What’s in a Name: 400 Years After the Synod of Dort

Emma Stoltzfus — Staff Writer

The move from Dordt College to Dordt University is not the first time the school has rebranded.

Previously known as Midwest Christian Junior College, Dordt renamed itself as an homage to the historic Synod of Dort, which celebrated its 400-year anniversary on Nov. 13.

The synod took place in 1618-1619 in Dordrecht, Netherlands, and produced the Canons of Dort in response to a theological and political conflict over points raised by Arminianism.

Dordt College is taking part in several events to celebrate the anniversary of its namesake. President Eric and Barbara Hoekstra attended several days of ceremonies in Dordrecht on an invitation to mark the start of the Synod of Dort.

Eric Hoekstra, via Twitter, stated he considered a highlight of his trip to be receiving a 1637 edition StatenBijbel (States Bible) for the Dordt archives.

The Synod of Dort requested the state to commission the StatenBijbel as the first translation of the Bible directly from the original Hebrew to Dutch. King Alexander-Willem of the Netherlands took part in the ceremonies by reading Scripture aloud from the States Bible.

During their trip, the president and his wife met the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, also named Hoekstra.

Dianne De Wit, Dordt’s Signature and Regional Events Coordinator, helps plan various events each year, a few of which include Defender Days, class reunions, and the graduation reception.

This school year, that list also includes a large trip across Europe and the Netherlands to celebrate the conclusion of the Synod in May. A pamphlet for the trip describes it as “one-of-a-kind.” A Dordt choir composed of alumni and current students will be performing at the closing ceremony as part of their tour.

“The interesting thing about this celebration,” De Wit said, commenting on visits of representatives from the Netherlands over the years, “is that the value for the Dutch people is cultural and historical, not theological. Not at all. And they find this very quaint that we hold onto religious values.”

The Netherlands is one of the least religious countries in Europe with 67 percent of the population claiming no religious affiliation, according to a 2017 World Atlas summary. The majority of those claiming to be religious are Roman Catholic.

For Dordt College, De Witt describes the Synod of Dort as foundational to its mission due to its focus on Scripture and its affiliation with the Christian Reformed Church.

“That’s what’s in a name, that’s what happened at the Synod of Dort.”

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