The International Council of Christian Churches, as most organizations, has a constitution which governs its operations. An examination of this constitution soon reveals that the I.C.C.C. is indeed a far different type of organization than the World Council of Churches (W.C.C.). It is another question whether we as denomination ought to join the I.C.C.C. To show the intent, purpose, and doctrinal basis of this organization, I would like to make extensive quotes from their constitution in force as of 1964.
THE DOCTRINAL BASIS
In distinction from the W.C.C., the I.C.C.C. presents in its constitution a lengthy statement of doctrine. In article 2 we read:
Among other equally Biblical truths, we believe and maintain the following:
a. The plenary Divine inspiration of the Scriptures in the original languages, their consequent inerrancy and infallibility, and, as the Word of God, the supreme and final authority in faith and life;
b. The triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
c. The essential, absolute, eternal Deity, and the real and proper, but sinless, humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ;
d. His birth of the virgin Mary;
e. His substitutionary, expiatory death, in that He gave His life “a ransom for many;”
f. His resurrection from the dead in the same body in which He was crucified and the second coming of this same Jesus in power and great glory;
g. The total depravity of man through the Fall;
h. Salvation, the effect of regeneration by the Spirit and the Word, not by works but by grace through faith;
i. The everlasting bliss of the saved, and the everlasting suffering of the lost;
j. The real spiritual unity in Christ of all redeemed by His precious blood;
k. The necessity of maintaining, according to the Word of God, the purity of the Church in doctrine and life; And, still believing the Apostles’ Creed to be a statement of Scriptural truth, we therefore incorporate it in these articles of faith.
Now one can readily see that the above is a rather comprehensive statement of the faith of the church—a statement to which many, if not most, of the membership of the W.C.C. could never agree. It is also obvious, however, that this statement avoids all possible conflict between historical Calvinism and Arminianism. It had to do this in order to gather under its wing those denominations presently working together in the I.C.C.C. Notice point “e” above. Speaking of the death of Christ, quoting Scripture, the point emphasizes that He gave His life a “ransom for many.” As a statement, I have no objection to it at all. Only, and obviously, the statement is phrased in such a way that it can be embraced both by Arminian and Reformed. There is noticeably absent any statement on predestination—which Reformed churches in the past insisted was one of the central truths of Scripture. The question must certainly be confronted: How much cooperation is possible between blatant Arminianism and that which is faithfully Reformed?
THE PURPOSE OF THE ORGANIZATION
In the first place; and negatively, the purpose of the I.C.C.C., according to its constitution, is NOT to seek organic union between member denominations. It is not, evidently, the attempt of the organization to break down denominations and build one which will rival in size and strength any that might arise as fruit of the work of the W.C.C. Article 8, speaking of the authority of the council, states in its first point:
The International Council of Christian Churches shall have no authority to act for any member in any matter that has not been delegated to the Council by that body. It may, however, offer counsel and advice to members and suggest opportunities for united action in matters of common interest. The Council does not seek organic union of its member bodies, nor will it trespass in any way upon their autonomy.
Secondly, and positively, the I.C.C.C. intends to oppose the modernism which arises in our day. In its Preamble to the constitution this is emphatically stated:
Whereas, It is the duty of all true churches of the Lord Jesus Christ to make a clear testimony to their faith in Him, especially in these darkening days of apostasy in many professing Churches, by which apostasy whole denominations in their official capacity, as well as individual Churches, have been swept into a paganizing stream of modernism under various names and in varying degree; and
Whereas, There has been a notable growth of autocratic domination on the part especially of modernistic leaders by whom the rightful powers of true Churches are often usurped and are now being usurped; and
Whereas, The commands of God to His people to be separate from all unbelief and corruption are clear and positive; and also Whereas, We believe the times demand the formation of a world-wide agency, for fellowship and cooperation on the part of Bible-believing Churches for the proclamation and defense of the Gospel, for the maintenance of a testimony pure, steadfast and worldwide to those great facts and revealed truths of historic Christianity and especially to the great doctrines of the Protestant Reformation. . . .
Therefore, the bodies of various nationalities and languages forming this Council, do now establish it as an agency, without compromise or evasion, unreservedly dedicated as a witness to “the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.”
Further, it is evident from the Constitution that the I.C.C.C. is a fellowship of churches which claim a union with the Protestant reformation and insists on excluding from membership all those who seek union with the W.C.C.:
Constituent membership in this Council shall be open to all those denominations associations of Bible-believing Churches, the world over, and Bible-believing societies in Scandinavia of a definite church character, which, by official action, approve and accept the preamble and the doctrinal statement of the Constitution and apply to the Council for membership. No denomination, association of churches or Bible-believing society in Scandinavia of a definite church character, in, or represented by, the World Council of Churches or standing outside the stream of historic Christianity will be received.
CAREFUL REGULATION OF MEMBERSHIP
The I.C.C.C., according to its constitution, does not carelessly receive members. Rather, it investigates the applicant and also provides for the removal of such denominations which might depart from the doctrinal basis of the constitution.
(Article 3, section 3) The Council, or its designated Committee, shall make careful investigation of the doctrinal standards and spiritual condition of every body applying for membership. Every applicant for membership in the Council shall furnish its confessional statements and also statistics of the number of its churches, of its clergy, and of its lay membership.
(Article 8, paragraph 4) The Plenary Congress shall have the right to dismiss any constituent or consultative body belonging to it for proved cause. In case any question should arise as to the fitness of any body belonging to the Council, the Plenary Congress, on its own initiative or by request of any two constituent members may cite such body to appear before the Congress; and if the charges be proved, such member shall be dismissed. A two-thirds majority shall be necessary for such dismissal.
The largest assembly of representatives of churches holding membership is called the “Plenary Congress.” This congress meets not less than every five years. To this congress, each full member of the I.C.C.C. is entitled to send four delegates with full voting power for their first one hundred congregations, and for each additional fifty congregations one more delegate is allowed. The total number of voting delegates from any one group of churches is limited to ten.
A study of the constitution, therefore, soon reveals that there is a vast difference between this organization and the World Council of Churches. The purpose, the basis, and the goals of the two are completely diverse. And one who hears occasionally the “Twentieth Century Reformation Hour” of Dr. Carl McIntire (who happens to be president of the I.C.C.C. too), knows that one of the tasks McIntire has taken upon himself is to oppose and ridicule the W.C.C.
However, to work together with the I.C.C.C. as Protestant Reformed Churches appears impossible. With much of its doctrinal basis we could express agreement. With them, we hate the enveloping modernism of our day. The fact is, though, that our Synod was correct when it pointed out that many of the member denominations were “outside the pale of Calvinistic Protestantism.” That fact, I believe, is reflected in the actions taken too. To this I hope to call your attention next time, D.V.