Mr. Lotterman, a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church (Walker), is the retired secretary of the RFPA.
“Publishing the Reformed Truth since 1924.” So states the recently printed catalog of RFPA published materials. Not satisfied with publishing the spiritual fluff widely available today, the Reformed Free Publishing Association dedicatesitself to the publication of material that faithfully and boldly witnesses to the truth as it is developed and expressed in the Reformed tradition. By the grace of God it has done so for eighty years. May He be pleased to continue to bless our labor.
By way of this report the Board of the RFPA informs its supporters of the work in which it has busied itself in the past year. In many ways we stand at the beginning of a new era for the RFPA. A new system of editorship for the Standard Bearer will begin soon. We presently have more books, both reprints and new volumes, than at any previous time in our history. We have budgeted funds to create awareness of our publications in many new ways. We contemplate the relocation of the RFPA to a new facility. God has given us much to be thankful for, but also much to be responsible for.
The premier publication of the RFPA continues to be the Standard Bearer. In the second book of Timothy, Paul calls us as workmen to “rightly divide the word of truth.” In so many ways this is the goal of the Standard Bearer. Led by capable editors and authors, we rightly divide the truth by its sound development and its use in defense against today’s errors. Under the new series title “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth,” the RFPA released last fall the first volume, Common Grace Revisited. This summer we distributed the second volume, entitled Reformed Worship. The chapters of these books originally appeared as series articles in the Standard Bearer, and the goal of publishing them in soft-cover form is to give broader life to the subjects as first treated by the editorial staff. They are available from the RFPA for under $7.00, although book club members receive them as a complimentary benefit to their membership. The next title, The Providence of God, should be available within six months.
Last fall several thousand copies of a special issue of the Standard Bearer were sent as a promotion for new subscriptions. As a result, nearly 200 new subscribers took advantage of our offer for a free half-year subscription. We also take opportunity to remind Protestant Reformed consistories of our ongoing offer of a free full year’s subscription to newlyweds and new confessing members who join the PRC. Our subscription base now includes 2630 subscribers. That these writings have been a blessing to readers throughout the world is seen in the many letters of thanks and encouragement the editor and the RFPA receive.
Without debate the most significant development regarding the Standard Bearer is the search to replace our retiring editor. Prof. David J. Engelsma reported to our readers last fall his intention to resign as editor at the end of this volume year. We are deeply thankful to Prof. Engelsma for his faithful labors as editor for the past sixteen years. He is only the third editor in the eighty-year history of the publication of our magazine. He has given faithful voice to the purpose of witnessing to the Reformed faith, using the power of the pen to proclaim the truth clearly and boldly.
A committee to seek Prof. Engelsma’s replacement reported this spring that they were unable to find a person with suitable qualifications who could perform alone the duties of editor without risk to his present work, be it in the pastorate or in the seminary. As a result, for an interim period the editorship will be shared by Prof. R. Dykstra, Prof. B. Gritters, and Rev. K. Koole. This is a temporary solution. Convinced that a sole editorship is preferred, the Standard Bearer editorial staff continues to be committed to that goal.
The RFPA offers a broad selection of doctrinal books, commentaries, devotionals, and practical works, all of which are based on soundly Reformed biblical exegesis and a lively application of the Reformed creeds. As mentioned earlier, we presently have more books, both reprints and new volumes, than at any previous time in our history. We currently have sixteen works in progress. In addition to Reformed Worship, in the past year the fourth volume in the series Unfolding Covenant History was released. We thank Mark Hoeksema for his work editing these treatments of Old Testament history produced originally by his father, Prof. H. C. Hoeksema. Future volumes in this estimated eight-volume set will be written by Prof. David J. Engelsma.
Reprints of Mysteries of the Kingdom by Prof. H. Hanko and Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. I by Rev. H. Hoeksema were also released this past year. (R.D., vol. II should be available by early 2005.) Rather than simply reprinting these works, every effort has been made to improve them. Prof. Hanko rewrote and expanded on many of the subjects in his book on parables. Various enhancements were made also in the design of the book, so that what we have is largely a new work. Although reprints are not automatically sent to book club members, because of the changes almost all of our members, when given the opportunity, chose to purchase these volumes.
