In our discussion of the proposed merger of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Evangelical Synod) we must diverge briefly from the discussion of the OPC and Arminianism, in order to pay attention to another—to me, new—aspect of this proposed merger.
This new aspect concerns a matter which I have not seen discussed in the Presbyterian Guardian’s recent discussions of this subject. The matter, briefly, is this:are the two denominations agreed on the question of ecumenism, particularly on the matter of denominational attitudes toward the World Council of Churches?
My question is occasioned by a rather disturbing report in Dr. Carl McIntire’s Christian Beacon (January 25, 1973). Much of this issue is devoted to criticism of the recent WCC meetings in Bangkok and the “Dialogue With People of Other Living Faiths.”—among them, Buddhists. Among the various critical articles is one entitled, “Dr. Glasser: Fundamentalist Turned Ecumenist.” I will quote the first five paragraphs of this article:
The activities of Dr. Arthur F. Glasser, a voting delegate and “reflector” in the Bangkok conference of the World Council of Churches, stand out as a major accomplishment for the ecumenical movement. His presence and participation reveals how men who once stood for the faith have joined hands “in fellowship” with those who have long since rejected it.
Dr. Glasser was a top leader of the China Inland Mission and then of its renamed organization after it was driven out of China by the Communists. He was an early graduate of Faith Theological Seminary, and he became a strong critic of the International Council of Christian Churches and of Dr. Carl McIntire in particular. After the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, withdrew from the Bible Presbyterian denomination and from the International Council of Christian Churches in 1954, Dr. Glasser, with other mission leaders of inclusivist ideals, joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. Today he is not only a minister in that church but a member of the board of the World Presbyterian Mission.
Dr. Glasser now is a professor on the faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary whose president, David Hubbard, participated in the National Council of Churches’ pallas Assembly held on December 3-7, 1972. These men have gone into the ecumenical movement for fellowship and personal testimony.
The Rev. K. C. Quek of Singapore, who as a reporter covered the Bangkok Conference for the Christian Beacon, said that the “Affirmation on Salvation Today” was prepared by Dr. Arthur Glasser who played quite an important role being on the Steering Committee, thus adding to the evangelical facade of the WCC.
Dr. Glasser’s place of missionary leadership in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, is of the greatest significance, for its board was a breakaway from and a repudiation of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions founded by Dr. J. Gresham Machen.
The article then goes on to classify Dr. Glasser as a leader of the “New Evangelicals” and to criticize others of both the RPC and the OPC as “new evangelicals.” Elsewhere in this same issue of the Christian Beaconthe “Affirmation on Salvation Today” is reproduced (with Dr. Glasser’s name attached), and this “Affirmation” is criticized.
Now it is not our purpose to express sympathy with Dr. McIntire’s position; while McIntire rightly criticizes the WCC in many respects, we nevertheless are not in sympathy with his movement. Nor is it our purpose to enter into the material of Dr. Glasser’s accomplishments at the Bangkok Conference of the WCC.
Our concern is with the report as such. The report presents Dr. Glasser as a voting delegate at the WCC conference and as an active participant in its activities. And the report repeatedly associates this same Dr. Glasser with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, the denomination. with which the OPC proposes to merge. He is called a missionary leader as well as a minister in that denomination.
This raises a few questions.
The first question is, of course: is the above report concerning Dr. Glasser factually correct? I have no way of knowing whether the Christian Beacon is correct when it states that Dr. Glasser is a minister of the RPC and occupies a place of “missionary leadership.” Neither have I any reason to doubt the accuracy of the report, though I can hardly imagine that the Christian Beacon would dare to say these things without good information. But I am simply asking for information. The evidence that Dr. Glasser was an active delegate to this WCC conference appears to be incontrovertible.
If the answer to the first question is Yes, then my second question is three-fold: 1) Is the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, a member of either the NCC or the WCC, or in any way denominationally connected with either of these organizations? 2) Does the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, officially tolerateparticipation by its members and officebearers in the WCC or the NCC? 3) Or, if neither of the preceding is true, does the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, passively wink at such participation, so that it is acceptable for a minister in good standing to participate in the activities of the WCC or the NCC? Any of these questions can be answered by a simple Yes or No.
My third question is this: in the official merger discussions between the OPC and the RPC, has this matter of participation in the WCC been openly and thoroughly discussed? I repeat: I have seen no reference to this question in anything I have read about this proposed merger, and especially not in theProposed Basis of Union. Has the question been overlooked? Has it been passed by? Did it simply never come up for consideration? Just what is the situation?
Now why do I raise these questions?
First of all, let no one imagine that I am trying to throw a “monkey wrench” into the merger machinery. This is not the purpose, let alone the fact that it would be ascribing too much influence to the Standard Bearer. However, I stated in the beginning of the discussion of the, merger that there should be compatibility between the marriage partners before they marry. They should enter this union with both eyes open and with full persuasion.
And, secondly, I was of the understanding that the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is rather strongly opposed to membership in the World Council of Churches. I do not have at hand any detailed decision of the OPC on this subject. But I recall that the Orthodox Presbyterian Church had objections to the simultaneous membership of the Gereformeerde Kerken in the WCC and the Reformed Ecumenical Synod. Moreover, these objections were based onprinciple. The Thirty-seventh General Assembly of the OPC, July 6-10, 1970, decided to submit the following overture to the 1972 Synod of the RES:
That this General Assembly overture the Synod of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, meeting in Sydney, Australia in 1972, to declare that its Rules and Standing Orders, especially its articles on Basis, Purpose, and Membership, make membership in the World Council of Churches and other religious organizations which allow unbelief to be uncensured incompatible with membership in the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, and to provide two years from the 1972 meeting of the Synod for Reformed Ecumenical Synod member churches which are in such fellowship (1) to decide in which they wish their membership to remain, and (2) to notify the Reformed Ecumenical Synod secretariat of their decision.
It is certainly a fair conclusion that the above overture represents not only the attitude of the OPC toward simultaneous membership in the WCC and the RES, but also the attitude of the OPC itself toward the WCC. For: 1) In the view of the OPC the World Council is an organization which allows unbelief to be uncensured; and, 2) The reference to the Basis of the RES includes reference to the confessional basis of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
And it would appear to follow, therefore, that there is a serious incompatibility between the RPC and the OPC with respect to the World Council of Churches—provided, of course, that it is true that the RPC even tolerates participation in the WCC by its ministers. Moreover, this is an incompatibility which extends (in the light of the above overture) to the understanding and maintenance of the Presbyterian confessions.
To this observer it would seem mandatory for the OPC and the RPC to settle this question between them before the ecclesiastical wedding bells ring. And if the purpose of the merger is to achieve “a Presbyterian church in our land with the strength to challenge the apostate churches and the size to provide a fellowship for all those of like precious faith throughout the land,” (a hope which the Rev. John J. Mitchell expressed editorially), then this question must not only be settled, but settled in the right way. If it is not, the result can only be a fatal compromise of the Presbyterian witness.
Hence, I respectfully suggest that Editor Mitchell provide information on the above questions in thePresbyterian Guardian. If the fears which I expressed are unfounded, so much the better; and then theChristian Beacon should do some retracting. But if they are not unfounded, then the brethren of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church should be alerted by theGuardian.