The Synod of 1977 now exists only in history. It met this year in the new and beautiful edifice of Hudsonville, Mich. Protestant Reformed Church. It had as its inspirational speaker the Rev. C. Hanko, pastor of Hudsonville church—and president of the last (1976) Synod. He spoke from God’s Word found in Rev. 3:11 —and admonished also our Synod to “Hold Fast That Thou Hast.” It was surely a fitting Word for Synod which had to treat many important matters. And the physical needs of the Synod were adequately met when the wonderful ladies of the Hudsonville congregation prepared outstanding meals for the delegates and visitors. They surely deserve a word of thanks and appreciation from all those who enjoyed these meals.
The first day of Synod involves the appointment of four committees which then meet the rest of that day and evening to study the material assigned to them and prepare advice for the Synod. On Thursday and Friday, the larger portion of the days were devoted to the examination of Mr. K. Koole. Those who witness such an examination for the first time might regard it somewhat as a “third degree” treatment. Perhaps the student thinks so, too. At least, one of the students who expect, D.V., to graduate two years hence, was heard to remark, “I’m glad we’ll have five examined together so that each will have many less questions to answer.” At any rate, student Koole gave an excellent account of himself, passed the examination, and was approved as candidate in the churches. He is eligible for call after July 3, 1977.
Graduation exercises were held in our Hudsonville church the following Tuesday. Prof. H. Hanko addressed the three graduates (two from the Free Reformed Church), reminding them of the importance of the truth of predestination in the preaching of the gospel.
A few items were treated by Synod the first week of its meeting, but most of the business of Synod was conducted the second week, from Monday until Friday, 10:00 a.m.
The work of missions occupied much of the time of Synod. There were reports of the foreign mission committee which is attempting to make contacts in several areas overseas. The mission labors of our home missionary were also treated. Rev. R. Harbach has completed his work at Houston, Texas, where a congregation was organized. The Synod extended its thanks to the Rev. Harbach for his labors, and welcomed this new congregation into our fellowship of churches. It was also reported that Rev. Harbach is presently investigating a possible new field of labor in western Canada.
The Synod noted with gratitude the decision of our Hope, Grand Rapids congregation to contribute $750 per month towards the support of our home missionary (from which congregation he has also been called). This contribution is in addition to the payment of their regular assessment. Hope is surely to be commended for their willingness and desire to assume such a share of the cost of the work of our missionary.
The mission labors of our churches in Jamaica were also reported before Synod. Two emissaries, Rev. J. Heys and elder J.M. Faber, reported on their work this past year. They had discovered that it was notimpossible to send missionaries yet to Jamaica (as had been reported to our Synod of the year before). They and the mission committee recommended the calling of another missionary to labor in Jamaica—with Holland congregation the calling church. The Synod was not ready to have a missionary called at this time, particularly because it was uncertain as to the type of labor he would have to perform there. Synod did decide to send two more emissaries to Jamaica for further evaluation of the field. It also decided to continue to give financial assistance as in the past. The reports suggested that the fund for the living and travel expenses of the ministers on the island has a sizable deficit. (A total annual contribution of only some $5.00 per family will meet the need. Perhaps all the churches can see to this.)
The Synod treated a protest of Mr. T. Feenstra who objected to the fact that last year the Synod gave tacit approval to our emissaries to New Zealand and Australia preaching in the various churches they visited. The Synod rejected this protest, pointing out to Mr. Feenstra that the ministers in our churches have done this frequently throughout our history—preaching in other churches while clearly not placing themselves under the jurisdiction of the consistories of these churches. In this, the emissaries did nothing more than the Synod of 1974 mandated them to do.
That which received the greatest share of Synod’s attention was the report presented first to the Synod of 1976, and referred back to the churches for a year’s study, treating baptism on the mission field. This interesting report can be found in the Acts of 1976. Various churches submitted their own responses to this report to the Synod. Briefly, the report advocated the position that preaching and baptism go together on the mission field, and that when one is converted, the missionary must also baptize him—with a view to the organization of the church (however, perhaps at some very distant time). A most interesting discussion took place. It is a pity that all of our people could not have been present to hear. Finally, on the last session of Synod, the decision, was taken which voted down the advice of the study committee. In effect, this decision means that we continue the practice we have in the past—no baptism on the mission field until a congregation is organized or in order to make possible such organization.
The Synod considered at length also our Theological School—always an important part of the agenda of Synod. The T.S.C. report recorded the withdrawal of two pre-seminary students and the addition of another, Mr. Barry Gritters. It was also informally reported on the floor of Synod that a third student also intended to withdraw and there is the probability of two additional students enrolling.
Synod considered also the need of providing some relief to the professors with their heavy work schedule. The Rev. C. Hanko was appointed by Synod to teach the two Dutch courses—which will surely give a measure of relief.
The question of the housing of the professors was considered. At present, Synod gives a “rental allow ante” to the professors—while they use this in the purchasing of their own homes. There was raised the question of the wisdom of Synod’s owning these homes. A study committee made a cost comparison of the alternatives. The Synod decided to follow the recommendation of the theological school committee to continue as we have in the past: providing a rental allowance.
The rector’s report stated that five additional students were licensed to preach in our churches: students Ron Cammenga, Carl Haak, Ron Hanko, Steve Houck, and Dave Zandstra.
The committee of contact with other churches presented its report. The Synod decided to instruct the committee to continue to seek contact with the Christian Reformation Church, on a “one-to-one” basis, as that church originally suggested. There were reports of contact with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. A cablegram of greetings was received from the latter church and read on the floor of Synod. The Synod adopted a budget which requires the assessment of $10.00 per family per year in the support of a minister who would be called to serve in the Christchurch, N.Z. Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
The Synod approved the recommended changes to the constitution of the mission committee—changes made necessary by the decision of the Synod of 1976 approving the principal elements of an overture from Mr. T. Feenstra. This overture suggested that greater emphasis must be placed upon the calling church in the sending forth of missionaries. The mission committee too will be altered in structure this coming year: with five members from the western section of our country and seven from the eastern section.
Another study committee presented its report in which were collated all of the changes which recent. Synods had made in the constitutions of various synodical committees. This report was made with a view to the reprinting of our Church Order book in the near future.
An overture from our Lynden consistory was approved—to write a form for confession of faith. We have at present only three questions which are asked publicly of those confessing their faith. The professors of our seminary were appointed to do this and report to next year’s synod.
Synod was presented a report of the disbanding of our Forbes, N.D. congregation. That congregation, before disbanding, had decided that the funds would be equally divided between the student aid fund and tie Seminary library fund. Each received $5,912.99.
The Stated Clerk presented his report. Synod took this occasion to express our deep appreciation for the “labors performed so efficiently” by the clerk. The Synod was impressed by the speed and quality of his work.
Subsidies to the needy churches were approved: a total of $66,420. The proposed budget was adopted which requires the assessment of $230 per family for 1978 (compared to $243 for the current year).
It was decided to meet next year at the Hope Grand Rapids church.
The sessions of Synod were closed in thanksgiving to God by Prof. H. Hanko.
More complete information on the above, and details on other unreported actions, will be found in the Acts of Synod which our efficient clerk will doubtlessly have ready for distribution shortly. Be sure to read your copy!