Sadly, in this issue devoted to the ecumenical spirit of the Reformation, it is necessary to consider another spirit among churches claiming this heritage. It is the spirit of apostasy foretold to come before the day of Christ (II Thess. 2:3). Although ecclesiastical, it is the spirit of this world, and of the Antichrist. Although religious, this spirit forsakes the truth in willful unbelief and disobedience. It is also an ecumenical spirit that unites its own in order to prophesy, cast out devils, and do many wonderful works in Jesus’ name (Matt. 7:22). But it is a false ecumenical spirit that rather works iniquity.
There is such a spirit at work in supposedly Calvinistic, Reformed, and Presbyterian churches. Nothing recent exemplifies this whorish, rogue spirit more than the formation of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). This occurred in June when 400 delegates from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) met at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI to merge their respective bodies under the new constitution of WCRC.
Formation of the WCRC is a significant ecumenical event. Official news releases bill it as “a new beginning… the world’s largest Reformed Protestant network,” and claim it will “usher in a new era of Reformed church history.”¹ The organization is massive. It unites some 80 million people in 230 denominations from 108 countries. Notable members from the USA are the CRC, RCA, United Church of Christ, and PCUSA. By its sheer size alone, the WCRC will be the de facto organization dictating the terms, agenda, discussions, concessions, and declarations of all future ecumenical moves by most Reformed churches.
The WCRC is thoroughly ecumenical. Its constitution lists only two purposes for its existence, both ecumenical in nature. The first is to unify member churches by such things as “broadening understanding…transforming churches into interdependent missional communities,” and promoting “full participation and partnership” of all members, ages, and genders. The second purpose is “to contribute to the ecumenical movement and the transformation of the world.”² The former purpose is intended to serve the latter, and more important, purpose. “This communion is for the sake of the world’s transformation,” WCRC officials declared.³
Regarding its ecumenical goal to unify member churches, WCRC deliberately calls itself a communion. WARC president Clifton Kirkpatrick declared, “We are at a defining moment for the Reformed tradition…. This is the time for us no longer to be an ‘alliance’ or ‘council,’ but truly to be a communion.”4 REC secretary Richard van Houten said, “communion is key to WCRC’s identity…it means we belong to each other.”5 This communion is the closest possible, sacramental union. “It points to a new form of working relationship,” said Setri Nyomi, secretary of WARC. “As a communion, we recognize our common baptism and togetherness at the Lord’s table, making us better witnesses and more effective in making a difference in the world.”6
WARC intends to enforce its communal table. Although it doesn’t want to be a denomination (it fears too much the bogey of denominationalism), neither does it want a loose-knit organization, because it is committed to “transforming members into interdependent missional communities.” Communion, however, requires that all members participate. Or else. According to the constitution, “member churches are expected to join in achieving the Aims and Purposes of the WCRC,” and the Executive Committee may suspend membership “for actions in violation of the Basis, Values, or Aims and Purposes.”7 Also, according to Peter Borgdorff, former director of the CRC and co-author of the new constitution, “Communion implies…member denominations will accept the ordination of each others’ clergy and respect the rites of each tradition.”8 Troubling, because the WCRC is officially committed to “ordination of women in all member churches,” and some are already clamoring for ordination of homosexuals.9
Although Reformed in name, and claiming to “embody a Reformed identity as articulated in the historic Reformed confessions,” the WCRC is a traitor to the Reformed faith.10 Homage is paid to John Calvin, but only to garnish his tomb (Matt. 23:29)—he would neither recognize their theology, nor approve of their purpose. Commitment to the Reformed confessions is mere lip service. One looks in vain for specific references to them, especially the great ecumenical standard of Reformed identity, the Canons. Rather, welcomed to the WCRC communion table are avowed enemies of the Canons like the Remonstrant Brotherhood, and the 2.3 million member PKN, which jettisoned the Reformed creeds in 2004, boasts of being a pluralistic church where all faiths are welcome, and approves of homosexual relationships, practices, and unions.11 The god WCRC serves bears no resemblance to Him confessed in the confessions either. He is sometimes she, a dysfunctional father-mother who loves all men as created [sic] image bearers, a son who died to save all men, and spirit that tries to unite them (especially through the WCRC). Like the golden calves of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin, the WCRC is an idol manufactured solely to solidify political power and accomplish a common mission (I Kings 12:26-28).
