Ecumenical Groups

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.

Protestant—53.1%—60,263,352

Roman Catholic—36.1%—40,871,302

Jewish—4.9%—5,500,000

Others—5.9%—9,973,099

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:

Adventists—348,470 

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 

Salvation Army—253,061 

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

Total—22,161,953

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 

Evangel Church—2,000 

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

Other Conventions—26,200

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 

Total—1,163,845

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.

—H. Hanko