To us, who cannot conceive of any organic union of churches except on the basis of a common confession of faith, and who take this fundamental requisite seriously, it is somewhat amazing that the General Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States could, in 1982, unanimously adopt the Plan of Union, which we published in the last issue of our paper, and thus virtually, subject to the approval of their classes, accomplish the merger of the Church they represented with the Evangelical Synod of North America.
Yet, thus it was decided. We read (An Examination and Criticism, p. 89):
“The Rev. J. Stewart Hartman then moved that the General Synod adopt the plan of Union as read by Dr. Leonard, and that it be sent down to the Classes of the Reformed Church for their approval. After the motion had been properly seconded. Dr. George W. Richards addressed the General Synod on the reasonableness and advantages of the proposed union. The Plan of Union was further discussed.
“The vote was taken and the plan approved by a rising unanimous vote.”
Now let us examine the implication of this action by the Synod.
What did it adopt?
They adopted the declaration, and asked their various classes to adopt the same, that “The Reformed Church in the United States and the Evangelical Synod of North America (are) under the conviction that they are in agreement on the essential doctrines of the Christian faith as contained in the Old and New Testaments and as defined in their respective standards of doctrine.”
They adopted the statement: “We acknowledge and accept the historical confessions of the two Churches as the doctrinal basis of union.”
What do these declarations imply?
They imply that the General Synod of the Reformed Church in the United’ States, as early as 1982, expressed that: 1. That the Augsburg Confession, Luther’s Catechism, and the Heidelberg Catechism, are in agreement on essential doctrines. 2. That henceforth the Reformed Church in the United States adopt these three standards as their doctrinal basis.
And this means that the Reformed Church in the United States permitted itself, in 1982, to be swallowed up by the Evangelical Synod of North America. (This was the official name of the Evangelical Church before 1934).
The merger was the story of the cat and mouse: the mouse became part of the cat. Officially, the Reformed Church in the United States became the Evangelical Synod of North America.
That this is true is evident from the following.
The Evangelical Synod of North America has its beginning in a gathering of six “Evangelical” pastors in Missouri. These founded the “Deutschen Evangelischen Kirchenverein des Westens.” This gathering took place Oct. 15, 1840. Out of this “German Evangelical Denomination of the West” developed, after a few decades, the Evangelical Synod of North America. And as to the Confession this denomination adopted, we quote the following from Kleiner Evangelischer Katechismus, p. 69: (DUTCH REMOVED)
Which means: 1. That the doctrinal basis of the Evangelical Synod of North America before the merger consisted of the Augsburg Confession, Luther’s Catechism, and the Heidelberg Catechism in as far as they are in agreement with one another. 2. That freedom of conscience is allowed in regard to those doctrinal points in which those Confessions disagree.
Now, we recall that the Confession of the Reformed Church in the United States was the Heidelberger alone. It is evident, therefore, that according to the plan of Union, adopted by the General Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States in 1932, the latter simply shifted to the doctrinal basis of the Evangelical Synod of North America.
I consider this point of principal importance. And I am amazed that the General Synod of 1932 unanimously adopted this Plan of Union.
In our next issue I must elaborate on this somewhat.