The answer to the above question is, of course: They must return with confession of the sin they have committed.
What is the specific sin they have committed? The answer to this question is also evident: they must confess that, in 1953, they agreed with the statements made by De Wolf from the pulpit of the First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids; they thereby departed from the Protestant Reformed truth and from our churches.
Now at the last two meetings of Classis East the question was discussed and answered: to what consistory and congregation must this confession be made? And this was the subject of some protests that were before classis. The answer of classis was: to the parties against which the sin was committed. These protests and their answer by classis I started to publish in abbreviated form in our Standard Bearer and I now will continue to do so. All our people are and should be interested in this matter and, therefore, should know all about it.
Next, therefore, I here publish the protest of our Creston Church against the consistory of Fourth Church. This also I do in abbreviated form.
After a brief introduction the consistory of Creston offers the following statement of facts:
“1. At a consistory meeting sometime prior to August 18, 1961, the consistory of Southeast accepted this family [of Doezema, H.H.] into their communion.
“2. After this action was taken, two consistory members, Rev. R. Veldman and Mr. J. Swart, attempting unofficially to obtain a transcript of Creston’s minutes in regard to the Doezema family from elder P. Koole of our consistory. In the course of this conversation, Mr. Koole was informed of Southeast’s action. He also informed these brethren that he could not of his own accord furnish those minutes. Subsequent arrangements were made for the two consistories to meet together at Creston.
“3. At the August 30 meeting, we filed the following objection with the Southeast consistory:
‘1. That Creston has been informed that Southeast has decided to accept the J. Doezema family as members 3f Southeast.
‘2. Creston objects to this action because:
‘a. These people were under the jurisdiction and discipline of Creston when they left and joined the schismatics.
‘b. They were actually in process of discipline at the time concerned.
‘c. Southeast has not even bothered to investigate before acting.
‘d. This is a trampling of the Church Order, especially Art. 84 which forbids lording it.
‘e. Rectification of sin must be made where sin has been committed, not elsewhere.
‘3. Creston therefore fraternally requests:
‘a. That Southeast rescind its action.
‘b. That Southeast apologize for its assumption of Creston’s jurisdiction.
‘c. That Southeast refer the Doezemas to Creston’s consistory’.”
To this missive they received, according to the protest, no reply. But in the bulletin of Southeast the following notice was given to the congregation: “Mr. and Mrs. J. Doezema were accepted by our consistory as members in full communion. They come to us from the now disbanded Prot. Ref. Church of Creston. Mr. and Mrs. Doezema have two children, Marvin Jay and Lary Ray, and reside at 4245 Leonard St., N.E. We welcome this family into our fellowship.”
Then the consistory of Creston sent another letter to the consistory of Southeast. This was on Sept. 29, 1961. In this letter Creston pleaded with Southeast to undo the wrong, at the same time informing them that they would formally protest against them if they received no reply.
However, Creston did receive a reply in which Southeast expressed the following:
“With respect to your request that we undo the wrong:
“1. If by that you mean that we shall rescind our action of accepting the family, we must reply that before God and man we cannot. We accepted them in the best of faith. We were certain that they were not under censure. We had your own testimony to this effect. Having accepted them they are under our spiritual care and we cannot let go of that responsibility.
“2. If you mean that we must apologize for assuming your jurisdiction, that in good conscience we cannot do this. It was our right to deal with this brother. He came to us as one that had been dismissed by your consistory and who had been in the De Wolf denomination for seven years.
“3. If you mean that the Doezemas must be reinstated by you, we reply that this cannot possibly be your jurisdiction. You dismissed them clearly.” Then follows the protest proper. And for this Creston’s consistory furnishes the following grounds:
1. Southeast consistory violated Art. 61 of the Church Order by accepting members without proper attestation.
a. Mr. and Mrs. Doezema were under the jurisdiction of Creston at the time when they asked for and received dismissal papers and went to the schismatics.
b. They were in process of discipline for neglect of the means of grace, mutiny and rebellion. Their censure was not recorded in their dismissal papers, but they were under censure nevertheless.
c. Those matters were never rectified and reconciliation never took place.
d. Creston refers to the well-known case of Byron Center vs. Hudsonville.
2. Southeast violated Art. 84 of the Church Order. They received members that were under censure and ignored the censure imposed upon them by the consistory of Creston.
a. Southeast took this action without even contacting Creston.
b. In spite of Creston’s objection at the joint meeting of the consistories on August 30, 1961, Southeast made a public announcement on their bulletin that the members concerned were received by them.
c. This is a failure to recognize the jurisdiction and discipline of a sister church. d. Once more, Creston refers to the Byron-Hudsonville case and to the decision of classis in this case.
