Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Promise Keepers and other ecumenical organizations are calling for the breaking down of denominational barriers. At the Promise Keepers Clergy Conference in Atlanta in February 1996, the more than 39,000 pastors attending were urged to commit themselves to the “Atlanta Covenant.” One of the points of this seven-part document urged pastors to reach beyond racial and DENOMINATIONAL barriers.” Former football coach Bill McCartney, who came out of retirement in August 2008 to lead Promise Keepers again, made the following statement at this meeting: “Contention between denominations has gone on long enough. If the church ever stood together, Almighty God would have his way.”
This ecumenical thinking apparently sounds good to this itching-ear generation (2 Timothy 4:4-6), but it ignores the wretchedly apostate condition of a great many of the denominations. In the following study we are not going to deal with the doctrinal errors inherent in various denominations (such as baptismal regeneration and unscriptural views of prophecy and church government). Instead we will document the fearfully modernistic condition of some of the mainline denominations which are represented by participants and speakers at Promise Keepers meetings.
We understand that in all of these liberal denominations there are those who claim to be evangelicals and who, to various degrees, are resisting the modernistic trends. The Evangelical exceptions do not overthrow the modernistic rule within these denominations.
Respected evangelical leader Harold Lindsell gave this testimony in regard to the mainline denominations: “It is not unfair to allege that among denominations like Episcopal, United Methodist, United Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. THERE IS NOT A SINGLE THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY THAT TAKES A STAND IN FAVOR OF BIBLICAL INFALLIBILITY. AND THERE IS NOT A SINGLE SEMINARY WHERE THERE ARE NOT FACULTY MEMBERS WHO DISAVOW ONE OR MORE OF THE MAJOR TEACHINGS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH” (Harold Lindsell, Battle for the Bible, Zondervan, 1976, pp. 145-146.)
Modernism has permeated the mainline denominations. Any call, therefore, to breach denominational barriers today, is a call to yoke together truth with error and is an open denial of the biblical doctrine of separation.
The Church of England was formed in 1534 when King Henry VIII rebelled against the Roman Catholic pope and proclaimed himself the head of the national church in England. “His quarrel with the pope was not on religious grounds, but merely on the selfish grounds that the pope would not sanction Henry’s proposed divorce of Queen Catherine. Henry himself (though excommunicated) remained a Catholic in doctrine and practice all his days. The pope entitled him ‘Defender of the Faith’ for a book he had written against Luther in 1521” (Lion History of Christianity). There was a brief return to Roman Catholic control of the Church of England during the reign of Queen Mary from 1553 to 1558, but Protestant control returned after her death. More than 200 Protestant Christians and church leaders were murdered during the rule of Mary.
According to the London-based Anglican Consultative Council, there are more than 70 million Anglicans in 164 countries. The Episcopal Church in America is part of the worldwide Anglican communion. Though the Church of England claims a membership of 27 million, this counts every person who has been baptized as an infant; only nine million have been confirmed, and fewer than 1.7 million attend services even at Christmas or Easter when attendance is at its peak.
Though not under papal authority, many Catholic practices remain intact in the Church of England.
EPISCOPAL CHURCH GOVERNMENT: Anglican church government is the unbiblical episcopal system--the local church is governed by outside control through a hierarchy of priests and bishops. The highest Anglican bishop is called the Archbishop of Canterbury.
INFANT BAPTISM: The Anglican Church practices infant baptism, teaching that infants receive the Holy Spirit and are regenerated through baptism. The Book of Common Prayer says: “Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God. ... Infants are baptized so that they can share citizenship in the Covenant, membership in Christ, and redemption by God.”
RITUALISTIC WORSHIP: The Anglican Church has a highly ritualistic form of worship foreign to that of the churches of the N.T. The Anglican Church is highly ritualistic, using prayer books and a formal liturgy. Contrary to the apostolic Scriptural pattern, they have a special priesthood and two “sacraments” (Baptism and Lord’s Supper). The sacraments are defined as “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace” (The Book of Common Prayer). Thus, like the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church falsely believes the “sacraments” to be channels of Christ’s grace. The Lord’s Supper is called the “Holy Eucharist” and is considered, not simply a memorial meal, but an event in which Christ becomes present in the bread and wine. Episcopal priests believe they are somehow offering the sacrifice of Christ in their Eucharist. “Q. Why is the Eucharist called a sacrifice? A. Because the Eucharist, the Church’s sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, is the way by which the sacrifice of Christ is made present, and in which he unites us to his one offering of himself” (Book of Common Prayer). The Handbook of Denominations in the United States observes that “the Episcopal Church [the American branch of the Church of England] believes in the real presence of Christ in the elements of the Eucharist.”
We can see, then, that though the Church of England is separate from the Catholic Church organizationally, it has clung to many of the false beliefs and practices of Romanism.
MODERNISM: In this century liberalism has largely taken over the Anglican denomination. A large percentage of its bishops and pastors are modernists who deny the miracles of the Bible. Former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie illustrates this sad trend. In an interview with a newspaper the editor picked up in London on Easter 1982, Runcie was asked about the meaning of the cross. He replied, “As to that, I am an agnostic.” Runcie was not certain of the meaning of the cross! In the same interview he said he felt Buddhism is a proper way to God and that Christians should not say that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. Anglican bishop David Jenkins openly questions every major teaching of the Bible. Of Christ’s resurrection, this Church of England bishop says, “The Christian is not bound up with freak biology or corpses getting up and walking around.” Of Christ’s virgin birth, Jenkins says, “As for the virgin birth, they’re the sort of stories that get told after you already believe somebody is very important. You don’t have to believe in the virgin birth...”
ECUMENISM: For the past two decades or more many Anglican leaders, including the archbishops, have been attempting to reconcile the Church of England with the RCC. The Catholic pope visited England for the first time in 1982 and held a joint meeting and service with Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie. Runcie has said, “We should like to see the churches of England, Scotland, the United States and any other countries, bound together in one body. If the pope would like to come in as chairman, we should all welcome him” (Why Were Our Reformers Burned? p. 13). After three years of theological debate, the members of the Second Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission issued a statement which concluded that the doctrine of salvation taught by Rome and by Anglicanism is so close that there need be no more division between them. They are correct, of course, because both preach a false sacramental gospel which adds the works of the church to the free salvation in Jesus Christ.
WOMEN PRIESTS: As of 1993, 17 of the 30 independent Anglican communions around the world had approved ordination of women priests. The Episcopal Church in the United States, which approved women’s ordination in 1976, has 1,070. The Episcopalians ordained the first Anglican female bishop in 1989. The “mother church” in England gave final approval for the ordination of women priests in 1993.
SYNCRETISM AND UNIVERSALISM: Speaking in Bahrain on November 3, 2001, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the worldwide communion of Anglican churches, called Mohammed “a great religious leader whose influence on millions has been for the good.” To the contrary, Mohammed has influenced multitudes to follow a false gospel to eternal hell. Carey said that “interfaith dialogue is not an option but a necessity.” Carey spoke commendably of the writings of modernist John Hick and did not condemn Hick’s claims that Christians should stop claiming that Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior and that there is only one God and one faith. Carey belittled and condemned fundamentalists or “dogmatists,” as he called them, who carry “banners pronouncing that ‘Jesus is the answer’” and who refuse to dialogue with other religions. He said Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God and that Muslims and Christians are brothers. The title of Carey’s message was “How Far Can We Travel Together?” The Bible answered that almost 2,000 years ago. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? . . . Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:14-17). The Lord’s Apostles, who started the first churches, did not dialogue with idolaters; they preached the blessed Gospel to them. Ecumenists dialogue because they have no truth to preach.
