Abuse

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.

Dear Editors,

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.

“Nothing more.”

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,

Dewey Engelsma

A Letter to Paul the Apostle

person holding fountain pen

Presbyterian Church in Asia Minor

Committee on Missions

Paul the Apostle

co Aquila the Tentmaker

Corinth, Greece

Dear Paul:

We recently received a copy of your letter to the Galatians. The committee has directed me to inform you of a number of things, which deeply concern us.

First, we find your language to be somewhat intemperate. In your letter, after a brief greeting to the Galatians, you immediately attack your opponents by claiming they “want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” You then say that such men should be regarded as “accursed”; and, in another place, you make reference to “false brethren.” Wouldn’t it be more charitable to give them the benefit of the doubt-at least until the General Assembly has investigated and adjudicated the matter? To make the situation worse, you later say, “I could wish those who trouble you would even cut them selves off!” Is such a statement really fitting for a Christian minister? The remark seems quite harsh and unloving.

Paul, we really feel the need to caution you about the tone of your epistles. You come across in an abrasive manner to many people. In some of your letters you’ve even mentioned names; and this practice has, no doubt, upset the friends of Hymenaeus, Alexander, and others. After all, many persons were first introduced to the Christian faith under the ministries of these men. Although some of our missionaries have manifest regrettable shortcomings, nevertheless, it can only stir up bad feelings when you speak of these men in a derogatory manner.

In other words, Paul, I believe you should strive for a more moderate posture in your ministry. Shouldn’t you try to win those who are in error by displaying a sweeter spirit? By now, you’ve probably alienated the Judaizers to the point that they will no longer listen to you.

By your outspokenness, you have also diminished your opportunities for future influence throughout the church as a whole. Rather, if you had worked more quietly, you might have been asked to serve on a presbytery committee appointed to study the issue. You could then have contributed your insights by helping to draft a good committee paper on the theological position of the Judaizers, without having to drag personalities into the dispute.

Besides, Paul, we need to maintain unity among those who profess a belief in Christ. The Judaizers at least stand with us as we confront the surrounding paganism and humanism, which prevail within the culture of the contemporary Roman Empire. The Judaizers are our allies in our struggles against abortion, homosexuality, government tyranny, etc. We cannot afford to allow differences over doctrinal minutiae to obscure this important fact.

I also must mention that questions have been raised about the contents of your letter, as well as your style. The committee questions the propriety of the doctrinaire structure of your letter. Is it wise to plague young Christians, like the Galatians, with such heavy theological issues? For example, in a couple of places, you allude to the doctrine of election. You also enter into a lengthy discussion of the law. Perhaps you could have proved your case in some other ways, without mentioning these complex and controverted points of Christianity. Your letter is so doctrinaire, it will probably serve only to polarize the differing factions within the churches. Again, we need to stress unity, instead of broaching issues, which will accent divisions among us.

In one place, you wrote, “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.” Paul, you have a tendency to describe things strictly in black and white terms, as if there are no gray areas. You need to temper your expressions, lest you become too exclusive. Otherwise, your outlook will drive away many people, and make visitors feel unwelcome. Church growth is not promoted by taking such a hard line and remaining inflexible.

Remember, Paul, there is no such thing as a perfect church. We have to tolerate many imperfections in the church, since we cannot expect to have everything at once. If you will simply think back over your own experience, you will recall how you formerly harassed the church in your times of ignorance. By reflecting on your own past, you might acquire a more sympathetic attitude toward the Judaizers. Be patient, and give them some time to come around to a better understanding. In the meantime, rejoice that we all share a common profession of faith in Christ, since we have all been baptized in his name.

Sincerely,

Charles Phinney

Coordinator, Committee on Missions

————————————————

This article appeared in the July / August 1988 Trinity Review

https://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=91

Copyright © 1998-2018 The Trinity Foundation
Post Office 68, Unicoi, Tennessee 37692
Phone: 423.743.0199 Fax: 423.743.2005

(HT: CPRC)

As to the Schools (Epilogue)

(This post was written by Mike Vermeer)

One thing I wrote in the last series, as an attachment to the first blog, may have caught your eye. In my letter to the school board—as well as in several other private letters that I sent around the early spring of 2021—I wrote the statement, “I judge no person for their decision to stay within the PRC or to leave it.”

Depending on who (and where) you are, you may have taken this statement differently.

