Before I proceed with the discussion of the “merger,” let me state here that through the kindness of one of the brethren of the “Reformed Church in the United States/’ a brother that took an important part in opposing the merger, I received a good deal of literature that gave me new information about the history the brethren, especially of the “Synod of the Northwest,” made and the struggle they went through.

I discovered, too, that several classes expressed their disapproval of the Plan of Union, and of the merger (among which classis Eureka), while others gave their consent on condition that they could retain the Heidelberg Catechism as their Confession.

However, I still failed to find a formal protest against the action of the General Synod of 1932, by which they adopted the Plan of Union.

Secondly, I noticed (this from the articles in The Witness which I reprinted in the previous issue of our paper) that classis Eureka recently incorporated as the Reformed Church in the United States. I understand that this means that the classis is a legal body before the law. I even found a notice from classis Eureka to the Synod of the Northwest (Acts and Proceedings, 1938) stating that the classis already at that time claimed to have a legal right before law to all the property of the Reformed Church in the United States. For us this is something new and strange, i.e. it is foreign to our conception of Reformed Church polity that a classis or Synod can incorporate as a legal body. I am sure that the brethren would do us a favor if they would throw some light upon this matter. I also would like to know whether the action of classis Eureka was a purely local affair, and whether it precludes further conferences with other brethren that are concerned about the condition of the merged church. Does classis Eureka claim the exclusive right at present to the name “Reformed Church in the United States,” and would other congregations that would desire to take a similar step have to become a part of the corporation established by classis Eureka in order to share the right to that name?

I confess that I am somewhat confused on the matter. A little more light is very desirable.

But let me now return to the discussion of the “merger.”

I would like to make a few remarks about the “Constitution and By-Laws of the Evangelical and Reformed Church,” a copy of which is now in my possession through the kindness of the Rev. U. Zogg of Scotland, S. D.

It is not my purpose to enter into a detailed discussion of this Constitution. Our readers will agree with me that we are mostly interested in the doctrinal basis of the Union Church that was adopted finally.

It is very brief, but also very significant. Here it is in full:

“The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are recognized as the Word of God and the ultimate rule of Christian faith and practice.

“The doctrinal standards of the constituent Churches are accepted as interpretative statements of the essential truth of evangelical Christianity as taught in the Holy Scriptures. In these statements of faith, ministers and members are allowed liberty of conscience whose final norm is the Word of God.

“In its relation to other Christian communions the Evangelical and Reformed Church shall constantly endeavor to promote the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” pp. 1, 2.

That is all.

In a footnote we are reminded that “according to the Plan of Union, Article II, the historical confessions of the two Churches are acknowledged as the doctrinal basis of union. The Evangelical Synod of North America in its constitution accepts the Augsburg Confession, Luther’s Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism, in so far as they agree. On all points of difference it adheres to the passages of the Holy Scriptures bearing on the subject, and avails itself of the liberty of conscience prevailing in the evangelical church. The Reformed Church in the United States in its constitution accepts, the Heidelberg Catechism as an authoritative expression of the truths of the Holy Scriptures and acknowledges it as its standard of doctrine.”

From all this it should be perfectly evident, and we say it without reservation, that the Evangelical and Reformed Church is a church without a confession. It is a creedless church. The truth of this ought to be evident from the following.

  1. The statement that “the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are recognized as the Word of God and the ultimate rule of Christian and faith and practice,” cannot be accepted as a creed, for a creed is exactly the officially accepted statement of what a church or group of churches believes to be the true doctrine contained in the Scriptures.
  2. Although the statement that “the doctrinal standards of the constituent churches are accepted as interpretative statements of the essential truth of evangelical Christianity as taught in the Holy Scriptures,” might leave the impression that by it these doctrinal standards (the Augsburg Confession, Luther’s Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism) are accepted as the official confessions of the E. and R., this impression is deceptive. The statement declares nothing concerning a doctrinal basis, it does not say that these standards are authoritative, it does not even state that they are correct interpretations of the truth of the Holy Writ. Anyone could make this statement without committing himself to being doctrinally or confessionally bound. Of course, those confessions are interpretative statements! What else could they be? And who would deny it? But a creed is concerned with the questions whether you accept them as true statements, whether you agree to be bound by them, Whether you will teach and defend them, and reject whatever is in conflict therewith. No confession is adopted by the above statement.
  3. Even if it were the intention of the above statement to adopt the standards referred to as a basis of union, this would be completely neutralized by the rest of that paragraph:  “In these statements of faith, ministers and members are allowed liberty of conscience whose final norm is the Word of God.” I like to call attention to the fact that the term “liberty of conscience” is a beautiful expression that is here used to cover the evil of “doctrinal indifference.” No one can be denied liberty pf conscience. True liberty of conscience is beyond the authority and power of any man or body of men. And any honest minister or member in any church, though it would have the strictest and most minutely circumscribed creed, has liberty of conscience. He is never compelled to speak against his conscience. Is he not voluntarily subscribing, to the confession of the church of which he is a member or minister? And can he not sever his connection with that church whenever he no longer agrees with its doctrinal statements? But the above statement from the Constitution of the E. and R. does not mean freedom of conscience. It means doctrinal indifference. Any member or minister can believe and teach what he wants!

Hence, the Evangelical and Reformed Church is strictly without a creed.

The doctrinal basis adopted in the Constitution is worse than that announced in the Plan of Union.

The latter at least accepted the historical confessions of the two churches as a doctrinal basis of union. The Constitution adopts no doctrinal basis at all!

The Constitution of the original Evangelical Synod permitted limited “liberty of conscience,” or freedom of doctrine, viz., only in as far as the Augsburg Confession, Luther’s Catechism, and the Heidelberg Catechism differed from one another. The Constitution of the merged church allows unlimited freedom of doctrine. One can explain Scripture precisely as he wants in the united church!

A few illustrations of what this means with respect to what is actually being taught in that church I hope to furnish next time, D.V.

But even now enough has been said to warrant the statement that no true Reformed man or minister can remain in such a fellowship.