Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
Anno Domini 1991
By the time this article is read, the year of our Lord 1991 will have slipped into history. As Christians we are comforted by the fact that it was indeed the year of our Lord! Time and history belong to Almighty God. Significant events, very significant events, occurred in 1991, events we would not have believed possible one year ago. And all of these events affect God’s church and people be- I cause they are decreed and providentially governed by God for the sake of Jesus Christ and His body, the church. All these events, as well as everything that occurred in 1991, and in all of history for that matter, serve God’s purpose to manifest His glory in Christ and in the multitude which no man can number out of every nation which shall appear in the new heavens and earth (Revelation 7:9-17).
Number one on Christianity Today’s list of “1991’s top ten stories” is the War in the Gulf. Operation Desert Storm enjoyed wide support among the American people. The war was opposed by only a few ardent pacifists and mainline church leaders. While the large National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) took no official position on the war, the director of its Office of Public Affairs, Robert Dugan, stated publicly that he supported the use of force in the region; arguing that Desert Storm met the criteria for a just war. Many, spiritually in fundamentalist churches, viewed the war as a possible sign of the end times. The war created a bull market for apocalyptic books.
We know from the teaching of Jesus that war belongs to the signs that herald the nearness of the end of the world. But when we hear of wars and rumors of wars we are not troubled, because we know that “all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6).
The second of the “top ten stories” cited by Christianity Today is “Reforms in the USSR and Eastern Europe.” Who just a year ago would. have imagined that the Soviet Union and Communism would collapse? And this indeed has had a tremendous impact on the church. Now, for the first time in decades, these peoples are open for the preaching of the gospel. Bibles are being widely and freely distributed throughout these countries. We are reminded of Jesus’ words, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, (the nations of the Soviet Union too, RDD); and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).
The fact that several denominations addressed issues of sexuality is the third item on Christianity Today’s list. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the Episcopal Church, and the United Methodists all dealt with these issues. A report to the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. General Assembly calling for approval of homosexual unions was defeated by a, large majority. The Episcopal Church decided that “sexual expression is appropriate only in the context of monogamous marriage.” This church had to admit, however, that this position was “at odds with the experience of many church members.” A study committee of the United Methodist Church is urging the church to abandon its condemnation of homosexual practice.
Our Lord’s warning that many false prophets would arise, deceiving many, and His warning concerning abounding iniquity or lawlessness are so evident in our times (Matthew 24:11-12).
The remaining items on the list include: Euthanasia, Religious Liberty, Operation Rescue in Wichita, the rising influence of the moderates in the Southern Baptist Convention, the rise of Protestantism in Latin America, the Recession, and Israel’s granting full access to the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Pondering these events of 1991 and more, we would despair were it not fir the great truth of the gospel, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
No More Women Preachers
The Presbyterian Church of Australia (PCA) decided at its General Assembly that it will no longer ordain women as ministers. The Triennial Assembly, meeting September 9-13, 1991, voted 116-65 to amend the church’s articles so that only men will be ordained as ministers in the future. This decision does not affect the five women already serving as ministers and the one woman candidate for the ministry.
Not surprisingly, the debate centered on the interpretation of Scripture. Some commissioners (delegates) argued for a creational order in human relationships, by which only males have the office of teacher. They argued that New Testament passages about men having authority over women have a timeless authority; commissioners on the other side argued that there are many examples of women exercising authority in Scripture as judges, prophets, and teachers. Passages that appear to disqualify women from ministry must be read in this light. They need not be binding in every succeeding generation.
This is indeed an unexpected turn of events. In most churches this issue has already been decided and women are in the office of the ministry. This is the first denomination of which we are aware that has reversed itself on the issue.
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The Back To God hour In The Soviet Union
The Russian-language programming of the Back To God Hour began airing on the Soviet National Radio and TV on November 1. The Back To God Hour is the radio program of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Radio broadcasts will be carried weekly, while TV programs will be shown twice per month.
The significance of this will be appreciated when one realizes that this is the first time any Christian broadcast from the West is being carried by the Soviet media. Sixteen organizations submitted programs to the Soviets. Soviet officials said the Back To God Hour had the highest quality spiritual message and literary style. Mikhail Morgulis, the minister of the program, said it was a critical time, and a time to be bold. He said his mission was to reawaken the Soviet people spiritually.
Morgulis and Joel Nederhoed, the director of The Back To God Hour, were part of an American Evangelical delegation to Moscow. This group met with USSR President Gorbachev, at his invitation. The delegation also met with other leaders to discuss the role of religion and the place of missionaries in Soviet society.
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