Classis East (2)

Hypocrisy.

Hypocrite.

The word comes from the Greek word having to do with an actor or a stage player. Such men would wear masks to indicate the character they were playing. This allowed them to be different people at different times.

It was only after a number of years that the word came to mean “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.”¹

Some of Jesus’ harshest condemnations were reserved for those he identified as hypocrites.

Those who condemn or judge others but are blind to those very faults in themselves (Matt. 7:1–5).

Or someone who says one thing but does another (Matt. 15:1–9).

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were hypocrites. Those who bound heavy burdens on others but would not move those burdens with one of their fingers (Matt. 23:4).

On such, Jesus pronounces a curse.

“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matt. 23:13).

According to Charles Spurgeon, ministers are especially susceptible to this sin. “It is a terribly easy matter to be a minister of the gospel and a vile hypocrite at the same time.”

What about ministers and elders in the Protestant Reformed Churches?

We shall see.

The reason Rev. Lanning was deposed, we are told, is because he made public charges of sin against officebearers. There were differences in the three documents created along the way by three different parties—the church visitors, Trinity PRC, and then classis. One difference was that the church visitors and Trinity PRC pressed the charge that Rev. Lanning violated his Formula of Subscription vow. Classis never made mention of that vow.

But one thing was true with all of them: Rev. Lanning must be deposed for making public charges of sin.

“In these sermons he publicly charges ministers and office-bearers of the PRC with unrepentant sin” (church visitors).

“In a sermon on Jeremiah 23:4, 14, Shepherds to Feed You, preached in Byron Center PRC on 11/15/20, Rev. Lanning made serious public charges of unrepentant sin against ministers and office-bearers of the Protestant Reformed Churches, and against the entire denomination” (Trinity PRC).

In these sermons he publicly charges ministers and office-bearers of the PRC with unrepentant sin. The statements in his sermons and his subsequent actions are enumerated by the BC consistory, the advice of the church visitors, and set forth clearly by Trinity PRC consistory in the supplemental material (agenda, p. 125-179)” (Classis East).

It is no exaggeration to say that this was the reason Rev. Lanning was deposed. Apart from this charge, there is no deposition.

In addition to never proving that Rev. Lanning made charges, the men who convicted him had just done what they deposed him for.

(We saw in a previous post that this is not the first time we have seen this hypocrisy).

How can someone do that, you ask?

Put on a different mask.

On June 6, 2020, the consistory of Georgetown PRC mailed out a letter to its congregation responding to the distribution of Sword & Shield.

In this letter, Rev. Haak and the consistory of Georgetown PRC made public charges of sin against Revs. N. Langerak, Lanning, and VanderWal and the other men responsible for Sword & Shield. The charge made was lying and schism.

How then was it possible for Rev. Haak—as a church visitor—to formulate this charge and then press it in the service of the deposition of Rev. Lanning?  “Article 74 requires that any charges of public sin ‘shall be reported to the consistory,’ and it makes this step for charges of public sin, as necessary as the steps of Matthew 18 with regard to private sins. The way appointed by Christ is not to bring charges of sin to the court of public opinion, not even public sins. All charges of sin are to be brought to the consistory as the sole court Christ appointed to judge and treat such sins” (church visitors’ advice).

Not hard at all. Put on a different mask.

Soon after Sword & Shield appeared, Unity PRC sent out a letter to its congregation charging the editors and promoters of the new magazine with lying, promoting division and unrest, and finally creating schism.

What does it mean then when the delegates depose a man from the ministry of the word and sacraments for the exact same thing they did in their public letter to their congregation? “Rev. Lanning’s schismatic actions of publicly charging office-bearers are contrary to our Confessions. a. He has not followed in his preaching or conduct the sixth commandment as explained in the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 107, “But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner above mentioned? No; for when God forbids envy, hatred, and anger, He commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good, even to our enemies” (minutes of Classis East, 24).

It means they are good actors.

Hudsonville PRC sent out a letter to its congregation in late July stating, incredibly, that there was no controversy, but also that Sword & Shield was divisive in the PRC. Certainly, by late July, they could have gone to the consistories of the editors and promoters of Sword & Shield. Did they not truly believe that the consistory was the “sole court Christ appointed to judge and treat such sins” and that there were “no other options” (minutes, 24)? Or was this grievous burden only one to be borne by Rev. Lanning and not the consistory of Hudsonville PRC?

(One elder delegate cleared himself of guilt in this matter by arguing and then voting against the deposition. Such a man that lives by principle does not need a mask, in fact, refuses to wear one.)

But what about the synodical delegates, the minister delegates from the West?

Was it unrealistic to hope that deliverance would come from the West?

Rev. Steven Key was one of those delegates.

There would be no help here. Instead, his own sword would devour this prophet, like a destroying lion (Jer. 2:30).

Rev. Key should have been more careful.

On December 6, 2020, the day the announcement of Rev. Lanning’s suspension was read in the churches, Rev. Key preached a sermon titled “The Shepherd and His Sheep.”

In this sermon, he publicly charged “some ministers” with the “grievous error” of “taking a bullwhip” to their flocks.

He was referring to Rev. Lanning and Rev. Langerak.

His congregation knew exactly what he was referring to as well. Within a few hours of the sermon being preached, I, as well as about forty-five others, received an email from a member of Loveland PRC bringing our attention to this sermon as “in the last 15 minutes or so he addressed the situation in Byron Center.”

From his pulpit, he publicly charged ministers in his denomination with “grievous error.”

Rev. Key did not bring these charges to Byron Center PRC or Crete PRC.

He made these charges publicly from the pulpit.

Ignore the monstrous implication that Jeremiah himself was guilty of grievous error for bringing the rebukes that he did, or that any minister today would be guilty as well for bringing the admonitions and threatenings of the gospel required of any faithful pastor.

Not five weeks after making this public charge of sin from his pulpit, Rev. Key voted to depose a man for making public charges of sin from the pulpit.

(I was able to stop Rev. Key in the narthex of Grace Church as he walked from the sanctuary to the room where he and the other synodical delegates were going to vote on the deposition. I asked him how he was not guilty of hypocrisy for preaching that sermon and then later voting to depose Rev. Lanning. There was no answer. Because there is no answer.)

What can you say about an assembly like this?

That without any shame walks in the grossest hypocrisy.

That blasphemously calls upon the name of God to bless such a wicked act.

That exhibits corruption that would make an earthly court blush.

It was never about public charges. Half the men there had done the same thing.

It was about a denomination that has made its living out of pointing the finger at other denominations but is unable to bear that finger pointed back at itself.

(When the rebuke came against herself in the sermon on Jeremiah 23:4, 14, many people were taken aback. In fact, some even felt the stirrings of sorrow for sin and repentance. Within a week they were able to gather themselves and decide, with a vengeance, that this troubler of Israel must go.)