If you remain in the PRC, you may read that statement and allow it to work as a balm on your conscience. You see “many problems” in the PRC. You may even agree that there is false doctrine being taught in the PRC. You may claim to be fighting against these errors in the PRC and experiencing trouble for all your efforts. For you, you read that statement as an affirmation that because I don’t judge you, that you do not need to fear judgment.

If you are in a position where you are leaving or have recently left the PRC, you may have found yourself using a similar expression. You know there is error in the PRC, and Christ has pulled you out of the fire, delivering you from that false doctrine that displaces Christ. For you, this expression is a bit of an olive branch. We think, “well, what if they just don’t see it? We need to give them more time and let them think about it a little more. We cannot judge them because they will stop seeking the truth.”

Let me explain my statement so that there can be no confusion. This is its meaning: I am not only carnal but also an unjust judge.

You ought not to seek my judgment or give any weight to it. You ought not even seek the judgment of a man who is accounted to be wise. You ought to only seek and give any weight to the judgment of God. When I judged, I did so according to my own wisdom and what would make my life here on this earth easier. As was explained in the series, I did everything possible to remain in the PR schools. A part of this was refusing to judge rightly and deliberately adding this statement as a balm on those who remained in a church that Christ had left. A part of this was also a desire to salvage relationships by glossing over the truth.

If you pressed me at that time, I might have defended the statement by saying that I cannot judge the eternal destiny of any person. That is true. That is a matter that remains with each individual and God. I do not judge the eternal destiny of any person. Only God knows.

However, not only is God the judge of all the earth, but he also calls us to judge—not the heart, but the actions and confession of men. When Christ was accosted by the rulers for healing on the Sabbath, he gave them and the people the calling to “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Likewise, the Spirit calls us to judge one another even as we will judge the ungodly and angels (I Corinthians 6:1-6).

When I claimed to judge no person for their decision to stay or to leave, I was judging according to the flesh, and according to appearance. It was in no way aligned with the judgment of God. God has shown that the truth of the Gospel is not and cannot be in the PRC.

Regardless of whether I judge you for staying within or leaving the PRC, you ought to seek true and righteous judgment. The truth is that God is judging the PRC and will judge those that remain in it. The truth is that all the emphasis on “a balanced gospel” and “but you really must do good works” is crowding out the gospel of Christ so that the gospel cannot remain in the PRC. The gospel is a gift. It is not a matter of your intelligence or ability to understand. And when Christ is kicked out of the PRC, his gospel cannot remain in it. The truth is that if the gospel has left a church, the kingdom of Man has replaced it. And the destruction will be terrible.

Do not let my unjust judgment be a balm on your refusal to seek the Kingdom of God.

Flee.

As to the Schools (3)

This is the third and final post written by Mike Vermeer. (Well, the final post if I am unsuccessful in convincing him to continue writing). Having spent the first 40 years of my life complacent and ignorant regarding Christian education, I am thankful for Mike’s work on behalf of the schools, which work is beginning to disabuse me of my ignorance.

This article brings me to the second reason why we needed to start our own school; in answer to the question posed in various ways, why did we start a school? The reason I am about to explain, I must emphasize, was not the basis for any of my decisions – I am carnal. However, God has shown us once more in this how His ways are higher than our ways.

In baptism, we vow to teach our children to the utmost of our power, according to the doctrines that are taught in our church. This vow encompasses all the rearing and instruction of our children.

With a school staffed by Protestant Reformed teachers, it is impossible they could teach our children according to the truth we believe. They could not help but teach Protestant Reformed doctrines. They could not but provide the motivation to learn using earthly benefits alongside (and obscuring) the glory of God. They could not but teach the wisdom of men in addition to (and obscuring) the Knowledge of God. They would not point our children to the Kingdom of God but would obscure that most blessed Kingdom with more emphasis on the Kingdom of Man.

And I knew it. Demonstrably. But I could not bring myself to leave a school that I knew could not teach our children the truth of God. I am carnal.

But God – beautiful words – But God would not allow us to go to a school where our children could not be taught the knowledge of God according to truth. This is where the reformation of 1924 comes in, and the article “As to our Moral Obligation” by Rev. Hoeksema.

Have you read it yet? You should.

That article shows the PRC was weak from the very beginning – perhaps not in doctrine, but certainly in practice. They were hardhearted and would not listen to the pleas of Rev. Hoeksema throughout the 1940s…You are 600 families strong! There is no reason why you should not be able to start your own school! Moral obligation to support the existing schools? No, moral obligation to teach your children, To the Utmost of your Power.

