Since the complete proceedings of the Conference between the ministers and students of the Reformed Church in the U. S. and the ministers and students of the Protestant Reformed Churches will be published, we intend to give only a brief resume of the meetings. Our own Churches were well represented by all the ministers, except one, and all the students, plus several consistory members and visitors from our various Churches. The Reformed Church in the U. S. also had a sizable representation of ministers and an especially large number of lay members present. The average attendance throughout the two days of meetings was around 100. The largest audience was present on Wednesday evening to hear the lecture of the Rev. H. Hoeksema. On this occasion the Hull auditorium, in which all the meetings were held, was filled to capacity.
The Conference was officially opened on Wednesday morning, October 10, by the Rev. H. Hoeksema, who had been appointed Moderator by the committee in charge of arrangements. After the opening prayer the Moderator read from the fourth chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. In his opening remarks, based upon the portion read, the chairman pointed out that the basis of our gathering was the unity of the wonder of grace, for there was nothing from an external point of view that would bring us together. Proceeding, he briefly developed this idea of unity by pointing out that it was not the work of man but is an inherently existing unity in the body of Christ through His Spirit. Hence, it is an exclusive union which cannot be established by amalgamation of organizations but has already been established by Christ, in Himself. Because that essential underlying unity is in Christ through His Spirit the standard of the Word of God must be applied to determine where that union and communion may be found in this world. Hence, the purpose of the Conference is to determine whether that unity exists among us, the speaker said. This can only be determined by applying that standard—the Word of God. Upon the basis of that standard we had come together to discuss the Truth, to edify one another and work towards the realization of the purpose which Paul expresses in the passage read: the unity of faith. The moderator closed his opening remarks with a plea that brotherly love continue and rule. Thus the Conference was off to a good start.
After a few matters of business had been dispensed with the Rev. G. Lubbers presented his paper on the subject: “The Relation between) Justification and Sanctification”. In development he called attention to the issues involved, the dogmatic-historical construction of the terms, and the Scriptural presentation of this truth. Very ably the speaker pointed out that Scripture and the Confessions teach that there is a faith relationship between justification and sanctification and that though they are distinct operations of grace they are both out of and by faith. The first morning session closed with a discussion of the address.
Dinners, suppers, and refreshments at recess periods, were served in the basement of the Hull Church to all members and visitors. These periods afforded a splendid opportunity for making new, and renewing old, acquaintances.. Some used a portion of this, time to visit our other Churches in the vicinity and one noon hour was spent visiting Western Christian High School in Hull where one of our ministers had been asked to lead chapel devotions. Right here we should pay special compliments to our hosts, the Hull. Congregation, for their splendid services and meals which added greatly to the success of our gatherings. Congratulations to all those who aided in performing a large task! Well done!
The Rev. W. E. Korn of the Reformed Church in the U. S., delivered an address during the Wednesday afternoon meeting. His topic was: “The Blessed Assurance of the Elect”. The speaker developed this, thought as it is found in Romans 8:29-30. This comprehensive passage was well worked out and applied as the blessed assurance that the people of God have for time and eternity. Once again a spirited discussion followed the address.
The Wednesday evening session was taken up with the public lecture of the Rev. H. Hoeksema, who spoke on the theme: “The Idea of the Covenant”. True to form the speaker divided his subject into three points: The Covenant Relation, The Covenant Basis, and the Covenant Realization. For almost two hours he held a large audience interested as the truth of God’s Word was developed and applied in relation to the subject. Since the hour was late only a brief period of discussion followed.
Our first speaker on Thursday was the Rev. R. Grossman of the Reformed Church in the U. S. His assigned topic was: “Imputation”. In his exposition the speaker pointed out that everything the believer is and has is imputed unto him of God. He defined imputation as the act of ascribing vicariously. In developing his theme the speaker called attention to: God as the one who ascribes or accepts that which is ascribed; Man unto whose benefit or advantage this ascription is; Christ who accomplishes all requirements of imputation; Righteousness, Satisfaction and Holiness as the benefits achieved and applied in imputation. Discussion of this material followed a recess period during which a picture was taken of the members and visitors of the Conference.
During the Thursday afternoon session the Rev. G. M. Ophoff spoke on the topic: “The Fundamental Principles of Reformed Church Polity”. Our professor very clearly pointed out that the principles which must be maintained and which underlie true Reformed Church polity are: 1. The Kingship of Christ; 2. The Divine Authority of the Officebearers; 3. The Autonomy of the Local Congregation; 4. The Priesthood of Believers; 5. The Limited Authority of Classis and1 Synod. It was revealed that these principles are thoroughly Scriptural and hence are to be maintained and practiced by that Church which wishes to be Reformed in its Church Polity. A brief discussion closed the afternoon session of the second day.
At the final meeting of the Conference on Thursday evening the Rev. D. E. Bosnia, of the Reformed Church in the U. S., delivered a public lecture. He spoke on the subject; “The Confession”. The Rev Bosma pointed out that Confession is to say with the Word of God what God says of Himself and all things. Anything which cannot be found and proven from God’s Word cannot be confessed by a child of God but must be denied1. The Church is always called upon to confess the Truth and must ever testify in the midst of the world of sin and judgement, the speaker said. Since it was necessary for the moderator to leave immediately after this address, the Rev. G. Vos. led the discussion of this paper. Rev. Vos also closed the Conference meetings with appropriate remarks. He thanked all members for ‘their cooperation and all others who were in any way responsible for the success of our gatherings. The meeting was closed with singing and prayer of thanksgiving.
During the first session of the Conference a committee had been appointed to make arrangements for another meeting of the Conference. This committee reported of Thursday and brought the following recommendations which were adopted by the Conference: 1. That another Conference meeting be held on Wednesday and Thursday of the week prior to the September 1946 meeting of Classis West, in Hull, Iowa; 2. That the committee appointed choose a theme and assign subjects for lecture and discussion; 3. That the brethren R. Steube, E. Buehrer, of the Reformed Church in the U. 3., and H. Hoeksema, H. Veldman and L. Doezema be appointed as speakers and J. Howerzyl be appointed as general alternate; 4. That the expenses be defrayed by offerings from both denominations.
The Conference also decided to publish 1000 copies of the speeches and accompanying discussions to sell at fifty cents each. The discussions were recorded by our two competent secretaries the Revs. Grossman and Van Weelden, who will also compile the material for publication. We would urge all of our readers to purchase a copy when they become available.
What was accomplished? This question is undoubtedly left in your mind. It should be remembered that this was an unofficial gathering and hence, nothing official was intended or purposed nor resultant. We believe, nevertheless, that many worthwhile results are obtained from our gatherings. Very likely our editor will discuss these in his department but we wish to pen our own impressions. In the first place, we have become better acquainted as men and brethren, which is always necessary to any successful union. Secondly, a great deal of light has been shed upon the positions of the two denominations regarding the truth of God’s Word and especially as it relates to the questions discussed. Although there are points of difference, mainly of emphasis, both groups revealed that they are always ready and willing to submit in love to the criterion of the truth—the Word of God. Finally, therefore, we believe that the Conference moved definitely in the direction of finding that unity of faith concerning which the moderator spoke in his opening remarks. Personally, we believe that continuing in the spirit of truth and love that marked the proceedings of the Conference, the expression of unity in the faith through Church union is a definite future possibility.
We close with sincere thanks and hearty congratulations to the committee in charge of arrangements the Revs. W. E. Korn and G. Vos. We left Hull and our meetings with earnest prayer that God would bring forth fruit from our feeble efforts to His glory. May that be our prayer to the King of His Church until we meet again!