(1) Descendants of German separatists. “American descendants of early German Protestants, the Brethren are authentic Pietists. ... Brethren do not emphasize tight doctrinal standards. ... They live in a simple, unadorned life. In their early decades in Europe and America, Brethren were separatists from the state church and conventional churches. ... Dunker is a direct derivation of the German tunken, ‘to dip or immerse,’ and is identified with the peculiar method of immersion employed by this group of churches--triple immersion--in which the believer is immersed not once but three times, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. ... It might be said generally that these Dunkers, or Brethren, are former German Reformed bodies which took their theology and much of their practice from the Pietists of the 17th and 18th centuries. Most Pietists were Lutherans who had become unhappy with the formal worship and ritual in their state church and the general ‘barrenness’ of German Protestantism. They took the N.T. literally and endeavored to put its teachings into practice, even in the least detail of their living. ... From those German Pietists came Church of the Brethren, Brethren Church, Old German Baptist Brethren, and Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. Another group historically unrelated to these, known as River Brethren, also took its ideology from the German Pietists. That group includes Brethren in Christ, Old Order Brethren, and United Zion Church” (Handbook on Denominations). Some of the Brethren distinctives are foot washing, plainness of dress and the disavowal of worldly fashions, head coverings on women, anointing the sick, eschewing worldly amusements, refusing to take oaths, pacifism and refusal to go to war. As with the Amish and Mennonites, there is a general tendency for these European Brethren descendants to retain only the outward form of their past spirituality, and to be barren today of the new birth. [See Mennonite.]
(2) Plymouth Brethren. The Plymouth Brethren is a Christian movement which originated in England in the 19th century. According to Roy Huebmer, a Brethren historian and author of Precious Truths Revived and Defended Through J.N. Darby, this movement can be traced to 1827 when John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) and three other men began to conduct Bible studies and to break bread together in Dublin. Darby was the Godson of Lord Nelson of Trafalgar fame. He gave up a law practice to work as a deacon in the Church of England and to preach and do visitation work. He left the Anglican Church in the summer of 1827. He never married, and he used his personal estate to support himself. Eventually Darby moved to Plymouth, England, and the church he established there grew to over 1,200 members by 1845. Darby was a diligent student and prolific writer. William Kelly compiled and published 34 large volumes of J.N. Darby’s works (in the Collected Writings). Seven volumes of Darby’s Notes and Comments were published from his notebooks posthumously. Darby also produced translations of the Bible in German, French, and English. The Darby English translation follows the Received Text for the most part, though it does contain a number of Westcott-Hort omissions and other textual departures from the TR. For example, the eunuch’s testimony in Ac 8:37 is omitted, as is the trinity statement of 1 Jn. 5:7. He did not intend that his versions replace the Luther German and King James English translations; his stated goal was to provide very literal interpretations of the Hebrew and Greek to aid Christians in Bible study.
“As a result of a division in England in 1848, there are two basic types of Brethren assemblies, commonly known as exclusive and open. Led in the beginning by Darby, the exclusive assemblies produced most of the movement’s well-known Bible teachers--Kelly, Grant, Mackintosh, [Darby himself], and others. ... Open assemblies were led by George Muller, well known for his orphanages and life of faith. ... today there are an estimated 850 open assemblies in the U.S. with only 250 exclusive” (Handbook).
“Within these churches, the common terminology is simply Brethren, or assemblies, or Brethren assemblies. The term Plymouth Brethren is not used by the Brethren themselves, but was a label outsiders gave to them in Plymouth, England. The matter of names is a sensitive issue among Brethren, reflecting a historical emphasis on the unity of all believers. The early Brethren envisioned a basis for Christian unity--not in the ecumenical merging of denominations, but rather in forsaking denominational structures and names in order to meet simply as Christians. ... names like Bible Chapel or Gospel Hall, usually prefixed with the name of a city, community, street, or some biblical term like Grace, Bethel, or Bethany, are preferred to Church when naming a building” (Ibid.).
The Brethren have been zealous for Bible doctrine and hold to the evangelical Bible faith in areas such as Inspiration, Salvation, God, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Resurrection, Heaven, and Hell. Though Bible prophecy was interpreted allegorically by most Christians in the 19th century, the Brethren were instrumental in popularizing the dispensational method of interpretation, which views biblical history as dispensations or eras in which God has been worked out His purposes through men, and which interprets Bible prophecy in a consistent literal-historical manner. The Brethren believe that God’s promises to the nation Israel will be fulfilled literally, that the Tribulation and Millennium will be fulfilled literally. The Brethren emphasized the imminent coming of Christ for His own in the Rapture of the saints, though they did not fall into the error of setting dates. The writings of Darby, William Kelly, C.H. Mackintosh, and other Brethren dispensationalists had a powerful influence on C.I. Scofield, and these views are reflected in the popular Scofield Reference Bible of 1909. Another well-known Brethren was Sir Robert Anderson, who was chief of Scotland Yard and who wrote books on Bible prophecy which were widely distributed.
Some of the distinctives of the Plymouth Brethren movement are as follows: (1) The remembrance meeting held each Sunday, during which the Lord’s Supper is received. All men of the assembly are free to take part in the service and to testify. (2) Though the Brethren believe in preachers, they do not believe in strong pastoral leadership. The assemblies are ruled by a plurality of elders. They reject any form of clergy/laity divisions, and refuse the title “Reverend.” Brethren preachers normally receive no regular salary. (3) Many of the Plymouth Brethren have been opposed to the use of musical instruments, which they traced to the influence of Cain’s descendants.
Three Brethren publishers in the U.S. are Loizeaux in Neptune, New Jersey, publisher of Harry Ironside’s many popular books, and Bible Truth Publishers in Addison, Illinois. While the Plymouth Brethren have been strong in Bible teaching, pure Christian living, and evangelism in days gone by, that is changing rapidly, as it is in most Christian groups. Sadly, there is a general tendency toward spiritual lethargy and evangelistic coolness today.
Orthodoxy refers to that branch of sacramental Christianity which broke off from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 A.D.
HISTORY: Until 1054 the Eastern and the Roman were two branches of the same sacramental body. The division began when the Roman emperor Constantine moved his capital from Rome to Constantinople in 330 A.D. Powerful church leaders claimed authority over large regions and were vying for supremacy. There was the bishop of Rome in the West, and four patriarchs in the East. The main point of contention between the eastern and the western divisions was the papacy. More important than doctrine was the issue of power and authority. The Eastern Orthodox rejected the pope, while retaining Rome’s sacramental system and most of Rome’s unscriptural doctrines.
“The division of the Orthodox Church into the Western and Eastern--Roman and Constantinople--began with the division of the Roman Empire in the late 4th century A.D. Toward the end of the 9th century the dialogue between the Papacy and the Patriarchate became much sharper: it was at that time that Bulgaria was baptised and an argument broke out between Rome and Constantinople over the patronage of the new Christian country. ... In 1054 there was a formal break between the Western (Roman) and Eastern (Orthodox) church when Pope Leo IX and Michael Caerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, anathematised each other. This signified a formal split” (A Millennium of Russian Orthodoxy, pp. 20-21).
The Roman Catholic Church and its twin, Eastern Orthodoxy, were formed by a spiritually adulterous relationship between the political empire and apostate church leaders. The latter claimed authority over the Lords churches and amalgamated pagan practices with New Testament truth to form an impure form of Christianity. This explains the origin of such unscriptural practices as the mass, purgatory, sacraments, prayers to and for the dead, consecrated buildings, Mary worship, scapulars, and the rosary. Eastern Orthodoxy has its roots in this same apostasy.
Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy both claim direct descent from Christ and the Apostles, but that this claim is bogus is evident in their non-apostolic doctrines and practices. As a result of the split with Rome, Eastern Orthodoxy is not united under one head. There are many groupings of Orthodox, all having the same basic doctrine and practice with some minor variation: Russian Orthodox, Albanian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, Bulgarian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, etc. Though not united under a world headquarters, these groupings are united separately into episcopal councils, over which a bishop rules. Also, each group is in turn in formal relationship with the Patriarch of Constantinople, who presides over all the Eastern Orthodox churches. “No one patriarch is responsible to any other patriarch; yet all are within the jurisdiction of an ecumenical council of all the churches, in communion with the patriarch of Constantinople, who holds the title Ecumenical Patriarch” (Handbook). From a biblical perspective, there is little difference between the ecclesiology of Roman Catholicism and that of Eastern Orthodoxy. Both incorporate an unscriptural form of church government through which a intra-church bureaucracy lords over the local assembly.
DOCTRINE: In addition to rejecting the papacy, with its doctrines of supremacy and infallibility, Eastern Orthodoxy rejects purgatory and the doctrine of indulgences. Like Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy has a consecrated priesthood and seven sacraments which only the priests have authority to perform--baptism, anointing, communion, penance, holy orders, marriage, and holy unction (Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 9th ed.). Infants and adults are baptized by threefold immersion. Sacraments are believed to be channels of grace, as contrasted to the New Testament ordinances of baptism and the Lords Supper which are simple memorials rather than actual means of grace. Orthodoxy practices the mass or the “Holy Eucharist” [eucharist means praise] whereby Christ supposedly is sacrificed anew and the bread and wine of the “eucharist” becomes the actual body and blood of Christ. Orthodoxy worships Mary as the Mother of God. Prayers are offered for the dead, who also are believed to pray for those on earth. Justification is attained through faith and works.
MEMBERSHIP: In 1990 there were an estimated three million Orthodox church members in the United States, though membership statistics are unreliable due to the fact that they are based on baptismal records rather than active participation in church life. A 1987 report estimated 173 million Orthodox worldwide, but again, this statistic is almost meaningless in relation to how many adults actually practice the Orthodox faith.
LITURGY: Orthodoxy is extremely focused on liturgy (ritualistic forms of worship) and icons. The latter are images which are supposed to represent various saints and spiritual realities. The Orthodox claim they do not worship these as idols, but they serve the same purpose. Prayers are addressed before these icons, candles are burned before them, incense and holy water is put upon them. In biblical terminology, icons are indeed idols.
GOSPEL: Orthodoxy preaches a false gospel. According to Orthodox teaching, baptism (even of infants) is the means whereby an individual is born into Christ and becomes a Christian. This false gospel is cited from one of their own publications:
“Baptism is a new birth. It is being born to the life made new by our Lord Jesus Christ. It means to be alive in Christ. ... Through Holy Baptism all become Christ’s. We become Christians and have the opportunity to inherit God’s Kingdom. Why in the world would any parents who claim to be Christians want to put off making their offspring Christians as soon as possible? Don’t they want their infants to share in the Kingdom of God? The baptized one becomes a member of Christ’s body--His Church” (One Church, Russian Orthodox Church, 1981).
The Orthodox Church also advocates prayers to and for the dead, and the false, wicked idea that the living can aid in the salvation of the deceased through good works: “But the soul of the deceased is aided by the prayers of the Church, of all those who knew and loved him, and also by acts of charity carried out for his sake. By doing good works for the sake of those who are dead, we are, as it were, completing what they left undone, paying their debts and offering our own sacrifice to the Merciful Lord on their behalf” (The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, No. 10, 1976).
In the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, No. 4, 1980, we find the following false teachings about Mary, salvation, and the Lord’s Supper:
“When one asserts his faith in the Son of God, the Son of the Ever Virgin Mary, the Mother of God [note the false Catholic doctrines that Mary is the Mother of God and a perpetual virgin, meaning that she had no other children after Jesus], he accepts first of all the words of faith into his heart, confesses them orally, sincerely repents of his former sins and washes them away in the sacrament of Baptism. Then God the Word enters the baptized one, as though into the womb of the Blessed Virgin and remains in him like a seed. ... By partaking of the Holy Eucharist, a Christian is made one with Christ” (Foundation, Nov.-Dec. 1980, p. 21).
From these quotes it is obvious that the Orthodox Church is entirely apostate. It holds the same basic set of false beliefs as the Roman Catholic Church from which it broke away in the ninth century.
ECUMENISM: The Eastern Orthodox churches are members of and form an influential block within the World Council of Churches. In recent years steps have also been taken to reconcile the Eastern Orthodox with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1965 Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I formally lifted the excommunications of 1054.
The Episcopal Church is the American counterpart of the Church of England. [See section on the Anglican Church.] Following the American Revolution, the Episcopal Church was formally separated from the Church of England, and in 1789 the constitution of the newly formed Protestant Episcopal Church was adopted in Philadelphia. It has retained most Anglican doctrines and practices. Episcopal refers to the manner of government and describes the hierarchical oversight of the denomination by councils and bishops.
There have been several small breakoffs from the main Episcopal denomination which still hold to former Episcopal doctrine and practice, but most Episcopalians are a part of the main group, with roughly 2.5 million members. Most of the divisions arose after the Episcopal church voted to ordain women to the ministry in 1976. The Episcopal denomination has followed the pattern of all the modernistic, ecumenical denominations, and has been losing members steadily. Its membership has declined 28% since 1965. The number of children in Sunday School has decreased 52% in 25 years.
DOCTRINE AND LITURGY. The Episcopal Church is highly ritualistic, using prayer books and a formal liturgy. The Episcopalians often build large, elaborate cathedrals. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City is the third largest in the world. They claim there are three foundations of faith: Holy Scripture, Reason, and Church Tradition. Contrary to the apostolic Scriptural pattern, they have a special priesthood and seven sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Penance, Ordination, Matrimony, and Healing). The sacraments are defined as “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace” (The Book of Common Prayer). Thus, like the Catholic Church, the Episcopalians falsely believe the sacraments to be channels of Christ’s grace. Baptism is given to infants whereby they are believed to be born again and receive the Holy Spirit. The Book of Common Prayer says: “Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God. ... Infants are baptized so that they can share citizenship in the Covenant, membership in Christ, and redemption by God.” The Articles of Religion, 1801, which are reprinted in the Book of Common Prayer, says: “The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.” This is not a true statement, because nowhere in the New Testament does Christ or the Apostles teach or practice baptism of infants. The Lord’s Supper is called the “Holy Eucharist” and is considered, not simply a memorial meal, but an event in which Christ becomes present in the bread and wine. Episcopal priests believe they are somehow offering the sacrifice of Christ in their Eucharist. “Q. Why is the Eucharist called a sacrifice? A. Because the Eucharist, the Church’s sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, is the way by which the sacrifice of Christ is made present, and in which he unites us to his one offering of himself” (Book of Common Prayer). The Handbook of Denominations in the United States observes that “the Episcopal Church believes in the real presence of Christ in the elements of the Eucharist.” [See Anglican.]
MODERNISM. The Episcopal Church has largely been taken over by modernism. A majority of the leaders hold rationalistic beliefs, denying the perfect inspiration of the Bible and denying or questioning Christ’s deity, virgin birth, resurrection, and other Bible miracles, yet they are allowed to remain in good standing within the denomination. In the first half of the 20th century, Episcopal Bishop James Pike denied all of the major tenants of the Christian faith. He said, “Religious myth is one of the avenues of faith and has an important place in the communication of the Gospel” and he spoke of the “myth” of the Garden of Eden and the “myth” of the virgin birth. Pike said, “I have abandoned ship on the doctrine of the Trinity. I have jettisoned the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ” (Christian Beacon, Mar. 17. 1955).
