The Rev. Hubert De Wolf became the "second" pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church (Grand Rapids, MI) in 1944, where he served alongside the Rev. Herman Hoeksema, founder of the Protestant Reformed denomination. The Rev. Cornelius Hanko joined the pastoral team in 1948.
De Wolf was influenced by the theology of Klaas Schilder and others in the Gereformeerde Kerken (Vrijgemaakt) or "Liberated" Reformed Church in the Netherlands. This included "conditional theology", which David J. Engelsma describes as "the statement that God promises salvation to all on the condition of faith and . . . that our act of conversion is a prerequisite to entering the kingdom of God."
Hoeksema saw this as heresy, insisting that salvation is only offered to the elect - even the baptized children of believers who were not elect could not receive the offer of salvation. De Wolf and some elders were suspended in 1953 for teaching and supporting the "heresy" of conditional theology; this group led a great exodus from the PRC, which had 6,063 members in 1953. (In 1994, the PRC passed this membership mark for the first time.)
That year, 60% of the Protestant Reformed membership formed the Orthodox Protestant Reformed Churches, also known as "the De Wolf Group". In many ways, conditional theology eliminated the reasons these people has separated from the Christian Reformed denomination in 1924, and De Wolf worked toward reunion with the CRC.
Union with the CRC was accomplished in short order. Second PRC of Grand Rapids joined the CRC in 1953, taking the name Beverly CRC.
The De Wolf group petitioned the CRC Synod to set aside the Three Points of Common Grace, but Synod declined to do so in 1959. Despite this, denomination union took place in 1961, when seven OPRC congregations dissolved so members could join nearby Christian Reformed churches and four became Christian Reformed congregations:
- Hope CRC, Hull, Iowa
- Alamo Ave CRC, Kalamazoo, Michigan
- Bethel CRC, Redlands, California
- Faith CRC, Grand Rapids, Michigan
If you have additional biographical information on Rev. De Wolf, please email me. Thanks!
- A Brief History of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, First PRC, Grand Rapids, MI
- Remembering the Schism of 1953, David J. Engelsma, The Standard Bearer, May 2003
- After Fifty Years, H. C. Hoeksema, an address delivered at Calvin Theological Seminary, Dec. 19, 1974
- Protestant Reformed Reach Highest Membership in History, Darrell Todd Maurina, Reformed Believers Press Service, Sept. 3, 1994