A History of the Protestant Reformed Churches
THE SPECIAL CLASSIS CONVENES AND PROCEEDS
The special meeting of Classis Grand Rapids East, began in the auditorium of Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, November 19, 1924, and closed its final session in Oakdale Christian Reformed Church, December 12, of the same year.
Its sessions were open to the public.
And a large number of church members revealed their keen interest in the proceedings by attending the classical gatherings daily.
For this we may be thankful.
There is no doubt that the attendance of the classical meetings had a salutary influence on many that were still more or less in doubt as to the stand they must take in the common-grace controversy. Many that were still wavering before this meeting of Classis Grand Rapids East had their eyes opened by the Classical proceedings and became convinced that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church was defending the cause of truth and righteousness over against the protestants and the classis.
Besides, many of them that attended the classical meetings are, at the time of the publication of this book, still living and are in a position to witness to the truth of what might otherwise appear to be a practically unbelievable report of what actually happened at this special classis and of the proceedings that culminated in the deposition of the pastor and consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.
Immediately after the opening of the first session a mysterious incident occurred that is worthy of being saved from oblivion.
The consistory of Eastern Avenue had prepared and delivered a protest to the stated clerk of classis, Mr. B. Sevensma, who was an intimate friend of the protestants, directed against the calling of the special meeting of Classis Grand Rapids East by the Classical Committee. The clerk of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church had delivered this protest in person to the stated clerk of the classis. Naturally, a protest of this kind would have to be treated first, before the classis proceeded. When, therefore, the stated clerk failed to present this protest the pastor of Eastern Avenue Church called attention to it and requested that it be read and acted upon before the classis would proceed.
The protest, however, could nowhere be found. All the documents that were on the classical table were carefully searched, but the protest by the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church was not among them.
Mysteriously it had disappeared.
And just as mysteriously it reappeared. For, when the classis reconvened after a recess it was picked up without difficulty from the same table that had been so carefully searched before recess. Classis appointed a committee to investigate this mystery, but without avail. To this day no one knows how the protest happened to be on the table after recess, where it certainly was not before.
But let this merely be regarded as a curious anecdote. It mattered little whether the protest was found or not, for the classis simply overruled it and declared the meeting of this special classis and its convocation by the Classical Committee to be perfectly in order and legal.
There appeared on the classical agendum, first of all, a document by the "ninety-two", partaking of the double nature of a protest against the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church and of a request to classis.
In this protest the "Ninety-two" declared that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church had severed the tie of affiliation with the denomination of the Christian Reformed Churches, because they refused to submit to the demands of the classis and to abide by the decisions of synod. They, therefore, concluded that they were no longer obliged to acknowledge the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church as the legal consistory and informed the classis that they considered themselves the true and faithful congregation.
The document presented several requests to classis.
Heading the list was the petition that classis should support and join them in their declaration that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, had, by virtue of their own actions, severed themselves from the denomination of the Christian Reformed Churches. The reader will notice that not only extremes but also contradictions meet sometimes. These same protestants, who complained that their consistory would not submit to "law and order", here virtually declared that, although they did not and could not constitute a legal body, they had deposed their consistory and requested the classis to acknowledge them as the real and faithful congregation of Eastern Avenue.
But the mind of whomever may have conceived and produced this document did not appear to be easily disturbed by contradictions. For, the request to support the protestants in their claim that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church had severed its connections with the Christian Reformed denomination and, therefore, could be acknowledged as a legal consistory no longer, was followed by the petition that the classis demand of the consistory and pastor of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church an unconditional promise to abide by the decisions and declarations of the classis and the synod. This request had reference especially to the three doctrinal declarations adopted by synod and to the decision of classis that the censure imposed on the three first protestants should be lifted. But how could classis first join the protestants in their declaration that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church had broken all ties of affiliation with the denomination of the Christian Reformed Churches, in order then to demand of that same consistory a promise that they would abide by the decisions of the larger gatherings in that denomination? It must be quite evident that no classis can make demands upon a consistory that is outside of its jurisdiction, granting for the moment that it has jurisdiction and that it has authority to make demands upon a consistory at all.