Why were schools not started immediately? There may be any number of reasons. Perhaps there was the (wrong) idea that a small school could not maintain a rigorous educational quality. Perhaps Kuyper’s philosophy of “Sphere Sovereignty” was embedded into their thinking so that they felt they needed to have sufficient “industry experts” in order to start a school.

I think (then Rev.) Engelsma does a good job explaining the sentiment of the 1940s in his forward to Hoeksema’s “As to our Moral Obligation.” In this forward, Engelsma seems to be channeling not Hoeksema but those who opposed him. Listen to him: “These articles…caution us against a foolish, rash forcing of our own schools when they are not possible.” With that, all of Hoeksema’s emphasis on instructing our children “to the utmost of our power” is safely defanged, and we are able to comfortably settle on our lees and claim that “well, it’s not possible (when is it ever, really?) so we had better just use the existing schools or homeschool.”

It is both our obligation and our vow to teach our children to the utmost of our power.

We would have been unable to do so in the Protestant Reformed schools. By God’s gracious deliverance, he also made that path impossible.

For us to teach all our children to know God within our individual homes is also impossible; we lack the time, ability, and means to give them a complete education, as noted by Rev. Hoeksema in the above mentioned article.

And so – not because it was possible, but because it was necessary – God gave us to begin a humble and despised school, where, by God’s grace, we will teach our children rigorously to know Him in all of His covenant love, in all of His creation, and in all of His beauty.

As to the Schools (2)

This is the second post of three written by Mike Vermeer. Mike is also leading a series of Bible studies on the principles of Reformed education. This Bible study is being put on by Genesis Reformed Protestant School; information can be found here.

As noted in the prior installment, I have been hearing a question pressing some in the PRC: Some pose it as an innocent question: “Why did you need to start a school and abandon the PR Schools?” Others are more direct and simply assert, “I think your school is wrong, and you should have continued to use the PR Schools.”

This post will continue the first answer to the question: we were thrown out.

What astounded me, and betrayed how ignorant my generation had become of the truth, however, was the reason that we were thrown out of the schools.

I am not talking about being removed from the school board. After being removed, I was undeterred in my desire to use the PR schools. Some people just don’t learn easily.

I wanted to show that I was not angry for having been removed from the board and, if possible, ease the path towards using the school anyways. When after a discussion with a board member, it became clear that they did not want the association to have to vote on my removal (that would have been messy), I willingly sent this letter of resignation; not only that, but I also urged my fellow saints to do the same – many of whom followed my lead.

Now, as a newly minted non-association member, It was time for enrollment interviews.

I knew the men on the education committee fairly well. I had been secretary for them for the past two years, so I knew what lay ahead…I thought. The only question in the back recesses of my mind was who they would bring in to replace me on the committee.

As soon as we walked into the room, I knew that the interview would not go as I had anticipated. The man selected to replace me on the committee to conduct enrollment interviews was one of the most powerful men of Crete PRC, notorious for his hatred of Rev. Langerak’s preaching.

On reflection, he was there for a very specific purpose. It was his job to make it clear to the education committee – probably knowing they were too polite for his purposes – that under his cross-examination, I would defend myself. All I needed to do was to respond to his accusations, and he would meet his objective. When, after the 3rd or 5th time (I lost count), I was asked, “Why would you want to use this school?” finally, I responded, “Men, I have made clear to you that I desire to use this school, and am willing to work with you to do so. It is becoming clear to me that you do not want us to use this school, but that is your decision to make, not mine.”

We were soon complete with the interview, and they made their decision. But what grounds would they use?

In a very brief and sterile letter sent by US mail informing me of their decision, they noted as the first of three grounds my “not being willing to have my children catechized with other students by a Protestant Reformed minister.”

What?

Yes, you read that correctly. First, they sidelined the association; now, they drag in the church. We were cast out of a parent-run school because we were unwilling to participate in Protestant Reformed catechism.

I have always been taught that catechism is the preaching of the gospel to our children. That is why the church conducts catechism, not the school. We expressed this as a firm conviction that we could not have our children in PR catechism – it would make us liars if we left the PRC and then sent our children to PR catechism. We also provided an alternative, that we could arrange for our children to be supervised while the others were in catechism. Nonstarter.

