Classis

The gospel of Jesus Christ exposes the hearts of men.

There is a time when you can only judge men by their confessions. If they make strong confessions of the truth, quote HH enough times, and continually tell everyone how valiant they are for the truth, you believe them.

And then the gospel comes.

That happened at Byron Center PRC and Crete PRC.

Consistories that fancied themselves to be something, and members with a reputation for orthodoxy and courage, were exposed when the gospel came.

Men were exposed as cowards or quislings or as unbelievers.

Their heretofore strong confessions died on their lips as they realized they had lives to save. Talking about Christ and his gospel was one thing. But to lose something for it? Losing a spouse or a child or your school or your friend or your job? That is entirely something else.

The gospel is not finished exposing men.

That work of the Holy Spirit to expose men’s hearts continued at the September meeting of the classis of the Reformed Protestant Churches.

What was exposed?

Hearts that never loved the Reformed faith and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Hearts that did not love the covenant of grace that God establishes with believers and their seed.

What was decided at classis was not something novel.

No new thing was created.

What was decided at classis was that the Christian schools are a demand of the covenant as taught by Lord’s Day 38 of the Heidelberg Catechism, and the creeds are authoritative and teach the pure doctrine of scripture. Two Formula of Subscription exams were administered, and advice was given to a consistory about how it should proceed.

In response to this, some walk around with long faces and wring their hands.

Others have left the denomination, and more will leave.

It is not my intention in this post to convince men to stay. Just like I would never try to cajole someone to come to the RPC, I would never try to persuade you to stay.

You don’t need convincing.

You need a rebuke.

What happened at classis was the work of the Holy Spirit.

Such developments as took place there could never be the work of men.

Therefore, for men to declare that classis was rogue is to blaspheme the work of the Holy Spirit.

Men say that proper church polity was violated.

Those men grasp at straws.

What was violated was our deeply ingrained Protestant Reformed sense of what church polity should look like.

We may have come out of the PRC, but we are clinging very tightly to what it means to be PR.

The main issues that are brought up to prove that church polity was violated are the fact that two sets of credentials were brought to classis, the fact that delegates from the same congregation answered the questions of Article 41 differently, and the fact that two Formula of Subscription examinations were administered.

These things are not hard to explain. 

The foundations of Sovereign RPC were shaken.

There was a question of whether the walls would continue to stand.

That is what happens, after all, when wolves enter the sheepfold.

Deacon Altena, laboring to be faithful to his calling as a watchman, brought another set of credentials.

He saw what it took classis and the rest of us some time to realize: there was only one faithful officebearer at Sovereign RPC. So he acted accordingly.

Classis judged that his action was in error and did not accept the second set of credentials.

I do not blame Deacon Altena for his actions. I have some sense of what he was going through. When I was at Byron Center PRC and after the decisions to suspend Rev. Lanning and relieve Elder Van Baren and me of our duties, I made a call that Saturday night. I called a man and told him that because of how wickedly our consistory was behaving, I wanted to take a decision to depose the entire consistory and declare myself and Elder Van Baren the only rightful remaining elders. I was going to do so based on what I thought was a similar action taken in 1953. (An extreme measure, no doubt, but you consider such things when the foundations are destroyed.) I asked for his advice. That man—a man for whom I have the utmost respect and a man whom the PRC has long slandered as being a man who has always wanted a split—told me I was wrong, told me I had my history wrong, and told me that I ought not to pursue such a course. (Odd advice from a man who has always wanted a split.) I took his advice. So I understand and empathize with Deacon Altena for taking such a drastic measure. The man’s church was being torn apart, and his flock was being savaged.

Things like multiple credentials coming to a meeting of classis have happened before in church history. Rev. VanderWal made mention of this in his blog “Reformed Polity–Classis (2).” It is beyond odd, then, that he takes such umbrage that there were two sets of credentials brought to this session of classis. (Rev. VanderWal has written much since classis. I tried to respond to his first post, here, but he declined to approve it).

Things like this happen in times of reformation. Don’t wring your hands about it. Give thanks to God that he is pleased to work reformation at all in our midst.

Deacon Altena also answered the questions of Article 41 of the Church Order differently than the other two delegates from his congregation.

That has upset some people.

But this, too, is easy to explain.

Deacon Altena was determined not to lie. Knowing he would answer to God for his answers, he was determined to answer them truthfully.

The two elders lied when they gave the answers that they did.

The consistory of Sovereign was not seeing to it that the schools were cared for, and they did need the help of classis. In fact, the two elders were doing everything in their power to prevent a school, up to and including savaging members of their flock over the issue. Deacon Altena saw this and could not in good conscience say other than what he did.

Would you criticize him for this?

Classis heard and saw all of this.

They responded appropriately.  

They assigned a committee to bring advice and responded carefully and deliberately.