The protestants, moreover, requested that the classis would assist them, the faithful congregation, to become properly instituted and organized as the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church!
They further petitioned the classis that the faculty of the Theological School (especially Professors L. Berkhof and C. Bouma were mentioned) be asked to serve the classis in an advisory capacity.
Moreover, the protestants appeared so convinced of their being the real and faithful congregation, that they requested classis to give the privilege of advisory vote to two of their own number.
And, in conclusion, they urged the classis to hesitate no longer but to take a firm hold of the matter.
The classis decided to grant the request of the protestants respecting the invitation to the Theological Faculty and to ask that body to be present at the classical meetings and to serve in an advisory capacity.
This certainly was an unprecedented mode of procedure. The Theological Faculty usually serves as advisory body on the floor of the synod, where matters are decided that pertain to the churches in general. But here the matter was one of local concern. The theological professors were asked to reinforce the classis in its battle against a single consistory! This would not have been so strange, if in the course of their deliberations the delegates had met with a problem of a doctrinal or church-political nature which they could not solve, and if, then, they had asked the advice of the professor of that particular department of theology to which the question belonged. But here an entire faculty was invited to serve in advisory capacity in the entire procedure against the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, before the classis had even made an attempt to solve its own problems! Surely, the classis must have been deeply conscious of its own incompetency when they granted this request of the protestants! Besides, this decision was certainly unfair toward the pastor and consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, because of the fact that the theological professors were known to be prejudiced in the case that was to be submitted to their consideration. L. Berkhof and C. Bouma had served in the synodical committee that formulated the "Three Points" and were even considered their main authors. And it was especially the attitude of the pastor and the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church over against these "Three Points" that was to be discussed by the classis.
Do we exaggerate, then, when we draw the conclusion that the classis in granting the request of the protestants regarding this matter deliberately sought prejudiced advice, and that the whole case against the consistory and pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church was virtually decided before the classis had at all deliberated on the case or even before the classis ever met?
I am aware of the fact that suspicions do not belong to the realm of history as human being can trace its course; but the facts in the case do, at least, warrant the statement, that the suspicion is not wholly unfounded, that the Classical Committee had served the protestants with advice against the consistory before the classis convened.
What made matters worse was the condition upon which the theological professors were allowed to accept the invitation.
They refused to attend the meetings of classis as individuals. They expressed, however, their willingness to accede to the request of the classis, provided they would be permitted to meet separately, without appearing before the classis, and to offer their advice as a separate body!
How was it possible for them to give advice in a case if they did not hear both sides of it? Yet, they only heard of the classical proceedings as the Classical Committee, appointed in this case, reported to them.
Besides, it was certainly unfair to the pastor and the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, that the theological professors were allowed to speak in the case without having to appear before the classis. According to this way of procedure they did not even have to face the delegates of the consistory of Eastern Avenue in open discussion. They were allowed to work in the dark. their advice did not even have to be published. To this day no one, except themselves and the pre-advisory committee of classis, knows what the faculty advised in the matter.
Yet, the classis decided to accept this offer of the faculty.
From that moment the classis followed a very strange and unprecedented mode of procedure. A committee of pre-advice was appointed in the case; and in this there was nothing extraordinary. The committee assembled in the Theological School, and this was extraordinary, but occasioned by the desire to have contact with the faculty. What was worse, however, is that they prepared no complete report on the matter delivered to them for consideration. They prepared and delivered their report piecemeal. Whenever they were ready with a part of their report, they delivered it to the classis. This body would then adopt it and demand an answer from the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church at a certain fixed time; classis would adjourn until the consistory would have prepared its reply; would convene again merely to place the consistorys answer in the hands of its committee; and then adjourn again till the committee was ready with another part of its report. This was repeated several times; indeed, this method was followed till the case was finished. There was, therefore, no or little discussion on the floor of the classis. The procedure assumed the form of a correspondence debate between the Classical Committee and the faculty on the one hand and the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church on the other. The classis merely voted and always adopted the advice of its committee. The whole procedure, therefore, was very extraordinary and improper. It was adapted to exclude public discussion as much as possible.