At our school, convenience had apparently turned into law and, for some, was even considered to be part of the curriculum. After two or three generations of having our children catechized during the school day as a convenience to the parents, “there arose a generation that knew not” that catechism is the work of the church.

So they cast us out. By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Because He knew exactly what we needed to be delivered from.

To be concluded…

As to the Schools (1)

This guest post, and the two that follow, were written by Mike Vermeer, board member of Genesis Reformed Protestant School.

I have been increasingly hearing the question pressed by some in the PRC: “Okay, we understand that you had to go and start your own church. But why did you need to start a school and abandon the PR schools?”

This is an old question. Interestingly, a form of that question was asked early in Protestant Reformed history, which was answered in an excellent 1944 article by Herman Hoeksema, titled “As to our Moral Obligation.” I encourage all to read that; it reveals the attitudes embedded into the very fabric of the PRC from her earliest days.

Fast forward to today, and there are two answers to the repeated question. At first, I thought there was only one answer. In this, and in so many other ways, I was completely wrong.

The first and easiest answer to the question is that we were thrown out, in spite of all attempts to remain. The second answer is more important.

I put my utmost into working out a way that we could continue using the PR schools as we had before we left the PRC, with some form of association membership. For the sake of the families in our church and for the possibility that we could continue to work with the school, I crafted a proposal that the school board would allow the association to address the question rather than making a decision immediately themselves as a school board.

They called a special meeting to address the question. I wanted to show up to the meeting to work with the other board members on a proposal where we could continue to use the school as association members. However, at the request of the board president, I agreed to waive my right to attend the board meeting if he would commit to treating my letter prior to considering a motion to remove me from the board.

In case you think that the association really has control of the direction of the school, let this be clear: No proposal was brought to the association–neither mine, nor any other that would allow continuing cooperation. The school board had a firm grip on the school, and did not want this to be considered by the association. That would have been too messy.

In a very clean and professional response to my letter, sent both by official US mail and email, I was duly notified of my removal from the board and all associated committees.

To my shame, I still wanted to use the school. I was undeterred.

To be continued…

The Office of Believer

(updated 8/2/22)

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. 1 John 2:27

          But why are thou called a Christian?

Because I am a member of Christ by faith, and thus am partaker of His anointing; that so I may confess His name, and present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him; and also that with a free and good conscience I may fight against sin and Satan in this life, and afterwards reign with Him eternally over all creatures (HC, LD12, QA32)

The office of believer was silenced in the PRC.

Put differently, the leadership in the PRC made every effort to stifle and suppress the voice of the office of believer. This came out in many ways. From Rev. Bruinsma ridiculing the visitors at the January 2021 meeting of Classis East, saying they were just there because the assemblies had become a “spectator sport,” to Prof. Cammenga saying at Synod 2021 that he hoped that a certain protestant would “go away” so that the denomination would never have to hear from that protestant again—and so that no one would misunderstand him, Prof. Cammenga added, “and I mean that”—the office of believer was silenced.

And not just silenced.

The office of believer was despised.

Prof. Cammenga simply said what the denomination thinks about the office of believer. Go away. We don’t want to hear from you.

One man who is a perpetual elder in the PRC and who sits at the top of the food chain in the denomination once told me that the best synod he was ever delegated to was the one when there were no visitors allowed. I listened in amazement. It became clear he didn’t even know what he was saying. He was describing Rome. Let the people stand from afar and wait for the smoke signals to appear to indicate what decisions have been made.

I was a delegate to one meeting of Classis East. I loathed it. I knew from the minute I walked in that I did not belong there. I wanted to be with those who had gathered in the back of the room as visitors. Those men and women knew the hard looks and mockery they would have to endure but gathered nonetheless, because they wanted to see what their beloved church would do with Christ at that particular meeting. To their grief, they soon found out that Christ’s name was not to reign at that meeting of classis either, but the name and reputation of men was to again be victorious. This was driven home to me at the end of the meeting, after the classis had labored to protect the name of the minister who had again compromised the gospel in his preaching. There were precious few delegates who were at all interested in defending God’s name, but Rev. Haak, after closed session had been declared, delivered a lengthy speech consoling the errorist and expressing solidarity with him. Kudos to Rev. Haak. He expressed well the sentiment of the entire assembly.