The false, anti-Reformed ecumenical spirit of the WCRC is most apparent in its second main purpose, “to contribute to the ecumenical movement and the transformation of the world.” This global transformation is neither spiritual salvation from the guilt and power of sin for all who believe in Jesus presented in the gospel, nor is it hope of the resurrection, and recreation of all things at His coming. It is the present physical formation of a peaceful, pleasurable, and permanent world-kingdom through social, economic, and ecological justice.
To accomplish this, the constitution calls members “to share their gifts…to respect, defend, and advance the dignity of every person…[so that] no one shall be disadvantaged for, among other reasons, race, ethnicity, or gender.”12 Not surprisingly section reports submitted to the General Council read more like special interest demands at a Democratic National Convention. The report on Gender Justice rails against patriarchy, systematic exclusion of women from office, and masculinity practices. 13 The Youth Empowerment report calls for youth to be appointed to executive positions.14 The Mission report calls for repentance of “mission praxis that disempower or dehumanize.”15 The Peace and Reconciliation report laments “the issue of lesbian and gay ordination tearing apart member churches” and calls for “reconciling relationships between the church and Indigenous people”—an issue highlighted by a pow-wow/church service in Ah- Nab-Awen Park with native drumming and dancing.16 There are reports on Climate Justice, Remodeling the Social Market, and Justice in the Economy. Only one on Reformed Identity and Theology. Finally, the Policy Committee recommends confirmation of the Accra Confession, a socialist-liberation theology document adopted by WARC in 1994, that demonizes the global, neoliberal capitalist empire and declares “global economic justice is essential to the integrity of our faith.”17
This ambitious kind of world transformation depends on developing ecumenical ties. High on the list is Rome. Although WCRC made no official declarations, its intentions are obvious. Its largest parent organization had completed three phases of discussions with the Vatican going back to 1970, and called members “to search together with their Roman Catholic brothers and sisters for the unity which Christ wills for his church…[and] reconsider traditional disagreements.” The Policy Committee urged discussion on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This document, adopted in 1999 by the Vatican and Lutheran World Federation, basically reduces the entire Reformation, with its resultant butchery of Protestants, to a big misunderstanding. Catholics and Lutherans “are now able to articulate a common understanding of our justification… and the remaining differences in its explication are no longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnations.” It appears WCRC wants in on the deal. When asked its most urgent tasks, one official responded the first was “go forward with inner-Christian dialogue…with the Lutheran World Federation and with the Roman Catholic Church.”18
Not surprising, the Pope sent “warm greetings” and “prayerful good wishes” to WCRC delegates. In a letter read by his representative, Pope Benedict commended them for “ecumenical progress” and said it “served as a sign of hope and encouragement.” Never questioning that this might signify his delight in possibly buying their Protestant birthright for a mess of popery, WARC delegates were giddy with the prospect of this suitor. Borgdorff declared, “This is really a welcome signal that the Vatican has taken interest in what we are doing.”19 President Jerry Pillay said it spoke volumes for the possibility of further interactions with the Pope.
This is the fine ecumenical work being done together in Jesus’ name today by the vast majority of Reformed churches. “Lord, Lord,” they cry. He is not impressed. To the churches of the Reformation He commands, “Stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught” (II Thess. 2:15). His ecumenical Spirit declares, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion hath light with darkness? What concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?…Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (II Cor. 6:14-17).
1 http://www.reformedchurches.org/docs/UGCNewsNo1. pdf
2 http://reformedchurches.org/docs/Constitution-English. pdf
4 http://reformedchurches.org/docs/WARCPresReport- English.pdf
5 http://www.reformedchurches.org/docs/UGCNewsNo1. pdf
7 http://reformedchurches.org/docs/Constitution-English. pdf
10 http://reformedchurches.org/docs/Constitution-English. pdf
12 http://reformedchurches.org/docs/Constitution-English. pdf
17 http://reformedchurches.org/docs/AccraConfession-English. pdf