We have been considering the proposed union of the Reformed Church in America with the Presbyterian Church in the United, States (Southern Presbyterian). Last time we pointed out one feature of the proposed union which is greatly feared by conservative men in the Reformed Church: its obvious hierarchy. This in itself would be sufficient reason for rejecting the entire plan.
But other reasons for rejecting the proposed union have also been offered. Several of these I would consider with you in this article.
The office within the new church
The plan for proposed union eliminates the office of deacon completely. The plan, evidently, is that the ministers and elders, with some assistance from compassionate people of the congregation, will perform this function of the diaconate. We read:
14-17. The Consistory may select and appoint other compassionate persons of the congregation to assist the Elders in ministering to the sick, to the aged, to widows, to orphans, to prisoners, and to others in any distress or need.
Rather obviously the authors of the plan of union did not regard Acts 6 as the beginning of the office of the deacon. The office itself is considered as optional—and for the new church unnecessary. Possibly, too, this action reflects the obvious fact that the government to a large degree has assumed responsibility for the care of the poor and needy—hence, the church does not need the diaconate anymore. The elders can take care of those few instances where the church must provide for the poor.
However, this omission is very serious. When the Word of God so obviously has pointed us to the institution of the office of deacon, the church may not simply eliminate that position. The calling of the church ought rather to be to examine itself carefully to find out where it has failed if it is true that the office of deacon is superfluous today.
A second feature of the proposed plan of union is the approval of women officebearers. The Southern Presbyterian Church has earlier approved the idea of women functioning in the office. And although the Reformed Church does not presently allow women to serve in the ministry of the Word, repeated and continuing attempts have been made in that denomination to allow for this. Now the new plan of union does specifically permit women to serve in any of the offices within the church.
9-2. The whole polity of the Church consists of (1) doctrine, including worship and the administration of the Sacraments, (2) government, including discipline, and (3) the Church’s ministry of witness and service. For ordering the life of his Church, Christ, according to the New Testament, has given his Church certain offices, among which are the office of the Minister of the Word and Sacraments, and the office of the Elder. These are the ordinary offices, to be continued perpetually in the Church. Church officers shall be chosen from the members of the church in full communion who have attained the age of twenty-one years, but no congregation or court shall be required to elect or ordain women as Church officers.
The above paragraph, without specifically mentioning it, allows for the ordination of women into office too. It does allow the final decision to rest with the local congregation or court. Repeatedly in the past the error of having women serve as officebearers within the church has been shown. Scripture does not allow this. The eagerness to change what Scripture teaches on this score is one of the marks of an apostatizing church of our day.
The confessions of the church
In any church union it is important to know what the confessions of the new church will be. There is in the adopted confessions some indication whether the merged church intends to maintain its doctrinal integrity. Of interest in this case is not only the proposal, but the amendment which was made. The original reads:
The Constitution of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in America consists of: (1) its doctrinal Standards which are in the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (which has grown out of the Westminster Confession) with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism with its Compendium, the Canons of the Synod of Dordt, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed; together with (2) the Book of Church Order, which comprises the Form of Government, the Rules of Discipline, and the Directory for the Worship of God and for the Work of the Church.
The above was amended and approved as follows:
Delete “Larger and” line four (in original document). Delete “the Canons of the Synod of Dart” line five (original document). Add following sentence at conclusion of paragraph: “The Larger Catechism and the Canons of the Synod of Dordt are respected parts of our historical inheritance but are not parts of our doctrinal standards.”
It does not take one long to determine why there was approval of omitting the Canons of Dordt. In fact, in thePresbyterian Journal of June 26, 1968 presents the following explanation given by the Rev. Marion A. Boggs of Asheville, N.C.:
Explaining to the Assembly, as a member of the Committee of 24, why the Larger Catechism has been dropped from the Plan of Union with the Reformed Church in America: “Some of our best and most respected theologians strongly objected to the extreme Calvinism in the Canons of Dordt (also removed from the constitution of the proposed Church). Similarly, some of the theologians in the R.C.A. protested the Larger Catechism. The request on which we acted in this matter came from the Classis of South Grand Rapids.”
It is obvious that the new denomination, if it should materialize, will not be founded upon the “extreme Calvinism in the Canons of Dordt.” In fact, the new denomination would likely be a mixture of modernism and the old Arminianism which is condemned by the Canons.
(to be continued)