This contempt for the office of believer comes out in the writing as well. Prof. Cammenga, writing in the April 2020 issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal about the importance of teaching the original languages to seminary students, wrote this about reading a translation of the Bible, as opposed to reading the Bible in the original Greek or Hebrew: “Reading a translation of Scripture is better than nothing.” I remember reading that article and coming to a complete standstill. Better than nothing? I, like many others, was exerting myself to read the Bible and did not find it to be only “better than nothing.” But was this all it was? Better than nothing? I now know that what that means is, unless you can read the original, you really are not doing much at all. In fact, you can only consider it, “better than nothing.” Prof. Cammenga should have taken that statement to its logical conclusion and added, “Leave the Bible reading to the leadership as they can read the original.”

You can understand now why the leaders in the PRC views the members the way they do. The members are good to have around when it comes time to pay the bills, but for the rest, just leave that up to the leadership.

And the members of the PRC love to have it so.

The facts I have written above will not bother anyone in the PRC.

They hardly need to be told anymore to keep their mouths shut.

That is why when a member protested or raised a voice of objection to some piece of writing or to some sermon, the other members of the congregation immediately viewed that member with suspicion. And if that member pursued his protest, there was a smear and slander campaign started against that member, which was incredibly effective in cutting that member down.

Neither will any members of the PRC ever repent of their sins against those members of the denomination who were so hated for so long.

The leadership is seeing to it.

In the May 15, 2022, issue of the Standard Bearer, you have Rev. Josh Engelsma writing this: “The past years have shown that the assemblies of the PRCA are not broken. A broken system of church government is one in which the voice of the members is silenced, where protests and appeals are not heard. None may honestly allege this to be the case in the PRCA.”

Not only is the system not broken; in fact, the system is working better than ever! “I venture to guess that in no other time in the history of the PRCA has the voice of the members been heard more than in recent years” (Engelsma, 5/15/22, SB).

There was a day when I would have said, “Well, Rev. Engelsma was in Classis West for most of his ministry, so maybe he is not aware of what went on,” but I am finished making excuses for these men. Does Rev. Engelsma really think that the only way a system of church government becomes broken is when an assembly passes a decision saying, “We no longer will allow protests and appeals to be heard”? Of course not. Your system is broken when you hate the members protesting and when entire assembly meetings are nothing more than exercises in saving the reputations of men. The members of the PRC know this to be the case. One member of the denomination, who is in no way friendly to the RPC, captured the spirit of the day perfectly when they said that to protest a decision of the PR assemblies is to commit “ecclesiastical suicide.”

But Rev. Engelsma is serving a very important purpose right now in the PRC. That purpose is to speak a word to the people so that none turn from their wickedness. “They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you” (Jer. 23:17).

His entire series in the Standard Bearer on the distinction between the true and false church can be summarized as this word to the Protestant Reformed Churches: “No evil shall come upon you.”

What follows in this post is the voice of the office of believer. That voice is the voice of Jesus Christ, out of whom the office of believer flows. It is good that these voices are heard now, and for generations to come, so that they stand as a living testimony to the treachery and wickedness of the Protestant Reformed Churches.

That denomination has sinned against the living God, and they did so against knowledge.

So let the members of Byron Center PRC read and hear the voices of two mothers in Israel who never to that point in their lives had written letters to their consistories, but in whose letters is found a damning indictment of the lying and treacherous spirit that was in the heart of the consistory. From now and for generations to come, the members of Byron Center PRC will know this: Your elders lied to you in the motion set forth to remove Rev. Lanning as editor of Sword & Shield, and they lied in the days and months that followed. And they are not sorry for it.

Let the members of the PRC read and hear the voices that were raised in opposition to sermons that displaced Jesus Christ from his throne but which protests were either denied, turned away as illegal, or slow-walked until the member bringing the protest was forced to leave the denomination so that the consistory could pitch the protest in the trash. And what was the instruction of the church visitors regarding the protests that Byron’s consistory would receive? Ignore them. Do not receive them or answer them until the deposition was complete. If you don’t believe me, then ask Rev. Haak who raised his voice to make the point or ask any of the elders from Byron’s consistory who were in the room. This, Rev. Engelsma, is what a church looks like where the assemblies are completely broken.

