In the latest issue of Christianity Today there appeared a rather lengthy description of all the large ecumenical groups in America. This was given in connection with a discussion of the meeting of the World Council Of Churches (W.C.C.) which began its meetings November 18 and continues meeting until December 6 in New Delhi, India. Some of the figures and descriptions are of considerable interest. First of all there is a breakdown of all the religious bodies in the United States.
The “Others” in the above list include such groups as the Christian Scientists, the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Unitarians, etc.
As far as the ecumenical line-up of the Protestant Churches is concerned, it is interesting to note that the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (N.C.C.) has 62.5% of all Protestants within its organization. This totals 39,702,101 members. All other ecumenical bodies have 37.5% or 23,865,952 members. The main groups within the N.C.C. are Baptists, Church of the Brethren, Disciples Of Christ, Eastern Churches, Evangelical United Brethren Church, Friends, Lutheran Churches, Methodist Churches, Moravian Churches, Polish National Catholic Church of America, Presbyterian Churches (including the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.), Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Reformed Churches (including the Hungarian Reformed Church in America and the Reformed Church in America), the United Church of Christ.
The other ecumenical organizations are the National Association of Evangelicals (N.A.E.), and the American Council of Christian Churches (A.C.C.C.). There are several groups of Churches that have no membership in any ecumenical organization. A list of these churches that belong to these groups is interesting.
Membership of Non-Aligned Religious Bodies:
American Baptist Association—647,800
American Lutheran Church—2,194,505
Christian Reformed Church—236,145
Church of God—135,294
Church of God in Christ—382,679
Church of the Nazarene—300,771
Churches of Christ—2,007,650
Conservative Baptist Association of America—275,000
Eastern Church bodies—409,962
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod—2,304,962
North America Baptist Association—330,265
Southern Baptist Association—9,485.276
United Free Will Baptist Church—100,000
United Pentecostal Church—160,000
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church—342,993
Religious bodies with less than 100,000 members—2,247,120
Member Denominations of N.A.E. (The N.A.E. is not a centralized organization, but claims a service constituency of 10,000,000 through. its affiliated agencies):
Anchor Bay Evangelistic Association—3,500
Assemblies of God—505,703
Association of Fundamental Ministers and Churches—1,000
Brethren in Christ—6,698
Christian Church of North America—20,000
Church by the Side of the Road—2,000
Church of God—162,794
Church of the United Brethren in Christ—20,896
Churches of Christ in Christian Union—11,500
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference—5,000
Elim Missionary Assemblies—5,000
Evangelical Free Church—31,192
Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Church—2,536
Evangelical Mennonite Church—2,303
Evangelical Methodist Church—5,779
Free Methodist Church—55,568
Full Gospel Church Association—1,000
Grace Gospel Evangelistic Association—1,000
Holiness Methodist Church—1,000
International Church of the Foursquare Gospel—79,012
International Pentecostal Assemblies—5,000
Mennonite Brethren Church—13,160
Missionary Church Association—7,577
National Association of Free Will Baptists—200,000
New England Evangelical Baptist Fellowship—2,000
Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends—6,540
Open Bible Standard Churches—25,000
Oewfon Yearly Meeting of Friends—5,398
Pentecostal Church of Christ—1,199
Pentecostal Church of God—103,500
Pentecostal Holiness Church— 51,688
Primitive Methodist Church—14,613
Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America—6,214
Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting of Friends—1,300
United Fundamentalist Church—1,000
United Missionary Church—10,357
Wesleyan Methodist Church—43,392
Membership of Individually Affiliated Churches—150,00
Total: 38 denominations
Member Churches and Individuals of A.C.C.C.:
Bible Presbyterian Church Association—6,056
Bible Protestant Church—2,535
Congregational Methodist Church—14,272
Evangelical Methodist Church of America—25,614
General Association of Regular Baptist Churches—126,080
Independent Churches, Affiliated—14,100
Methodist Protestant Church—2,678
Militant Fundamental Bible Churches—1,268
Southern Methodist Church—5,275
Tioga River Christian Conference—2,969
United Christian Church—5,150
World Baptist Fellowship—68,000
Independent Baptist Bible Mission—5,510
Fundamental Methodist Church—1,073,
Membership of Individually Affiliated Churches—738,265
Members Affiliated as Individuals—145,000
Reading over the list and the total membership figures, one is amazed at the amount of small sects, splinter groups, minor assemblies that dot the church map. Nor can it be said that any of these religious bodies truly represent the church of Jesus Christ. Many of these groups have departed so far from the main-stream of the truth and the history of the Church that it is inconceivable that the Church interested in doctrinal purity could be a part of any of them. At one time the Christian Reformed Church was a member of the N.A.E., but withdrew several years ago. At the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in 1961 there were several overtures which petitioned Synod to join once again the N.A.E., but Synod wisely rejected them and chose to remain independent.