The first part of the report which it pleased the committee to offer classis consisted of two parts.
The first part enumerated the different protests and overtures that were brought to the attention of the classis in the case. Many protests had been received from members of other congregations against the decisions of the August classis in respect to the same case. There was a protest by more than eight hundred members of the Eastern Avenue Church against the same decisions. There was a request by ninety-two members of the same church. And, finally, there were two overtures, one from the consistory of the Dennis Avenue Christian Reformed Church and one from the Creston Christian Reformed Church, both of Grand Rapids, demanding that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church be requested to promise that he would abide by the "Three Points." These overtures had never been brought to the attention of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church. The committee advised classis to accept all these documents as legally before the meeting.
The second part of the report contained the committees advice in regard to the matter proper. They advised classis: (1) to demand of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, that they ask their pastor whether or no he would abide by the three points of doctrine as adopted by the Synod of Kalamazoo, 1924; (2) to ask of the consistory to have their answer ready by the following morning at nine oclock; (3) in case the answer of the consistory would prove satisfactory to classis, to appoint a committee to treat the entire case in conjunction with the consistory.
From which report it may appear how conscious classis was of its hierarchical powers!
The report was adopted, in spite of the fact that the pastor openly declared that he would not abide by the three points adopted by the Synod of Kalamazoo, and that, therefore, it was quite superfluous for the classis to inquire about this matter through the consistory. Classis adjourned till the following morning.
At the appointed hour the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church was ready with its full answer.
The reply here follows in full:
Grand Rapids, Nov. 20, 1924.
Classis Grand Rapids East,
convened in the Neland Avenue Church,
Grand Rapids, Nov. 19-21, 1924.
Honorable and Worthy Brethren:
The Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, Grand Rapids, Mich., in their session of Nov. 20, 1924, considered your decision to demand of them that they place their pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, before the question whether he fully agrees with the three points adopted by the Synod of 1924 and published in the Acta Synodi 1924, pp. 145-147.
They politely beg to reply as follows:
The Consistory is of the opinion that they do not have the right to place their pastor before said question in regard to the three points; and also that the Classis does not have the right to demand this of the consistory. For this opinion the Consistory has the following grounds:
1. The Synod of 1924 treated the protests that were brought against the pastor and finished the matters contained therein. The Consistory received no official notification of the Synod that they, the Consistory, are called in any way to treat their pastor, neither can anything of the kind be found in the Acta.
2. The Synod, through its committee of pre-advice, had before it the proposition to treat the pastor, but rejected this part of the report. The point of advice referred to reads as follows:
"If Synod adopts the above mentioned points, the question arises, whether Synod ought to make it a case of discipline immediately and bring the objections against the pastors Danhof and Hoeksema to the attention of the consistories involved. Your committee is of the opinion that this would not be the more desirable mode of procedure. First, because the brethren, according to their own repeated declarations do not intend or purpose anything else than to teach the Reformed doctrine as contained in Holy Scripture and the Confessions, and we will gladly assume that they erred in good faith. Secondly, because it cannot be denied that they are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths, even though it is with an inclination to one-sidedness.
"However, your committee advises that Synod through its president:
(1) Seriously admonish the brethren with respect to their departures and demand of them the promise that in the future they will abide by the three points declared by Synod.
(2) Urge the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema that they refrain from making propaganda for their dissenting views, regarding the three points in the churches.
(3) Point out to the brethren, that if it should appear either now or in the future that they will not abide by the decision of Synod, the latter to its profound regret will have to make the case pending with the consistories.
"In case of a refusal by the brethren to comply with these conditions Synod would have to appoint a committee. Your Committee would suggest in that case that the officers of Synod be appointed as members of that committee."
All this was rejected by Synod. It is evident that Synod wanted no action of any kind. The pastor, accordingly, was never asked a single question by Synod, neither was he compelled to subscribe to anything. And since the Consistory is of the opinion that we must abide by these decisions of Synod in this case, they are convinced that Classis has no right to ask more than Synod did, and that the Consistory may not comply with the request of Classis.
