Amid all the turmoil that has gone on in the PRC to date, there is one thing that never gets a mention.
Nothing from the pulpit.
Nothing from the Standard Bearer.
And nothing from the membership.
There is a lot of noise about other things.
Churches are now holding special lectures where ministers are making their initial attempts to rewrite history. These revisionist historians now deny that Classis East got it wrong in early 2018, blandly state that five church visitors are normal, tell the people that the issue was never about the unconditional covenant, and even claim that they do not know what the controversy is about.
Although each of the lectures is unique, the ministers who have spoken at them, Rev. Eriks, Rev. Spronk, Rev. Barnhill, Prof. Gritters, and perhaps more, do have one thing in common.
They seduce the people by saying “Peace,” when there is no peace (Ezek. 13:10).
But there is one matter about which we hear nothing.
The PRC may be ignoring it, but they can be sure Jehovah God is not.
I speak of the spiritual abuse suffered by many of God’s children at the hands of the laypeople and the leaders in the PRC.
That abuse thrived at Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, MI.
If you don’t know what spiritual abuse looks like, read this letter from Hope PRC to Neil Meyer dated November 4, 2015.
This letter is probably one of the ugliest things I have ever read.
What was Elder Meyer’s sin? What aroused in Hope’s consistory such anger?
Elder Meyer objected to a minister preaching that our obedience is a way to the Father. In faithfulness to his Formula of Subscription vow, he exerted himself to keep Hope PRC free from corrupting justification by faith alone.
Six days later, Hope’s consistory responded by countercharging him as an antinomian and later suspending and deposing him from office.
Jesus Christ commands elders to feed the flock the pure gospel of grace and the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.
The consistory of Hope PRC fed their flock the poison of Satan.
And when some objected, they killed them.
They killed them by deposing them, and they killed them by slandering them, and they killed them by destroying their name and reputation, and they killed them by driving them from their church.
The words of Ezekiel 34:4 describe the type of “shepherd leadership” shown at Hope PRC. “The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.”
And the response this will elicit is, “Well, Hope is sorry. They apologized.”
When they finally were backed so far into the corner that they had to remove the discipline from Neil Meyer, they were compelled to make an apology.
But I haven’t seen it.
And neither have you.
That’s because Hope refused to publish the apology. And they would not allow written copies to be distributed. If you could not hear the apology, or if you missed it, an elder would read it to you.
For three years, the key of Christian discipline was publicly exercised against a godly man, and then when it was shown that the discipline was wicked, the elders tried their best to keep their apology under wraps.
Hope’s consistory was not sorry at all.
We know that for two reasons: First, 2 Corinthians 7:11 explains what true repentance looks like. Trying to hide an apology for a public sin is the opposite of “clearing yourselves” and “in all things” approving yourself “clear in this matter.” If you were genuinely sorry for what you did, you would not try to hide it. You would shout it from the mountaintops. You would take up the sword against yourself. You would nominate and elect to office the men who understood the doctrines correctly and had fought for them. You would exercise the key of Christian discipline against those who perpetrated this great evil.
Second, we know Hope was not sorry, and is not to this day, because they continue to nominate and elect to the office of elder the same men who defended false doctrine and who spiritually abused, that is murdered, the sheep of their flock who were courageous enough to contend for the faith.
Re-read that letter from Hope. Re-read other correspondence from the consistory of Hope PRC. Over and over, they offered full-throated approval for heresy.
It is no exaggeration to say that for three or four years Hope PRC more closely identified with the marks of a false church than they did with a true. The pure doctrine of the gospel was not preached, and discipline was only exercised against the faithful, which is then to corrupt the administration of the sacraments.
Because they have not repented, it is no exaggeration to say that to this very day Hope PRC more closely identifies with the marks of the false church than they do with the true (Belgic Confession, Art. 29).
These elders trampled underfoot the most precious doctrines found in the Bible and murdered those who objected, and do you know what Hope PRC did to these men?
Put them back up for elder.
Do you know what the denomination did to those men? Put them in leadership positions.
The narrative that I spoke of in the first post, that there were troublemakers at Hope, and they were the cause of the trouble in the denomination, was widespread throughout the denomination.
The attitude toward these members from Hope, and from other congregations, who dared raise their voices, has been one of sharp condemnation.
Troublemakers. Radicals. Hard sons of Zeruiah. Two hundred percenters.
And I have not heard anyone condemn it.
There is a lot of hand-wringing and lamenting, but it is all just generalities. A lot of people are “sorry” for this, that, and the other thing, but no one is broken by how the sheep of Christ’s flock were treated.
There is not an honest man or woman in Classis East who can deny that there has been a concerted effort to slander and destroy Neil and Connie Meyer and the other former members of Hope who stood up for the truth.
Do you know how the Meyers responded?
With integrity and faithfulness.
That continues to this day.
When I asked the Meyers about the apology—before knowing about all of the rules and restrictions Hope had placed on the apology—they said that Hope’s consistory had told them to keep the apology private and not to share it with anyone, so the Meyers were not comfortable sharing it with me. (As alleged antinomians, they need to improve on their law-breaking.)
The Meyers simply bore the abuse.
The marks they, and others, bear are glorious marks.
For they bear in their bodies “the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17).
But God has led the PRC to see the error of their ways, and they have learned so much, so that these types of sins will never be repeated, right?
Well, not for a year, anyway.
On June 23, 2019, Rev. Van Overloop preached a sermon in which he made one of the most, if not the most, egregiously heretical statements ever to come from a Protestant Reformed pulpit.
Even DeWolf did not go as far as Rev. Van Overloop did.
In light of the fact that a controversy was going on over this very doctrine, it’s rather reasonable that someone should present an objection to Grace PRC’s consistory regarding Rev. Van Overloop teaching conditional fellowship that was not all of grace.
Hearing that heresy come from the pulpit, a couple sent a letter to Grace PRC objecting to the sermon.
Just as Hope PRC had, the consistory of Grace PRC responded by defending its minister and belittling those who dared raise an objection.
In their letter, the consistory wrote the following:
ii. Why do you assume to yourselves the ability and authority to judge our response with Scripture and the creeds, especially when, as you point out, this is the work of the consistory? While you do have the office of all believer, do you believe that a consistory of a Protestant Reformed Church would present something contrary to Scripture and the creeds? (Grace PRC letter to Wayne & Sarah Courtney dated 10/16/2019)
This letter was written in October of 2019.
Hope’s consistory, with the support of Classis East, was continuing its work of corrupting justification by faith alone and displacing Jesus Christ.
And Grace writes, “do you believe that a consistory of a Protestant Reformed Church would present something contrary to Scripture and the creeds?”
Yes, Grace PRC, we do believe that a consistory would present something contrary to Scripture and the creeds.
That one paragraph summarizes the condition of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
They pay lip-service to the office of believer while they trample it underfoot.
They commit grievous error, and then with the adulterous woman, wipe their mouth and say, “I have done no wickedness” (Prov. 30:20).
“Instead of having their consciences stung to the quick, and seeking a remedy for their vices by correcting them, they are only driven to madness. Thus ungodly men not only resist, with obstinacy, the judgments of God, but rise into cruelty against his servants” (Calvin on Luke 4:23).
But maybe that is just Grace PRC. That does not describe other churches in the PRC, does it?
After Hope PRC had scattered their flock “upon all the face of the earth” (Ezek. 34:6), these bruised, battered, and abused sheep looked to other churches in the classis for refuge.
What a beautiful opportunity for other churches to take these hurting sheep and draw them into their fellowship and to care for them. If ever a church could show forth the love of Christ, now was the time. Remember, these were members that God had used to preserve the truth of justification by faith alone in the PRC. They would be given a hero’s welcome, right?
Some of them tried Southwest PRC. The reception was more abuse and hate, this time in the form of anonymous letters in their mailboxes. (One of these letters, I am told, showed up in the member’s church mailbox at Hope PRC).
How about Byron Center PRC? They had a reputation as a loving, welcoming church.
The response of the Byron congregation was accurately reflected in the comment made by many, “Why don’t they just go somewhere else?!”
The elders faithfully reflected this attitude in the consistory room.
The amount of time the elders of Byron Center PRC (some of whom went on to become elders at Unity PRC) spent agonizing over the papers of these members from Hope is simply shameful. We did all we could not to receive the clean papers of these hurting sheep. The attitude of the consistory was summarized well by one elder who finally, in a fit of anger, yelled, “I don’t want them here! This is a hostile takeover!” (As if these members cared one whit about the bricks and mortar).
This type of abuse was continued at Classis East.
The people are told to protest and appeal, protest and appeal! And when they do, they are treated shamefully and abusively.
Classis East is broken and has become a farce.
And you can look high and low in the PRC and find no true repentance.
Which is tragic.
The Spirit-wrought work of repentance is one of the most beautiful gifts God gives to his people.
A brokenness that is defenseless, and not at all defensive. A spiritual turning from sin that never responds with an excuse or a deflection. It is open, honest, and candid. It places itself at the mercy of anyone and everyone and demands nothing in return. The sorrowful and broken sinner makes no plea for anything because he recognizes he deserves nothing. The only proclamation he will make is, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Yet to watch Hope PRC and Classis East behave, you would think true repentance, true confession, and a broken and contrite spirit are things to be despised.
Because it is of God, true repentance is unmistakable.
We have not seen it at Hope. We have not seen it at Classis East. And we have not seen it in the denomination.
