Calvin And Ecumenism
A variety of observances are being held to mark important anniversaries associated with John Calvin, French-born founder of the Reformed tradition followed by more than 40,000,000 Christians over the world.
Among highlights:—The World Presbyterian Alliance dedicated in Geneva the newly-restored Calvin Auditorium, historic church where Calvin and other Reformation leaders preached and taught.
—Summer-long nightly performances of a “Festival of Sound and Light” were inaugurated at the site of Geneva’s Reformation Monument.
—Pilgrimages were made to the Noyon, France, birthplace of Calvin, and to his home in Paris.
—The French Reformed Church commemorated its fourth centenary at a synod in Paris.
—A Roman Catholic newspaper in Geneva published a special supplement to help celebrate the occasion.
This year marks the 450th anniversary of Calvin’s birth and the 400th anniversary of the final edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, a now-famous work which represented a thorough, organized compilation of Calvinistic convictions. Geneva University also is observing its fourth centennial this year, having had its beginnings with the Calvin Auditorium.
The Geneva celebrations drew thousands of people from many countries. Some 5,000 gathered for a May 31 rally in front of the Reformation Monument, a wall set off by statues of Calvin and such other Reformation leaders as John Knox and Theodore Beza.
The service was followed by a mass picnic for hundreds of Protestant families in a giant exhibit hall.
Proceedings were relayed over Eurovision, a network of national television systems, to five European countries.
The “Festival of Sound and Light” was inaugurated the same evening. Concealed spotlights illuminated the statues of the Reformers while choral and orchestral music filled the night air. A voice reviewed the role of Calvin and his work.
On the following day, the Calvin Auditorium was rededicated with solemn, yet simple ceremonies witnessed by church dignitaries, civic authorities and university professors. A message was read from Dr. John A. Mackay, president of the World Presbyterian Alliance, which said in part:
“In the name of many millions of fellow Christians in the world-wide family of the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches, let me express our united gratitude and joy for the restoration of the historic shrine of Reformed Christianity.
“May the rededication of this sacred edifice, where the Christian faith was taught and Christian worship conducted 400 years ago, become the occasion for the spiritual renewal of all our Churches, and, through the grace of Jesus Christ, the great Head of His body, the Church, may a fresh consecration of us all to the service of the one Gospel and the one Church lead all Christians everywhere to pursue the unity and perform the mission of Christ’s “Church Universal.”
In Paris, the National Synod of the French Reformed Church commemorated the historic synod in 1559 at which their own church was organized on a Calvinist basis. On hand for the three-day session were delegates from English, Swiss, German, Dutch, and American Reformed churches, as well as Anglican and Orthodox representatives.
Pilgrimages to Calvin’s birthplace viewed a special exhibition of Protestant historical documents on display at the Noyon museum. Calvin was born July 10, 1509, and died May 27, 1564.
Le Courrier, Roman Catholic newspaper published in Geneva, came out with a special supplement to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the University of Geneva. In a leading article, Father John of the Cross Kaelin, chaplain to the Catholic student center at the university, said Catholic participation in the anniversary celebrations might appear surprising, but only at first sight.
“It would certainly have been inconceivable for our forefathers of the sixteenth century,” he said, “that we should associate ourselves without mental reservations with the celebrations commemorating the foundation of an institution whose origins go back to Calvin.” “However,” the priest said, “it is the times that have changed.”
“In fact,” he added, “our university today possesses a status of neutrality, positive and open, without in any way disowning a past with which it has a living link through its [Protestant] faculty of theology.”
The priest stressed the importance of the Catholic center in the university “through which the Church mainly expresses its presence and responsibility toward the 600 to 700 Catholic students.”
Thirty-three Presbyterian and Reformed leaders used the Calvin anniversary occasion to promote the ecumenical movement. In an “Address to Our Fellow Christians After 400 Years,” they issued a new call for Christian unity which caused a leading newspaper to observe that it “seemed to portend a major shift in the Calvinist tradition.”
The appeal for unity came in a statement released in New York by the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. Those who signed the statement represented some 21 countries.
“Churches, like people, cannot be themselves until they are each other’s,” the statement declared. “Apart from our brothers in all branches of the Church Catholic, the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches cannot fulfill their obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The message emphasized that “we ourselves are ready to accept all invitations from sister Churches to that comparison of opinion and experience in which Christians submit themselves afresh to the Lord of the Church.”
“And we issue our own invitations to all who would with us put their traditions and systems under the judgment of Christ, seeking His correction, and ready to relinquish what He does not approve,” it said.
