As most of our readers know, the last Synod of our Churches decided to send to Jamaica two men from our Churches to investigate that field. There was a history of correspondence between men in Jamaica and our Mission Committee which led up to this decision of Synod. Perhaps most of our people also know by this time that the Mission Committee decided to send two laymen to Jamaica to do this investigative work. The laymen asked to go were Mr. H. Zwak from our Hudsonville congregation and Mr. H. Meulenberg from our First Church. Both men are members of the Mission Committee. These brethren went to Jamaica in August and having now returned, have presented their report to the Mission Committee. While many people in the Grand Rapids area will hear of their experiences at the Mission Emphasis Night Program sponsored by our young people, the Mission Committee decided to publish their report in ourStandard Bearer for the benefit of all our people.
The report follows:
This is a report on our labors in Jamaica. We left Grand Rapids August 13 and arrived in Jamaica August 17. Evangelists G. R. Dixon and W. Tennant failed to recognize us as we landed at Montigo Bay Airport, making it rather difficult for us to locate the other brethren who had written us. However, after having rented a car from Hertz, we proceeded to Montigo Bay and, inquiring there, we left for Lucea, the town nearest to the churches we had to visit. In Lucea we met Rev. K. Thompson who took us up to his place of worship.
One thing soon became apparent to us, and will weigh heavily in any recommendations we may make. These people are very poor, living in the hills almost isolated from any normal transportation. Some of these churches are built on top of the mountains and can be reached only by foot.
Secondly, the ministers of these churches, with the exception of Rev. Frame and Rev. Thompson, are not ordained men and have had very little education. We met with these ministers and their congregations separately and in groups. Also we called a conference of ministers to meet with us on Tuesday, August 21. Besides the ministers, about 50 members of the various churches met with us that day. Your committee explained to them the doctrine and stand of our churches as well as the form of worship. As far as the doctrine is concerned, they seemed to agree with us. However, in the matter of the form of worship we are quite far apart. Much training and guidance is needed to change them in their habits of revivalist worship. Of one thing we are convinced and that is their sincerity. Spiritually they are very active.
As far as we could determine, they live a good moral and spiritual life, and they long to become one with us. Matter of fact, they begged us to accept them as members in the Protestant Reformed Churches. With all these facts before us we recommend
1) That financial help be given these churches in the form of clothing, etc.
2) That printed material such as pamphlets, Sunday School papers and whatever else can be sent to help instruct them in the truth of the Word of God.
3) We further recommend that in the near future some one be sent to instruct these ministers and evangelists in the Protestant Reformed truth and in the form of worship as it is practiced in our churches.
There are very few remarks which are necessary to make at this time. Yet the following will be of interest:
1) The first proposal of the committee was accepted by the Mission Committee. The diaconate of First Church is being asked to take charge of this matter of helping with clothing. They will undoubtedly contact our other diaconates.
2) The second proposal was also adopted and placed in the hands of a committee for execution.
3) The third proposal was tabled. It will be discussed further at a meeting of the Mission Committee to be held the first part of November.
4) Mr. Zwak and Mr. Meulenberg have indicated their willingness to speak to other groups in our Churches about their experiences as well as to show pictures which they took on the island. They both work however, and arrangements will have to be made with them as to the best time available to come.
Whether or not the Lord is opening a door for us as Churches; whether there is work to do there; or whether we have the men available are still matters to be decided. We commit the needs of our mission labors to the prayers of our people
If in this column we spend an extraordinary amount of time discussing the ecumenical movements of our day, it is only because these movements dominate the religious news of our times. Nor are these movements without their importance for the Church of Christ. Ecumenicism is the clearest sign of the return of Christ in the Church; it is a movement that commands insistently the attention of believers who are called to “redeem the times.”
Three items recently appearing in the news are of interest.
The first item of importance concerns the meeting of the Fifth Plenary Congress of the International Council of Christian Churches (ICCC) which met in Amsterdam, Netherlands last August. This is another of the large associations of Churches. It has as its president Dr. Carl McIntire, well-known to many across the country through his daily radio broadcasts. The ICCC claims in its membership Churches from 53 different denominations and has affiliated bodies and regional councils on five continents. It is an out-spoken foe of the World Council of Churches, of Communism and of Roman Catholicism. It claims, in distinction from the other ecumenical bodies, to represent the true and evangelical gospel of Jesus Christ.
