and in the past, then I for one would like to sound also an alarm to our people, and shout to them: “BEWARE!”
H. De Jong
Grand Rapids, Mich