The very things that the PRC has condemned in others, it refuses to see in herself.

It prides itself on the purest manifestation of the truth, refusing to realize it only has the purest manifestation of the form.

And then a few ministers showed up who refused to be cowed.

Only three.

Who refused to be bought off by whatever passes for plum positions in a small denomination.

Who refused to flee the cross-bearing that must come when one follows Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:24).

Who worked along with other men in the denomination to form a magazine where they could, in faithfulness to their vows, defend and promote the truth and repudiate the lie.

One by one, those men who “incessantly and faithfully [fought] every new appearance of [the] heretical and monstrous notion that there is righteousness acceptable to God that is based upon some work, some merit, some obedience, some holiness, or some good in man” were put out of the denomination, or will be (Huizinga, Keeping the Sword Drawn, 25).

Instead of just writing about keeping the sword drawn, they did it, and it cost them.

The outcome of the meeting of Classis East was never in doubt.

The outcome never is with a “bureaucratic institution full of self-important and ruthless men.”

Those who voted for the deposition were warned.

One delegate warned them just before the vote to depose that if this was approved, they would be deposing a righteous prophet, a man in whom there was no guile, and it would be to the shame of the denomination.

But it is to more than just the shame of the denomination.

Toward the end of the sham proceedings, Jeremiah 26 was read to the delegates.

“But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears” (Jer. 26:15).

They brought innocent blood upon their heads and upon the denomination they represented.

And the man who felt compelled to speak last?

Who was not satisfied with all of the attacks, slanders, and abuse that had been heaped upon Rev. Lanning to that point?

Who wanted to make sure the final nail was pounded deep into the coffin?

That was Rev. Lanning’s father-in-law, Rev. Steven Key.

The man who had done the exact same thing only a few weeks before.

And now synod is upon us.

Which means it’s time for these men to reach for another mask.

Charles Spurgeon was a man ahead of his time.

 

Classis East (1)

What a scene.

There sat the entire, august body of Classis East: ministers, elders, and visiting professors. All were sitting in judgment of one man, Reverend Andrew Lanning, who sat alone at a table near the front, with only his Bible and a few pages of typed notes.

He sat as a man being judged.

As he was.

The scene was that of a courtroom: accused, accusers, and judge. Except that in this courtroom, there were many judges, all standing in judgment of one man.

The president, Rev. Cory Griess, read 2 Chronicles 19:6 to remind the men of this fact.

They were to judge a man. They were to judge a man’s theology, his doctrine, his conduct, and his behavior.

But the man being judged was in no danger.

Not before the proceedings began, not during, and not even after the final verdict of guilty had been sounded.

Because Rev. Lanning stood on ground that his accusers did not.

He was standing firmly on the word of God, which is unshakeable and immovable.

The accused was in no danger, but the accusers and judges certainly were.

Rev. Griess should have read Deuteronomy 19:10.

“That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee.”

Who were the accusers in this case?

The accusers were not the elders of Byron Center PRC, although the case came to the classis from this consistory. They were playing only a bit role in this dramatic scene. The case had to come through a consistory, and they were the ones who allowed themselves to be used in this manner.

This explains why, during the meetings with the church visitors and during the meeting of classis (and no doubt with Trinity), the elders who were in favor of the deposition had almost nothing to say. In fact, during the meeting with the church visitors and then again at classis, other men pleaded with the consistory to say something in favor of the motion. Rev. Spronk, for example, only a short time before the vote to depose was cast, said he would like to hear from the six elders at Byron who were in favor, ostensibly, of the deposition. He pleaded with them to stand up for themselves. After a moment of silence—deafening silence—he went on to try and make their defense for them.

But they did not make that defense themselves.

They could not. It was never their case.

The accusers of Rev. Lanning were the church visitors. The charges were theirs.

But the church visitors, in making and bringing these charges, represented their classis very well.

As would be seen throughout the proceedings.

It is not normal that church visitors bring charges of sin against a minister, but a lot of abnormal things would happen with this case.

Who are the church visitors? They are, according to Article 44 of the Church Order, a classis’ “oldest, most experienced, and most competent ministers.”

Their advice and counsel, then, would prove to be a fulfillment of Isaiah 29:14.

“Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”

Having been called in to provide help, the church visitors did far more than just give advice. They ran roughshod over the hapless consistory that had made the rash and hasty decision to request their help.

From the very beginning, these five men, the church visitors, would have their way.

This unruliness of having five church visitors is being contested today. I marvel at it. I thought if there was one thing everyone could be agreed upon, it was that the whole business of five church visitors would be roundly criticized, if not condemned.

At least have the decency to blush at it.

But now ministers are excusing it at their public lectures, and even classis is defending it.

Which involves playing fast and loose with the facts.

At the May 2021 meeting of Classis East, one of the grounds for a decision reads as follows: “As a matter of accuracy, there were not two, but one man on the committee of five who was involved to the point that he should have recused himself” (May 2021 Classis minutes, Article 32–D–1).

Compare that to the testimony of the church visitors themselves in their letter which was read at the January classis, when they had requested a man from the Classical Committee. Why did they request another man? “The trouble is that both Rev. Koole and Rev. Haak are involved in pursuing charges of slander and schism against Rev. Lanning” (church visitors’ letter to the Classical Committee).

Perhaps there are some in the PRC who are troubled by the corruption evidenced in the work of the church visitors.

Have no fear. Classis East is looking into the matter.

“It is moved that those men who served as church visitors in January produce a report to the next Classis clarifying or correcting any confusing or incorrect information – CARRIED” (Classis minutes, 18).

If Classis East were running a barnyard, I can picture the motion they would adopt.

“It is moved that the foxes produce a report explaining the disappearance of several chickens – CARRIED.”

Yet, what came to classis was the decision of the church visitors, passed along by Byron’s consistory.

And what a decision it was.

Completely void of the word of God.

Completely void of wisdom.

As it had to be.

Jeremiah 8:9: “The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?”

But who were these accusers of Rev. Lanning, these church visitors whose advice the consistory had simply rubber-stamped and passed on to classis?

Two of them, Rev. Koole and Rev. Haak, had ongoing charges of sin against Rev. Lanning.

Two of these men, Rev. Haak and Rev. Slopsema, were authors of the doctrinal statement. The doctrinal statement that taught that “one can have fellowship with the holy God only through a sanctifying faith.” This statement that displaced the perfect work of Christ and compromised justification by faith alone.

This statement that none of us have ever heard any of its authors apologize for or repent of.

For all we know, and in fact the most logical position to take, every single one of these men still believes the theology taught in the doctrinal statement, theology that Synod 2018 condemned as a displacing of Christ’s perfect work.

The church visitors included a man, Rev. Koole, who continues to teach that if a man would be saved there is that which he must do.

The church visitors included a man, Rev. Haak, who on the floor of Synod 2018, after synod had condemned the doctrinal statement, said that he has always believed the theology of the doctrinal statement and would continue to teach it.

