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Key 73’s Myth of “Cooperatively but Separately” Exploded

The protagonists of Key ’73 (The Christian Reformed brand is “Evangelism Thrust”) have repeatedly claimed that the evangelism efforts of this movement are inter-denominational and cooperative and simultaneous, but separate. It has been claimed from the start that every denomination participating in this alleged continent-wide evangelism campaign would be free “to do its own thing.” That is, as I understand it, Roman Catholics would evangelize with a Roman Catholic evangel, Baptists with a Baptist evangel, Methodists with a Methodist evangel, Lutherans with a Lutheran evangel, Presbyterians with a Presbyterian evangel, and Christian Reformed with a Christian Reformed evangel. 

Now I must confess that I never quite understood how this was possible, that is, how everyone could do the same thing and yet everyone “do his own thing.” This, after all, has always been the problem of the ecumenical movement: one has to choose between doing his own thing or doing the other man’s (church’s) thing. And it was only when churches were persuaded to forget about their differences that they were able to succeed in any kind of ecumenical movement. 

And I must confess, too, that I never quite believed this line of propaganda. Frankly, I considered it a piece of deceit. And I believe that it has been used to persuade unsuspecting souls to cooperate with Key 73 and Evangelism Thrust. The very fact that the separate name, Evangelism Thrust, was used tended to leave the impression on some who had misgivings that, after all, this would be a separate Christian Reformed activity. As I said, I never quite believed this line. I considered it a nice, but unworkable, theory designed to justify and to cover up what was actually going to be done. 

But it is always possible that one can be proved wrong, and that his suspicions are proved to be unfounded. 

Hence, heretofore I attacked and criticized the theory only. 

Now, however, the theory has proved to be a myth. And the myth has exploded! I suspect that from the very beginning it was programmed to self-destruct. 

I am referring to the report in the Grand Rapids Pressof March 24 concerning “a simulated replay, with its own local specialties, of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the original Palm Sunday.” The article is accompanied by a picture of the Roman Catholic Father John Kenny and the Christian Reformed Rev. Donald Griffioen smiling at one another across a Key 73 Poster which announces this “Palm Sunday Parade of Joy and Affirmation.” 

Here is the description given by the article:

“The purpose of this parade is to call all Christians in the area to rise up in visible testimony to Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection to new life in him,” said Rev. Donald Griffioen of the Key ’73 County Coordinating Committee. 

“The parade will intend to affirm that Jesus Christ is the way to true life, and the way we call all persons to follow in 1973.” 

All persons who accept and believe that purpose, Rev. Griffioen says, are invited to join in the interdenominational march.

Then, after some details about a parade permit, we read this:

Christians will gather, symbolically enough, at churches in four comers, or directions, of the city to begin the march. 

Christians in the northwest will gather at the St. Mary’s and St. James Roman Catholic Churches; in the northeast at Bethlehem and Immanuel Lutheran Churches; in the southeast at Central Reformed and First United Methodist Churches; and, in the southwest, at St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic, LaGrave Christian Reformed and Westminster Presbyterian Churches.

And here is the climax of the story:

Marchers in the parade are encouraged to design and carry posters, banners and. palm branches, Rev. Griffioen said. (Perhaps they ought also to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David?”(HCH) 

The parade will culminate with a massive worship service for all the marchers at Calder Plaza at 3:30 p.m. 

Special music, group hymn singing and three special speakers—Most Rev. Joseph Breitenbeck, bishop of the Grand Rapids Diocese; Mayor Lyman S. Parks, pastor of the First AME Church; and Dr. Lester DeKoster, editor of the Christian Reformed Church publication The Banner—will be featured at the worship service. 

Fr. John Kenny, director of the Catholic Information Center, is chairman of events for the Calder worship service. 

“This is a tremendous and unique opportunity for Christians in Grand Rapids,” said Rev. Griffioen. “Not only will it tell the entire city the purpose of Key ’73, but it will give Christians a chance to stand up and be counted, en masse, for their conviction to Christ.”

