DEVELOPMENTS AT COCU
The Ninth Plenary Session of the Consultation on Church Union has completed its meetings. This Consultation on Church Union was kicked off by Eugene Carson Blake a decade ago when he proposed a union of all Protestants into one church which would be truly evangelical and truly catholic. Since that time plans have moved steadily forward to realize such a union. At present nine denominations numbering about one-third (25,000,000) of American Protestants have joined the talks. Now the organization is about ready to make its preliminary moves towards actual merger.
The proposals recently adopted at the Ninth Session have laid down the general pattern of the church and the general rules for merger. The new church would have an Episcopal form of church government, with bishops the chief executive officers. The session has also ruled that the first presiding bishop must be black. Other offices would include ministers presbyters and deacons. The whole idea of bishops is to preserve the Episcopal conception of apostolic succession which is one point the Episcopal Church insisted on retaining. The plan also allows for women officebearers of every kind including bishops.
The basic unit of the new church would be the parish, not the congregation. A parish unit would consist of several congregations and an individual would be a member of the parish unit, not the congregation where he usually worships. Besides these parishes there would also be “task groups” made up of persons committed to various social and ecclesiastical projects. Seventy-five parishes would be made into a “district”; six or eight districts would constitute a “region”; there would be about 200 “regions” throughout the country. The rule of the church would be invested in the bishops, not in the local congregations or parishes. In this respect the church government would resemble Roman Catholicism except that there would be no “pope.”
The doctrinal basis of the new church would be loose and broad—so loose and broad that any church could find a haven under its roof. The church would maintain the doctrine of the trinity and the doctrine of “Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” Concerning the truth of Scripture the only statement which would have to be accepted is that the church acknowledges the unique authority of Scripture. Only the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds would be used as a creedal basis; and these would be accepted only as “witnessing to the mighty acts of God recorded in Scripture.” Both infant and adult baptism would be practiced according to the good pleasure of the local parish. All now eligible to receive communion in their present churches would also be eligible in the new church. At the ordination of presbyters the only question that would be asked is “Are you persuaded that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments convey the Word of God needed for teaching our faith and nurturing the life in Christ?”
The general plan for accomplishing union goes something like this. The plan will now be submitted to the member denominations for study and suggested improvements. Such improvements will be considered by future plenary sessions extending into 1972 and 1973. When the final plan is drawn up the plan will be resubmitted to the members for acceptance or rejection. The goal of final union is set for 1980. Merger can be accomplished if two denominations vote approval. Perhaps at that time a final Constitution will be drawn up. There will be, if merger should be agreed upon, services of ordination for all officebearers and a national service of inauguration. This later will be the actual merger. At any time within a year after this service any local congregation can withdraw by a majority vote and keep its own property. The hope is that the nine denominations will vote approval not only, but that other denominations will eventually join. In fact, the stated goal is the ultimate union of the whole church.
It is difficult to predict the outcome of this whole plan. It seems sometimes as if the ecumenical movement has lost a lot of its impetus in the last couple of years. It is possible however, that this is merely a hiatus while the church, catches its collective breath to plunge on in a new endeavor.
A NEW CHURCH FOR MADALYN O’HAIR
Madalyn Murray O’Hair is off on a new blasphemous kick. She has organized a church called “Poor Richard’s Universal Life Church.” It is intended to be a church which can serve as a haven for atheists. She is the first bishop; her husband is the official prophet. She has informed the public that this church will also have saints the first of which is to be Mark Twain, “the saint of human laughter.”
She is serious in her newest endeavor in this respect that she has obtained a charter for this church and intends to have it legally recognized. She claims that there will be administration of sacraments, opportunities for hearing confessions from the members and legal provisions for conducting marriage ceremonies.
But she is not serious in that the real aim of this new church is to challenge the tax exempt status of present church bodies. She has sent out thousands of letters to various individuals suggesting that they can profit immensely by joining this church. All they need do is sell their present property to her and her husband, lease it back again and operate it themselves as an ecclesiastically owned business. In this way they will be able to escape income taxes. Citing the businesses in which other denominations engage, she suggests that her plan will apply especially to those who own and operate motels, stores, mines, newspapers, farms, every kind of industry, public utilities, race tracks, distilleries and restaurants.
It is a shame for the church that the church itself has given occasion for Madalyn O’Hair to engage in such ungodly capers. It is true that the charge she makes against the church is a travesty upon the church’s calling. No church has the right to be busy with all kinds of money-making projects. And it is not right that these businesses should be tax free.
But there is a blasphemy in all that this wretched woman does which makes the cold chills, run down one’s spine. She defies the God of heaven with her horrible statements and makes a mockery of the church. One wonders sometimes how it is possible that a just and righteous God does not strike from heaven against such awful profanation of His own most high majesty.
