The enduring freedom of the Standard Bearer (4 of 6): The influence of the board: exercised carefully to maintain the enduring freedom of the Standard Bearer
Reformed Free Publishing Association
This series is written by Joshua Hoekstra, current RFPA board president.
In the Middle Ages, kings and princes often provided protection for reformers. Frederick the Wise hid Luther at Wartburg. Luther was hidden in the castle for his own protection. That protection was in fact his freedom. Free and safe in the castle, he went about his work. He translated the Bible, and he contended with theological opponents.
Frederick III, elector of the Palatinate, provides another example from history for us to consider. Frederick ordered the writing of the Heidelberg Catechism, supported it, and even had influence on the catechism (most famously on the question and answer on idolatry of the popish mass). However, the theologian of the project was unquestionably Ursinus. Ursinus was called to the Palatinate, served as professor at Heidelberg, and ultimately was under the care and protection of Frederick, so much so that within a year of Frederick’s death, he and six hundred other teachers and preachers were forced out of the region.
In our day and age, we don’t have medieval princes and kings influencing projects and publications. Control and power for such projects are wielded through corporations, associations, and boards. These groups provide protection and defense for stated goals. Here lies the purpose and heart of the RFPA. We support our Standard Bearer and by extension our editors. We provide protection and freedom to our editors so that they may do their work, so that they may write freely. We can influence them, we criticize at times, but ultimately, our goal is to provide the kind of support and freedom that the Fredericks provided so that the editors can be free.
Freedom for the editors does not mean that the board never seeks to influence them. Past boards have expressed disagreement to editorial staff regarding SB content, made suggestions for improvements to the magazine, and worked together with them, while respecting the authority of the editors and staff.
Upon suggestion of the board the staff has appointed several of our younger ministers to the editorial staff. (Standard Bearer 11 no. 14 [Apr. 15, 1935]: 327)
Motion made, supported and accepted to write Rev. Hoeksema the Editor in Chief that several complaints came in of different readers in connection with the Sunday School lesson in our S.B. Board is of the opinion it is not beneficial for our readers. (April 21, 1937, art. 5)
A motion was made that the publication committee contact Rev. H. Hoeksema and recommend that we discontinue the June 15 issue because of financial condition. A substitute motion was made and passed that the publication committee contact Rev. H. Hoeksema for his opinion on which issue to discontinue. (April 16, 1953, art. 9)
The publication committee reports that they have contacted Rev. H.H. and received an OK to discontinue the June 15 issue of the Standard Bearer. (May 21, 1953, art. 3)
Past boards have used careful judgment in admonishing on occasion.
A motion was made and carried to reprimand Rev. M. Ophoff for publishing a certain letter and the accompanying article in the S. Bearer of Aug. 1, 1949. The Board felt that this was unbrotherly way of expressing an opinion about brothers. (August 15, 1949, art. 7)
The committee appointed to bring resolution of board regarding art. appearing in Aug. 1 issue to Rev. Ophoff reported that the Rev. advised them that he had apologized and that such apology would be suitably published. (September 15, 1949, art. 7)
This history clearly shows where the board has sought to influence the editors while never impinging on their freedom. Imagine for a moment that Frederick the Wise had knocked on the door of Luther’s room in the Wartburg every day with requests, corrections, suggestions, and admonitions. The great reformer would have tired of it quickly, and there is no doubt we would read of it in some witty and pithy way on the pages of history. Frederick was likely wise for many reasons, not the least of which was knowing how to work with the feisty reformer and provide him the freedom to do his work.
Tomorrow we will look more closely at the freedom of the editors. Just how free are they when it comes to the authority they have over the content?