Although the RPC do not yet have church visitors, the Church Order article that speaks to church visitors says some beautiful things about the care congregations within the denomination are to have for one another. Article 44 of the Church Order speaks of by “advice and assistance” helping to “direct all things unto the peace, upbuilding, and greatest profit of the churches.” Just because the Reformed Protestant Churches do not have church visitors does not mean that this principle of mutual care and oversight is to be discarded.

The September meeting of classis exhibited love and care on a scale that I have never before witnessed at a broader assembly.

It is not love for a congregation, a denomination, or its members to drag matters on for months and years, nor is it necessary. When the matters are clear, and when a church and her members are shown to be in great danger, classis must act, and it must act decisively.

Classis acted in such a manner when it administered Formula of Subscription exams to two of the officebearers of Sovereign RPC.

Some members of the denomination are upset about that.  

Again, having come out of the PRC, some of us are clinging as tightly as we possibly can to what it means to be PR.

All we know is the PRC that no longer has a Formula of Subscription. Sure, they have a document that they call the Formula of Subscription that (unqualified) men will continue to sign, but it is an empty, toothless document for them.

What has the PRC done with the Formula of Subscription exam that is called for when there is suspicion of a man’s doctrine?

This.

Four ministers in the PRC drafted a document that, in the words of their own synod, compromised justification by faith alone and the unconditional covenant and displaced Christ. The document that they drafted taught the same false doctrine that the churches “struggled” with for many years. None of those men ever wrote against or repudiated the false doctrine they had taught. On the contrary, one of them, Rev. Haak, said publicly on the floor of synod that not only did he believe that doctrine but that he was going to continue to teach that doctrine. Rev. Slopsema was similarly convicted, as he did continue to teach that doctrine, and on the pages of the Standard Bearer, no less. (You have to admire the sheer hubris of these men. To shove it right in the face of the denomination with absolutely no fear is quite something.) If ever (ever!) there was a need for a Formula of Subscription exam, it was in a situation like this. The Formula of Subscription and its calling for an exam were written for precisely a time like this. And yet, the denomination declines to administer it. And we all know why. Men must be protected. The reputations of men are above all.

Or this.

When a Formula of Subscription exam was at one point administered in the PRC, it was an absolute farce. And one of the advisors to the synod knew it would be a farce, as he had to admonish the visitors before the session started that no one was allowed even to take personal notes of the proceedings. Larry, Moe, and Curly have more respectability than the delegates at that session of synod, especially considering the outcome.

Read the Formula of Subscription: “And further, if at any time the…classis…upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine, may deem it proper to require of us a further explanation of our sentiments…”

Classis acted appropriately when it administered the exams.

Having been delivered from such a morass as we were in in the PRC, let us not now protest and gripe when the Formula of Subscription is appropriately used.

Those exams exposed more than just the men who were examined.

Although it did just that.

If there was any doubt about conducting the Formula of Subscription exams at that time, that doubt was erased after the exams were concluded. One man dodged and evaded and refused to be clear about what he believed. The other man lied. And then fled.

Those who say the exams or the decisions taken after the exams were hasty should read Acts 5:1–11.

Continuing his work of exposing men’s hearts and purging hypocrites from the church, the Holy Spirit’s work was again made clear. What did some men and women do when they saw their champions cut down? They behaved just like their spiritual forefathers did before them. They fled (1 Sam. 17:51).

Some have charged hierarchy. Rev. VanderWal went so far as to characterize the meeting of classis as “hierarchical tyranny.”

I get that the charge is a convenient one to make, and the word itself carries a certain amount of weight. But when you hear the arguments, it becomes clear that the only thing the people making the charge are looking for is for their opinion to come out of your mouth. If their will is not done, then the charge of hierarchy will soon follow.

As appealing as it is to be tossed about by emotion and as appealing as it is to our flesh to throw out rash charges, we should not conduct ourselves in that way.

A church is hierarchical when it insists on the will of man being done, and not the will of God as revealed in his word. For a church to demand (yes, demand) that something be done as that thing accords with God’s will, that is not hierarchy.

It is not hierarchical for a church to demand that officebearers view the Christian school as a demand of the covenant. It is not hierarchical that a Reformed church insists that officebearers hold the creeds as authoritative.

Neither is it hierarchical for a church to do something about the officebearers who refuse. That is not hierarchy. That is obedience to God.

Some are upset that classis declared that the Christian school is a demand of the covenant. Or that classis declared that Lord’s Day 38 speaks of schools when it says schools.

None of this is new.

That has been taught to us for years in preaching and teaching and more preaching and more teaching and even more teaching. (The full sermons and articles can be found here, and here, and here, and here).

Some, shockingly, have said that to say that there are demands in God’s covenant is to say there are conditions in God’s covenant.

