Reformed Church in America. No harm done. That was about the way delegates to the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America sized up a Southern Presbyterian decision to join Consultation on Church Union negotiations. The 230,000-member Reformed Church even voted to study the possibility of its own participation in the super-church-bound COCU. Talks toward a two-way merger with Southern Presbyterians will continue, although a fraternal letter is being dispatched requesting clarification of the surprise decision by the Presbyterian General Assembly to join COCU.
Christian Reformed Church. Delegates to the annual Christian Reformed Synod appointed a committee to define the church’s position toward the World Council of Churches. The church has never been affiliated with the WCC, the National Council of Churches, or the World Alliance of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. A move to warn its “sister church,” the Gereformeerde Kerken in Holland, against consideration of WCC affiliation was turned into an opportunity to consider the CRC’s own ecumenical posture. Many delegates felt that the church’s long-held position of non-affiliation was clear enough. Others felt that worthwhile advice could not be issued without a reflective definition.
Another change was the decision to seek closer “fellowship” with the Reformed Church in America by sending fraternal delegates to its classical and synodical assemblies. This pursuit of closer fellowship was interpreted as including pulpit exchanges. The 272,000-member Christian Reformed Church broke fellowship with the older church more than a hundred years ago. This year’s CRC Synod, held on the campus of the Reformed Church’s Central College in Pella, Iowa, marked the first time the annual meeting of one was held on the territory of the other.
Rumblings in the church over “theistic evolution” were formally brought to the synod’s attention. The synod responded by taking the matter under study. Because of the complexity of the problem, the first step was to appoint a committee to determine the “specific mandate of this [study] committee and the selection of its membership.”
The synod, whose delegates come from both the United States and Canada, elected the Rev. William P. Brink of the Second Christian Reformed Church of Fremont, Michigan, as its president and the Rev. John Vriend of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, as its first clerk.
In another action, the synod appointed a committee to present recommendations for “improvements, corrections, changes, and modifications of the existing text of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.” This was done because of the “extensive use of the RSV” among the denomination’s membership. The synod also ended its cooperation with the Bible Translation Conference of Palos Heights, Illinois, organized to produce an “evangelical translation.”
After long holding a standoffish position against Hollywood movies, the synod adopted an extensive, positive document on “The Church and the Film Arts.” It asserts, “If our Christian witness is to have relevance and redemptive value in modern society, it is necessary for us to make the meaningful distinction between the film arts as art forms, which are to be judged as legitimate media of culture,” and as “products, which are in each instance to be subjected to the moral judgment of the Christian community.” The report also declares that “although the film arts as a cultural medium is largely under secular control, its products are no more secular than … the daily newspaper, the radio, or the literature of our western world, and can be used similarly for cultural edification.”
One delegate asserted that the adoption of this document was a clear sign that CRC has really changed. Another delegate was overheard calling home, “Ma, movies are legal now.”
Seventh-day Adventist Church. Beneath a banner proclaiming “Behold He Cometh,” the Fiftieth World Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church convened in Cobo Hall, Detroit, June 16–25. The ten-day meeting moved along uneventfully except for the competition on Sunday, June 19, of the last meeting of Martin Luther King in another part of the hall. King attracted approximately 12,000 anti-segregationists, who gave an estimated $30,000 to further marches in Mississippi.
The day before King’s meeting began, the Adventists assembled 20,000 of their unsegregated black, white, and yellow adherents, among whom were 1,415 official delegates from 189 countries around the world. In a special offering for new mission work, they gave $1,208,000.
From its small beginning in 1844, with emphasis on sabbath observance and the imminent return of Christ the Adventists have grown to a worldwide organization with a constituency of 1,578,504, of whom 354,762 are in the United States. They tithe and in 1965 gave over $143 million. Per-capita giving in the United States was $277.43.
Adventists have an unusual salary arrangement for their clergy. All leaders, elders, and teachers are paid approximately the same wage, whether they are university presidents or assistant professors, elders of small or large churches, low or high officers in the administrative echelons of the church.
Nine veteran administrators retired from service at this quadrennium and were replaced by much younger leaders. The key change came with the election of Robert H. Pierson as world president, succeeding the retiring Reuben R. Figuhr. Pierson, 55, an American-born Adventist, comes from Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia. He has served his church as a missionary for twenty-five years.
The meetings emphasized the imminence of Christ’s coming. This note was sounded by missionaries, educators, and denominational officials. While they wait for that coming, Adventists work. Thus the missionary task of the church was constantly in view at the conference. Adventists currently support 2,400 missionaries overseas.
In door-to-door proclamation of their message, church members contacted 57 million people in 1965. They distributed 205 million pieces of literature. The effectiveness of this ministry is seen by the 120,939 baptisms and a net membership increase of 70,448 in 1965.
Bulking large among the delegates and visitors were Negroes (57,202 members in the United States), who have a full place in the denomination. The Adventists added to their church manual a section entitled “No Wall of Partition,” in which the unity of the human race is clearly stated and discrimination because of nationality or race or color is declared unscriptural. Traditionally Adventists have stayed out of politics, although they object to compulsory union membership, as a violation of religious liberty and support nondiscrimination for sabbath-keepers.
The Wesleyan Church. A new Holiness denomination is being created through merger of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of America, the Pilgrim Holiness Church, and the Reformed Baptist Church of Canada. The merged denomination, to be known simply as “The Wesleyan Church,” will have a constituency of nearly 100,000 members in North America. The Wesleyan Methodist and Reformed Baptists approved the union plan last month and the Pilgrim Holiness conference is to consider it this week.
The Wesleyan Methodists, meanwhile, are coping with a threat of schism in their denomination. Their General Conference put two regional conferences “under discipline” last month for alleged insubordination and irregularities.
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