This year’s synod met in the beautiful and commodious new building of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids. By decision of Synod of 1985, the synod this year was scheduled to convene on Tuesday, June 10, which implied that the pre-synodical service, under the auspices of First Church, fell on Monday evening. The Rev. J. Kortering, president of last year’s synod, led this service; his sermon, based on Joshua 1:8, 9, will be included in the printed Acts.
On Tuesday morning synod convened. The officers elected were: Rev. D. Engelsma, president; Rev. J. Slopsema, vice president; Rev. B. Gritters, first clerk; and Rev. R. Cammenga, second clerk. Advisory committees were appointed, assignments given to them, and that was the end of synod’s treatment of the Agenda, except for committee meetings, until Friday morning; for the next two and a half days were devoted to the examination of our three seminary graduates, Messrs. Russell Dykstra, Steven Key, and Charles Terpstra. On Tuesday afternoon each of them delivered a sermon on his choice of two assigned texts. All day Wednesday was devoted to a thorough examination in Dogmatics. The greater part of Thursday was devoted to examinations in Old Testament History, New Testament History, Church Polity, and Church History. Besides, the students were required to submit written examinations on assigned passages for Old Testament and New Testament Exegesis. Early on Thursday afternoon they were examined in Practica by the Rev. J. Kortering. About mid-afternoon the young men were unanimously declared candidates for the ministry in the Protestant Reformed Churches. This was a joyous occasion for them, for their loved ones, for the synod, and for the rather large number of visitors present on this occasion. Elsewhere in this issue you will find an account of the graduation-program. It was late afternoon when all of this was finished, and so synod adjourned until Friday morning.
With synod being occupied with the examinations, all of the advisory committees had to do their work in evening meetings. By Friday morning Committee II, whose main assignment was Theological School matters, was ready to report. Committee I, which was assigned all mission matters, was not nearly finished with its assignment. Hence, synod turned to the report of Committee II.
As was stated, the Report of the Theological School Committee was the main assignment of Committee II. This committee has more than a routine report. It brought to Synod an extensive plan for the school during the interim years when we will have no students in the seminary department and (at present) only one student in the pre-seminary department. Included in these plans were: 1) Advance education in their respective fields for Profs. Decker and Hanko. This was approved by synod. 2) Plans for special courses at the seminary, both for ministers and the general public. These were also approved. Undoubtedly there will be further announcements and explanation of these matters by the Theological School Committee in the future. Committee II also was assigned an overture from Prof. Hanko to correct the translations of certain key articles of the Canons before the Psalter is reprinted. This overture was approved, and a committee appointed to review the proposed changes and to report to Synod of 1987.
Next on the program was the report of Committee III. To this committee was assigned all matters pertaining to our contact with other churches. The Contact Committee had presented to Synod an extensive report concerning several important items. Let me summarize the more significant items and the synodical decisions:
1) Synod decided to send fraternal delegates (Rev. G. Van Baren and Rev. J. Kortering) to the Bible Presbyterian Church of Larne, Northern Ireland. I will not spell out their entire mandate, but summarize it. These delegates are empowered to conduct Church Visitation (if asked) along the lines of Article 44 of the Church Order. They are to discuss and propose guidelines for discipline upon the request of the BPC of Larne. They are to preach and lecture, upon request, at Larne. And while they are in the U.K., they are to contact other churches with whom we have some contact.
2) Synod instructed the Contact Committee to begin to make preparation for a conference to be held with the BPC of Larne, the Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore, and the Protestant Reformed Church of New Zealand in 1990, D.V. The Contact Committee is to submit recommendations to the Synod of 1987.
3) The Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore had been invited to send delegates to our synod this year. On Monday, June 16, these delegates (Pastor Lau Chin Kwee and Elder Ang Leing Huat) were welcomed and seated at synod, and they participated in several sessions. It was indeed pleasant to meet the brethren again and to enjoy their fellowship. The Contact Committee reported to synod concerning a problem between us and the ERCS regarding their attitude toward the OPC of Christchurch, New Zealand and their admitting to their pulpit the Pastor of Christchurch. The visit of the ERCS delegates also made possible a face-to-face meeting with the Contact Committee about this matter. Synod also approved the possible sending of two delegates to the ERCS, should we receive an invitation.
4) Synod decided to establish sister-church relations with the little Protestant Reformed Church of New Zealand in Wellington. They were also advised that as a sister church the calling of one of our ministers belongs to the rights and privileges of sister-church relations. Later, however, synod rejected by an 8 to 7 vote a proposal to grant this little flock the financial aid necessary to enable them to call a minister—something without which they cannot survive, of course. Still later in its sessions synod apparently relented somewhat and instructed the Contact Committee to try to raise the necessary funds (outside of synodical assessments) to help the PRC of New Zealand.
