As these lines are written, our annual Synod has com­pleted its sessions and already belongs to the past.

It is our purpose to report the highlights of Synod’s sessions, so that you need not wait until the appearance of the printed Acts to obtain information as to the various deci­sions made, and at the same time to kindle your interest sufficiently to induce you to buy a copy of the Acts of 1960 when that little book appears. Our efficient Stated Clerk, Rev. G. Vanden Berg, will undoubtedly see to it that all our consistories have a supply of copies for sale by early fall. Make it a point to get a copy; you will not be disappointed. In the meantime, here is our unofficial, preliminary report.

Organization

Synod met this year at the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids. The president of the 1959 Synod, Rev. J.A. Heys, preached a fitting pre-synodical sermon on the Tuesday evening before Synod convened, which sermon will appear in full in the Acts. To this observer the size of the audience was disappointing, and almost disheartening. One almost receives the impression that in the minds of many this service is meant only for the delegates and that there is not too much interest and “living along” as far as our Synod is concerned. And this ought not to be. Synod is not a mere convention of delegates, but the broadest assembly of our Protestant Reformed Churches, and as such should have the interest and intense concern of all our people.

As usual, the Wednesday morning session was devoted to organization and division of labor. At this Synod the Rev. C. Hanko functioned as our capable, and sometimes neces­sarily longsuffering, chairman. The Rev. H. Veldman had, by his own testimony, the easiest task, that of vice-president. And the Reverends M. Schipper and J.A. Heys served as clerks. Notably absent from the Classis East delegation was the Rev. G. Vos, who because of his heart condition was not permitted to attend, and who was replaced by Rev. H. Hanko. And the Rev. H.H. Kuiper could not attend as delegate from Classis West due to illness. Rev. R.C. Harbach replaced him. Both of these brethren were remembered in prayer often during our sessions. For the rest, we had full delegations from both classes throughout eight days of meeting. And these delegates labored diligently and unitedly, as well as congenially. This was a pleasant Synod.

Because the amount of work was large this year, espe­cially due to a great number of committee reports, there were four committees of pre-advice appointed. These went to work Wednesday afternoon and prepared their reports to guide Synod’s deliberations.

Examination and Graduation and Theological School Matters

The first order of business this year was the examination of Student Jason Kortering, who had finished his course at our seminary. His sample sermon on the assigned text of Isaiah 40:9, 10, having been preached and approved on Thursday morning, he was then examined on Thursday afternoon by Rev. H. Hoeksema in Dogmatics, New Testa­ment exegesis, and confessions. This examination was con­tinued on Friday morning with the undersigned examining in Church Polity, Old Testament History, and Old Testa­ment Exegesis, and the Rev. C. Hanko conducting the exam­ination in Practica. It was a joyful moment for our new candidate and for Synod when Mr. Kortering was informed that he was made a candidate for the ministry in our churches.

We interject the remark at this point, however, that we should safeguard against making these examinations too much of a mere formality. To this observer, the examina­tions have been becoming less stringent and less thorough through the years. And though perhaps any student would claim that they are “rugged” enough, a little more time might well be allotted to the various subjects at future occasions. The faculty may have a fairly good idea of the student’s abilities after three years; but the Synod itself must be con­vinced that he is qualified for the ministry.

Graduation exercises on the following Monday evening were witnessed by a goodly audience at our Hope Church. Mr. Kortering spoke on “The Unity of the Church.” And the rector’s address by the Rev. H. Hoeksema was on “The Minister of the Word.” Once again we might join in thanks­giving that God has signally blessed our seminary. And our churches may look forward soon to having the “minister shortage” reduced by one. May God bless the candidate and soon give him a place in the ministry.

As to the future of our school? Next fall, the Lord willing, Mr. Dave Engelsma will begin his seminary course. And our school will return to the basement of First Church, due to the fact that Adams Street School will be in need of the room we have been using. However, it is easy to see that we face a shortage of ministers for some years to come, and a shortage that may well become more severe before it becomes better. May the Lord incline the hearts of more of our young men to prepare for the ministry! There is no more glorious calling than that of the ministry; and the candidate who graduates from our school is to be envied in the good sense of the word. May our churches remember the school and its labors in their prayers. And let us trust that the Lord will provide also in this respect.

Mission Matters

Under this heading we note, first of all, that the churches of Isabel and Forbes, who had already applied last year, were received this year into our denomination. This was upon the advice of the Mission Committee after a year during which various ministers served these churches for brief periods and at the same time investigated the field further. While all the delegates were convinced that our Dakota brethren are one with us in the Reformed faith, all were not convinced as to the proper course to follow. After a thorough discussion, however, Synod decided to receive them. The two churches were duly notified. And we are glad that they are with us. The two little flocks hope to share one minister. May the Lord bless and prosper them spiritually.