3. The Reverend H. Danhof immediately delivered a protest against the three points to Synod, and he notified Synod that he would oppose them. (See Acts of Synod, 1924, pp. 194-199). This protest was received and treated by Synod. In spite of this Synod did not ask of the brethren agreement with the three points, neither did it advise to discipline them. The Consistory is of the opinion that the Classis in its last decisions proceeds far beyond the Synod and they, the Consistory, choose to abide by the decisions of Synod.
4. Protests were lodged with Synod against its decisions by various delegates of Synod, and in these also the matter of the three points was partly condemned. Also these protestants notified the Synod that they did not fully agree with the three points adopted by Synod. They were never troubled on account of this disagreement by Synod. The Consistory is firmly convinced that Synod never intended that any action should be taken.
5. Our ministers sign the Formula of Subscription and by doing so the Three Formulas of Unity. No minister is ever asked to sign the three points and the consistory is convinced that this was never intended by Synod.
6. Our pastor will gladly declare that he fully agrees with the confessions of the Reformed Churches, and the Consistory is of the opinion that this is the only demand that can be made upon our ministers till this very day.
For all these reasons the Consistory is convinced that the Classis, in its decision to demand of the Consistory that they place their pastor before the question whether he fully agrees with the three points, goes beyond the decisions of Synod. The Classis has no right to do this. The Consistory appeals for this opinion to the decisions of Synod of 1924. The Consistory, therefore, kindly and urgently requests Classis not to abide by its decisions. If Classis should nevertheless maintain its decision the Consistory must protest and appeals against the decisions of Classis to the next Synod.
The Consistory of Eastern Avenue,
Grand Rapids, Mich.
The reader will notice that the consistory firmly refused to accede to the request of the classis; and at the same time that its reply was well motivated and grounded. The main argument of this reply is that a minor assembly, like a classis, cannot violate the decisions of a major assembly, like the synod. It makes it plain that the classis attempted to do this very thing. The synod had refused to make the three points binding upon the two accused brethren; now the classis proceeded to enforce what the synod had rejected.
This reply of the consistory was read to classis and accepted.
But it was never discussed on the floor of the classis. Instead, it was moved and adopted to place the answer of the consistory in the hands of the committee of pre-advice in the case. Then the classis adjourned once more until the committee should be ready to report and serve the classis with further advice in the matter.
The next session of classis was held on Monday, November 24. The committee had prepared another part of their report, which here follows in full.
"Your committee advises the Classis, Grand Rapids East, to answer the communication received from the Consistory of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, relative to the requirements placed before it on the 20th of November, 1924, as follows.
"The Classis maintains that it did not go beyond its jurisdiction in requiring the Consistory of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church to require of Reverend H. Hoeksema an answer to the question as to whether he is in full agreement with the three points established by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, 1924 (cf. Acts, Art. 132, pp. 145 ff.). The Classis calls the Consistorys attention to the fact that the actions taken both by the Synod and by the Classis are in full accord with Art. 30, D.K.O., In major assemblies only such matters shall be dealt with as could not be finished in minor assemblies, or such as pertain to the Churches of the major assemblies in common. The Synod had acted in accord with this article when it in respect to this matter went no further than to make a declaration with regard to the Doctrinal Issues involved in the Common Grace controversy. This is, of course, a matter that pertains to the Churches of the major assembly in common and could not be finished in the minor assemblies, such as consistory and classis. But the Synod did not require of Reverend H. Hoeksema to subscribe to these doctrinal declarations, since this is a matter than can very well be taken care of by the minor assemblies. According to our Reformed conception of church government, the rule is that disciplinary procedure must be exercised by the church judicatories in order of consistory, classis and synod, not vice versa.