“If separation from Christians with whom we disagree be sin, what shall we call our ignorance of, and unconcern for, Christians of our own family?” the statement asked. “We who confess the unity of the whole Church in Jesus Christ have no excuse for the turbulence and rancor we have too often loosed in the Church. So we pray that the same grace which can cover our offense will lead us toward the reconciliation, reunion, and renewal now in course.”
The New York Times added this interpretation to a news story of the statement:
“The leaders said they were speaking for themselves, and not for their several churches, but the message seemed to portend a major shift in the Calvinist tradition.
“John Calvin had no penchant for a world-wide reunion of churches. Yet many of those who signed the ‘address’ are leaders of the ecumenical movement within Protestantism.
“For example, Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, who headed the committee that drafted the document, is not only chief administrative officer of the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., but is also an official of the World Council of Churches.”
Others who signed the statement in addition to Blake included: Dr. John Baillie, a president of the World Council of Churches, and Dr. James S. Thomson, moderator of the United Church of Canada.
Drafting of the statement was initiated last summer, prior to the announcement by Pope John XXIII of a forthcoming Ecumenical Council, and consequently makes no reference to it.
Question Of Meaning
Few Vatican announcements have caused as much discussion in Protestant circles as the notice of an Ecumenical Council. In the case of Dr. W. Ralph Ward, minister of Mt. Lebanon (Pa.) Methodist Church, it provided material for a sermon entitled “What An Ecumenical Council Could Mean.”
Ward said the Pope has never consented to formal discussion on unity with Protestants.
“What is striking about the Pope’s call for an Ecumenical Council is that this is the very emphasis which, in the past half century, has come forth in the world-wide Christian movement,” Ward said. “But never officially has the Catholic church responded to the slightest degree.” The minister added:
A display containing what is believed to be the largest collection of Bibles in the United States will be open throughout the summer at the Open-Church Foundation Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
The collection was started by Roger W. Babson, an educator and statistician who is a lineal descendant of John Rogers, translator of the Matthews-Rogers Bible in 1537.
Noteworthy Bibles in the exhibit include first editions of Martin Luther’s translation (1532), the Matthews-Rogers Bible, the Great Bible (1539), the Geneva Bible (1560) and the King James version (1611). Also displayed is one of the 33 known copies of the “George Washington Bible,” the only edition of the Scriptures printed by act of Congress.
“It was in January of 1928 that Pope Pius XI, in answer to a question as to whether it was lawful for Catholics to be present at or to countenance the conferences, gatherings, assemblies, or associations of non-Catholics which assume for themselves the name of Christian, gave an emphatic NO, and in a decree which carried the stamp of papal infallibility said: ‘Such efforts [that is, ecumenical] can meet with no kind of approval among Catholics.… There is but one way in which the unity of Christians may be fostered, and that is by furthering the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it.… Let them, then, return to their Father, who, forgetting the insults in the past heaped upon the Apostolic See, will accord them a most loving welcome’.… If the Ecumenical Council means what it could mean, the atmosphere between Roman Catholics and Protestants could change.… Roman Catholics … could stop telling their people that it is a mortal sin for them to visit or worship in a Protestant church.…”
Chruch And State
Commissioner Lawrence G. Derthick of the U. S. Office of Education announced this month the award of graduate fellowships under the National Defense Education Act to include seven in the field of religious studies.
Derthick also reconfirmed the award of three fellowships to Emory University, announced earlier, in the field of Old Testament studies, and three fellowships to New York University in Hebraic and Judeo-Arabic studies, which will include research in Biblical archeology.
The new grants were three fellowships at Dropsie College, a Philadelphia Jewish institution, to expand its program in comparative religion; and four fellowships in the Department of Religious Studies of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.
The program under which the federal grants are being made is designed to encourage preparation of graduate students who are pursuing doctor of philosophy degrees with the intention of becoming college teachers. The fellowships pay annual stipends ranging from $2,000 to $2,400 a year for three years for the fellows, and, in addition, pay the institutions up to $2,500 a year to defray costs of educating the student selected.
Dropsie had applied for the fellowships to strengthen its program in the teaching of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism.
Brown said the fellowships would assist in preparing potential faculty members to teach social ethics.
In proportion to population, the Southern Appalachian Mountain region has more churches and fewer church members than any other region of the United States, according to a Berea College survey. Studied were 190 counties in mountains of seven states between Pennsylvania and Alabama.
Soviet authorities are reported to have taken over St. Mary’s Lutheran Cathedral in Riga, Latvia, for a “historical monument.” Built in the sixteenth century, the cathedral houses one of the world’s largest organs.
Among $235,000 in specific bequests, John Foster Dulles, the late Secretary of State, left $10,000 to New York’s Union Theological Seminary, $5,000 to Brick Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, $5,000 to the National Council of Churches, and $5,000 to his second son, the Rev. Avery Dulles, a Jesuit priest.
More than 200 students took final examinations in Washington in the first Bible course ever offered via television for college credit. Most of the students who watched hour-long Saturday lectures passed the course and received two hours of credit applicable toward a degree at American University, a Methodist school. The course took up the life of Christ.
John M. Cabot, nominated to succeed Mrs. Clare Boothe Luce as ambassador to Brazil, is a Protestant. Mrs. Luce, former ambassador to Italy, is a Roman Catholic. Dempster McIntosh, a Protestant, has been nominated to succeed Cabot as ambassador to Colombia.
The Federal Communications Commission authorized Moody Bible Institute to operate a 47,000-watt, noncommercial FM broadcasting station in Chicago.
A nation-wide survey conducted by the research and survey department of the Methodist Division of National Missions indicates that three out of five of the denomination’s ministers work 50 to 69 hours a week, while one out of ten works 80 hours or more.
Under a new birth control policy, employees of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare must refer clients on matters of conscience to their minister, priest, or rabbi. The new policy was adopted after state Attorney General Anne X. Alpern ruled that the department was within its rights in considering birth control for persons on relief when no religious objections were involved.
More than 150,000 children marched in Brooklyn’s annual Sunday School parade which marked the 130th anniversary of the Brooklyn Sunday School Union. Smaller parades were held in Queens. Public elementary schools were closed in both boroughs.
An American missionary couple who belonged to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Mr. and Mrs. L. E. Reinertson, were killed in an automobile accident this month in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Christian Men, Incorporated, released results of a survey this month which cited “less amateurish organizational pretending and more inspirational worship activities” as current church needs. The study was made through questionnaires completed by 400 men in seven church groups in Lubbock, Texas.
The Navy this month gave a citation to a Gordon Divinity School student who as an aeronautical engineer led development of the aerodynamic design of the “Terrier,” the Navy’s first operational surface-to-air guided missile. E. Arthur Bonney, 40, left the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University last fall to enroll at Gordon because he said “it was the calling of the Lord.”
The District of Columbia now has 451 Protestant churches, 41 Roman Catholic, and 7 Orthodox. There are also 16 Jewish synagogues, 1 mosque, 1 Buddhist and 1 Hindu house of worship. In metropolitan Washington, which has a population of 2,200,000, there are 1,251 places of worship, according to a census taken by the Council of Churches of the National Capital Area.
Continent Of Africa
January’s tumultuous and tragic rioting which scarred the beautiful Belgian Congo capital of Leopoldville has not been erased entirely from the visitor’s view nor forgotten by those who witnessed police measures employed. Upon both European and African circles, however, has settled a period of temperate concern for faithful application of royal and parliamentary declarations outlining steps toward independence. The speedup toward self-government in territories and provinces, probably issuing in legislative and judicial autonomy during 1961, has boosted all the missions in their varying procedures toward passing to the indigenous church bodies full control of ecclesiastical affairs. Marked sentiment exists for development of the unity of churches already vaguely declared for some years under the device, “The Church of Christ in the Congo.”
[Several missions, reluctant to cooperate in the inclusive program of the International Missionary Council, plan an evangelical seminary just north of Stanleyville. Sponsors include the Africa Inland and the Unevangelized Fields missions, plus the Evangelical Free and Mission Covenant churches.—ED.]
This cohesion of mission-directed regional church bodies is now clearly expressed by participation since 1957 of African church delegates in annual plenary sessions of the Congo Protestant Council. It is expected that this formerly all-mission constituted council will become progressively dominated by Congolese delegates until it will serve as the forum for whatever expression the Africans will agree to give to their aspirations for spiritual unity in Christ. Of the 45 Protestant missions in the Congo and Ruanda Urundi, most belong to the council, and all the others, excepting Seventh-day Adventists, are associated or related by some financial support.
Problems and plans relating to primary and secondary education, still largely confined to Catholic and Protestant missions, and to the acute need for more and higher seminary-level training of Africans for the ministry assume an even larger share of the cooperative effort of mission and church leaders. More educational personnel with pedagogical competency and fluency in the French are needed everywhere in the Congo field. Several of the larger American and English missions (Methodist, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Baptist) are seriously exploring for the creation of one faculté de théologie related to, and accredited by, the one State University, located at Elizabethville. The project may largely depend upon aid already asked of a Rockefeller fund administered under the International Missionary Council.
L. A. MCC.
Affirmation of biblical authority provides the basis for a joining of forces the extent of which reportedly has no precedent in the 100-year history of Japanese Protestantism.
Occasion of the cooperation is the Japanese Protestant centennial observance, to be highlighted by meetings of many groups throughout the islands. (See CHRISTIANITY TODAY, April 13, 1959, issue.) One feature of the commemoration will be a series of October conferences to be sponsored by a specially-constituted centennial committee.