This has recently been taught by Stuart Pastine. “Think about this. If there is a ‘must,’ that is a condition. Sword and Shield has labored mightily to prove that ‘must’ is a condition. Now, the classis has created a condition that believer’s must obey to remain in the covenant. All members must fulfill that condition to remain in the covenant community” (Pastine, “New Legalism”).

And there are those who embrace that teaching.

Is that where we are as churches?

To receive a demand from God that you do something is not God introducing conditions. I would say that this is the ABCs of the Reformed faith, but that would be to insult kindergartners.

You don’t obey a demand to get something from God.

You obey a demand from God because you love God.

That’s how simple this is.

Perhaps what was so shocking was that the RPC treated a demand as a demand.

When you spend your entire life in a denomination that calls something a demand but treats it like an option, you experience a shock to your system when a church deals with it correctly and consistently.

Others say that classis was not orderly.

Classis was firm and direct and decisive, and classis was also orderly.

It functioned exactly the way that classis should have functioned.

There were attempts at disorder, as when a delegate (who is no longer in the RPC) approached me twice before the meeting of classis to try and privately discuss matters that were shortly going to appear before classis. The second time I told him that we ought to wait until classis was convened and we could make righteous judgments about whatever it was that came before us.

There has been disorder after the meeting of classis.

As when members who are dissatisfied with the results go from family to family and from town to town—whether physically or electronically—and form groups and spread the bitterness that troubles them and that defiles the congregations (Heb. 12:15). They exhibit behavior that reveals the unrighteousness of their hearts.

But that is not how conviction works. Compare that to the behavior of Neil and Connie Meyer. Hope PRC spiritually abused them for years, but the Meyers never traveled from city to city, either physically or electronically, to try and gain others to their side. In fact, they did not even tell their own children. Instead, they fought courageously and suffered silently. That is the example that we are to follow (1 Pet. 2:20–23).

A man could be discouraged when he considers the folly and weakness that is being exposed in the Reformed Protestant Churches.

God delivered to us the truth of justification by faith alone and the unconditional covenant, and now that he has restored to us the truth of the Christian school as a demand of the covenant, we murmur and complain?

And members would even leave?

To leave the pure preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ because the church teaches and insists upon the truth that the Christian school is a demand of the covenant reveals that you never loved the gospel of Jesus Christ to begin with.

It would have been better for those members had they never left the PRC.

Not only were some men exposed by classis, but the entire denomination was also exposed.

We are not strong.

We are a weak people.

There is nothing about us that is strong.

We prided ourselves on being strong.

We had fought a battle for justification by faith alone!

A false church cut us down!

Behold us in all our strength!

Behold us now as children cast about by every wind of doctrine, and behold us tricked and fooled by the sleight and cunning craftiness of men.

There is something desperately wrong with us.

The cure for which can only be found outside of ourselves.

There is only one hope for the Reformed Protestant Churches.

That hope is not found in any of the men of the denomination, and it is certainly not found in the institution itself. We are the “nothing” spoken of in Article 27 of the Belgic Confession.

The striking thing is that to this point, the RPC has faced only footmen (Jer. 12:5).

And the footmen have wearied us.

If we stumble on these things that have recently come before us, what will we do when the horses come? Or when the Jordan swells?

There is one hope for the Reformed Protestant Churches and one hope alone.

That hope is Jesus Christ.

That hope is his gospel, which has carried us and will continue to carry the true church of Jesus Christ to the end of the world.

May God be merciful to us sinners, and may he strengthen us so that we are no longer children but men and acquit ourselves as such.

13 thoughts on “Classis

  1. Lying, Appropriating the work of the Spirit since obviously the Leaders could not be wrong when in reality the Spirit weas leading the faithful into the Truth, praising Deacon Altenas Subterfuge and Rev Lannings complicity in a totally rogue action, judging the validity of the faith of those who were unwilling to kowtow to extrabiblical conditions, praising the misapplication of the confessions, and calling the hierarchical legalistic non church orderly matters of classis honorable is too duplicitous to even conscience. One wonders that you are able to look in the mirror without shame. Or perhaps your hero, excuse me, idol worship of men has so blinded you that you are incapable of discernment. In either case it is deeply saddening. I thought better of you. Sadly, your outer show was effectively deceptive. Onlyn now do you reveal your real colors.

    1. Dear Terry,

      I believe that if charges are going to be made, proof must be given. I have tried to live by that with the PRC and I have tried to live by that in the RPC.

      You have many words and many charges, but you provide no proof.

      Your words are empty.

      I believe what I have always believed and was taught and have not changed at all.

      I do marvel, however.

      I marvel that you are so soon removed from the pure gospel of grace.

  2. The Word from those you unjustly judge.
    We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
    John 15:19, 1 John 4:5-6

    1. Dear Terry,

      Lovely texts, and thank you for sharing them.