Our home missionary, the Rev. G. Lubbers, was present at Synod. And Synod also had reports of his activities dur­ing the past year. Of late he has been laboring in the Pella-Sully area in Iowa. And these labors will be continued at the discretion of the Mission Committee. Let us all remember our missionary in prayer. His labors are often difficult, and somewhat discouraging are the results frequently. Our con­fidence is that the Lord will surely maintain the cause of His truth and will gather and keep His church.

The third item of note under this heading is the decision of Synod to begin a “foreign mission” project by broadcasting from “The Voice of Tangiers,” a station which reaches a goodly part of western Europe. Just when this broadcast will begin the undersigned does not know. It will be financed by our Foreign Mission Fund at a price that will consume about all of the present fund for one year’s broadcasts. But we are told that the coverage is well worth the price. This also gives our churches an incentive, by the way, to con­tribute generously to the two foreign mission collections which every congregation is supposed to take per year.

Under the heading of Mission Matters we may also men­tion the Foreign Mission Study Report which was before Synod again this year. No conclusion was reached in this matter. Various principles and distinctions were discussed, and the report was given to a new study committee, which is to report next year.

Matters of Church Order

A matter of major interest in this connection is the fact that a project of several years’ duration has now been finished. Our Church Order manual has been re-edited (not revised), and the various rules and regulations appended to some of the articles, as well as the rules gov­erning synod and its committees, have been brought up to date as much as possible. We may also note that the Declaration of Principles in its corrected form will appear in this new edition. Many of our members and especially our officebearers have expressed a desire for copies of the Church Order. And this valuable little book will soon make its ap­pearance. Be sure to procure a copy!

Under this heading we may also mention the protest of Rev. G. Vanden Berg against an action of Synod in 1957. This protest was of a couple years’ standing, and it had been committed to a study committee. We cannot enter into all the details in this brief report. Suffice it to say that the case concerned some rather knotty problems in connection with the right to vote and to discuss matters appealed from classis by the delegates of the classis concerned. In 1957 Synod had concerned itself with these problems in a concrete case. This year a study committee brought a divided report on the protest. And Synod was involved in a lengthy discussion of these reports. It is this reporter’s candid opinion that as far as the concrete case of 1957 is concerned Synod actually made no advance over the previous decision. And as far as the related problems involved in that case are concerned, Synod decided nothing helpful. The problems are particularly acute because of our two classes system. But the interested reader may study the reports and decisions in the Acts. It remains, of course, to be seen whether the protestant is satis­fied by the decisions taken.

Varia

Last year an overture from Southeast’s Consistory as to the proper time for the baptism of adopted children was referred to a study committee. This year the report of this committee was considered, and Synod adopted the general rule that adopted children shall be baptized only when their legal adoption shall have been made final. This rule was adopted, I believe, in harmony with Southeast’s overture, and on the grounds presented by them.

An overture from First Church in regard to Article 69 of the Church Order, often misnamed the “hymn question,” was also referred to a study committee last year. This study committee presented a lengthy and detailed report on the hymn question, and concluded with a suggested revision of Article 69. Synod, however, was not satisfied as to the details of this reformulation, nor ready to adopt it without good grounds and a clear understanding of its implications. Hence, the matter was returned to the study committee. There seems to have been a good deal of fear, especially in the west, about this matter. Personally, I think these fears are a bit groundless and based on misunderstanding. None of our churches are ready for hymns in the ordinary sense of the word. And I think if the suggested reformulation in its reference to “faithful versifications of Scripture” is clari­fied next year, we will discover that this is nothing new for our churches, but something on which we have worked in the past in connection with the Psalter revision project. And then we can come to unity of opinion too. Meanwhile, I sug­gest that some discussion of this matter in our Standard Bearer would not be amiss if conducted in a calm spirit.

Synod adopted, upon overture from Doon, a new subsidy form, one which should clear up many of the difficulties of the past in connection with the information given with sub­sidy requests. The form is not involved. But let our con­sistories take a little time to fill it out accurately. Synod is rather far removed from the consistories, and cannot do much with misinformation. It is up to each consistory to justify its own subsidy request clearly.

While we are on financial matters anyway, we may also mention that Synod adopted a new policy in regard to mov­ing expense for needy churches. Rather than the old and slow method of collections in the churches, the new policy was set that needy churches may be helped with their mov­ing expenses from the needy churches fund by the Synodical Finance Committee.

And a last item, which will undoubtedly be good news to some of our smaller churches especially: synodical assess­ments were reduced this year by $5 per family for the 1961 fiscal year. Quite an item in these days of rising living costs! It was due to an increase in our total number of families.

Here ends my report. There were more matters before Synod. But these were the major ones.

A good spirit prevailed throughout all our sessions, and the evidence of the Lord’s blessing on our churches was abundant.                                

H.C.H.