The problem of racial segregation in this country has been primarily a social one. The subject appears in the newspapers when it involves the public schools, the equal use of parks, lunch counters, busses, etc. by both black and white, the participation in politics and the right of Negroes to vote in elections. This has not prevented various churches in our own country from speaking out on this problem and taking a stand with respect to it, and even the Christian Reformed Church discussed the problem some years ago, but it has not primarily affected the churches. This is not the case in the Union of South Africa. There the probl5m has always had strong religious overtones. This is due in part to the fact that the Reformed Church in South Africa, a church of strong Calvinistic traditions, has run the country for many years through its political party. In fact, the present Premier is a member of the Reformed Church. Although in reality there are three Reformed Churches, the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk and the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerken of Cape and Transvaal, they have usually stood united against any form of integration. They have maintained this position, so they claimed, on the basis of Scripture itself. For their position they have been severely castigated by other church bodies throughout the world; and, in fact, at one time there was a movement afoot in the World Council of Churches, to which these Reformed Churches belong, to force them to change their racial ways or bar them from membership.
Recently there have been some minor changes in the position of the Dutch Reformed Church there. These changes have been reported in a recent issue of Timemagazine. The occasion was a seven day “consultation” on “South Africa’s racial problems between six representatives of the World Council of Churches and ten delegates from each of South Africa’s eight Protestant Churches that are World Council Members.” Although the council was strongly critical of segregation, the significant fact remains that several delegates from the Dutch Reformed Churches backed the resolution, and the two larger of the Reformed Churches expressed that although “a policy of differentiation can be defended from the Christian point of view,” it suggested that black Africans who are permanent dwellers in white areas should be granted a share in government. This was interpreted by everyone, the Council itself, the government, and leading churchmen, as being a fundamental departure from the position of the church. The premier, Hendrik Verwoerd, was highly displeased with it, and interpreted it as an attack on the policies of his government.
The excitement over the decision is due to the tremendous amount of criticism which formerly had been directed toward the government and the church the world over, and the fact that should the church change its stand, the government will eventually have to do likewise.
Our churches as a whole, nor, to the best of my knowledge, any individual congregation has never faced the question of integration, nor made any decisions concerning it. It seems to me that the question, from a Scriptural point of view, is not as easy as it is sometimes made out to be. There is no question about it that since the church of Jesus Christ is gathered from all nations and tribes and tongues, there are members of the black race which are also included within that church. Furthermore, there is no question about it that within the church at least, there is no class system which would place the negro in a position inferior to the white. Besides, it is also evident that the unity of the church of Jesus Christ precludes any spiritual segregation, or the denial of any privileges and rights to the negro in his membership in the church. But whether it follows from this that complete integration of the white and the negro in the family, the school, the church is required, is another question. I cannot see how, from a principle point of view, and within the life of the church, that segregation in these institutions denies either a negro or a white certain privileges and rights. Maybe in practice that is the outcome of the matter; but it seems as if it need not necessarily follow. Why segregation of the family, the school, or the church places the negro and the white in an inferior position is difficult to see. But the problem is perhaps worth some discussion.
In the January issue of the Torch and Trumpet, Rev. H.J. Kuiper faces the problem of the financial support of the Christian Schools in an article entitled, “The Financial Problem of our Christian Schools.” He introduces his article by stating that the reason for the fact that the support of our schools is such a great problem is due to their continual growth and the need for more buildings and larger plants. Besides the cost of education is going up with an increase in the cost of tuition, which makes it difficult for parents with three or four children attending the schools to meet the cost of education and the responsibilities of supporting the schools in collections and drives.
He mentions three different ways in which this problem has recently been faced in various congregations. The first is by the establishment of an endowment fund, the interest of which could be used for the running expenses of the school. He admits that this may be a step in the right direction, but raises the objections that it is impracticable and may lead to the loss of personal sacrifice of the people in the support of the schools. The second means used is for churches to assume an ever greater share of the financial responsibility of supporting the schools. But he feels that this is dangerous, for it leads to parochial schools. And while the churches should give all the moral and financial support of which they are capable, and while it is better to have parochial schools than to allow the financial burden of the parents to become too heavy, nevertheless, this is not a trend in the right direction. There is finally the possibility of Booster Clubs which undertake the full cost of the tuition of the children within the church which they represent. Although this may be a partial solution to the problem, it in turn raises its own problems, such as the refusal of these Booster Clubs to contribute to emergency deficit drives.