There would be no impartial advice or judgments coming from these men. Only this: an intense pursuit for deposition and the slaying of a prophet.

Amos 1:11: “he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity.”

In this courtroom, the kangaroos were having a heyday.

What about the men sitting in judgment? What about the delegates of Classis East, who now sat in regal splendor as judges?

This was Classis East.

The same assembly that in February of 2018 had committed the same thing in the eyes of the Lord as sodomy (Jer. 23:14).

The same assembly that had misrepresented a protestant and then refused to apologize for it.

The same assembly that year after year sent men as delegates to synod who had consistently, blatantly, openly, and unapologetically been wrong on the fundamentals of the Reformed faith.

Classis would have us believe they are sorry.

Trinity PRC, struggling to understand the difference between a statement of fact and true repentance, would have us believe they were sorry.

Were they broken by their sin? Were their confessions of sin sincere, for what they had done only three years earlier? What about the pastor who appeared on Byron’s pulpit during Rev. Lanning’s suspension, stating how sorry he was for his role in replacing Christ’s perfect work with man’s dung?

Would classis as a body give evidence of sorrow of heart according to 2 Corinthians 7:11?

If ever there were a time to prove their sorrow, this was the chance.

Because the one thing that a man who is genuinely sorry for his sin does not do, does not do even in the slightest regard, is lash out at the one who exposed his sin to him.

There would be no clearing of themselves at this meeting of classis (2 Cor. 7:11).

The verdict was in before the discussion had even begun.

Classis East dealt with many matters during the several days that it met. Every single piece of advice on a meaningful agenda item had been, at some point, recommitted to the committee to be reworked. This is standard procedure—if something is unclear or incorrect, it is sent back to the committee for reformulation so that such committee work is not done on the floor.

Every piece of advice except one.

The advice to depose Rev. Lanning, although incredibly biased and shoddy, with misrepresentations and outright falsehoods, and with holes in its argumentation you could drive a truck through, was never once resubmitted to the committee.

This work could not be delayed.

Isaiah 59:7: “Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood.”

What about the advice? Surely the committee of pre-advice would bring good, solid advice for the body to consider. Surely they would be righteous in judgment.

(I will not answer the deposition point by point, as that work has been done far better than I could do in protests brought to Synod 2021 as well as in Sword & Shield, here and here and here.)

The advice was filled with half-truths, lies, misrepresentations, and grounds that you would not use to slap a man’s wrist, much less to suspend and depose him.

Which is to say, the advice was consistent with advice brought by committees of years past.

It was already shown by Synod 2018 how classis did its work in early 2018.

“In trying to demonstrate its point, Classis misquotes Mrs. Meyer” (2018 Acts of Synod, 77).

“Classis omits the most critical words of Mrs. Meyer’s statement, namely…” (77).

“Classis goes on to misquote Mrs. Meyer” (79).

Showing how truly sorry they were for that, Classis East made the same man, Rev. Bruinsma, who had chaired the committee in 2018, the chairman of this committee that was tasked with bringing advice regarding the deposition.

Rev. Bruinsma, consistent, if nothing else, again led a committee to misrepresent one of God’s children.

Examples could be multiplied, but these will suffice:

Regarding Rev. Lanning’s quoting of a Standard Bearer article, the advice of the committee was the following: “Also in his sermon on Jeremiah 23 he denounced rashly and unheard by consistory, classis or synod, a professor of our seminary and editor of the Standard Bearer as promoting statements from Satan.”

This is what Rev. Lanning said in the sermon after quoting from that SB editorial: “That’s minimizing the sin of that false doctrine.”

Does saying that a church was guilty of “mimimizing the sin of that false doctrine” sound the same as “promoting statements from Satan”?

(The fact that classis amended this after I brought it up on the floor does not change the fact that the committee brought it in the first place.)

Another example: In their recommendation, they write that Rev. Lanning in his sermon “publicly charges ministers and office-bearers of the PRC with unrepentant sin” (II-A-1).

The question which I raised at the meeting of classis, and pose now to everyone reading this, is “Where? Where did he do this?”

Read the material that follows that statement of the committee of pre-advice, which advice was adopted by classis. They provide no grounds or proof for their charge and even write, “At the very least he casts suspicion on the doctrinal orthodoxy of most of the ministers and elders of Classis East without ever bringing formal charges of sin, protests, or appeals to any assembly.”

So because of “suspicion” you will vote to suspend and depose?

Classis East is no stranger to rejecting a protestant because they did not “prove” their case. Many protests and appeals have been turned away for lack of proof, but now classis can depose a minister because “at the very least he casts suspicion”?

Although they go on to spend a lot of words proving that charges should not be made publicly, they never prove that Rev. Lanning did what they accuse him of.

(And just to answer the question, what has cast suspicion on the doctrinal orthodoxy of most of the elders and ministers of Classis East has been the sermons, decisions, statements, and writings of the elders and ministers of Classis East.)

Regarding Rev. Lanning’s sermon on Ecclesiastes, the committee writes that Rev. Lanning did not promote the honor and good character of the church visitors. But Rev. Lanning said nothing about the church visitors. He said, “The essence of the church visitors’ advice to this church is that the rebuke against our sin as a church and as a denomination of displacing the perfect work of Christ is not allowed in this pulpit.” He spoke against the advice—and never mentioned the men behind the advice.

Adding insult to injury, classis threw sand in the eyes of the members of the PRC when it decided that “Rev. Lanning judges and condemns the Protestant Reformed denomination as embracing the lie when such a lie can be found nowhere in the minutes of the assemblies of our churches” (II-B-1-E).

This perpetuates the myth that the mark of a standing or falling church has to do with the minutes of the assemblies of those churches. To properly identify the marks of a true or false church, the members of that church should look to what is written in its papers, what is accepted by the people, and most importantly, what is preached from her pulpits.

The committee of pre-advice brought advice that was terribly biased. Read the information section of their advice and ask yourself if that simply brought the objective facts of the case to light or if it tried to make the case even before the recommendation was read.

Not only was their advice biased, but it also misrepresented and twisted the facts into a horrible caricature, and then the committee tried to pass that off as truth.

(Not every member of the committee of pre-advice is guilty, however. One delegate from the committee of pre-advice brought a minority report. The report was objective in its presentation of the information and history of the case and was clear in its advice. You would think that the PRC would pay special heed to minority reports, but this one was completely ignored.)

The fix was in, as they say.

Habakkuk 1:4: “Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.”

Classis East had never shown any signs of repentance, and now that they had Rev. Lanning where they wanted him, they would show no mercy.

I stand amazed that the members of the PRC cannot see how corrupt and how rigged these whole proceedings were. Classis East has been consistently deciding wrongly on this theological issue, and now they are asked to stand in judgment of a man who has been rebuking us for our errors?

What do you think they are going to say?

