During the past summer, various of the councils of churches held their meetings—this time in the continent of Africa. Both the World Council of Churches and the International Council of Christian Churches (of which Dr. Carl McIntire is head) met in Nairobi, Kenya, in Africa. The Reformed Ecumenical Synod also met in Africa—but in Cape Town, South Africa. These meetings are scheduled in such locations because of the growing political power of the “third world” nations.
Perhaps at some future date we can present summaries of what was decided at these various meetings. For now, I would call your attention to the reaction of one man to what he saw and heard at one of these meetings: that of the W.C.C. in Nairobi.
In the Presbyterian Journal of Aug. 18, 1976, andEvangelical Action from Australia, a certain Dr. Byang H. Kato, General Secretary of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (who drowned shortly after this report was given) reports his impressions as an observer. He writes:
The Fifth WCC Assembly at Nairobi was more like a meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) or some other economic or political meeting than a Christian meeting . . . .
This is not to say it had no Christian touch to if, no mention of the name of Jesus Christ, or that there were no Christians there. Many outstanding evangelical Christians attended. However, the meeting had very little spiritual expression. I don’t remember any time when the sessions were either opened or closed with prayer. Prayer was offered only in the form of a written document. Although worship should have been an integral part of the whole Assembly, it was unnoticeable. Even the sessions set aside for “worship” were of such dubious quality that it was hard to see the lesson being conveyed.
For example, the United Bible Societies took the first session of morning worship, presenting in music and drama the parable of the prodigal son who later found his way home. This parable, meant to teach the lostness of man in regard to salvation, implied instead that those outside the ecumenical movement were the lost son. Perhaps it was my failure, but I do not believe our Lord’s simple picture story was intended to be so difficult that only a genius could understand. . . .
. . . At one place in the conference center where a long display board was mounted, people were allowed to write whatever they wished. Somebody wrote: “I have heard women’s liberation and liberation from oppression. What about liberation from sin? I haven’t heard it yet!” . . . .
. . . The Assembly had an admirable theme, “Jesus Christ Frees and Unites.” Spiritually concerned Africans exercised the caution of wait and see. Other African participants had on their agenda the primary goal of drawing the Assembly’s attention to the question of the liberation on the continent.
At youth congresses in Arusha, Tanzania, and Limuru, Kenya, several proposals were drawn up for the Assembly, but none of the proposals showed concern for evangelism. The WCC spent lengthy hours every day dealing with every conceivable problem of man anywhere—with hardly a reference to sin as man’s fundamental dilemma . . . .
The “mission” of the WCC is clearly secular and seems to be highly political. The political emphasis at the Assembly was leftist. After sitting through the Assembly, I came out feeling it would take a miracle to save most African countries from Communism. The stage is all set.
Things mentioned in the book of Revelation may be near at hand, though I realize we cannot be dogmatic about this. The marriage between the political and ecclesiastical systems seems very likely in our own age . . . .
. . . The effort for unity was not only for the unity of Christians. The documents that were prepared in advance for Nairobi indicated that there was a search for a common humanity, a search for human unity. And it was evident at this Assembly, because when the leaders gathered there, it was not only church leaders—not only Protestants, Orthodox, and Roman Catholics, but beyond Christendom as well. One day, in the discussion on “Seeking Community,” there were seated on the platform not only Christian leaders, but there was a Sikh, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, and this Jewish Rabbi. They were all involved in the discussion. There was a big applause, because we were at last successful in bringing these non-Christians to sit with us and share in the effort for unity.
The report contains much more which indicates the trend of the W.C.C. to be in the direction of an antichristian world religion and world power. That this is the case is not surprising. What is disturbing is that so-called evangelicals can continue to tell themselves that they can function in and with the W.C.C. and make their “good” influence felt. At best, this is nothing else than an attempt to unite light and darkness.
