TROUBLE AMONG THE LIBERATED
It appears as if the Liberated Churches in the Netherlands are still having their troubles. Our readers will recall that these troubles revolve around whether or not the Liberated Churches should seek closer contact with the “Gereformeerde Kerken” from which they broke away in the early 1940s. We quote the following announcement from Church and Nation: (The translation is ours.)
Liberated Reformed Churches In the Netherlands
“The Canadian Reformed Magazine” reports the following:
Classis Groningen—Schismatic Group Vander Ziel.
On the ground of a number of facts, the Classis Groningen expresses that the Van der Ziel Group committed a schismatic action and opposes the legal gathering of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ;
that therefore, ministers who exercise fellowship with this schismatic group by leading them in their services have supported the minister Van der Ziel, those who have joined him, in his sin, and have furthered the schismatic action;
that this practice of fellowship with this schismatic group in fact signifies that they have broken the ecclesiastical fellowship with the Church of Groningen-South and also with their sister churches in the Classis Groningen;
The Classis Groningen decides:
to advise the Consistory of the Church of Groningen-South to do everything which lies in her power to make clear to the sister churches in the land the true character of this schismatic action.
TAX EXEMPTION FOR THE CHURCHES
The courts have upheld tax exemption status for the churches. In 1963 Madalyn Murray brought a case to the courts involving devotions in the public schools. Eventually this atheist succeeded in getting devotions banned in the classrooms. Late in 1964 she brought another case to the courts seeking to outlaw tax exemption for churches and church property. This case was brought to a Maryland circuit court where it was dismissed. From there the case was appealed to the State Court of Appeals. Also this court rules that tax exemption for churches does not violate either the Maryland Constitution or the Constitution of the United States, but that this tax exempt status is recognition of the contributions of the Churches to the public welfare.
It is interesting that the issue has apparently not died, for here and there individual churches have, of themselves, contributed a certain amount of money to public coffers for payment of such public services as fire and police protection. Further, among the churches themselves there remains a question whether tax exemption is justifiable. We shall, no doubt, hear more about this issue.
SCHISM IN THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA
The Church of South India has recently suffered a split. This denomination, numbering about a million people (of whom about one-third are full members) was formed originally in 1947 of churches founded by the Anglican Missionary Society and from Congregational, Presbyterian, and Methodist missionary efforts. The schism involves some 269 churches with about 80,000 members. These churches have severed their ties with the Church of South India in protest over theological liberalism, various ritual observances, membership in the World Council of Churches and caste discrimination. They have decided to seek affiliation with the International Council of Christian Churches of which Rev. Carl McIntire is the president. The formal convocation of these churches as a separate denomination is scheduled for May 5. But in the meantime leaders from the Church of South India and emissaries from Dr. Arthur Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury are hearing grievances and trying to effect a settlement.
These churches stand mainly in the Anglican tradition. They are in that part of India where famine has so viciously struck in recent months.
CRITICISM OF BILLY GRAHAM
Billy Graham received some real criticism recently from an unexpected source. The criticism came from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina where this year’s only American crusade by Billy Graham was held.
Bob Jones University is an evangelical and fundamentalist University which was founded by the well-known evangelist Bob Jones Sr. who is now 80 years old. The school is being directed by. Bob Jones Jr. and, in his periodic absences, by Bob Jones III. Billy Graham attended this University in his college days, but remained only about three months.
The University refused to help sponsor the crusade and, in fact, forbad its students from attending crusade meetings upon penalty of expulsion from the school. Already a year ago Bob Jones Jr. had criticized the Billy Graham type of evangelism charging him especially with associating with Roman Catholics and leaders of the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches; hence also cooperating with churches which deny the fundamental truths of Scripture—especially the truth of the infallibility of God’s Word, and referring converts to these liberal churches.