There you have it! 

No semblance of cooperative separation and of “doing your own thing” left! 

All can join in one worship service! 

The local Roman Catholic bishop, the AME minister-mayor, and the Christian Reformed Editor of The Banner can join on the same platform at this alleged worship service. 

Could you imagine what would happen to this cozy ecumenism if Editor DeKoster, who loves to quote Calvin for his own purposes, would take with him a few choice quotes from the famous reformer concerning Roman Catholicism and concerning the pope? Or could you imagine him turning to Bishop Breitenbeck midway through his speech, and saying to him and to the Roman Catholics in his audience, in the words of the Heidelberg Catechism: “Your mass is nothing but an abominable idolatry! Repent! Return to the Christ of the Scriptures, and forsake your idolatry!” 

That just would not be “cricket” in this game of evangelistic ecumenism, of course. 

I will pass by the fact that this whole notion evinces no understanding of the significance of Christ’s royal entry. I will pass by the fact, too, that after all banners and posters and palm branches and a Jesus parade mean nothing for evangelism or for a testimony of one’s Christian convictions. 

I would remind the reader that nineteen hundred years ago the hosannas of the multitude gave way to the mob’s cries of “Crucify him!” in a matter of days. And I propose that the hosannas of this “simulated replay” of Christ’s royal entry can only be at the expense of the true gospel of the Scriptures and of our Reformed confessions. In fact, this whole thing comes perilously close to crucifying the Son of God afresh and putting Him to an open shame! 

And let no one claim any longer that Key’73 and Reformed evangelism are in any sense compatible, nor that there is even the possibility or the intention to have a kind of separate cooperation or cooperative separatism in this whole project. 

That is plainly a myth. 

Let Reformed people wake up and cry out against all this hypocritical corruption of our Reformed faith! 

It is abominable in the sight of God! 

Developments in the Gereformeerde Kerken 

The Concerned Organize As A Modality 

The Concerned (Verontrusten) in the Netherlands, formerly functioning as societies in the organism of theGereformeerde Kerken under two names (Truth and Unity and Scripture and Testimony) have taken what is undoubtedly a momentous step—a step which, according to some, can only lead to schism. They have decided to organize formally as a modality, that is, as a confessionally definable wing, within theGereformeerde Kerken. They are, therefore, following somewhat the pattern of the conservatives in Netherlands Reformed Church (Hervormde Kerk), who for many years already have maintained their own organized wing within the denomination. And although some have castigated this move of the Concerned as being an act of schism and as inevitably leading to separation, the avowed purpose of this organization is precisely to remain in the denomination rather than to engage in reformation through separation. The purpose is to maintain a distinct and confessional identity within the denomination. 

The alleged justification for this movement is that the Concerned are simply recognizing a situation which already exists in the GKN, namely, that there are two kinds of people, two kinds of ministers, two kinds of churches: those which are minded to be faithful to the confessions and those. which depart from and which tolerate departure from the confessions. In other words, their claim is that the Gereformeerde Kerkenhave in effect become a modalities church, They are merely establishing a formal organization through which they will maintain and preserve their identity as the confessional wing. 

All of this was really in the making, I believe, for some time; but it came to a head as a result of the fact that the last General Synod failed to exercise any doctrinal discipline, but in effect gave men like Dr. Kuitert the green light to propagate their views within the GKN without harassment. 

This modality purposes to establish itself and to accomplish its work in a kind of orderly way. In places where there is only a liberal minister and consistory, they want to establish emergency congregations (nood-gemeenten) and their own catechism instruction and alternate youth-work. And they purpose, too, to have their own school and university. But they intend, according to reports, not simply to strike out on their own, ignoring the consistories, but rather to approach the consistories and to try to establish their separate work, apparently, with the consent of the latter. They are also enlisting the help of conservative ministers and seeking financial support. 

