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I am writing this out of a concern about the editorial written by Prof. Dykstra in the June 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer. I was dismayed by the comments he made about the work that synod was going to take up in the area of Domestic Missions. In his comments he promotes the idea of a second missionary to Pittsburgh. Is it proper that the author use the Standard Bearer to trumpet his own opinion? I Corinthians 6:12 states, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient.” It does not seem that these comments are expedient.

In the first place, the author concedes that, “Southwest’s Consistory (Council) is in a much better position than he to make a wise judgment in the field.” He then attempts to prove that he sees the bigger picture and that his vision is much broader. How sad! Does the author not think Southwest’s Council did not consider these arguments? The author, with no attempt of proof, casually brushes away the work that the Southwest’s Council very carefully and deliberatively did. Many hours were spent and much careful work was done by the body that is legitimately called by God to oversee this work.

In the second place, I view his comments as an attempt to influence a deliberative body improperly. We have God-given means to address issues that arise. The brother does not use these methods. He chooses instead to use the public platform of the Standard Bearer, and does this as synod is about to begin its work. The brother urges synod to overrule the work of the local congregation. He writes, “My prayer is the Lord of the harvest will lead synod to agree with Missionary Bruinsma.”

The author’s comments can only serve as a huge discouragement to the churches that have faithfully done the work of a calling church for many years. His comments could certainly give pause to any church considering becoming a calling church for our denomination.

Much discussion, deliberation, and debate must occur as we do the great work of missions, but this deliberation should take place by those who have the God-given calling to do this work. This discussion must be in a proper manner and method. May the Lord of the harvest bless our mission labors.

David Rau  

Southwest PRC

Response:

Dear Dave,

We thank you for writing to the SB. Not only do we appreciate the evidence such letters are of a healthy interest in and concern for the work of the church, we also welcome the opportunity they provide to clarify misconceptions when that is necessary.

And in this instance I think it is necessary. On careful consideration of your letter, and the letters of several others who expressed similar concerns but did not seek publication in the SB, I’ve concluded that, had I been more careful in the wording of my treatment of the matter in question, it would not have occasioned the misunderstandings that it did.

Some, for example, understood my reference to the “appeal of Rev. Bruinsma for a second missionary to Pittsburgh” to indicate that our missionary was making an official ecclesiastical appeal to synod. That might have been avoided had I simply used the word “plea,” which was the idea intended. Rev. Bruinsma made his recommendation to Southwest; Southwest was of a mind not to grant it; and, as I wrote in my ‘preview,’ “the DMC acquiesced to Southwest’s decision.” That settled the matter. The Domestic Mission Committee did include Rev. Bruinsma’s request for a second missionary in the material they brought to synod, but they did so, not for adjudication of a difference, but only, as they said in their report, to enable synod the better “to assess the work in Pittsburgh.” Synod’s “Agenda” was clear. No one at synod considered the request of Rev. Bruinsma to be an as-yet unsettled debate or conflict between Southwest Council on the one hand and the DMC and the missionary on the other.

Regrettably, several sentences in my editorial could leave the impression that I considered it to be an unsettled matter requiring resolution by our broadest assembly. Which would, in turn, mean, as Brother Rau suggests, that I was using the “public platform of the SB” to “influence a deliberative body improperly”—that is, by taking the side of an appellant over against his consistory. Synod’s “Agenda,” as I said, was clear. It contained no appeal from Rev. Bruinsma to be treated on the floor of synod. Nor did I at all consider there to be one. I apologize for the ambiguity.

Let me add this, however, that I was gratified that Brother Rau caught what I was in fact trying to accomplish by my comments in the SB about the calling of a second missionary for Pittsburgh. It was indeed an attempt to focus attention on “the bigger picture”—specifically, perhaps, with respect to the Pittsburgh field, but with broader application to the work of the PRCA in missions. I do not fault Southwest for not having addressed the bigger picture in their consideration of the need for a second missionary in Pittsburgh. Southwest Council has been appointed to supervise this field, they examine with prayer the needs of this field, and they make an evaluation of the needs of this field. Southwest has served the denomination well. This year is no exception. For the record, if advisors were permitted to vote at synod, I would have been part of what was a unanimous, and hearty, vote this year to “express thanks…to Southwest PRC for their faithful work and assure them of our prayers for the blessing of God upon their labors.”

And yet, there is a larger picture for the churches. I meant to encourage synod, in their evaluation of the work of domestic missions, to bear in mind also something that Southwest had no reason to address, namely, the resources of the denomination, particularly with respect to available manpower. I am convinced that we ought to be following the biblical pattern of sending missionaries in pairs. In the past, our churches have recognized this as the biblical pattern, but we have lacked the manpower to follow it. I submit that we now have the ministers. With the approval of a candidate, the churches have sufficient men to fill every one of our congregations. From the point of view of manpower, we can afford to call another missionary for a domestic field, as we have for the foreign mission field.

In addition, the fact is that we are facing a potential ‘surplus’ with respect to available manpower for the work of the church. And that potential is imminent—a large class of students scheduled to graduate, D.V., in 2017! A God-given opportunity for the PRCA! And, it seems to me, the time for careful consideration of the possibilities for use of that God-given resource is now, not two years hence. We must, as a denomination, think proactively about something as important as this. That was the ‘broader vision’ that I meant to convey in my comments on the labors in Pittsburgh.