A CHURCH FOR HOMOSEXUALS
We quote the following from the Accent, a paper published by the American Council of Christian Churches:
The Los Angeles Times for December 8, included a feature report on the Metropolitan Community Church of Hollywood. The pastor, Troy Perry, was excommunicated from a pastorate in Santa Ana, affiliated with the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) when his homosexuality was revealed: He later founded this church which openly caters to Sodomites. It has grown to more than 225 members in a little over a year and meets in a donated movie theatre. The Times reported Perry as, “Urging his church-goers to attend a rally that afternoon to protest the state law banning private homosexual acts between consenting adults.” Perry reiterated, “The church does not stand for adults having sexual affairs with minors in public or forcing themselves on others.” The church has a variety of activities and services beside the worship services. They include: marriage ceremonies, though they are not legally binding, (“couples have to be together 6 months before I’ll marry them.”), a Ladies Auxiliary, designed partly to counsel wives, mothers or sisters of homosexuals; a telephone hot line and counseling service for homosexuals. The biggest practical need we serve is that of understanding and giving the homosexuals a sense of belonging.
We are aware of’ the fact that there is a growing trend to consider homosexuality less than a sin. Already in Britain and in some states in our own country there are laws which have struck from the books old legislation making homosexuality a crime that must be punished. In many places in this country homosexuality between consenting adults is considered perfectly legitimate. There are some who consider homosexuality a kind of disease similar in some respects to alcoholism; a disease of a psychological kind which can be traced back to some early childhood traumatic experience; a disease which must therefore be treated by psychiatric counseling. But there are others who consider homosexuality to be in no way erratic behavior, but a normal outlet for sexual drives in some kinds of people. The point is, in either case, that homosexuals must be accepted by society, given a place in society’s activities, understood by their fellow men and stricken from the list of “oddities.” Even among some Reformed, as e.g. in the Netherlands, there is a tendency in this direction.
Scripture however speaks of this sin as being one of the most detestable sins of which mankind is capable and a sure indication of God’s terrible judgment upon the ungodly. Not only does Scripture insist that all homosexuality must be branded as sin without any reservation; but it also points out that this kind of sin results when God gives men over to sin because of their unbelief and idolatry. It is the judgment of God upon a godless world. It is a mire into which men are pushed by God’s righteous anger. It is as low as a man can sink into the cesspools of depravity. When a society condones this, it has fallen far indeed.
MEMBERSHIP IN THE W.C.C.
Quoting from the same paper:
Pope Paul has “referred favorably” to a proposed study of the different aspects of the meaning of Roman Catholic membership in “the fellowship of the World Council of Church,” a high WCC official said.
M.M. Thomas, chairman of the World Council’s policy making Central Committee., made this statement to the 120 committee members representing 235 Protestant Orthodox Churches.
The question of Catholic membership in the WCC has been widely discussed in the past year, especially since Father Roberto Tucci, S.J., told the Council’s 1968 4th Assembly that he saw no reason to prohibit such affiliation.
This was quoted from a release of the Religious News Service.
In the March issue of the Reformed Journal James Daane continues his arguments favoring membership in the W.C.C. for the Christian Reformed Church. It is Daane’s contention that Paul in his writings, especially those writings to the churches of Colosse and Ephesians, develops a view of the Church which makes membership for the Christian Reformed Church all but obligatory. We do not have the space or inclination to go into Daane’s arguments here. There is only one matter which attracts our attention particularly.
In a closing paragraph Daane writes:
The argument used most effectively against membership in the World Council of Churches and some other ecumenical associations is that there can be no unity of the Church until there is unity of doctrine. About this argument, the following comments: Where there is no unity of doctrine there can be no unity of the Church; indeed, there can be no Church at all. For unity belongs to the nature of the Church, and even more, according to Paul, constitutes the Church’s very existence. The question about doctrinal unity is a question of how much and on what doctrinal matters. Unless this is answered the simple assertion that Church unity rests on doctrinal unity has unending tenure. This assertion can be urged against even the most minor doctrinal disagreement until the end of the world.
Apart from the fact that Daane seems to dismiss this matter of doctrine and its relation to the unity of the Church rather lightly (this is all in the whole article said about it), the questions Daane raises are exactly the questions we have been pleading for. Before Daane quickly takes the position that membership in the W.C.C. is legitimate for a Reformed body, he ought, on his own admission to answer these questions. How much doctrinal unity ought there to be? and on what doctrinal matters? Having answered this, he can proceed to examine the W.C.C. to discover whether or not this organization fits the necessary doctrinal requirements. But he knows as well as we do that should he answer these questions honestly the problem will be resolved: membership in the W.C.C. is an impossibility for a Reformed Church which seeks the true unity of the Church of Christ.