The 1947 Synod of our Protestant Reformed Church is now a matter of history. Everyone who was present will agree that this was a significant gathering because of the weighty and far-reaching decisions that were made. For four and a half days Synod met and deliberated. The work moved along smoothly and rapidly. Harmony and unity prevailed. True Christian fellowship was enjoyed both during the sessions and during the periods of recess. And everyone appreciated the friendly hospitality shown, and the splendid meals served by our host church, the Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois.
Synod opened on the evening of June 3 with the customary pre-synodical sermon delivered by the Rev. G. Vos. As you may know, it is customary that the president of the former synod preaches this pre-synodical sermon, so that it fell to Rev. G. Vos to conduct these services. The synodical delegates, the students of our theological school and a fairly good representation from our churches of South Holland and Oaklawn were edified by the sermon rendered by Rev. Vos, who in his own unique way spoke to us, taking his text fromand b: “Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O Lord, Thou hast ordained them for judgment; and O mighty God, Thou hast established them for correction. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest Thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest Thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? . . . . But the just shall live by his faith.” Rather than give a resume of this sermon, I would refer you to the forthcoming Acts of Synod where you can find the sermon in its entirety.
The first regular session began on Wednesday morning with the usual devotionals. All the delegates were present with the exception of Mr. Nick Yonker of our Grand Haven church. This is the first meeting of our synod that Mr. Yonker was not able to attend, but this time his health did not permit him to come. The Rev. P. De Boer served as delegate instead of Rev. L. Vermeer, and the Rev. A. Petter came in the place of Rev. A. Cammenga. One of the first duties of the synod was to choose officers. Rev. J. De Jong was chosen as president, and Rev. C. Hanko as vice president. The Rev. P. De Boer became synodical secretary and Rev. J. Keys his assistant. Much depends upon good leadership for a pleasant and successful gathering. The fact that the work moved along smoothly and rapidly can be credited to a great extent to the capable leadership of Rev. De Jong. Nor is the work of the secretary to be slighted. In many ways he has the most difficult task of all, for upon him rests the responsibility of keeping an accurate record of all the decisions as rapidly as they are made. An assistant in that work is by no means a non-essential cog in the machinery.
The work was divided under three main headings as follows: (1) Matters pertaining to the theological school; (2) Matters pertaining to missions, and (3) The matters of Psalter revision plus other unclassified matters.
One of the most important matters in regard to our theological school was the graduation of three students, who were also declared candidates for the ministry in our churches. The three students, Homer Hoeksema, Edward Knott and Gerald Vanden Berg, had finished their course of studies at the theological school and were presented to synod for their final examination. The biggest part of two days was devoted to this examination on the floor of the synod, conducted by the professors H. Hoeksema and G, M. Ophoff. To some it might seem that this is a lot of time for a whole gathering to spend on an examination, yet it must not be forgotten that this examination is very essential and important, also for the welfare of our churches. On Thursday morning these students were given the opportunity to preach their sermons. Student Hoeksema spoke on the text in; student Knott preached on ; and student Vanden Berg preached on . All three sermons gave proof that these young men were capable of expounding the Word of God to the edification of God’s church. The afternoon session was devoted to an examination in Dogmatics. On Friday the examination was continued in other branches of study by both the professors, and Rev. (Hanko was appointed by synod to bring the examination to a close by a brief examination in Practica. Thereupon synod decided unanimously to declare all three of these young men as candidates for the ministry in our churches. They were informed of this decision by the president, who addressed them briefly with a few well-chosen words, after which the whole assembly united in thanksgiving and prayer, and in the singing of the doxology. This is always an impressive moment at any synodical gathering, especially because we are made conscious of the fact, that it is God Who calls to the ministry and gives His appointed servants to His church. May God’s blessing accompany these candidates, and may their future field of labor soon be pointed out to them by the Shepherd of the flock. May God also make them a blessing in our Protestant Reformed Churches.
We may add, that the commencement exercises for these graduates were held on Monday evening, June 9, in the church where synod met. Besides a few musical numbers by a ministerial trio, student Knott delivered an oration, and the Rev. Hoeksema, rector of the school, gave the commencement address. These addresses will, no doubt, appear in the Standard Bearer for your perusal.
