PRC Synod of Hull, 1995

The synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) met from June 13 through June 20 in the impressive, new church building of the Hull, Iowa PRC. The officers of synod were Rev. Gise VanBaren, president; Rev. Dale Kuiper, vice-president; Rev. Russ Dykstra, first clerk; and Rev. Barry Gritters, second clerk.

Members of the Hull congregation, of the Doon, Iowa congregation, and of the Edgerton, Minnesota congregation nearly filled the spacious church building for the pre-synodical worship service on Monday evening, June 12. Rev. Ron VanOverloop, president of the previous synod, preached on Ephesians 5:22, “Submitting to One Another.”

Examination of Seminarians

Much of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the first week was devoted to the oral examination of senior seminarians of the Protestant Reformed Seminary, Allen Brummel and Douglas Kuiper. Both preached specimen sermons before the synod and were examined in Dogmatics, Old Testament History, New Testament History, Church Polity, Church History, and the practical matter of their call to the ministry. They also submitted written exegesis on assigned passages from the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. Synod approved the examination of the two men and declared them candidates for the ministry in the PRC. They are eligible for a call on or after July 15, 1995.

The graduation exercises were held in the Hull church building on Monday evening, June 19. The president of the denominational Theological School Committee, Rev. Dale Kuiper, led the meeting and presented the candidates with their diplomas on behalf of synod Prof. David Engelsma spoke on “Judging Ministers” from I Corinthians 4:1-5. Mr. Kuiper received an Old Testament Hebrew Bible (Biblia Hibraica Stuttgarteda) from the American Bible Society in recognition of achievement in Hebrew Old Testament studies. Mr. Brummel received a New Testament Greek Bible (Textus Receptus) from the Trinitarian Bible Society in recognition of achievement in Greek New Testament studies. Again, members of the area churches, as well as family and friends of the graduates, filled the auditorium.

Missions

Synod heard reports on denominational mission work in Northern Ireland and in Colorado. Rev. THomas Miersma has recently begun working in the San Luis Valley area in Colorado. Synod approved the policy, in connection with the work in Northern Ireland, that “it is not permissible to administer the Lord’s Supper . . . until (a mission group) are organized as a church.” The Covenant Reformed Fellowship—mission group in Northern Ireland—greeted the synod by letter:

We rejoice that during the past year it has pleased our Sovereign God to use the PRC as the means to be a great blessing to the saints in Northern Ireland and throughout the British Isles. We greatly appreciate the faithful ministry and diligent labors of our highly esteemed and beloved missionary pastor, Rev. Ron Hanko. We are encouraged by the progress that has been made both in the spiritual growth of the members of the Fellowship and in our outreach work. During this coming year we would ask you to remember us in your prayers, that God might give us wisdom and guidance as we make plans to become organized as a church.

Synod approved the decision of its Domestic Mission Committee informing a church that had inquired, that “divorced and remarried persons cannot be received as members of the PRC.” The ground is that Romans 7:2, 3and I Corinthians 7:39 teach that such persons are “living in sin.” This is a significant decision, not so much because it again expresses the sacred conviction and firm stand of the PRC on divorce and remarriage as because it maintains this stand in the sphere of missions. Historically, churches have compromised relatively rigorous stands against divorce and remarriage under the pressure of situations confronted on the mission field. The result has been that the adultery of divorce and remarriage has flooded these churches themselves.

The report of the Foreign Mission Committee (FMC) brought to the synod the possibility of beginning a work in Ghana, Africa. The FMC had sent Rev. Richard Moore and Elder Don VerMeer to Ghana in 1994 to investigate. The 1995 synod instructed the FMC

to study the feasibility of calling a missionary (missionaries) to Ghana, and come to Synod of 1996 with definite proposals. Grounds: a. Although the FMC favors the calling of a missionary in the future . . . it is not prepared to offer a specific proposal at this time…. b. There are questions which ought to be faced before a final decision is taken, among which are: Should one or two missionaries be called? Are our churches able to finance this work? Who could/ would be able and willing to serve in a foreign field? Would a period of preliminary training be necessary to prepare a man to work in a Ghanian culture?

Synod permitted the FMC to send another delegation to Ghana in 1995.

