The Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches convened on June 11, 1980 at Randolph, Wisconsin. The meetings continued through the afternoon of June 18. The Synod was wonderfully provided for by the ladies of Randolph congregation and the delegates were most hospitably received within the homes of the members of the congregation. It was very pleasant visiting with members of the congregation—and the Synod itself provided an opportunity of blessed fellowship and mutual refreshment.
The pre-synodical service was held in the Randolph church Tuesday evening. The president of the Synod of 1979, Rev. G. Van Baren, presented the sermon. The officers for the Synod of 1980 were chosen the first morning of Synod: Rev. J. Heys as president, Rev. J. Kortering as vice president, Rev. D. Kuiper as first clerk, and Rev. M. De Vries as second clerk.
That which occupied much of the time of the Synod was matters of missions. The Synod received reports and decisions which came from our missionary in Singapore, Rev. A. den Hartog, and from the Foreign Mission Committee and Doon, Ia. consistory. Rev. A. den Hartog reported concerning his own labors and finds the work there most blessed and enjoyable. There is, however, much work to be done. At the present time, Mr. Dewey Engelsma and his wife are also in Singapore to help the den Hartogs in any way they can.
One of the problems which arose in the work of Singapore was connected with the question of organization of the group of young people there into a Reformed church. The young people there desire to be Reformed in confession and walk, but since they have only recently begun study of our three forms of unity (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort), they thought it not proper for them to be organized on the basis of these three creeds. They preferred to organize on the basis of a simplified statement of Reformed truths. The Doon consistory and the Foreign Mission Committee demurred. These bodies decided that Rev. den Hartog could help to organize—but only on the basis of our Reformed Confessions. The Synod was deeply impressed by the conscientiousness of these young people and their hesitancy of accepting anything before they could properly understand it. However, Synod also supported Doon and the F.M.C. in their decision, pointing out that a Reformed church should properly be organized on the basis of Reformed creeds. The decision further reminded the young people of Singapore that this decision ought not to be understood as reason for a long postponement of organization. Synod stated, “If the Reformed Truth is held commonly among the members, and if they are ready to be organized as a Church holding the Reformed Faith, as the G.L.T.S. confesses in their request for organization of 16 March 1980, it seems to the Synod that the G.L.T.S. can soon see that the Reformed Faith is expressed in the Reformed Creeds, so that they can intelligently adopt these creeds as their basis….” The Synod was very encouraged by the desire of this group to be truly Reformed, and in its decision sincerely wanted to direct these young people in the proper manner of organization in order that their Reformed character may continue to flourish. Synod conveyed its greetings also to Rev. den Hartog and family, the Engelsmas, and the young people of the G.L.T.S. in Singapore.
One of the young men of the G.L.T.S. also requested permission for entrance into our seminary for a two-year period. That request was granted and Synod appointed the F.M.C. the task of raising $4,000 annually for his support through voluntary contributions.
Synod made significant decisions also regarding Jamaica. Synod did not accede to the request of the calling church (First Church) and the Mission Committee, to call a missionary for Jamaica at this time. The ground given was, “to call a fourth fulltime missionary and to commit the Churches to an additional $50,000 per year would be to overextend the Churches at this time.” Synod did decide to allot funds that emissaries, perhaps of our retired ministers, could labor in Jamaica for a two to three month period.
The Synod further decided to transfer the supervision of benevolence from the Hudsonville to the First Church diaconate. The ground for this was the desire to place all the activities of the Jamaican missions under the supervision of the same consistory. Synod expressed its deep appreciation and thanks to the Hudsonville diaconate for their faithful labors in this area of Jamaican benevolence in the past.
There were reports also from our domestic missions in Birmingham, Alabama and East Lansing, Michigan. The reports were encouraging although the number of regular attendants is small. At Birmingham, the Mission Committee found it necessary to purchase a house for the Van Overloops, since rental of the kind we needed, did not appear available at the time the Van Overloops moved to Birmingham. Outside of the required amount of $20,000 down-payment, the monthly payments cost the churches less than the amount which would have to be paid for rent. Synod approved this action of the M.C. Synod also approved the decision to purchase radio time in Birmingham so that the Sunday service might be broadcast every Sunday there. This provides the means of making the message of the Reformed truth more widely known in that area.
