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The enduring freedom of the Standard Bearer (5 of 6): Freedom: The enduring freedom of the Standard Bearer and her free editors

The enduring freedom of the Standard Bearer (5 of 6): Freedom: The enduring freedom of the Standard Bearer and her free editors

This series is written by Joshua Hoekstra, current RFPA board president.


    The unique relation between board and SB staff, where owner and publisher do not have control of its publication, was intentionally designed to keep the writers free from ecclesiastical control AND demands from its publishing organization.

    The official organs of the churches were closed to them…Hence, some brethren, …conceived the idea of creating an organization that would sponsor the publication of whatever the two pastors might write. (“The Standard Bearer as a Witness,” Herman Hoeksema, Standard Bearer 22 no. 6 [Dec. 15, 1945]: 128)

    The term “Free” in this name denotes that the association in publishing its literature does not stand under any ecclesiastical jurisdiction. It also means that the editors alone are responsible for the contents of their writing, and that they are not under the jurisdiction, either of the Church or of the board of the RFPA. The minutes show that, in later days, the board has sometimes attempted to change this relation and to acquire some jurisdiction over the contents of their writings, but the editors have always jealously guarded their rights in this respect. (Herman Hoeksema, Standard Bearer 26 no. 1 [Oct. 1, 1949]: 5)

    The Standard Bearer is unique, too, in that it is completely free from any domination by its supporting organization; the Reformed Free Publishing association, or its Board. True, we could not publish without the RFPA: and if they decided not to publish the Standard Bearer, that would be the end of it. But as far as actual operations are concerned, the Staff and the Board operate in complete independence. (Homer C. Hoeksema, Standard Bearer 58 no. 5 [Dec. 1, 1981]: 103)

    To what extent should the board be involved in the content of the SB? Board members as part of the editorial committee? Engelsma: Editorial staff is responsible for the content of the SB—not the church—not the RFPA board—editorial staff only. (notes of board meeting with editor, Jan. 31, 2000)

    In 1953, with the founder Herman Hoeksema being its editor, the editorial staff of the SB unanimously adopted a constitution for themselves. Board and association minutes make no mention of this action, which is evidence that the editorial staff recognized their jurisdiction in this area. As the first two editors-in-chief made clear in their writings, the staff had the only and final word and needed no approval from its “supporting organization.” This constitution defines the editorial staff, editorial committee, and their responsibilities. Here again, it becomes clear that one or three editors do not rule, rather, all the writers are the people who make the decisions on the SB.

    The editors have always determined what content is to be published and have been under no obligation. All previous editors have imposed restrictions to one degree or another. At the 2003 annual meeting, the association voted to print the address in the SB, but the editor exercised final say and did not publish. In doing so, he treated the decision of the association as an advisory recommendation, which was in harmony with his domain. Prior board minutes reveal this understood practice.

    Moved to ask Rev. H. Hoeksema to publish his address at the annual meeting in our paper. (Sept. 27, 1945, art. 8)

    The editors have commanded complete control over articles and letters.

    I received some more correspondence, both pro and con, which are not intended for publication. Thanks. Let me make one more remark. As I read above articles, the thought entered my mind that some contributors might, perhaps, be strongly tempted to reply to some of the other contributions. Don’t. Your debatings will not be published. We want opinions, no wranglings. (Herman Hoeksema, Standard Bearer 11 no. 12 [May 15, 1935]: 288)

    This editor, therefore, is to have dictatorial powers, for you cannot have all the responsibility unless you have all the power…The editor is to have control over the entire contents of the paper, provided that at each annual meeting [of editorial staff] he come with a definite proposal outlining the contents of the paper for one year. (Herman Hoeksema, Standard Bearer 17 no. 18 [June 15, 1941]: 412)

    We would like to introduce a column in The Standard Bearer as a regular feature consisting of comment by our readers on articles that have appeared, or on issues that have been raised in the magazine. Because brevity is the soul of wit and because space is limited, we ask that our correspondents keep their letters short. Like our regular writers, you are expected to exercise judgment and charity, using the power of the pen ‘to edification, and not destruction,’ as the apostle puts it in II Corinthians 13:10. The decision of the editorial committee whether a piece should be published will be final. Letters may be edited for publication. The editor will not feel himself constrained to respond to every letter, whether he agrees or disagrees, since the purpose of the column is not public debate, but to hear from our people. (David J. Engelsma, Standard Bearer 65 no. 3 [Nov. 1, 1988]: 53)

    On Monday, we will see that although the editors are truly free, even they are not above criticism.

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