Turning now to the World Council of Churches: this group meeting in New Delhi is composed of church groups from all over the world. The American Churches, however, are represented in the W.C.C. mostly through the National Council of Churches.
This meeting of the W.C.C. is the third meeting. of the organization and is made up of 625 official delegates and about 375 advisers, consultants, observers, fraternal delegates and special guests. Some important items appearing on the agenda are:
1) Adoption of the theme which is “Jesus Christ, the Light of the World,” with sub-themes of “Witness,” “Service,” and “Unity.”
2) The proposal to integrate with the W.C.C. the International Missionary Council, to form the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism. Before the assembly even met plans were already being made for the new group to hold its first meeting two days after the W.C.C. assembly adjourns. Evidently the leaders are confident of passage.
3) A proposed change in the W.C.C.’s basis for membership. Previously this read: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches who accept Jesus Christ as God and Savior.” If the proposed amendment were adopted, this basis would read: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of Churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior, according to the Scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Evangelicals, on the whole, are strongly in favor of this proposed revision on the grounds that it is more explicit; others do not want it because it “could indicate a move toward creed making.”
4) An application for membership from the Russian Orthodox Church. There are sixteen observers present at the meeting; they will be seated with full voting rights should their application be accepted. There are many who favor their admission, and in fact, it is claimed that already there are enough votes to assure their acceptance. There is however one problem: there is also a Russian Orthodox Church in America. This church has in it many members that have escaped from Communism. They are very suspicious of the Russian Orthodox Church, claiming that it is a tool of the Communist leaders, that it is pretty much in line with Communist propaganda, and that the Red leaders intend to use the W.C.C., if membership should be granted, as a forum for the Communist line.
Another interesting fact of the meeting is that observers were invited from the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican accepted the invitation and sent five authorized observers. It was hoped that this would be a first step in more cordial relations with Rome, especially since it is possible that Rome will return the favor and invite observers from the W.C.C. to next year’s Vatican Council.
Even among evangelical people there were many doubts expressed about the worth of the meeting in New Delhi—worth as far as the true cause of Jesus Christ is concerned. It was noted that the American delegation of 160 members is dominated by liberals who deny the fundamental truths of Scripture, while the few conservative delegates are somewhat scorned, or at least looked upon with condescension. Others were concerned about the fact that several important meetings of the Council were closed to the public and to the press. Many wondered “how Christian leaders presuming to plot the course of church history dare to lock out their constituents from knowing how they arrive at their conclusions.”
Surely, upon reading all the material available relating to these ecumenical movements, one must face the question, What is the significance of all this for the Church of Jesus Christ? The answer can only be that it has no positive significance whatsoever. For the most part, if not entirely, the Church of Christ is entirely out of the picture. Even should some people of God be represented in the churches who send delegates to the council, their voice is stilled by the liberalism of their leaders. You can’t find Christ or His cause in any of these bodies. The significance is negative. The church world is apostatizing and ecumenicism is a large step toward greater apostasy. It is but a matter of time when a “super-church” will indeed be formed including all but the saints of God. But this “super-church” will no doubt be the right arm of the Anti-Christ.
Yet, and perhaps for this very reason, it is important that we who must redeem the times, watch closely the developments in the church world of today.