Another Episcopal bishop, John Spong, has gone to the outer limits in radical theology. After worshiping in a Buddhist temple in 1988, Spong said, “As the smell of incense filled the air, I knelt before three images of the Buddha, feeling that the smoke could carry my prayers heavenward. It was for me a holy moment for I was certain that I was kneeling on holy ground. ... My conviction is that the true God, the divine mystery, the essence of holiness, is within and beyond all of these ancient worship traditions. ... when I visit a Buddhist temple it is not for me a pagan place ... It is rather a holy place where human beings different from me have felt the presence of God. ... I will not make any further attempt to convert the Buddhist, the Jew, the Hindu or the Moslem. I am content to learn from them and to walk with them side by side toward the God who lives, I believe, beyond the images that bind and blind us all” (John Spong, Bishop of Newark, “A dialogue in a Buddhist temple,” The Voice, Jan. 1989, official publication of the Diocese of Newark of the Episcopal Church USA). Spong has ordained practicing homosexuals to the ministry, and in a recent book has said that the Apostle Paul was a self-hating, repressed homosexual. In Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Spong states, “Am I suggesting that these stories of the virgin birth are not literally true? The answer is a simple and direct `Yes.’ Of course these narratives are not literally true. Stars do not wander, angels do not sing, virgins do not give birth, magi do not travel to a distant land to present gifts to a baby, and shepherds do not go in search of a newborn savior.”
In 1985 the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis ran an advertising campaign which included this slogan: “The Episcopal Church welcomes you. Regardless of race, creed, color or the number of times you’ve been born.” Twenty Episcopal churches in the Memphis, Tennessee, area ran an advertisement which stated, “In an atmosphere of absolute right and wrongs, here’s a little room to breathe. ... the Episcopal Church is totally committed to the preservation of open dialogue and undogmatic faith. We exist to tell the world about a God who loves us regardless of what we’ve done or what we believe. Even if we do not believe in Him, He believes in us. We do not suffocate with absolutes.” This, of course, is not biblical Christianity; it is gross apostasy.
Well-known evangelical leader Harold Lindsell testified, “It is not unfair to allege that among denominations like Episcopal, United Methodist, United Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church U.S. there is not a single theological seminary that takes a stand in favor of biblical infallibility. And there is not a single seminary where there are not faculty members who disavow one or more of the major teachings of the Christian faith” (Harold Lindsell, Battle for the Bible, pp. 145-146.)
ECUMENISM. The Episcopal Church is extremely ecumenical and is a member of the National Council of Churches in America and the World Council of Churches. The Episcopal Church is also drawing close to the Roman Catholic Church in dialogue. Episcopal leaders have frequently met with the Pope.
IMMORALITY. The drop in moral standards goes hand-in-hand with a critical view of the Bible. Those who do not believe in a holy, sovereign God will not believe in holiness of life and the fear of God in morality. To illustrate the moral climate in the Episcopal denomination, in 1987 the Episcopal churches in northern New Jersey voted to receive and study a 15-page report on “Changing Patterns of Sexuality and Family Life.” “It is our conclusion,” says the report, “that by suppressing our sexuality and by condemning all sex which occurs outside of traditional marriage, the church has thereby obstructed a vitally important means for persons to know and celebrate their relatedness to God.” The report encourages the churches to accept homosexuals, fornicators, and adulterers as long as they are “sensitive, committed” people! The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Edmond Browning, praised these actions for being “at the cutting edge” of church issues! After a three-year study, an Episcopal Church commission in 1991 recommended that bishops be allowed to ordain homosexuals to the priesthood. In his book Living in Sin: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality, Episcopal Bishop John Spong said, “I have known too many non-marital relationships marked by the qualities of holiness to suggest that they are immoral because they are not within the narrow bands of legal marriage. ... I regard the blessing of gay or lesbian couples by the church to be inevitable, right, and a positive good.” This immoral thinking apparently permeates the Episcopal denomination. In a 1993 study, 70% of nearly 20,000 Episcopalians surveyed said it is possible for sexually active homosexuals to be faithful Christians, and 75% of those surveyed said a faithful Christian can live with someone of the opposite sex without being married (Christian News, Nov. 1, 1993).
HOMOSEXUALITY. On August 5, 2003, the Episcopal Church’s national convention in Minneapolis confirmed the appointment of the denomination’s first (openly) homosexual bishop. This is the first time that an admitted homosexual has been appointed as bishop anywhere in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The confirmation finalizes V. Gene Robinson’s June election by the Diocese of New Hampshire.
The newly elected bishop broke his solemn marriage vows 13 years ago when he left his wife and two young daughters and moved in with his male partner, Mark Andrew, who consorted with him at the Minneapolis convention.
Exposing the moral perversion of his twisted, apostate mind, Robinson said: “In my relationship with my partner, I am able to express the deep love that’s in my heart, and in his unfailing and unquestioning love of me, I experience just a little bit of the kind of never-ending, never-failing love that God has for me” (cited by Alan Cooperman of the Washington Post).
Speaking at a homosexual march in Washington, D.C., in April 2000, Robinson said: “... we are worthy to hold our heads high as gay folk ... because God has proclaimed it so. That we are loved beyond our wildest imagining by A GOD WHO MADE US THE WAY WE ARE AND PROCLAIMED IT GOOD.”
FEMINISM. The Episcopal Church authorized the ordination of women to the deaconate in 1970 and approved women’s ordination to the priesthood in 1976. Today there are 1,070 ordained women in the denomination. The Episcopalians ordained the first Anglican female bishop in 1989.
CHARISMATIC. The charismatic movement has swept through the Episcopal denomination. It has been noted that “among major Protestant denominations, the Episcopal Church has been the most receptive to the movement.” Episcopal Renewal Ministries [Charismatic] coordinator Charles Irish estimates that 35 of the 149 active Episcopal bishops, 3,000 of the 13,000 priests, and 18 percent of the laity are charismatic (Christian News, May 19, 1986). This is not surprising, for, sadly, the charismatic movement seems to feed upon apostasy.
Various denominations which originated with Martin Luther and the 16th century Protestant Reformation. While Luther rejected many Roman Catholic dogmas, such as the pope and sacramental salvation and Mariolatry, and while he proclaimed that salvation is solely by grace through faith without works and that the Bible is the sole authority for the church and Christian life, he did not return to the simple N.T. faith. The Lutherans after him reflect this error. They practice infant baptism. They maintain a formal, liturgical type of worship, with prayer books, special clothing, clergy/laity concepts, etc. They have retained a Roman Catholic-like mass. Though Lutherans reject Rome’s dogma of transubstantiation, they do believe Christ “is present in, with and under the elements.” Major Lutheran denominations in Europe are unbiblically yoked together with civil government, forming “state churches” in Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Estonia, and Latvia. Mennonite historian John Horsch explains that Luther defended an independent New Testament church in the early days of his split with Rome, but he compromised this belief and never acted on it:
“From the writings of both Luther and Zwingli it is clear that in the earlier years of their reformatory labors they defended the principle of voluntary church membership, the need of church discipline, and the independence of the church from state control. It was through obvious compromise that they later consented to the establishment of churches of the kind described above. In plain fact, Luther always recognized that the promiscuous church in which the whole population was compelled by the civil authorities to hold membership, was not a church in the New Testament sense. Often he spoke of the people of the state church as the rabble or the multitude instead of the church. He frequently said that the general condition of the people (who were identified with the state church) was deplorable, and that he had abandoned the hope for their Christianization.
“In the earlier period of his labors as a reformer Luther realized the need of organizing a church whose members from personal choice took Christianity seriously and were determined to walk in newness of life. In April of the year 1522 he expressed this hope, May we how at the present are well-nigh heathen under a Christian name, yet organize a Christian assembly in which discipline could be practice. In the following year he said in a sermon that a separation of the church from the indifferent masses was necessary. Again he stated in the same year that he could not undertake such a separation (or the assembling of a New Testament church), for he had not the people for it. After the new state church, comprising the whole population, had been established (1525), he continued to entertain the hope that true Christian congregations, which consisted of believers and practiced discipline, could yet be organized, though for the time being he consented to the union between church and state.
“In December, 1525, he had an important conversation with Caspar Schwenckfeld concerning the establishment of a New Testament church. At that time Schwenckfeld visited him in Wittenberg and called his attention to the fact (admitted by Luther) that the establishment of the new state church had failed to result in spiritual and moral betterment of the people. Schwenckfeld added that in his opinion such betterment could not be looked for unless those who confessed themselves to be in earnest in their Christian profession were gathered into congregations in which scriptural discipline was exercised. Otherwise, he said, things would go from bad to worse, as was even then noticeable.
“Schwenckfeld relates further than Luther regretted very much that no amendment of life was in evidence. As concerned the future organization of the church, Luther according to Schwenckfelds report said, he was not fully decided. But he was thinking of entering the names of those who personally confessed themselves to be in earnest in their Christian profession in a book. Among them discipline could be exercised, and he was thinking of preaching for them in the chapel of the former Augustinian monastery, while a chaplain should preach for the others at the parish church. Schwenckfeld says further: I continued to question him regarding church discipline and asked him definitely what he proposed to do in this respect. He would not answer me on this point. In conclusion Luther said that he had not the people to make the plan of establishing such a church feasible.
“Within a few weeks after this discussion with Schwenckfeld Luther published a book in which he again stated the views which he had expressed on the above occasion. He said with regret that there was as yet no Christian church which was separated from the multitude, and pointed out that it would be fully in accordance with gospel principles, if they who had obtained evangelical enlightenment and who were in earnest in their Christian profession and who confess the gospel with their lives and tongues, would have their names entered in a book and have meetings separately from the multitude, and observe various evangelical practices including church discipline. He repeated the statement made to Schwenckfeld that he as yet had not the people for such a church.
“...The evangelical Anabaptists proceeded to organize a church of such description, and found the people for it. But naturally the civil authorities would not have given permission for the organization of a dissenting church consisting of those who desired separation from the multitude.
“On the whole the results of the Lutheran and Zwinglian reformation movements fell far short of what the promising earlier years of the movement would lead one to expect. This is a fact which was freely recognized by the reformers themselves. Luther (who outlived Zwingli a decade and a half) in his later years often expressed disappointment at the final outcome of the Reformation. He stated frequently that the people had become more and more indifferent toward religion, and that their moral condition was more deplorable than ever. His last years were embittered by the observation that the attempted wholesale reformation of the church was successful in only a limited sense. Even before the abolition of the Mass in Wittenberg Melanchthon, the most notable assistant of Luther, wrote: “The common people adhere to Luther only because they think that no further religious duty will be laid upon them ... Many believe themselves very pious and holy when they upbraid priests and monks, or eat meat on Friday. The Lutheran church historian, Professor Karl Mueller, of Tuebingen, Germany, says: “The aggressive, conquering power, which Lutheranism manifested in its first period, was lost everywhere at the moment when the governments took matters in hand and established the Lutheran creed’” (Horsch, Mennonites in Europe, pp. 26-28).
It was not only the state-church connection which corrupted the Lutheran denomination, but also its adoption of Rome’s infant baptism, its maintenance of an unscriptural priesthood, and its hierarchical system of government. By not being scripturally baptized and joining themselves with and into sound New Testament assemblies, the Lutherans perpetuated part of Rome’s apostasy.
The three largest Lutheran denominations in America are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was formed in January 1988 by a merger of the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. The ELCA recorded some 5.3 million members in roughly 11,000 congregations in 1990, but it is losing members each year. It lost almost 50,000 members in 1988-89. This group is totally given over to modernism and ecumenism. The ELCA is a member of the National Council of Churches in America and the World Council of Churches. As of 1993, the ELCA had 1,358 ordained women clergy.
The apostate condition of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was noted in a sermon by Lutheran Pastor David Barnhart in 1984. Barnhart had been a pastor in the Lutheran Church in America for 20 years when he left it in June 1984. In a sermon to his church explaining why he was leaving, Barnhart said: “The Lutheran Church today is, in my opinion, at a lower ebb spiritually, then any time since the Reformation. ... Just this spring, a theologian at an ALC Lutheran college in Texas [Norman Beck, Texas Lutheran College] wrote in a religious publication that we must halt our belief in the ‘one way-ism of Christianity.’ We need, according to this Lutheran theologian, to recognize other world religions as valid vehicles of God’s salvation. We must, said this Lutheran theologian, give up the view that Jesus is the only way. ... The doctrine of universalism is being espoused by many within the LCA and ALC today. It is a denial of scriptural truth and in violation of our historic Lutheran Confessions. Yet it is taught openly and without discipline. Over the past twenty years in the Lutheran church in America I have witnessed a steady undermining of Holy Scripture and an ever-increasing boldness to hold, tolerate, and promote false teachings and practices” (Christian News, April 29, 1985).
In 1985 J. Kincaid Smith testified of his experiences with Modernism in Lutheran seminaries. Smith had adopted the “New Theology” during his seminary years and had taught this theology as a pastor following graduation in 1973. After a couple of years in this condition, he “was converted back to the orthodox Lutheran Faith.” The following excerpt from his testimony is an important witness to the apostate condition of mainline Lutheranism:
“I was trained in the ‘New Theology,’ (I’ve come to call it ‘the new thinking’), at Hamma School of Theology, now merged with your own Capital and called Trinity. I graduated in Jan. 1973 and took a call at Brownsburg, Ind. in an LCA [Lutheran Church in America] congregation.
“I had fully accepted this ‘New Theology or Thinking,’ having first gone through a traumatic time in which the Christian faith with which I had arrived there was ‘Challenged.’ The reason which is presented for this ‘Challenging’ was to bring us to really ‘think through our theology, to “stretch”‘ our faith, ‘to move us to a deeper understanding of the faith.’ This was the rational which was presented when more conservative members of the constituency in the synod would question about what was going on when they would hear from outspoken students and vicars what was being ‘taught.’
“When I graduated in 1973, to the best of my knowledge, none of my classmates, nor I, believed in any of the miraculous element in the Bible, in anything supernatural, no 6 day creation, that Adam and Eve were real historical people, that God really spoke to people, the flood with Noah and the Ark, the Red Sea parting. We believed that no Old Testament Scriptures foretold of Jesus of Nazareth, that Jesus was not anticipated in the Old Testament. No virgin birth. One of my New Testament profs. was moved to write a poem for the occasion of his receiving tenure. It was read at the service at Wittenberg University Chapel. In it he speculated that Jesus’ father was an itinerant Roman soldier. He flatly denied the real deity of Christ.
“One reason lay-people have such a hard time accepting what I am saying is that most of them are not aware of hearing much of any of this from their pastors. You have to understand a very peculiar thing which has happened. As this change, this metamorphosis, has taken place over the years, the language was revamped. When I got out of Seminary we used the same words as our conservative counterparts, but we meant something quite different by them. Thus I might speak of the ‘empty tomb’ on Easter, but I would not have meant that I believed that Jesus actually, physically rose from the dead. If you had specifically asked me, something lay-people are extremely reticent to do, what I meant by ‘empty tomb,’ I would have squirmed.