"With regard to the various grounds upon which the consistory bases its refusal to concede to the requirements of the Classis, that classis submits the following:
"Ad-1. In answer to the objection that the consistory did not receive any official notice advising that the pastor had to be treated because of his teachings, the Classis calls attention to the fact that the consistory did receive the Acts of Synod of 1924. (This is the usual method by which our Synods convey their official notices to the various consistories.) Now these Acts clearly informed the consistory of Reverend H. Hoeksema in re the three points. (cf. Acts of 1924, Art. 132, pp. 145 ff.) In full accordance with Art. 30, .D. K. O. In major assemblies only such matters shall be dealt with as could not be dealt with (should be "finished," H.H.) in minor assemblies , it was left to the consistory to enforce the doctrinal decrees of Synod. Obviously it was the duty of the consistory to interpellate the pastor as soon as he publicly opposed the doctrinal declarations of the Synod in The Standard Bearer, Vol. I, No. 1, p. 3, Col. 2: Naar den inhoud zal dit tijdschrift zich geheel aansluiten bij hetgeen gedurende de laatste jaren is geleerd en gepubliceerd geworden door de predikanten Hoeksema en Danhof; en: De redactie van did blad oordeelt, dat geen Gereformeerde deze uitspraken der Synode, ongewijzigd en naar hunne (moet zijn: hare, H.H.) eigenlijke strekking, vermag te onderteekenen, statements for which Reverend H. Hoeksema also holds himself responsible, since: De schrijvers nemen niet slechts hunne respectieve bijdragen maar den geheelen zakelijken inhoud, naar beginsel en strekking, voor hunne gemeenschappelijke rekening, p. 4, Col. 2.
"Art. 31, .Whatever may be agreed upon by a majority vote in the major ecclesiastical assembly shall be considered settled and binding. . . . places the consistory under the obligation required of it by Classis. And the formula of subscription, And further if at any time the consistory, classis or synod, upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine, may deem it proper to require of us a further explanation of our sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, the Catechism, or the explanation of the National Synod, do we hereby promise always to be willing and ready to comply with such requisition also gives the Consistory the full right to interpellate the pastor in regard to the Confession as interpreted by the three points established by the Synod of 1924.
"Ad-2. In answer to the objection that the Synod rejected the advice of the advisory committee relative to disciplinary action, it must be said that as a matter of fact, the Synod did not reject this proposal, since it was not put to a vote. The Synod evidently preferred the inauguration of a disciplinary procedure (if necessary) to begin with the consistory in full harmony with the Reformed conception of church government, in which the rule is that disciplinary procedure must be exercised by the church judicatories in the order of consistory, classis and synod and not vice versa. Furthermore, the Synod did publicly admonish the brethren, Reverend H. Hoeksema and Reverend H. Danhof to abide by its decision (cf. Acts 1924, p. 147).
"Ad-3. The classis calls attention to the fact that Synod did not treat the protest of Reverend H. Danhof. Of course, the fact that Synod did not sustain nor reject the protest of Reverend Danhof cannot be construed to mean that synod tolerates public opposition to the doctrinal decrees which it has established, for whatever may be agreed upon by a majority vote (of the major assembly) shall be considered settled and binding (Art. 31, D.K.O.).
"Ad-4. In answer to the fourth ground presented by the consistory, the classis informs the Consistory that these brethren had the right to protest, but to protest does not include nor involve the right to propagate views opposed to the doctrinal decrees of Synod 1924. In case their opposition should be or should become of such a character as to call for disciplinary action, Reformed Church polity requires their respective consistories to initiate such action.
"Ad-5. In answer to the fifth objection, the Classis maintains that according to Reformed Church polity the decisions of our major ecclesiastical assemblies are binding for all the officers and consistories within its jurisdiction and, therefore, also for Reverend H. Hoeksema and his consistory. Accordingly all officers and consistories of the Christian Reformed Church are required to adhere to our Synodical decisions. In case an officer or consistory gives reason to doubt his or its adherence to these decisions, such officer or consistory may be called upon to explain their position. (Cf. the Formula of Subscription) and further, if at any time consistory, classis, or synod, upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine, may deem it proper to require of us a further explanation of our sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, the Catechism, or the explanation of the National Synod (the Canons of Dordt, H.H.), we do hereby promise to be always willing and ready to comply with such requisitions
"Ad-6. In answer to objection six, the Classis calls attention to the fact that agreement with such confessions on the part of ministers of the Christian Reformed Church signifies agreement with such confessions as interpreted and explained by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church. In the special case now under consideration, it means agreement with the confessions as teaching (according to the decrees of our Synod of 1924) the truths expressed by the three points. If one declares that he is in agreement with these Confessions contrary to Synods interpretation, he does not measure up to the requirements of subscription as demanded by Reformed Church polity.
