Do or Die

By Richard Vanlaar October 9, 2010

Recently the Canadian Reformed publication Clarion published an editorial entitled “Secession in Abbotsford Leads to Sister Church in Emmen?” with the sub-title “False allegations should be unmasked” by Rev. Klaas Stam.

Upon reading the title I was immediately struck with the question:  why is Rev. Stam, much less Clarion, publishing an editorial about the Secession in Abbotsford three years after the fact?

After a period of complete silence there is suddenly keen interest in a secession that took place in Abbotsford over three years ago.  Rev. Stam even shows surprise at what happened in Abbotsford!  He states: “To be frank I have never until this time read documents about an officially Liberated Canadian Reformed church.

The fact is all the Canadian Reformed consistories received official correspondence regarding this secession, including the consistory of Rev. Stam’s own church.  As it was written in the press release of the November 2, 2009 consistory meeting, printed in the November 8, 2009 bulletin of the Hamilton church, “A letter, with accompanying documentation, was received from the Liberated Reformed Church of Abbotsford.  Correspondence was received for information."  Why did Rev. Stam not inquire any further about this correspondence?

The answer to my question: “Why write about secession in Abbotsford now” became clear after delving deeper into the editorial.  It wasn’t because of any interest in what happened at Abbotsford, but it was more about what happened in the Netherlands, at Synod Emmen of the De Gereformeerde Kerken (Hersteld).  These churches are also known in Canada as the Reformed Churches (Restored).

Synod Emmen is of great importance; the Lord in His mercy granted that His churches in Holland could recognize their unity with His church at Abbotsford.   For this we are very thankful after a number of years of apparent ecclesiastical isolation.   Indeed, in our very recent history we have seen that the Lord preserves His church and defends her from the subtle attacks of Satan. Christ in His mercy had brought the office-bearers from the De Gereformeerde Kerken and the Liberated Reformed Church together to meet and discuss the situation in the Netherlands and also here in Canada.  They could see firsthand evidence of the deformation of the churches in both countries.

Motivation and research?
In his editorial Rev. Stam dismisses what actually occurred, with several paragraphs of chastisements, allegations and innuendos.  He refers to “underlying motives and hidden agendas that are not so easily seen” … “Check the closets” … “there may be some skeletons …” but he doesn’t provide us with any substance.  Rev. Stam states that “You have to do a lot of research and on the spot investigation” but he himself alleges a conspiracy.  What does Rev. Stam know about underlying motives and hidden agendas, and what are the skeletons he is referring to?  It seems to me that Rev. Stam should be the one doing some careful research on this matter.

What is the reality here?  Let’s take a look.  Rev Stam correctly states: “…the beginning of this group is found in opposition to the ecumenical decisions of Synod Neerlandia (2001).”  However then Rev. Stam goes on to accuse the membership of the Liberated Reformed Church at Abbotsford of “spreading falsehood about the churches [they] left.”  He claims that “These ‘questionable practices’ are not specified: it’s all rather vague and nebulous.”  This is not a difficult conclusion to come to when, like Rev. Stam, you “take it to be an ‘oral’ report” that was brought to General Synod Emmen!

When Rev. Stam made the discovery about what was written in Reformed Continua why did he not investigate further?  If he followed the links from the Reformed Continua website (top-right-hand corner), he would have found a link to the official website of the DGK (Hersteld) churches.  There he would have easily discovered a section devoted to General Synod Emmen.  Report #8 “Rapport Deputaten Buitenlandse Betrekkingen” (the Report of Deputies for Foreign Relations) should have instantly grabbed his attention.  If he had looked at this report he would have discovered a number of written pages concerning the situation in Abbotsford that were written well before the delegates even got to Abbotsford!   This first written report was made publicly available already at the beginning of 2010.  Although it appears that the second written report has yet to be made public, Rev. Stam makes a reckless assumption that there was only an “oral” report that was made to General Synod Emmen!

This is terrible.  Is this an acceptable standard of journalism for the editors of Clarion?

It gets worse.  In the process of attempting to defend CanRC practices, Rev. Stam goes on to claim that in the Canadian Reformed Church at Hamilton the Lord’s Supper is “open only for communicant members and those from sister-churches with an attestation.”  While we have already explained elsewhere on the website the concerns surrounding the admission to the Lord’s supper and access to the pulpit in the Canadian Reformed Churches, the fact is that Rev. Stam’s claims about Hamilton are not true.

Rev. Stam should have known that the press release of the December 7, 2009 consistory meeting of the Hamilton consistory, as printed in their December 13, 2009 bulletin is very clear about Hamilton’s Lord’s supper admission policy.  It states that, “A list of standard questions to ask guests from a non sister church belonging to NAPARC or ICRC church before they would be received as guests at the Lord’s Supper Table is reviewed and approved.”  In the past it was the case that the Lord’s supper celebration was only open to communicant members and those from sister-churches with an attestation, but not any longer!  How is it that Rev. Stam does not know what is going on in his own congregation?

Later on in his editorial Rev Stam writes:  “The Dutch Hersteld Churches have spoken too quickly and have impatiently written the Canadian Reformed Churches off.”  Is this true?  What actually happened?  A close examination of the Acts of General Synod Smithers 2007 provides more details.