The real solution to the problem, however, the author finds in the serious lack of knowledge among the people as to the true nature of Christian giving. He makes the points: 1) that all members of the congregation and not only those who have children in school are responsible for the financial support of the schools. 2) that giving should be proportionate to our financial ability, should be sacrificial and should be systematic. 3) that the best way to accomplish these goals is through tithing, which, while desiring to avoid the legalism of it, he nevertheless strongly advocates.
It is certainly a fact that our schools face the same problems of financial support as do the existing Christian schools. Perhaps our problem is not quite as acute as the problem of some of the other schools, but it is here nonetheless. Not only do our school boards have a constant struggle with finances, but our parents oftentimes have heavy burdens to carry.
It is altogether possible that one reason for the difficulties in the Christian schools other than our own is to be found in the struggle within the Christian Reformed Church for the need of Christian Schools at all. If the people are not fully convinced that there is a need for Christian Schools, then, of course, there will be problems of support. I make this statement because some time ago there was an exchange of articles in the Reformed Journal and in the Torch and Trumpet discussing the basis for Christian education. A writer in the Reformed Journal maintained at that time that the doctrine of the covenant could not possibly serve as a basis for Christian education, it being the basis only for missionary work. The basis for Christian education was to be found rather in the parent-child relationship. This was disputed by another writer in the Torch and Trumpet, who maintained that the covenant of grace had to be the basis. But the point was made once again in the Reformed Journalthat the doctrine of the covenant of the Christian Reformed Church was that the covenant was an agreement between two parties. And since the covenant was such an agreement, it followed that children could not enter into it by way of such an agreement; that therefore the schools where children were educated could not be based on the covenant. Rather the purpose of missionary work was to secure such an agreement from the objects of the church’s missionary endeavor.
It stands to reason that should the basis for schools be a parent-child relationship, all reason for Christian schools is gone. If this is, all that can be said, it follows that’s Christian education is not at all mandatory, for this same parent-child relationship is present in the world. And if, in turn, this is true, then the people will not be ready to support such Christian institutions at such considerable cost.
I too agree that if the covenant is to be defined as an agreement between two parties, this doctrine of the covenant cannot possibly be used as a basis for Christian education of the youth of the church, for they cannot be included in such a covenant; they cannot enter into an agreement. But certainly, it is altogether incorrect to define the covenant in such a way. It is a gracious bond of fellowship and communion between God and His elect people, established by God through Jesus Christ, and including in it elect believers and their spiritual seed. If we maintain this as the truth of God’s everlasting covenant of grace, we have a firm foundation upon which to build our schools, a firm need of such schools, and a firm obligation to support these schools in which the covenant seed is trained. And indeed, it must be remembered that the obligation to support the schools where the seed of the covenant is trained is not only the obligation of parents with children in schools, but the obligation of the entire church. If these points are clearly made and remembered, then I can agree with Rev. Kuiper when he says,
“The nub of the financial problem of our Christian schools is the fact that the burden of the support of these schools rests on too few people, namely on the parents whose children attend these schools. There are too many families in our congregations which have a good income and could make substantial contributions to this worthy cause but fail to do so because they are unmarried or do not yet have or no longer have children who attend. What they fail to realize is that the proper training of our children as good citizens and worthy members of the church should be a matter of deep concern to every single family and member of the church.”
I know that this is done through church collections. Many people in our churches without children of their own in school contribute generously towards the education of our children. And this is good.
It is another matter whether parents with three or more children in school can always meet their tuition. It seems as if the churches do have a responsibility here through the diaconate to help their members who cannot pay their tuition. But it is even possible that parents without any children in school, but with financial means to support children, could assume the responsibility of the cost of educating one or two children as long as this would be necessary. It is at least worth thinking about.