“A historic ‘first’ in ecumenical adventure took place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, August 28-30 that may hopefully be the beginning of similar ventures throughout the nation.” (The Banner, Oct. 6, 1972)
“Ecumenical history was made here this week when that strolling religious troubadour, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, paced in front of Catholic, Missouri Synod Lutheran and Christian Reformed educators at the Civic Auditorium.” (The Grand Rapids Press, Sept. 2, 1972)
To what do these glowing statements refer?
To MANSEC, Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools Educational Conference. This was a conference of educators from Roman Catholic, Missouri Lutheran, and National Union of Christian Schools personnel, the latter, of course, being chiefly Christian Reformed. Attendance on the part of teachers from at least some National Union schools was compulsory.
As the above quotations indicate, this Conference was hailed in both the secular press and in the Banner as a great thing, and, although it was an educational, not an ecclesiastical, conference, as a commendable venture in ecumenicity. The report in the Banner was accompanied by pictures which obviously purposed to portray the ecumenical spirit—even one of Mr. Ivan Zylstra, an official of the National Union of Christian Schools arm-in-arm with Bishop Sheen!
I call it ecumenism, with the emphasis on the ISM!
An unholy alliance!
A shameful reflection on our forefathers who founded our Christian Schools and who sacrificed for the sake of Reformed, covenantal, distinctive, antithetical education!
Something which ought, without much reflection, to offend the sensibilities of any right-minded Christian School man!
How is the gold of the Christian school movement become dim!
My parents gave me a Christian school education. And although even at that time the education was not all that was to be desired from a Protestant Reformed viewpoint, (there were no Protestant Reformed Christian Schools as yet), it was by-and-large a good Christian education. But neither they nor, I dare say, almost all Christian school supporters ever envisioned that the Christian school movement would arrive at such a sad estate as this, and so swiftly!
I will not comment on the possible motives of a movement like this, though I sometimes wonder if the motive is simply an insatiable desire to be big, to count in this world. I know not; I cannot understand it. I do know that the motive cannot possibly be good. Things like this simply do not arise out of good motives.
I will not comment on the fact that this is the same notorious organization that campaigned so strenuously in Michigan for the almighty dollar of parochiaid, although let it be said that there were strong overtones of this same desire for some form of parochiaid at this conference.
But I do wish to point out some fundamental wrongs, briefly.
In the first place, and from the formal point of view, the organization is wrong, unholy. It is a making of common cause with Roman Catholics and Lutherans on a broad common denominator, and a negative one, besides. This is an organization of non-public schools. Perhaps you ask what is wrong with that. Is it not true? I answer: it is negative, purely negative. This is already bad in itself. How can you properly form an organization on a pure negation? But there is more. This negative is not innocent. It involves the ignoring of and a denial of a fundamental principle of education. Surely, we do not believe in public education, that is, in the principle that it is the government’s duty to educate our children. This is not Biblical. But neither do we believe, as do Roman Catholics and Lutherans, in parochial education, that is, that it is the business of the church to educate our children. This also is not Biblical. We believe in parental education, that is, that it is the God-given calling of covenant parents to educate their God-given children in the fear of the Lord. I am afraid that even we tend to forget this too much, and to think that we can palm, off the duty of education on a school board or a staff of teachers; the latter kind of thinking is to be classed as a sort of belief in private education, not parental education. We must hold on, in a very real sense, to this sacred principle of the parental calling and the parental responsibility of education; and we must keep our schools answerable to the parents only, and keep our servants, the teachers, and our servants, the school board, wholly and strictly answerable to the parents.
But this is the very Biblical principle which is ignored and denied by MANSEC. One becomes involved with those who want parochial education, which is not Biblical any more than is public education; and one necessarily becomes involved in helping the cause of parochial education.
Someone will say, perhaps: but is it not good to work for what is called a pluralistic educational arrangement—one in which we have all kinds of schools? My answer is: not at all! I am for Christian, parental education, period. And I am against all other kinds as being contrary to Scripture.
