This is being written while Synod is still meeting and will be a brief review of work thus far accomplished.
The usual pre-Synodical service was held on Tuesday evening, June 1, in the Fuller Avenue auditorium. The Rev. J. De Jong, president of the Synod of 1947, delivered the sermon. Rev. De Jong chose as his text,.
The following morning the first regular session of Synod convened at our Fourth Church in Grand Rapids. Synod opened its meetings with the singing of Psalter No. 403 and the reading of I Corinthians 12 and prayer by the Rev. De Jong. The following officers were chosen to serve this Synod:
President—The Rev. L. Vermeer,
Vice-president—The Rev. H. De Wolf,
Secretary—The Rev. M. Gritters,
Assistant Secretary—The Rev. J. Howerzyl.
The newly elected president of Synod, the Rev. L. Vermeer, then read the Public Declaration of Agreement with the Forms of Unity; the members of Synod standing during this reading to express their conformity. Synod then decided that its regular sessions would be from 9 to 12 each morning and from 1:30 to 5 o’clock each afternoon. Following the appointment of a committee for committees Synod adjourned until this committee has opportunity to prepare its report. Later in the morning this committee reported and its advice, that the matters to come before Synod should be distributed among three committees ofpreadvice, was adopted. These committees of pre-advice study material of Synod which is given into their hands and serve Synod with advice and directives to expedite its work. Following the appointment of these three committees of pre-advice the Synod adjourned for the day and during the afternoon and evening of Wednesday these committees worked and prepared their reports.
The following morning the Synod met at Fuller Ave. The first committee of pre-advice was ready to deliver its report. The following material had been considered by this first committee: 1. The report of the Mission Committee; 2. The report of the Committee for Foreign Correspondence (that is, for correspondence with other Churches); 3. The Overture of Creston.
Hence, the first matter to be considered by Synod was the report of Mission Committee and the action of Committee I of pre-advice in respect to this matter. We might state here that practically the entire time of Synod on Thursday and Friday was taken up with the first item, the Mission Committee report as treated by the committee of pre-advice. The Mission Committee report contained information and recommendations regarding fields of labor for our mission work, foreign mission work and a few lesser matters.
Regarding foreign mission work the following decisions were made by Synod:
The next matter taken up in connection with Mission Committee report was the selection of a field of labor for our mission work. The committee of pre- advice, having considered the matters related to this as reported by the Mission Committee, advised that Canada be chosen as a field of labor and that Synod consider to seek to obtain a Holland-speaking missionary in the place of one of our present missionaries.
Before treating this advice the missionaries’ reports of their investigation of various fields were read in their entirety on the floor of Synod. These reports contained information concerning Byron Center, Michigan, South-eastern Iowa, Northern Michigan, Lynden, Washington and Ontario, Canada.
With considerable discussion and deliberation the following action was taken by Synod:
Synod next treated the report of the Committee for Correspondence with other Churches. This Committee had sent a letter to the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (Art. 31) suggesting that preparatory work be done towards establishing closer relationship. An answer received from the Netherlands indicated that the Netherlands Churches, by their Committee, had received and considered the letter and would take the matter to their Synod which is to meet in September of this year. Our own Committee was continued.
The final matter with which Committee I dealt was the Overture of Creston. The four points of conclusion or recommendation of the overture were discussed and the following action was taken:
Point 1 of the overture reads: “That, if at all possible, the Churches should be given an opportunity to discuss all matters that come before Synod, including financial matters like proposed assessments, salaries, etc. Under our present set-up our classes do not even have this opportunity, and at the classical gatherings we have at least representatives of the local consistories.” Decision of Synod re this point: That Synod refers them to the Rules of Order of Synod, articles 4, 6 and 9, pages 55 and 57 of the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches. Grounds: a. These rules have proved satisfactory in the past. b. That the suggestion of Creston militates against our Reformed set-up with respect to authority of Synods reflected in Articles 30, 31 and 51 of our Church Order, c. That Reformed Churches in the past have not worked according to this suggestion of Creston.
Point 2 of the overture reads: “That it should be made the rule that decisions which involve a considerable outlay of money be proposed to the Churches, stating the definite sum, and that such decisions do not go into effect until the next year. That would give opportunity for deliberation, suggestion, counter proposals, protest, etc.” Decision of Synod: In re point 2 that Synod express that in concrete cases Synod act according to its own discretion in this matter.
Point 3 of the overture reads: “That under no circumstances a standing committee has the power to raise the assessments for a particular fund during the course of the year. We had a glaring example of this m the past year when the Mission Committee raised the assessments for the Mission Fund from $5 to $12 per family. That this figure was subsequently lowered to $6 per family is due to the consistory and congregation of Fuller Ave. But we feel that the principle of the thing is wrong. Other committees might do the same thing, and where would be the end?” Decision of Synod: In re point 3: a. That there is no case on record where a standing committee has done this, b. That under the circumstances the Mission Committee could do nothing else than inform the consistories as they did. (N.B. The point is that the Mission Committee did not raise the assessment, as implied in the overture, but informed the consistories that a raise would be evident due to increased expenditures.