And we won’t.
Those who are whole have no need for repentance (Matt. 9:12–13).
“If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they” (Ecclesiastes 5:8).
7 thoughts on “Violence”
Those that left Hope PRC and came to Byron were following the truth not a man. When Byron cast out the truth then those that wanted the truth had no choice but to leave also. As a member of Hope for 30+ years I do not consider myself a nomad. If Byron had not rejected the truth we would not have had to leave.
I’m not sure being a member at Byron Center for 7 years still qualifies me as a “newer member”. Way to know your flock Todd.
I considered not publishing your comment because it perpetuates the abuse against these members that joined from Hope, who were then scattered from BCPRC, and then gathered by Jehovah where they could be fed at First RPC (Ezek. 34:11-16).
However, knowing some of what they have gone through, what you write is nothing, and will not cause them additional pain, so I can safely publish your comment.
Your comment is helpful because readers will be able to see that you bring no argument, just empty words.
For example, you write, “Ascribing an alleged inflammatory quote to an unnamed elder intentionally leads the reader to assume, first, that this is true, and second, that it depicts the attitude of the consistory towards all new members from Hope. It is specious and misleading and it too is violence.”
This is easily answered, Todd. Walk up to an elder, any elder that was in the consistory room during that time, and say these words to them, “Did any elder say when considering whether or not to receive the papers of the members from Hope, ‘I don’t want them here, this is a hostile takeover!’” For some reason that is not yet entirely clear to me, I have not been naming names of the elders who said such things, but I certainly could. In the meantime, if the spirit of truth has not yet completely departed those men, they will admit, yes, that was said.
And then ask that elder, “Was there a lot of debate about whether or not to accept those members and was the overwhelming attitude one that did not want those members at BCPRC?” If the spirit of truth has not yet completely departed those men, they will admit, yes, that was the attitude.
The point is not, neither did I contend, that the elders were not polite to the faces of these members. We were. More hypocrisy. We welcomed them and greeted them, shook their hands, and conversed with them, all the while despising them – which came out very clearly behind the closed doors of the consistory room.
Nomadic members? I would hazard a guess and say the overwhelming majority of these members were lifelong members of Hope PRC. Some of them were members there longer than you and I have been alive. They made one move within the PRC in their lifetimes and you call them nomadic?
Reading your comment, it is clear that it is inconceivable to you that a person would simply want to hear pure gospel truth, unmixed with the lie, and then be willing to fight for that truth, and perhaps even change churches for that truth.
Not being in a position to understand them, you abuse them.
And that, Todd, is violence.
The characterization of BCPRC as haters of the new members from Hope PRC is simply beyond the pale. I was on three of these new member visits (one with you) and the attitude of the elder I partnered with towards those with whom we visited was always cordial and encouraging. This includes our conversation as we travelled to and from these meetings, not just during our meeting.
The new families that came to our church shortly after Lanning arrived were well received, their children were active in Children’s Activity Night and Young Peoples, and adult members served on a variety of committees. In fact, we temporarily lost the sound for our service the night that the suspension from office was announced because two of our newer members were volunteering for audio that evening and made a show of themselves by leaving the sanctuary in a huff, turning off the sound as they went.
The point is that, try as you might, you cannot re-write the history of BCPRC’s treatment of new members from Hope to fit your narrative. That is violence.
Ascribing an alleged inflammatory quote to an unnamed elder intentionally leads the reader to assume, first, that this is true, and second, that it depicts the attitude of the consistory towards all new members from Hope. It is specious and misleading and it too is violence.
In retrospect, it is painfully obvious that Byron Center PRC was used as a membership placeholder, a gathering place for those with a larger agenda. We naively believed that there was a sincere desire to enjoy the fellowship of believers and grow in our faith together but that was never the intent and that is violence.
Our membership swelled with the arrival of then Rev. Lanning and was decimated in equal measure upon his departure. These nomadic members were determined, even excited, to follow a man whatever the consequence doing violence to a congregation along the way.
There is a great deal of sin that is evident in this controversy, to be sure. Not all of our conversations have been charitable when speaking to or about one another. For that each man must repent, turn from such sins and press forward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Please consider the assertions that you have made about the battered congregation at BCPRC in light of Proverbs 16: 2-3: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.”
Dewey, you do not like those presentations by PR ministers because they show that you leave out many details in your writing all in an effort to make the PRC look bad. You are sinning against the ninth commandment in every post. It is sad to say, and we pray for your repentance every day.
Dear brother Bruce, I will do as you ask. Thank you for the comment.
Dear Brother Dewey, I am asking you for the sake of brotherly LOVE and PEACE within the walls of the CHURCH to consider and meditate upon I Peter 4:8 ” And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves : for charity shall cover a multitude of sins. “
Comments are closed.