At East Lansing, there are several families that regularly attend the services. Visitors also frequently appear and Rev. S. Houck seeks to follow up on those who show interest.
As churches, we ought to remember these missionaries in our congregational prayers; and as members of the church, we ought to pray regularly for them in our family devotions. These brethren especially need our prayerful support and encouragement.
It was reported to Synod that Lynden, Washington congregation is presently not calling a missionary for the Mt. Vernon-Monroe area. Several of the interested families there have moved to Lynden, and Rev. D. Kuiper seeks to keep in contact with others who are in that area.
Synod treated other items of business related to missions. This brief report, however, can not present each of these matters. Be sure to study the Acts when this is published for information which can not be included here.
One other item which affects mission work was that which dealt with baptism on the mission field. A study committee had been appointed by the Synod of 1979 to report this year. The committee sought to reconcile past decisions of Synod which appeared to forbid baptism on the mission field before organization, with the calling to baptize converts on the mission field. The Synod rejected the advice of the study committee and rather adopted the Report of the Study Committee Re Baptism on the Mission Field as presented to Synod of 1976 and which report had been rejected at the Synod of 1977. This decision now allows for baptism on the mission field with a view toward the organization of the church. There were several negative votes recorded against this decision. At least in the mind of this writer, the whole question remains in limbo since Synod took no action to adapt present baptism forms for this purpose—and the Church Order requires the use of our present forms. Individual churches or persons do not have the authority to alter the forms of the church.
The Synod received reports which indicated that several appointed committees had not finished their work. The committee to draw up a “public confession of faith form” requested continuation of their committee; the same was true for a committee to index past Synodical decisions; and additional work must be done before there can be a publication of a revised Church Order book. Probably these matters will be finished, D.V., at the next Synod.
Another item of great importance at every Synod is that which treats of our theological school. Often routinely Synod decides on seminary matters. This year there was a difference. The third of our three professors, Rev. Robert Decker, was granted permanent tenure in the seminary. The hearts of Synod were gladdened to hear of Prof. R. Decker’s acceptance of this appointment. According to earlier decisions of Synod, Prof. Decker could become eligible for a call after two more years.
The annual rector’s report stressed especially two points: the continuing need for students for the seminary and our churches; and secondly, the need for preaching opportunities for both professors and seminary students. The professors especially believe it necessary for them to have regular opportunities to preach in order that they may continue to sharpen those skills necessary for the instruction of others.
The past year, the seminary had six pre-seminary (college level) students and three seminary students. Of the six pre-sems, three expect to enter the seminary department this fall: Mr. Barry Gritters, Mr. Ken Hanko, and Mr. Everett Buiter. One special student was admitted for a two-year seminary course, Mr. Lau Chin Kwee from Singapore. Two new pre-seminary students were accepted: Mr. Russ Dykstra and Mr. Ken Kuiper.
It was reported to Synod that the building fund balance of $1,707.65 was turned over to the Synodical treasurer. This is the amount of money remaining after paying fully for our seminary building.
Synod did reject a request from the R.F.P.A. to erect a building for their use on seminary property. Synod was minded not to tie together in this way denominational property with that of an independent (free) organization.
Some time was spent in matters related to the Contact Committee activities. This was done first because of an overture from Mr. T. Feenstra who asked Synod to “study, evaluate and correct the constitution of the Committee for Contact.” In response to the overture, Synod did make two changes in this constitution. It added two elders to the committee (who will serve with two ministers and two professors). Another article was modified by the addition of the words “sister churches” so as to specify clearly among what churches certain types of assistance and cooperation could be done. In response, too, to the overture, Synod appointed another study committee to consider the “minister-on-loan” concept to see if it is “Biblical, confessional, and in harmony with our Church Order.”