And because an assembly like this would not be complete without it, the hypocrisy ran deep.

Response to BCPRC Consistory

**Post written by Elder Bryan Van Baren & Elder Dewey Engelsma**

The consistory of Byron Center PRC is trying to rewrite history.

In a letter dated May 12, 2021, and addressed to the delegates of Classis East, the elders of Byron Center PRC take issue with several statements made in two protests, here and here, that were brought to the May meeting of Classis East.

(We do not enter into the sheer disorder of Classis East receiving and distributing this letter. Other than to point out that apparently anyone who receives an agenda and disagrees with something written in a protest can draft a letter that will then be sent out to all consistories, regardless if the protests themselves are declared illegal and that the protestant has no opportunity to defend his position.)

This letter got our attention.

Against one statement of a protestant, the consistory wrote, “Since the protestant was not in the room, we would not expect him to know that.”

Both of us, however, were in the room.

We can do nothing about the consistory continuing to walk in lies (Jer. 23:14).

But we are convinced it is our duty to do something about their attempt to rewrite the history of this case.

The consistory is guilty of misrepresenting the protestant and lying to the classis.

The protestant wrote the following: “The consistory of Byron Center PRC then called in the church visitors whose advice was to depose Rev. Lanning. Knowing that advice and the high probability it would be adopted, Rev. Lanning knew he had one or two more opportunities to bring the Word of God to the flock at Byron Center as a watchman on the walls of Zion.”

The protestant was exactly right.

But Byron’s consistory twists his words and throws up a smokescreen.

They write, “The Church Visitors initial advice was for Byron Center to relieve Rev. Lanning….” They go on to write about the church visitors’ first bit of advice, which was to relieve Rev. Lanning of his duties according to Article 14 of the Church Order.

But the protestant never said anything about “initial” advice. He wrote that the advice of the church visitors was to depose Rev. Lanning, which was precisely their advice.

In their second piece of advice, the church visitors advised “the Byron Center consistory immediately to suspend its pastor, Rev. Lanning, according to Articles 79 and 80 of the Church Order for the sin of public schism…” These articles call for suspension, with a view to deposition, for various gross sins, which include public schism.

For Byron’s consistory to write that “at the time” there was no mention of deposition is disingenuous. Rev. Lanning knew, and every elder knew, that Rev. Lanning’s time on the pulpit of BCPRC was waning quickly. That is why the protestant was correct when he wrote that “Rev. Lanning knew he had one or two more opportunities to bring the Word of God to the flock at Byron Center as a watchman on the walls of Zion.”

The consistory then writes about Rev. Lanning’s words from Isaiah 30 that were addressed to the consistory having to do with Rev. Lanning’s correct observation that the consistory—in calling in the church visitors—was going to the prophets of Egypt for counsel.

The matter having to do with the consistory going to the prophets of Egypt is important only to the extent that history has proven the words of Rev. Lanning to be true. The consistory did go to the prophets of Egypt for counsel, and it has been to the absolute and utter shame of the consistory.

The most significant example of the elders trying to rewrite history, however, has to do with our calling in the church visitors.

A protestant wrote that the decision to suspend was “not truly the decision of Byron Center’s consistory.”

Byron Center’s consistory declares that this is “perhaps the most egregious incorrect statement.”

The protestant was correct. 

In their letter, the elders write that there “were hours and hours of discussion regarding this sermon.” They then defend themselves by noting that “the assertion that the Byron Center consistory abdicated the responsibility of their offices and simply left it up to the Church Visitors is wrong.”

No, it is not wrong. It is correct. Let us examine the facts and the timeline of events. Because they continue to defend themselves, we now include names so those who are left in the PRC who are yet concerned with truth and right can confront these men with the truth.

  • On Sunday, November 15, 2020, during the morning service, Rev. Lanning preached a sermon on Jeremiah 23:4, 14 with the title, “Shepherds to Feed You.”
  • Immediately after that service, Elder Ed Hekstra asked for an emergency meeting of the elders to discuss the sermon because, according to his own confession, he was humbled and repentant on account of the sermon.
  • During that meeting, not one word of criticism was uttered about the sermon.
  • During his closing prayer at the end of the meeting, Elder Jim Hauck prayed that God would speed the sermon throughout the denomination.
  • After the evening service, a group of elders—that did not include Elders Van Baren or Engelsma—met in the narthex of church and discussed and agreed to bring in the church visitors for help. (This is not deniable because during a consistory meeting later in the week, an elder asked the men where the motion to bring in the church visitors was coming from since we had never before discussed doing that. The response from Elder Hekstra was that this matter had been discussed by a group of elders after the evening service.)
  • Later that Sunday night, Elder Ed Hekstra sent out an email to the consistory informing us that he was working on a motion for the elders to consider.
  • On Monday, November 16, Elder Ed Hekstra contacted a church visitor, Rev. Slopsema.
  • On Tuesday, November 17, Elder Hekstra emailed two recommendations, one of which was to “Request advise from the Church Visitors” regarding the sermon preached, “Shepherds to Feed You.”

The consistory had never assigned a committee to come back with advice, and any discussion on the sermon had only lasted a few hours.

There is absolutely no way someone can make the case that Byron’s consistory did its work.

The protestant is absolutely correct when he writes that the consistory “did not deliberate, study, and formulate a recommendation and grounds and then seek advice of the church visitors.”

The protestant is absolutely correct when he goes on to write that the consistory “turned to the church visitors to do their work for them, and the church visitors readily complied.”

The elders lie when they give the impression that the consistory did its work before calling in the church visitors.

The history is clear. The facts are clear.

Byron’s consistory accepted and adopted, without one change, the advice of the church visitors to suspend Rev. Lanning. It was never the consistory’s work. We simply put our rubber stamp on the church visitors’ work and shuffled it off to classis.

In their letter to the May classis, the consistory also takes issue with the statement of a protestant that Byron’s consistory was under duress.

This statement is absolutely correct.

It has already been well documented what went on in the consistory room with the church visitors.

But the consistory again walks in lies.

In this letter, they write, “Never was the consistory under duress from the Church Visitors. Never was the consistory bullied by the Church Visitors, and never did they consistory simply acquiesce to the will of the Church Visitors.” They go on to claim that the “Church Visitors never sought to impose their will upon the consistory.”

It is an undeniable fact that the consistory of Byron Center PRC adopted, without adding so much as a comma, the advice of the church visitors to suspend Rev. Lanning. What is this but to “simply acquiesce to the will of the Church Visitors”?

Regarding the matter of duress or the fact that the consistory was bullied, in this too, the protestant is correct.  

Ask any of the elders if Rev. Koole said that if the consistory would not bring the motion to the floor then the church visitors would leave.

Rev. Koole threatened that the church visitors would leave if the consistory would not do what the church visitors were demanding that they do. This is to “impose their will upon the consistory.” This is the very definition of duress.

