(This post was written by Mr. Andy Birkett. Andy was an elder at Crete Protestant Reformed Church and witnessed first hand the corruption of the marks of the true church. In faithfulness to his office and obedience to his God, Mr. Birkett, along with the pastor and a deacon, called the faithful out of Crete PRC with an Act of Separation and Reformation and formed Second Reformed Protestant Church, where he currently serves as elder).
The silencing of Rev. Langerak.
I first noticed the division in the denomination when Rev. Langerak was no longer writing for the Standard Bearer. I asked Rev. Langerak about it, and he told me that the editors refused to publish his writing and directed me to ask Prof. Dykstra. Prof. Dykstra told me that he would not discuss it. Rev. Langerak then told me that the editors had charged him with sin and refused to publish his articles until he repented. I assumed that the elders were dealing with this, and I didn’t pursue the issue any further.
Later, when the SB stopped publishing articles by Rev. VanderWal and Rev. Lanning, it became apparent to me that the censorship in the Standard Bearer was not a sin issue against one man but a larger issue that was causing the division between some of the writers and the editors.
The division in the consistory room at Crete became palpable with the publication of the April 2020 issue of the Beacon Lights.
This issue contained a letter from Prof. Cammenga in response to a speech delivered at the Young People’s Convention by Rev. Langerak and published in the November 2019 Beacon Lights, along with the subsequent discussion in the letters section of the February 2020 Beacon Lights.
I appreciated Rev. Langerak’s speech and the subsequent discussion in the Beacon Lights, including Prof. Cammenga’s letter in the April 2020 issue.
I appreciated the speech and Rev. Langerak’s correspondence because I agreed with it. I was not in agreement with the letter by Prof. Cammenga, but I appreciated his response because even though it was painful to see division within our denomination, I thought that Prof. had exposed, and placed in juxtaposition, a serious doctrinal division, which I was hopeful would be discussed and resolved.
The doctrine of good works by Rev. Langerak and the doctrine of good works by Prof. Cammenga were to be used by God to cause division in the congregation in Crete.
During a contentious discussion of the consistory, the doctrine of good works espoused by Rev. Langerak in his speech brought the accusation of Rev. Langerak’s position as being “radical.”
When that charge was expressed with that specific word, I think everyone in the room recognized the reference to Prof. Dykstra’s article. The issue was never resolved.
The mechanism for the suspension of Rev. Langerak began to take shape about a year prior to the actual suspension, with the charges of sin against Rev. Langerak by the three editors of the Standard Bearer in a letter dated February 10, 2020.
The editors came with charges of sin against Rev. Langerak in response to a letter written by a group of men, of whom Rev. Langerak was one. After much correspondence with the RFPA board, these men wrote a letter to voice their concerns regarding the Standard Bearer and call for a meeting of the association to consider their concerns. The letter was sent to the board of the Reformed Free Publishing Association and editors about eight months before the charges of sin came.
The consistory of Crete Protestant Reformed Church called a special meeting for February 17, 2020, to address the charges. Since I was unable to attend the meeting due to other plans, I submitted a letter to the clerk of the consistory. In this letter I explained my participation with the men in writing the letter to the RFPA board and forwarded all my knowledge of the situation to assist the consistory in its deliberations.
At that meeting the charges of sin against Rev. Langerak from the editors were not sustained by the majority of the consistory.
The same charges were brought against Rev. Lanning at that time, with the result that the consistory at Byron Center did not sustain the charges against him either.
Our consistory was reconstituted with three new members sometime around the first week of January 2021.
In the consistory room prior to the morning service on Sunday, January 24, 2021, an elder presented the consistory with a prepared motion charging with sin the faithful officebearers from Byron Center who had called out the members of the congregation with the “Act of Separation.”
Rev. Langerak was convicted that the motion was bearing false witness and therefore had his negative vote recorded. By recording his negative vote, he would not be bound by the decision of the majority.
The elder who brought the motion was visibly upset by the recording of the negative vote, and it soon became apparent why he was so upset.
Once the motion was passed, the same elder read his wording of an announcement to the congregation. In it, he individually called out Rev. Langerak as having adopted the motion with the consistory.
