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In Defense of Schlissel

In his “All Around Us” column (Standard Bearer, June 1,1992), Prof. R. Decker makes a serious comment regarding the suspension of the Rev. Steve Schlissel, pastor of Messiah’s Congregation (CRC), now deposed.

Says Prof. Decker, about Schlissel’s suspension from the ministry by Classis Hudson (CRC), “Rev. Schlissel may be ever so right on the issues . . . but (if) the charges of Classis Hudson are indeed true, his methods of addressing those issues are all wrong.”

I find it appalling for a PRC professor of theology to comment on something he obviously knows very little about. His comment is based on news items, one of which is the Banner, which publication ought to tell you something. His comment is couched with a two-letter word, “If,” which severely puts a cloud over Pastor Schlissel, whom I know to be a servant of the Lord.

For your readers’ right to know, I would point out that the problem surrounding Rev. Schlissel is not his method of addressing issues; rather, it is his outspokenness on issues. Brother Schlissel is unafraid to speak up and speak out on the heresies being introduced into the CRC, a church he loves. Many ministers are afraid to speak on the issues, which Schlissel addresses, out of fear that they might lose their “jobs.”

His opponents don’t like his boldness in confronting the issues, and there lies the real problem.

Besides, the PRC leadership is also very outspoken on issues, and I have no problem with this. It becomes a problem when church people cease to speak up!

Finally, whenever a church forbids her members from speaking out like Schlissel has, on the ground it’s against church order, that’s when to speak up loudly. That kind of church order is unbiblical.

John T. Katsma

Kalamazoo, MI

Response:

Thank you for your letter. The Standard Bearer appreciates hearing from its readers.

In response to your criticism of my statement which reads: “Rev. Schlissel may be ever so right on the issues troubling the CRC, but if the charges of Classis Hudson are indeed true, his method of addressing those issues is all wrong,” I offer the following:

1.I want it known that I agree with Rev. Schlissel and the conservatives in the CRC on the substance of the issues troubling that denomination. I take Genesis 1-11 as the literal account of creation, the fall, the flood, etc. I also believe that Scripture forbids women to serve in the special offices of minister, elder, and deacon.

2.There is a right way to address those issues and a wrong way. The right way is to protest and appeal through consistory, classis, and synod. If one does not succeed in persuading the church of the truth and if one feels he cannot live any longer in that denomination, he must leave. The wrong way is publicly to attack either persons or settled and binding decisions of the church courts (cf. Art. 31 of the Church Order).

3.I am also of the conviction that the language used by Rev. Schlissel is inappropriate at best. One ought not call fellow church members, no matter how wrong they may be on these issues, “whores,” “stinking heretics,” “blasphemous bums,” “feminist maniacs,” “schizophrenics, ” “worms,” “vermin,” and “dogs.”

– Prof. Robert D. Decker

Help for Newcomers to the Faith

Your magazine has been a tremendous help to us. We have come out of Baptist churches and have come to love the truths of the Reformed faith. God has opened our eyes to this knowledge. We feel so like “babes.” There is so much to learn. Keep up the outreach and knowledge of your magazine.

Steve and Joanne Stacey

Launceston, Tasmania

In Defense of the Psalms and Article 69

I want to clear up some misunderstanding of Article 69 of the church order of Dordt. Most people my age know that I am a defender of Article 69. I have experienced misunderstanding. We had visitors at our house, and they saw some hymn books on our piano. They said, “We thought that you were opposed to singing hymns.”

At another time we were at a home, singing mostly from the Psalter, and I overheard one say, “Don’t sing any hymns because so-and-so are opposed to singing hymns.”

To help clear things up I have a copy of one of the churches giving their reasons for separating from the Reformed Churches in America. Following are six reasons why five churches separated from the Reformed Churches in America on April 1, 1857.

