This report of our Synod held this year in the Hope Protestant Reformed Church will have to be somewhat general and incomplete. It will have to be incomplete because the Synod is still in session at the time this article is being written. It will have to be general because it is not the intention of this survey to inform our people in detail of all the decisions taken. Rather the purpose of this article is to give a general picture of the work of Synod with a few comments so that our people have some preliminary idea of what Synod did before they purchase and peruse their own copy of the printed Acts.
It could not escape the attention of the delegates to Synod that there was one striking difference between our Synodical meeting this year and so many Synods or General Assembly Meetings of other denominations meeting at approximately this same time. Almost without exception, other Synods are forced this year to deal with urgent and fundamental doctrinal issues which have risen within their respective denominations. The winds of error, or doctrinal change, of false ecumenism are blowing strongly through the ecclesiastical world. And much of the attention of other churches will have to be focused on the resolution of important theological controversies over various fundamental truths of Scripture and the Confessions. But such was not the case with the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches. With the issues facing the church world today—issues which threaten to tear present denominational alignments to pieces, it seemed almost anti-climactic that our Synod had no such pressing issues facing it. Yet this is reason for deep thankfulness. It is abundant testimony that the Lord has mercifully preserved us in the way of His truth and given us unity in the faith of the church of all ages. We have a goodly heritage; and we must pause to give thanks for this great blessing.
In a sense, this was almost the theme of this Synod. This was apparent already in the pre-synodical prayer service in which Rev. G. Van Baren called Synod’s attention to this fact as he preached on the text: “And take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”.
But there were more ways in which this truth became apparent in Synod’s work.
This was the Synod in which Student Dale Kuiper became Candidate Dale Kuiper. The examination was conducted on Thursday and Friday of the first week of Synod. At the end of a successful examination, Mr. Kuiper was unanimously declared to be a candidate for the ministry in the Protestant Reformed Churches. This announcement, made to the candidate in the presence of Synod, was followed by the singing of the doxology “May the Grace of Christ the Savior”, prayer by Rev. Van Baren, and congratulations from the delegates. For myself, this was particularly a moving moment, for Mr. Kuiper is the first graduate from the Theological School during my labors in the Seminary. But, much more, this is reason for thanksgiving from our people, for the Lord has added another sorely needed laborer in His vineyard.
The graduation exercises were held in Southeast Church on June 12. This graduation was the center of a beautiful and inspiring program.
As a footnote, Synod decided that Candidate Kuiper will be eligible for a call from our churches after July 7.
This same sense of unity in the truth of the Word of God became evident in Synod’s deliberation concerning missions. It is not an exaggeration to say that Synod spent proportionately more time on the subject of missions than on any other report of committees coming before it. The work of missions which Synod performed was in several areas. In the first place, Synod took cognizance of the lecture series which has been given in the Grand Rapids area. In fact, Synod believed that this work had progressed far enough to give the matter of future lectures to the Consistories in that area as their responsibility. This will relieve the Mission Committee of the work of continuing this program and will give to our hard working and busy committee more time to concentrate their labors in other areas in the country.
Synod was also informed of the many contacts made outside of our churches and of the broad distribution of literature through these lecture series—all an indication of the unrest which prevails in the church world and of the calling which is ours in these troubled times.
In the second place, Synod also took additional steps in the direction of implementing the new policy which was adopted three years ago, i.e., to coordinate more closely our various pamphlet programs, our radio ministry and our church periodicals with the mission program. Final work has not yet been done on this, but a sub-committee of the Mission Committee is being set up to perform this work.
In the third place, (and by no means least important) Synod took considerable action with respect to the work in Jamaica. Synod approved of the intention of the Mission Committee to send Rev. J. Heys and Elder H. Zwak for a two month visit to the island this summer. Rev. Heys presented Synod with a brief sketch of his plans for work on the island—plans which are especially concentrated on teaching the ministers there how to be more effective and expository in their preaching of God’s Word.
Synod also paid close attention to the critical needs of the people in Jamaica. For one thing, Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church’s Diaconate has been appointed by the Mission Committee to contact the various diaconates of our churches to raise benevolence money to care for the needs of the people. Rev. Heys told Synod of the need for clothing, for food at certain times of the year, and for medical attention among the sick. For example, these people have so few clothes that it is sometimes necessary for a mother and daughter to come separately to church because they have only one dress to share between them. There are also people who are very ill and do not recover because there is no money to secure the services of a doctor. Synod itself, through the Mission Committee, will give attention to another aspect of the need of the people there. Some of the church buildings are very dilapidated, so much so that it is almost impossible to meet in them. Synod is going to ask the churches to take collections to help put these church buildings in somewhat better shape.
We, with our great abundance, can scarcely imagine how greatly the people suffer even physical want. They have shown themselves to be our brethren and sisters in one faith. And the words of Christ surely apply: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Rev. Heys also spoke to Synod of his work which he has performed over the past year—work of instructing the ministers via mailed lessons and tapes. Rev. C. Hanko will carry on this work in the coming year. These lessons are appreciated and used extensively by the ministers with whom this “correspondence course” is being carried out.
Two remarks by way of conclusion on this matter. First of all, those of our men who are laboring in this work are doing excellent work and need our continual prayers. Secondly, Synod felt keenly the need of a man who can labor full time on the island—a need which can be filled only as our shortage of ministers is gradually alleviated.
It was at last year’s Synod that major steps were taken to advance the work of the Theological School. Then it was that Synod made preliminary preparations for a pre-seminary course and for new facilities for the School. The result was that this year Synod instituted no new programs, but rather continued the work begun last year. These programs are both long range; and the work on them will, hopefully, go on.
Our people may expect additional information on the work of the Mission Committee and the work of the Theological School Committee. The newsletters will surely be continued. But the Standard Bearer Staff decided to include in the next volume of our paper four articles on the mission work being done by the Mission Committee and two articles concerning the work being done by the Theological School Committee.
There was other work performed. In a sense it can be called “routine”; yet this is only true in the sense that it is work regularly appearing on Synod’s agenda. From another vantage point, they are far from routine, for they are all matters of the church of Jesus Christ and the cause of His kingdom.
It is in this faith that Synod labored diligently and faithfully all the while in a spirit of unity and fraternity. A word of appreciation must be spoken publicly for the wise leadership of the president of Synod, Rev. C. Hanko. And our people ought to be thankful that the Lord has provided our churches with officebearers at Synod and in our congregations to work in God’s kingdom.
Inasmuch as we are given graciously and mercifully such a glorious heritage, we have also a noble and exalted calling which is, at the same time, an urgent calling. May our churches be faithful in this calling, supporting it with their time, their several abilities, their gifts, and their prayers.