George M. Ophoff (15)

In our last article we were discussing the actions of Classis Grand Rapids West in their dealings with Rev. Ophoff’s opposition to the three points of common grace. We ended last time by quoting a letter which the Classis sent to the Consistory of Hope. To this letter, an answer was returned which was read on the floor of Classis by Rev. Ophoff. The answer was (along with a similar answer and various other documents) submitted to a committee to advise Classis.

The committee to which these docu­ments were submitted, brought its report.

We shall not quote the entire report, but there were several interesting features about it. In the first place, the committee characterizes the letter of Hope in a very ungracious way:

“The letter from the consistory of Hope is a very lengthy document. Your committee feels assured that the classis does not expect of it a detailed analysis of all the argu­ments presented, nor a careful search into all the nooks and corners and all the byways of its cogitations. Without fear of contradiction, we opine that much of the material presented has little or no direct connection with the contents and purpose of our letter of the 16th of January.”

The report goes on to say:

“However, before considering the Final conclusions of the letter from the consistory of Hope and to give some measure of courteous consideration to its copious argu­mentation, your committee briefly remarks the following:

  1. All discussion of the ques­tion whether the three points are really in agreement with Scripture and Confession is out of order in this connection. If the consistory of Hope has objections against the three points it must present them to the classis by way of gravamina and meanwhile submit to Synodical decisions and require this of its pastor.
  2. The difference between the pastor and the consistory of Hope on the one hand, and of the classis on the other hand, is not one of interpretation of three points as if we are forcing our particular inter­pretation upon the aforesaid pastor and consistory. The classis merely insists on submission to the Synodi­cal decision embodied in the three points as this decision lies before us without insisting on any particular interpretation. Rev. Ophoff, accord­ing to the Standard Bearer, dis­agrees with the three points…. And the consistory evidently supports him in his stand.”

The conclusion of the letter of Hope’s consistory to the classis is then quoted:

“1. Be it resolved that consistory of Hope Christian Reformed Church do not request its pastor to answer questions of Classis Grand Rapids West.

2.  To appeal to Synod for the interpretation of its decisions.

3.  To request Classis Grand Rapids West to defer any and all action said classis might contem­plate against the consistory of said Hope Christian Reformed Church until such time as Synod shall have acted upon said appeal of said consistory of Hope Christian Re­formed Church and rendered final decision of the matter.”

With respect to these decisions of Hope’s Consistory, the committee advised classis:

“1. The classis recognizes the right of appeal….

  1. Classis cannot defer any and all action on this matter till the next Synod without itself becoming insubordinate to Synodical authority.
  2. The classis will take note of the fact that the consistory of Hope unequivocally refuses to submit to classical authority in this matter. It has officially resolved not to require of its pastor what the classis has required of it.

In consideration of the refusal of the consistory of Hope to require of its pastor submission to the doctrinal decision of the Synod of 1924 in regard to the three points, your committee submits the follow­ing advice to the Classis.

We advise the classis to require of Rev. G.M. Ophoff (a) That he declare himself unequivocally whether he is in full agreement yes or no with the three points of the Synod of Kalamazoo— (b) An unconditional promise that 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, i.e., neither publicly nor privately propose, teach or defend either by preaching or writing any sentiment contrary to the Confes­sional Standards of the Church, as interpreted by the Synod of 1924 and in case of an appeal, that he in the interim will acquiesce in the judgment already passed by the Synod of 1924….

Your committee advises that these questions be put to the Rev. Ophoff by the president at once on the floor of classis.”

All this advice was adopted. The question of whether Rev. Ophoff would submit to these decisions of common grace was put to him. He answered emphatically, “No.” All this took place on Thursday morning. On Thursday after­noon the committee continued its advice in the light of Rev. Ophoffs answer.

“In consideration of the absolute refusal of Rev. G.M. Ophoff to submit to the requirements of classis in re submission to the doctrinal decisions of the Synod of Kalamazoo and secondly in con­sideration of his defiant stand and of the strong language used by the brother, and thirdly in consideration of his own statement that he needs no more time to consider and fourthly in consideration of the serious situation that has arisen in our church demanding positive and immediate action over against ceaselessly active propaganda, your committee herewith submits to your honorable body advice that shall lead, if accepted, to final action in the case of Rev. G.M. Ophoff.”

There then appears in the commit­tee’s report a rather lengthy argument which supports the immediate deposition of Rev. Ophoff instead of the suspension of the brother as the Church Order requires. The actual advice on deposition reads:

“Your committee hereby advises classis to take the following action after preceding prayers.

The Classis Grand Rapids West in session on the 22nd of January, 1925, hereby deposes Rev. G.M. Ophoff from the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments in the Christian Reformed Church of America on the following grounds:

(a) Insubordination to ecclesi­astical authority. See Formula of Subscription.

(b) Public Schism. Art. 80 of the Church Order.”

Through his association with the Standard Bearer, Rev. G. M. Ophoff participates in organized propaganda against the officially accepted doctrines of our Church, propaganda which is making inroads upon our denominational solidarity.

Article 95 records the vote on this advice: 30 Yes, 12 No’s, 2 blanks.

But Classis still had to deal with Hope’s consistory. Classis had received a communication from two deacons of Hope’s Consistory that put these deacons on the side of Classis and against their pastor. But the elders had supported their pastor throughout, and had to be dealt with. Friday afternoon the committee was prepared with its advice. After a long discussion in which the committee argued in favor of the right of Classis to depose (something forbidden by the Church Order), the committee advised the fol­lowing resolution:

“Classis Grand Rapids West, in session the 24th of January,1925, hereby deposes the Consistory of the Christian Reformed Church of Hope, except the two deacons who have declared their loyalty to our denomination.

Classis Grand Rapids West, hereby deprives the aforesaid con­sistory of all the rights and privi­leges of a legal consistory in the Christian Reformed Church of America.

Classis Grand Rapids West deposes the aforesaid Consistory by virtue of its jurisdiction over this Consistory as expressed in Art. 36 of our Church Order.”

This also was advised on the two grounds of insubordination to Synodical and Classical authority and the sin of Public Schism.

Before action was taken on this advice, Classis decided that a committee would meet that evening with the elders of Hope “in an effort to dissuade them from their intended course.”

This meeting was held. The minutes of Saturday morning reveal the outcome:

“Art. 107. Elder Richard Newhouse announces in the name of the three elders of the Hope Consistory that they abide by their former decision even after the conference held with the committee of over­tures.

Art. 108. The recommendation of the committee is re the deposition of the consistory of the Hope Christian Reformed Church is adopted by a vote of 33 yea and 6 no’s after preaching prayer by Rev._______.”

And so, the matter was done. Classis had attained its goal. All opposition to the three points was effectively squelched.