The broadest ecclesiastical assembly off our Churches finished its work late Wednesday afternoon, June 10. If measured according to the standards which men apply to ecclesiastical assemblies, it was, presumably, not a very important meeting. There were no press reporters at the meeting and no articles were to be found in the daily paper concerning Synod’s activities. There was no flood of press releases containing statements of Synod’s .position concerning the affairs of the nation. There were no decisions which touch upon the various social, political and economic problems of the day and which give advice to our nation’s leaders concerning the war in Viet Nam, the racial strife in the country, the problems of poverty, ghetto life, etc. The Synod met, for the most part, unnoticed.
But this does not mean that the Synod was unimportant. God’s standards of measurement are different from the standards used by men. It was the Word of God which came to Zechariah many years ago: “Who hath despised the day of small things?” This Word is still applicable today. If the Synod met with God’s approval, all is well—regardless of men’s opinions.
This report of Synod is not intended to be an official report documenting official decisions and giving an authorized survey of all Synod’s business. It is for this reason that our readers are strongly urged to obtain a copy of the printed Acts when they become available later this summer. Rather, this report, unofficial in nature, is intended to give our people a general idea of the business which was conducted and the impressions of the undersigned of the Synod of 1970.
When looking back on the Synod several impressions stand out clearly. There was first of all the fact that the Synodical prayer service, with which this Synod was begun, was far better attended than the prayer services usually are. Rev. C. Hanko preached a beautiful and inspirational sermon on the last three vss. of Ephesians 2. The sermon will be recorded in full in theActs. Our people are urged to read it. If the size of the crowd at the prayer service is indicative of anything, it is indicative of the fact that our people are interested in Synod’s work and interested in the well-being of the denomination. It is easy to sit back and criticize Synod after her meetings are over. It is easier yet to be indifferent to what Synod does. But criticism and indifferentism which arise from those who do not pray for Synod and who do not bring the needs of Synod before the throne of God’s grace are difficult to understand. That so many joined in prayer with the delegates was heartening indeed.
The second impression left on this reporter by Synod was the active participation of all of Synod’s delegates. There were present at Synod especially elder delegates who were at Synod for the first time. These men took an active part not only in the deliberations and discussions, but they also contributed to the Synod by their discussions and helped Synod reach decisions on difficult and knotty problems. What was true of those delegates who were present for the first time was true of all the delegates. All took an active part in the abundance of work that had to be done. This made the Synod a rich and pleasant Synod to attend.
The third impression that was left with this reporter is the excellent work done by the committees of pre-advice. The committees did their work well and served Synod with good advice. The advantages of this are plain. When good advice is brought to Synod, Synod’s work is expedited and Synod is saved a great deal of time. It is usually the case that when these committees do not do good work that Synod is caught in endless wrangling and debate over minor issues. For the most part the work of the Committees was good.
Finally, the general impression was strong in this reporter that Synod labored with dedication and zeal for the cause of God and for the cause of our churches. Synod was a time during which our ministers and elders could meet each other and enjoy the fellowship which such a meeting provides. Unity and love prevailed. Consecration for the cause of God was evident.
For all these reasons, it was a good Synod to attend.
There were many specific items of importance to which Synod gave its attention. We offer our readers a brief survey of some of the most important.
A great deal of time was spent on matters of missions. And much of the work of Synod dealing with missions was specifically concerned with the work in Jamaica. In fact, so completely did the work in Jamaica dominate Synod’s time in matters of missions that there was some discussion of the neglect of work in our own country. This discussion was not because Synod believed that the Jamaican work was unimportant; quite the contrary. But it is equally true that we have an important calling in this country as well which we must fulfill. This calling takes on increasing urgency as apostasy increases. Various organizations of our local congregations, our Theological School and our Mission Committee have established contacts over a wide range with people who are concerned about developments within local Churches. Perhaps in the coming year it would be possible for one of our ministers to devote time to exploring these contacts and investigating various fields.
Specifically, some important decisions which relate to the Jamaican Field were taken. The action of renting a house for a missionary was approved as well as the purchase of a car. Definite plans were made for the length of work for a missionary, for the storage of the furniture and establishment of a place of residence during furloughs. Synod heard reports from Rev. J. Heys, Rev. G.C. Lubbers and Elder Meulenberg about the progress of the work.
