Last year there was a merger of two religious publishing organizations. They were not publishing giants by man’s reckoning. The merger had no impact on the stock market. The religious press took no note of the event. But the merger is of interest to the readers of the Standard Bearer. It has importance because it affects the publishing of Reformed books.

At the annual meeting of the RFPA in September, 1995, two organizations carrying the name RFPA merged. Although both went by the same name, they were separate organizations.

The original RFPA was formed in 1924 in connection with the controversy in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) over common grace and in connection with the founding of the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC). The letters RFPA stand for Reformed Free Publishing Association. The purpose of the RFPA was, and is, “to witness to the truth contained in the Word of God and expressed in the Three Forms of Unity” and “to reveal false and deceptive views repugnant thereto” (Constitution, Art. II). The Standard Bearer is the publication by which the RFPA has been carrying out this purpose for more than 70 years.

Although widely regarded as the voice of the PRC, the SB is not the official organ of the PRC as the Banner is the official publication of the CRC and as the Church Herald is the official publication of the Reformed Church in America. “Free,” in the name Reformed Free Publishing Association, expresses that “the Association is non-ecclesiastical in the institutional sense of the word” (Constitution, Preamble). This holds, therefore, for the SB. Implied, according to the preamble of the constitution, is that the RFPA “shall not be empowered to levy an assessment on any church or member thereof.” All these years, the SB has been supported only by subscriptions and by gifts from churches and individuals. This is not to hide the fact that almost half the cost of publishing the magazine has always come from collections taken in theProtestant Reformed congregations. Still, the support is voluntary, not assessed.

The reason, historically, for the non-ecclesiastical, or “free,” status of the RFPA is the experience of the founders of the PRC in the early 1920s. Because they took issue with the developing party-line on common grace in the CRC, they were summarily and totally barred from writing in the house organ of that church.

As editor of the SB, Herman Hoeksema more than once called attention to the free status of the SB. He stressed that the SB could, and should, criticize dangerous trends within the PRC. His policy was to open up the periodical to dissenting opinions as much as possible, although the editor always had the last word.

The SB is intended to function as a truly free press functions in civil society.

Time may tell whether the SB will again serve this purpose in the PRC and whether the editor at that time will have the courage to press the truth of Scripture and the creeds against an un-Reformed doctrinal or ethical development within the PRC.

I say “again” because the SB served such a purpose in the late 1940s and early 1950s against the powerful, malign development in the PRC of the doctrine of a conditional covenant, covenant promise, and covenant salvation.

Would the SB have resisted the alien theology in those days, had the RFPA and, thus, the SB not been free? Might not a majority favoring the false doctrine at some synod have silenced the editor? Or, might not a synodical majority foolishly desiring peace at any price have quieted the editorial and other columns? And if the SB had been unable to lay bare and defend the real issue of sovereign, particular grace, what then?

The other RFPA came into existence much later, in 1963. It was a small group of Protestant Reformed men who wanted to publish Herman Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics and, after this, other books by Protestant Reformed writers. With the approval of the original RFPA, the new organization used the name RFPA, although the new publisher was autonomous. The official name of the new organization was “The Permanent Committee for the Publication of Protestant Reformed Literature” (PCPPRL).

Beginning with Herman Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics in 1966, this RFPA organization has published all the books and materials that are listed in the catalog of “Current Publications of the Reformed Free Publishing Assoc.” The funding has been voluntary contributions and profits from the sale of books.

At its annual meeting in 1995, the original RFPA approved the full merger of the PCPPRL with itself. There is now one board and one constitution. Article III of the constitution now reads:

To effectuate the purpose contained in Article II, the Association should carry out these activities: 1. publish and distribute a magazine, to be known as the Standard Bearer, twice each month except during June, July, and August, during which time it shall be distributed once each month; 2. publish in book form the writings of our Protestant Reformed professors, ministers, and educators, and good material in the Reformed tradition.

All decisions regarding the SB and the publishing of books are made by the (one) board. Membership on the board is determined by election by a (single) association at its annual meeting. Membership in the association is open to all who meet the requirements of article 4 of the constitution. A complete report of its decisions regarding the SB and the publishing of books and a financial report are submitted by the board to the association at its annual meeting.

There is, however, distinct funding of the SB: “The Treasurer shall keep separate financial records for the Standard Bearer and for the publication of books, which records will be reported separately to the Society” (Constitution, Art. VI, C, 5).

A copy of the revised constitution of the RFPA is available without charge by writing or calling the business office of the SB.

The purpose of the merger was the benefit of the book publishing venture.

This is a cause worthy both of the merger and of the support of the readers of the SB.

The books published by the RFPA are soundly biblical, Reformed works. They instruct, edify, defend the faith, warn, and bear witness to the gospel. Some are more doctrinal; others explain the Reformed, Christian life. Because they are books, their instruction and witness are more permanent than other forms of our testimony to the Reformed faith.

The purpose of the merger is already being accomplished. There has been benefit for the publishing of books. The board and its active sub-committees are publishing new books and reprinting old works in new and attractive formats. They are energetically soliciting suggestions regarding new publications, including books that would have to be translated.

A new book catalog, in color, lists some of the new publications, as well as the books published in the past. I urge our readers to get a copy of this catalog by writing the RFPA, 4949 Ivanrest Ave., Grandville, MI 49418, USA. There is no cost for the catalog.

The board is also aggressively marketing the books. As money is available, they advertise. They are working at getting RFPA publications in the Christian book stores throughout North America. They are enlisting the help of the evangelism committees in the PRC to promote sales.

The readers of the SB can help in this worthwhile work of publishing soundly Reformed books.

They can join the book club. Membership is now open to all. One need not be a subscriber to the SB. There is no membership fee. Membership is simply a commitment to buy all new books at a 35% discount. It entitles the member also to buy all existing RFPA publications at this same discount. The advantage to the RFPA of a large membership in the book club is that these assured sales are an important financial base.

The board of the RFPA is presently conducting a book club membership drive. Enclosed in this issue of the SB is a card giving information. To support the cause of publishing Reformed books as a member of the book club, fill in the card, and send it in.

Another way that readers can support the work is by contributions, large or small. There may very well be those who have a special interest in the publication of solid, Reformed books and the means to support this work liberally. Designate the contribution for book publishing. All gifts are tax-deductible.

Of course, one supports the work by buying the books.

And reading them.