The pre-Synodical prayer service was held on Tuesday evening, May 31, in the Second Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. The Rev. H. De Wolf, vice-president of the Synod of 1948, brought a fitting message from. He very aptly applied these appropriate words of Scripture to the work for which the Synod had gathered.
On Wednesday morning Rev. De Wolf officially opened the sessions of Synod. Roll call showed the following ministers and elders delegated and present. The Revs. C. Hanko, J. Heys, H. Hoeksema, G. Vos, A. Cammenga, J. Howerzyl, M. Gritters, P. Vis and Elders H. De Jong, G. Koster, D. Langeland, N. Yonker, C. De Vries, B. Gritters, J. Kuiper, and C. Vander Molen.
The following officers were chosen: President—The Rev. C. Hanko, Vice-president—The Rev. A. Cammenga, Secretary—The Rev. J. Heys, Vice-secretary—The Rev. J. Howerzyl. The elected officers then took their places and the President read the Public Declaration while the delegates remained standing and answered “yes” in expression of their agreement with this declaration.
After the President had spoken a word of welcome if was decided to meet daily from 9 to 12 and 1:30 to 5. The President then appointed a committee for committees who distributed the work and material among 3 committees of pre-advice. During the remainder of the day these committees met in separate session organizing the material submitted to them and preparing their reports of advice to Synod.
The first matter reported on the floor of Synod on Thursday morning was the protest of the Rev. G. M. Ophoff against his consistory’s decision to separate the two missionaries. This protest had been sustained by Classis East, which decision had been appealed to Synod by the Consistory of Fuller Ave. The Synod adopted the advice of its committee of pre-advice on this matter which was as follows: “We advise Synod to express agreement with the decision of Classis East sustaining the protest of Rev. Ophoff on the ground of transgressing the Church Order by overruling Art. 33 of the Acts of Synod of 1948.
(1) The Protestant is correct in maintaining that Art. 31 of the Church Order has been violated. (2) He is also correct in maintaining that Art. 84 of the Church Order has been violated. (3) Therefore the contention of the protestant that the grounds of the consistory’s decision are invalid is also correct.” In connection with the protest and its material the Synod also expressed itself on points 4 and 5 of the protest. In point 4 Rev. Ophoff had attempted to show that “The Consistory’s decision as carried will render our mission enterprise abortive and in consequence thereof result in a wasted expenditure of the churches’ money.” Point 5 of the protest was a discussion of the position and doctrine of the Liberated Churches. Concerning the material of these two points the Synod expressed “that although we do not express our opinion as Synod upon the truth or untruth of this part of Rev. Ophoff’s allegation, we believe that the matter is irrelevant to the case.”
The next matters of import that were discussed were those related to our Theological School. The report of the Rector, the Rev. H. Hoeksema, revealed that another successful year had gone by under the Lord’s blessing. This report read in part as follows: “Another school year belongs to the past, and in it, we believe, the grace of our God was abundantly with us. Professors and students performed their work with joy, and the mutual relationship between them was one of harmony and love. Nothing untoward happened throughout the year.”
Due to the partial incapacitation of one of our professors Synod was faced with the problem of making the necessary arrangements that full instruction might be continued in our Seminary either through the appointment of an instructor or an additional professor. The Theological School Committee had advised Synod that Mr. H. C. Hoeksema be appointed for a period of two years as professor of college subjects at our school and to give clerical assistance to Prof. H. Hoeksema. The committee of pre-advice in this matter advised that this appointment be limited to one year. Synod, however, decided “that the Theological School Committee present us at this Synod with a nomination for another full-time professor for our seminary”.
That same evening the Theological School Committee met and drew up an aggregate list of names from which Synod made a nomination for this professorship.* The final nomination included the Revs. P. De Boer, L. Doezema and G. Vos. By an almost unanimous vote the Rev. L. Doezema was chosen for the appointment with Rev. P. De Boer as alternate. The stated clerk was instructed to inform the appointee by phone and later reported that he had carried out this mandate. Synod decided to give the Rev. L. Doezema three weeks in which to make his decision. We wish to take this opportunity to express our hearty congratulations to Professor-elect Doezema and our prayer that the Lord may lead him to a decision unto the glory of His name and the welfare of His Kingdom.
