Imagine you are a deacon.
You sit down for a meeting, and you find there is just one motion on the agenda: “The committee recommends that we swindle the elderly members of our congregation out of their life savings.”
You protest. You plead. You warn. You argue as strenuously as you know how.
To no avail.
The vote is taken, and the motion passes.
The diaconate by majority vote has just decided to break the 8th commandment of God’s law.
Such a scenario would never take place.
But it did take place regarding the 6th commandment.
Byron’s consistory, by a vote of 6–2, voted to break the 6th commandment by killing the faithful prophet God had given to our congregation.
Saturday, November 28, 2020.
The day when the Protestant Reformed Churches was rent.
The day when the consistory took upon Byron Center PRC the unmistakable mark of the false church according to the Belgic Confession, Article 29.
A few months later, the denomination would take that mark upon itself officially.
Elders Harlow Kuiper, Ed Hekstra, Jim Hauck, Tim Block, Terry Kaptein, and Josh Lubbers voted in favor of the motion to suspend with a view to deposition.
Elders Bryan Van Baren and Dewey Engelsma voted against the motion.
Depose is such a clean word. Clinical. What the consistory voted for was ecclesiastical murder. Reading through church history, it used to be a lot messier killing a prophet.
This vote came after many months of the corruption that I described in the previous blog posts.
And now the time came to pray. The vice president asked a church visitor to close this portion of our meeting in prayer.
I raised my hand. “Mr. Chairman, I know there will be ramifications for what I am about to say, but I am going to excuse myself; this consistory has the blood of a prophet on its hands, and I cannot lift my hands in prayer with them.”
So I stood up, gathered my things, and left the meeting.
Although I didn’t realize it until a few minutes later, Elder Van Baren also stood up and left the meeting.
I would not fault a man if he had opposed the motion but had stayed in the meeting. These things are up to a man’s conscience.
For me, it was not a question. How could I stay and ask God’s blessing on the great wickedness that had come to a head in the suspension of a righteous pastor?
In the parking lot Elder Van Baren and I prayed together and left.
After Bryan and I left the meeting, the church visitors recommended to the consistory that we be relieved of our duties. The consistory, which had already abdicated their office, dutifully took the advice and passed the motion.
That evening, both Bryan and I received phone calls informing us that we were relieved of our duties.
We sat with our families in church the next day.
Cue more deceit.
This time though, they put the lie upon the lips of Prof. Huizinga, who had been called in to preach in the place of the now-suspended Rev. Lanning.
“The consistory informs the congregation that we have relieved Rev. Lanning of his ministerial duties to have sufficient time to consider the material and recommendations from the church visitors.”
That was not true.
They did not need more time to consider the recommendation. The recommendation had come to the floor. The vote had been taken. The motion had passed.
You consider the material before you vote on it. Once you vote on it, you are no longer considering it. The action has been taken.
As you can imagine, this announcement caused great confusion. Many of those questions had to do with why two of the elders were sitting with their families.
(An announcement regarding our de facto discipline was not made until a week later.)
That question was asked by an officebearer in the consistory room before church as to why Bryan and Dewey were not present.
The response? “Those men relieved themselves of their duties.”
The members of the congregation asked this question of the elders after church in the parking lot. “Why were Bryan and Dewey sitting with their families?”
“Go ask them.”
“Go home and read Article 31 of the Church Order.”
“They relieved themselves.”
That was more deceit. Read the motion that was passed. We were relieved of our duties by a majority vote of the consistory. Yet the people were told the opposite.
The relief of duties would continue for over five weeks.
During this suspension, as the work between Byron and Trinity proceeded, Elder Van Baren asked Trinity PRC if they would be willing to give us an audience. The response to Byron’s Consistory regarding Bryan’s request was cold. “We are of the mind that we don’t need to speak to them. We heard from your consistory last night as represented by you 6 men. They could have been present if they hadn’t forfeited that right.”
“They could have been present if they hadn’t forfeited that right.”
Did it not occur to Trinity’s consistory to examine the fact that the only two men who had registered their negative votes and were opposed to the motion to suspend had been removed from their office?
(Speaking of those negative votes, they have been on quite a journey. They were not included in the material that was sent to classis due to an “oversight.” They were distributed at classis during the deliberations, yet they never made it into the official documents that were distributed publicly. Strange.)
It is one thing to be in favor of deposition, as Trinity’s consistory clearly was. It’s another thing altogether to connive at the act that removed elders from their office without any basis in the word of God, the creeds, or even in the One Document To Rule Them All, the Church Order.
All of the deliberations that took place and the decisions that were made over that five–six week period were taken in the absence of two elders who had been unjustly relieved of their duties.
Just prior to the meeting of classis, the consistory apologized to us for relieving us of our duties and reinstated us to our positions. They also gave us a letter of explanation defending their actions.
We accepted their apology.
(A church visitor, Rev. Slopsema, also apologized to me at the meeting of Classis East, confessing that the advice to relieve us of our duties was not good advice.)
Being reinstated would allow us to see how a classis that had consistently been wrong over the last five years would exhibit its sorrow for its past decisions. Having the one man before them who had stood on the right side of the issue from the beginning and who had rebuked us for our errors would provide a sterling opportunity for all to see just how “sorry” Classis East was.
Because as we have heard from so many, Classis East was really, really sorry for its errors over the last five years.