Recently we reported to you the decisions of the Synod of Sneek-Lunteren of the Gereformeerde Kerken concerning doctrinal matters. In connection therewith, we stressed the critical nature of the situation in the Netherlands at this time; and we expressed the wish that there would be those who would have the courage and the strength to take a clear-cut stand and to exercise the right and duty of reformation.
Thus far, however, there is little indication of the latter.
According to reports received from correspondents in the Netherlands, a few have reacted to the recent decision of the Synod of Sneek by separating and calling themselves Evangelische Gereformeerden (Evangelical Reformed). This, however, does not constitute the mainstream of reaction on the part of those who are called the “Verontrusten” (concerned).
From Mr. H. Langeveld, of Hilversum, The Netherlands, who is Treasurer of “de Vereniging van Verontrusten ‘Schrift en Getuigenis‘” (Society of the Concerned “Word and Testimony”), I received a report of a meeting of the Verontrusten at Rotterdam on the 12th of November at which about 1100 people were present. At this meeting a Declaration was presented and adopted concerning the stand of the Verontrusten with respect to the recent synodical decisions. Without quoting the entire document, we may summarize the stand of the Verontrusten as follows:
1) It takes cognizance with great sorrow and deep disappointment of the decisions of Synod because it appears from these decisions that the Synod was not prepared or in a position to stem the tide of liberal tendencies of the new theology. It sees the decisions of Synod as an emasculating of the authority of God’s Word, a surrendering of the binding-power of the confessions, and an official tolerating of freedom of doctrine.
2) It sees the decisions of Synod as preparing the way for a speedy reunion with the Hervormde Kerk, inclusive of its liberalism.
3) It refuses all responsibility for these decisions as well as for the consequences thereof with respect to the unity of the churches.
4) While it expresses sympathy and support to those who feel at this point that they must break with the Gereformeerde Kerken, it declares that in spite of the seriousness of their objections against these decisions, the time has not come that they must separate from the Gereformeerde Kerken for God’s sake. Instead they deem it to be their calling to continue the battle in behalf of the faith within the churches.
5) It advises those who study theology and prepare for the ministry not to study at Amsterdam or Kampen, but at those schools where theology is studied in obedience to God’s Word and the Reformed creeds. (Presumably this refers to the seminary of the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken and the seminary of the Vrijgemaakten.)
6) It advises consistories to oppose the decisions of Synod and to refuse to make funds available to institutions which support and advance the new theology.
This is, in our opinion, a disappointing stand.
In the first place, it is inconsistent. While it recognizes the seriousness of the synodical decisions, while it will accept no responsibility for said decisions, and while it urges young men not to get their theological training at the ecclesiastically designated seminaries, it nevertheless declares that the time for a break has not arrived. In other words, while it recognizes that principally a break has come, it refuses to break.
In the second place, a decision like this makes us doubt whether a break will ever come and whether the Verontrusten will ever acknowledge that it is time to break. If that time is not now, then—with all due respect for the seriousness of ecclesiastical separation, and with all respect for the fact that they are deathly afraid of another split in the Netherlands—when will the time ever come? We sometimes get the impression that the Verontrusten are seeking an arrangement similar to that in the Hervormde Kerk, according to which the conservatives form a permanent minority group withinthe denomination. This, we believe, is both wrong and hopeless.
In the third place, it seems to us that the advice concerning preparation for the ministry and concerning financial support of Kampen and Amsterdam by consistories is rebellious. We would guess that no ecclesiastical gathering will have either the will or the power to stop this rebellion (if they are all as tolerant and spineless as the Synod of Sneek). But this does not change the fact that this advice is an attempt to go one’s independent way within the denominational union. This is ecclesiastical rebellion.
Hence, while we have great respect for the stand of the Verontrusten over against the decisions of Synod, we are nevertheless greatly disappointed at their failure to follow up their principles by appropriate reformatory action.