It is not too often that the Protestant Reformed Churches meet in Synod in the Midwest. And yet it is a rare treat. The Midwest was beautiful at this time of the year. The rolling countryside with its acres and acres of lush farm land presented an ever-changing panorama of beauty to those who took the time to look. The corn and alfalfa, the oats and soybeans, the pasture land and cattle reminded one of the bounties of God’s earth. Repeated rains during the Synod brought much needed moisture to the land. In some areas in Northwest Iowa some eight inches of rain fell while Synod was in session. But it was the hospitality and warmth of the people which especially lingers on in the minds of the delegates. Some of the delegates stayed in Edgerton, Minnesota where Synod’s sessions were held. Some stayed in Northwest Iowa and drove back and forth each day. The ladies of Edgerton served dinner and supper in the Church. But Western hospitality is hard to beat. One cannot help but believe that Synod’s meeting in the Midwest served to strengthen the bonds which tie us together in Christ Jesus.
The pre-synodical prayer service was held in Edgerton Church on Tuesday evening, June 2. Rev. Schipper, president of last year’s Synod preached on Rev. 3:7-12, the Lord’s letter to the Church at Philadelphia. It was to this Church that the Lord promised an open door; and Rev. Schipper beautifully applied this to the Church of today. The pre-synodical prayer sermon will be re-printed in the Acts and all our people will have an opportunity to read it. By the way, Synod decided this year to give a copy of the printed Acts to every member of our Churches. Our people are urged to read the Acts for the decisions of this Synod were important ones.
Wednesday morning the new officers of Synod were chosen. Rev. G. VanBaren was chosen as President; Rev. J. Kortering as Vice-President; Rev. D. Engelsma, First Clerk; and Rev. R. Decker, Second Clerk. The rest of Wednesday was given over to meetings of the Committees of pre-advice who studied the material of the agenda and prepared advice to guide the Synod in her deliberations, discussions and decisions.
Most of Thursday, Friday and part of Monday was given over to the examination of Student Rodney Miersma. He had completed successfully his course of study at the Seminary and had been recommended for examination by Synod. The student is required to preach a sermon before Synod and is examined in Dogmatics, Old and New Testament Exegesis, Old and New Testament History, Church Polity and church History. This is a trying time for the student, but the Churches may be thankful that the Lord has provided another minister for the Churches. The Synod decided to declare him candidate for the ministry of the; Word in our Churches, and he will be eligible for a call after July 7. Graduation exercises were held Tuesday evening in Edgerton Church. Candidate Miersma spoke of the subject “The Minister and the Church Order” and Prof. Hanko spoke on “The Glory of God,” Musical numbers were provided by Mrs. H. Huisken and the children of the Free Christian School of Edgerton.
It was also a new experience for the West to be able to witness the examination and graduation of a Seminary student. Usually these examinations are conducted in the Grand Rapids area. Especially since Mr. Miersma is himself from the Midwest, the occasion was especially memorable.
Something unusual was also the fact that there were many ministers and students in the area over Sunday. One of the members of Doon Church remarked to me that he was struck by the fact that in Doon’s pulpit it was either feast or famine. Many times throughout the year the congregation was required to have reading services. But the Sunday of Synod there were no less than six in Doon congregation who were able to preach.
The Synod was a busy one. Many matters of far-reaching importance were discussed and decided upon. When these matters of such importance to the Churches were discussed, the Synod was very deliberate, in no hurry to cut off debate or to be rushed into decisions without careful consideration. I cannot remember a Synod where discussions were so open and frank, with each delegate feeling free to express himself fully and speak of matters that were close to his heart. All arguments on issues, pro and con, were carefully weighed; and the decisions which were reached were only after mature thought and thorough discussion. In this connection a word should be said also about our elder delegates. Increasingly, the last years, the elder delegates have taken a more active part in the deliberations of Synod. This is reason for gratitude to God. One could not sit on Synod very long without being left with the distinct impression that God has blessed our Churches, both in the East and in the West, with able and God-fearing elders who have the love of the cause of God in their hearts and who are men of strong faith. Their part in the discussions of Synod played a vital role in the decisions which were finally made.
To turn more specifically to the decisions of Synod. A great deal of time was spent on mission matters. We are able, in this report, to give only some of the highlights. Some aspects of these matters, along with matters dealing with our Theological School, will be commented upon by our Editor in this issue. There was one fact which Synod took into account again and again in its deliberations. This fact was that for many years our people have been praying to God to provide us with young men to study for the ministry of the Word. The Lord is answering these prayers and giving us that which we have so long sought. We have one student graduated this year. Next year, the Lord willing, tie will have seven students in the Seminary, four of which hope to graduate next June. And there are many, presently in High School or in college who are seriously considering the ministry. One cannot help but be impressed with the fact that the Lord is calling many laborers into His vineyard, and that He is showing us that we have much work to do in these days of general apostasy and unrest in the ecclesiastical world. The Synod was far-sighted enough to realize this and make decisions in preparation for this work.
