Assemblies, Mergers, Etc.
Late Spring and early Summer is the time for the meetings of ecclesiastical assemblies. In order to bring our readers up to date on the latest developments of the last few months, we give some brief surveys of major decisions of the more important ecclesiastical organizations.
It has been reported in these columns as well as in Rev. VanBaren’s rubric, that the Reformed Church in America and the Presbyterian Church U.S. (Southern) have been working steadily towards union. In, their assembly meetings this year, both denominations have voted to authorize their joint committee of 24members which has been working on this merger to draft a definite merger plan to be presented to the respective denominations by 1968.
There remains some opposition in both denominations. In the Presbyterian Church U.S. the opposition stems mostly from those who prefer to enter into merger negotiations with the United Presbyterian Church. (Cf. below) But this year’s assembly of the Southern Presbyterians turned down their proposals. The opposition in the Reformed Church of America comes from members who are afraid that sooner or later the Southern Presbyterians will seek merger with the United Presbyterian Church, and who are afraid (with some justification) that they will be dragged into a merger with a denomination with which they have no desire to affiliate.
But the opposition is not strong enough to block the swiftly running currents of merger; and it appears as if this merger between these two denominations will be a fact before the end of the decade.
Both the Reformed Church in America and the Presbyterian Church U.S. decided to remain in the National Council of Churches. Repeatedly there have come overtures to withdraw from this organization. These overtures represent a group that is strongly opposed to affiliation with the NCC on the grounds that it is an un-Christian organization. But their efforts to get their denominations out have always been unsuccessful.
In some other interesting actions, the Reformed Church of America decided:
—To approve of civil disobedience among their members under specific conditions. Their decision reads in part: “There may come a time in spite of efforts to correct it when a law prevails that keeps people from receiving justice and thus conflicts with the purposes of God revealed in the gospel. At such a time . . . a Christian . . . may engage alone or with others in an act of civil disobedience . . . if . . . his actions are taken first in the spirit of a faithful servant of his faithful Lord, and in sight and knowledge of authorities, and with a full willingness to accept the consequences imposed upon him by society under existing law.”
It is tragic when this country becomes more and more a country of lawlessness and anarchy; but it is far more tragic when the church leads the way and encourages her members to break the law under a general policy that resembles “The end justifies the means.”
—To send to the various Classes a change in the Church Order which would permit the ordination of women.
—To condemn the use of capital punishment in various states which still use it.
—To encourage the people of the denomination to support the public schools. The traditional opposition of the Reformed Church of America to the Christian Schools evidently continues.
—To express agreement with the recent Supreme Court decisions which banned Scripture reading, prayer and devotions in the public schools.
These last two decisions, taken together, put the Reformed Church on record as favoring atheism as legitimate instruction for their children.
All in all, these decisions do not speak well of the Reformed Church and show an increasingly strong tendency to drift away from the Scriptures and from the church’s calling to preach the gospel.
The National Council of Churches continues its reprehensible-policy of meddling in social and political affairs, all the while claiming to speak for the church. Some recent pronouncements indicate this.
—This organization passed a resolution opposing an amendment to the Constitution of our country which would leave to the various States the right to constitute their legislatures as they wish.
—It established a committee to consider cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church and seated a Roman Catholic observer at its Board meeting. (The World Council of Churches has recently entered into such an agreement with the Vatican.)
—It urges the government to reconsider its military policy in Viet Nam and urged negotiations to end the fighting.
—It gave preliminary approval to a policy statement which asks for a planned world economy and more participation of the government in matters of economic production, employment and distribution of goods.
—It adopted a policy of support of government controlled schools and called for more cooperation between public and church schools.
—It passed a resolution asking the government to be busier in feeding the world’s hungry.
—It expressed concern over the government’s involvement in the Dominican Republic.
—It interprets its role in the church as being that of a sort of mediator between church and government so that the government can speak through it to the churches, and the churches can speak through it to the government.
All of these decisions only point to the fact that presently the false church and the government shall join hands in a common (and anti-Christian) cause. Almost in desperation, the NCC seeks out new areas into which it can enter. It has set itself up as a sort of final judge on all matters economic, political, social, and ecclesiastical. It is supposed to be the authority to which all must listen. No wonder that there are still conservative members in various denominations who are deeply alarmed by membership in this organization. The sad part of it is that they are totally unsuccessful in getting their denominations to pull out.
We have mentioned in former articles the proposal that was coming before the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. to adopt a new confession. It seemed inevitable that the proposal would pass the first hurdle this year, and it did. Preliminary approval was given.
The idea is to incorporate all the confessions of the Presbyterian Church (These include the early Christological Confessions adopted in the 4th and 5th Centuries and the Westminster Confessions) along with the new confession into a “Book of Confessions.” The new confession is to be called the “Confession of 1967” since 1967 is the earliest date in which the new confession can be given final approval.
Ostensibly, the idea behind this new confession is the desire to bring the confessions of the church up to date in order that they may speak to our modern times. Obviously however, the real purpose is to dispose of the historical creeds o f the church which bind the church to the true doctrines of Scripture and put into effect some sort of wishy-washy program of social action which has nothing to do with the calling of the church.
In this “New Confession” there is scarcely any mention of doctrine. The historical truths of the Westminster Confessions such as the infallible inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth, the fall, sin, vicarious atonement, predestination, regeneration, conversion, justification, etc., are not mentioned, and in some cases are denied. Rather the confession deals with what it calls the reconciliation of the world to God. And it interprets this reconciliation as a calling of the church to involve itself in social issues. The three areas which are of gravest concern are war, racial relations, and poverty. The following brief quotations are taken fromChristianity Today.
(1) Race. God’s reconciliation of the human race creates one universal family and breaks down every form of discrimination based on alleged racial and ethnic difference. The church as the community of reconciliation is called to bring all men to accept one another as persons and to share life on every level, in work and play, in courtship, marriage, and family, in church and state. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize their fellowmen, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and repudiate the faith which they profess.
(2) War. The church is called . . . to commend to—the nation as practical politics the Search for cooperation and peace. This requires the establishment of fresh relations across every line of conflict and the risk of national security to reduce areas of strife and broaden international understanding. When the church allows some one national sovereignty or some one “way of life” to be identified with the cause of God it denies Christ the Lord and betrays its calling.
(3) Poverty. The reconciliation of man through Jesus Christ makes it plain that enslaving poverty in a world of abundance is an intolerable violation of God’s good creation . . . . The church cannot condone poverty, whether it is the product of unjust social structures, exploitation of the defenseless, lack of national resources, absence of technological understanding, or rapid expansion of populations . . . . It encourages those forces in human society that raise men’s hopes for better conditions and provide them with opportunity for a decent living. A church that is indifferent to poverty, or denies responsibility in economic affairs, or is open to one social class only, or expects gratitude for its beneficence makes a mockery of reconciliation and can offer no acceptable worship of God.
That a proposal such as this should even come up in a church of Calvinistic background is almost inconceivable. That it is given overwhelming approval sharply underlines the wretched condition into which the church has fallen.
An interesting footnote is that Rev. Carl Mc Intire and other members of the Bible Presbyterian Church picketed the Assembly Meeting at which this confession was given preliminary approval. This was certainly a very foolish thing to do whether one agrees or no