Duress – noun – /duːˈres/: threats used to force a person to do something.

It is absurd that many would point to the fact that the current consistory of Byron Center PRC says they were never bullied or under duress and that they never felt threatened.

Of course they are going to say that.

Do you expect them at this point to admit, yes, we simply were bullied into doing the will of the church visitors, and we just adopted their work wholesale?

These men needed the church visitors to do what they as elders did not have the courage to do.

The elders abdicated their office and turned it over to the church visitors, and the “church visitors readily complied,” as one of the protestants correctly states.

If you doubt this or you are inclined to dispute this, answer us this question: “What part of the document that Byron’s consistory adopted to suspend Rev. Lanning was a product of their own work?”

We are saddened and ashamed that these men, with whom we once enjoyed sweet fellowship and communion as fellow elders in the church of Christ, would defend themselves in this manner.

We loved the men with whom we served.

We loved them enough to warn them.

They were warned in two letters, here and here, written by Elder Van Baren and read to them the afternoon of November 30. They were warned in a letter written by Elder Engelsma and emailed to them early on January 15, the day classis was going to vote to depose.

Our warnings have fallen on deaf ears, to our utter grief and dismay.

We love them to this very day. We are grieved by what has become of them.

May Jehovah God work repentance in their hearts, lest the prophecy of Jeremiah prove to be true of them, as it was for the “rebellious children” of Israel before them.

“Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 8:12).

PRC 2021 Synod Agenda

Here is the agenda for Synod 2021.

For ease of reference, here is a link to each of the protests and appeals.

Appeals:

D. DeVries

S. Vasquez

Protests:

B. Buiter

K. Deemter

N. Doezema

T. Ferguson

Brian Hilt (1)

B. Hilt (2)

B. Hilt (3)

Les Kamps

Luke Kamps

A. Kingma

W. Koops

Rev. N. Langerak

M. Vermeer

Wingham PRC

Strangely enough, one item did not make it on the agenda.

That was a letter sent to the Stated Clerk from First Reformed Protestant Church. 

Here are the relevant “Rules for Synodical Procedure” which speak to this matter. You can find this information on pages 89-91 of the green plastic Church Order book.

A – 4. The Stated Clerk shall ordinarily publish all material intended for the Agenda. He shall, however, have the right to exercise his discretion on matters which are clearly not ecclesiastical (Article 30 of the Church Order), but shall nevertheless list them in the Agenda and send them to synod for final adjudication. He shall not assume synod’s prerogative to decide whether material is legal or illegal.

B – 3  The following matters shall be considered by synod:

B – 3 – f Correspondence received from individuals or bodies outside our denomination or from bodies within our denomination other than ecclesiastical assemblies.

In his report, however, the Stated Clerk gives his reason for not including the letter on the agenda – “Because the correspondence/protest was not from a member or a group within the PRCA, I made the judgment that it not be included in the agenda.”

It has been fascinating to watch the Stated Clerks of both Classis East and Synod completely ignore the rules when it comes to material that should be included on the agenda.

And that behavior continues.

 

 

Violence

Amid all the turmoil that has gone on in the PRC to date, there is one thing that never gets a mention.

Nothing from the pulpit.

Nothing from the Standard Bearer.

And nothing from the membership.

There is a lot of noise about other things.

Churches are now holding special lectures where ministers are making their initial attempts to rewrite history. These revisionist historians now deny that Classis East got it wrong in early 2018, blandly state that five church visitors are normal, tell the people that the issue was never about the unconditional covenant, and even claim that they do not know what the controversy is about.

Although each of the lectures is unique, the ministers who have spoken at them, Rev. Eriks, Rev. Spronk, Rev. Barnhill, Prof. Gritters, and perhaps more, do have one thing in common.

They seduce the people by saying “Peace,” when there is no peace (Ezek. 13:10).

But there is one matter about which we hear nothing.

The PRC may be ignoring it, but they can be sure Jehovah God is not.

I speak of the spiritual abuse suffered by many of God’s children at the hands of the laypeople and the leaders in the PRC.

That abuse thrived at Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, MI.

If you don’t know what spiritual abuse looks like, read this letter from Hope PRC to Neil Meyer dated November 4, 2015.

This letter is probably one of the ugliest things I have ever read.

What was Elder Meyer’s sin? What aroused in Hope’s consistory such anger?

Elder Meyer objected to a minister preaching that our obedience is a way to the Father. In faithfulness to his Formula of Subscription vow, he exerted himself to keep Hope PRC free from corrupting justification by faith alone.  

Six days later, Hope’s consistory responded by countercharging him as an antinomian and later suspending and deposing him from office.

Jesus Christ commands elders to feed the flock the pure gospel of grace and the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

The consistory of Hope PRC fed their flock the poison of Satan.

And when some objected, they killed them.

They killed them by deposing them, and they killed them by slandering them, and they killed them by destroying their name and reputation, and they killed them by driving them from their church.

The words of Ezekiel 34:4 describe the type of “shepherd leadership” shown at Hope PRC. “The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.”

 And the response this will elicit is, “Well, Hope is sorry. They apologized.”

Did they?

When they finally were backed so far into the corner that they had to remove the discipline from Neil Meyer, they were compelled to make an apology.

But I haven’t seen it.

And neither have you.

That’s because Hope refused to publish the apology. And they would not allow written copies to be distributed. If you could not hear the apology, or if you missed it, an elder would read it to you.

For three years, the key of Christian discipline was publicly exercised against a godly man, and then when it was shown that the discipline was wicked, the elders tried their best to keep their apology under wraps.

Hope’s consistory was not sorry at all.

We know that for two reasons: First, 2 Corinthians 7:11 explains what true repentance looks like. Trying to hide an apology for a public sin is the opposite of “clearing yourselves” and “in all things” approving yourself “clear in this matter.” If you were genuinely sorry for what you did, you would not try to hide it. You would shout it from the mountaintops. You would take up the sword against yourself. You would nominate and elect to office the men who understood the doctrines correctly and had fought for them. You would exercise the key of Christian discipline against those who perpetrated this great evil.

Second, we know Hope was not sorry, and is not to this day, because they continue to nominate and elect to the office of elder the same men who defended false doctrine and who spiritually abused, that is murdered, the sheep of their flock who were courageous enough to contend for the faith.

Re-read that letter from Hope. Re-read other correspondence from the consistory of Hope PRC. Over and over, they offered full-throated approval for heresy.

It is no exaggeration to say that for three or four years Hope PRC more closely identified with the marks of a false church than they did with a true. The pure doctrine of the gospel was not preached, and discipline was only exercised against the faithful, which is then to corrupt the administration of the sacraments.

Because they have not repented, it is no exaggeration to say that to this very day Hope PRC more closely identifies with the marks of the false church than they do with the true (Belgic Confession, Art. 29).