Even as far as its formal, organizational principle is concerned, MANSEC constituted an unholy alliance—an attempted union of right and wrong, of light and darkness, of Biblical and unbiblical principles, which could only be at the expense of the right.
And materially, that is, as far as the substance of the conference was concerned, matters were even worse. In all the reports which. I read, I failed to find anything good; and I found much that ought to be an offense to anyone who calls himself Reformed and a son of the Reformation. In fact, one hardly knows where to begin with recounting the evils.
Can you feature “Catholic sisters in a variety of habits and white-collared priests (joining) Christian school teachers and administrators of Protestant persuasion in rousing renditions of ‘Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still'”? Is it not ecumenical hypocrisy that cries to the Lord of the church?
Could you give silent assent while a Roman Catholic prelate declaimed, “Our common interest in religious education is not to be penalized for believing in God. It is our common love for the Lord that draws us together”?
Can you feature one who is supposed to be a representative of the Reformed faith (Editor DeKoster of the Banner) blatantly denying man’s loss of the image of God, and blandly saying to an audience which included Roman Catholic Semi-Pelagians (who, of course, would accept this with relish) such things as the following? “Whatever race, creed or color has the flesh of Adam, shares the image of God. It is the church (Which one, that of Rome or that of our fathers? HCH) and the church’s schools that have stood for this in all centuries of the church’s existence. God and man rise or fall together. This first convention, whether we meant it or not, has as its scope the hope of the world.”
Can you imagine an audience which includes Reformed educators being enthralled at such oratory as this from the mouth of Bishop Sheen: “Nonpublic education is the savior of this country”?
Can you imagine this mixed body of conventioneers ignoring the past, ignoring their respective positions, ignoring (in the case of Reformed and Lutherans) their blood-bought heritage, and singing as though there were never any Reformation-struggle, “And we’ll work with each other, We will work side by side . . . And they’ll know we are Christians by our love”?
Can you feature Reformed educators being edified by Roman Catholic liturgical dancers performing an interpretive dance of the story of Ezekiel’s Dry Bones? Or a dance group presenting Jesus Christ Superstar for the benefit of Reformed, Christian educators? Or “Jesus Is Just All Right” or “Day by Day” from Godspell? Or fifty excerpts of songs by the Beatles, followed by fifty excerpts of Bob Dylan?
All this in the name of Christian and Reformed education?
One is inclined to ask whether the leaders who prepared all this in the name of Christian education have lost their bearings altogether.
It is appalling.
The very thought of all this is nauseating.
Permit me an application.
Number 1. Recently the Northwest Iowa Chapter of Reformed Fellowship issued a Testimony Concerning the Promotion of Christian Education which has been published by various religious journals. On the whole, it is not a bad testimony. But in the light of the above sample of what the Christian education of the National Union Schools is, the testimony is completely unrealistic. They should instead issue a testimony to start anew, to re-establish a system of Reformed education. There is no sound reason to urge parents to support the kind of Christian education that can go to the extremes manifested by MANSEC and praised so highly by the Banner. And I make bold to say that there is no reason to hope and expect that such a brand of Christian education will survive. It has a built-in self-destruct mechanism—world conformity.
Number 2. Where our people have the opportunity to send their children to our Protestant Reformed Christian Schools, I believe it is a dirty shame and a grave wrong deliberately to reject that opportunity and deliberately to expose their covenant children to the evil influences which they must expect from National Union Schools. And I feel sorry for their children who are the victims.
Number 3. Wherever the Lord makes it possible, we must continue to establish and maintain our own schools even at the cost of great financial sacrifice.
Number 4. We must be constantly on the alert, lest similar leveling, antithesis-denying influences be allowed to creep into our own thinking and our own schools.
Number 5. When I think of tendencies such as those of MANSEC and when I become acquainted, through student witnesses, with the kind of college training that is available to our young people today, I become increasingly convinced that we must begin to think in terms of providing Protestant Reformed higher education. A visionary’s dream, you say? I would rather be a visionary than an ostrich. And there is a choice!