The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (5) Week Four: Sessions 19-24

Session 19: Monday, December 3 AM
     Should heathen slave children in the East Indies be baptized? Synod decided that only those children should be baptized who had come to years, had been instructed in the faith and made profession of faith, and who desired baptism. It applied the same decision to heathen adopted children who had not been sufficiently taught to that point.
     Synod then began hearing the judgments of the delegations regarding preparing students for the ministry.

Session 20: Tuesday, December 4 AM
     President Bogerman broadened the issue regarding preparing students for the ministry by putting these questions before the Synod: May these students preach? May they administer baptism? May they attend consistory and classis meetings? May they read the Holy Scriptures during the church worship services? Synod insisted that only ordained ministers may baptize. Regarding the other activities, Synod said that while students may do them, Synod was not ready to make a rule for all churches. It encouraged each church and classis to face these questions themselves, stressing the urgency of students gaining experience.
     The Utrecht Remonstrants presented written objections to previous decisions (sessions 14, 17) regarding Heidelberg Catechism preaching and teaching, and asked Synod to enter their objections in its minutes. President Bogerman responded that Synod’s decision was made by majority vote (requiring submission to it), and that the States General had instructed that the minutes include only final decisions, not discussions or objections.

Session 21: Wednesday, December 5 AM
     Being ill, one delegate had never arrived. His alternate appeared, presented his credentials, and was seated.
     The Remonstrants whom the Synod had instructed to appear for examination (session 4) were to appear before Synod on this day, but were not present. The Remonstrant delegates from Utrecht assured Synod that these would appear soon. (Remember that the Arminians were called “Remonstrants” because the core teachings of Arminianism had been written in a document called “The Remonstrance,” written in 1610).
     Books had been published, some anonymously, that had caused unrest in the churches (presumably because they promoted Arminian teachings). Some churches asked the Synod to provide a way to regulate book publishing. The foreign delegations informed Synod how their churches had addressed the matter. Synod decided that this was not an ecclesiastical matter, but one that belonged to the civil government.

Session 22: Thursday, December 6 AM
      Having just arrived in Dordrecht, the Remonstrants who were required to appear before Synod asked permission not to appear until Saturday or Monday. This would give them time to find lodging and put their books and writings in order. Synod decided that they should briefly appear at this session, since they had not appeared the previous day as required.
     On this date the States General published a notice that no one was permitted to write, print, distribute, or sell a book which speaks ill of the civil authorities, and that no book may be published without being approved by a government agency.
     The Remonstrants appeared and were shown their table in the middle of the room. Their spokesman (Simon Episcopius) explained their delay and explained why they desired not to appear before the Synod for several more days. But if Synod desired, he said, they were ready to begin their “conference” immediately. Synod agreed to let them come the next day, but reminded them that they were not at a “conference” for mutual discussion, but were at a synod to be examined and judged.

Session 23: Friday, December 7 AM
     Ready to turn its full attention to the Remonstrant controversy, Synod confronted a problem: three delegates from Utrecht were Remonstrant. Could they judge impartially, or should they give up their seat at Synod and join the Remonstrants in the middle of the room? When President Bogerman put this question to the delegates, they asked for time to consider the matter.
     Episcopius then read from prepared notes for an hour and a half. Aftewards, Episcopius was rebuked for speaking at length when the Synod had not yet asked the Remonstrants any questions.
     On this day the delegates took an oath, required of them by the States General, to judge the Arminian issue on the basis of God’s Word alone. Synod would not permit the Utrecht Remonstrant delegates to take it until they decided whether to sit with the Synod or with the Remonstrants.

Session 24: Saturday, December 8 AM
     The Utrecht Remonstrants expressed their desire to remain seated as delegates to the Synod, noting that the instructions on their credentials did not mandate them to take a certain position. After reading their credentials again, the Synod permitted them to remain under five conditions. Synod would hear their response to these conditions the following Monday.

Douglas Kuiper, Professor of Church History and New Testament
Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches