DR. MclNTIRE AND THE A.C.C.C.
Some time ago we reported in that column that Dr. Carl McIntire had been expelled from the American Council of Churches (ACCC) because some of the leadership differed with him on his involvement in politics and because they were weary of his one-man rule.
In some form or another the situation has now changed. Just exactly what happened at the twenty-ninth convention of the ACCC held in Pasadena, California in November is not clear. The Christian Beacon, McIntire’s paper, carried one report;Christianity Today carried another under the heading: ‘”Will the Real ACCC Please Come to Order?” It is not too surprising that the two do not agree.
What is clear from both reports, however, is that McIntire staged a coup d’etat in which he attempted to regain the leadership of the ACCC for himself. Whether he was successful or not is still really not known. With fifty-five delegates, many of whom, according to ACCC officials, had not attended ACCC meetings for many years, McIntire made his appearance at the convention. A business meeting had been scheduled for 2:15 in the afternoon, but in the morning session McIntire was recognized by the chairman who decided to call a scheduled recess after McIntire asked that a business meeting be called immediately. When the delegates went out for coffee, McIntire took the podium, proceeded with the business meeting anyway and had himself elected president. When the delegates returned there was general astonishment when McIntire announced that he had just been elected president and would now function as such. There was confusion and bedlam following this announcement; for there had not yet been a roll call, certification of delegates, or determination of who was eligible to vote. McIntire had decided some of these things on his own, along with the delegates who had supported him.
The result of it all was that there were two ACCC meetings, one of McIntire with his delegates and the other of the group which had originally expelled McIntire. The headquarters of the council at Valley Forge were locked up upon the advice of legal counsel and it seems as if the whole thing will go to the courts before it is decided who are the legal ACCC.
We are not in a position to judge who constitute the ACCC at this point, not are we interested in attempting to enter into this intermural squabble. Nor is it possible to judge from this distance whether McIntire was legally ousted from the Council a couple of years ago. But what does trouble us is the fact that McIntire is not afraid to use power politics and stage a questionably legal coup d’ etat to gain his ends. Has his close association with political maneuvering over the years and his deep involvement in political issues led him to apply the same tactics in matters of the Church of Christ? It seems that way, and this is to be abhorred.
LETTER FROM THE RES INTERIM COMMITTEE
The Interim Committee of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod took an unusual step recently in sending a letter to all the member churches. Since our churches have taken some interest in RES activities, we quote in this column the report of this which appeared in the lastRES Newsletter.
The RJZS Secretariat recently sent to all 35 member churches of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod a Message to the Churches over the signatures of the six members of the RES Interim Committee. The Interim Committee took this unprecedented step because it felt constrained to speak a word to the churches in the present strained situation. Although the Committee did not consider it within its province to evaluate the various tendencies and developments in the member churches, it regarded it as its duty to draw the attention of the churches to the ‘present critical condition.’
Noting that the Reformed Ecumenical Synod Amsterdam 1968 urged the RES member churches to display mutual trust and confidence toward one another, the Committee observed that the trust and confidence have diminished rather than increased in recent years.
The Interim Committee made an appeal to the churches to do their utmost to realize the purpose of the RES as stated in the Rules and Standing Orders. At the same time it urged that everything possible be done to avoid all that ‘could undermine or destroy the unity that has been given to us’.
A text of the letter then follows. After taking note of the growth of the RES as an indication of God’s blessing and after making mention of the many important discussions which have been held over the years, the letter goes on to say:
At the same time it cannot be denied that there are clouds on the horizon. In spite of what has been accomplished so far, there seem to be forces at work which drive the member churches farther apart rather than drawing them closer together. In some respects seems to move towards a crisis situation, which if unchecked could eventually lead to a falling apart of the Synod. The lack of mutual trust and confidence, which was mentioned at the 1968 meeting, seems to have increased rather than decreased in recent years. To some extent this is due to the different historical and traditional backgrounds of the member churches, to a larger extent it is the result of theological and confessional developments in some of the member churches.
It is not the task of the Interim Committee to give a critical analysis or evaluation of the various tendencies and developments in the member churches. This belongs to the province of the churches themselves when they meet in Synod. But the Interim Committee regards it as its duty to draw the attention of the churches to the present critical situation.