"The committee is of the opinion that Classis: 1. Should require again of Eastern Avenues consistory that it require of its pastor to express himself whether or no he is in full agreement with the three points as expressed by Synod, Acts 1924. Should require of Eastern Avenues consistory to require of its pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, that he state whether in the matter of the three points he will submit (with the right of appeal) to the confessional standards of the Church as interpreted by the Synod of 1924 and, in case of an appeal, whether he in the interim will acquiesce in the judgment already passed by the Synod of 1924.
"Classis send a written communication together with all the classical decisions pertaining to the Eastern Avenue case to the consistory of Eastern Avenue, requiring of said consistory:
"1. That it require of its pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, to express himself whether or no he is in full agreement with the three points as expressed by the Synod, cf. Acts 1924, art. 132, pp. 145ff.
"2. That it require of Eastern Avenues consistory to require of its pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, that he state whether in the matter of the three points (cf. Acts, 1924, art. 132, pp. 145ff.) he will submit with the right of appeal to the Confessional Standards of the Church as interpreted by the Synod of 1924, i.e., neither publicly nor privately propose, teach or defend, either by preaching or by writing, any sentiments contrary to the Confessional Standards of the church as interpreted by the Synod of 1924, and in case of an appeal, whether in the interim he will acquiesce in the judgment already passed by the Synod of 1924.
"3. That it furnish the Classis with the definite, written answers of its pastor by December 9, 1924, 9 A.M.
"The committee proposes that the president and secretary of Classis be instructed to send the above mentioned communication to the consistory of Eastern Avenue.
"The committee informs the Classis that it is not ready to report on the other matters before Classis and therefore advises that those matters be held over till Dec. 9, 1924.
"The committee proposes that Classis adjourn till Dec. 9, 1924, 9 A.M.
This report may be considered a concoction of truth and sophistry.
It is sophistry pure and simple when the committee attempts to explain the failure of synod to advise the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church to discipline its pastor as being motivated by the desire to maintain the principle that discipline must be initiated in the minor assembly, i.e., the consistory. For, first of all, we may remark that all who attended the sessions of the Synod of Kalamazoo were well aware of the fact that no such desire motivated the synod whatever. Article 30 of the Church Order was never thought of, much less mentioned by the synod. Neither is there an item of proof in the report of the committee for this interpretation of the synods motives. Nor can such proof be found in the Acts of Synod, 1924. Secondly, notice that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church in its answer to Classis never contended that disciplinary action must or may begin with synod, as the report of the Classical committee alleges. Its contention was that if synod had contemplated discipline in the common grace case and against the pastor of Eastern Avenue, it would have been necessary for that body to make the case pending with the consistory. Then, too, it is evident that Classis Grand Rapids East was, indeed, attempting to do the very thing which, according to its own interpretation of Art. 30, D.K.O., it was not allowed to do. Classis is a major assembly as well as synod. Yet, it attempted to start a case of discipline against the pastor of Eastern Avenue!
It is sophistry pure and simple when the report of the Classical Committee states that the consistory of Eastern Avenue received official notice of the decision of synod to the effect that the pastor would have to be disciplined. For, first of all, let it be noted that it is not true that, in cases in which synod deems discipline by the consistory necessary, the Acts of Synod are considered sufficient notification. For a precedent to the contrary we may point to the case of the Reverend H. Bultema, in which the synod of 1918 appointed a committee to make the case pending with the consistory of Muskegon I. And, secondly, it is not true that there is any official notice in the Acts of Synod 1924 to the effect that the synod expected of the consistory to start disciplinary action against the pastor. In fact, the Acts of Synod 1924 do contain the synodical declaration that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church is in fundamental agreement with the Reformed Confessions. And it certainly had never been the custom in Reformed Churches to discipline fundamentally Reformed ministers! It must be very evident that the statement in the report of the Classical Committee, that the consistory of Eastern Avenue received notification to interpellate or discipline its pastor, is quite contrary to the truth.
