Earlier this week the Eastern Ministerial Conference was held where many Canadian and United Reformed ministers and their wives were encouraged by speeches, devotions, scripture, prayer, song, and sweet fellowship. I was asked to give a presentation about the biography I wrote on my father.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My COVID19 project was to write a biography on my father. I was invited to speak a few words to you about it.
You might wonder how it came about that I should write a biography on my father. I have Dr. John Smith (OT professor at CRTS) to thank as he encouraged me to write it. I was telling him about how two of my sisters had recently downsized and had both come across envelopes and files of letters and other personal items that my father had left behind when he died unexpectedly and suddenly in 1968. After a brief discussion on our siblings’ email group it was decided that the stuff would come to me. When I told John about this, he urged me to write my father’s biography saying that the stories of the early Canadian Reformed immigrants needed to be told by my generation, while the memories are still alive.
My father was the first Canadian Reformed minister when he came to Edmonton, Alta., in June of 1951, at the age of 35. My parents made the ten-day sailing from the Netherlands to Quebec City and then the transcontinental journey to Edmonton. He exchanged a small village pastorate, where he could make his visits by bicycle, for a parish that effectively was the provinces of BC, Alberta, and Manioba. No sooner was he installed in Edmonton a few days upon arriving there and he was off to the Bulkley Valley and the Fraser Valley, and then to Southern Manitoba. He traveled throughout the vast Canadian West by rail visiting the far-flung churches and house congregations, preaching the Word, administering the sacraments, helping to institute churches, and visiting the immigrant saints. It would be later that year and the next before three colleagues came to share the load of the work that needed to be done.
When my father died in 1968 he was busy with publishing a series of articles on the Open Brief. The Open Brief was a statement signed by twenty-five Dutch ministers of the GKN-Liberated. In my father’s assessment the statement sought to undo the ecclesiastical Liberation of 1944. The signatories wanted more latitude in doctrinal issues than the Form of Subscription, in their opinion, gave them. My father clarified what was at stake in the Liberation of 1944. The signatories called the Liberation nothing but a matter of human ideology rather than yet another example of Christ’s freeing his people—as he had done in the first secession (1834) and the second secession (1886). Signing on to the Open Brief, said my father, led people from freedom in Christ to the slavery of man’s opinion. He ended his unfinished articles by asking:
Is that the easy yoke of Christ? Is this His light burden? No, not at all. It was and is a yoke of bondage. By this horrible synodical usurpation [of the synodocratic GKN] God’s redeemed people were compelled to ascribe more power and authority to the general synod and its ordinances than to the Word of God.