In the last issue of the Standard Bearer we began a quotation of an article written by the Rev. J. Howerzyl in the Reformed Guardian on the subject noted above. We closed our article with a rather lengthy quotation on which we wish to make some reflections now. The reader may refer to the last issue for this quotation.
Rev. Howerzyl tells his readers that several court trials are pending, one of which has to do with the properties of the Second Prot. Ref. Church now held by the Blankespoor group. I am going to pass this part of the quotation up for the time being because in a later Reformed Guardian (May 10, 1956) the Rev. Blankespoor also writes about this case. The next time, the Lord willing, I am going to write about that article and Rev. Howerzyl’s article will be answered at the same time.
He also writes about the case at Edgerton where a decision is being appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Concerning this case the Rev. Howerzyl further writes: “I know that compromise and arbitration attempts have been met with flat refusal in the past. We need only cite the unwillingness shown in. the Edgerton case, where our people leaned over backward, offering the Veldman group a property worth probably $50,000.00 for some $12,000.00 if they preferred, or offering to pay them some $12,000 if they would relinquish the claim they to take the choice. This, of course, was turned down.”
I have it on good authority that that “leaning over backward” was not as far backward as the Rev. Howerzyl would have his readers think. It does not make for much strain on one’s back when he tries to make an out-of-court settlement for properties that rightly belong to somebody else. I am told that the Articles of Incorporation in Edgerton speak in clear language whose shall be the property, and a good conscience would demand that these articles be enforced. Besides, a good conscience would demand that not only Howerzyl but the De Boer group acknowledge several things: how by stealth and trickery they confiscated the properties; how, while they were fighting for the name “Protestant Reformed” in a worldly court, members of their following expressed open disdain of this name. We are told that eyen Rev. De Boer at one time said that he was seriously considering joining another church. And how about the Protestant Reformed School in Edgerton? When that project was abandoned by the De Boer group and their children sent to a Christian Reformed School, good conscience would dictate that they admit that they were not Protestant Reformed and do not intend to be. And then talk about “leaning over backward,” to make a fair settlement for the property—that’s a scream!
Concerning what Howerzyl writes respecting the missives sent to Rev. A. Cammenga and Mr. Fred LaGrange I cannot affirm or deny because I do not know the particulars. But if you want to talk about a “good conscience” Rev. Howerzyl, my question to you is: how can one who is no longer a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches and has become a schismatic minister of a schismatic group of people with good conscience continue to live for nothing in a missionary home that belongs not to his people nor to him? Who ever heard of a Protestant Reformed minister, pastor of a Protestant Reformed Church, living in a house that belongs to a stranger while he offers not to pay one cent of rent and the owner repeatedly asks him to move out? Does Rev. Cammenga believe that the group he represents suddenly became the owners of the house he lives in simply because he happened to be living there when he became schismatic? That is so ridiculous that there are no words to describe it. And then you get hot and bothered when the Rev. Cammenga gets a letter commanding him to get out? Please don’t talk about a good conscience any more.
Finally, you are correct when you tell your readers that Redlands and Hull will also be in court in the near future. Ali because you and your group do not have a good conscience. All because you and your group force this litigation. You write as though the group initiating all these lawsuits finds a certain delight in hanging out a dirty washing on the line, “the dirty linen of an ecclesiastical family quarrel.” This is the farthest from the truth. The truth is that you and your group have lost your conscience of doing what is right. You force all these litigations by your illegal seizure of properties that rightly belong to others. And when it is a question of what is right or wrong you must not talk about “compromise” as you do in the remainder of your article.
“Personally we would still suggest a compromise of some kind in all these matters. And we ask in all sincerity, ‘Would not a compromise of some kind on the synodical and the classical and the local level be possible even at this late date?
“I know that compromise and arbitration attempts have been met with flat refusal in the past . . . . So we know also that in the case of Hull a compromise offer for out-of-court settlement was also offered and refused. In view of these discouragements it would perhaps seem futile and foolish to attempt something like this again.
“Yet we say: Could not some compromise settlement be offered and agreed upon which would take into consideration name, archives, impounded money and property both east and west?