These elders trampled underfoot the most precious doctrines found in the Bible and murdered those who objected, and do you know what Hope PRC did to these men?

Put them back up for elder.

Do you know what the denomination did to those men? Put them in leadership positions.

The narrative that I spoke of in the first post, that there were troublemakers at Hope, and they were the cause of the trouble in the denomination, was widespread throughout the denomination.

The attitude toward these members from Hope, and from other congregations, who dared raise their voices, has been one of sharp condemnation.

Troublemakers. Radicals. Hard sons of Zeruiah. Two hundred percenters.

And I have not heard anyone condemn it.

There is a lot of hand-wringing and lamenting, but it is all just generalities. A lot of people are “sorry” for this, that, and the other thing, but no one is broken by how the sheep of Christ’s flock were treated.

There is not an honest man or woman in Classis East who can deny that there has been a concerted effort to slander and destroy Neil and Connie Meyer and the other former members of Hope who stood up for the truth.

Do you know how the Meyers responded?

With integrity and faithfulness.

That continues to this day.

When I asked the Meyers about the apology—before knowing about all of the rules and restrictions Hope had placed on the apology—they said that Hope’s consistory had told them to keep the apology private and not to share it with anyone, so the Meyers were not comfortable sharing it with me. (As alleged antinomians, they need to improve on their law-breaking.)

The Meyers simply bore the abuse.

The marks they, and others, bear are glorious marks.

For they bear in their bodies “the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17).

But God has led the PRC to see the error of their ways, and they have learned so much, so that these types of sins will never be repeated, right?

Well, not for a year, anyway.

On June 23, 2019, Rev. Van Overloop preached a sermon in which he made one of the most, if not the most, egregiously heretical statements ever to come from a Protestant Reformed pulpit.

Even DeWolf did not go as far as Rev. Van Overloop did.

In light of the fact that a controversy was going on over this very doctrine, it’s rather reasonable that someone should present an objection to Grace PRC’s consistory regarding Rev. Van Overloop teaching conditional fellowship that was not all of grace.

Hearing that heresy come from the pulpit, a couple sent a letter to Grace PRC objecting to the sermon.

Grace’s response?

Just as Hope PRC had, the consistory of Grace PRC responded by defending its minister and belittling those who dared raise an objection. 

In their letter, the consistory wrote the following:

ii.           Why do you assume to yourselves the ability and authority to judge our response with Scripture and the creeds, especially when, as you point out, this is the work of the consistory? While you do have the office of all believer, do you believe that a consistory of a Protestant Reformed Church would present something contrary to Scripture and the creeds? (Grace PRC letter to Wayne & Sarah Courtney dated 10/16/2019)

This letter was written in October of 2019.

Hope’s consistory, with the support of Classis East, was continuing its work of corrupting justification by faith alone and displacing Jesus Christ.

And Grace writes, “do you believe that a consistory of a Protestant Reformed Church would present something contrary to Scripture and the creeds?”

Yes, Grace PRC, we do believe that a consistory would present something contrary to Scripture and the creeds.

That one paragraph summarizes the condition of the Protestant Reformed Churches.

They pay lip-service to the office of believer while they trample it underfoot.

They commit grievous error, and then with the adulterous woman, wipe their mouth and say, “I have done no wickedness” (Prov. 30:20).

“Instead of having their consciences stung to the quick, and seeking a remedy for their vices by correcting them, they are only driven to madness. Thus ungodly men not only resist, with obstinacy, the judgments of God, but rise into cruelty against his servants” (Calvin on Luke 4:23).

But maybe that is just Grace PRC. That does not describe other churches in the PRC, does it?

After Hope PRC had scattered their flock “upon all the face of the earth” (Ezek. 34:6), these bruised, battered, and abused sheep looked to other churches in the classis for refuge.

What a beautiful opportunity for other churches to take these hurting sheep and draw them into their fellowship and to care for them. If ever a church could show forth the love of Christ, now was the time. Remember, these were members that God had used to preserve the truth of justification by faith alone in the PRC. They would be given a hero’s welcome, right?

Some of them tried Southwest PRC. The reception was more abuse and hate, this time in the form of anonymous letters in their mailboxes. (One of these letters, I am told, showed up in the member’s  church mailbox at Hope PRC).

How about Byron Center PRC? They had a reputation as a loving, welcoming church.

The response of the Byron congregation was accurately reflected in the comment made by many, “Why don’t they just go somewhere else?!”

The elders faithfully reflected this attitude in the consistory room.

The amount of time the elders of Byron Center PRC (some of whom went on to become elders at Unity PRC) spent agonizing over the papers of these members from Hope is simply shameful. We did all we could not to receive the clean papers of these hurting sheep. The attitude of the consistory was summarized well by one elder who finally, in a fit of anger, yelled, “I don’t want them here! This is a hostile takeover!” (As if these members cared one whit about the bricks and mortar).

This type of abuse was continued at Classis East.

The people are told to protest and appeal, protest and appeal! And when they do, they are treated shamefully and abusively.

Classis East is broken and has become a farce.

And you can look high and low in the PRC and find no true repentance.

Which is tragic.

The Spirit-wrought work of repentance is one of the most beautiful gifts God gives to his people.

A brokenness that is defenseless, and not at all defensive. A spiritual turning from sin that never responds with an excuse or a deflection. It is open, honest, and candid. It places itself at the mercy of anyone and everyone and demands nothing in return. The sorrowful and broken sinner makes no plea for anything because he recognizes he deserves nothing. The only proclamation he will make is, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Yet to watch Hope PRC and Classis East behave, you would think true repentance, true confession, and a broken and contrite spirit are things to be despised.

Because it is of God, true repentance is unmistakable.

We have not seen it at Hope. We have not seen it at Classis East. And we have not seen it in the denomination.   

And we won’t.

Those who are whole have no need for repentance (Matt. 9:12–13).  

“If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they” (Ecclesiastes 5:8).

Church Universal

I provide a link here to the sermon preached on Sunday, May 16, 2021 to the Reformed Protestant Church Fellowship of Hull, Iowa.

In this sermon, which in truth was the word of God (1 Thess. 2:13), the saints were instructed from the word of God that the church is built not upon man, but upon Christ, and the truth of Christ.

It is Christ, and Christ alone, that builds his church.

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

This truth was driven home to the saints who heard this word in a very real way at the conclusion of the service. There it was announced that the Council of the Protestant Reformed Church in Bulacan, Philippines, together with the entire congregation, made the “inevitable and painful decision to withdraw membership from the Protestant Reformed churches in the Philippines.” It is their intention to seek a sister-church relationship with the Reformed Protestant Church denomination, according to the will of God.

Because I cannot improve upon what he wrote, I include, with Elder John Reuben D. Catalan’s permission, part of an email sent to the First RPC Council, along with the pictures he included:

May God bless our work together in the service of His truth, though there is a great distance between us, nevertheless, our fellowship in the sovereign grace of Jehovah conquers that distance and in likemindedness, we consecrate ourselves to the ministry of the gospel.