“This doublespeak came about, I believe, from two very strong impulses. One, the liberal has really moved away from the faith and I think tacitly knows that (I did) and yet desperately wants to believe that they still are within the secure bounds of ‘The Christian Faith.’ Two, it is a way of avoiding conflict with those who are conservatives and would raise the hue and cry. And on the other hand those who were ‘initiates’ into the ‘New Thinking’ knew what we were saying” (Christian News, April 29, 1985).
This Lutheran pastor provides us with a window into the mainline Lutheran seminaries. He also reminds us that Modernism is deceptive. While some modernists, like the theologians participating in the misnamed Jesus Seminary, or Episcopal Bishop John Spong, are very bold, and openly deny the Word of God, most are cowardly. The “new theology” likes to hide its unbelief behind biblical terminology. It can participate in an evangelistic crusade or an “evangelical” para-church conference and appear to be accepting of evangelical theology, whereas all the time it reinterprets evangelical theology to conform to its unbelieving position.
Signifying the growing ecumenical oneness between the apostate denominations, one of the first official acts of the ELCA’s head Bishop, Herbert Chilstrom, was to meet with the Roman Catholic pope, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, and heads of the Orthodox churches. Chilstrom supports the ordination of homosexuals and publicly announced his agreement with President Clinton’s call for allowing homosexuals into the U.S. military. In his commentary on Hebrews, Chilstrom said the Bible’s historical records are “exaggerated--stretched beyond what they actually were.” Most preachers within the ELCA are modernists, and the ELCA Publishing House has printed countless volumes which promote unbelief. For example, in 1988 an ELCA book by Ragnar Leivestad, entitled Jesus in His Own Perspective, claimed that Jesus never invoked for himself a special position and did not claim messianic titles. In 1992 the ELCA Division for Church in Society authorized distribution of a report on human sexuality which claims that homosexuals were created by God and that sexual relationships outside of marriage are not always wrong. An ELCA youth program guide entitled “Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters,” teaches young people that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality.
This editor attended the installation service for an ELCA bishop in Houston, Texas, Feb. 7, 1988, over which Chilstrom presided. Instead of preaching on the glorious grace of Jesus Christ, he spoke on environmentalism and pacifism. In addressing the mixed multitude composed of Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopalians, and Jewish rabbis, Chilstrom said they were made a part of Christ through baptism, and he warned against “buttonholing people and asking if they are saved.” He told of how he gladly blessed a rosary for a man at a gas station. Nowhere in his message did he speak of the cross, the blood or the atonement of Jesus Christ. Chilstrom’s gospel is not the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ, but a false gospel of church sacraments and universalism. His liberal message was cleverly couched in evangelical, biblical terminology, but the content was a social/humanitarian gospel which will lead those who follow it to eternal Hell. The entire experience was very sad and grievous to my spirit as I observed the pageantry, the solemnity, the appearance of piety which had been put on before the service just as a woman puts on her makeup. What seemingly holy and reverent-appearing things man can surround himself with when he creates his own religion! Everything went according to a very specific order and proceeded right on schedule. Not a hair was out of place, nor a voice off key in the two choirs, and the massive pipe organ gave forth just the desired sounds. It was quite a show. The problem is that from beginning to end, from top to bottom, from inside to out, none of it was scriptural. In doctrine and in practice is was contrary to the Word of God, and therefore unacceptable to God. This is an apt description of the entire Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as well as all of the member denominations of the World Council of Churches.
Mark Hanson, who was elected presiding bishop of the ELCA in 2001, has pastored two congregations in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that accepted homosexual and lesbian members.
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LC-MS) was founded in Missouri by German emigrants in 1847. Today it has 2.6 million members in 5,900 churches, and is basically conservative in doctrine, being what is called “confessional Lutheran.” This signifies a commitment to the historic Lutheran creeds. In the 1970s the LC-MS went through a great upheaval over doctrinal issues. A number of leaders within the denomination were entertaining modernistic views of inspiration. A survey published in 1970 revealed that only 51% of the LC-MS denominational leaders and professors believed the Bible is the perfect Word of God (65% of the “parish” pastors believed in an infallible Bible). The battle focused particularly on professors at the LC-MS Concordia Seminary. In 1974 the liberal-minded professors left Concordia and formed Seminex (Seminary in Exile). Roughly 150 congregations left the denomination as a result of these battles. For the leaders of the LC-MS to take such a stand for the inspiration of the Scriptures was commendable, yet there are still many leaders and professors within the LC-MS who are sympathetic to modernism. There was not a wholesale housecleaning, and the denominational colleges remained sympathetic to the very error espoused by those who formed Seminex. Denominations cannot win the battle against error; only churches can, because only churches have the divine authority to discipline the saints and to deal with error. It is the church that is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Though not a member of the National or World Council of Churches, there is a growing sympathy toward modernism and ecumenism within the LCMS. Luther, in referring to the head of the Catholic Church, said, “The pope is the real anti-Christ who has raised himself over and set himself against Christ.” Yet the president of the LC-MS, Ralph Bohlmann, has met with the pope on at least two occasions. Bohlmann met privately with the pope in the Vatican in 1984, and he was among the denominational leaders that greeted the pope on his visit to the United States in 1987.
The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is the product of a 1917 merger between the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Wisconsin and synods in Minnesota and Michigan. With a membership of 419,000 in 1,200 congregations, it, too, follows traditional Lutheranism and refuses to adopt Modernism or join the ecumenical councils. The WELS is probably the most conservative of the Lutheran denominations in America. The WELS statement on the Bible is a marvelous testimony to divine inspiration:
We believe that in a miraculous way that goes beyond all human investigation God the Holy Ghost inspired these men to write His Word. These ‘holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost’ (2 Pe. 1:21). What they said, was spoken ‘not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth’ (1 Co. 2:13). Every thought they expressed, every word they used, was given them by the Holy Spirit by inspiration. St. Paul wrote to Timothy: ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God’ (2 Ti. 3:16). We therefore believe in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, not a mechanical dictation, but a word-for-word inspiration. ... We believe that Scripture is a unified whole, true and without error in everything it says; for our Savior said ‘The Scripture cannot be broken’ (Jn. 10:35). We reject any thought that makes only part of Scripture God’s Word, that allows for the possibility of factual error in Scripture, also in so-called nonreligious matters (for example, historical, geographical). We reject all views that fail to acknowledge the Holy Scriptures as God’s revelation and Word. We likewise reject all views that see in them merely a human record of God’s revelation as he encounters man in history apart from the Scriptures, and so a record subject to human imperfections” (This We Believe, Northwestern Publishing House, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod).
The Methodist denomination arose out of the Church of England in the 18th century. It originated with the evangelistic/revival ministry of the two brothers, John (1703-91) and Charles (1707-88) Wesley. The Wesleys were members of what was derisively labeled “the Oxford Methodists,” a group of Oxford University students who were methodical in their habits of prayer and Bible reading and who sought to live simple, holy lives. The Wesleys were also zealous in evangelism and preached to the prisoners and the poor and underprivileged of British society. John Wesley was converted in 1738 while attending a Moravian meeting and hearing Luther’s exposition on justification by faith from the book of Romans. Of that night, Wesley records: “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine.” He and his brother, with fellow Oxford graduate George Whitefield, became central to a great spiritual revival that subsequently occurred in England and America.
The Church of England barred the Wesleys from their churches, so they preached in homes, in barns, in the streets and the fields. John Wesley was the preacher; Charles was a hymn writer (though he also preached). It is said that John rode 250,000 miles on horseback and preached over 42,000 sermons in his lifetime. He preached an average of 500 times yearly. Converts among the ordinary people multiplied and were eventually organized into Methodist “societies.”