“Perhaps this suggestion of a compromise how would be hardly fair to our people in Fuller Avenue, ousted from their property. But it seems to me that this exactly gives the possibility of a compromise settlement more power at the present time. By this I mean that development which the decision of the Michigan Courts has forced upon the individual churches in the east if they are to continue their defense of their properties. That is an appeal to the decision of the broadest gathering: Synod. Now it must be evident that, just as in this case, no legal body is really competent to judge the question and decide which of our divided gatherings was the legal continuation of the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches. But in view of the fact that in the Fuller Avenue case the Hoeksema group has won a property valued probably at some half a million dollars, besides some $30,000.00 in cash, a property which is probably more valuable than all the rest of the church property together—the possibility of a compromise settlement might look more attractive. For if the entire matter is once again thrown into court and a defense is made of our Synod being the legal continuing Synod—then even the victory in the Fuller Avenue case would be jeopardized for the Hoeksema group. So whether or not these items listed here are correct—why not try. Because far more important in the entire matter is, of course, the fact that this is the way of the Church and the way of Christ.
“Personally, win or lose, I have been sick in my soul and tired of church matters in the worldly courts from before the time they have begun. Others may enjoy parading these things before the worldly courts, may enjoy the mental gymnastics of sparring with lawyers, but I cannot. If necessary I can do this but I detest the whole business. These matters in court are not edifying and, win or lose, they do not help neither serve the cause of Christ. To hang out dirty washing on the line, the dirty linen of an ecclesiastical family quarrel, causes only the devil and the world to rejoice.
“So we say again, would not a compromise settlement of some kind, on the synodical and the classical but also on a local level be possible even at this late date. Personally we stand open to discuss and enter into such a discussion always.
“And to underscore the whole matter, in the final analysis property in the church of Christ is of lesser significance. We would rather have a free conscience than all the property of the churches. We must at all costs avoid the obtaining of property while murdering our consciences to do so.”
When I read this I was reminded of a conversation one of our ministers had recently with an individual of one of the schismatic groups whom he met in a grocery store. The man said to the minister, “So, here we are buying groceries together in the same store, but we cannot go to the same church together, and worse yet, now we will have to go to court together.” The minister said, “You do not like to go to court?” “Oh, no!” said the man, “that’s all wrong, that’s all wrong!” “Oh, said the minister, “so that’s all wrong to go to court, eh?” “Oh, yes, yes!” said the man, “that’s all wrong, we should never do that.” “Well then,” said the minister, “if its wrong to go to court, you must never go there, man. But you want us to go there? You want us to do what you think is wrong? I’ll tell you what you must do then that will keep us both of out of court. All you have to do is see to it that we get our properties back. It’s as simple as that!” The man became so flustered with anger that he could not remember immediately where he had parked his car.
So I would say to Rev. Howerzyl and all who are of like mind with him, you must never do anything against your conscience. And if your conscience bothers you so much that you have to go into court to fight for the properties, the simple way out is to give the properties back to us to whom they rightfully belong.
But a compromise deal is as. Silly as you can make it. Suppose, Rev. Howerzyl, that some evening when you are sitting in your home with your wife and children that a man comes walking into the room where you are sitting and orders you to get out of the house. He informs you that from now on he is going to take over. You will have nothing to say about it. Don’t you think that you would pick up the nearest, chair and hit him over the head if you could? I think you would. You would defend your property to the very last. But suppose that you protested against his threats, and after a while the man sits down and say to you, “well, I’ll tell you what I’ll do with you. Let’s compromise. You take half and I’ll take half.” Wouldn’t you still take up the chair and hit him on the head? I think you would.
What you people have done to us amounts to the same thing. First, you tell us to get off from our properties. And this we had to do by force. You locked us out. And now when we try to get the law to open the locks and let us in again you come with this silly compromise thing and say to us, “Let’s settle out-of-court. Let’s divide fifty-fifty.” Isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you ever heard of? And then talk about your conscience bothering you. I should think it would. But I would like to help you have a good conscience. So I suggest to you that you tell your people all along the line to give us back our properties, and then let each go his own way. If you don’t want to do that, I cannot believe that you want a good conscience. Then there is only one alternative for us, and that is to hang up your dirty wash so that all the world may see it.