God bless you and the whole church of the FRPC.

I attached here the snapshot of the assembly of the saints in Leyte during our congregational meeting in Bulacan. The other picture is of the newly instituted First Reformed Church in Bulacan. May those photographs encourage the saints there. Blessings!

“Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly” (Hebrews 13:18)

Brother Catalan, and fellow saints in the Philippines, your photographs and your letter have encouraged us greatly. We give thanks to God for you and your faithful witness to His truth.

We consider ourselves blessed to stand side by side with you all in the defense and proclamation of the glorious gospel truths of God’s word.

“Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto God for every and ever. Amen” (Rev. 7:12).

Lecture (updated)

On Friday, May 14, 2021 the Evangelism Committee of First Reformed Protestant Church hosted a lecture at Western Christian High School in Hull, Iowa, on the topic, “The Act of Separation in the Light of Church History.”

Rev. Lanning also led worship services in Hull on Sunday, May 16. All were cordially invited to attend both the lecture and the worship services.

Separation

Three faithful office bearers—pastor, elder, and deacon—along with several families, have separated themselves from Crete Protestant Reformed Church with the signing of an Act of Separation and Reformation. This came in response to the unrighteous suspension of Rev. Langerak.

A letter was read yesterday in PR churches explaining this separation.  

Announcements of this nature are becoming commonplace in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

There were two items of note in the letter.

First, Crete PRC added the charge of perjury against Rev. Langerak. It is striking that as consistories in the PRC continue to study Article 80 of the Church Order, they can only come up with new charges to lay against the righteous and have yet to find a charge that would apply to the minister who teaches heresy or the elders who defend it.

Second, the consistory has forgotten that they are doing their work before the face of Jehovah God.

That is the only explanation for their plea to the Lord that he “especially uphold and sustain us in the truths He has entrusted to our care.”

What a strange addition to the letter, when it was exactly on behalf of those truths that Rev. Langerak was contending on the pages of Sword & Shield.

And the consistory told him to stop.

So Rev. Langerak did what a faithful minister does and obeyed God rather than man. “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).   

And Crete’s consistory responded the way an apostatizing church does and suspended him.

Where does that leave the PRC today?

It leaves them with a repeat of history.

This is from the Reformed Free Publishing Association website about the founding of the PRC. It is remarkable how the apostatizing church throughout history relies on the same charges against the faithful.

When it became clear that these ministers (Hoeksema, Ophoff, Danhof) would never give up their fight for the truth, the CRC closed its church publications to them in an effort to stifle their opposition to the error of common grace. In response, Danhof, Hoeksema, and Ophoff, together with fifteen laymen who stood strong with them throughout the controversy, organized the Reformed Free Publishing Association in April, 1924. Their sole purpose in organizing the RFPA was the publishing of the Standard Bearer, a monthly magazine dedicated to defending the doctrine of particular grace and the whole truth of God’s word. The first issue was published on October 1, 1924…Herman Hoeksema was deposed in 1924 for refusing to keep silent about the truth of God’s sovereign particular grace. Revs. Danhof and Ophoff were subsequently deposed from the CRC after they were charged with insubordination and initiating public schism by defending the truth via the Standard Bearer (https://rfpa.org/pages/history).

This suspension also leaves the PRC with Witsius, the conditional covenant, and continued compromise of justification by faith alone. It leaves them scouring the bushes for the elusive antinomian. But it also leaves them without two of the very few voices that were willing to enter the trenches and do the work of a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ and contend—actually contend—for the faith once delivered to the Protestant Reformed Churches.

So the blessed, although painful work, of church reformation continues.

“And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God” (Zechariah 13:8–9).

Repentance

One thing has been true over the last five years.

Classis East has consistently been wrong on the doctrinal issue plaguing the PRC.

This is evidenced by how many times they have had to declare they “erred.”

But the real question is not whether they have admitted error. The question is, are they sorry for those errors?

Have they repented?

Repentance is far more than just stating the obvious fact that one has erred.

What consistory, having evidence that a man was guilty of abusing his wife, would accept, “I have erred,” as proof of his repentance? “Yes, clearly you have erred. The condition of your wife’s battered soul and spirit attests to that. But are you repentant?”

Trinity PRC would have us believe that Classis has repented.

  1. Rev. Lanning also violated Art. 31 when he expressed grievances against Classis East which contradict the decisions of the September 12, 2018 Classis East (Articles 15-17).

a. In Articles 15-17, Classis East September 2018 formally declared three times “that Classis East erred in its decision(s) of February 28, 2018,” which decision (s) are then quoted, and the decision(s) of Synod 2018 are quoted and used as the ground.

1) By these decisions, Classis East repented of its former error of February 2018, for not only did Classis confess their sin, but also did not merely and begrudgingly “submit” or “acquiesce” to the decisions of Synod 2018. Classis East formally adopted the position of Synod 2018 as its own regarding the doctrinal error.

2) To charge Classis East with failing to deal with or condemn the doctrinal error, or of maintaining or walking in that error, is to militate against the decisions of Classis East September 2018 (Articles 15-17), whereby the erroneous decisions of Classis East February 2018 were confessed, overturned, made null and void, and therefore graciously covered by the merciful blood of Christ (Trinity PRC document, Classis East Deposition Case, 56).

For Trinity PRC, when Classis East formally declared that they “erred,” such a declaration was confession and was “therefore graciously covered by the merciful blood of Christ.”

Is that what repentance looks like? Just declare that you erred?

The answer, of course, is no. No consistory, or parent for that matter, would accept such as repentance. Repentance, at the very least, would include an apology.

So, has Classis East done that? Have they apologized?

They have never apologized for defending false doctrine. They have never apologized for not defending the unconditional covenant or justification by faith alone. Trinity has pointed us to the only evidence anyone can put forth regarding Classis East’s response to their own errors.

To try and pass off what Classis East said as confession and repentance is so patently false, it is hard to believe that anyone could in good conscience put those words on paper and try to pass them off as truth.

Nowhere in that material can you find an apology.

They did have an opportunity to apologize for another matter.

That opportunity came to them at their September 2018 meeting. The motion was straightforward.

That Classis East apologize to Mrs. Connie Meyer for misrepresenting her position in its February 2018 decision.  Ground: The decision of Synod 2018, Article 62 B.1.c.2), 3), and 6, which declared that Classis misrepresented Mrs. Meyer in her protest.

Not only did Classis East get the theology wrong over the last five years, but they also misrepresented a protestant. Synod pointed that out.

“In trying to demonstrate its point, Classis misquotes Mrs. Meyer” (2018 Acts of Synod, 77).

“Classis omits the most critical words of Mrs. Meyer’s statement, namely…” (77).

“Classis goes on to misquote Mrs. Meyer” (79).

