Between Me & You!
Contrast if ever there was one! Dick G. Vanderpyl
Early this year, on the last day of the financial tax-year we witnessed the institution of a new church in Christchurch. Just as the business world began with a new slate, so too did the Dovedale group, with the blessing of the mother church of Bishopdale, commence a new Branch in the Kingdom of God.
As I sat there rejoicing with many others, the thought came to me what a difference there is between now. 2001 A.D. - a first in the new century - and the institution of the first two churches of our denomination in NZ, the one in the North Island in Auckland and the other in the South Island in Christchurch early in 1953.
Then, i.e. in the Fifties, the ecclesiastical climate was a cosy non-threatening religious atmosphere of laissez-fair: “Let's just be nice and co-operative together.” It was the time of World Council of Churches thinking. “You may think this way or that way, but let's be tolerant and co-operative and nice to one another.”
What is the contrast?
Let's have a look at the birth of our denomination in the beginning of the second half of the previous century.
The first minister, forerunner and motivator, Rev J.W. (Bill) Deenick, plus a small number of young migrants had come to the conclusion that they couldn't in all good conscience join any of the existing denominations. Still there were doubters across both islands, wondering if it was really necessary to establish a new denomination. Most of us, of Reformed background, had experienced the split in their churches when World War II was over, an ecclesiastical one, as bitter as you can have it. Understandably therefore that a fair number were hesitant to establish a new denomination. After all, they had come to look for a new life and fortune.
One evening, Rev Deenick knocked on the door of my room in a boarding house in Parnell, Auckland, to discuss the momentum of establishing a new denomination. As he left, he sighed: “Dick, if only we had ten families and single people, who have the will and conviction to do the right thing and establish Reformed Churches.”
He got them and even more than had been anticipated, by the grace of God. These were willing to sign the Declaration to establish a Reformed Church and present an extensive Protocol, deeply regretting that we could not join any of the existing denominations because of modernism and deviations from the confessions of the Reformation, etc.
While the Dovedale group instituted without fear or trepidation from the outside world, we, the forerunners received threats of displeasure and warnings to seek governmental interference. After all, who were we, poor migrants, to dare to commit such a terrible sin of creating divisions in the ecclesiastical world. Fortunately, the Dutch Ambassador of that time, a Christian, encouraged us to go ahead without fear or trepidation and promised to deal with those in authority in government. He became our spokesman and persuaded them to lay off! Offhandedly he would regularly shove some Sterling pound notes into my hot hands and even helped us with a “Fiver and Deenick a Driver” Fund. Even the Auckland Press got involved with “Letters to the Editor” against a new denomination.
Yes, there was and still is a contrast between then and now. Then it was a spiritual and confessional position, which needed to be dealt with. Then it was to protect our faithfulness to God's Word for generations to come. But now, we are established as a denomination and are able to expand without creating controversy or antagonism.
The schism between Modernism and Biblical Orthodoxy is still here with us unabated. But let's not be self-satisfied and proud with the truth of God's Word. The devil is still roaming around seeking whom to devour, still stirring. Believe me! Even some of the “oldies” begin to relax now and have a so-called open mind. Let's continue to be on our guard and steadfast. As Rev. Michael Flinn said in his sermon at the institution of the Dovedale Reformed Church: “It is but the normal everyday housework of the Master, and it is done not in our strength or for our own glory. It is done in His strength, and on His command and it is done for His glory.”
Unto the Lord lift thankful voices,
Come, worship while your soul rejoices;
Make known His doings far and near
That peoples all His name may fear,
And tell, in many a joyful lay,
Of all His wonders day by day.