Dr. W. A. McIlwaine, veteran Presbyterian missionary and committee chairman, declared that about one-third of all Japanese Protestant ministers and missionaries are behind his group’s program. This represents, he claimed, the most extensive cooperation ever achieved within the Japanese Protestant community.
Basis for cooperation is belief in the following statement: “I believe that the Bible is the fully inspired, infallible Word of God, the only rule of faith and practice.”
Speakers for the centennial conferences will be Dr. Roger Nicole, Professor of theology at Gordon Divinity School, Dr. Edward J. Young, professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, and Dr. Oswald J. Smith, pastor emeritus of the Peoples Church in Toronto.
Another feature of the centennial year will be a crusade scheduled for September 16-October 4 in Fukuoka with evangelist David Morken, associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. After the Fukuoka meetings, Morken will conduct five other crusades in principal cities of Kyushu province.
Episcopacy And Union
Having hurdled to their satisfaction the problem of historic episcopacy, leaders of the two largest Protestant bodies in India are promoting a three-point merger program.
Talks have been going on for 10 years between the federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India and the Church of South India, a union of Anglicans, Congregationalists, Methodists and Presbyterians. By 1956 a commission of the two bodies had drafted agreed statements on the law and the Gospel, the doctrine of election, the relation of creedal and confessional statements to the being of the church, and the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. Then came the impasse: what to say of the historic episcopate.
Talks were deadlocked for more than two years. Then, earlier this spring, a joint commission of the two bodies met at Bangalore and finally agreed that “the presence or absence of episcopacy ought not in itself to determine the relationship of one church with another.”
The commission recommended (1) closer altar and pulpit fellowship, (2) preparation of a common catechism, and (3) the drafting of a constitution for church union.
The Church of South India has more than 1,000,000 adherents, while the Lutheran federation represents 10 Indian churches with a combined membership of about 653,300.
Report From China
The woman stood before the assembly with a furrowed brow beneath her wide-brimmed straw hat. “We should pray daily for Christians in China,” she said, and the crowd about her knew she understood whereof she spoke. The woman was Miss Helen Willis, a Canadian Brethren missionary who had just been expelled from Communist China. She was addressing the Missionary Prayer Fellowship in Hong Kong last month, only days after her arrival from behind the Bamboo Curtain. Here is the gist of her remarks:
She had operated a Christian book shop in Shanghai until last fall. Authorities finally closed the shop, charging that Miss Willis helped anti-revolutionaries.
Many Christians still stand firm for the Lord in the face of restrictions. Many of these had secretly brought her such scarce items as eggs, pork, fruit and vegetables.
Many pastors and Christian workers are imprisoned. Forty arrests were made following the closing of a single seminary. Private prayer is forbidden.
China’s most outstanding pastor, Wong Ming Tao, faced trial but his life was blameless. He underwent tremendous pressure in prison. Two men placed in his cell interrogated him day and night. Finally, his mind gave way and he signed a confession. He was subsequently released from prison, and his mind became normal again. Realizing he had signed a lie, he told authorities the statements were not true. “If they are not true, you must return to prison,” was the reply. Wong Ming Tao and his wife were reportedly in jail again as of the day Miss Willis left China this spring.
Government education begins in nursery school with children two years of age! Young people are taught that there is no God. The only Christian teaching comes from believing parents.
Last September, the government reduced some 150 Shanghai churches of all denominations to 20 state churches. Sermons became mere political addresses. “Love your country; love your church” became the motto. Chief target of propagandists: The China Inland Mission.
Miss Willis concluded her account with a confident reminder: “The church is still the Lord’s.” She left Shanghai with the words of a Chinese Christian ringing in her ears. He had come to the railroad station to see her off despite her urgings that he not make himself known. His parting words: “We are still looking for that revival.”
People: Words And Events
Deaths: The Rev. Franklin Claude Spurgeon, 56, general secretary-auditor of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, in Philadelphia … Lutheran Bishop Simon Schoeffel, 79, in Hamburg, Germany … Dr. Florence Mary Fitch, 84, professor of biblical literature and dean of women at Oberlin College, in Oberlin, Ohio.
Appointments: As president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois, Dr. George Beto … as professor of systematic theology and Christian apologetics at California Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Bernard Ramm … as assistant professor of New Testament in the Graduate School of Lincoln Bible Institute, Lincoln, Illinois, Dr. Austin P. Benjamin … as pastor of the Lake Avenue Congregational Church, Pasadena, California, the Rev. Raymond C. Ortlund.
Elections: As moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Dr. Alexander Nimmo … as president of the Christian Reformed Church, the Rev. J. C. Gritter.
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