Let the members of Crete PRC see the flip flopping of their consistory as that consistory went from supporting their minister writing in Sword & Shield in July 2020 to requiring him to resign in February of 2021. Of course they had to make up some grounds to support their decision, so they settled on the fact that Rev. Langerak was working together with a deposed minister who was living in the sin of schism. (The second ground, that Rev. Langerak’s participation was causing unrest and division in the congregation is laughable, since that would be grounds for removing every faithful minister of God’s word. The word, faithfully preached, is a sword that divides and cuts and causes division by exposing the carnal members of the congregation who react angrily to any rebuke or word of admonition). To see the folly of it, ask an elder of Southwest PRC if they are going to take up Crete’s ground and require Prof. Cammenga to resign from the board of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society since he labors alongside a divorced and remarried man. (Hint: Don’t hold your breath for that to happen). We know now that Crete’s consistory flipped the way it did because of the new elders who joined in January 2021. Given the spiritual nature of the elder bench at Crete, it took only two months for them to carry out their carnal agenda and flip the consistory to change their mind regarding their minister writing in Sword & Shield.

Let the members of the PRC read the letters of those who knew what their duty was regarding church membership, and when the marks of their church were clearly those of an apostatizing church, they removed themselves from such.

This list is by no means comprehensive, in fact it barely scratches the surface. The minutes of the assembly meetings of the PRC over the last five years are filled with the protests and appeals of members who fought bravely for Christ’s name over against a hierarchy that hated them. Many documents have been linked in previous posts or published in Sword & Shield or in other blogs. I also plan to add to this list as I become aware of additional material.

So let the voice of the office of believer be heard here, not to move the hearts of the members or leaders of the Protestant Reformed Churches, but to stand as a living testimony against them, and to be used, should God will, as proof of their treachery and whoredom against the living God of heaven and earth.

“And the Lord hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever: And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the Lord; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.” Jeremiah 25:4–7

Protests:

Bomers’ protest to SW PRC

Jim & Sara Geerlings’ protest to Hudsonville PRC

Response sent from Hudsonville PRC

Keith Gritters protest to Byron Center PRC

Letter/Speech given when protest was delivered to the consistory

Jeremy Langerak protest to Grace PRC

Transcript of “The Conquest of Ai” (Rev. Van Overlooop)

Transcript of “Calling Towards the Canaanites” (Rev. Van Overloop)

“Responsibility toward the Remaining Canaanites,” RWH, 1986, Rev. Van Overloop

Stephanie Lanning protest to Byron Center PRC

Aaron Lim protest to Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC) in Singapore

Stephanie Medema protest to Classis East

Transcript of “The Walls of Jericho Fell Flat” by Rev. Van Overloop

Medema protest to Crete PRC

Rev. Lanning protest to Synod 2017

Letters:

Andy Birkett

Letter to Crete PRC

Letter to his family

Aaron Cleveland letter to Byron Center PRC

Dawn Engelsma letter to Byron Center PRC

Edgar Bansale letter to Provident Protestant Reformed Church in Marikina City

Provident PRC response

Aaron Lim letter to the Session of CERC

Marcus Andringa

Letter to the consistory of Hull PRC

Letter to the consistory of Hull PRC (1/26/21)

Letter to the consistory of Hull PRC (6/29/21)

Matt Hanko letter to SWPRC

Matt Overway

Letter to the consistory of Byron Center PRC (11/20/20)

Letter of request to BCPRC dated 12/14/20

BCPRC response to M. Overway dated 12/15/20

Email to the BCPRC consistory dated 11/26/20

Letter to the BCPRC consistory dated 3/10/21

Ryan Schipper

Letter regarding the Crete PRC summary

Crete PRC summary

Explanation and stance on the present controversy

Letter to the Standard Bearer (and response)

Request for papers from Southwest PRC

Notes prepared for visit with elder committee from Southwest PRC

Bob Vermeer

Crete PRC announcement regarding the Act of Separation

Letter to Crete PRC dated 2/9/21 regarding the announcement

Response from Crete PRC dated 2/12/21

Letter to Crete PRC dated 3/5/21

Crete PRC announcement regarding suspension of Rev. Langerak

Crete Act of Separation and Reformation

Crete PRC (3)

(This post was written by Mr. Andy Birkett, elder at Second Reformed Protestant Church).

For the entire ministry of Rev. Langerak, he had the heart of a servant for all the members, but especially for those who were oppressed and abused.

He had a reputation for this to such an extent that included in his monthly report of labors to the consistory, there was always a portion that included some type of counseling or assistance for an abused or oppressed member (man, woman, or child) or meeting with family or parents of a victim from the congregation or denomination.

