The Rev. H. Hoeksema and the Rev. G.M. Ophoff protested to Classis East of the Protestant Reformed Churches against an action of their consistory.
Classis East sustained them in their protest and advised that Consistory to demand apologies from Rev. De Wolf and from that element in the consistory that had defended him in his heretical statements.
By majority vote of eleven to nothing the consistory adopted this advice of Classis East on June 1, 1953 and gave those involved a period of time to decide whether they would apologize or not.
On the evening of June 22 these consistory members together with Rev. De Wolf presented a statement, which—even by the judgment of the neighboring consistory of the Fourth Protestant Reformed Church—was not what Classis had advised the consistory of First Church to demand. By majority vote of eleven to nothing at that meeting it was then decided that Rev. De Wolf must apologize according to Classical decision. Being under discipline and being personally involved the eleven elders that supported Rev. De Wolf had no right, according to Art. 33 of the Church Order, to vote. The vote therefore was eleven to nothing and not eleven to eleven.
Rev. De Wolf refused.
Then by the majority vote of twelve to nothing—for the eleven votes of the elders supporting Rev. De Wolf did not count here either—it was decided that these elders must apologize according to Classical decision.
The elders refused to do so.
It may not, therefore, be either overlooked or be denied that these eleven elders were legally deposed when on the evening of June 23 such a decision was taken by that element of the consistory that still had the right to vote in the matter.
Let us for argument’s sake assume—which actually is not at all true—that these eleven elders did have a right to vote on June 22 even though they were personally involved. Then, even then, the motion that they apologize according to Classical decision still carried by the majority of twelve to eleven. You might, on that same assumption, say that since the other motion, counting the eleven votes of those that, might not vote, was a tie vote of eleven to eleven, the motion failed that Rev. De Wolf must apologize according to Classical decision. But you cannot get away with that kind of reasoning in regard to the eleven elders. By majority vote, whichever way you look at it, they were demanded to apologize according to Classical decision. And they refused to do so. Do they now under oath before God and man on the witness stand, dare to deny that by majority vote they were placed under this demand and that they refused to do so? Undersigned sincerely pities Rev. De Wolf and these eleven elders when they will have to submit to cross examination under oath on the witness stand for facts that are so evident. Philosophy and hiding of facts will not do when there is documentary evidence to sustain and reveal the real facts.
Whether the Rev. Hoeksema is a domineering character or not will not to any degree change the facts in the case and the documentary evidence. What the undersigned or Rev. De Wolf or Rev. Hoeksema or Rev. Ophoff wrote here or there or anywhere in the recent past or decades ago likewise will not change these facts or cause the ink of the documentary evidence to fade away; The question is, what did the consistory decide? What did Classis decide? What did the consistory do with the advice of Classis? What was the reaction of Rev, De Wolf and his elders to that decision of the consistory concerning the advice of the Classis? Even if it could be shown from the writings of the Rev. Hoeksema or of the Rev. Ophoff that they somewhere in the past wrote statements that were literally identical to those two statements of Rev. De Wolf, that would not change the documentary evidence. It would not change the decision of the Classis one whit. These men also would then have to be placed by the consistory before the question as to whether they also would apologize for such statements, but it would not to any degree change the decision of the Classis or of the consistory. The records are there, for all to see.
But the big question is, what did Rev. De Wolf and his elders do with that decision which passed by majority vote? Did they walk the church political way of our Church Order? Did they use legal means to seek justice and rectification of injustice? Or did they break all order and decency and walk in the error of schism?
Such is the sad case.
They cast the Church Order aside, notably article 31, and said that regardless of what order the Church Order prescribed for them, they would go in a different direction. Let us make that very plain.
The article reads thus, “If any one complain that he has been wronged by the decision of a minor assembly, he shall have the right to appeal to a major ecclesiastical assembly, and whatever may be agreed upon by a majority vote shall be considered settled and binding, unless it be proved to conflict with the word of God or with the Articles of the Church Order, as long as they are not changed by a General Synod.”
Now, who is it that complains long and loud in speech and writing that they were “wronged by the decision of a minor assembly?” Surely not the Rev. Hoeksema, the Rev. Hanko and their faithful elders. They were never put under discipline or even protested against by anyone. It is Rev. De Wolf and his elders who complain that they were wronged by the decision of Classis, by the, decisions of the June 22 and of the June 23 consistory meetings. There is documentary evidence, black-on-white records against which they complain.