Point 4 of the overture reads: “That Synod be very sparing in making decisions to the effect that a standing committee ‘use its own discretion’ in determining or raising the amount of salary of brethren that are paid by our Churches”. Decision of Synod: In re point 4, that Synod express that it is in agreement with this point although it fails to see where it has ever acted to the contrary.
The next material to be treated by Synod was that presented by the second committee of pre-advice. Regarding the matters placed in their hands we present the following light and action of, Synod:
Synod spent much time and deliberation on matters dealing with our Theological School. The greatest of these was in connection with the answer of the Rev. II. Hoeksema to the proposition of the Synod of 1947 and the future position of Mr. H. C. Hoeksema. In regard to Mr. Hoeksema the committee of pre-advice suggested that Synod inform the Churches that he was eligible to receive a call since his year of postgraduate work had been completed. In close connection with this the Rev. Hoeksema addressed a letter to Synod containing his answer to the proposition that he release himself from Fuller Ave. and spend all his time with the school. He informed Synod that since it seemed to be the desire of his son and also of the Synod that Mr. Hoeksema accept a call from one of our Churches, he (Rev. Hoeksema) would not be able to accept the position offered him last year. Further, the Rev. Hoeksema informed Synod that he could not promise nor did intend to take up his school work for the coming year without the help of his son.
After much discussion and deliberation the Synod finally decided to address the following to both the Rev. Hoeksema and his son, Mr. H. C. Hoeksema: “I. To express to Rev. Hoeksema our appreciation for his most valuable labors in our theological school, and also that we remember these labors before our Father in Heaven as His gift to us for our welfare. We desire and pray that he may be spared for the welfare of our Churches, and especially for our Theological school, and that he may regain his strength. If at all possible we would like to have him labor and help us in the Theological School this coming year. We feel that his labor is indispensible to us. We urge him therefore, to reconsider his letter to us. The situation is very difficult, we realize, because of the personal relations that are involved. We understand his desire to labor further with the help of his son Homer. Although we are of the conviction that it would be to the welfare of his son that he enter the active ministry, nevertheless, if his (Rev. Hoeksema’s) labor is contingent upon his son’s help and assistance we recommend that he be appointed to continue his studies and instruction for another year, under the same financial arrangement as in the past year. Further, that we pledge our cooperation to help build our school’s reputation for we are also of this same conviction, as he is, that the school is most important. We also will furnish him with other needed assistance such as a dictaphone to further produce material for future use in the Churches.
“II. We further advise Synod to empower the Theological School Committee to seek the best means to maintain instruction of our students the coming year.”
The above propositions were also adopted by Synod.
The report of the rector, Prof. G. M. Ophoff, which informed Synod that the students had done good work and that good relationships existed between professors and students, was accepted.
The Theological School Committee had investigated the expansion of our school and stated: “there is nothing we can recommend to Synod for a pre-seminary course beyond those subjects which have always been taught in our school.” The Synod adopted the advice of the committee of pre-advice in this matter “that it is not advisable to extend our curriculum at this time beyond the present curriculum”.
Synod instructed the Theological School Committee to make a thorough investigation as to the cost of building a suitable building and/or also the price of purchasing a suitable house for this purpose.
The Theological School Committee reported that they had received a letter from the Society for Protestant Reformed Education asking to what extent the facilities of the Theological School can be made available to prepare persons interested in the teaching profession to qualify them for teaching in schools of our own. The Synod decided to reply as follows: that Synod advise the Society for Protestant Reformed Education that we have no facilities for a complete normal course. However, that we can supply, we hope, the very necessary Protestant Reformed point of view by having prospective teachers study principles of education and read specified outside literature upon educational subjects, as produced by our men and others.
Mr. George Lanting, a member of our South Holland congregation, and Mr. Marvin Koerner, of the German Reformed Church at Sutton, Nebraska, were granted permission to attend our Theological School. The request of Mr. Jack Van Dyken, of our Fuller Ave. congregation, was referred to the Theo. School Comm.
In reply to an overture from the Second Church in Grand Rapids, which suggested that Synod appoint a committee to compile a work-book on the Heidelberg Catechism for use in catechism instruction, the Synod replies that it does not consider it necessary for Synod to provide our Churches with a work-book at this time.
Synod decided to again publish a year book this year and to include this material in the book which will also contain the Acts of Synod; as was also done last year.
After accomplishing many routine matters such as voting for committee members etc., Synod had finished its work. In his closing remarks the president, the Rev. L. Vermeer, correctly stated that a spirit of unity and love had prevailed and that many weighty problems had been discussed freely and openly with brotherly kindness.