‘s move towards reunion with Rome was Billy Graham. This is not to say that reunion with Rome was what Graham promoted early on, but this is how making common cause with modernistic, liberal church leaders worked itself out in time, and in surprisingly short order at that.
In the late 50s and early 60s Graham’s crusades began inviting known liberal, Bible-denying church leaders to promote Graham’s crusades in their area and share the podium with him. In England these leading liberals had at first refused, due to what they perceived as Graham’s narrow, fundamentalist biblical views. But when they witnessed the overwhelming numerical response of members of their own churches to Billy’s crusades they had a ‘change of heart.’ They decided that, rather than to disparage Graham and his message, it might make better sense to be on stage with him and retain the goodwill (and membership) of their people by promoting his crusades. As Murray relates in his book Evangelicalism Divided, this was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s rationale for changing his assessment of Graham and consenting to give the benediction at one of Graham’s concluding rallies in London in 1954 (cf. p. 34). Any number of other leading liberals underwent the same ‘change of heart.’
However, this ‘change of heart’ was qualified by one non-negotiable condition—they as liberals would make common cause with Graham, despite his “outdated fundamentalism,” as long as he did not require them to renounce their basic doctrinal position, namely, their modern skepticism of all things biblical. Graham was only too happy to oblige. So a ‘new way’ for a working relationship between ‘disagreeing’ Christians was forged.
And this became the model for the ecumenical developments that followed.
Observing what goodwill resulted from Graham’s change of policy from exclusivism to inclusivism (which is to say, from excluding those modernist church leaders who denied Scripture’s infallibility and supreme authority to his including them in his campaigns), other evangelical churchmen decided that this might just be the way to save and to promote Christianity in a modern age so increasingly hostile to all things Christian.
Nowhere would this new spirit of cooperation, as well as toleration of the most serious of errors, evidence itself more clearly than in the evangelical wing of the Anglican Church, a denomination filled with spiritual dry rot, its leading Bishops far down the road of apostasy, its members ignorant of the most basic biblical doctrines.
The question before the evangelical segment was this: how could they have greater influence within their own dying denomination, revitalize a biblical faith amongst its members, and make Christianity a force to be reckoned with on the British Isles again?
Their answer was given at the first National Evangelical Anglican Congress (NEAC 1), which met in the spring of 1967 (referred to ever since as the “Keele Congress” because it was held on the campus of the Keele University). This gathering proved to be a watershed event for the ecumenical movement in Great Britain. In a move that was at least as astonishing to the liberal, modernistic leadership within Anglicanism as it was to conservative observers outside the denomination, lead figures of the Alliance of Evangelicals decided, in the interests of promoting a more robust Christianity, that it was necessary to practice a new ‘openness’ towards those whom they once referred to as heretics and teachers of false doctrines, namely, the liberal churchmen within their denomination. The Congress (attended by 519 clergy and several hundred laymen) assembled to articulate and popularize this new policy. In the words of one trying to calm the fears of those disturbed by the new direction, it was to be “Co-operation without compromise” (Murray, Evangelicalism Divided, p. 71).
Ah, the high-sounding slogans of the politically adept. It sounds so reassuring. But what if the cooperation itself, due to the heretical character of one of the parties involved, is already fundamentally compromise? It was self-delusion from the outset.
To what extent the evangelicals were committed to this policy of folly is indicated by their inviting none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury to open the Congress and give the keynote address.
This was no little step. This Archbishop, Dr. M. Ramsey, was the same man who
. . . in the mid-fifties had criticized English evangelicalism as ‘heretical’ and ‘sectarian’, who expected to meet atheists in heaven, who took a liberal position on Scripture and a sympathetic view of reunion with Rome (Murray, D. M. Lloyd-Jones, vol. II, p. 539).
Significantly, the chairman of this Congress, and one of its main organizers, was none other than Dr. John Stott; and one of its main participants, as well as leading defenders against the criticism that followed, was Dr. J.I. Packer—two names that have played vital roles in the ECT developments of the last decade.
Further, it ought to be noted that the hierarchy of their Anglican Church was already making contact with Rome. In 1964, while the Second Vatican Council was still in session, two Anglican Bishops were sent to visit his Holiness, Paul VI. The words Pope Paul VI used to greet them were telling: “You have always been awaited and expected.”
Note well, this is not the language of one who is interested in or intending to meet ‘separated brethren’ halfway. This is Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV at Canossa (A.D. 1077) all over again, minus the snow.
And as Murray reports,
Two years later [a year before 1967 and Keele!] Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, made a more official visit [to the Vatican], and left wearing the Pope’s episcopal ring with its emeralds and diamonds [Recall the reference to “One Ring to rule them” in our first article!] (Evangelicalism Divided, p. 79).