Their complaints are loud and many. They say that it was a minority that tried to depose the majority. They complain that when they did present an apology that it was not accepted. They complain that they were not notified of the meeting to be held June 23. They even complain that the Rev. Hoeksema walked out of the meeting while it was still deliberating on the case.
What does the Church Order say to them? It says, Rev. De Wolf and your supporting elders, you should take your grievances to Classis and Synod. It tells them that the Classis and the Synod are there exactly to decide whether the things of which they complain were done decently and in order or not. Especially since the committee sent by Classis was there and was obliged to report the doings of that meeting to Classis, they should at least have waited for Classis’ reaction to this report and should not have taken things in their own hands.
That is what they did!
Rev. De Wolf and his elders said, we are going to decide these things for ourselves. We are not going to take it to Classis and to Synod. We are going to express right here that we are the legal consistory. We are going to say that the Rev. Hoeksema and his elders are not the Consistory. We will not appeal to a major ecclesiastical body. We are going to decide right now, tonight! And we—twelve men—are going to decide this for all of Classis East!
And so they separated themselves from the apparatus that the Protestant Reformed Churches have for the solution of the difficulties of which its members complain. Thus, they separated themselves from the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Had they said, we will not recognize the suspension and deposition and will still consider ourselves members of the consistory together with you, whowant, to suspend and dispose us, you would have had a different situation. They would have been doing wrong. But they would not have committed the schism, the separation they now made.
The Church Order gives them no, right to decide any of these things of which they complained. They say that the eleven elders were not personally involved and might vote? Yes, but then they are complaining, are they, not? that this right was taken from them illegally. And article 31 does not say that, in such cases, they may decide that matter for themselves. Do you not see how their argument even returns to their own heads? A minority, they say suspended and deposed them and therefore it is not legal, and they need not recognize it, And so, they, say, the last part of article 31 does not hold. Nothing, they say, was decided by majority vote and therefore their suspension and deposition is not settled and binding, and they need no appeal to Classis or Synod for a decisions which really is not a decision since it did not pass by majority vote. But is it not equally true, then, that they are no majority over against those whom they have declared to be schismatic? Did they not have no more than twelve votesï¿½if you also count the vote of Rev. De Wolfï¿½to decide that the other twelve members of the consistory were no longer the legal consistory? Consistency, thou art a jewel!
Is it not plain that since they themselves have no clear majority and at best again have only a tie vote—twelve consistory members against twelve consistory members—that Article 31 surely says that these, complaining that their vote was illegally taken away, should appeal to Synod and try to show to Synod that officebearers who are demanded by majority vote of 11 to 0 on June 1 to apologize according to Classical decision have a right to vote and decide whether their apology is acceptable or not? Does article 31 or any other article in the Church Order give them the right, as only half of the consistory to decide that it need not go to Synod? Should they not also appeal to Synod about what they call an illegal consistory meeting because they were not notified about it? Of course Article 31 is plain to anyone who wants to walk in the Church political way of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Then, too, much is said about that “unless.” We agree with the Rev. Ophoff that no decision of either and minor or major assembly may bind the conscience of any man. Nor do we ever want to insist that Rev. De Wolf and his followers sin against their own conscience. If, then, they refuse for conscience sake to make use of the “right” of which the article speaks, then let them leave our denomination and form their own, where they can teach and preach as their conscience dictates.
But do you not see what they did? Do you not see what they still do? Classis East of the Protestant. Reformed Churches said that such Liberated statements as those of Rev. De Wolf may not be preached on a Protestant Reformed pulpit. Hence it demanded their condemnation. Rev. De Wolf and his followers not only refused to condemn these statements but by their illegal setting of themselves up as a Protestant Reformed consistory, even though the eleven elders were legally by majority vote deposed, they—twelve men, mind you who talk about a minority deciding things for the majority—they decided for the whole Classis that such statements may stand in their literal form and claimed their right to be a consistory in the Classis East of the Protestant Reformed Churches with those statements. Under the name Protestant Reformed they—though a Protestant Reformed Classis condemned the statements—will yet preach such Liberated and heretical statements.
In that error they continue to walk today.