September 8 and October 16, 1991
First Protestant Reformed Church
Classis East met in regular session on September 8th and in continued session on October 16th.
The main item of business for these sessions was the consideration of protests from two consistories in regard to decisions taken at the May meeting of classis. At the May meeting, classis had decided to uphold the appeals of two brothers relative to the transfer of their membership papers to churches which did not display a large cross. Classis had decided that their consistory had erred in not declaring these brothers to be weaker brothers in accordance with Romans 14; and, further, that the consistory had violated Article 31 of the Church Order by requiring that these brothers remain silent about their position in the churches. The consistory was advised to send the membership papers as these brothers requested. The consistories of Southwest and Grandville, however, protested this decision of the May classis.
Southwest contended that the decisions of classis 1) violated Article 31 of the Church Order by improperly excluding from the settled and binding character of the ecclesiastical decisions matters of adiaphora found in connection with the corporate worship of the church, 2) erred in appealing to Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 in regard to the weaker brother (Southwest has tried to receive the brothers, but they refuse; Classis has given them this label, not Southwest; the concept of weaker brother does not fit the facts) and 3) violated Article 36 of the Church Order since classis’ decisions overthrew the synodical decision of 1990; 4) contradicted classis’ decision re Norristown; 5) condoned individualism in corporate worship. Southwest further informed the classis that membership papers will be transferred if the following are retracted: 1) their insistence on teaching their children their convictions re the cross issue, 2) their insistence on not worshiping or receiving sacraments in churches with large crosses.
Classis decided to reject the protest of Southwest on the following grounds (summarized): 1) The decision of the May classis did not exclude matters of adiaphora found in connection with corporate worship. Since these brothers have withdrawn all charges of sin and have promised not to militate against the decision of synod, Article 31 of the Church Order has not been violated and the papers should be transferred. 2) The decision of the May classis properly appealed to Romans 14 since it is apparent that these brothers, although in weak faith they consider a matter of adiaphora to be unlawful, fall into the same category as those in Rome who considered adiaphora (the eating of meats) unlawfulaas well. 3) The decision in May does not overthrow the decision of Synod 1990 re the cross issue. The Synod did not say that these brothers may not be regarded as weaker brothers but only that they might not appeal to Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 as grounds for their protest. 4) The decision of the May classis does not contradict the Norristown decision since classis decided there that a consistory may not be regarded as a weaker brother. 5) The decision of the May classis does not condone individualism in corporate worship. Members, for conscience’ sake, may transfer to churches without crosses in their sanctuaries.
Grandville consistory protested this same decision of the May classis. With regard to placing these brothers in the category of weaker brother, Grandville gave the following grounds for protest: 1) These brothers do not fit the category of the weaker brother. Rather than considering these brothers to be weaker, they should be considered to be erring brothers. This is plain from the teachings of Romans 14, I Corinthians 8, and other passages of Scripture dealing with adiaphora and Christian liberty. These brothers have erred in regard to the doctrine of Christian liberty and need to be instructed in this area of doctrine. 2) These brothers may not be placed in the category of weaker brothers since the Synod of 1990 expressly forbade this (Article 57, Acts of Synod). Synod further expressed itself that the possibility of offense (causing the brother to stumble) is essential for placing someone in the category of weaker brother, but offense was not possible with these brothers. With regard to Article 31 and its interpretation by Southwest, the following were the grounds for protest: 1) The error of these brothers in that they have a wrong understanding of the doctrine of Christian liberty and they need to conform themselves to the teaching of the church on this doctrine. 2) The primary purpose of Article 31 is to promote unity and harmony in the churches; classis’ decision, however, leads to division and polarization.
Classis rejected this protest of Grandville on the following grounds: 1) Romans 14 applies to these brothers. There were those in Rome who also considered the eating of meats unlawful, but Paul instructed the Roman church to receive these brothers. 2) Our churches have never required conformity with regard to non-creedal doctrinal issues. 3) The May decision is not a violation of the Synod of 1990’s decision regarding the cross. Synod’s decision does not permit these brothers to appeal to these passages as a basis for protest. Synod, further, did not express itself on the question of weaker brothers, nor did it state that the possibility of offense was essential to placing someone in the category of weaker brother. 4) The decision of the May classis re weaker brothers will not divide and polarize the church as long as the injunctions of Romans 14 are followed, namely, that the strong not despise the weak and that the weak not judge the strong.
In other business, Classis again dealt with a request from Norristown to use their extract of The Psalter. This request was declared to be illegally before the classis.
The following classical appointment schedule was adopted for Southeast, Lame, and Venice: SOUTHEAST (PM only): October 6 – Koole, October 13 – Gritters, October 20 – VanBaren, November 3 – Joostens, November 10 – Slopsema, November 17 – Bruinsma, November 24 – Kamps, December 8 – Slopsema, December 15 – Woudenberg, December 22 – VanBaren, December 29 – Gritters, January 12 – Slopsema, January 19 -Bruinsma, January 26 – Koole. VENICE: October 6, 13 – Bruinsma, October 27, November 3 – K. Hanko, November 17, 24 – Gritters, December 8, 15 – Flikkema, January 5, 12 – Kamps, January 26, February 2 – Joostens. LARNE: December 1, 8, 15 – Koole, January 5, 12, 19 – VanBaren.
The expenses of classis for both sessions amounted to $4,271.55. Classis will meet next on January 8, 1992 at Hope Church.
Jon J. Huisken