      Instead of supporting and following men who lied to the Holy Ghost, I recommend you rebuke them.

      Here is the word of God to you: Out of your own selves men have arisen who have spoken perverse things. And they have drawn you away as their disciple. Acts 20:30.

  3. The issue of the day has advanced.

    You may be interested to know in PR land the churches would not hear the rebuke and comparison to homosexuals, so alas, the PR churches have been given over to pedophiles, sexual abusers, those who publicly support abusers, and those too apathetic to care.

    And yet those with an eye toward RP land have lost interest.

    The loss of interest began with the whole repentance nonsense, talking past one another as one discusses eternity and the other time. My minister and your minister would be in agreement if they actually sat down together.

    But this school thing at classis destroyed the remaining interest of sympathetic PRs toward RP. A new doctrine was assumed to be true (and it may be correct in all irony) and rule occurred violently from there. Only months prior to classis the an elder from First RP used the PR schools when an RP school was available, proving the doctrine brand new in your church as you didn’t discipline him. The doctrine is so new few had ever heard it prior. NL had never preached it in his first 15 years in the ministry. The sudden dismal of the church polity is dishonest, for not long ago the corrupt PR polity was decried. As an outsider I say RP’s have perfected mother’s use of the church order as a beating club.

    The glaring example was Rev. Langerak appointing Rev. Lanning to the committee to meet with Sovereign, and Rev. Lanning suggesting otherwise because that’s the same judge and jury abuse of power as sending five church visitors including Koole to BC. Rev. Langerak still appointed Rev. Lanning. And not a peep since. Rev. Lanning ignored this in speech on the church polity of classis. Where is Jesus Christ in this?

    Dewey, it’s the same rotten corruption.

    1. Hello Mr. Disappointed,

      First, I wonder about the fact that you hide behind a fake name. You have a lot to say, but how seriously should we take it if you aren’t willing to put your own name to it? No doubt you have a life to save in the PRC.

      Second, I am not interested in what is going on in PR land.

      Third, assuming your minister is a PR minister, I know the type of man your minister is. He too is a coward. Jesus’ name and truth were corrupted and he stood idly by and did nothing. May God keep men like your minister and all like him far, far from the RPC. I would suggest you stay in the church with that man as your minister. You are good for each other.

      Fourth, what you call “repentance nonsense,” I call the Holy Spirit leading the church into all truth. I have learned more about repentance in two years than I learned in 40 years in the PRC. My understanding of repentance has been sharpened in ways I didn’t know possible. It has also been vitally important to expose the PRC as false, to the extent that now you can have a professor in the seminary give an absolute abomination of a speech as Gritters gave at Grace PRC. Do you and your minister believe that corruption? No, probably not. But neither will you do anything about it. You have a life to save after all. You can have your theology of man preceding God.

      But then you write this: “But this school thing at classis destroyed the remaining interest of sympathetic PRs toward RP.” And that is music to my ears. I praise God for that. I don’t want the sympathy of anyone who yet remains in the PRC. I don’t want anyone in the PRC to harbor any lingering sympathy to the RPC. It has been fascinating to watch those who thought they were staunch defenders of the truth to try and maintain a love and defense for both the PRC and the RPC. For some it was immediate, and for other fence riders, it took some time, but the result is the same. The time comes when you have to damn the RPC and cling tightly to the false church that is the PRC.

      For you it is this “school thing.” What you carelessly dismiss as a “thing,” I call God’s covenant faithfulness. I was raised to believe the Christian school is a demand of the covenant and I do. I now am a member of a church that is consistent in that instruction.

      You also show yourself ignorant of that truth. The truth of the Christian school as a demand of the covenant has been taught by many in the PRC. After my blog appeared, a reader emailed me four more sermons where PRC ministers taught this truth. Nothing new was introduced at the meeting of classis. You ought at least to be honest enough to admit that.

      And then you drop what you think is irrefutable proof of corruption in the RPC. Rev. Lanning was appointed to a committee to give advice and you don’t think he should have been. Maybe when you’ve left an institution that has all the form, and has all the ministers you could desire, you will know what it is like to be in a small denomination with precious few of anything, including ministers. What I say about your objection to Rev. Lanning being on that committee is this, “Big deal.” You will swallow the utter and absolute corruption that pours out of the PRC (including and especially from her assemblies), but then rise up in high dudgeon about Rev. Lanning being appointed to a committee.

      I understand where you are coming from. You are in a false church, but you have to justify your staying there. You won’t admit, “Dewey, I have a life to save,” so you go with, “Look at all your corruption!”

      The proof you provide is no proof at all.

      The Spirit led the RPC into truth and purged out some hypocrites at the same time.

      I thank God for that.