Its character can be at least in part determined by some of the decisions that were reached and some of the speeches that were given at its last meeting. These include a condemnation of the Blake-Pike proposal—the proposal to merge into one denomination in the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church, The Episcopal Church and the Methodist Church. It also condemned the invitation of the Pope sect to certain Protestant bodies to attend the Vatican Council; it condemned the Russian blasphemies of denying God in connection with their space feats; it condemned the attempts of some to deny the infallibility of Scripture; and it condemned the actions of the World Council of Churches particularly in admitting the Russian Churches. It would be interesting to discover what the doctrinal basis and stated purpose of this organization is. It is a movement that is attracting more and more attention. It bears watching.
The second item is a report in Time which speaks of objections which Methodists have to the proposed merger between the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ and the Methodists. The Methodists are the largest denomination involved numbering about 10,000,000 members; they are also the strongest dissenters. Strikingly, none of the quoted objections involve questions of doctrine but deal, for the most part with comparatively trivial matters. For example, according to Time:
One bishop objected: “Methodists have the least enthusiasm, and with good reason. We’re strong; what do we need ?”
Another objected to the Episcopalian view of the apostolic succession of bishops. This is a view of the Episcopalians which is closely akin to Roman Catholic teaching. The Episcopalians teach that all ministers must be ordained by a bishop who himself was consecrated in the line of succession from the time of Christ’s apostles. The Methodists deny this unbroken chain of succession.
Another objected to the fact that Methodists are against drinking, while Episcopalians believe in moderation.
Another said, “I have no doubt that churches and denominations can be too small to function effectively in the world. I am just as sure that they can be too big, and I suggest that 20,000,000 members may be too big. If I could cast one vote which would make all Christians Methodists, I would not cast the vote.”
Yet another made the distinction between unity (which he favored) and union (which he opposed). He found the strength of Protestantism in their division and differences of opinion.
In all this there is no mention of the marks of the true Church: the pure preaching, m of the Word, the administration of the sacraments and the exercise of Christian discipline. Objections of the kind mentioned above mean nothing—a Church with so little principle could just as well merge with the others. It makes no difference either way.
The third item concerns an article appearing in a Roman Catholic paper entitled Friar. The article is entitled “Ecumenism Is Fine, But Friendship Is Better.” The author points out first that the Catholic Church is the only unified Church over against the endless splitting of Protestantism. He writes:
Of the billion or so Christians in the world, more than half are Roman Catholics, about a third are Protestants of various kinds and the remaining sixth are Orthodox. Of these three groups, only we Romans are monolithic—that is undivided. Orthodoxy is split along national lines. Protestantism is the major group that is split, fragmented, shattered and sliced to a fare-thee-well.
He finds the greatest issue that divides the issue of the primacy of the Pope. With a silly choice of words that so often characterizes Roman Catholic writings he says
Protestants in general have more important agreements with us than differences. We all accept the divinity of Christ, the triune God and the legitimacy of the Bible as revelation. It is not oversimplification to say that most of our points of difference can be reduced to one: the primacy of the Pope. If the Pope can be accepted as the legitimate successor of Peter, on whom Christ founded His Church, all else follows. We and the Protestants are wedded in Christ, our separation is mostly an argument over who’s boss in the family.
He then goes on to argue that any future merger will only be successful to the extent that the common people and not the leaders work towards being friendly towards each other. The more that common people seek each others’ fellowship and strive to be charitable on the level of local and every day relationships (such as viewing each others’ Church buildings—although not attending services, working in local charities, schools and government together, playing poker together in local parishes—not parish sponsored, meeting in discussion groups) the more quickly will union come.
He claims that many large Protestant bodies have made overtures towards seeking closer fellowship with the Roman Catholic Church, but the real hope of union lies in a “grassroots” movement that will grow to a rushing stream—a movement that will bring Protestants to Roman Catholic fellowship. With monumental conceit he writes:
There is, then, a great ferment in Christianity, a relaxing of stiff backs, a seeking for common denominators. On the part of all save one of the major parties there seems to be a disposition to compromise. Orthodoxy may well become one in the fullness of time, and Protestantism may slowly crawl back from the limb to the tree that is Christ. Only the Roman Catholic Church will stay where it is, on orders from above.
It may be hundreds of years before our brothers the Protestants come home to Rome. Whatever the time required, the final homecoming will occur when Protestants are made to realize that they are simply rejoining friends after an absence somewhat longer than anticipated.
The author of this article may be correct in his predictions that all the Church world will some day be one again. But he may be sure of one thing—the true Church of Jesus Christ will have absolutely no part of it at all!