3. Southeast violated a fundamental ethical principle namely, that an offense between two parties can be removed only by reconciliation of the parties involved. If A sins against B he must confess his sin to B and not to a third party. This is also plain from the articles of the Church Order that speak of reconciliation. And this is the plain teaching of Scripture. Matthew 5:23 ff.
In conclusion Creston begs classis to advise the consistory of Southeast:
“1. To rescind the wrong decisions made in this matter.
“2. To make due rectification and apology to all parties concerned.
“3. To refer the Doezema family to the Creston consistory, in order that they confess their guilt there before they are accepted as members in good standing in the Southeast congregation.”
This is the protest of Creston.
We still have the protest of Mr. G. Pipe. On this we can be very brief because the protest itself is brief.
First of all brother Pipe mentions the sins which those that in 1953 separated themselves from the First Church and from Creston committed: they “severed all relationship with the church which we believe and confess to be the truest manifestation of the body of Christ.” In doing so “they sought to bring in strange doctrine, created schism, contention, and strife, which is contrary to Scripture and is still an offence unto many.” Further Mr. Pipe states that “it is but proper and in accordance with the Word of God” that “one seeking to be reinstated into the fellowship of the church would . . . seek if at all possible to remove all misunderstanding and offence with those with whom he was formerly a member.”
Hereupon brother Pipe cites several passages of Scripture as the basis for the above statements. And he closes with a reiteration of the statement that in this way reconciliation should be made.
This is, in brief, the protest of brother Pipe.
There was also an answer of the consistory to this protest which contains nothing of importance, unless the statement of the consistory “that Mr. Pipe did not protest against the Doezema family acceptance until four months after we had taken action,'” may be considered relevant.
We must now consider the report of the committee that was appointed by classis to give advice in the matter. Also this report we will try to give in abbreviated form.
First of all, then, there is an introduction in which the committee states:
1. That the protests which the committee had to advise classis were all directed against the consistory of Southeast Church. They were three in number and all have to do with the way in which the consistory of Southeast Church received certain members and families who left our churches in 1953 and now desired to return by way of the aforementioned Church.
2. Then the committee states that they deemed it advisable to treat the protests separately in the following order: that of First Church, that of Creston, that of brother Pipe.
3. Next the committee states that when first they made study of the protests and all kinds of details that were mentioned in them such as the violation of articles of the Church Order, the question of jurisdiction, the violation of the denominational bond, of the autonomy of the local church, they became more and more confused. And also there was the question whether the “De Wolf” group could be considered a legitimate denomination.
4. However, finally the committee saw the light, namely, that the crux of the matter in all three protests lay in the fact that the members and families that were received by Southeast Church were in unreconciled relation to the churches of which they were members prior to the split of 1953. With this matter only the classis is or should be concerned.
Thereupon the committee treats the protests proper.
And, first of all they present the facts in the case. And they are as follows:
1. First the committee quotes from the minutes of First. Church (which quotation is also in the protest) as follows:
“Art. 19: Rev. R. Veldman, R. Ezinga and J. Swart from our Southeast Church enter the meeting as a committee from their consistory. They report that they received the papers of Mr. and Mrs. G. Gritter Sr. and Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Gritter (former members of our church) from the First Orthodox Prot. Ref. Church. In dealing with these people they want to know if there is any information that they should have from our consistory.
“Article 20. After some discussion the committee is excused and advised that they will give them an answer by letter.” This was on Sept. 25, 1961.
2. This letter was sent to Southeast. In this letter the consistory also objected to the position held by the committee of Southeast which visited the consistory of First Church on Sept. 25, 1961. This letter was dated Oct. 10, 1961.
3. The consistory of First Church received a letter from the consistory of Southeast Church on Nov. 13, 1961. In this letter the latter consistory expressed disagreement with the consistory of First Church and notified the latter that they “must proceed on the basis of their deepest convictions.” The consistory of First Church decided to file a protest with classis and send a copy to the consistory of Southeast Church. This was done on Nov. 27, 1961.
4. On this letter the consistory of First Church received an answer from Southeast. This was largely an answer to the letter sent by First Church on Oct. 10, 1961.
5. The protest of First Church reveals that before the consistory of Southeast had sent the letter of Nov. 6 (received by the consistory of First Church on Nov. 13, 1961) they had already received in their membership the above mentioned families. Discussion, therefore, was no longer possible and the consistory sent their protest to classis.
We will continue this next time, the Lord willing.