The South Holland Law Case Concluded

Following is a copy of the Final Decree (a consent decree) resolving the issues of the Bill of Complaint that was brought against our South Holland Protestant Reformed Church by the schismatic group in South Holland as instigated by the Rev. B. Kok, their erstwhile moderator and pastor. 

STATE OF ILLINOIS ) 

) SS 

COUNTY OF COOK ) 

IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS 

PROTESTANT REFORMED ) 

CHURCH OF SOUTH HOLLAND, ) 

A RELIGIOUS CORPORATION, ) 

and BERNARD KOK ) 

PLAINTIFFS ) 

vs– ) 

NO. 58817915 

HOMER C. HOEKSEMA, JOHN VAN BAREN, WILLIAM T. TERPSTRA, PETER POORTENGA, ANDREW LENTING, ARTHUR ZANDSTRA and EDWARD BRUINSMA ) 

DEFENDANTS )

FINAL DECREE 

This cause coming on to be heard on the bill of complaint filed in said cause, the answer of the defendants thereto and the reply of the complainants to said answer, and the proofs oral, documentary and written, taken and filed in said cause, and after argument and filing of briefs by the respective parties but before the filing of a Masters Report; and all parties having this day appeared in court either in person or by counsel and having consented to the entry of this decree, said consent being signified by the written approval of all of the parties hereto by their respective attorneys, and the court being fully advised in the premises doth find! 

1. It has jurisdiction of the subject matter of this cause and the parties thereto and that all court costs and Master’s fees have been paid in full. 

2. The Protestant Reformed Church in the United States has a Presbyterian form of church government wherein each church has a consistory consisting of ministers and members who are either elders or elders and deacons chosen by the communion members of the church. 

3. That there are two classis in the denomination, Classis East and Classis West. Each consistory send two delegates to the Classis under which it resorts. 

4. That the highest assembly of said church is the Synod, which consists of eight delegates from each classis, four ministers and four elders. 

5. That the defendants and their duly elected successors constitute the true and lawful consistory of the Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois, a religious corporation, and they, together with the congregation. they represent, are entitled to the ownership, possession, use and control of all of the property, both real and personal, of said Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois. 

6. That the defendants and the consistory which they constitute are recognized by the true and lawful Classis West and Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. 

7. That the defendants, their duly elected successors and the congregation they represent are entitled to sole use of the name “Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois” and to sole-use and ownership of the corporate name, “Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, a religious corporation.” 

8. That only the defendant HOMER C. HOEKSEMA or his duly elected successors are entitled to represent themselves as ministers of the Gospel of the Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois. 

9. The Court further finds that the Plaintiffs have not maintained the allegations in their bill of complaint contained. 

It is therefore ordered, adjudged and decreed that the bill of complaint in this cause be atid the same is hereby dismissed for want of equity. 

ENTER: (was signed) Samuel B. Epstein Judge 

Approved this 17th day of April, 1961. 

Examined and Approved: Lyewellyn A. Wescott, Master in Chancery of the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois

Lyle, Havey & Gager 

By: Edward T. Havey 

Attorney for Plaintiff 

Orval A. Larson and John J. Moran 

By: John J. Moran 

Attorney for Defendant 

Explanation and Comment 

A word of explanation is first of all in order so that this chronicle may be completed. 

This law case began in the fall of 1958 when a complaint was brought against our South Holland Church, or rather against the consistory members, by the schismatic group in the name of “The Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, and Bernard Kok.” This was a small group of families who had formally requested dismissal papers in early 1955 and had been organized into a schismatic congregation. Upon organization these resigned members turned around and took the name of South Holland Protestant Reformed Church. Later, after having been warned, they changed this to “Orthodox Protestant Reformed Church,” and even so informed their classis. In 1958 they suddenly were sending out letters again under our name. And when their letters, in which they avowed that they did not want court action but were gracious enough to divide our property with us, had no effect, Kok, who became their pastor in August, 1958, with his consistory brought a Bill of Complaint against us, in which they sought to deprive us of our name and property and even of the right to use the denominational name “Protestant Reformed” at all. The sole ground of this case brought, mind you, by the same Kok who had under oath so vehemently tried to be congregationalistic in the First Church case—was the Court decision in the well-known Second Church case. 

