Another Synod of our Protestant Reformed Churches has become history. Beginning its meetings with a prayer service on June 1 in which Rev. H. Veldman preached a beautiful and fitting sermon on Luke 12:32: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” Synod continued its meetings through Friday morning of the following week. It was a long and. busy Synod; this is especially evident from the fact that Synod began meeting two mornings at 8:00 to finish its work; and from the fact that almost 400 articles will appear in the Acts, indicating that many decisions were taken.
Before we report specifically on matters decided upon by this Synod, there are several general observations which are worth making.
In the first place, this was the first Synod in many years at which Rev. H. Hoeksema was not present. The Synod was deeply aware of the fact that the Lord had called Rev. H. Hoeksema from his active labors in the churches, and daily brought the needs of him who occupied such an important and cherished place in our churches before the throne of grace.
Secondly, it is worthy of note that all the delegates coming to Synod were present throughout the sessions. There were no alternates who had to come in because the delegates could not finish the work with Synod. This was a commendable feature of Synod inasmuch as the same men, being present throughout, could work with all Synod’s business without interruption. It is, in this connection, worthy of special note, I think, that the elder delegates took a more active part in the discussions than in any previous Synod which lives in my recollection. Their important contributions were very helpful to Synod in its deliberations, and it speaks well of the leadership in our various congregations.
Thirdly, in many respects, this was a forward looking Synod. There were no protests or specific problems and troubles in the congregations which came before Synod. The result was that Synod occupied its time with matters which affect the future of our churches. Synod had time and opportunity to study and ponder the future course of our churches, and used its time well in this respect. The major items of business were matters concerning our Theological School and missions. Thus it was not only a pleasant Synod, but it was also a Synod which, we may believe, points our Churches ahead into the future.
Fourthly, the delegates labored together in a spirit of unity. They stood shoulder to shoulder in the cause our God has given to us to represent. The harmony and .spirit of the communion of saints was evident throughout, but was due, in no small part, to the excellent leadership provided for Synod in its president, Rev. M. Schipper.
Finally, Synod decided to meet in the mid-west next year and designated Doon as the calling Church. I personally am happy with this decision, for the West has long wanted a Synod to meet here; and I am sure that it will, do our Western Churches a great deal, of good to be host for a Synod. It has been fifteen years since Synod met in the midwest; in 1950 Synod was in Hull. Since that time many important changes have come about in our churches particularly the split of 1953; and our churches here in the midwest can benefit from a meeting in this area once again.
To turn now to specific matters which came before Synod, it is possible to give only a brief review of important decisions. But because these decisions were indeed important, we urge our people to obtain a printed copy of the Acts when they will appear, most likely later in the summer or in the early fall.
To turn, first of all, to matters of the Theological School, we note the following:
Student Robert Decker successfully passed his synodical examinations and was declared candidate for the ministry of the Word of God and the sacraments in our Churches. We are thankful to God for this fruit of our seminary and are sure that the Lord will provide a place for him in our churches; so we can look forward to our minister shortage being relieved somewhat.
It was observed by Prof. H.C. Hoeksema at the graduation exercises that this was the first graduate from our seminary who graduated in a time when the entire original faculty of the school was gone. Rev. Ophoff has been taken to his eternal reward; Rev. Hoeksema can labor no longer in the school; Rev. Vos also, although still preaching, was forced to give up his work because of failing health. A new generation has risen, and we do well as Churches to remember with thanksgiving, the blessings of God that we have received from a generation that has laid aside its labors in our midst.
It was these events which also prompted Synod to decide to call a new professor, for our school must go on; it is the center and life blood of our churches.
It is not amiss in this connection to make mention of the heavy load of labor that Prof. H.C. Hoeksema bore throughout the past year. Although he received assistance from Revs. Veldman and Schipper, much of the work fell upon him.
Two decisions affecting the future of our school deserve special notice. The one was that the Theological School Committee was instructed to begin studies of the possibility of erecting a special building for seminary training. The other was to expand the work of the seminary. Synod decided to advertise our seminary more extensively through the broader distribution of the seminary catalogue and through the preparation and distribution of a brochure describing the character and work of the seminary. The idea is to advertise our theological school as a school where the historic Reformed and Calvinistic truth is still maintained; and thus to attract students from outside our churches who are interested in obtaining such an education.
