In many ways it was a good Synod.
With one exception, all the primi delegates were present throughout the sessions. This is always conducive towards good work on the Synod, for none of the delegates come unfamiliar with the work which Synod faces. The delegates worked hard throughout all the sessions so that the more “routine” matters were taken care of with dispatch. But problems that involved policy and principles were thoroughly discussed with adequate time for reflection, so that Synod avoided hasty decisions on important matters. There were no difficult problems that came out of our congregations on this Synod; no controversies and troubles that needed the advice of our ecclesiastical assembly. An excellent spirit prevailed throughout—the delegates working in close unity and in the spirit of love. All these things made for a very enjoyable and profitable Synod.
The pre-synodical prayer service was held Tuesday evening in First Church. Rev. C. Hanko, president of last year’s Synod, preached the sermon. He took his text from Zechariah 4:6: “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” That the work of building the Church of Jesus Christ (a work in which Synod was also engaged) is the sovereign work of God through Christ was the theme of the sermon and the confident spirit of our synodical sessions.
No doubt, all the delegates (and also our churches) will agree that the high point of the Synod was the examination of student David Engelsma. This examination took a considerable amount of Synod’s time, time that conclusively proved that the students in our seminary receive an education that is surely formally comparable to any seminary, but is unique in that the education is soundly and consistently Reformed. Our seminary is surely used by our God to prepare our young men for the calling of the ministry of the gospel in our Churches. Unanimously Synod passed a motion to approve of the examination and declare student Engelsma candidate for the ministry of the Word of God. Rev. J. Heys, the president of the Synod, spoke the mind of all the delegates as he expressed the hope and confidence of God’s blessing upon our new candidate. The graduation exercises were held in Southeast Church Tuesday evening of the second week of Synod. The Church was full; the committee had prepared a delightful program. And now we may expect that the minister shortage in our Churches will be eased by the addition of one more minister.
There is now only one student, Mr. Robert Decker, in our seminary. Still the need is great that young men seek the office of the ministry. In fact, this lack of students was a problem which faced Synod on more than one occasion in its sessions. It was strongly expressed that our ministers and officebearers and people ought often and continually to pray that God will send us young men to study in our seminary. And it can very well be added that parents ought to point their young men to this noble and lofty calling.
Perhaps in this connection it is not amiss to express a word of thanks to our seminary professors for their faithful and diligent labors on behalf of our students. All our people have reason to be grateful for the seminary of our Churches and for the instruction that our students receive in it. Its fruit is evident to all our congregations.
While the examination of our student was no doubt the highlight of Synod’s sessions, mission matters occupied almost as much time as the examinations.
There was somewhat of a change in Synod’s discussions on mission matters over previous years. Considerable time was spent on the entire question of whether or not we should continue our mission endeavors. There were some opinions expressed on Synod to discontinue our work outside the borders of our own denomination, to concentrate instead upon the vacant congregations within our Church sphere. The question of whether or not to continue our mission program did not hinge on our calling to do mission work—that we have such a calling was the unanimous opinion of the delegates. Rather, once again the question centered in the shortage of students and the comparatively many vacant Churches. There was a very profitable discussion of the whole problem. Yet Synod was firmly convinced that to discontinue our mission work and turn in towards ourselves would eventually have the effect of discouraging young men from seeking the ministry as well as leaving us to stagnate. Synod was strongly of a mind to continue our work at all costs. And this was done. Yet how important it appeared that our seminary enrollment he increased—and that in the immediate future.
With respect to specific decisions taken by Synod, the following are especially of interest:
1) Synod decided to send Rev. C. Hanko and, preferably, an elder to Jamaica in the near future to contact the Churches there and determine definitely whether we can and should continue with work in this field. If this work is to continue there, Synod decided “To work in Jamaica with a view to establishing there an indigenous church, i.e., a) That we organize there a Protestant Reformed Church of Jamaica. b) That this church be institutionally separate from our denomination, but that it maintain fraternal relationships with our churches; i.e., that we exchange delegates at ecclesiastical assemblies, that we help them financially, etc. 2) That we accomplish this: a) by sending a minister to Jamaica to labor for. two months who will aid in organization; b) by obtaining men from that area who will study here in preparation for the ministry in these churches.”
2) The work of Rev. Lubbers is to be continued in the Houston, Texas area for some time yet. This was because Rev. Lubbers had reported that there were those to be found there who were interested in the truth. Several more months of labor would show whether there was actually a possibility of organizing a Church in that area. Especially this area of mission work in which we have a missionary in the field is commended to our people.
