Our Synod

Perhaps some of you young people will be rather surprised to find an article in our Beacon Lights under the heading: Our Synod.  There are several reasons for this, reasons which I need not enumerate at present.  However, one of the main reasons is that I just attended our Synodical meeting, and finding no time before to write a requested article, I decided to write about our Synod.  This is at least a timely topic as far as our churches is concerned, and it will do you no harm to become a little better acquainted with our Synodical work.  I know that there are a good many young people, and older ones, too, who know little or next to nothing about the purpose and functioning of a Synod.  Still, you have a greater interest in our Synod than most of you think.  And I feel confident that you will agree with me after having read this article.

To begin with, a number of years ago we adopted a Church Order.  I can even hear someone ask the question: “What is a church order?”  Perhaps by quoting article 1 of our church order you will get a rather clear idea as to what it is and what is its purpose.  This article reads as follows: “For the maintenance of good order in the Church of Jesus Christ it is necessary that there should be: offices, assemblies, supervision of doctrine, sacraments and ceremonies and Christian discipline; of which matters the following articles treat in due order.”  In other words we have a church order to maintain good order in our churches.  We might call our church order the Constitutional Law governing the life of our Protestant Reformed Churches.

I would like to tell you a little more about our church order in general, its main divisions, etc., but my space is limited.  Let it suffice to state that our Church Order contains a total of 86 articles.  Added to these 86 articles are a number of by-laws, decisions, usages, etc., which have been adopted by our churches and deal with the execution of various articles and the common custom and practice in our churches.  Next year, perhaps, our churches will publish a little booklet containing the church order proper, the various decisions and usages guiding the policy of our churches, a number of constitutions and some other related material.  When this booklet comes out you would do well to buy a copy and peruse its contents.  It will contain a lot of valuable information as far as the proper order is concerned which governs church life, both locally and as a denomination.

But I was to say a little about the Synod.  Before I can do this I must answer the question: “But what is a Synod?”  It is the broadest gathering of our churches, representing the Classis.  We are of course but a small denomination and you know undoubtedly that we have but two Classis: Classis East and West.  These two Classis elect four ministers and four elders to represent their Classis at Synod.  In other words our Synod is composed of 16 delegates in all.  It meets annually in the month of June and its regular sessions are open to the public, although usually there are very few visitors.  Synod regulates primarily the matters that are of interest to our churches in general.  That’s why at every synodical meeting there is quite a little routine work as e.g. matters pertaining to the welfare and interest of our Theological School, Missions, examining students that have finished their theological course at our Seminary, deciding the assessments for the various denominational funds as: Needy Churches, Student Fund, Mission Fund, etc. etc.  All this routine work which comes annually was also dealt with at our last Synod.

And now let me tell you a little about our Synodical meeting of this year.  The first session of Synod was held on Wednesday morning, June 6, in one of the rooms of the Fuller Ave. Church.  Although, as is always the custom, so also this year, there was a pre-synodical service held in our Fuller Church.  At this service, which is valuable as a fitting preparation and as the keynote for the Synodical work proper (it is an hour of prayer and instruction) the president of the previous Synod preaches the sermon.  This year that was the task of the Rev. A. Cammenga, who preached on I Cor. 3:9: “For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”  Rev. Cammenga had a fitting and appropriate sermon for the occasion.

When the first session of Synod was held the officers were selected.  Rev. R. Veldman was elected as president, and Rev. C. Hanko as secretary.  It is not at all my purpose to enter into details with respect to the various matters discussed at the Synod.  You would not expect this of me, there is no space for it, you are not interested in it, and besides all the material of Synod will be published in the Acts of the Synod of 1945.  However, let me mention some of the highlights.

A couple of years ago our churches decided to have the Psalter reprinted at some future date.  At the same time the Psalter will be somewhat revised, other tunes will be added, etc.  We had a report of this work at our Synod.  From this report it became plain that some real progress has been made.  However, there is a lot more work to be done before the Psalter is ready for reprinting in its revised form.  The Committee for this work was continued and will report again at our next Synod.  More definite steps were also taken toward publishing our Church Order with all decisions, etc. pertaining thereto.  I have already referred to this matter.  A committee was appointed to report next year and have all the material ready for publication.  Finally, if you read our church papers faithfully, you must have read several times about a group of Reformed people, mostly in South Dakota, with whom we have established some unofficial contact.  Well, these people, mostly German, have recently organized under the name “Reformed Church of the U. S.”  Some time ago one of their leaders, Rev. W. Korn wrote an article in Beacon Lights.  It may interest you to know that we had two ministers of the above mentioned group at our Synod.  One of the ministers, Rev. W. Krieger, briefly addressed the delegates of Synod, and the group also came to our Synod seeking closer ecclesiastical intercourse.  Our Synod took steps in that direction.  We do not know what will grow out of this but from both sides we like to become better acquainted.  The Synod also granted the request of these Reformed brethren to send young men to our Seminary to study the ministry in their denomination.  And that’s about all I can tell you at this time and in the allotted space.  I am happy to report that a spirit of brotherly love, mutual esteem and goodwill prevailed at our Synodical meetings.  The final session was held on Friday afternoon, June 8.

Synodical meetings are, of course, no ‘picnics’.  There is something ‘dry’ about them due to the nature of the meetings and the matters that have to be discussed.  (You can perhaps gain that much from this article).  On the other hand they are valuable.  If all is well they strengthen the tie that binds us together as churches.  They are necessary for the welfare and the proper government of our churches.  Synod is not the ‘highest judicial’ court but the ‘broadest gathering’ of our Churches.  Naturally, the foregoing does not mean that Synod has no authority whatever.  As churches we are bound to the decisions and regulations of the Synod by mutual agreement.  And as a local consistory looks after the welfare of the congregation, so a Synod looks after the welfare of the churches at large, the churches as they form a denomination.

I would like to continue discussing these matters with you for a little while and broaden out on many things I mentioned, but space does not permit.  If this short article has aroused your interest in our churches as a denomination and if it has impressed you with the value and significance of our synodical meetings, I have reached my purpose.  And if you want to know more about these things, your local pastor will gladly give you all the desired information.  As young people we are members of a local church but the local church belongs to the Protestant Reformed denomination.  And because we have a denominational life we can have our Beacon Lights, our Federation, our Conferences, etc.

May God bless the work which Synod performed, may His blessing rest upon our churches.  The true, spiritual prosperity of the cause of our Protestant Reformed Youth is very closely related to the true wellbeing of our churches.