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“Together On The Way”—The Train Is On The Tracks

This is the way Editor J. van der Graaf (De Waarheidsvriend, Nov. 25, 1982) aptly characterized recent decisions toward union by 1986 between the Hervormde Kerk and the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (GKN). 

Recently there was what is called a Combi-Synod of the two denominations. Immediately following the conclusion of the Synod of the GKN and just before the Synod of the Hervormde Kerk the delegates of both synods met in a joint session devoted to discussion of and decisions concerning the movement for union between the two denominations. At this Combi-Synod the time-table for union was proposed and adopted by an overwhelming vote. In the paper referred to above, published by what is often referred to as the ultra-conservative wing of the Hervormde Kerk, the Gereformeerde Bond, there is a complete report concerning this Combi-Synod, even including a summary of the discussion by delegates of both denominations. Along with this, there is also a pair of articles in which the position of the Gereformeerde Bond (the Reformed Alliance) is made clear. 

Because of the significance of these events in the land to which our Reformed churches trace their origin, we pass this information on to our readers and, along with it, some editorial comment.

The Time-table

Evidently the entire process of dealing with this matter was well-orchestrated, and the wheels of the ecclesiastical machinery were well-oiled. The entire proposal was introduced by representatives of the joint committee in charge of this movement, with a representative of the Hervormde Kerk speaking first, followed by a representative of the GKN. As we have reported earlier, the main proposal was to set 1986 as the date of the final accomplishment of union. This was all very smoothly introduced by the two speakers. Then followed a speech by a Dr. R.J. Mooi (Secretary-general of the Hervormde Kerk) in behalf of the moderamen of Hervormde synod, after which the matter was thrown open for general discussion and finally voted upon. 

Here is the time-table which was proposed and approved: 

1983: The classical assemblies of both denominations are asked to hold joint meetings at which the various consistories can exchange their experiences with cooperation between GKN and. HKN churches. Such cooperation on a local level, we may note, is supposed to have been going on for some time already; in some localities it has been practiced, but in others (especially where there are congregations of the conservative Reformed Alliance) it has not been practiced. 

1984: A proposed “ecclesiological consensus” (a consensus about the doctrine of the church) will be presented to another combi-synod of the two denominations. The mandate for such a consensus was already given to the deputies for “Together On The Way” in 1972. Along with this proposed consensus there is also to be proposed at that time a “declaration of intention.” 

1985: Broader and lesser ecclesiastical assemblies are to be consulted with respect to the process of reunion which has been put in effect. 1986: In that year they will strive in another combi-synod to nail down the ecclesiological consensus and the declaration of intention as an act in which both denominations declare that they find themselves in a state of reunion. Meanwhile, it was also proposed that delegations from both synods be appointed as a smaller body (a sort of mini-synod) to take charge of the consultations pertinent to “Together On The Way” in the coming years. 

Such is the time-table, in brief. And while it was stated that the stipulated dates do not constitute a hard and fast schedule, nevertheless there was no inclination either on the part of the standing committee or on the part of the combi-synod to slow things down and to extend the time-table. 

Discussion and Outcome 

In the issue of De Waarheidsvriend already referred to there is an extensive account of the discussion, even including a long address, along with three substitute motions, by a Dr. S. Meijers, a member of the Reformed Alliance and a strong opponent of the merger as proposed. In his three motions he attempted to make the Combi-synod see the real issues involved in the proposed merger. Needless to say, he failed to accomplish anything.

It is impossible, for reasons of space, to reproduce in translation the very interesting discussion of this issue which is reported by De Waarheidsvriend. We may mention the following items: 

1. The moderamen of the Synod of the Hervormde Kerk, through the mouth of the secretary-general, Dr. R.J. Mooi, exhorted the delegates to be cautious. Dr. Mooi pleaded for progress in the “Together On The Way” movement, but with “the finger on the pulse of ecclesiastical life.” This obvious attempt of the moderamen to slow down the process of union, however, was in vain. It should be remembered that there are three distinct modalities in the Hervormde Kerk—the Liberals, the Middle-of-the-Roaders, and the conservatives of the Reformed Alliance (a group that is in many respects very orthodox and Reformed). Undoubtedly the moderamen were not motivated by any sound and principal objections to the merger, but by their desire to keep the three wings of the church together, if at all possible, through this entire merger process. And that, I think, will require some sort of magical dexterity. 

