It was originally my intention to send this letter in to the Standard Bearer. After further reflection, I decided against wasting my time by pursuing that course. It exceeds the word limit and it would never see the light of day. So, I publish it here, as an open letter to the Standard Bearer in response to their special issue on abuse.
I write in response to your special issue on abuse (May 1 issue).
Many no doubt found it odd that the Standard Bearer (SB) would stay away from the sin that has especially plagued the PRC, namely the sin of spousal abuse. However, in light of the fact that abuse is abuse (murder is murder, after all), I have a few questions and comments about that issue.
I was struck by the fact that you had Prof. Gritters play such a key role in your special issue on abuse. As is known to many, Prof. Gritters’ name has come up in a recent high profile abuse case in the denomination. Fifteen years ago, Prof. Gritters became aware of a situation involving the most influential and popular minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches, Rev. Ron VanOverloop. Prof. Gritters was in possession of information that deeply incriminated Rev. VanOverloop as being guilty of a gross sin. Prof. Gritters confronted Rev. VanOverloop who, unsurprisingly, denied the charges. Prof. Gritters, according to the record, did not find Rev. VanOverloop’s denial genuine. He found Rev. VanOverloop’s response “off,” unusual, and troubling (to use the wording of the minutes from Classis East).
After being in possession of this damning information that unmistakably pointed to Rev. VanOverloop’s guilt, what was Prof. Gritters response? Did he pursue it?
This is what he did, according to the official classical record.
“Prof. Gritters did nothing more.”
After all that evidence, this is what Prof. Gritters did.
I have three questions for Prof. Gritters: First, do you take full responsibility for every instance of abuse that occurred during the last fifteen years at Grace PRC knowing that if you had done your duty before God—rather than simply protecting an influential minister in your denomination—then not one of those abuse cases in the last fifteen years would have taken place? We know that you are able to pursue charges of sin, even charges of sin that have no evidence to support them. Witness your zeal in chasing all over North America to pursue charges of sin against Revs Langerak, Lanning, and VanderWal, charges which even Classis East had to admit had no merit. (It becomes clear that Prof. Gritters is eager to protect his name and to go to incredible lengths to do so, but when it doesn’t involve protecting his name and reputation, his zeal flags considerably). Second, even if you have not been deposed, as you should have been for faithless desertion of office, why have you not resigned your office in shame over the abuse that occurred because you chose to “do nothing more”? Third, when a man in your denomination did try to do something regarding spousal abuse, what was your response? I have in mind the book on abuse written by an emeritus professor of the PRC. What was your response to the appearance of that book calling for the protection of the abused woman?
It is laughable and a complete farce for Professor Gritters to write, “Many in the PRC and other churches have been sighing quietly. This special issue is a beginning, perhaps only feeble, effort to ‘cry out’ openly.” Abuse victims have been crying out to God for decades in the PRC and those men who should have helped them did nothing. Along this line, perhaps another question is in order for Prof. Gritters: “Have any abused women ever come to you and asked you to be their champion and their advocate? If so, what was your response?”
I wonder what else Professor Gritters knew and about which, did nothing more.
The Standard Bearer may be at a beginning, but the issue is not. Many women and young people have been victimized and abused at the hands of their husbands or church leaders, and the Protestant Reformed Churches have turned their backs on them. Oh sure, after it becomes clear that the civil authorities are involved, then consistories are forced into doing their work. But the blood of these helpless victims cries out to God from the ground, blood spilled while the leaders and rulers of the church did nothing to stop it.
It is also striking that the editors chose two professors in the seminary to write on the topic of abuse.
For four years the seminary professors had a man under their tutelage who proved to be an abuser. For four years the professors had the closest contact with a man who, only one year after his graduation, was deposed for spousal abuse. At the end of his seminary instruction, the professors sent this man out to the denomination to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. This kind of gross abuse does not suddenly appear out of the blue. A history is attached to such cases, whether that history is recognized for what it is or not.
It was also striking that the editors of the Standard Bearer chose Rev. Key to write the meditation for the special issue on abuse. Rev. Key had this same student under his tutelage as part of the man’s internship program. Rev. Key was aware of this man’s abuse of his wife, and yet he was okay with sending this man out into the churches.
One might even say, Rev. Key did “nothing more.”
Take note of that: it took about one year for this man to be deposed for spousal abuse after he had graduated from the PR seminary and after he had spent time doing an internship under Rev. Key. My question for the editors is this: Why, in a special issue on abuse, was no mention made of this? How can this be seen as anything other than a complete whitewashing of the actual sin and guilt of the denomination in the matter of sexual and spousal abuse? It is no wonder that Rev. Key botched the article he was assigned to write, which article brought objections from readers. Rev. Key does not know the first thing about helping abused and oppressed people. What a sham, then, for him to be asked to write an article for this issue.
Why in a special issue on abuse was no mention made of consistory after consistory of the Protestant Reformed Churches who have done nothing to help and deliver the oppressed, but rather have helped contribute to their murder? (Apart from the ones I am aware of, I wonder how many other churches are guilty of this as well. I wonder how much more horror has simply been buried by PR consistories). No confession of sin in this? No declaration that untold Protestant Reformed consistories have the blood of these murdered women dripping from their hands? Do you know the damage done to these women and their children? Here is what I think: I think the leaders in the PRC do know, but the institution must be protected at all costs, even if that means trampling a few women and children under foot.
To paraphrase one of your own in this regard, the PRC may have swept all of these abuse cases under the rug, but you can be sure of this; one day, Jesus Christ, the champion of the oppressed, will lift that rug up and expose all of it.
I believe you made a mockery of the abuse that has taken place in the Protestant Reformed Churches and your attempt to whitewash it is grievous, monstrous sin.
In the face of all this wickedness, what is the response of the editor? This: “I propose the following four things that I believe the PRCA must learn” (Rev. Josh Engelsma, 5/1/22, SB). Rev. Engelsma is really serious about this, since he put the word “must” in italics.
There is one thing that is noticeably absent in the midst of all of the “learning” that is going on in the PRC—true repentance.
And that is shocking. Men and women in the PRC love to opine about repentance and bury their audience in quotes from theologians about what repentance is and weary their reader with their insistence that in repentance man precedes God and what repentance is and what it is not and you hear much about how repentance works and how much it avails with God so that without it a man cannot be justified. And yet, in spite of all that, the leaders of the denomination just cannot find it within themselves to actually practice it. And that is because they cannot. Repentance is a fruit of faith, after all.
While the PRC struggles to figure out what it must learn—sorry, must learn—here is the word of God to the Protestant Reformed Churches: “And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:5).
To the members of the denomination that was my mother, and that I love, my word of love to you is this: Flee. Wolves have entered the sheepfold.
In the service of King Jesus,