If the world’s problems are to be faced responsibly, there must be cooperation economically, politically, educationally, and scientifically. This few will deny. But also ecclesiastically! Christians from everywhere need to meet and talk and learn from one another. To to anything less is to exceed the sin of Nero. He only fiddled while a city burned. Today the world’s on fire! Because it is, churches need to seek one another in a significant worldwide ecclesiastical community. For these are not ordinary days.
In the last issue we considered the stand of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod (RES) on the question of the union. Seven resolutions were adopted expressing the Synod’s mind on the subject. The three resolutions which we have already considered are briefly, (1) that it is the calling of the believer to reflect upon his responsibility in political and social fields and the manner in which this responsibility can be discharged. (2) Synod expresses that there is need for greater stress on considering concerted Christian action in these fields.
The World Council of Churches, meeting at Uppsala, Sweden in 1968, had as its general theme, “Behold, I make all things new.” The gathering produced and adopted six reports related to that theme. The first of these six reports I consider in this article. The report treats “The Holy Spirit and the Catholicity of the Church.”
It was Christ Himself who gave the original “mission mandate” to the church when He, shortly before His ascension, told His disciples, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:19-20).
The World Council of Churches, meeting at Uppsala in 1968, adopted a third report entitled, “World Economic and Social Development.” This document, too, serves as evidence why the faithful Christian and true church cannot belong to this world-wide organization. The document enters into an area which is not within the scope of the work of the church. In the document, conclusions are drawn which are opposed to the teachings of Scripture. There is not even an attempt made in the document to base conclusions upon the instruction of Scripture.
It is with considerable trepidation that I accepted the appointment to write, D.V., fourteen articles during the next year on the subject of ecumenicalism—and now take up my pen to begin. The fear (or knocking together of the knees) is not uncommon to those who appear before the public for the first time; something of that I feel,—knowing that regularly throughout the next year these articles will be printed for public consumption. There is also the fact that, ready or not, the articles must be submitted with faithful regularity to the editor.
During the past months, preliminary to the current presidential election, we have been bombarded with the phrase: “The Great Society.” In religious circles there is heard a similar phrase to describe the present “glorious development” in the history of the church: “The Great Century.” This “Great Century” includes a hundred years of increasingly intense efforts towards uniting all churches into one super-church covering the whole earth. To give you a bird’s-eye view of this ecumenical development, I quote from one intimately associated with the present-day movement:
That ecumenicalism has made rapid strides in recent decades is beyond dispute. In the past “Great Century,” denominations have united; co-operation between churches has increased; councils of churches have been established. And the end is not yet. The great fissure separating Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, which seemed so permanent just a few short years ago, more and more is being bridged. No longer are heard statements declaring the impossibility of uniting these two.
Before discussing specific ecumenical endeavors, as the World Council of Churches, I want to consider our own position over against ecumenism in general. I had already touched upon this in a former article, but now I wish to elaborate a bit upon that. In particular, what must we say of the abundant Scriptural references used in support of the present-day movement? We must agree that it is our duty to bow before proper arguments from Scripture. But, do the ecumenists properly interpret those passages which they love to quote?
The epitome of ecumenism today is the World Council of Churches (W.C.C.). The ecumenical movement and the W.C.C. movement are often considered synonymous. Even the W.C.C. movement appears to have been in part the motive for Pope John XXIII convoking the Second Vatican Council.