The Christian Reformed Synod of this past June was confronted with an appeal from Dutton (Mich.) Christian Reformed Church against a decision of Classis Grand Rapids East in approving Dr. Allen Verhey for ordination at its meeting of Sept. 18, 1975. It seems that Dr. Verhey (who has now been ordained and is presently teaching at Hope College) made two statements in his examination which met with strong disapproval of some at the Classis. According to the Dutton appeal, Dr. Verhey “plainly stated in his examination that he did not believe that the serpent spoke to Eve as reported in Genesis 3 and that he believed that the earthquake reported in Matthew 28:2 should be understood as an eschatological symbol and not necessarily as a fact.” Nevertheless, Classis approved the examination and the synodical deputies representing neighboring classes also approved—though with advice that Verhey be dealt with pastorally by his consistory (Neland Ave. C.R.C.).
The Synod, in effect, rejected the appeal of Dutton. It refused to judge the errors presented but .insisted that Dutton did not follow proper procedure in dealing with this case. Rather the Synod advised Dutton: “. . . if they remain convinced that the position of Dr. Verhey brings him into conflict with the confessions they must follow the procedures outlined in the Form of Subscription and the Church Order.”
Without considering the merit. or error of the decision, I would quote just a few of the reactions within the CRC to the entire incident. Dr. Leonard Greenway, one of the Synodical deputies which approved the final examination, writes in the September 1976 Outlook:
It is regrettable that in all the discussion that has ensued following the action of Classis last September relatively little recognition has been given to the many important elements in the doctrinal examination of Dr. Verhey where his answers were very acceptable . . . .
The area where Dr. Verhey’s answers provoked lengthy discussion was in Hermeneutics and specifically his interpretation of the speaking serpent in
and the earthquake reported in
Here Dr. Verhey adopted a less than literal interpretation and confused us by suggesting that we were asking the wrong questions. . . .
The synodical deputies were led to conclude that brother Verhey in his application of hermeneutical principles was involving himself in ambiguities . . . . The synodical deputies felt that here was a restricted and localized matter that could be taken care of by Dr. Verhey’s consistory without delaying the plans for his ordination . . . .
One wonders to how many “ambiguities” of this nature a candidate is entitled before he would be refused the privilege of being ordained into the ministry. Editor DeKoster in the Banner (Sept. 10, 1976) writes:
The Candidate said, apparently, that Moses and St. Matthew need not be taken literally. For that he was long detained in his candidate’s examination, and the subject of a protest carried all the way to Synod . . . .
But what did the Candidate say that had not already been paralleled by a Synodical study committee (indeed said, in effect, by two Synodical study committees—the other reporting in 1973), namely, that what the Bible says very plainly, and quite liter ally, in the Epistles to Corinth and to Timothy, need not be taken literally? A committee’s “meat” is a Candidate’s “poison”? . . .
So that there may be no mistake about it, I probably should recall that I argued here that both of those study committees were mistaken, and I think that the views attributed to the Candidate are likewise in error.
Nonetheless, it seems to me that either the Church hereafter owes such study committees a Motherly admonition, or its newly ordained Minister an apology. There cannot be one standard for the “scholar”, and another for the pulpit!
The Association of Christian Reformed Laymen in their Bulletin of Aug. 1976 present a far more serious charge, one, it seems to me, they cannot maintain while remaining within the denomination. One can understand some of their frustrations, but their conclusions are too serious to allow them to remain within the fold, for they accuse of “treason” and “irrevocable” decisions of their Synod. They write:
Synod “baits” Dutton by reminding them that IF they remain convinced that the position of Dr. Verhey brings him in conflict with the confessions, then they must follow the procedures outlined in the Form of Subscription and the Church Order. As one of our retired ministers recently said, “The way of appeal is now the road to oblivion.” How true it is. Decisions of this kind are by the nature of the case irrevocable. Synod has committed treason to the Lord Who has given His life for us. We hope and pray that all local consistories, which by way of Scripture and the Church Order are the center of all authority in the CRC, consider the action of synod as not settled and binding for them and take united action to rescind this decision and in the meantime deny Dr. Verhey access to their pulpits. We know this is speaking plainly, and it saddens us that it must be so, but the CRC is espousing two entirely different religions. If one decides for one, he decides against the other.