Seminary

Two students were admitted into the seminary in the fall of 1995. One is Mr. Garry Eriks from the Peace PRC, Lansing, Illinois. The other is Mr. Jason Whitman from the South Holland PRC, South Holland, Illinois. With these newcomers, the student body will again number eleven Synod granted Prof. David Engelsma permanent tenure in the seminary, which appointment he accepted. A seminary-sponsored conference on “Reformed Church Government” was approved. The conference will be held at the Southwest PRC, Grandville, Michigan on September 21, 22, 1995. Brochures giving full information on the conference are available from the seminary.

The rector’s report informed synod that five seminarians are licensed to speak a word of edification in the churches; that eight seminarians helped the churches in Western Michigan by teaching catechism classes this past year; that fourth-year seminarians Henry DeJong and Richard Smit will do their internships the first semester of the 1995/ 1996 school year, Henry at Hudsonville PRC, Hudsonville, Michigan and Richard at Southeast PRC, Grand Rapids, Michigan; and that the judgment on the recently implemented intern program has been favorable.

Synod noted with appreciation that Prof. Herman Hanko has served the churches in the seminary for thirty years.

Contact Committee

A highlight of synod’s work of contact with other churches was the presence at synod of Rev. G. I. Williamson as an observer from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Synod received Rev. Williamson and gave him the opportunity of addressing synod. Having thanked synod for the privilege of speaking to the assembly, Williamson stated that, “though our two churches do not, at this time, have any established official relationship, we of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church—or the OPC, as most people call us—would like to know you better.” He gave a brief history of the OPC and concluded:

I am most grateful for the warm welcome I have received. It has been a privilege to be here to observe some of the business of your Synod, and I will report as faithfully as I can what I see and hear. It is my own personal hope that this may mark the beginning of a greater degree of mutual interest in, and concern for, one another as we both strive to be faithful in these difficult days.

The full text of Rev. Williamson’s address will be published in the “Acts of Synod.”

Also present at synod was Rev. Rodney Miersma, pastor of the PRC of New Zealand (PRCNZ), a sister-church with the PRC. Rev. Miersma was seated as a delegate. He addressed synod on behalf of the PRCNZ. This address will appear in the “Acts of Synod.” In closed session, synod advised the New Zealand church on a discipline case. An overture from a member of the PRC that synod investigate the possibility of having the PRCNZ become part of one of the classes of the PRC was rejected.

Synod authorized the Contact Committee to send observers to NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council).

The request of the First Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore that minister-on-loan Rev. Jason Kortering’s stay in Singapore be extended for two more years was granted. The Theological Training Committee of the Evangelical Reformed Churches of Singapore is presently training a man for the ministry. Cheah Fook Meng, in the Protestant Reformed Seminary. The PRC are helping financially in the support of this student.

Overtures

Synod adopted the overture of the Doon, Iowa consistory (regarding emeritation), to change Article 13 of the Church Order. By the change, Article 13, which originally located the office of the emeritus (retired) minister in the local church that he last served and declared that church to be responsible for his support, now makes the denomination responsible for the support of all emeriti ministers. Article 13 has now been made to read:

Ministers who by reason of age, sickness, or otherwise, are rendered incapable of performing the duties of their office, shall nevertheless retain the honor and title of a minister, and the churches which they have served shall provide honorably for them in their need (likewise for the orphans and widows of ministers) out of the common fund of the churches, according to the general ecclesiastical ordinances in this matter (the change is noted by italicizing—DJE).

Supervision of the emeritus minister’s work, support, and spiritual care was given by synod to whatever local church the minister may decide to join after retirement. This is to be accomplished by the transfer of the minister’s “credentials,” that is, office, with his membership.

Doon’s overture regarding the calling of a professor, which would have had a local church in Grand Rapids call the professor, was rejected.

Other Decisions

A new denominational committee, the Catechism Book Committee, was created. This committee will work at the improvement of existing catechism materials and the addition of new materials.

Synod approved the organizing of a new Protestant Reformed congregation in the Standale, Michigan area, the soon-to-be-instituted Grace PRC.

Synod defeated a motion that urged graduating seminary students to be part of the Social Security program. A special committee of businessmen, appointed by the synod of 1994, had recommended this to the synod of 1995 in view of possible “catastrophic expenses for our Emeritus Fund.” Nineteen of the twenty-nine ministers have opted out of the Social Security program.

Synod accepted the resignation of Rev. Meindert Joostens as stated clerk of synod, thanking him for his faithful labors over the past twenty years. Mr. Don Doezema was chosen to replace him.

The synodical budget for 1996 will be $595 per family, the same as this year. The synod of 1996 will meet on June 11 at the Southwest PRC in Grandville, Michigan, God willing.

—DJE