Rev. objected to the announcement on the ground that he was NOT in agreement with the motion and had his negative vote recorded. (According to Robert’s Rules of Order, had he not had his negative vote recorded in the minutes at the time the motion was passed, he would have forfeited his right to express disagreement with the decision of the body.)
The elder had set a trap for Rev. when he wrote the motion, knowing that Rev. would not vote in favor of the motion, but not foreseeing that Rev. would have his negative vote recorded. But God delivered Rev. Langerak before the trap could spring on him by leading Rev. to have his negative vote recorded.
The elder who brought the motion and the announcement then, without shame, expressed before the entire body that he had written the announcement with the purpose of binding Rev. Langerak’s conscience.
II Corinthians 4:2: “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
The announcement was revised and adopted.
News of the false charges of sin from the editors, the opposing doctrine of good works by Prof. Cammenga in his Noah rebuttal, and the article from Prof. Dykstra about radicalism had all been festering, and division within the consistory and congregation continued to swell.
At this time several members of Crete were gathering to worship at other Protestant Reformed churches in the area. The elders (including me) were fully aware of this, and yet we did not rebuke the members for despising the means of grace. I think the consensus of the elders would be that we did this in order to maintain a carnal peace in the congregation. This was a sin for which we all share equal blame.
This despising of the means of grace continued through the time of family visitation. I specifically remember one elder report on his family visitation, where he questioned why a family would not request a membership transfer to the church they were attending since they rarely (if ever) attended worship when Rev. Langerak was preaching. Their response to the elders was, “We are staying for the building.”
It was a sea change when new officebearers were installed in January of 2021.
The change in the consistory was not wholly unforeseen, due to the fact that at least one of the men on the slate had stopped at the parsonage months earlier to disparage the preaching and person of Rev. Langerak.
I was aware of this incident because at that time I was a member of the Pastor’s Support Pulpit Supply Committee, and Rev. Langerak had called me to discuss it.
Rev. told me that the meeting was a vicious and hateful assault. Since I was not there to witness it firsthand, that is all I will say concerning it.
This man would later be elected to represent Christ in the office of elder. After witnessing what this elder would say and do in the consistory room with witnesses, I do not doubt what Rev. Langerak had told me concerning their private meeting.
With the installation of new officebearers, the urgency and fervency of certain members of the consistory to silence the preaching of Rev. Langerak could not be overstated.
Looking back, two months prior to the installation of new officebearers, my notes from the meeting of the Pastoral Support Pulpit Supply Committee included the following two comments.
October 19, 2020
We asked about any further developments in response to his involvement with Reformed Believers Publishing, as well as the articles published in the Sword and Shield. Reverend reported that he has received nothing and is unaware of any upcoming actions regarding these labors.
Rev expressed his deep appreciation and thankfulness for the excellent working relationship with the current consistory.
At our February 11, 2021, meeting, the following motion was passed:
Article 12 – Motion made and supported to require Rev. Langerak to resign as a contributing editor of the Sword & Shield and discontinue writing for and promoting the publication.
- Rev. Langerak continues writing in and promoting the Sword & Shield as a co-editor with Andy Lanning, a deposed minister of the PRC who continues to live in the sin of schism.
- Rev. Langerak’s participation has caused and continues to cause unrest and division in our congregation.
Motion made and supported to elide ground b. and replace it with “For the sake of the effectiveness of the preaching in our congregation.” Motion to elide fails.
Motion as originally moved carries. Andy Birkett records a negative vote.
On February 18 I submitted my protest against the consistory decision.
At the March 11 consistory meeting, my protest was received and sent to committee for advice.
On April 15 the consistory adopted advice to not sustain my protest. Rev. Langerak also submitted a protest at this meeting prior to his suspension but it was never considered.
I had received the advice concerning my protest in my consistory agenda, and I came to the meeting ready to verbally appeal the proposed response to my protest, should it be adopted.
After the advice was adopted, I was appointed to a study committee with two other elders with a mandate to formulate a proposed response for the consistory to deal with the reality that Rev. Langerak was not going to comply with the demand of the motion.
On April 21 the consistory met to consider a majority report, as well as a minority report.
The majority report was adopted.
On April 24 Rev. Langerak was formally suspended.
By this time the division at Crete PRC had become so pronounced, it was beyond dispute that Rev. Langerak was not going to be given a place to preach in Crete any longer.