Three more significant decisions were made in regard to our theological school.
First, synod decided to correct an oversight of the past. To date the two professors, Rev. Hoeksema and Rev. Ophoff have faithfully labored in our school for a number of years, yet they have never been duly installed as professors with the regular form for ordination. The Theological School Committee has been charged with the mandate to carry out this ordination before the next school year commences. The Lord willing this ordination will take place in the early part of September.
Secondly, it was decided to give Rev. H. Hoeksema one year to consider the feasibility of laying down his work in the congregation to become “full-time” professor in our theological school. Synod proposes to provide him with a salary commensurate to his needs and also to furnish him with a home in the vicinity of the school. In case the Reverend should decide to follow up this proposal, he will be given a leave of absence for one year, beginning in the fall of 1948, to give him an opportunity to prepare some of the books he has contemplated writing. The gathering was somewhat reluctant to pass this decision, realizing that strong ties have been established between the pastor and his congregation during the past twenty seven years. Yet, with a view to the large amount of work performed by Rev. Hoeksema in the past, and the necessity of conserving his strength as much as possible, synod felt that this proposal is for the welfare of God’s cause as represented by all of our churches. Also in this we see the guidance of God’s hand, and commit Rev. Hoeksema in his deliberations on this matter unto the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, synod decided to introduce a post-graduate course in our theological school. Although the ministers in the vicinity of Grand Rapids will be given the opportunity to take this post-graduate course, it has the definite purpose of preparing someone for the professorship in our school. A certain sum has been set aside for the yearly support of the individual who accepts the appointment for this post-graduate work. In a later session it was decided to extend the appointment to candidate Homer Hoeksema, who was given three weeks to deliberate and decide on this appointment.
The matter of missions also took a prominent place in the deliberations of our synod. Both the matter of home missions and of Foreign missions were given due consideration.
In regard to the matter of home missions, a decision was made to call two missionaries to labor in the field together. In times past we have been privileged to have one missionary in the field, whose work the Lord prospered. But for the last few years our churches have called repeatedly, yet failed to obtain another man for this work. In the meantime, our home mission work has not been at a stand-still, but two ministers have repeatedly devoted their time to this work, often two of them laboring together in a certain field. Those who have taken part in this work all agree that this makes the work much easier, and proves far more desirable than to lay the entire responsibility upon one man. The synod of 1946 also already considered the proposal to place two men in the field instead of one. At that time the committee of pre-advice recommended this very strongly to the synod stating:
“1. This is a sound Scriptural principle (namely, to send out two men together) with respect to mission labor. cf.,; ; , etc.
“2. The testimony of our own men who have experienced this manner of labor expresses its desirability.
“3. This arrangement would promote greater efficiency, dispatch and thoroughness of our mission work.
“4. This arrangement would promote continuity and succession during vacations, attendance of meetings, investigation of new fields, acceptance of calls, etc.
“5. It would not increase the expenses so as to make it prohibitive from a financial point of view.” (See Acts of Synod, 1946, page 69).
For some reason the synod of 1946 did not adopt this advice of the committee of pre-advice, but proposed the possibility of asking some neighboring minister to periodically assist the missionary in his work. Since we have had no missionary in the field during the past year, this proposal had not been tried out. But in reviewing the whole matter, the last synod felt that this decision of 1946 would never prove practicable if an attempt were made to carry it our Synod felt at the same time, that the prospects of getting two men to labor in the field in conjunction with one another are far brighter than of getting one man who must carry the responsibility and the burden of this work alone. Sometime in the near future, the calling church, the First Church of Grand Rapids, will most likely be faced with the duty and privilege of calling two home missionaries. May our God, in His infinite grace, make our churches spiritually fit to send out servants unto this labor.
In this connection it can be said that the Rev. H. Hoeksema has been requested to translate his “De Geloovigen En Hun Zaad” in the English language. Since he hopes to assume this work of translation himself, the Lord willing, he will make whatever revisions he deems fit, in order to bring it to date. This brochure has received a wide reception in the Netherlands, and since it deals with such a timely subject as the covenant of God, it will surely prove to be a great asset to our mission endeavors in our own country.