2. There is considerable fear—and this is not limited to the Reformed Alliance apparently—not only of the various liberal tendencies of the GKN, but especially of what is referred to as the organizational ability and theactivism of the GKN. The latter are not only liberal—after all, there are plenty of liberals in the Hervormde Kerk, too—but they are very insistently active in promoting their liberal notions. 

3. Those of the GKN were very vocal in promoting the proposals. Some were also very open about saying that the present movement for reunion is not their final purpose, but only one event in a much broader ecumenical tendency. They have in view a reunion with “our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.” Thus, for example, a Rev. J. van Drie, of the GKN. 

4. The strongest promoter among the delegates of the Hervormde Kerk were the so-called “Middenorthodoxen,” the middle-of-the-roaders. 

5. The strongest and very outspoken opponents among the delegates of the Hervormde Kerk were the men of the Reformed Alliance (Geref. Bond). These did not hesitate to emphasize that the men of the GKN today are not the heirs of 1834 and 1886. One said that Abraham Kuyper would turn over in his grave if he heard of the GKN’s declarations concerning homosexuality. 

But Reformed principle did not prevail. Even the exhortations to caution did not avail. The outcome was an overwhelming vote in favor of the proposed time-table. There were only 14 negative votes on the part of the Hervormde Kerk and 14 negative vote on the part of the GKN. 

Indeed, as Editor van der Graaf stated, “the train is on the tracks. The question is only where the obstacles will be found by which the progress of the train will be hindered.”

Evaluation 

All of this raises some interesting questions. 

First of all, what is going to happen in the Netherlands? Is the outcome going to be some kind of realignment ecclesiastically? At this stage, the men of the Reformed Alliance are not only outspoken in their criticism of and their opposition to the merger; but they are also insistent that the product of this merger will not be the old Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk, or, as they like to refer to it, “the church of the fathers.” They insist that this is not a return on the part of the GKN to the church which they once left (in 1834 and 1886), but a brand new denomination. This is the position taken by both Editor van der Graaf and by the Rev. L.J. Geluk, the president of the Reformed Alliance. The former writes: “But if the ‘state of reunion’ actually becomes ‘reunion,’ we have another church. No more the church of the fathers.” And the latter states: “The Reformed Alliance wishes to remain Hervormd, and desirestogether with others, on the basis of Holy Scripture and in harmony with the religion of the confession of the fathers, to continue to be reformed through the Spirit of the Father and the Son.” If the Reformed Alliance sticks to its guns, this could conceivably result in the future in some kind of realignment ecclesiastically, with the result that those of a conservative Reformed mind are thrown together as some kind of continuation of a “church of the fathers.” On the other hand, it should be kept in mind that there are those in the Hervormde Kerk who will do all in their power somehow to keep the men of the Reformed Alliance in the church. 

In the second place, these events will surely prove to be of significance for other churches which have fraternal relations with the GKN, as well as for the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, which has been troubled by the question of GKN membership for many years already. Perhaps this is the solution for all concerned. If the plan is consummated and the merger goes through, there simply will not be any GKN any longer. It will have merged itself out of existence. For the RES there is a little problem, of course: the RES next meets in 1984, while the merger time-table speaks of 1986. But that is not an insurmountable obstacle, perhaps.

A Worthwhile Commentary

I refer to the book by one of our staff members, the Rev. George C. Lubbers, Freeborn Sons Of Sarah, An Exposition of Galatians

It is not necessary for me to review the contents of this book. It is a commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, and the chapter-divisions of the Epistle are also the chapter-divisions of the book. With some revision and editing, the contents of the book are the same as the contents of the Rev. Lubbers’ articles on Galatians which appeared for several years in the department From Holy Writ. As anyone who followed the latter will know, the commentary wavers somewhat between being technical and being popular. Ultimately, because of the format, however, this constitutes no obstacle for the reader who is specially interested in either of the two. 

It is easy for any reviewer to find things to criticize in a commentary—to note points on which he might disagree or matters which need clarification. This is not my purpose, however, in reviewing any commentary; and certainly not with this one. My main question is this: is the commentary Scriptural, and is it Reformed, and therefore reliable?

The answer to this question is an unqualified affirmative. And besides, the book is characterized by the warmth of a heart that believes what is written. 

Congratulations, Rev. Lubbers. 

The book is available from several sources for the price of $6.95, plus postage. One source from which you may purchase it is: Prot. Ref. Seminary Bookstore, 4949 Ivanrest Ave., Grandville, MI 49418.