However, there is still the continued need for students also from out of our own congregations to study in our school. We have noted above that a generation is passing away. This presses upon us the urgency of additional students to prepare for the ministry in our churches. And once again, this need is commended to our Consistories, congregations, and covenant parents.
Secondly, we turn to matters of missions.
Most important perhaps was the long discussion Synod held and the many decisions made concerning a mission policy. It is impossible to do justice to this report presented by the mission committee and discussed and decided upon by the Synod, in this article. We can only urge our people to obtain a copy of the Acts and read these decisions for themselves.
The work on the island of Jamaica also occupied considerable time. Rev. J. Heys and Mr. H. Zwak reported in detail on their recent work on the island, and Synod discussed the work at length. The report brought back by these brethren is worthy of being printed in our Church papers, for we cannot do justice to it here. Nevertheless, we can say that Rev. Heys and Mr. Zwak brought back a good report of the churches there. They told of the joy of the people on the island when they received the alms our churches had sent. They told of the hungering of the people for the Bread of Life. They reported of the labors of the ministers there: Revs. Frame, Elliott and Ruddock; and of the difficulties of their work.
There is truly a field of labor here which the Lord has given to us; and Synod was not unmindful of the importance of our calling. The trouble is that, once again, Synod was hampered by the shortage of ministers. Nevertheless, Synod did much to ensure the work continuing there; and the Mission Committee will do all in its power to bring these saints on that island the truth which we confess and which they also are learning to love.
In passing it may also be noted that Synod decided to discontinue two foreign radio broadcasts (Radio Hoyer in the West Indies and Trans-world Radio in Monte Carlo) to concentrate our efforts on Home Missions.
There were also various other matters which are of no little importance.
For one thing, it appears as if at last our churches shall receive the archives that were taken from us in 1953. This has not yet been actually accomplished; but the way seems open so that they will be returned to us presently. This will evidently bring an end to all the litigation that has occupied the time and energy of our churches the last twelve years.
We could mention also in this connection (although this has nothing to do directly with Synod’s labors) that as far as we know, all our churches shall presently be meeting once again in church buildings of their own. Lynden, Holland, and Hope have beautiful new edifices which were recently built. Loveland, we understand, met for the first time in their new church Sunday, June 13. Kalamazoo looks forward to meeting in a church building which they recently purchased—if they are not doing so already. Hull is back in their old building. South Holland, we understand, is contemplating starting on a new building sometime this year since their present facilities are completely inadequate. Only Forbes congregation is still meeting in a school building. But even they have recently purchased a parsonage, and are looking about for a church edifice.
Also with respect to Catechism materials, Synod was looking ahead. A committee was set up for the distribution of Catechism books. Our readers are aware of the fact that new books have been written and approved by Synod for use in our congregations. But Synod also appointed another committee to study the possibility of preparing additional catechism material for other classes. This includes material for the study of the confessions, and additional catechism books for different age levels.
There were two matters of an “ecumenical” nature which appeared before Synod. One had to do with contacts with the Reformed Ecumenical Synod. Our Synod decided to leave all the channels open to seek contact with this organization if at all possible. The Committee on Foreign Correspondence was entrusted with this work.
Synod also received an invitation to attend the Plenary Congress of the International Council of Christian Churches which is meeting this summer in Geneva, Switzerland. This invitation Synod declined especially on the grounds that there were many denominations belonging to this organization which stood outside the stream of Reformed and Calvinistic thought.
I think it not out of place to make public mention also of the fine work of the Synodical Treasurer and Stated Clerk. The Synodical treasurer, Mr. Charles Pastoor, has once again done an excellent job of caring for the financial work of the Churches. And our Synodical Stated Clerk, Rev. G. Vanden Berg, has been his usual busy and efficient self preparing the agenda for Synod, helping Synod in its work, and now preparing all Synod’s decisions for publication in our Acts. Both these men do invaluable work for our churches, and their labors ought not to be overlooked.
We have, as churches, abundant reason to be grateful to God, for we have many indications and tokens of His favor and love upon us. This Synod also was testimony of this fact. It is our hope and prayer that the Lord of His Church will bless what Synod has done and bless our churches in the way of His truth. May He Who loves us, give us ever greater devotion and consecration to His cause that we may go forward as Churches in these perilous times and labor for the cause of His kingdom which He so graciously has called us to represent.