Because of the crowded court docket in Cook County, our case was heard by a Master in Chancery, a qualified attorney appointed by the court to conduct the hearing and file a report with the court. Our case was heard in 1959 and early 1960, and briefs were filed in the spring of 1960, our brief being a very detailed account and thorough-going treatment of the issues of the case. And since that time we had been waiting for a Master’s report, hopeful that it would be favorable. 

Before a report was issued, however, events took a new turn. The schismatic congregation ceased holding services after the first of the year, Kok joined the Christian Reformed Church of Munster, Indiana, and sought admittance to the Christian Reformed ministry at the January session of Classis Chicago South. This had led us to make preparations for re-opening the hearing and introducing new evidence. But before such a new hearing could be held, our opposition initiated negotiations for a settlement of the case. Such a settlement was possible if reached before the Master’s report was filed. This would not be what is known as an “out-of-court” settlement. But this would be a settlement agreed upon by both parties and officially affirmed by the court. The form of settlement upon which we insisted was this consent decree, which deals with all the issues raised by the complaint and which has the force of a final court decree. 

After lengthy negotiations, which centered particularly on the issue of classis and synod (cf. paragraph 6 of the decree) the opposition finally agreed to the above decree, which is substantially what we had demanded from the beginning, and which justifies not only the local consistory but also Classis West and our Synod. 

Thus ends the chronicle of the South Holland case. Needless to say, the congregation there is happy and thankful that at long last their name and church property are no longer in jeopardy. Never has there been a doubt among them as to what was right and proper before God in this case. Nor, generally speaking, was there doubt in the community as a whole as to who actually constituted the Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois. The only question was what the civil court would decide. The congregation may now go forward without this cloud of doubt hanging over their life. 

And thus has ended also another of these dissident schismatic groups, founded on no principle but that of error, conceived in rebellion, and doomed beforehand to disintegrate because of the very seeds of error and revolution inherent in them. 

And what of the chief instigator of this court action, the Reverend Bernard Kok? 

This is a shameful story. But the facts are incontrovertible, and they should be known by all concerned. 

I will not go back to the beginning even of the South Holland case. For then pages would have to be written. Let me merely relate the facts in connection with Kok’s return to the Christian Reformed Church, and then, too, not as they pertain to his doctrinal examination, but as they pertain to his ethical conduct. As far as doctrine is concerned, we all have known for a long time that the schismatic movement (I do not say all their members) is principally Christian Reformed in doctrine. But the ethical conduct of Kok has been a disgrace to the ministry of any church. 

First of all, in general, would it not have been simple moral honesty if Kok had withdrawn his lawsuit and expressed sorrow for ever having attempted to take Protestant Reformed name and property the moment he had any intention of joining the Christian Reformed Church? 

Secondly, the reader ought to know that partly because of a letter sent by our South Holland Consistory to Classis Chicago South, Kok promised to have his name withdrawn from the Bill of Complaint immediately. Not only did he not do this; but he continued to meddle in the negotiations for a Consent Decree almost to the very end, and long after the classis had accepted him. 

In the third place, after joining the Christian Reformed Church and after being admitted to the ministry, he still continued to act as president of the schismatic consistory, and even signed dismissal papers as president as late as February 15. 

Such lawlessness we have learned to expect from the schismatic movement. And we can only feel sorry for their membership, which must suffer from such inept, corrupt, and unethical leadership. 

But from the Christian Reformed Church, in spite of the differences we have with them, we do not really expect that they will tolerate actions of this kind. We had expected that there was more genuine ecclesiastical dignity and respect for the “ecclesiastical manner” and desire to keep unprofaned the sacred ministry than this. I say this not with a kind of unholy glee, but in all love. Brethren, investigate: you will find the facts as I presented them. And then undo the wrong. For you can only reap for your own denomination an evil harvest from this ministry begun in falsehood. 

And to those earnest-minded souls of the De Wolf group that are disturbed by the recent turn of events and who may have their eyes opened when they see the end of the way on which they began in 1953, I would still say: Come back! Come back in the proper way, that is, the way of openhearted repentance and confession before God and His church. 

—H.C.H.