  4. Dear brother Dewey,

    Your bottom line is this: “We needed to sin that grace may abound!” I disagree with you because: 1. The Holy Spirit does not use the lie. 2. The Holy Spirit does not cause men to break their solemn vows. 3. The Holy Spirit does not use collusion to establish the truth.

    But you say all this was of the Holy Spirit Shall we sin that grace may abound? You seem to be saying: “Yes, we had to do that because the men of classis were weak in faith and we could not trust them to do right.” I disagree with you. “Lies are the proper work of the devil” not the Holy Spirit. Breaking solemn vows is sin against the 9th Commandment. Remember that? Using collusion and deception is not righteous.

    Yes, the PRC is a sad trail of woes. Darkness has overcome their leadership. No criticism was allowed or considered. Rightly, men of good faith, stood up, and lead God’s people out of their net. In doing so they used the Truth as their weapon. It was mighty against the darkness.

    But now the darkness attacks the RPC, because Satan cannot have the pure gospel preached. The real issue is the pure preaching of the gospel, not the Christian school. Don’t support the use of the darkness – lies, deceit, collusion – to fight that darkness or to establish the Truth. Using darkness you will lose all, not just the good Christian school. Turn from that. Continue to fight with the Truth. Trust your brethren, put the matter in a committee, so that all may study, learn, and be convinced of the Truth together. If required attendance at the good Christian school truly is the project of the covenant, the Holy Spirit will righteously lead God’s people into that truth. Thus far hath God lead us….

    Your brother in Christ, Stuart

    1. Dear Stuart,

      You put words in my mouth that are not there. I do not believe, neither have I taught, sin that grace may abound. Your comment tears down a straw man of your own creation.

      Perhaps you are referring to my defense of Deacon Altena. In that case, I can tell you that I believe the action of classis was correct to declare his credentials illegal. Just as it would have been appropriate to declare my action illegal, had I pursued it.

      There was darkness at classis, with that I agree. But that darkness manifested itself as the word of God tells us it will manifest itself – in lies and deceit. I would exhort you, instead of being a party to that darkness and excusing it and excusing those who manifested it, you ought to rebuke them.

  5. Greetings Dewey,
    After reading your blog I respond with this question. If one feels he or she has been sinned against by either the Classis’ interpretation of Lord’s Day 38 (meaning the Christian day school not a seminary) or the church political actions that took place; does someone who protests these decisions sin the unpardonable sin by attributing the work of the Lord to the work of the Devil.? If so, haven’t you stopped protest completely in the RPC? It’s seems that any protest would result in charges of sin and excommunication if the protest isn’t retracted.

    Steve Kamps

    1. Hello Steve,

      I have laid out my convictions.

      If you believe that the decisions made at classis were in error, then you should protest them. This is according to Article 31 of the Church Order.

  6.           A “Sermon” On Reformed Hypocrisy 

     

    1. The Solemn Vows Reformed Office-Bearers Make 

    2. These Solemn Vows Being Maintained 

    3. These Solemn Vows Being Transgressed 

     

    Beloved brethren of Christ’s Church, it is more than two months since September 15, 2022, but that date should not be forgotten. Therefore this: 

     

    1. The Solemn Vows Reformed Office-Bearers Make  

     

    You need to be aware of the fact that according to Article 44 of the Church Order, the church visitors are to take heed that each “consistory faithfully perform and observe in all things the adopted order…”. That requirement indicates that there is an adopted order for the consistories to follow and that this adopted order must be faithfully performed and observed.   

     

    In addition, that adopted Church Order which must be faithfully observed requires, according to Article 41, that each church send to classis delegates “with proper credentials.” Also, the adopted Church Order, in Article 33, requires that all delegates bring with them their “proper credentials”…”signed by those sending them…” 

     

    Realizing, according to the 9th Commandment, that giving agreement and publicly adopting something is a sacred vow. the consistories of the RPC have made a sacred vow before the Lord to faithfully perform and observe the Church Order solemnly agreed on among them. They have vowed to faithfully perform and observe that matter of sending delegates to classis “with proper credentials….signed by those sending them.” Not to do so would violate their solemn, agreed upon Order. It would be to break their vow to faithfully perform and observe that which they have solemnly agreed upon before the Lord.  

     

    So you see, brethren, sending delegates to classis with proper credentials is not a light thing. Nor may it be casually brushed aside. Sending delegates to classis with proper credentials is an agreed upon solemn vow that consistories have made. It is a solemn obligation that the consistories of the RPC have made before the Lord. Anyone, then, speaking lightly of these proper credentials or disparaging them, is in effect, disparaging and speaking lightly of the sacred vows the consistories have made to the Lord.  

     

    Additionally, then, if that person were an office-bearer and he would speak lightly of the proper credential or disparage bringing a proper credential signed by those sending them, he would be a hypocrite because on the one hand he makes that solemn vow and on the other hand he disparages the vow he made. That would surely be hypocrisy. And if he were a member of a reformed consistory and disparaged a proper credential, he would surely be a reformed church hypocrite! 

