Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
Several years ago a number of conservative ministers and councils, mainly from the Chicago area and the Hamilton, Ontario area, organized “The Christian Reformed Alliance (CRA).” Concerning the most recent decisions of the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), women in office (1990) and creation/science (1991), many in the alliance came to the conclusion that these decisions were “symptoms” pointing to a more serious problem in the CRC, viz., “a dangerously weakened view of biblical authority.” Many also concluded that they could no longer in good conscience continue in the fellowship of the CRC. As we reported earlier in this column (SB December 1, 1991), several congregations have already withdrawn from the CRC.
The Alliance met in Lynwood, Illinois in November of 1991 and made several important decisions. Concerning the question of withdrawal (secession) from the CRC, the Alliance adopted the following statement:
It is unbiblical to remain in a federation of churches where synod ascribes to itself and to its declarations more power and authority than to the Word of God (Belgic Confession 5, 7, 29, 32). It has now become evident that withdrawal from the CRC should occur. It appears that withdrawal will be a prolonged process or development, rather than an immediate and large-scale event. Some churches are well in advance of others and are prepared to act now -indeed, some have already acted. Other churches are only beginning to consider what action they must take and are far from being ready to act immediately. In the light of this fragmented and variegated situation, we remind everyone individually and all the churches generally of the duty laid upon us all by the apostle Paul: “Keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”
Church members should exercise all due forbearance in the local congregation, and strive as much as possible to act in concert with fellow believers. Churches that are prepared to act now should not condemn those churches that are not so prepared, and those churches that remain in the CRC for the time being should not condemn or join in condemning those churches that withdraw. In this way the door will remain open to future development of a united Reformed witness and much hurt and harm that might otherwise be inflicted upon like-minded brethren may be prevented.
The above statement makes clear that the question of withdrawal from the CRC among Alliance members is no longer a question of “if” that ought to be done, but is now a question of “when” that ought to be done.
The Alliance also changed its name from: Nan association of Christian Reformed councils who are united in an effort to give effective testimony to God’s truth within the CRC. . .” to “an association of churches that are united to give testimony to the truth of the Word of God as it is set forth in the historic Reformed Creeds. . . .” Among the reasons for the change is the desire on the part of the Alliance to stay in contact with and preserve unity among those congregations which have already left the denomination and those who are in the process of leaving. The Alliance also desires closer contacts with other Reformed and Presbyterian denominations.
The Alliance consciously declined to define its identity and purpose in terms of denominational categories. Participants in the Alliance want to avoid unbiblical independentism. Also we are told a “sense developed during the Alliance meeting that member councils and congregations are facing something much larger than a denominational squabble, and therefore that their response should be broader than the formation of yet another Reformed denomination.” Alliance churches are aware of the fact that the enemies and heresies attacking the Reformed faith are not restricted to one or a few denominations. For this reason the Alliance will be calling together a Confessional Conference of its member churches and other Reformed and Presbyterian denominations for the purpose: “first, to identify those truths that unite us; second, to isolate and discuss those convictions and practices that distinguish us from one another; and third, to forge on the basis of shared biblical conviction a polity and structure flexible enough to span whatever distances remain.” Some of the denominations which will be asked to participate in this conference are: Free Reformed, Canadian Reformed, Protestant Reformed, Orthodox Christian Reformed, and Orthodox Presbyterian.
Whether our Synod would accept an invitation to participate in such a Conference remains to be seen. Certainly our churches have always been eager to seek to promote the unity of the church of Jesus Christ. The Preamble to the constitution of our Committee for Contact With Other Churches in part reads: “The Protestant Reformed Churches in America, in obedience to Scripture as interpreted in our Three Forms of Unity, confess that there is one holy, catholic Church. They believe, further, that it is their sacred duty to manifest the true unity and catholicity of the Church on earth in as far as that is possible, not only in their denominational fellowship but also in conjunction with all churches which have obtained like precious faith with us, both domestic and foreign.” (Acts of Synod, 1972; Art. 157, Suppl. XXXVII)
This issue, or rather we should say, the failure to embrace the biblical teaching on this issue, continues to plague many churches. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, who favors the ordination of homosexuals, in spite of the fact that he was running unopposed failed to get the two thirds vote needed for the presidency of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
A fifty-five page document, “Human Sexuality and the Christian Faith,” was recently issued by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The document urges readers to examine with can open mind different views about marriage, promiscuity, and homosexuality. It asks whether heterosexual marriage is the only setting where a healthy sexual relationship can occur. At its core, according to one observer, the document questions biblical passages concerning homosexuality and suggests that scriptural references to same-sex relationships need to be re-interpreted in light of modern theories about sexual orientation. The document also challenges ELCA members to evaluate prejudices against homosexuals, insisting that “what we personally find offensive is not necessarily sinful.”
Here is one more glaring example of how the churches of our day accommodate themselves to the changing mores of the world. What the church ought to be doing is preaching the clear truth of Holy Scripture’s condemnation of homosexuality, and calling these people and those who support them to repentance from this terrible sin and to faith in Christ Jesus.
The Church Herald
National & International Religion Report