Of all of this the evangelicals who gathered at Keele were not ignorant. Knowingly they had cast their lot with men who were making overtures to Rome.
As Murray further points out,
Ramsey was already on record as supporting the opinion that the Pope ‘has a primacy among all the bishops of Christendom; so that without communion with him, there is no prospect of a reunited Christendom.’ In 1968 ‘Ramsey said he was very willing to recognize the Pope as chief of a united Church’ (Ibid., p. 80—Murray quotes from Chadwick and his book Ramsey, p. 325).
With such influential, Rome-infatuated churchmen the evangelical segment of the Anglican Church determined to make common cause. They were heading downstream to Rome, whether they were honest enough to admit it to themselves or not.
It is the swiftness with which the evangelicals became active in promoting reunion with Rome that startles. In but ten years’ time, in 1977, at the second NEA Congress (which met at Nottingham), all pretence of the evangelicals’ intention to keep their distance from Rome was jettisoned. In an astounding about-face, the evangelicals, who but ten years previous had dismissed as unfounded all fears of compromise, affirmed (in what is known as the Nottingham Statement):
Seeing ourselves and Roman Catholics as fellow Christians, we repent of attitudes that have seemed to deny it… (emphasis ours, kk). We shall all work towards full communion between our two churches. We believe that the visible unity of all professing Christians should be our goal (Ibid., p. 216).
Note who is doing the repenting. Not Rome! It is significant that the highlighted phrase was inserted following a complaint by a Roman Catholic observer who pointed out that the original statement contained “no mention of repentance by Anglicans for past misunderstanding of Roman Catholicism” (J. Capon, Evangelicals Tomorrow, p. 91).
And so the words were inserted. This, mind you, by the ecclesiastical descendants of men and women who were dismembered by Rome for their biblical and Calvinistic faith. The extent to which the ecumenically-minded evangelicals of the Anglican Church were willing to go to placate Rome simply astounds.
This willingness to capitulate to Rome was underscored at the time of the appointment of a new Archbishop of Canterbury in 1980, Bishop Robert Runcie, who replaced one Donald Coggan. Murray writes:
It is remarkable that before Robert Runcie was appointed to follow Coggan [as Archbishop] in 1980 the appointment was discussed with Cardinal Basil Hume (the Roman Catholic leader in Britain). Hume assured Donald Wright, the Archbishop’s Patronage Secretary who visited him, that the Pope (John Paul II since 1978) “was particularly interested in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion”. Wright noted that the Cardinal believed that he would “want to give reunion a big shove…. so what [Hume] is hoping for in the new Archbishop of Canterbury is a man who will give reunion an equally large shove”. Runcie, as a liberal Anglo-Catholic, was well able to do that. “Of course I wouldn’t have any difficulty in being a Roman Catholic,” he told a friend. His enthronement in Canterbury Cathedral was marked by the presence of several Cardinals in the choir near him, the full use of Catholic vestments, a hymn in praise of Mary and Cardinal Hume reading a lesson. Billy Graham was among “specially invited” guests and gave a “warm greeting” to the new archbishop.
Two years later Runcie welcomed the Pope himself to Canterbury Cathedral (Ibid., p. 218—Murray’s quotes are from the book Robert Runcie: Reluctant Archbishop, by H. Carpenter).
To all of these very telling shenanigans, as well as profanity of worship, the evangelical leaders raised no voice of criticism. Their silence was deafening. In the name of ecumenical progress, nothing was said to rebuke the Anglican hierarchy for its presumptuous behavior, lest it adversely affect the developing relations with Rome.
How does one explain this willingness by knowledgeable men (such as Stott and Packer) not only to suffer such things but also to justify such doings and then add their considerable weight to seeking closer ecumenical relations with Rome?
In large measure it is due to these men being under a grand delusion. Early on, these intelligent men convinced themselves that if only Protestants, in a show of goodwill, would make certain concessions to Rome, the ‘new Rome’ would reciprocate and make certain concessions to Protestantism and its historic distinctives in return.
To say that this has not materialized could well be the ecclesiastical understatement of the century.
One is reminded, for all the world, of the naÃ¯vetÃ© of Neville Chamberlain and his proposed policy of appeasement to Hitler in the late 1930s. With such a one you can broker a peace alright—as long as you make all the concessions.
Rome, for all her willingness to receive, make public appearances with, and even to produce jointly-worded documents with her “estranged brethren,” has made it clear she has no intention of ever conceding one Roman position.
This we will continue demonstrating in our next article, D.V.