Church Union

Church Union

Some time ago we reported that negotiations were at present underway toward the eventual union of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (The Southern Presbyterian Church) and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

In the latest number of the “Southern Presbyterian Journal” the proposed plan of union is set forth, which will be considered by their respective Synods this year.

It must be remembered of course that the things which separated these two groups lie far back in history. Their original separation lies in the background of the old continent. These were carried over into the new world but to a large extent lost their point, especially as much of it concerned government interference with church procedure, etc. During the separate history of the Southern Presbyterian Church they have absorbed several segments of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Churches. Today the one difference seems to be the stand of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church that only Psalms may be sung in the worship services while the use of hymns is almost universal in the Southern Presbyterian Church.

Rather interesting in these days of doctrinal indifference and lack of dogmatic basis in the union movement is the “creedal statement” in the “Proposed Plan of Union”.

We quote:

“1. The doctrinal standards held in common by these two Churches, namely, the Westminster Confession of Faith, as revised by the Presbyterian Church of the United States, the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism, shall be the doctrinal standards of the United Church.

“2. These standards are to be interpreted in their natural and obvious meaning, and no one shall be ordained to teach or preach in the United Church who cannot give an unqualified assent to the doctrinal system contained in these standards.

“3. The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in the United States shall be the basis of government, worship and discipline, in the united Church.

“4. In the ordinance of praise it is agreed that while the Psalms of the Bible are accredited for permanent use, other forms of hymns true to the spirit and teaching of Scripture are properly employed. Each congregation in the united body shall be allowed the same liberty which it now enjoys in the matter of congregational singing. It is hoped that in the next Manual of Praise issued by the united Church a considerable number of Psalms may be included.”

Interesting also is the matter of Church Property, especially interesting because it is now an issue in the Southern Presbyterian Church which is agitated with the question of union with the Northern Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in the USA).

We quote:

“Any particular congregation which belongs to the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church prior to the proposed union may determine by means of a duly called congregational meeting to dissent and remain outside of the United Church. Proper notice of such meetings shall be given publicly from the pulpit of such a congregation at regular services of worship on two successive Lord’s Days and by the mailing of a notice of the meeting, stating its purpose, to all communicant members of the congregation not less than fifteen days prior to the date of meeting. One-third of the communicant members of the congregation shall constitute a quorum for such a meeting, and only communicant members present shall be entitled to vote. The question shall be put: ‘Shall this congregation dissent from the Union of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in the United States?’ The vote shall then be taken by secret ballot, and a two-thirds majority of all members present shall be required to dissent from the union. . . . Insofar as any claim to ownership of local church property by the General Synod is concerned, congregations so dissenting from the Union shall retain or receive from the General Synod by deed of gift, ownership and custody of their property. . . .

From Here and There

Some time ago we informed you that a suit was being brought in Federal Court against the University of Minnesota charging that by maintaining a Divinity Faculty in the university it was violating the principle of the separation of Church and State. The Federal department of justice has notified the atheist who requested the suit that it does not plan to take criminal action against the University of Minnesota on his complaint, maintaining that the McCollum case and this are not sufficiently similar to warrant institution of proceedings on the authority of that case. It is intended to bring the civil suit however.

The Dutch Reformed Church in the Transvaal has voted to join the World Council of Churches and has asked other Dutch Reformed synods in South Africa to do likewise. How it is possible for this church to be member of the thoroughly modern World Council and of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod at the same time is hard to imagine.

The Church Today?

“The Northwest United Protestant Church here, which is sponsored by the Disciples of Christ, has just completed its social hall—the first of a group of four buildings which will cost an estimated $250,000. The completed unit contains a large hall for social gatherings with a stage for plays, a modern kitchen, lavatories, a parlor and a basement. A unique feature is an outdoor patio, with a fireplace and barbeque pit.” (I wonder if there is an auditorium and a pulpit—JH?)

The Reformed Witness

In an article in which he opposes the present Christian Reformed stand on membership in the NAE, Rev. George Stob gives a beautiful expression of the calling of the church in this world. We quote it not to mingle in the debate which he enters but for its beauty and its application for every child of God:

“Let it be said again and again that the heart of our calling to the American world is to bring to it the power of a full and undiluted Reformed witness. We can scarcely in good conscience unite for that purpose with those who do not share our Reformed convictions.

“It is said that we face the Goliaths of Secularism and Modernism. And we are small.

“But we do not increase either size or strength by taking the armor and the sword of Saul. They do not fit us. They hinder our freedom, limit our movement.

“You are little, David.

“Well, then, take your littleness, and your simple weapons; and enlarge yourself with a clear witness, courageous decision, and faith in God.

“Then go, and fight the Goliaths of Modernism, Catholicism, Communism, Secularism.

“You will find that you are not alone. . .

Whither?

Interesting, to say the least, is the debate that is going on at present in the Christian Reformed Churches regarding the status of Calvin College. Also for us, this is important, at. least in as far as many of our young people avail themselves of the opportunity of studying there.

This struggle is by no means new—I mean the debate which centers in the question whether the church has the right to maintain a college. This is again brought to the fore by the recent agitation over a Christian University and its relation to Calvin College.

Interesting are some of the questions raised. In the first place the basic question of jurisdiction. Many are that maintain that in so doing the church steps outside her own domain. Some rather pointedly call to mind the recent agitation over political and social views and insist again that the church does not have the mandate nor the right to judge and evaluate such conceptions—that it shows clearly that the whole matter is out of order.

But on the other side are those who, while maintaining the possibility of a Church-supported college, find their greatest support in the accomplished fact and in the financial situation.

Entirely apart from the question involved or its final settlement I believe we find here something of value in many problems. We see how difficult it is for even principle to win over an accomplished fact and we see the power of the utilitarian argument.