Psalm 82:3–4: “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”

Rev. had made it clear to the consistory that he considered Rev. Lanning to be an oppressed spiritual brother to him.

In an effort to get Rev. Langerak to distance himself from Rev. Lanning, the elders proposed to Rev. that if he would capitulate to the motion to resign as editor of Sword and Shield and stop writing for the magazine, they would have the church Evangelism Committee publish a blog or newsletter or possibly even a magazine which he could write for.

This was quickly dismissed as a not viable option.

There had never been any efforts to do any of these things.

Any writing posted in any venue under the auspices of the Evangelism Committee could only be published on behalf of Crete Protestant Reformed Church, not as an independent, non-ecclesiastical magazine.

The writing would have to be vetted by the consistory, the minority of which had already made it clear that they hated both his preaching and writing.

Since this idea was quickly dismissed as unreasonable, a few elders (of which I was one) introduced another plan.

We proposed organizing a group to fund and distribute a magazine that would be essentially the same as Sword and Shield, except without the baggage of Rev. Lanning.

This way Rev. Langerak could stay in the Protestant Reformed denomination and maintain his work at Crete Church, and his life could go on more or less unaltered.

The dangling of this temptation in front of a man who from every earthly perspective wanted a way—any way—to try and work with his elders and acquiesce to their demands, was wicked.

To use a close personal relationship of friendship and trust with a person in order to tempt them to sin was especially devious.

By offering another magazine, we hoped to placate his conscience with the illusion that he could abandon the fight where it was taking place, and instead take up his fight at some future, yet to be identified front.

It was applying salve to the conscience of the man while tempting to turn his back in the heat of battle.

Psalm 78:8–10: “And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God. The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle. They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law.”

This proposal was selfish, especially since we all knew that the magazine was never really the issue.

Starting a new magazine might have delayed the inevitable silencing of Rev. Langerak’s preaching. But it was by no means a solution and would lead to continuing untold hardship for Rev. Langerak and his family. It was a willingness of friends to tempt Rev. Langerak to sin and suffer in order to gain temporal peace for us.

It was self-centered wickedness to tempt Rev. Langerak to sinfully abandon Christ.

I was able to fool myself into thinking that I was motivated by a desire for peace in the church and love for the members.

I was walking by sight and not by faith. And I put all the good gifts the Lord had given me, including my relationship to Rev., to the service of tempting him to sin.

The only explanation for that was wicked unbelief.

I have apologized to Rev. Langerak and confessed my sins.

The rebuke of Jesus to Peter in Matthew 16:23 seems appropriate: “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

In self-examination I see the deceptiveness in myself, which is characteristic of a viper; and I see my willingness to play fast and loose with the gospel of Christ, which is characteristic of a whore. Not just my nature, but my actions.

I find assurance in the knowledge that Christ did not come to save the righteous. Christ died for the whores and vipers that he chose before the foundation of the earth. He died for murderers, liars, and abusive elders too. Luke 5:32: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

And for those whom God has forgiven, He has also given a place of repentance. Hebrews 12:16–17: “…Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” Esau could not find a place of repentance because Jesus did not die on the cross for Esau. He was not forgiven.

This is not an exercise in blame leveling.

Christ was displaced by man. In the realm of our salvation. Nothing could be more serious.

But Christ will not be displaced forever. Hebrews 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

And we also live in the assurance that in the process of this displacement, Christ will not lose a one of His.

John 6:39: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”

And we live in the confidence that none of this is lost on God.

Psalm 82

  1. God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
  2. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
  3. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
  4. Deliver the poor and needy: rid themout of the hand of the wicked.
  5. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
  6. I have said, Ye aregods; and all of you are children of the most High.
  7. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
  8. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

And now, looking back on the events of the last year, the glory for the gift of the pure preaching of the gospel we receive every Sunday, which was worked by God through the willful suspension of Rev. Langerak, can only be attributed to God.

The truth is, man did not build the Reformed Protestant Churches any more than man built the ark. It was an act of God, an act in which he used countless sinful men and women and children. And after God built the ark through his servant Noah, he saved his people by the flood. And now every Sunday we hear the gospel.  And we hear the beautiful truth that our salvation, all the way to the experience of it, is of Christ.

Romans 9:16: “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

And we hear Psalm 127:1: “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

All praise and thanks to God alone!

                           Yours in Christ,

                           Andy Birkett