by Rev. B. R. Hofford
May 19, 2007

Ever since the liberation of a group of believers from the Lynden American Reformed Church almost a year ago, many reasons and excuses have been advanced to dismiss or discount the legitimacy of this event.  Some of these matters are addressed in the Questions section of this website; others have been addressed in various editorials that have appeared here.  But there are a few other arguments, or excuses, that continue to be advanced that require a response.


It seems that the settled opinion among some is that the liberated congregation, and those who support them, are guilty of adding, as it were, an eleventh commandment to what God requires.  This eleventh commandment is the requirement that the rules for the admission of guests to the Lord’s Supper as articulated in Art. 61, C.O. be imposed on those churches with which ecclesiastical fellowship has been established in recent years.  By insisting on this imposition and making it a point of division within the churches, the liberated people have shown themselves to be sectarian.  

The reasoning of these opponents is that the rules of Art. 61 are good for the Canadian Reformed Churches, but the other churches in question also have rules for protecting the holiness of the Lord’s Table.  Although the rules of these other churches may not be identical to ours; nevertheless, they reflect a sincere effort to guard the Table.  Furthermore, it is argued, our churches do in fact recognize some weaknesses in the practices of these other churches and we are committed to a continuing discussion with them about these matters.   On the basis of this reasoning, our opponents conclude that our insistence on the use of a rule such as Art. 61 by the EF churches amounts to adding an eleventh commandment, and forcing this conviction to the point of division renders us sectarian.

As already stated, many, if not all, of the arguments embodied in the above reasoning have previously been addressed either in the Questions section or in earlier editorials.  By way of summary, a few points may be made.  First, it has been repeatedly and clearly shown that the principles that underlie Art. 61 are both scriptural and confessional.  Thus, to argue that these rules are good for us, but not necessary for others, ignores the normative character of Art. 61. 

Second, what are often termed “weaknesses” in these other churches are actually practices that either openly conflict with scripture, or fail to encompass the scriptural requirements for maintaining the proper supervision of the Lord’s Supper.  The Canadian Reformed Churches failed to complete the process of testing the spirits with these churches before entering into ecclesiastical fellowship.  Instead, they fell prey to the disease of compromise and thus what used to be labeled “confessional divergences” that required correction are now transformed into “weaknesses” that only need to be discussed.

These counter-arguments, and others, have never been answered by our opponents.  It is vitally important that those who belong to Christ not be misled by those who refuse to interact with the scriptural and confessional arguments and simply dismiss us as sectarian.

 In fact, if the argument of our opponents is correct that the rules of Art. 61 are good for the Canadian Reformed Churches but need not be imposed on others, then the Canadian Reformed Churches have been guilty of sectarianism by holding to and practicing rules that go beyond scripture!  Where is the recognition of this reality?  Where is the public acknowledgement of this sin and repentance for it?  And if the rules of Art. 61 are not required by scripture and/or confession, then it must be high time to change them! 

It is vitally important to remember that the liberated church, and its supporters, have not added anything to scripture or confession; rather, we are simply upholding what the churches have always believed and practiced until recent years.  It must be pointedly asked:  Who has changed—the liberated believers or the synodically led Canadian Reformed Churches? 


Another line of thinking that has been advanced to dismiss the legitimacy of the Liberated Church in Lynden has to do with how this liberation appears to men.  This group is often derisively dismissed as though it couldn’t be a real church because it is only a small group meeting in a home.  The legitimacy of this church is further questioned because it is comprised of people who do not come from “our background.”

This argument is strengthened when comparisons are made to the Liberation of 1944.  People wonder where the leaders are?  Then there were men like Schilder, Van Dijk, Holwerda, Greijdanus, and others.  Then, there were thousands of people and many congregations that liberated themselves.   But today, as one businessman honestly and succinctly put it:  “I don’t see the numbers!” 

A few observations may be made in response to the above.  First, we must be careful not to judge the legitimacy of a reformation by how it appears to our fleshly sight, but only to judge how it compares with scripture.  We must walk by faith, not by sight. We are clearly warned by the Lord in Zech. 4 not to despise the day of small things.  Furthermore, we must beware of the unbelieving mentality of those who were quick to dismiss the legitimacy of our Lord’s ministry with,  “How can anything good come from Nazareth? (John 1:46).”  Similarly, the disciples as a group of ordinary men were viewed with disdain by the ruling authorities (Acts 4:13).  Remember too that those who despise a small church meeting in someone’s home are also despising the work of Christ as it appeared in the same form in the early church (cf. Rom. 16:5).  The truth of God’s Word is not determined by the number of people who believe it.   

It is a sad reality that no ministers and only a few former elders have risen to the occasion to provide leadership in this situation.  What makes this worse is the fact that many ministers in the Canadian Reformed Churches know and apparently believe the truth about much of what is at stake in this situation.  We know this because a number of them have written publicly about these issues in the past in “Shield and Sword,” “Clarion” and “Reformed Polemics,” yet now that the crisis is actually upon us, they do not appear willing to act obediently.

Despite this sad lack of leadership, we must not lose sight of the office each believer has from Christ (cf.  LD 12).  One does not need to be a minister, elder or deacon in order to be faithful to one’s prophetic, priestly and kingly tasks.  And when ordinary believers in their office act in obedience to Christ, they need no further leadership.  When the issues are as clear as they are, to delay or refuse to act in obedience because we see no Schilder or other respected leader becomes an excuse.

The truth does not hinge on man but on God. In the end, the truth of the great Reformation was not dependent on Luther or Calvin, but on God’s Word. The truth of the 1944 Liberation did not hinge on Schilder, but on God's Word.  The truth of our current liberation does not hinge on any man, but on God’s Word.  The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit,  pled for acceptance of his message because it came from God, not because it came from man (cf.Gal. 1:1).  If this liberation is indeed based on God’s Word, then all who follow Christ are duty-bound to act (see “Your Path to Liberation”).