Though the Wesleys intended at first to keep their movement within the Anglican church, that became impossible as time passed and the numbers of converts increased. In 1739, John Wesley drew up a set of general rules, called the Articles of Religion, which are still used by many Methodists. Methodism spread rapidly to America, where the first Methodist society was organized in 1766. In 1784, the Methodist churches in America were set up as the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Wesleys were prolific writers. John wrote over 50 books, and Charles wrote over 7,000 hymns.
Significant social change followed in the wake of Methodist preaching, including the establishment of hospitals and orphanages. Methodists were among those at the forefront of such social reforms as the humane treatment of prisoners, the abolition of slavery, and the establishment of workers rights.
Circuit riding preachers were an integral part of Methodism from its inception, and this played a key role in its growth in the American frontier as America expanded westward across the continent. The camp meeting, involving gatherings for exuberant preaching and singing, also played a prominent role in Methodism in the 1800s.
METHODIST DOCTRINE. Wesley’s Articles of Religion were drawn from the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles. Traditional Methodist theology holds to the biblical doctrines of Inspiration, God, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Resurrection, Heaven, and Hell. Wesley was Arminian and edited a magazine called the Arminian Magazine. He rejected Calvinism, particularly the points dealing with unconditional election, irresistible grace, and limited atonement. Wesley did not believe the human will was the cause of salvation, but he did believe a Christian could lose his salvation through willfully turning from Christ. He also held that a believer could reach a state of sinless perfection called “entire sanctification” through the purifying power of the Holy Spirit. (Contrast 1 Jn. 1:8-10). Methodist baptism is administered to both infants and adults, usually by sprinkling. Some aspects of Anglicanism were carried over into the Methodist denomination, such as the use of prayer books, a rigid, formal liturgy, and infant baptism.
METHODIST CHURCH POLITY. Methodists follow an episcopal form of church government. With a few exceptions, congregations are not independent and autonomous, but are controlled to a large extent by bishops which oversee conferences of churches. Two key words used in the United Methodist Church are “connectional” and “appointive,” meaning all UMC congregations are connected in a network of conciliar and legal relationships and the bishop has final appointive authority. The annual conference is composed of all the churches in a particular region, and the bishop of the conference ordains the pastors of the local churches and supervises many aspects of local church life and doctrine. There is also a general conference composed of representatives of all churches which meets every four years. One Methodist pastor described the polity of his denomination this way: “Local churches do not have final control over their pulpits. United Methodist bishops have the right to send any pastor to any church. While the wishes of the local church are often duly considered, this is not always so. Local churches have no protection against pastors who, regardless of their theology, are approved and supported by the hierarchy.” The denominational system even owns the property of the local church under modern liberal Methodist practice.
METHODISM AND THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT. That Methodism provided the soil for the pentecostal/charismatic movements is admitted by many, including Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan (“The Great Methodist Awakening,” Charisma, May 1987). The Methodist doctrine of “entire sanctification” produced longings which could not be satisfied scripturally, as God does not promise sinless perfection, and this false doctrine became a spring board to the pentecostal doctrines of “second blessing” and “baptism of the Holy Spirit” subsequent to salvation. Methodist camp meetings became occasions for all sorts of fanatical phenomena, such as “the jerks,” “slaying in the Spirit,” “the holy dance,” and “the holy laugh.” Outsiders called these the “Methodist fits.” It is easy to see that the devil was having a heyday in leading people away from sound Bible experience into extremism and error. Out of this confused spiritual and doctrinal climate the Pentecostal movement of the late 19th century arose. The modern interdenominational charismatic movement started in the Methodist denomination in the 1950s. After Methodist Pastor Tommy Tyson experienced the pentecostal second blessing and spoke in “tongues,” he traveled widely as a conference evangelist and spread the charismatic message. Well-known pentecostal faith healer Oral Roberts joined the United Methodist Church in 1968. Today there is a powerful charismatic movement within the UMC. United Methodist charismatic leader Ross Whetstone conducts a healing service once a week at the denomination’s Nashville headquarters, and he estimates that 1.7 million United Methodists—about 18 percent—are involved in the charismatic movement (Christian News, May 19, 1986, p. 10). In 1980, the charismatic United Methodist Renewal Services Fellowship was given formal offices at the UMC national headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. Pentecostalism has always fed on apostate denominations.
Today there are many different Methodist groups with varying beliefs and practices—23 groups in America alone. Some of the smaller groups have maintained a conservative doctrinal position and still adhere to old-line Methodism. The Evangelical Methodist Church was organized in 1946 in reaction to the modernism of The Methodist Church. The Evangelical Methodists stand upon Wesley’s 25 Articles of Religion and seek to maintain a fundamentalist position against the onslaught of liberalism, neo-evangelicalism, psychology, and other destructive influences of these hours. They also exercise a greater degree of local church autonomy than the United Methodists, with each church owning and controlling its own property and calling its own pastors. They do not have bishops, but have district superintendents and a general conference that meets every four years. The Evangelical Methodist Church has a membership of roughly 10,000.
The Free Methodist Church of North America (membership 80,000) and the Southern Methodist Church (membership 7,500) were also opposed to the liberalism of the larger Methodist Church. These latter two groups hold to the old-time Methodist doctrinal platform, but are basically new-evangelical in mood and practice today.
The largest U.S. Methodist group, THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH (UMC), was formed in 1968 from a merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. The combined membership of the two bodies was 11 million in 1965, but by 1983 had dropped to roughly 9 million members. Like most liberal denominations, the UMC has been declining in membership each year. The UMC lost almost 2,000,000 members in the 1970s and ‘80s. The United Methodist Church is extremely modernistic and ecumenical.
THE UMC AND ECUMENISM. The United Methodist Church is a member of the radical National and World Council of Churches; in fact, the UMC is the largest financial supporter of the WCC. Roman Catholic Bishop James Malone, speaking before the UMC conference in Atlanta in 1972, said that the United Methodists and the RCC are on the same spiritual wavelength. He announced an ecumenical dialogue between the RCC and the Methodists. Reporting on the success of RCC-UMC dialogue, Methodist Bishop William Cannon told the pope in 1982 that “doctrinally and spiritually, our two churches have much more in common than there are issues that separate us” and “there is a peculiar affinity between Methodists and Roman Catholics.” At its 1980 Quadrennial General Conference, the UMC set up a Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns to promote ecumenical activity. At his election to the presidency of the National Council of Churches in 1981, Methodist Bishop James Armstrong said, “I want to be such a bridge, helping to create an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect in which women and men can come together, races can come together, divergent points of view can come together. ... we will continue to seize initiatives, pursuing dialogue with Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, the National Association of Evangelicals, and others who name the name of Christ as well as humanizing groups and forces that do not share our Christian confession.” Efforts to absorb Methodists with other liberal denominations in the States have been in progress though the Consultation on Church Union (COCU) since 1961. This attempted union of Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and others has been making steady progress through the years.
United Methodist pastors participate in ecumenical clergy associations, joining hands at the local level with Roman Catholics, Unitarians, other Modernists, and non-Christians. An example is the Piedmont Interfaith Council which includes United Methodist churches in its membership. Its 1990 “Ecumenical Celebration of Thanksgiving” featured such “faith communities” as “the Franciscans, the Sikhs, the Japanese Community, Bahai, the Russian Jewish Emigres, Islam, Buddhist, the Native Americas and the Jewish and Christian faith traditions.” Another example is the Salem, Massachusetts, clergy association, which, in September 1993, welcomed a high priest from a witch’s coven into its membership. United Methodist pastor Ken Steigler was happy with this move, and said the group should become even more ecumenical by inviting Mormons, Buddhists, and Muslims to participate. UMC ecumenism and worldliness on the local level was illustrated when the Lafayette Park United Methodist Church in St. Louis co-sponsored in 1980 a cocktail party and house tour to raise funds for the restoration of a local Catholic shrine.