The matter of foreign missions was also given some consideration. The Mission Committee proposed to attempt obtaining stations for broadcasting in the Netherlands and other Dutch-speaking communities. Some investigation has already been done in regard to this matter, and it seems likely that broadcasting time can be obtained at a very nominal sum. We may hear more of this in the future.
The Mission Committee has also been mandated to investigate some foreign mission fields, where we may be able to begin labors of our own through our own foreign missionary at some future date. In the meantime, the churches are advised to begin taking up collections for this foreign mission project. These collection can be forwarded to our synodical treasurer, who has charge of all the synodical funds. Such collections surely need no further recommendation among us.
Synod further decided to seek closer contact with the Liberated Churches of the Netherlands through its Committee for Correspondence. And since Prof. Dr. K. Schilder has informed us of his intentions of visiting America next fall, Synod decided to recommend to our churches to open our pulpits to Prof. Schilder. This was done especially under the consideration that already some years ago Prof. Schilder was the only one to raise any defense of our denomination as a lone voice in the Netherlands, and since that time has expressed himself as being in agreement with our stand against the theory of common grace. Our churches will, no doubt, welcome the opportunity to give the professor a hearing in our midst. It need hardly be added, that Mr. K. Van Spronsen, who visited every session of our synod, and took special interest in all our deliberations because of his relation to the Liberated Churches in the Netherlands, was more than pleased with this friendly gesture toward professor Schilder by our Synod.
There is also contact between us and the Reformed (German) Church in the United States. Although they had no representative from their classis in our midst, there was a letter of greetings from their representative, who stated that it was impossible for him to attend our sessions. Synod appointed the Reverends J. Blankespoor and A. Petter to represent us at their next classical gathering.
The third important matter brought to the attention of this synod was the matter of Psalter reprint and Psalter revision. As you know, our churches were busy during the past few years preparing a revision of our present Psalter. There is one committee active in examining the various songs and tunes, and another busy with the liturgical forms in the back of the Psalter. Both of these committees presented their report, but their work is by no means finished. A work of this kind should be done carefully and thoroughly, if it is to have a real value for our churches. The general opinion seems to be that it will still take some years before we are ready to use the revised Psalter in our services.
But that does not mean that nothing will be done to relieve the present shortage of Psalters in our churches. An opportunity has offered itself to reprint the present Psalter in its present form, with only slight changes, in sufficient number to tide us over until the new Psalter is ready. There will be one addition introduced into this reprinted Psalter. The Rev. John Heys has prepared two chorales on the Lord’s Prayer, which have been adopted by synod and will appear in this Psalter.
There are always certain matters that appear on the agenda of a synod, which defy all classification.
Among these “varia” may be mentioned, first of all, the matter of subsidies for our needy churches. Two of our churches informed synod that they felt they could now get along without further financial aid, expressing their appreciation for the aid received in the past. Other churches were granted aid as advised by their respective Classes.
Then there was the matter of our new Church Order. By this time most of you know that our churches have finally published their own Church Order. It still contains the eighty-six articles of the Church Order of Dordrecht (unchanged), but the various decisions of our combined classes and synods have been added under the articles to which they pertain. You will also find other valuable material in this new Church Order, which should have a place in every Protestant Reformed home. The price is one dollar, and you can obtain your copy from the stated clerk, D. Jonker, 1239 Bemis St. S.E., Grand Rapids.
What is also of interest to many of us, is the fact that the synod has compiled a Year Book. This Year Book contains information about all our churches, our ministers, our theological school, the various committees of our synod, etc. There has been a great demand for a year book of this nature for some time. It will prove interesting, informative and important to all of us. This year the year book will appear as a supplement to the Acts of Synod, 1947, which will soon be offered for sale. Every family will want the 1947 Acts with the Year Book.
Finally, a decision was made to hold the next meeting of synod, the Lord willing, in the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
You will agree that many and weighty decisions were made. May the Lord cause His blessing to rest upon that which meets His approval. And may we experience His blessing and grace upon our churches also in the future.
C. Hanko, Reporter