     

    2. These Solemn Vows Being Maintained  

     

    Now brethren, proceeding to Classis September and examining the credentials submitted, it becomes evident that the churches of classis had faithfully observed their vow by “presenting proper credentials…. signed by those sending them” – which refers to their consistory, as authorized by the signing of it’s president and clerk. All the churches of classis’ credentials were signed by their president and clerk and properly done in consistory as their credential stated, as they vowed to do. These would be proper credentials according to the requirements of the agreed upon church order, fulfilling the sacred vow each consistory made and promised to faithfully observe. 

     

    Now, if another credential were presented at classis, not signed by those sending the delegate, and not done in consistory as required by their sacred order, it would obviously be contrary to that sacred vow which all the consistories made to the Lord that they would uphold and faithfully observe.  That credential would not be one that faithfully performed and observed the sacred order agreed upon.   

     

    Surely, representatives of consistories that have made a sacred agreement among themselves, men who have all themselves vowed to faithfully uphold their sacred church order, would instantly object to that sacred order being violated by someone presenting an improper, false and lying credential; a credential not signed by those sending him, not done in consistory, and lying about it being done in consistory. Surely, men devoted to Christ’s church, sworn to do all things “decently” – meaning honestly – “and in order” – meaning according to the sacred order they vowed together before the Lord (I Cor. 14:40) – seeing someone despising that sacred order and acting contrary to that sacred order – surely they would raise their voices in protest over that travesty of the good order they agreed upon before the Lord?.   

     

    But that did not happen at classis September. All that sacred agreement died in silence when someone presented a lying piece of paper falsely claiming to be a credential and not authorized by a consistory – and not one of those oath-bound delegates raised a faithful hand to protest!   What hypocrisy: vowing to uphold something and then sitting in silence when it is denied. 

     

    3. These Solemn Vows Being Transgressed   

     

    Now brethren, it is necessary to consider the public statements of an elder from one of these consistories that had agreed together before the Lord on the sacred order that they will faithfully perform and observe, who sat in silence when his agreed upon order was trashed. 

     

    The following are his public comments relating to the events that took place at classis September of the RPC. He says, “The main issues that are brought to prove that church polity was violated are the fact that two sets of credentials were brought to classis, the fact that delegates from the same congregation answered the questions of Article 41 differently….”  

     

    The two credentials the elder is referring to are Sovereign RPC’s official credential and deacon Altena’s counterfeit credential, which was contrary to Art.41 of the agreed upon church order because it was not signed by those sending him and it was not done in consistory as Deacon Altena alleged on his pretended credential. Actually, then, the “two sets of credentials,” which the elder passes over all too lightly are not two credentials – one is a lie, a fabrication – and therefore not a credential, but a piece of paper deceiving classis by claiming to be a credential from a consistory, when it was not. It was a lie swallowed by classis and allowed to do it’s damage because the acting chairman failed in his duty “to see to it that everyone observe due order in speaking” (C.O. Art.35) and only then, after causing harm to elders DeVries and Andringa, was it repudiated by classis. There were not “two credentials” as that elder deftly dished out. There was one legitimate, faithful credential and there was a lying piece of paper pretending to look like a credential. This, the elder, if he sought to faithfully perform and observe his vow, would have objected to as counterfeit and unworthy of being considered;  but no, he didn’t see or object to something that violated his and his consistory’s solemn oath. He was not watching on the walls of zion at the time. 

     

    Then, describing the presentation of this lie to classis, the elder says this: ”Deacon Altena, laboring to be faithful to his calling as a watchman, brought another set of credentials…I do not blame Deacon Altena for his actions….”   

     

    He describes the deacon’s deception of classis as: “laboring to be faithful to his calling” and he does not blame Deacon Altena for performing that deception. Imagine that – an elder, who vowed before the Lord to faithfully perform and observe the sacred church order agreed upon by the churches of the RPC, now publicly says he does not blame – he finds no fault – with another office-bearer who denies and contradicts that same sacred order that they both vowed they would uphold. Indeed, he calls that deacon’s deceiving, dis-orderly deceit: “laboring to be faithful,” when it should be called “sinning that grace may abound.” This is indeed hypocrisy: vowing to solemnly uphold something and finding no fault with someone who trashes it. This is reformed church hypocrisy. 

     

    Even though the action of Deacon Altena was contrary to the solemn order of the churches, the elder condones it by saying he finds no fault with it, and even worse, anyone who does find fault with it and calls his attention to this unfaithfulness and deception, that elder says you are merely “grasping at straws.” What a sad day in the reformed churches when defending good and faithful order, according to I Cor. 14:40, is grasping at straws. I repeat: what a sad day for the reformed churches when someone defending the sacred vow the consistories have made is rejected by a member of one of those consistories and told he is grasping at straws.   