5) Synod also had before it a protest of Mr. G. Feenstra having to do with preaching in non-sister churches by our representatives, Prof. H. Hanko and Rev. D. Engelsma, during their trip to the U.K. in 1984. This protest was deemed legally before synod. The protest was rejected on one point, as not being contrary to synodical decisions of 1978. It was upheld on another, as being in violation of the Contact Committee constitution. Meanwhile, the Contact Committee was also instructed to study, clarify, and, if need be, correct the constitutional item involved (and, of course, report to the Synod of 1987).
Committee III was also assigned the matter of the Psalter Reprinting Committee. This committee failed to make a timely report to synod, and therefore nothing could be treated. Synod took cognizance of the fact that Rev. Haak is now in Lynden, Washington. It decided to replace him with Mr. Chas. Kregel as chairman and decided to add the name of Mrs. Eunice Kuiper to the committee. It is important for our churches that significant progress be made on this matter before the Synod of 1987.
Meanwhile, Committee I had completed part of its report. In fact, consideration of the report of Committee III was interrupted to begin consideration of Committee I’s report. Committee I was assigned a disproportionately large part of the Agenda—all mission matters, both foreign and domestic. While records are not kept on these matters, this committee undoubtedly must have broken all records for meetings of advisory committees. They also did thorough work and served synod well on several difficult items. This brief report will not reflect in full the amount of work done by the committee. They had several items which were not difficult and time-consuming. Among these were the following:
1) In connection with the report of the Foreign Mission Committee, synod decided to inform the churches that the work of the Rev. A. den Hartog in Singapore is drawing to a close. If he has not received and accepted a call before December 15, 1986, he and his family will be brought home at that time. Synod also expressed “the churches’ deep appreciation to Rev. den Hartog and family for their faithful labors in Singapore, labors which by the grace of God resulted in the establishment of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore.” A provisional budget was adopted in this connection.
2) Synod decided that there is no need for another missionary to replace Rev. den Hartog as missionary in the near future. But it also instructed the Foreign Mission Committee to investigate, in conjunction with the ERCS, possible future fields of labor in Singapore and Malaysia.
3) Synod also approved, without reservation, the continuation of the mission labors in Modesto, California (Rev. S. Houck), Northwest Chicago (Rev. R. Van Overloop), and Norristown, Pennsylvania (Rev. K. Hanko). Later it also approved budgets for these fields, one of which (Norristown-Blue Bell) is entirely self-supporting.
It was matters pertaining to the Jamaica Field which were the most time-consuming both for Committee I and synod. Early in its work Committee I discovered that the report on Jamaica in the Agenda was inadequate and incomplete, and gained from synod authorization to investigate further in the Mission Committee records and to try to gain an accounting of various monies spent in Jamaica the past year. Out of the committee’s investigation and report came several negative decisions of synod. Synod disapproved of several building projects in Jamaica as unauthorized and contrary to previous decisions of synod re policy in Jamaica. It called a halt to all building expenditures, except for emergencies, and set a limit on these of $500. It instructed the Mission Committee to furnish a complete accounting of the past year’s building projects. Synod also required an accounting of several other unaccounted for or unauthorized expenditures from the Mission Committee. Further, synod decided:
1) Not to call a second missionary for Jamaica this year, but that a minister co-worker be sent for a period of 6 to 9 months, in accord with previously decided policy.
2) That emissaries not be sent to the island “unless there be a clearly defined need, which need be demonstrated to the Synod of 1987.”
3) That the Mission Committee, the calling church, and the missionary shall produce “a well-defined plan for the Jamaican field, based on the policy of 1983, and report to the Synod of 1987.”
4) That Prof. Decker (professor of missions) and Rev. den Hartog (upon his return) be provided as advisors for the formulation of such a plan.
It is clear, therefore, that synod wanted the work in Jamaica to continue, but in an orderly fashion and according to a clearly defined plan and with full accountability.
To Committee IV were assigned all financial matters, such as subsidies, budgets, treasurer’s report, and assessments. This committee also had a large task, and can really not complete its work until all other committee reports have been considered, since it must keep tab on the various expenditures approved by synod throughout its sessions. In connection with Committee IV’s report we may mention the following items:
1) Synod received from Classis West the gift of a large estate, with the stipulation that this shall be a perpetual fund of which 70% of the earnings each year shall be used to subsidize the Emeritus Fund.
2) Synod approved subsidies for the needy churches as requested.
3) Synod approved a per family assessment for 1987 of $434.00—a considerable increase over the current assessment, due partly to increased expenditures and partly to the fact that the surplus in some funds was exhausted and partly to the fact that there was an under-assessment for the current year.
Faith Church, Jenison, Michigan, was appointed the calling church for 1987.
Late on Thursday afternoon, June 19, synod finished its Agenda. This was a very busy synod. After the examinations were completed, synod put in five full and busy days. May the Lord bless the decisions made.
This is, of course, only a very brief and partial report, unofficial in nature, of the activities of synod. For the complete report we refer you to the Acts, which will soon be distributed.