This is a brief and unofficial report. It must needs be brief, because my space in this issue is already more than used. The official report, which will also be complete, will appear in the Acts, which will make its appearance in a month or two.
At the pre-synodical service, under the auspices of the Hope (Walker) Consistory, the Rev. J. Kortering led us, preaching an appropriate sermon the admonition found in I Corinthians 15:58.
On Wednesday morning, June 1, Synod met for the first time; and, as usual, the morning was spent in election of officers and in making committee assignments. The Rev. G. Van Baren was elected president, and he served capably, keeping synod’s “nose to the grindstone,” but allowing for the necessary discussion and deliberation. Other officers were: Rev. J. Kortering, vice-president; Rev. M. Joostens, first clerk; Rev. W. Bekkering, second clerk.
Not much of synod’s business was conducted during the first three days, as I already remarked, due to the examinations conducted. This does not mean, however, that no work is done. Every available hour in which synod is not in session is used by the four advisory committees, so that their reports may be ready when the examinations are finished and so that synod may begin its work of deliberating and deciding upon the matters of the Agenda. This year synod was able to do some of its work already during the first week. In the first place, on Thursday the examination was interrupted briefly in order to allow the Rev. Bruce Backensto to address synod. Mr. Backensto was the representative of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (Covenanters). At the invitation of our Contact Committee, he came to bring the greetings of his denomination and to help get us acquainted with the Covenanters and their stance. In the second place, Advisory Committee II was ready with its report; and therefore, in the remaining hours of Friday afternoon, after the completion of the examinations, synod made considerable progress in treating the items of that report.
In connection with the latter, we mention the following:
1) Synod declared an appeal from an elder of Lynden not legally before synod, on the ground that the appellant’s disagreement was not actually with a decision of Classis West, but with the fact that his consistory adopted the advice of Classis. He should, therefore, have protested to his consistory rather than attempt an appeal from classis to synod.
2) Another attempted appeal was rejected because it did not meet the Agenda deadline, though it very well could have done so.
3) Synod rejected an overture from Hull to change the constituency of the Mission Committee to all eastern members.
4) Synod adopted an overture of South Holland to include in our Psalter the ecumenical creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian), decided to add the Chalcedonian Creed, and gave the matter of execution in the hands of a committee.
5) After considerable discussion and after recommitting to the Advisory Committee, Synod rejected an overture of Southwest concerning Student Aid on the ground of Article 46 of the Church Order.
6) Several routine decisions were taken concerning our Foreign Mission work. Perhaps the two most important were: a) Authorization to call a second missionary for Singapore “should this prove necessary and acceptable to the Session of the Evangelical Reformed Church.” b) Authorization to take collections in the churches toward the financial support of another student from Singapore, Mr. Jaikishin Mahtani, who will be arriving D.V., this summer.
Synod next took up the report of Advisory Committee I. It was the task of this committee to advise synod on the many and difficult items related to Domestic Missions. It is impossible to include here a report on the lengthy discussions on these matters Suffice it to say that synod wrestled long and hard with certain items; and it is to be hoped that some solutions were reached. Time will tell. We report the following:
1) Synod approved the continuation of labors in the Birmingham, Alabama field, but also authorized the use of Rev. Van Overloop for the discovery of new fields of labor.
2) After lengthy discussion, Synod approved the calling of a missionary for Jamaica by First Church. It also adopted a “Policy for Missions in Jamaica.” It also stipulated that the missionary was to have an assistant for at least 6 to 9 months of the year, and that this assistant was to be either a retired minister or a minister on loan from one of our congregations.
3) Synod also discussed at length the matter of making provision for our field in Ripon, California. In connection with this, there was the problem of differences concerning jurisdiction among Redlands, Hope-Walker, and the Mission Committee. Synod made decisions designed to resolve these differences; and again, time will tell as to their success. As far as positive action is concerned, the major decision was to appoint Hope-Redlands the calling church to call a missionary for Ripon.
If my memory and my notes serve me correctly, to Committee III goes the honor that all its advice was adopted as presented and without being sent back for reformulation. The following items of interest may be mentioned:
1) The Committee to Index Synodical Decisions was admonished to complete its task.
2) The Report of the Study Committee re Synodical Assessments was adopted: to continue our present method of assessments.
3) Various items of the Contact Committee’s Report were dealt with. We may mention the fact that synod authorized the committee to send two members to confer with the committee of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America and to be observers at their Synod in the latter part of June. Synod also authorized the committee to explore the matter of sister-church relationships with the E.R.C. of Singapore.
4) Theological School matters were also the assignment of this committee. Here we may mention: a) Synod’s decision to express to the churches the need for students. b) Synod’s approval of a proposal from the TSC re special gifts and bequests. In this connection, synod also approved expenditure of up to $10,000 for the purchase of word processing equipment from this special fund. c) Synod approved a proposal to strengthen the academic requirements of the seminary department of our school. The purpose of this change was to provide the faculty with more objective standards in guiding and advising our students. There was considerable discussion of this matter at synod. And in the course of this discussion it was brought out that the faculty does not simply apply standards and requirements in “hard-nose” fashion, but deals with students on a personal basis—as one professor put it, almost in “grandfatherly” fashion.
Advisory Committee IV has the unenviable task of dealing with all financial matters. It wrestled with problems related to Subsidy Requests, in connection with which it was brought out again that it is very important for each classis to do its homework before it passes subsidy requests on to synod. Most important of this committee’s work was the proposed budget for fiscal 1984. Understand, this committee does notmake the budget; it merely tabulates all the budgetary decisions of synod throughout its sessions. And then the committee must make recommendations as to how to meet the budget. The outcome? The committee reported that if the full amount of the 1984 budget were to be reached, the assessments would be $425.50 per family per year. Taking into account the estimated surplus for 1983 and various other factors, however, the committee advised setting assessments at $350.00 per family per year—substantially the same as last year.
For a complete report, see the 1983 Acts.
May the Lord bless the decisions taken unto the welfare of our churches and of the cause of His church in the world!