     

    Imagine, to this elder there is no fault to be found with an office bearer who denies and contradicts the sacred order they have all vowed to faithfully perform; he finds no fault with an office-bearer submitting a lie to classis, no fault with an office-bearer who tramples the agreed order that all office-bearers are to faithfully perform and observe; instead, he defends that transgression of his consistory’s oath, he defends the lie given to classis!   Nothing to bother about.. Oh..breaking sacred vows, submitting lies to classis and disrespecting your elders, that’s not serious, it’s just grasping at straws.  

     

    In his explanation of Deacon Altena’s answering the questions of Article 41 of the Church Order, this elder says, “Deacon Altena was determined not to lie.” This is a disreputable observation in light of the fact that this same elder did not notice when Deacon Altena did lie, when he was NOT DETERMINED NOT TO LIE but actually did lie by setting before classis a counterfeit credential claiming it was done in consistory when it was not done in consistory, and when there had been no consistory on the day Deacon Altena said there was a consistory meeting. Oh yes, at the time Deacon Altena handed in that lie, that time he was determined to lie, but the elder did not take notice of it nor write about it.  So quite obviously this elder’s judgement is impaired in favor of the deacon who supported his cause at classis. That deacon sinned that grace may abound and it seems that elder finds no fault with that. 

     

    Another questionable statement made by this elder relates to Deacon Altena’s erroneous claim that his elder’s were “not seeing to it that the schools were cared for” when there are published records of the school committee working diligently to form a Christian school for their congregation and elders Andringa and DeVries were serving on that committtee with elder Andringa as president and their latest committee Minutes dated just before classis. Disregarding all that, the elder says, “Would you criticize him (Deacon Altena) for this?” I say yes. He should be. Especially for not laying these criticisms out before his elders in their consistory meeting, where the elders could explain or defend themselves. 

     

    Yes, Deacon Altena certainly deserves criticism for his lie, his misrepresentation of elders Andringa and DeVries abundant efforts to create a Christian school for a tiny church with little means, and his unScriptural gossiping about his elders without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves, before blabbing all this before classis. 

     

    Added to that, the elder says, “Classis heard and saw all of this. They responded appropriately.” I would disagree with those words. Classis did not see the false witness given to her, classis did not hear the facts relating to the elders of Sovereign RPC promoting the cause of the Christian school, classis did not hear the many transgressions of the sacred vow of her consistories and classis did not see the many unfaithful actions against the church order which they were all obligated before the Lord to faithfully perform and observe, but did not do.   

     

    No, classis did not see or hear it all. Classis only saw the charade that was performed for her and classis responded appropriately to that charade by trampling Sovereign RPC’s autonomy and authority, by trumping up charges against two faithful elders, and by adding an unconsidered, non-agenda, interpretation to her official confession by means of a kangaroo court. Yes, that was the appropriate response that classis, like a blind sheep, was herded into. It was not vision, it was blindness. It was not loving, it was a kangaroo court. No love was shown to Sovereign RPC or her elders or the sacred Church Order agreement consistories made and vowed to faithfully perform and observe! But the elder assures us: classis responded appropriately. From the tragedy that I saw, he is sadly correct. Classis appropriately fell in the ditch that was prepared for her.  

     

    Finally, there is the matter of the elder’s selective vision. He calls attention to some of the “beautiful things about the care congregations within the denomination are to have for one another” which the Church Order, Article 44, speaks of. This is selective vision. Why? 

     

    Because he misses entirely and his eyes fail to see that other beautiful part of Article 44 which requires that the “consistories faithfully perform (and) observe in all things the adopted order” (emphasis mine). Yes, that is beautiful when “brethren dwell in blest accord” – but not to this elder. If someone brings up that “blest accord” which classis trampled, they are grasping at straws. If someone, seeking to be faithful to their calling, questions classis’ disregard and unfaithful performance of that adopted order, that elder says they are troublers of Israel, they are not reformed, they do not have the Holy Spirit.   

     

    But when an office-bearer in the church comes along and trashes that “adopted order”, the elder finds no fault with that. He even lauds the lies and deceit as being faithful to one’s calling. What would he say, then, if those faithful believers, following faithful order (cf. Article 31 in the “Green Book” of the PRC church order) by notifying their consistory of their intent to come to classis with their appeals, decided not to do that, to disregard that good order, and just march into classis with their appeals? Would he laud that behavior? Would he say, I find no fault with that? Or would he make a motion to discipline those individuals for breaking the 5th Commandment? Which is it?  Would they be heroes for their disorderly conduct? Or disciplined for their disorderly conduct? The answer is: Hypocrisy!   Reformed church hypocrisy. 