Believing that the RES has come into existence under the guidance of God’s Spirit and seeing are many blessings God has bestowed upon this body and its member churches, the Interim Committee wants to repeat emphatically one of the decisions of the previous Synod, namely, that the churches of the RES, “supported by what they confess in Article II of the Statutes as their common foundation, ought to embrace one another in mutual trust, show sympathy for one another’s problems and patience with one another’s weaknesses, and above all desire to lead and keep one another in the way which the Lord of the Church has given his Word” (Art. 181). As churches of the same confession, it is our duty, especially in this time of theological confusion and erosion, to do our utmost in order that the purpose of the RES as mentioned in Art. II of the Rules and Standing Orders may be realized. At the same time everything that could undermine or destroy the unity that has been given to us should be avoided.
It is the sincere prayer of the Interim Committee that God may give all the member churches his grace to fulfill this task for the glory of his name
for the mutual enrichment of the churches
and for the effective exercise of the ministry of reconciliation in this world.
While the letter is worded very carefully (no doubt, the Interim Committee did not have the power to do much else), it is apparent that the RES is not only in deep trouble, but is also in imminent danger of disintegrating, or at least, of losing several of its larger member denominations.
And while the letter does not cite specific instances or reasons, it is apparent that the real trouble is that several member churches are no longer interested in maintaining their Reformed character. The trouble is not simply that the Reformed faith is being vitiated by the member churches through the continued inroads of Arminianism—this too is true, but has been true of many member churches for many years; the trouble is that the member churches in several instances are denying the very fundamentals of the Christian faith. This is apparent especially in recent developments in the Gereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands. And these Gereformeerde Kerken do not seem to care much what the RES says about the issues of the day; they go their own sweet way. This is the case, e.g., with respect to membership in the W.C.C.
There is something sad about this. The RES functioned as the only organization of specifically Reformed denominations. It has (or, should have) an important place in the ecclesiastical world. It should be in a position to speak out unitedly on current issues in the ecclesiastical world from a distinctively Reformed viewpoint. But its own members are making this impossible.
But there is also a lesson to be learned, I think. The RES was in some important respects never truly and distinctively Reformed—at least as some of its member churches were concerned. The Reformed faith after all, especially as it developed in the Netherlands, is the truth of sovereign grace rooted in eternal predestination and manifested in the realization of God’s everlasting covenant. This truth has not, for many years, been maintained in all its purity and Scriptural emphasis in many Reformed Churches. This truth has been compromised, watered down and de-emphasized by the growing influences of Arminianism, the same Arminianism so forcibly condemned by all the Reformed Churches at the great Synod of Dordrecht.
Arminianism is not an isolated error, a minor disagreement in the body of believers over some insignificant point of doctrine. It is a fundamental error involving all the Reformed faith. Its tentacles reach out to poison every doctrine. Its leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Its departure from the truth is so basic and so fundamental that no doctrine can stand when once it has entered the life stream of the churches. It is deadly and devastating. It ruins and destroys.
And this is the explanation for the sad state of affairs in the RES today. It is not really so surprising that these things have happened. It is not strange that modernism has taken over in Reformed Churches and that this is ruining the RES. It would be strange if this had not happened. The RES is reaping the awful harvest sowed so long ago in the seed of Arminianism. Arminianism always leads to modernism. There cannot be any other result. After all, Arminianism exalts man and gives him a role to play in the work of salvation. And what exalts man, debases God. Modernism is only the end product of this, for modernism exalts man to God’s throne. What begins in Arminianism ends in modernism and humanism and the worship of man.
If the RES is to be saved, this can only be done by a return to the Reformed faith. It is not sufficient, quite obviously, to make a plea for mutual patience, understanding and tolerance. There must be a return to the Reformed faith. Arminianism must be rooted out, or nothing will really come of the whole organization. It is conceivable that the RES will arise in strength and expel from its membership those who have gone the way of modernism; but if the Arminianism is not rooted out, if there is not a genuine return to the truths of sovereign grace, then the whole dreary cycle will simply be played over once again.
Would to God that the RES could see the devastating effects which Arminianism has had in its existence. Would to God that the glorious truths of sovereign grace could once again be sounded loudly and clearly in the councils of this organization. Would to God that faithfulness and loyalty to the Scriptures could be its only mark. Can it be that yet, at this date, the RES will serve as some such unity of believers in the Church of Christ?