That was probably something for which an apology should be made.

The motion which came to the floor of the 2018 September Classis would provide a way to do so. Just pass the motion. Apologize. Lead by example.

Let us consult page three of the minutes to see what the outcome was.

Recommendations:

      1. That Classis East apologize to Mrs. Connie Meyer for misrepresenting her position in its February 2018 decision.

Ground: The decision of Synod 2018, Article 62 B.1.c.2), 3), and 6, which declared that Classis misrepresented Mrs. Meyer in her protest.

Motion is made and supported to approve Recommendation #1. Failed

The motion failed.

Classis refused to apologize.

Why?

The information section of the motion helps to shed some light on it.

    1. In general, apology to an appellant by any broader assembly is rare, if not without precedent. We could find no examples in our own history, or commentary on it by any of the usual church polity authorities (Rutgers, Bouwman, Jansen, M & VD, Hanko).
    2. We can only conjecture as to the explanation for lack of precedent or commentary. Certainly, it is not because broader assemblies rarely err. The likely explanation is that the process of protest and appeal itself is the normal ecclesiastical manner to rectify offense of any “aggrieved” by ecclesiastical decisions (Arts. 30-31). If so, we conclude that apology by a broader assembly for decisions that are subsequently overturned is generally unnecessary, and ought to remain rare, if not unprecedented.

The Classical Committee, which brought the motion, “could find no examples” in their own history.

Let us consult some other Classis East minutes, this time from early 2010.

  1. Minutes of Classis East, January 13-14, 2010, Arts. 18, 51, 52

Article 18: Grace PRC requests that Classis East issue an apology to Rev. M. Dick for having “caused unnecessary offense” by making public its decision of questioning Rev. Dick’s effectiveness as the pastor of the Grace congregation. (Supplement 9). The chairman appoints Revs. C. Haak, A. denHartog and Elders J. Holstege, T. VerBeek to serve as a committee of pre-advice regarding this matter.

Article 51: The committee of pre-advice regarding Grace Church’s request that classis issue an apology to Rev. Dick reads its report. (Supplement 12) The committee of pre-advice recommends “that Classis grant Grace Consistory’s request, namely: that Classis East issue an apology to Rev. Dick for its action of including in bulletin announcements (March 2, 2008) and in reporting in the SB (April 1, 2008) the fact that Classis had advised Grace Consistory to question the effectiveness of Rev. Dick in leading the Grace congregation out of their unrest. Ground: The decision of synod 2009: ‘Classis East, while not in error in raising the question with Grace’s council concerning the effectiveness of Rev. Dick in the congregation, was in error to make this question public. Classis’ action in making their evaluation public caused unnecessary offense.’” Motion to adopt this recommendation. Carries.

Article 52: The committee of pre-advice recommends “that the Stated Clerk send a letter to Rev. Dick informing him of this apology.” Motion to adopt this recommendation. Carries. 

Perhaps when they said they could find no examples in their own history, they misspoke, and actually meant to say they couldn’t find any examples in the last eight years.

The information section also stated that apologies “by a broader assembly for decisions that are subsequently overturned is generally unnecessary, and ought to remain rare, if not unprecedented.”

Remember that. Apologies “ought to remain rare, if not unprecedented.”

Let us now consult the minutes from the most recent meeting of classis.

    1. That classis inform both Classis West and Edmonton PRC of our decision that we erred in signing the credentials of Rev. M. VanderWal, and apologize for the error, and the fact that they may have to deal with unresolved issues now under their jurisdiction due to our error. Carried (January 13, 2021 Classis East minutes, 35-36).

Less than three years after declaring that apologies by a broader assembly for decisions that are subsequently overturned ought to remain “rare, if not unprecedented,” Classis East apologized for a decision that they overturned.

Perhaps by “rare and unprecedented,” they meant three years.

The men of Classis East know the history of their churches. These things are not done by accident.

This proves that Classis East was not at all sorry that they misrepresented Mrs. Meyer’s words.

Neither are they sorry that they tolerated and defended false doctrine, and neither are they sorry that they did not defend the doctrine of the unconditional covenant and justification by faith alone.

If they were, it would be unmistakable.

The Bible tells us what true repentance looks like.

“For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (2 Cor. 7:11).

Classis East has not even come close.

In fact, it has not even attempted to show itself sorrowful and repentant.

The ministers and delegates of Classis East were not sorry, in part, because they detested Mrs. Meyer.

And that all started at Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, MI.  

City to City

The Protestant Reformed Churches have a discipline problem.

They discipline the righteous.

The announcement on Sunday morning regarding the suspension of Rev. Nathan Langerak brings up a few questions.

Ask yourself, why is it, that of all the ministers who have been forced out of the PRC in the last four years, the teacher of false doctrine was the only one who received a charitable judgment and an honorable release from the ministry, while the defenders of orthodoxy were given a so-called dishonorable discharge from the ministry?

(For those men who have been deposed, they ought to consider Jesus’ assessment of their persecution and see that there was nothing dishonorable about their deposition. “Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke 6:23).

Ask yourself, how many ministers in the PRC knew it to be their calling to suffer loss for the sake of Christ’s truth and, unlike the ivory-tower theologians, were willing to suffer the loss of their positions, names, and reputations for the sake of that truth? And where are those faithful men now?

Ask yourself, who has it been that the PRC have disciplined? Those who taught and defended error or those who rebuked us for those errors?

Ask yourself, why is it that those who teach and defend false doctrine are those who serve as church visitors, delegates to synod, and editors of The Standard Bearer, while those who have fought to defend the truth of God’s sovereignty in salvation are vilified and abused, and finally deposed?

Ask yourself, why is it that the man who demeaned and criticized Herman Hoeksema’s theology is a leader and member in good standing in the PRC, while those who defended Hoeksema’s name, honor, and theology are now suspended and deposed from their offices?

Ask yourself, why is it that the man who declared that “it is not enough for salvation that God has sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world” and “it is not enough that there is a Jesus” serves as the Chair of Dogmatics at the seminary, while those who defended the sufficiency, glory, and honor of Jesus Christ are now suspended and deposed?

The members of the PRC will defend the latest prophet-murder.

There is always a trumped-up charge that accompanies the deposition that allows the membership to carry on life as normal.

Antinomian. Schismatic. Insubordinate.

(The men deposed ought to consider the fact that “if they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” (Matt. 10:25).

This begs for a paraphrase of the famous quotation of Martin Niemöller:

First, they came for Neil Meyer, and I did not speak out—because they said he was an antinomian.

Then they came for Rev. Lanning, and I did not speak out—because they said he was schismatic.

Then they came for Rev. Langerak, and I did not speak out—because they said he was insubordinate.

Then they will stop coming for anyone—because “one of a city, and two of a family” (Jer. 3:14) will come out, and there will be no faithful defenders of the truth left to attack.

“Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city.” Matthew 23:31,34