The following recommendations of the faculty, as presented through the Theological School Committee, were also adopted by Synod: 1. “The faculty recommends. . . .changes in the scholastic requirements of our school, to be included in the constitution of our school: a. To require a complete high school education of every entrant to our school, b. To require of every student that he maintain at least a C average in his work, and to forbid the final examination before Synod of any student having less than C average. 1) To make arrangements for a re-examination of any student having a failing grade in any branch. 2) To forbid, in case a student should fail such re-examination, such a student to proceed to the next subject in any branch until he shall take the course in which he has failed anew and show a passing grade therein. 2. The faculty proposes that a definite annual appropriation be made for the purpose of library expansion. (Synod stipulated that this should be 25 cents per family per year.) 3. The faculty proposes that the Seminary year-book, with the necessary annual revisions, be published annually with the denominational yearbook and Acts of Synod.”
The Synodical Committee for correspondence with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands reported as follows: “Your committee for correspondence with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands has nothing positive to report, the reason being that they have not heard a word from the deputies ad hoc appointed by the Synod of Amersfoort 1948, nor have they received any official report of the decisions of that Synod in re correspondence with our Churches.” Synod received this report for information and continued its committee.
Synod also dealt with several matters in connection with the Mission work of our Churches. The Mission Committee brought several proposals and recommendations which were treated by Synod and decided as follows: The first proposal was “That Synod review the decision made in 1947 (art. 79, page 60 and art. 83, page 64, Acts of Synod 1947) ‘that the calling church call two missionaries to labor together in the work of home missions.’” Synod decided that “two missionaries shall labor together in the establishment of a field but that they may be separated when in the judgment of the calling Church and the Mission Committee there is need for this.” In second place Synod decided to call a third, Holland-speaking missionary and that Fuller Avenue be designated as the calling Church. Synod rejected the advice of the Mission Committee “that the suggestion be passed on to our churches that one of our present missionaries be considered in making trios.” Finally, Synod decided “that work be continued for a time in the Sumas, Washington area.” The manner of execution of this decision was not treated by Synod and, hence, is left to the Mission Committee in conjunction with the calling Consistory.
The Synod also considered an overture from the Consistory of Bellflower. This overture read as follows: “Whereas we consider if part of our calling before God to call the members of the Christian Reformed Church to return to the Reformed Truth as expressed in our Forms of Unity and the Scriptures, and thus to reject the three points of their Synod of 1924 and its relative subsequent actions; We ought also to consider it our calling to give testimony to the Christian Reformed Church by way of an official communication to their Synod. Although this has been done by our Synods of 1940 and 1941 and has apparently proved fruitless to arouse them to reconsider their actions, we ought not therefore to desist entirely. We ought to consider that years have elapsed since this exchange of communications was last made and that during that time a younger generation has taken its place in their ranks of leadership. Furthermore, in view of our labors in their churches and the misunderstanding as to our motive and purpose, we consider it well to direct their attention to this by way of a new communication to the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, advising them as to the work we conduct among them. Therefore we overture Synod to direct such a communication to the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church. We would suggest the following: 1. To appeal to them to reconsider their actions of 1924, 1926 in the light of the Scriptures and the Confessions. 2. To base this appeal upon our convictions that their actions are in error, and that our convictions have been repeatedly published, preached, and officially adopted by us since. That these have never been officially answered by them, which is their Christian obligation to do so. 3. Refer them to the ‘History of the Protestant Reformed Churches’, as an indictment against them. 4. To inform them of our conviction that we are called upon before God to continue laboring among them as long as they continue to preach and officially maintain the Three Points. To explain that we are entering the fold by the door, Jesus Christ.” Thus far the overture.
Synod decided not to adopt the overture on the following grounds: “1. Our experience in 1940-1941 convinces us that it would not be received. 2. Since their Synod has expressed that the matter is closed we could not expect them to re-open it. 3. Because of our letters to their Synod of 1940-1941, their Synod- decided that ecumenical relationship with us is impossible.”
Synod adjourned at a rather late hour on Monday evening after a four day session. Next time, the Lord willing, we will report various other decisions and hope also to be able to give the decisions of the Mission Committee and calling Consistory in execution of the continuation of labor in the Washington field. In connection with that latter we hope to shed some light on the motivation of this decision to continue our labor there.