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Uniformity in Invitations to the “Second Reformed Ecumenical Synod”?

From De Wachter of October 12, 1948 we translate the following:

“Now we are looking forward to the meeting of the Second Reformed Ecumenical Synod in Amsterdam in 1949. As we know, the First Reformed Ecumenical Synod met in Grand Rapids in August of 1946.

“Concerning this anticipated Synod we read the following in Eenigheid des Geloofs”:

“Since the end of the war plans have been attempted for a Reformed Ecumenical Synod. Already in 1946 an official meeting was held (in Grand Rapids, U.S.A.) between delegates from “The Christian Reformed Church of America”, “Die Gereformeerde Kerken in Suid-Afrika” and “De Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland”. Invited will be all Reformed Churches of the world. They are described more specifically as those churches which “are faithful to their Reformed confession and exercise discipline over the word, the administration of the sacraments and the life of the congregation.”

Thus far the quotation from “Eenigheid des Geloofs” after which the article continues and again we translate:

“Which churches are these?

“Each of the three churches that already have contacted one another must judge this for themselves in their own sector of the world.

“Netherlands must decide who shall be invited from Europe and the Indies.

“Already invited besides the Gereformeerde Kerken are the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken and the Gereformeerde Kerken (Article 31). Correspondence with church groups in other countries is still in process. We rejoice in these plans and eagerly await the actual realization of the Synod of 1949. . . .

“One question is burning on my lips.

“What about the Hervormde Kerk?

“Must they in 1949 be placed in the camp of those who are doctrinally indifferent (gezet in de hoek van de leervrijheid)?

“There they have been since 1816.

“But will they still be there in this following year?

“A way must be found to feel out the Hervormde Kerk in the hope. . . .

“Therefore we may not and cannot ignore the Hervormde Kerk next year. Without the cooperation of the Reformed groups in the Hervormde Kerk this Ecumenical Synod will, to say the least, be one-sided.

“Here, therefore, is a plea that also the Hervormde Kerk in Netherlands be invited.

“Here, in our circles, were voices that expressed the wish that also the Reformed Church in America be invited. But upon advice of a committee our Synod did not send them an invitation to attend.

“Churches are expected that “Confess and maintain the Reformed Faith.”

We were indeed surprised to learn from this article that the Gereformeerde Kerken of Netherlands had also invited the Gereformeerde Kerken (Art. 31) to attend the next Ecumenical Synod.

And yet a strange impression is left upon one by reading of this invitation as well as the rest of the above article. What a strange situation! On the one hand a plea for the inclusion of the Hervormde Kerk and yet well satisfied at the exclusion of the Reformed Church in America. On the one hand an expression of pleasure at the invitation to the Gereformeerde Kerken (Art. 31), (“We rejoice in these plans . . . .”) and an evident agreement with the exclusion of the Protestant Reformed Churches (they are not even mentioned in the article).

Nor must we forget that from a formal point of view there, is the most striking similarity in the two cases. On the one hand the Gereformeerde Kerken in Netherlands were called upon to determine whether an invitation should be extended to the Hervormde Kerken, a church group from which they were banished because of their protests against the doctrinal position of the Hervormde Kerk. So also the Christian Reformed Church was called upon to determine whether the Reformed Church from which they withdrew because of their lax position should receive an invitation. The situation from a formal viewpoint was the same— and yet—when both are excluded a plea goes up from within the Christian Reformed Church that the Hervormde Kerk also be invited! Perhaps it is true that distance lends enchantment. Will we perhaps hear the plea from the Gereformeerde Kerken that the Reformed Church of America be invited?

And the same is true from a formal point of view when considering the decisions regarding the Gereformeerde Kerken (Art. 31) and the Protestant Reformed Churches. Once again the Gereformeerde Kerken were called upon to judge whether an invitation should be sent to that church group which was the outgrowth of the recent developments in the Netherlands. Added to this is the fact that formally the Gereformeerde Kerken (Art. 31) are composed of or at least headed by those who have been deposed by the Synod of the Gereformeerde Kerken. And formally the same is true in America. The Christian Reformed Churches must judge whether an invitation should be sent to the Protestant Reformed Churches, headed by those who were deposed by that same Christian Reformed Church. Added to this is the fact that both in the Netherlands and here the two groups to be judged maintain that the mother church is, in that which led to their deposition, heretical and hierarchical. The one is invited and the other is not and both rejoice over the one invitation while both are silent over the refusal.

If the invitation to the Liberated Churches is indeed a fact (and I have no reason to doubt it) it is all the more strange in view of the fact that the “First Reformed Ecumenical Synod” considered the situation in the Netherlands and virtually condemned the Liberated and upheld the Synodical factions in the old country. However this may be it certainly becomes evident, whatever the motives may have been both in America and Netherlands, that the Gereformeerde Kerken used a different and more honest standard in determining upon an invitation to the Gereformeerde Kerken (Art. 31) while the Christian Reformed Church departed from the Synodically established standard—“those that confess and maintain the Reformed Faith”—choosing instead to use the arbitrary and rather haughty standard of “attitude over against the Christian Reformed Church”.

Incidentally in this is also seen the fallacy of leaving to the individual churches the decision determining who shall receive an invitation to attend.

And we cannot help repeating once again: No uniformity in invitations! But then there will be no uniformity in the meeting—and . . . .“this Ecumenical Synod will, to say the least, be one-sided”.

Church Membership in the Netherlands.

From The Banner of October 8, we take over the following:

“While the eyes of so many in the Christian world were centered upon Amsterdam this summer, Ecumenical Press Service took occasion to give some figures on church membership in the Dutch nation. From its report we learn that the Netherlands Reformed Church and the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands together include over 88 percent of the total church membership in the country, with a membership of 3,000,000 each. The Reformed Churches are next in order of size, with 600,000. The Christian Reformed Church and the Lutheran Brotherhood follow with 50,000 each. The Remonstrants number 30,000, the Mennonites 40,000, and the Old Catholics 10,000. Baptists and Free Evangelicals complete the list with 8,000 and 7,000 respectively. By a narrow margin the Reformed people constitute a majority of the Christian population of the Netherlands.”