As many of you will know, Former U.S. Congressman and later U.S. President Gerald R. Ford (38th, serving from 1974-77; and prior to that 40th Vice-president serving under Pres.R.Nixon from 1973-74) is buried on the grounds of the presidential museum that bears his name (maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration), along the banks of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. You may also know that Ford’s presidential library is located in Ann Arbor, MI on the campus of the University of Michigan.
This past Monday, July 14, was the 101st anniversary of Pres.Ford’s birth (also my father’s birthday – more famous to us!), which was commemorated at the museum with the annual wreath laying ceremony, as the above-linked story on MLive reports.
Why do I bring this up on this Friday? Because I am running a day late with my posts this week and this post is going to be our PRC history/archives one for this week. OK, you may say; but still, what does PRC history have to do with Pres. G.Ford?
Well, here’s the answer – in the form of a question! Did you know that our churches have on record in our Acts of Synod a letter to and from “Jerry” Ford when he was serving as a congressman from Grand Rapids in Washington, D.C.?
That’s correct. In 1961 our Synod took the unusual step of adopting an overture that originated in Creston PRC (Grand Rapids, MI) and approved by Classis East in which we objected to the military’s requirement at that time “that our young men take part in military training and drill on the Sabbath day” (p.57). The overture had three grounds and included a letter to Congressman Ford, as well as his respectful and sympathetic reply (as you will see in the material below).
This matter directly involved Rev.George Lubbers, pastor of Creston PRC at that time, and as you will note, a son of his by the name of Cornelius, known to most of us as “Case”.
Before posting the overture itself, I will quote from the relevant article (39) of the Acts of Synod 1961 which gives the decisions made:
A motion is made to adopt I, A, i.e., ‘that synod adopt the overture of Creston as approved by Classis East.’ Carried
A motion is made to adopt I, B, i.e., ‘that synod send a letter to Major General D.W. McGowan, to the Chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Corps Reserve Affairs and to Robert McNamara, Sec. of Defense.’ Carried
A motion is made to adopt I, C. i.e., ‘that synod send a copy of the above letters to Rep.Gerald R. Ford with a letter of explanation.’ Carried.
Below is the overture with its supporting documents, including the letters to and from Rep.Ford (click on them to enlarge).
I find this fascinating. Little did Synod of 1961 know that it would have on its records letters from a future President of the United States! I wonder if his archives (now part of our National Archives) contain these letters. Shall we try to find out?