The report of the Contact Committee spoke of a difficulty which has arisen between them and the Christchurch of O.P.C. of New Zealand. Correspondence from Christchurch and of the Contact Committee was read on the floor of Synod on this question. The problem has to do with the kind of man to be called to serve in Christchurch as minister-on-loan. Synod instructed the Contact Committee and Hudsonville consistory to seek resolution of the difficulty and report to next year’s Synod.
A request from a foreign country for mission work in their area and a request for organization into a congregation had been received by the Contact Committee. Synod instructed this committee to turn over the request to the Domestic Mission Committee for further consideration.
Synod altered another constitution: that of the (Seminary) Student Aid Committee. The constitution had stated that married pre-seminary students were ineligible for aid; and married seminary students could receive financial assistance only to the amount allowed unmarried students. (This itself had been a change from earlier years when only unmarried students could receive aid. The assumption appears to have been that students who could assume the added obligations of wife and family, would not be justified in asking assistance for themselves or family.) This year, Synod decided that married pre-seminary students could also receive aid. And the aid granted married students would no longer be limited to the amount which an unmarried student might require. The amount of possible aid was doubled (from $200 to $400 per month—but the Student Aid Committee could grant no more than a total amount to all the students of $15,000 for the next school year). This will not make our students wealthy by any means—but should lessen a bit the financial burden involved in preparation for the ministry. This decision was in response to two overtures: one from Holland and one from Mr. V. Casemier; and to the request of the Student Aid Committee. The overtures arose because individual churches, independently and somewhat arbitrarily, were giving additional assistance to married students above and beyond that approved by the Student Aid Committee. The present revision, hopefully, will alter that situation and support the students according to their need.
There were two appeals of individuals against their consistories and classis concerning questions of discipline or possible discipline. These were treated in closed sessions because of their content which related to disciplinary matters. In both cases, the appellants were not sustained.
A request from Loveland, Colorado consistory for assistance from the needy churches fund in order to provide support for Rev. G. Lanting was granted. Synod rejected the larger amount recommended by Classis West and approved the lesser amount requested by the consistory.
Synod approved the emeritation of Rev. R. Harbath (it treated this question last year already, but did not take final action because certain documents were lacking). It also approved the emeritation of Rev. J. Heys beginning June 1, 1980 on the grounds of his age and health. Rev. J. Heys did openly and without much hesitation reveal to Synod his current age. Since this was revealed in open session, I assume I have the liberty to print that too—however, perhaps those interested could best ask him. The Synod took special note of the work of these two brethren and intends to express appreciation and thanks both in the Standard Bearer and in the printed Acts. We must surely give thanks to our God for providing such dedicated men who willingly give of themselves in the service of the kingdom to Gods glory and the benefit of His church.
Other miscellaneous matters: Synod decided to microfilm (again) its records in an orderly way at the cost of $2,000. The yearbook committee gave its report which showed that we have at present 1,083 families. Synod approved the requested payments for the emeritated persons in the ministry and also approved the various subsidy requests. Covenant (New Jersey) and Kalamazoo congregations were granted permission to take collections in Classis West for their building projects. A budget was adopted which requires $320 per family per year (compared to $304 of this year). This represents but a 5% increase—quite a bit less than the inflation rate.
Finally, but hardly of least importance, Synod accepted the resignation of its treasurer, Mr. Charles Pastoor. He has almost arrived at his 77th birthday and has served in this capacity for more than 25 years. He wrote Synod, “…I have always been treated with utmost consideration. In all this time I have never found any irregularity or hint of wrong doing by anyone.” Synod expressed its appreciation for his services and intends to do so also publicly in the Standard Bearer. The Synod appointed Mr. Dick Teitsma as successor. Mr. Teitsma is not unfamiliar with the work, having served as assistant to Mr. Pastoor for a number of years.
Synod closed its sessions with the singing of the “Lord’s Prayer” set to music composed by Rev. J. Heys.
The Lord willing, the Synod of 1981 will meet the first Wednesday of June at Holland, Michigan.