     

    That elder saw those notices of those faithful appellants informing his consistory of their intent to appeal.   He probably approved them. But then he turns around and “finds no fault” with the lawless individual who disregards his consistory, “no fault” with the office-bearer that disregards his vowed allegiance to the Church Order. Hypocrisy. 

     

    His selective vision has also affected this elder’s reading of my words causing them to be twisted. That God’s Word includes commands to us has never been denied by me. God commands many things. But they are not conditions. They are expressions of His glorious Person and the demand His attributes require: Be ye holy, for I the Lord am holy. This is not a condition to be obeyed for salvation, but the gospel call to reject self and become holy through repentance and faith in Christ. The response is gratitude for the sovereign grace of redemption freely given to an undeserving sinner.  

     

    What I said was that classis created a condition – a “must do” – to remain in the covenant. My proof was what classis did to elder DeVries. My point was that this was a man-made condition, created by devious means and therefore it was a condition of man binding the conscience of believers. It was not a legitimate, exegetically produced and consistorially agreed upon requirement of God’s Word. It sprang up through insidious floor debate – rather than as a legitimate Agenda overture from a consistory to classis, thereby binding all the consistories to something they had not seen or had opportunity to study or give informed consent. In other words, the ABCs of legitimate classical action, of legitimate ecclesiastical manner, were denied; it was a hierarchical offense against that solemn order which should have been faithfully performed and observed, but was not.   

     

    Postscripts 

     

    1. This needs to be stated: All my arguments and criticisms have been directed toward the disorderly, dishonest and devious manner that classis arrived at its interpretation of Lord’ Day 38. Nothing I have written is against maintaining, supporting, and attending the good Christian school. All of our children have been blessed with the covenant privilege of Christian education and my wife and I have been blessed with the privilege of sacrificing for their Christian education and that of other covenant children by our continual support of the good Christian school, even now, when our children are adults and no longer attend the good Christian school. We have supported the good Christian school from the time of our marriage until today, not perfectly, but in loving obedience and gratitude to our covenant God.  

     

    2. If, in the future a legitimate classis decides in a legitimate church orderly way through an exegetical study that God’s Word teaches and our Confessions confirm that Scripture says: “The good Christian school is the project of the covenant,” I will gladly hear and obey the voice of our Savior, carried to our hearts by the faithful preaching of the Word. But, I will never obey the illegitimate voice of men and consistories establishing that project as Truth by devious means in a kangaroo court! 

     

    3. Finally, dear brother Engelsma, my heartfelt thanks to you for leading God’s people out of the darkness of the PRC. Perhaps your middle name should be “Boanerges” because of the fire of your zeal for Christ’s church. But I would counsel you to direct your fire in a church-orderly, righteous direction, so that you know what spirit you are of (Mark 3:7).  

     

    In Christian love, 

     

     Stuart Pastine 

    1. Dear Stuart,

      A sermon!

      Submitted as a comment to a blog!

      Talk about taking a liberty.

      It appears that Rev. VanderWal was right about his approach after all – best not to post any comments whatsoever.

      Thankfully, and mercifully, my answer can be brief.

      You strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.

      It’s something like this: If a member of a church brings a protest to classis that should have first gone to the consistory, the classis will declare that protest illegal, instruct the protestant about the proper order, and then move on with its business. You don’t need to get all rash and emotional and start charging all kinds of sin about it. I recommend and encourage you to be more charitable in your judgments.

      When the deacon brought the second set of credentials, the classis declared it illegal and moved on with its business.

      It really doesn’t require a sermon to understand or explain that.

  7. It is hard to see men fall in battle. Harder yet to so soon again experience friend and companion turning sword against you. But it is also unworthy of battle mates to allow every comment on this beautiful blog post be swords of criticism, defended by one man. So, even tho I am nothing, recognizing I am ever just the water carrier for the warriors on the front lines, I will shout from the back lines: I loved the breath of enlivening air that issued forth from the September Reformed Protestant Classis!!!!!! Elders that lie on the floor of a classis? that run away? that cannot confess the power and authority of the confessions? We cannot have you on our front lines! You will be the death of us sheep! I thank God the Classis saved us from you. And, I, and most others in the RPC love love love the schools as a demand of God’s covenant. Of course! Now it all makes sense why we have devoted our lives to the upkeeping of the schools. It wasn’t us at all! God wrote that law upon our hearts, and we obeyed, happily, hardly knowing the why. His covenant, His covenant, His covenant with us! I cannot wait to hear and see the unfolding of the truths of God’s covenant. So, I, for one, joyfully and contentedly confess “the lines are fallen unto me, in places large and fair. A goodly heritage is mine, marked out with gracious care.” Thank-you, Dewey Engelsma for the wonderful blog post, and for all your work for us and for Truth’s sake. May our Lord ever be a light upon your pathway.

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