“When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (Ps. 126:1-3).
Christ’s reformation of his church continues.
On May 30, 2021, a group of believers who had come out from the PRC and formed as the Reformed Protestant Fellowship of Northwest Iowa sent a letter to First Reformed Protestant Church asking First RPC to take spiritual oversight of their fellowship until such a time that “it would please God to organize and establish a Reformed Protestant Church” in their area. This request was granted at the council meeting held on June 23, 2021. On July 19, the consistory of First RPC passed a motion to request the approval of classis at the September meeting to organize this fellowship into a Reformed Protestant church in Northwest Iowa.
The initial formation of this fellowship and later, according to God’s will, its organization into a congregation, reminds us that this has ever been the duty during church reformation; “That is to say, just as people usually do who undertake to rebuild a building that has collapsed, so that they pull out and gather together the scattered, heaping fragments of the ruins into a pile, to be fastened into place later, so it was necessary for us to do likewise” (Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church, 75).
On July 6, 2021, two elders and two deacons of Wingham PRC signed an Act of Separation and Reformation, withdrawing themselves from the Protestant Reformed denomination and calling their flock to join them. They also distributed a powerful summary of the controversy that has engulfed the PRC, which document makes plain that false doctrine continues to be taught and tolerated in the PRC to this very day.
On Sunday, July 11, the consistory of Edmonton PRC distributed a letter to its congregation informing them of the decision that the consistory had made to withdraw First PRC of Edmonton from membership in the Protestant Reformed denomination. Along with the letter was an explanation of the decision which powerfully lays out the spiritual condition of the denomination as one that is turning from the “truth of salvation by grace alone, and to the false doctrine of salvation by grace and works.” The congregation will meet on Thursday, August 5, to vote on this recommendation.
On Thursday, July 15, Elder Jim Geerlings of Hudsonville PRC distributed to his congregation a letter of resignation which he had submitted to the consistory, as well as a cover letter addressed to the congregation. Knowing it to be his duty to remove himself and his family from the PRC, which is “falling away from the pure preaching of the Word of God in Holy Scripture,” Jim made his last act of love for his flock the calling out of them as well, lest they be partakers of the sins of the PRC.
For these acts of courage and love, the group in Northwest Iowa, the officebearers of Wingham PRC, the consistory of Edmonton PRC, and Jim Geerlings will be maligned, slandered, and persecuted.
They will be called names.
Schismatics. Deserters of their offices. Dividers of the church and of families.
In fact, what will happen to some of these men is that the churches they left will depose them after the fact. The PRC cannot help itself anymore—on the increasingly rare chance the PRC comes across an officebearer who realizes he serves Christ and not man, and will answer to Christ and not man, and who acts accordingly, the PRC deposes that man.
For further proof of this, Hull PRC, with the consent of Calvary PRC, in only a few days, deposed Marcus Andringa from the office of deacon. I thought I was finished being surprised by the brutality of Protestant Reformed consistories, but the sheer injustice and even lack of human decency in this case is shocking.
Isn’t there supposed to be a period of time between suspension and deposition?
Shouldn’t the officebearer being deposed be given the opportunity to speak with the concurring consistory? Did either consistory even bother to consult with VDM’s commentary on the Church Order regarding suspension and deposition? “Almost needless to say, the brother in question should be notified concerning the double Consistory meeting to be held regarding his person, and he should have a full right to speak for himself before both Consistories” (VDM, Church Order Commentary, RFPA, 516).
Almost needless to say, the way Hull and Calvary treated Deacon Andringa was wicked.
But why shouldn’t these consistories act in this way? This is how the PRC behaves today, proving that the quote of the Irish statesman Edmund Burke applies not only to the world but also to the church: “Criminal means once tolerated are soon preferred.”
Such is the Protestant Reformed Churches.
So the faithful officebearers will face reproaches.
“Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke 6:23).
As to name-calling? That too is foretold.
“It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” (Matt. 10:25).
But there is a word here for the members of these congregations.
Those who occupy the office of believer must not sit idly by when these calls go out.
They must heed the calls.
There is a temptation to start making calculations.
“If I come out now, then I will lose my friends. My family. What about the schools? What about this comfortable life I am enjoying? Surely, I can wait a while?”
The Bible is not unclear about what is going on in the PRC today.
Faithful watchmen are issuing a call. They are men of the word who, in faithfulness to their Savior, are willing to suffer great loss for the sake of Christ and the sake of his flock. These are men who are mighty for God’s truth in the earth (Jer. 9:3). They have “hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).
The calling of those in the office of believer is to heed the warning of these watchmen. God placed them in their position to do exactly what they are doing.
Listen to them.
Not because of who they are.
But because of Him whose cause they represent.
“Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand” (Ezek. 33:1–6).