The age in which we live is no longer the day of little things. It is becoming increasingly apparent that organizations must be big in order for them to continue to exist. Consolidation is the vogue of the day. The small-time farmer, the corner grocery man, the two room school and even the small denominations of churches must yield to “progress.” Diminutive organizations have little prestige and are rarely discussed except in a disparaging way.
Protestant Reformed youth are members of a church which is small according to the standards of this world. Protestant Reformed youth are members of a church which has stood unequivocally for the truth that God is sovereign and for the truth that the gift of God’s sovereign grace is only for his people. Because she has maintained this Scriptural position many with itching ears have left the communion of these churches. Instead of being in step with the spirit of the age the churches of which we are members seem to be disappointingly out of step.
When doctrinal differences are minimized then the necessity of many individual denominations and churches of a distinctive character loses its significance. A common ground of mutual assent is sought. “No creed but Christ” becomes the platform of unification. Christ becomes nothing more than a party leader who was a great teacher, a great exemplary figure and one who is on a par with all other so-called spiritual leaders of the honored past.
Denominational mergers are not entirely new but mergers are being consumed so rapidly that we as Protestant Reformed youth should not be oblivious of these events in the American church world.
Mergers have followed two special trends in the American church world. The United Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church, USA have recently merged. Earlier Methodist bodies merged. These are not such unusual mergers because they were next of kin groups, similar in faith and practice. More unusual is the merger consummated in June of 1961 of the more remotely related Evangelical and Reformed Churches (formerly Lutheran and some German Reformed Churches) and some of the Congregational Christian Churches. The merger of these churches resulted in the superstructure known as the United Church of Christ.
Quite recently Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, Stated Clerk of the United Presbyterian Church, USA, suggested that a merger of the UP – USA, the Protestant Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church, and the United Church of Christ form one church of more than 18 million members. No sooner had this well-nurtured idea been suggested by Dr. Blake than Bishop James A. Pike of the Protestant Episcopal Church seconded the proposal. Dr. Blake took his proposal to the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church along with several overtures from local presbyteries supporting the project. The General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to approach the three other denominations to commence negotiations looking toward a merger.
Even though this move is only of an exploratory nature, the careful observer will note that the proverbial camel has poked his nose into the tent. This is just one step away from the desired end of such investigation.
More closely related to the youth of our churches is the recent dissolution of the churches which called themselves Protestant Reformed since 1951 and their merger with the Christian Reformed Church. (This writer remembers the days when the hearts of many were sorely tried. Many of the activities of the church were curtailed and disrupted during those days in 1953. For several months Beacon Lights did not appear in the homes of subscribers. Then in February of 1954 the first issue of the reorganized Beacon Lights staff made its appearance. This issue marks the beginning of the ninth year of publishing since the “split”).
The opinions of most theologians and church leaders who are disciples of the so-called “ecumenical movement” are staunch supporters of arguments such as these:
“Denominational divisions which perpetuate outworn human creedalisms, traditions, national and sectional prejudices, and encourage ecclesiastical rivalries, prides and ambitions are wrong. Where human traditions and viewpoints are absolutized, division is sin. Biblical unity is oneness in Christ, but this is to be manifested in life. Just try and explain divisions to a non-Christian. I think the most cogent reason for union is evangelistic to demonstrate we are one.”
In this quotation can be found much high flown diction and theological jargon. These are the words of those who have become disciples of the spirit of this age and will do anything under the banner of so-called unity. Union, merger, consolidation at any cost. Union without unity. Union based upon compromise – compromise of the fundamental tenets that made the Reformation both a possibility and actual fact.
Protestant Reformed Youth must take a position. Protestant Reformed Youth must take a stand on these issues and must know what they stand for as a small, struggling militant church of Jesus Christ. Protestant Reformed Youth will have nothing to do with the theological jargon that spills forth in blurred and indistinguishable scratching from the pens of these preachers of ecumenicity and mergerism.
The Protestant Reformed Churches have a story to tell. These churches have a message to proclaim and this message and story of God’s sovereign love and dealings can only be told as long as the creeds and doctrinal standards formulated by the fathers of the church are maintained. These standards have stood the test of time. They are not right because they are old but they are old because they are right. For 350 years children of the Reformation have been cheered and led by the words and ideas penned in these confessions. They are the legacy of the true church because they embody the truths of the Scriptures.
In order for Protestant Reformed youth to take a position in these days of mergerism they must be informed. Information should then be weighed and analyzed in the light of the Word of God as this is interpreted in the Reformed Standards.
“We believe, that we ought diligently and circumspectly to discern from the Word of God which is the true Church, since all sects which are in the world assume to themselves the name of the Church.”