Coming Soon: The Acts And Documents Of The National Synod Of Dort

acta et documenta synodiThanks to the good work of Donald Sinnema, Christian Moser, and Herman Selderhuis (series editor), volume 1 a modern edition of Latin text of the Acts of the National Synod of Dort (Acta et Documenta Synodi Nationalis Dordrechtanae (1618–1619)) is scheduled to presented publicly later this month in Emden. This is the first of 9 volumes. The publisher’s website says: “Volume 1 includes the original Acta Authentica of the synod, here published for the first time. On facing pages, the corresponding acts, as first published in the Acta Synodi NationalisDordrechti Habitae (Leiden, 1620), are reprinted; the published Acta were a significantly revised version, for stylistic and political purposes, of the original Acta Authentica. Also included are the Acta Contracta, a topical summary of the Acta Authentica, and the minutes of the meetings of the state delegates, who represented the Dutch government at the synod; neither of these has been previously published. This volume begins with a general introduction to the Synod of Dordt and its context, an introduction to the Acta Authentica, the published Acta and Acta Contracta, and an introduction to the role of the state delegates and the minutes of their meetings.”

The Ref500 site adds:

The Synod of Dordrecht 1618/1619 is one of the most important church councils in the history of the reformed tradition. International delegates from all over Europe (Great Britain, the Palatinate, Hesse, Switzerland, Nassau-Wetteravia, Bremen, and Emden) served as important participants and played a significant role in the evaluation of Remonstrant doctrine and in the formation of the Canons. The Synod also made important pronouncements on issues like Sunday observance, catechism instruction, and theological education, and commissioned the official Dutch translation of the bible (the Statenbijbel), which would be published in 1637. The Church Order of Dordrecht, which was a consolidation of earlier church orders, regulated the structure of the Dutch reformed churches and was also very influential for later church orders. Additionally, the decrees on Bible translation and on preaching and teaching the Heidelberg Catechism have shaped the spirituality and doctrine of the reformed tradition up to the present day.

For those who study the history of Reformed theology, piety, and practice this is wonderful news. The next step, of course, will be to get these documents into English translation.

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  1. Were Congregationalists present at the Synod of Dort? I think about them every so often because I’ve never encountered a confessional Congregationalist of the John Owen type. It seems all the Congregationalists I’ve seen are basically typical evangelicals or Southern Baptists without a distinct southern accent or Baptist Faith and Message, aside from the liberals. They seem to have gone extinct, and it seems weird because there are confessional people among Baptists and Presbyterians. Maybe here in CA Congregationalism is just insignificant.

  2. Was the Synod of Dordrecht officially a Synod, in the sense of being a multi-church body with authority over the churches? If so, wouldn’t it have been a contradiction in terms for Congregationalists to have been seated at it?

    • John,

      Yes, Dort was a real national Synod. There were two phases. The Dutch delegates worked on domestic issues before and after the phase when the international delegates were present to address the Remonstrant crisis. Here is the Church Order produced by the Synod:

      There were congregationalist delegates at the Westminster Assembly, so hypothetically they might have been seated for at least the phase in which they addressed the Remonstrants.

    • Strictly speaking, for Congregationalists to be seated at it. wouldn’t it have had to be renamed an assembly, like the Westminster Assembly?
      The bit about suspending preaching at funerals is interesting. Was this argued for scripturally, situationally, or not at all? I can see the point in a community that is largely Christian: A minister who has to preach at one person’s funeral will be expected to preach at everybody’s, and what time, energy, and voice will that leave for the ministry to which he has principally been called? But when the church is small and a minority in a community in which attendance at funerals is a cultural norm, isn’t an important evangelistic opportunity being neglected? Within one truly international presbyterian church I know, there was dissent on this very matter between the majority of British ministers and their African fellow ministers (and their sympathisers).

      The apostle does list three classes of elders. I suppose Doctors and Professors correspond to “those elders that rule well”, whereas ministers correspond to the “especially” class?

  3. In the Church Order of Dort, 1619, Item 43 uses a word that I cannot find defined in dictionaries. Could you please define the word “consure”? Thank you.

    • Hi Jay,

      Art. 43 of the 1619 order says:

      43. At the close of classical and other major assemblies censure shall be exercised with respect to those who have done anything worthy of censure in the meeting, or who have scorned the admonitions of the minor assembly.

      It was a typo.

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