3) An interesting letter was received from the vicinity of Paterson, New Jersey, which became, in part, the basis for a decision to instruct the Mission Committee to investigate this area to determine whether there is a field for work. The letter reads:
Please accept my most appreciative thanks for mailing me the most inspiring messages from the Protestant Reformed Church of America, truly Calvinist, truly Reformed, truly American, and more of all, truly Christian.
How refreshing are these messages of truth in contrast to the modern apostasy which today is offered in the so-called Reformed Church in the East of today. How our ancestors, who founded the Reformed Church in America would wonder at the doctrine preached from the pulpits of the United Church of Christ, which at one time was the German Reformed Church, but whose doctrine today is neither United, nor at times really Christian.
It would be greatly appreciated if you would send me a dozen copies of your Protestant Reformed Church bulletin called “Why Protestant Reformed?” and also “Calvinism—The Truth.” I wish to give them to friends who are greatly distressed about what is today preached in the East as Calvinist doctrine. It would be a great blessing to America, if your board of inner missions could establish true Reformed and Calvinist churches in the East.
I am enclosing three dollars toward the cost of printing and mailing.
Yours in the Calvinist Faith,
4) Synod decided to continue its radio work—although also concerning this work there was considerable discussion. Transworld Radio will be continued another year. Undersigned and Rev. C. Hanko had opportunity to talk to a representative of Transworld Radio during one noon hour. This representative told us (which we had previously also been told) that the time we have for broadcasting from Monaco is the very best time offered. Previously our broadcast was on this short wave station from 8:00 to 8:30 in the morning. We were informed last fall that we were to be transferred to an earlier hour. At that time our Mission Committee wrote Transworld objecting to this earlier time and reminding the station of their promise to give us better time. This promise is now kept, and our broadcast is beamed from 11:00 to 11:30 a.m.
In connection with this, it is of interest to note that the mail response to this foreign broadcast has exceeded expectations. From England alone the committee received 66 letters in the past year; while letters were also received from other countries in Europe, from Australia and Tasmania and from South Carolina in our own country where this broadcast was heard.
5) At this Synod a proposed Constitution of the Foreign Mission Committee was also presented. This Constitution was not yet adopted but was referred back to the Committee for further study—especially with respect to the question of what precisely constitutes foreign mission work in distinction from Domestic Mission work. There were other matters that occupied Synod’s time. Some of the more important ones:
1) The question of revision of the Student Aid Committee Constitution came up again. This question which deals with aid to married students has appeared on our Synod before. At these times Synod decided that no aid should be given to married students. The sentiments of the delegates this year seemed however to be somewhat more inclined to give aid also to married students. The matter was referred back to the Student Aid Committee to come with recommendations next year after studying Synod’s past decisions.
2) The Committee for Foreign Correspondence was instructed to continue its work of writing to several Reformed Churches in the Netherlands in an attempt to establish official correspondence with these Reformed bodies.
Last year’s Synod appointed delegates to attend the Reformed Ecumenical Synod which will meet this year in Grand Rapids. The Christian Reformed Church is the host Church. These delegates reported to this year’s Synod that we had not been invited by decision of the Christian Reformed Church taken last year. This decision reads:
“The Protestant Reformed Church (Hoeksema) is also omitted from our list of recommendations for these reasons:
1) They have maintained no sister-relation or correspondence with other Reformed groups.
2) Their history is consistently schismatic.
3) The present status of the church is uncertain.”
Synod felt very deeply the untruth of these statements. It is a fact that we have, more than once, attempted to establish correspondence with other Reformed bodies, and, in fact, with the Christian Reformed Church itself. There is no proof offered at all that our history has been consistently schismatic. This becomes, in fact, a very vicious lie. And there is surely no uncertainty as to the present status of our Churches. Synod decided to answer the Christian Reformed Church and point out the errors in their grounds.
There were other matters brought up at Synod and decided upon—not the least of which were matters of finance. Especially our Needy Churches budget is increasing; and Synod faced the need of holding our budget down as low as they possibly could. But all these decisions can be found in the printed Acts. Our efficient Stated Clerk will, no doubt, soon have the Acts ready for distribution. You ought, by all means, to purchase your own copy and read it:
In conclusion, there was abundant evidence of the blessings of our covenant God in all the affairs of Synod. Sometimes we are, it seems, inclined to become somewhat pessimistic about the future of the Church of Christ. Sometimes we are concerned with our own comparative smallness. Yet our faithful God has given us every indication that He is with us. Especially He has preserved us in the way of His truth. It is not in very many places any more today that this truth can be heard in all its clarity. This truth God has committed to us. It is our calling to be faithful to it, to speak of it to others, to witness to it everywhere, to teach it to the children that follow us, to preach it from our pulpits, to carry it in our hearts and lives, to develop more fully its profound implications, and to remember that the Church of Jesus Christ is gathered not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of Jehovah of hosts.