Article 143, Consideration 4.2, of the Acts of this synod states that “The GKH [the Dutch Hersteld churches] clearly indicates that they consider the GKN [sister churches to the CanRCs] a false church.  This shows in the way that they consider themselves the ‘lawful continuation of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands’ (Report 5.6.4).  Further, they are unwilling to consider reconciliation unless the GKN would see ‘the need to return to the Scriptures, confession and Church Order’ (Report 5.6.5).  For this reason, synod agrees with the CRCA when it speaks of the separation that occurred as ‘schism.’  The CRCA should be instructed to admonish the GKH in a brotherly manner on this matter as this action is not scripturally valid according to Belgic Confession Article 28 where we confess that ‘all therefore who draw away from the church or fail to join it act contrary to the ordinance of God.’

This decision was upheld on appeal to General Synod Burlington 2010 (see Acts, Articles 106 and 107).  Then it is clear that it is not the Hersteld churches that wrote off the CanRCs but it is the CanRCs that wrote off the Hersteld churches!  It is the CanRCs that have judged the Reformation in the Netherlands in 2003 to be unlawful, before there was even a secession in Abbotsford.  In the light of these decisions how can Rev. Stam justifiably claim that the CanRCs “even had an open eye for those churches that left the GKN?”

Rashly and unheard?
In his sixth paragraph Rev. Stam states: “I remind you that we may not condemn others ‘rashly and unheard.’”  Later Rev. Stam states in one of his closing paragraphs that the Liberated Reformed Church at Abbotsford is “no church but a group of stubborn dissenters.

On what basis does Rev. Stam come to this conclusion?  Did Rev. Stam really “hear” the case of the Liberated Reformed Church?  What official correspondence did he read to be able to judge their case?  Remember he stated [none received].  I understand that he has never sought clarification from any member of the Liberated Reformed Church.  If Rev. Stam has a pastoral heart, would it not be proper for him to demonstrate how the members of the Liberated Reformed Church err based on Scripture, confession and the Church Order?  Would this not be upbuilding for the readers of Clarion?

Rev. Stam claims that it is not OK for the delegates of the Hersteld churches to bypass the Abbotsford CanRC consistory. But did they really?  If he had read the Report #8 that I alluded to earlier, he would have realized that the Hersteld churches made use of correspondence from the Abbotsford CanRC consistory in coming to its recommendations.  If he had inquired more closely of the CanRC at Hamilton he could have even examined this correspondence for himself!

If Rev. Stam had done this he would have realized that it was the Abbotsford CanRC consistory which closed the door to further discussion.  Further information about the process that was followed can be found at

Rev. Stam makes one further comment that “Perhaps it is this ‘do-or-die’ mentality….”  Why does he say this?  Immediately before this comment he states that “We have been forthwith labelled as ‘false churches’ by the DGK.”  What was he expecting from a federation of churches who were told that their action was one of “schism” and “not scripturally valid”?

Why then is Rev Stam so concerned about the decision of “do-or-diers” in the Hersteld churches to establish a sister-church relationship with a bunch of “stubborn dissenters” in Abbotsford?  Schismatics plus troublemakers?  By nature they are so divisive.  How is it possible that they can be unified?  After all, a house divided cannot stand.  Could it be perhaps that these labels do not fit?

Let us keep in mind that our covenant obligation is indeed to “do-or-die.”  We are called to keep all that the Lord commands us lest we die.  This is the antithesis.  The only way to the Father is through the Son.  Being a Christian means that we “do” and we are delivered from the “die” through Christ’s power.  The unity that Rev. Stam pretends exists between the CanRC, the URC, the OPC, etc., is not a unity that is the DO of our covenant obligations.  Instead the conflicting doctrines tolerated in these federations will ultimately tear them apart, just as iron does not mix with clay.  For what do we see today?  “Let’s just be friends for now” (Clarion – August 27, 2010 issue, p.465).  Each one is content to live beside the other but not in true unity.  Is this the unity that Christ spoke of in John 17?  I refer to the article “That they all may be one” by R.H. Bremmer at

Rev. Stam should be assured that the unity that was established between the Church of Christ at Abbotsford and the Reformed Churches (Restored) in the Netherlands was founded on the basis of Scripture, the confessions, and the Church Order, in sharp contrast to the “unity” we see in the CanRC.  It is a unity that did not have to take the Church Order and modify it to fit with the unscriptural decisions that have been appealed to every general synod since 1977 (see

It is my hope that Rev. Stam would rethink his position on these matters in order that the decline of the CanRC would be opposed on the pages of Clarion, rather then hastened.  It is my hope that Rev. Stam would stand by his own words and investigate what actually has happened at Abbotsford before crying foul over what happened at Synod Emmen.  It is long past the time to stand against the decisions of Synod Neerlandia 2001.  Confessional membership and the supervision of the Lord’s supper have both been compromised as a result of this Synod’s decisions.  The new ecclesiastical relationships have resulted in the pulpit being opened to all kinds of false teachings on the doctrine of the covenant, the doctrine of the church, and the assurance of faith.

May our Lord give strength and courage to speak the truth.

Note:  See also and