Some of our readers will undoubtedly recall that when Dr. S. Woudstra was loaned by the Christian Reformed Board of Foreign Missions to the Reformed Theological College at Geelong, Australia, we warned (in February, 1973), on the basis of his erroneous view of Scripture as manifested in a sermon preached in this area, that the college and the churches there would be confronted by one of the same issues as they were with Dr. Klaas Runia. In the case of Dr. Runia, they failed to meet the issue, and in effect (although some were altogether dissatisfied and although others attempted compromise) upheld Dr. Runia. Later events have certainly shown that to have been wrong.
Recently from various correspondents in Australasia we have received reliable information that in the case of Dr. Sierd Woudstra the issue was confronted head-on by the Board of Directors of the Reformed Theological College at Geelong, with the result that Dr. Woudstra has been dismissed.
Dr. Woudstra was loaned to the Reformed Theological College by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Christian Reformed Church, and originally went to Geelong as Professor of Old Testament to replace Dr. G. Van Groningen. Later, however, he was appointed as Professor of Systematic Theology to replace Dr. Runia; and Prof. A. M. Harman was appointed as Professor of Old Testament. According to more than one correspondent in Australasia, the matter of Woudstra’s position has been in question now for some time. I was aware of this, but refrained from publishing anything until I was certain that this was public knowledge. From recent correspondence I learned that the following announcement appeared in the bulletin of the Reformed Church, of Geelong (Rev. J. W. Deenick, pastor):
“Several church. members have approached the session and others have asked Prof. Woudstra about the recent developments at the Reformed Theological College and about Dr. Woudstra’s position at the college. As yet the session has received no official communication from the Board of the RTC but there is no reason why the members of this church should not know that the RTC Board has requested the Board of Foreign Missions of the Christian Reformed Church in the USA to terminate Dr. Woudstra’s services at the college.
“It is up to the Board of the RTC to publish the reasons for this decision and no doubt this will be done. There is therefore no need for speculation about it, but obviously the reasons are related to the doctrinal direction of the theological college here at Geelong.
“It is clear that for all concerned this whole matter has caused deep discouragement and disappointment, for Prof. Woudstra himself in particular, and that in all this the church and the college, the Woudstra’s and all who work at the college, need your prayerful and helpful concern.”
The fact, therefore, of Dr. Woudstra’s dismissal is confirmed by the above announcement. Evidently the author of the announcement knew more about the reasons than he chose to divulge. In fact, it would be safe to say that the author knew what the reasons were: for he is able to state that “obviously the reasons are related to the doctrinal direction of the theological college “here at Geelong.” Whatever that last statement means to suggest—and it seems to suggest that the author is not pleased about the “doctrinal direction of the theological college”—from other sources I have learned that these reasons are, indeed, doctrinal. I have not yet received a copy of the Board’s reasons for their decision. And some of the details concerning the events which led up to Dr. Woudstra’s dismissal I have not yet been able to confirm. However, the following is, I believe, reliable information:
1. The initiative for this action against Dr. Woudstra came from the student body at Geelong.
2. There were complaints from the student body concerning deviations on the part of Prof. Woudstra from the Standards of the College with respect to: a) the doctrine of Scriptures; b) the doctrine of election; c) church government and office bearers.
3. The Board of Directors and the representatives of the supporting denominations were made aware of these deviations; and at least one of these deviations of Dr. Woudstra concerned Genesis 1-3, according to correspondence which I received from a brother living in Geelong.
4. Upon request of the students the Board of Directors examined their grievances, and my correspondent informs me that “during the meeting of the directors and Dr. Woudstra on these complaints, Dr. Woudstra was told ‘to pack his bags and return to the USA.'”
If at a later date I receive the official grounds of Dr. Woudstra’s dismissal, I will make the readers aware.
More than one correspondent has informed me that the initiative for Woudstra’s dismissal seemed to come more from the Free Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia than from the Reformed Church of Australia. Whether, in the light of the evident sympathy for Woudstra among the clergy of the Reformed Church of Australia, this spells trouble for the Reformed Theological College I do not know. Of one thing I am convinced, and that is that this was a move in the right direction on the part of the Board of Directors. If they continue in this direction, there is hope for the college at Geelong. And the Reformed Church of Australia and the Reformed Church of New Zealand would do well to follow the lead of the Board of Directors in this doctrinal direction. And although I have little expectation of this, they would do better yet to review their past stand with respect to Dr. Runia and make amends. Particularly would it be salutary, even at this late date, if the Reformed Churches of New Zealand would do this and thus bring about reconciliation between themselves and the brethren who are now outside of their communion.
Further comment on this matter will have to wait until more information is received.