The improvements to Reformed Dogmatics were also extensive. In the new edition the reader will notice no change in the substance of the book. Hoeksema remains himself: exegetical, forceful, and clear in his treatment of the tenets of the Reformed faith. Editorial improvements have been made to the form of the book only. Long paragraphs and sentences have been broken up. Chapter sub-headings and Scripture references have been added. The subject index has been improved with more references. The Scripture text index has been expanded. Foreign words have been translated. We found Reformed Dogmatics by Rev. Herman Hoeksema to be worthy of our best effort. The result is a new two-volume edition that is clearer and more readable and should serve the reader well.
The RFPA has also been diligent in the production of several new volumes this past year. Doctrine According to Godliness, a collection of short treatments of Reformed doctrines by Rev. R. Hanko, should be released this fall. Unfolding Covenant History, vol. 5 should be ready in early 2005. We intend to release a series of radio sermons under the working title Of God and Man by summer 2005.
At present we have 1035 book club members. These members automatically receive new releases as they are made available. In this way the high cost of publishing new books is recovered quickly, without tying up valuable funds in inventory. More importantly, these book club members have found a way to expand their personal libraries with books provided by a proven Reformed publisher.
Our new starter packs are also a great way to encourage young adults, newly marrieds, and friends to begin building a Reformed library. In a selection of price ranges one can combine some of our more popular titles as gifts for appropriate occasions.
The RFPA website has a new look and is easier to use after improvements were made this past year. Our staff can now keep the site current by adding new books and making changes to the on-line catalog. To subscribe to the Standard Bearer, join the book club, order a starter pack, or purchase any of our titles, see rfpa.org for details. A major project of posting on the website all the archive issues of the Standard Bearer and providing search capabilities is ongoing. This will give readers around the world instant access to our archives and bring additional traffic to our site.
As members of the Christian Bookseller’s Association (CBA), we presented our materials in the 2004 International CBA Convention this past summer. We are convinced that this is an effective way to sell our wares, and preliminary reports support this conviction. Over 10,000 attendees, representing retailers, distributors, buyers, and publishers, attended the convention. We intend to monitor the results of participating in this convention to evaluate our involvement with them in the future.
Our operations have undergone changes in the past year. The business managers of both the book and Standard Bearer divisions asked to be relieved of their managerial responsibilities. This occasioned an opportunity for the Board to restructure our management situation by combining the divisions into one RFPA business manager position. We welcome Tim Pipe, Sr. to this new position. Tim brings considerable managerial talents to the RFPA, and we look forward to his being involved in our operations in many ways.
Like a baby bird nudged from the nest, the RFPA has been asked by the PRC seminary to find a more permanent home. Having outgrown our office and warehouse space in the seminary, we have searched extensively in the past year for a new business location. Within the next few months we intend to bring for your consideration a building proposal that we feel gives us both short-term accommodations and long-term potential.
Financially, the RFPA continues to enjoy a favorable position. We again have received generous financial support from church collections and individual donors. The book division received gifts totaling $36,000, and the Standard Bearer received $43,600. We thank the many sources for these gifts. We are humbled that God, the Giver of the Perfect Gift, moves so many to support our cause. Although our financial statements indicate tremendous growth in the last few years, we anticipate considerable expenses in the near future. Our new building, increases in staff, and a growing operational budget indicate more funds are needed. Please continue to remember the RFPA in your giving.
Finally, a word of thanks to the many whose faithful labors have contributed to the good of the RFPA in the past year. These include our editors, authors, staff, proofreaders, Board members, and numerous volunteers who have used their time and talents to perform a host of tasks. Thanks be to God for the privilege of laboring as His servants in this work. May He continue to use our weak efforts for the building up of His church and the glory of His name.