The Congregation of Graafschap was the third to take like action, being more specific in declaring its reasons. Its notice reading as follows: “Graafschap, April 7, 1857. To the Classical Assembly, Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, to be held at Zeeland, April 8, 1857. Reverend Brethren: We are obliged to give you notice of our present ecclesiastical standpoint, namely, separating ourselves from your denomination, together with all Protestant denominations, with which we thoughtlessly became connected upon our arrival in America. We are uniting ourselves with the Afgescheidene Gereformeerde Kerk (Seceded Reformed Church) in The Netherlands, and exhort you affectionately to walk in the same way with us. The reasons for this our secession, namely, 113 members or communicants, are as follows: 1) The collection of 800 hymns, introduced contrary to the church order. 2) Inviting men of all religious views to the Lord’s supper, excepting Roman Catholics. 3) Neglecting to preach the Catechism regularly, to hold catechetical classes, and to do house visitation. 4) That no religious books are circulated without the consent of other denominations, directing your attention to the Sabbath booklet, with the practice by J. VanDerMeulen in 1855. 5) And what grieves our hearts most in all of this is that there are members among you who regard our secession in The Netherlands as not strictly necessary, or think that it was untimely. 6) In the report of Rev. Wyckoff he gives us liberty to walk in this ecclesiastical path. Brethren, we are glad that almost the entire congregation, the number of members given above, with us, the consistory, and our dear little children, again stand upon the same standpoint on which our fathers enjoyed great blessedness, and oh, we should rejoice still more if the King of the Church should bring you to this conviction. This is the duty of us all. The God of love be your counselor and guide to walk in the way of truth. Your affectionate brethren in Christ, in the name of the consistory.” (Signed) J.F. Van Anrooy, Prest., Henry Strabbin, Clerk. (Minutes, Classis of Holland, 1848-1858.) Adrian VanKoevering, Legends of the Dutch, (Zeeland Record Co., Inc., 1960), pp. 554-555.

After reading their reasons, you will know why our forefathers formulated and included Article 69 in our Church Order.

History proves that once a church opens the door to hymns, they more and more crowd out the Psalms. The Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Churches in America, and the Christian Reformed Church at one time sang only the Psalms. Today they sing more and more hymns.

Article 69 does not prohibit singing hymns in your homes.

Henry Huisken

Edgerton, MN

Church Order and Spontaneity

While agreeing with Prof. Engelsma on the blessings of our Reformed Church Order (Standard Bearer, April 15), I am not quite ready to call this man-made document the infallible (“cast in stone”) “law of Christ,” “Messiah’s sure and lasting throne.” Sentiments that strong make even necessary change next to impossible.

Rev. Slopsema makes an interpretation (probably the one consistent with Reformed Church Order) of I Corinthians 14:29-33 (only “elders and ministers”). But upon non-biased reading of this passage and others like it, one could come to different conclusions on how to worship and still be biblical, it seems to me.

The early church was having a great Spirit-filled time praising God, and all, male and female (I Cor. 11:4, 5), were choosing songs, expressing the thoughts of their hearts, offering public prayers and speaking in tongues. There was excitement and joy, and unbelievers were attracted to their worship services. But at times their worship was chaotic and offensive to these unbelievers. Paul, reacting not to spontaneity and emotion but to chaos and offense, gave rules for orderly worship so that the gospel would be heard and unbelievers converted.

The Reformed churches for years have gone even further than Paul by forbidding spontaneity and emotion during worship. This has had adverse effects on Reformed believers. We’re not noted to be overly expressive of our love for Christ. If we can’t express it in our fellowship, how difficult it becomes in the world. I believe the formalism of many Christian churches has also led to the rise of Pentecostalism and the likes of Bill Hybels. Even though these groups fall under Prof. Engelsma’s severe condemnation, they often are the ones attracting the sinners, drug addicts, prostitutes and the like. The ones Jesus associated with. The ones we don’t often attract, and the ones we would probably be ashamed to have.

Finally, Rev. Richard Moore laments the fact that the PRC are small because “the preaching of the pure gospel of Christ is not attractive to the mass of people.” I find this statement offensive for several reasons: one, many godly non-PR people in the communities where the PR churches are located would probably be under his indictment; two, I am probably also implicated as one of the masses; three, his standard for purity, if above is true, is higher than our Lord Jesus Christ’s.

Paul could say in Philippians 1:15-18 (paraphrase mine): “Some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry and others out of goodwill, but what does it matter just so Christ is preached!” When the PRC can say this and mean it, then the masses may be willing to listen to the specifics that give you your distinctiveness.

Carl R. Smits

Chicago, IL

Response:

The statement in the editorial was, “As regards the fundamentals . . . the church order . . . should be engraved in stone.”

Biblical law (“church order”)and the true freedom of the churches are not antagonistic, much less mutually exclusive. Reformed congregations enjoy true freedom within the bounds of and in obedience to law. Without law, “spontaneity” is chaos. “And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts” (Psalm 119:45).

It is not the Reformed church order of Dordt, much less the Standard Bearer, but the Bible that requires that, in the church “all things be done decently and in order” (I Cor. 14:40).

To what and to whom do Hybel’s and similar culture-accommodating, that is, worldly, churches attract sinners, drug addicts, and prostitutes, with their watered-down, corrupted gospel and “contemporary worship”?

Listening to the pure, creedal Reformed faith proclaimed by the Protestant Reformed Churches (and others) is no option, but the most solemn of obligations. From God Himself: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5).

– Ed.