Runia Measures With Two Measures 

Over against this move of the Concerned, Prof. Dr. Klaas Runia, professor at Kampen and also editor ofCentraal Weekblad, is severely critical and condemnatory. He takes the Concerned to task in an article entitled, “Do The Gereformeerde Kerken Stand Before A New Schism?” Runia takes the position that this action of the Concerned is a violation of the Church Order—which, we believe, it is. And he warns that this can only lead to separation—which the Concerned avowedly do not want and are trying to avoid. And he proposes that the calling church should convene and early General Synod to deal with this matter, that the Concerned should be made to appear at that Synod, and that they should present their problems there in order to have them ironed out. 

This is rather ironic, in the light of the fact that the Concerned, individually and as a group, have already presented many, many protests to the General Synod in the past, all to no avail. There is surely no reason to have any expectation of fair treatment, let alone just and sound judgment, from the General Synod of the GKN any longer. 

But what is worse, this reaction of Runia is rather hypocritical. For the simple fact is that he is not nearly as concerned about the confession as he now appears to be about the Church Order. He went along with the majority at the Synod of Dordrecht, even at one time calling the position “evangelical.” He has objected ever so softly and weakly to the doctrinal liberalism. He excuses the departures from the confession by one of those newly invented platitudes, “a more dynamic binding to the confessions” in distinction from “a more literal binding to the confessions.” 

Even very recently, while he criticized Kuitert editorially, he did so in a very cozy manner. Dr. Kuitert, you know, goes boldly forward with his denials of the Reformed faith; he evidently feels himself strong after the last Synod. And why not? He is in the clear! But evidently, in a TV interview Kuitert came through with one of his bombshells again, this time in the area of eschatology. Speaking of the coming of Christ, Kuitert is reported to have said: “It may very well be that presently we shall suddenly discover that Jesus is already with us.” The question will be raised then, according to Kuitert, “Will the real Jesus stand up?” And then, according to Kuitert, it will appear that He is already here. Against this Runia objected, it is true. And he suggested that it was contrary to the latest synodical declaration, and that he could very well understand how some had difficulty attaching any weight to the decisions of synod. But did he castigate this as being contrary to the confessions as he castigated the action of the Concerned as being contrary to the Church Order? Did he immediately call for the calling church to convene an early synod? Not at all. The upshot of the exchange between Runia and Kuitert was a cozy exchange of letters in the vein of “Beste Klaas” and “Beste Harry.” 

Small wonder, then, that representatives of the Concerned reacted sharply—almost bitterly—against Runia in their paper, “Truth and Unity.” 

Evaluation 

It remains to be seen what the outcome of all this will be. If there are many in the GKN who are of Runia’s mind, this may indeed lead to a separation—but only if the same GKN who can be so sinfully tolerant of the liberals will be intolerant over against the Concerned and refuse to allow them to be organized as a modality. Such intolerance would, of course, be nothing new in history. 

Meanwhile, we sympathize greatly with the Concerned. We sympathize with them over against the hypocritical attack by Runia. We will refrain from saying, “I told you so,” though we warned the Concerned not to have great expectations from the doctor who came from “down under.” We can even sympathize with their efforts to organize as a modality. In the situation in the GKN there is much at stake for the Concerned. They want sound preaching and sound preachers. They want to hear the gospel. They want sound catechetical training for their children. They do not want their covenant youth under the influence of the horizontalism that has become rampant in the GKN. Who, I say, cannot sympathize with, all this? Who does not feel sorry for those who live in places where there is only liberal preaching and liberal catechizing? 

Nevertheless, we do not agree with the Concerned; and we see no ecclesiastical salvation for them in this direction. We believe the proper way and the honest way is that of reformation through separation. And if the GKN will not tolerate their modality, perhaps this separation will nevertheless be forced upon them. This, we believe, could only be for their benefit—painful and deplorable though separation may be.