By the time this is read, most of our people will know that Rev. Lubbers has accepted the call to labor as missionary in this island. This acceptance of Rev. Lubbers is the answer of our God to many prayers which have been raised to God both in our Churches and among the Churches in Jamaica. For this our people will be thankful. God has given us this field and we have worked there for almost ten years. But always we believed that work could be done there most successfully by a missionary who could labor full time among these people of God. This will now be done. To decide on this call was certainly not easy for Rev. Lubbers. There were many considerations and many problems, not the least of which is that the work there is very difficult. And certainly it will not be easy for our Southwest congregation to be without a shepherd. But we are very grateful. The Lord has given us this field—thrust it upon us. The Lord calls to these labors. The Lord has led Rev. Lubbers to assume, with God’s help, the responsibility for them. We urge upon our people to remember Rev. Lubbers and his dear and faithful wife in their prayers to God. Plans are being made tentatively for Rev. and Mrs. Lubbers to depart about the first of September. Their address will be: c/o General Delivery, Montego Bay, Jamaica. The importance of letters cannot be overemphasized. We hope our people will write to our brother and sister often.
Other decisions were also made. The purchase of three sets of commentaries on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. H. Hoeksema was authorized for the Jamaica ministers. Synod also paid for 100 copies of the creeds to be used on the island. A ministers’ traveling fund was established to assist in the payment of traveling expenses for the three ministers on Jamaica. This money is to be collected from our societies, Sunday Schools and by individual gifts. It is not budgeted in the Synodical assessments. A report was received concerning the money collected by Hudsonville’s deacons for the poor in Jamaica. The report showed a balance of just over $1,000.00 in this fund. Work is also being done to secure the property of the various congregations in Jamaica so that the money collected for the repair and erection of buildings can be used. Synod authorized the taking of four collections by our churches for this building fund once again. Hopefully, with Rev. Lubbers permanently in the field, this work can be speeded up and the money collected sent and used to make the present buildings more suitable for worship.
There is also a fund established to help train young men on the island for the ministry. Synod heard reports that there is one man who is presently preparing for the ministry. And he needs help to complete his studies.
A couple of other matters pertaining to missions includes approval of help which was given to our Lynden congregation in connection with work being done in Indonesia and a report approved of by the Synod from the Foreign Mission Committee. This latter committee was instructed to report to the next Synod concerning the additional possibilities of broadening our foreign mission work. Radio work was also discussed. One station, in Yankton, South Dakota, was dropped and the Mission Committee was empowered to seek out new stations where our broadcast would serve the purpose of acquainting others with our place in the church world.
Theological School Matters
Reports were received on Synod concerning the work of the Theological School which showed that another year of study was completed in the School which was blessed by God. Five of the six students presently studying in the school have now been licensed to preach and will, the Lord willing, be serving our Western Churches this summer.
The School Committee presented information gained from various colleges with respect to recognition of pre-seminary courses taught in our school. That is, if some of our students who have taken pre-seminary courses in our school want to go on to earn their A. B. degree, there are colleges which, with a minimum of effort, will recognize the subjects taught in the Seminary.
Synod approved the payment of $6,000.00 to First Church to redecorate the present Seminary facilities. This was partly in recognition of the many years of use without payment of rent which First Church has given the school.
The Synod was informed that according to previous Synodical approval a plot of ground was purchased for a future Seminary Building. This plot of ground is adjacent to Southeast Church. It is conceivable that our School will be able to have facilities of its own in the foreseeable future.
A Few Additional Matters
A few additional items of general interest are as follows. Synod took appreciative note of the fact that several of our congregations have made considerable effort to reduce their subsidy requests or have gone off from subsidy altogether. The result of this is that the Synodical assessments have declined this year—a worthwhile trend in these days of inflation.
Matters came to Synod concerning the difficulties of our Oak Lawn congregation—difficulties which had been both in Classis East and Classis West. Synod spent more time and labor on these difficulties than on any other matter coming before her. A committee was appointed by the Synod to bring Synod’s decisions to those directly involved in these difficulties and, if possible, to aid in a reconciliation of the troubles. May the prayers of our people arise before God that He may bring a solution to these difficult problems.
These are troubled times in which we are called to live. And there can be no doubt but that the Church is affected by the character of the times. This is true in more than one way. On the one hand, there is no doubt that the spirit of ungodliness in the world influences us all more than we sometimes like to admit. It is difficult and requires abundant grace for the Church to keep herself unspotted from the world and to preserve in herself the mind of Christ. On the other hand, the evils of the age impress upon us the urgency of our calling to work while it is day ere the night comes in which no man can labor.
May God bless the decisions of our last Synod and may our Churches continue faithful in their calling until the end.