From a correspondent in Australia we received some preliminary information concerning actions of the Synod of the Reformed Church of Australia and concerning developments in connection with the socalled Woudstra case. We hope to receive more detailed information later. But for the time being we pass on to the readers the following items:
1. The Reformed Church Synod decided to maintain their sister-church relationship with the Gereformeerde Kerken of the Netherlands. There were those who wished to suspend this tie, even as the Reformed Churches of New Zealand did; but apparently the fraternal delegates from the Dutch church persuaded the Synod that things were not so bad as reported, and even that the Dutch church is actually doing something about heretics like Kuitert and Wiersinga. The truth of the matter is, however, that while the GKN have made some pronouncements on the teachings of both men, they have not actually done anything about their heresies and have, in fact, refused to institute any disciplinary procedures against them. Anyone who thinks that the recent “judicium” concerning Wiersinga’s denial of the atonement marks a turnabout in the GKN is whistling in the dark! Similar pronouncements have been made regarding Kuitert’s teachings in the past; and what has come of them? Kuitert goes his merry way! When Wiersinga is suspended and deposed from office, we can begin to believe that things are improving in the Netherlands. And bear in mind that the Australian Reformed Church becomes principally co-responsible for the corruption in the Netherlands by continuing to recognize the Dutch church as a sister church.
2. As might be expected, matters related to the dismissal of Dr. S. Woudstra from the Reformed Theological College at Geelong were before the Synod. In this connection, the following was reported to us:
a) Dr. Woudstra, who became pastor of the Hobart (Tasmania) Reformed Church after his dismissal from Geelong, retained his standing as minister in the Reformed Church.
b) Opportunity was afforded to Dr. Woudstra to appeal his dismissal from Geelong to a specially appointed tribunal. There was an appeal procedure already at the time of Woudstra’s dismissal, but he did not take advantage of his right to appeal at that time. Allegedly this was because the same personnel who dismissed him would also be involved in his appeal. Now, however, a special tribunal for appeal will serve. On this tribunal there will be men only from the Reformed Church, however, since the Free Church (Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia) has officially decided to withdraw its support of Geelong. It will be interesting to see what a tribunal unhampered by any Free Church strictures will decide if Woudstra appeals. Actually, of course, the doctrinal issue has already been decided for the Reformed Church: for they have embraced Woudstra as a minister in good standing in spite of his dismissal from Geelong for serious doctrinal errors.
c) Reportedly Dr. Woudstra is not seeking reinstatement at Geelong, but only exoneration. The report is that he intends to return to the U.S. in February, 1977.
3. A new complication has developed, however. In the course of the discussion at Synod, it was learned that Dr. Vander Laan, newly arrived professor of philosophy at Geelong, has doctrinal views similar to those of Dr. Woudstra, and that he so informed the Principal of the Reformed Theological College before his arrival in Australia. This fact became known, however, only at the Synod—prior to the time that the Synod finally went into closed session. It ought to be a question, therefore, whether Vander Laan can continue as professor. Whether this will be an actual question remains to be seen.
4. Apparently there was also some discussion about the possibility of re-examining and reframing the Canons of Dordrecht along the lines of Dr. Woudstra’s views of reprobation. We expect to hear more on this subject later.
From the above it is evident that the Reformed Church of Australia has by no means solved its problems and the problems involving Geelong. Nor is there any evidence as yet that the Reformed Church in that country has made any move to solve in a Reformed way the doctrinal problem which confronts it concerning the denial of sovereign predestination. In fact, as of now the evidence is all in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, the Reformed Church of New Zealand will also have to pay attention to the matters concerning the Reformed Theological College at Geelong. Supposedly a safe agreement was negotiated which will insure the support of those churches only as long as Geelong is doctrinally sound. Can those churches continue to support Geelong in the light of the fact that one instructor after another becomes exposed as having non-Reformed tenets? Time will tell.