The criticism this time was much the same. It centered about the fact that there is nothing distinctive about Billy Graham’s evangelism when he associates with any type of churchman including Bishop Pike from the Episcopal Church and Bishop Kennedy from the Methodist Church. Bob Jones Jr. charged Billy Graham, according to Christianity Today with “doing more harm to the cause of Jesus Christ than any living man.”
While the objections against Billy Graham were indeed to the point and sufficient reason to disassociate one’s self from the crusades, the spokesmen of the University did not mention the fact that Billy Graham is also thoroughly Arminian in his presentation of the gospel. This still remains the chief objection of all Reformed people although it is not the chief objection of Bob Jones University.
ECUMENICAL MEETING IN ROME
An historic meeting took place on March 23 of this year in Rome between Pope Paul VI and Bishop Arthur Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The meeting was only the second between the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the leader of the Church of England since the time of the Calvinistic Reformation in England. Both men, in their initial greetings to each other acknowledged many difficulties in, but expressed the firm hope for greater unity. In, the joint statement which was issued after the meeting, they spoke of increased efforts that ought to be made to heal the wounds of division which had so long separated them.
They affirm their desire that all those Christians who belong to these two Communions may be animated by these same sentiments of respect, esteem and fraternal love, and in order to help these develop to the full, they intend to inaugurate between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion a serious dialogue which, founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed.
The dialogue should include not only theological matters such as scripture, tradition, and liturgy, but also matters of practical difficulty felt on either side.
His Holiness the Pope and His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury are, indeed, aware that serious obstacles stand in the way of a restoration of complete communion of faith and sacramental life; nevertheless, they are of one mind in their determination to promote responsible contacts between their communions in all those spheres of church life where collaboration is likely to lead to a greater understanding and a deeper charity, and to strive in common to find solutions for all the great problems that face those who believe in Christ in the world today.
Thus a giant step has been taken in the direction of unity of Protestants and Roman Catholics. The Reformation (and all subsequent history) is conveniently set aside. The Calvinism of the Anglican Church has, for the most part, disappeared long ago. (Think of Bishop Robinson’s denial of the trinity and the deity of Christ within the Anglican fold.) And so the possibility of ecclesiastical unity becomes stronger.
THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES AGAIN
At a recent meeting of the General Board of the National Council of Churches decisions were made on the following matters:
1) The desire of the Board to see Red China seated in the United Nations.
2). The desire of the Council to see the government apply greater firmness towards South Africa corresponding to the pressures being applied to Rhodesia in the hopes of changing this government’s apartheid policies.
3) The desire of the Council to see increases made in unemployment compensations so that the unemployed receive benefits “adequate in amount to sustain human dignity.”
4) “The right of dissent” especially in times of military involvement; which presumably includes the right to burn draft cards.
It is difficult to imagine how any church which wishes to maintain a Calvinistic and Reformed emphasis (such as, e.g., the Reformed Church in America and the Presbyterian Church US (Southern) can possibly affiliate with such a group as the National Council. The decisions of this body are so far removed from the calling of the Church and from the truth of the Reformed faith that they stand flatly opposed to this confession.
Usually the excuse is made that these decisions are by the General Board and therefore do not speak for the member denominations. But this excuse will not do; for it cannot shelter member denominations from their responsibilities for these decisions. The fact of the matter is that the Council has got to speak for all its members when it speaks through its General Board.
A FIXED DAY FOR EASTER
There is increased agitation to fix a definite day for Easter. At present (and this has been the case in the Church since a controversy on this point was settled in the third century) the date is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox (March 20 or 21). The date of Easter varies therefore, from year to year. The Church of England has recently gone on record as favoring the Sunday following the second Saturday in April as the definite date. This action followed upon a request of the World Council of Churches asking its member churches to express their position on the matter. Also the Second Vatican Council stated that it would endorse a fixed date provided other Christians concurred.
This would be a step in the right direction; although one often wonders whether the Church of Christ ought to commemorate Easter in conjunction with the apostate church which literally denies the resurrection of Christ anyway.