Special attention was paid to the work of Rev. and Mrs. Lubbers in Jamaica. A lengthy and informative report from Rev. Lubbers was read on the Synod since Rev. Lubbers himself could not be here personally. Synod was deeply impressed with the faithfulness of our missionary and his wife in their work—work which is so strenuous and arduous; and publicly recorded its thankfulness to God for what was being done among our brethren there. It is impossible to quote Rev. Lubbers’ complete report. A few excerpts will give a taste of it.
Rev. Harbach was with us in Jamaica for five Sundays. He gave instruction in “Discussions” and also preached where and whenever possible. . . .
We might also mention at this juncture that Rev. Dale H. Kuiper was with us in the island too for a week or more. He accompanied brother Cecil Vander Molen here during the month of January. While here, Rev. Kuiper preached twice on Sunday, and he gave instruction on a Tuesday in “Discussions”. . . .
Perhaps I should also state here and now that the labors were joyful and, if indeed often arduous both physically and psychologically, they were and are appreciated by the congregations. . . .
We may report that the car is doing well. The car registers now 24,000 miles. . . . This fact of the mileage points up what an enormous amount of energy it requires to labor here. . . .
Mrs. Lubbers took charge of the distribution (of clothing from the last clothing drive). . . .
We have used a little more than $2,000.00 of the building fund (Jamaican Churches) during the year. . . .
(In our school in Lacovia) we have four students: Trevor Nish, Alvin Beckford, Leonard Williams, and Kenneth Brown. . . .
The students have made marvelous progress considering their background and the level of their education which they had enjoyed in the past. . . . One of the students is outstanding, a hard worker. He also made, with his brother, 6 chairs for the students to sit at. We pay him for the material and a bit for his labor. . . . He and his brother also made eight church benches, very strong and nicely constructed. They made them right in back of the church in Lacovia. This is a side-effect of the teaching there.
Looking at the field here I am ever burdened with the conviction that there are too few preachers here to thoroughly indoctrinate the people. Those churches which enjoy more preaching are the sturdiest and make progress in the teaching. One is ever impressed with the incipient holiness background of these churches. . . . I consciously place the positive teaching in such a way that it always and again gives the lie to perfectionism and the errors of Pentecostalism, by emphasizing that the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, etc. . . .
I believe that the ministers preach the Reformed faith as best they know how. . . .
The need of more preaching is underscored by the fact that during the past few months two new churches have asked admittance or indicated their interest. . . .
It is for this reason that I place a high priority on the school here. . . .
Much, much more is in this report. It will be printed in the Acts.
Synod also paid attention to our calling in this, country. It decided to call a home missionary who would work in the United States and Canada. Hope Church was designated as the calling Church. Our Churches are urged to pray that the Lord will provide a missionary to work also in this country that the lost sheep of the house of Israel may be gathered. Radio work was continued as an aid in this work.
A great deal of time was spent on matters of the Theological School. The whole question of our pre-seminary instruction came tip for final decision at this Synod. The Synod was faced with the question of whether to continue our pre-seminary studies; and this question, in turn, forced the question of whether we should call a third professor. The matter was discussed at great length from every conceivable viewpoint: Would the finances of the Churches permit it? What about our current shortage of ministers and our vacant congregations? Could we offer instruction which was equal to the instruction given in existing colleges and universities? Did we have a particular calling in this respect in the light of the apostasy of the churches and the sorry spiritual content of instruction in colleges which were even of Reformed Churches? All these questions, and more, were carefully considered. After a great deal of study it was learned that many of these problems were not as great as would be anticipated. The total synodical budget would not go up a great deal even if the Lord would give us a missionary to labor in this country and a third professor for the school. The amount was only three or four dollars per family per year over what the budget was the year before last. The shortage of ministers was a short-term problem in the light of the students God is sending us. We have a calling to provide places for the men whom God calls so that they may labor fruitfully in God’s vineyard. And so Synod decided to proceed forward in faith. The Synod instructed the Theological School Committee to institute on a permanent basis the pre-seminary course which would consist of three years of pre-seminary work. And, in order that this program may be carried out, Synod decided to call a third professor. Rev. VanBaren received this call, with Rev. Engelsma as alternate. We commit Rev. VanBaren to the prayers of the Churches as he considers this difficult call.
Perhaps the details of the program can be reported to our people at another time. At any rate, all the material will be in the Acts.
One other important matter is worthy of comment in this article. It has to do with the work of the Committee for Correspondence with Foreign Churches. The matter came from a report of the committee and referred to the fact that our Churches have numerous contacts both in this country and abroad with people outside our denomination and who are eager for material published by our Churches. The Committee, under its present Constitution, does not have the authority to broaden these contacts. Synod decided to give the Committee authority to engage in such literature distribution and referred the whole matter of the Constitution back to the Committee for extensive revision so that these many contacts can be followed up and broadened.
Rev. M. Schipper struck the keynote of the Synod in his pre-synodical sermon by reminding the audience and delegates that the Lord had given us an open door also and that the promise made for the Church of Philadelphia was made also to us. In the confidence that this was true, Synod moved ahead in these vital areas and faced the future before the Lord returns in the assurance that the Lord has given us much work to do. May this same vision capture the hearts of our people in the faith that God will establish the works of our hands upon us.
This report has, in the nature of the case, touched only the most important decisions. A careful perusal of theActs will be a worthwhile project for all our people.