Once more, it is sophistry when the committee in its report denies that the synod rejected the proposal of its committee of pre-advice regarding discipline. Certainly, the proposal to discipline the two accused pastors was properly before the synod through the report of its committee of pre-advice in this case, that had been read and accepted. It is also undeniable that the synod received, voted on and adopted a substitute motion from which the advice concerning discipline had been completely dropped. Now, when a substitute motion is adopted the original motion is certainly rejected.
Nor is it true that the synod admonished the two accused pastors to abide by its decisions. What is true is that the synod decided to admonish the brethren. But it is also true, that it never carried out this decision. And the reason for this failure is easily conjectured. All the synod was well aware of the fact that the two pastors would most positively refuse to receive any form of admonitions that body might decide to administer. Synod, therefore, took the cowardly course of deciding to admonish the brethren without ever intending to carry out that decision.
In its report the committee, evidently, takes the stand that agreement with the Confessions on the part of any office-bearer in the Christian Reformed Churches implies agreement with all the doctrinal interpretations by any synod. In this case synod had composed and adopted three points of doctrine, which it chose to call interpretations of the Reformed Confessions but which are in a very real sense additions to and corruptions of those Confessions. Synod had adopted these three doctrinal declarations without first consulting the churches in general. And now, according to the report of the committee of Classis Grand Rapids East, all must accept the faith of synod as their own profess it and teach it, until another synod may be willing to listen to their grievances! All this is supposed to be sustained by Article 31 of the Church Order: "whatever may be agreed upon by a majority vote in the major assemblies shall be considered settled and binding." But the committee forgot to quote the rest of this article: "Unless it be proved to conflict with the Word of God or other articles of the Church Order, as long as they are not changed by a General Synod." This addition means that ecclesiastical decisions shall not be considered settled and binding, not even till the next general synod, if they can be proven to conflict with the Word of God.
According to the stand assumed by the report of the Classical Committee, however, an office-bearer in the Christian Reformed Churches is bound unconditionally to submit to all the decrees of any synod.
And this is popery.
We may suppose that the report presented to the classis was composed with the advice of the theological professors.
If this supposition is correct, one can only be amazed that four of these professors could so soon forget their own action against the decrees of the Synod of 1920. Did the "four professors" submit after the synod had spoken in the Janssen-case? On the contrary, they appealed to the public and raised an uproar about those decisions in the churches.
Did the churches submit when in 1928 the synod had decided to introduce the "absolution" in the Form of Worship? On the contrary, they simply refused to introduce the new element.
When decisions of the major assemblies are plainly contrary to the Word of God one may not and cannot submit to them even for two years.
With respect to the advice the committee offered to classis, one cannot help noting, especially, three striking features.
The first is, that materially the advice is the same as that offered in the previous report and adopted by the classis. The consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church virtually was placed before the same question as before. There was no progress.
The second remarkable feature of this last part of the report is the language. As the ponderous phraseology and laboriously accurate terminology clearly suggest, the language is that of the worldly lawyer. We may safely conclude that by this time the Classical Committee, without the consent of the classis but most likely upon the request of the protestants, had sought the legal advice of an attorney.
Already the eyes of the opponents were anxiously directed toward the "brick"!
Was the third striking element of this part of the report perhaps, related to the second? I refer now to the unexpected and unmotivated advice that the classis should take a recess of almost three weeks. For what reason the committee found it impossible to be ready with the rest of their report is a mystery until this day, except to the initiated in the secrets of the classical politics of those days.
We may surmise that this advice was motivated by the desire to safeguard the "brick".
However, this belongs to the realm of "hidden things; not to that of history proper.
The classis asked no questions.
The report and advice of the committee was adopted.
Classis, therefore, adjourned until December 9, 1924.