By the above title I am not referring to our re-union with the Christian Reformed Church, but to that of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands with the Liberated or Reformed Churches, Art. 31.
We wrote about this the last time. And I mentioned especially two items in that report as far as I then had it in my possession. The first item concerned the “terzijde stellen,” the setting aside of the doctrinal decision of 1946 which, according to the decision of the last Synod, means that it still maintains the truth of the decision of 1946 but that it no longer considers it binding upon the churches. But the second item concerns the question of discipline which the Synod of 1946 exercised over some officebearers.
At that time I did not have the complete report and did not know whether the Synod had decided anything at all about the matter of discipline. But in the issue of De Bazuin of Oct. 23 occurs the complete report; and in that report there also appears a paragraph about the matter of the above mentioned discipline.
I will quote the paragraph and translate it:
“The synod considers that the matter here brought up (that is the matter of the doctrinal decisions in connection with disciplinary actions, H.H.) concerns an extremely tender point. Tender for the liberated brethren, because these consider themselves attacked in what they deem their right and honor as officebearers in the church of Christ. Tender for the Reformed Churches, because in this matter they are being reminded of a painful attack upon (as they feel it) ecclesiastical faithfulness with which the liberated brethren were once connected with them, and to the keeping whereof they, especially the ministers among them, had obliged themselves in the formula of subscription. Since these convictions are so radically opposed to each other, the Synod does not consider it possible in this respect to make, concerning the past, from one side such general declarations that the truthfulness is not denied and that, at the same time, the mutual approach may be benefited.”
This is all.
In other words, the Synod, evidently, still feels that in 1946 they were right in exercising discipline over ministers and other officebearers because they had broken their oath of office as expressed in the formula of subscription. But, on the other hand, they feel that they can do nothing to change the decisions of 1946 in respect to discipline over officebearers. This, to my mind, means that they still maintain those decisions.
Although we can in the main agree with the doctrinal decisions of the Synod of 1946, we cannot condone the fact that they deposed local officebearers.
But, even apart from the principle of the thing, will it not make re-union practically impossible if the Synod of the Reformed Churches does not first retract the decision of 1946 concerning the deposition of local office bearers? Many of the deposed officebearers are, no doubt, still living. If the churches re-unite what are they going to do with them? They cannot agree to re-install them in the ministry. What then? Leave them in the ministry? That is, from the viewpoint of the Reformed Synod also impossible, for that would be tantamount to a confession that the Synod of 1946 did wrong by deposing them.
This is, indeed, quite a problem. It shows very plainly that it may be easy for a church to split, but it is very difficult to re-unite unless the right way is pursued even to the very end.