In these ecumenical adventures, Methodism has renounced its former position. The Twenty-five Articles of faith developed by John Wesley in 1784 and affirmed by Methodists until the second half of the 20th century, had these comments in regard to Romanism: “The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardon, worshiping and adoration, as well of images, as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing vainly invented and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God. ... Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the Supper of our Lord ... is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of the ordinance, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. ... the sacrifice of masses in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable, and dangerous deceit” (Thomas Lewis, President of the General Conference, Handbook of the Methodist Protestant Church, 1925).
THE UMC AND MODERNISM. The prevailing theological climate in the UMC was stated by Bishop James Thomas at the UMC Quadrennial General Conference in 1976: “We do not believe ... in rigid doctrinal concepts to hold us steady in a wavering world.” This is an understatement; the fact is that most UMC pastors don’t believe the Bible. Polls have shown that at least 30 percent of UMC ministers do not believe Jesus Christ is God, and 82% say they do not believe the Bible is the perfect Word of God. As early as 1968 a widely publicized scientific survey by Jeffrey Hadden which was published by the Washington University showed that about 60% of the Methodist clergy did not believe in the virgin birth and at least 50% did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ. A Gallup survey in 1982 revealed that 34% of Methodists believe community service is more important than proclaiming the Gospel. In The Battle for the Bible, evangelical leader Harold Lindsell stated, “It is not unfair to allege that among denominations like Episcopal, United Methodist, United Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. there is not a single theological seminary that takes a stand in favor of biblical infallibility. And there is not a single seminary where there are not faculty members who disavow one or more of the major teachings of the Christian faith.”
Modernism is not new in the UMC. It began to take root in the late 1800s, as Methodist pastors were indoctrinated in higher criticism in Germany and returned to spread this poison. Robert Chiles has documented this shift from historic orthodoxy to liberalism in his book Theological Transition in American Methodists: 1790-1935. A book entitled The Christlike God, published in the early 1940s by Methodist Bishop Francis McConnell of the New York area, denied the deity of Jesus Christ. McConnell said, “Is not this tendency to deify Jesus more heathen than Christian?” On the west coast, Methodist Bishop Gerald Kennedy in Los Angeles was spouting every sort of unbelief and heresy prior to 1950. He denied the Inspiration of Scripture, the Trinity, the Atonement, the Deity of Christ, the Second Coming. Kennedy said, “I believe the testimony of the New Testament taken as a whole is against the deity of Jesus.” Apostasy among Methodist missionaries is illustrated by E. Stanley Jones, missionary to India. In his book Christ and the Round Table Jones stated, “If verbal infallibility is insisted upon, then the certainty is very precarious” (p. 257). In his Song of Accounts Jones says, “We do not believe that the New Testament is the revelation of God--that would be the Word become printer’s ink” (p. 377). In his book Mahatma Gandhi: An Interpretation, Jones testified that he went to India to convert the heathen, but in the end the heathen conquered him and he became an idolizer of Gandhi and a promoter of pacifism. In 1943 Jones delineated his concept of a World Church Union. By this plan there would be a World Assembly of the Church of Christ and each nation would have a national expression of this world body. The World Assembly would be made up of delegates from the national assemblies; and, “interpreting the mind of Christendom on world affairs, ... would be listened to by the nations.” This sounds more like the harlot of Revelation than the apostolic church of the first century. Jones denounced capitalism and praised Russian communism. In his book The Choice Before Us Jones argued for the establishment of a “new economic order” on earth which would redistribute wealth along communist lines. Jones identified this communist world order with the kingdom of God. In Song of Accounts, Jones says, “I had to go outside my native land to make a discovery of the kingdom of God. I found it ... in Russia” (pp. 148,149).
At its 1972 Quadrennial Conference, the UMC formally approved a policy of doctrinal pluralism founded upon the four-fold authority of Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason. United Methodist “scholars” participated in the Jesus Seminar which determined that Jesus did not believe that He was God, was not born of a virgin, did not perform miracles, did not give prophecies of the future, did not die for man’s sins, and did not rise from the dead. Speaking at a meeting connected with the 1972 UMC Quadrennial Conference, Cecil Williams, pastor of the Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San Francisco, Calif., said, “I don’t want to go to no heaven ... I don’t believe in that stuff. I think it’s a lot of - - - -.” (Here he used a curse word.) William’s church replaced the choir with a rock band, and its “celebrations” have included dancing and even nudity. A Jewish rabbi is on William’s staff. After attending a service at Glide Memorial, a newspaper editor wrote, “The service, in my opinion, was an insult to every Christian attending and was the most disgusting display of vulgarity and sensuousness I have ever seen anywhere.” In spite of William’s apostasy and immorality, his bishop has continued to support him.
One UMC pastor with wide experience who wrote on the conditions within his denomination said, “The pluralism of theology in United Methodism is bewildering. In my last year of denominational seminary, one classmate wanted a Methodist pastorate so he could help people get rid of the superstitious notion that there was a Higher Power who restricts their freedom to be authentically human. Yet in the same class were other seminarians who were eager to preach Jesus as Savior and Lord. Under pluralism, United Methodist clergy can hold almost any view--unless (and here’s the rub) it is too strongly and explicitly orthodox-evangelical. One student pastor in Ohio heard a professor at a United Methodist seminary deny the necessity of the Resurrection. The student, in his parish newsletter, then stated that, without the authenticity of the Resurrection, there could be no Christianity. A very much dissatisfied superintendent called him to warn that if he expected to be ordained into a pluralistic church, he could not be so rigid and dogmatic over specific doctrines, including the Resurrection. Yet few such restrictions seem to apply in the [modernistic] direction. ... A pastor who supports the UMC system can be anything from quietly conservative to universalist, agnostic, or even father Left. ... For many reasons, the United Methodist climate is alien and inhospitable to forthright evangelical faith” (Pastor Charles Keysor, Christianity Today, Nov. 9, 1984).
THE UMC AND HOMOSEXUALITY. The UMC formally states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, and in 1984 voted to prohibit ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. In practice these statements mean very little. As soon as the prohibition against homosexual ordinations went into effect UMC bishops ordained sodomites in Colorado and California. The New York UMC Conference passed a resolution which said, “We deeply regret our denomination’s continued oppression of homosexual persons ... We look forward to the day when the church will accept gay and lesbian persons into full fellowship.” Retiring UMC bishop Melvin Wheatley spoke to a body of the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) in Sacramento, California, in 1985, and said the MCC is “wonderful because you are mixing the gay and Christian experience.” The MCC is a homosexual denomination. Wheatly said in 1983, “I clearly do not believe that homosexuality is a sin. ... Homosexuality, quite like heterosexuality, is neither a virtue nor an accomplishment. It is a mysterious gift of God’s grace ... His or her homosexuality is a gift--neither a virtue nor a sin.” Many United Methodist churches have performed wedding ceremonies for homosexuals, and a number of homosexuals have been ordained to the ministry in the UMC. James Conn, pastor of a UMC congregation in Ocean Park, Calif., said, “The gospel as I understand it is about the quality of the relationship, whether it is a homosexual or heterosexual one.” Ignacio Castuera of Hollywood First Methodist Church said the church is under a moral obligation to bless gay requests for marriage ceremonies. When Melvin Talbert was ordained head bishop for Northern California and Nevada in 1988, he stated: “I do not believe we know enough about homosexuality to make hard and fast rules. I would have hoped we could be more open and compassionate to people of different sexual orientations. I come with no prejudgments.” Also in 1988 the California Methodist Conference sponsored an “enrichment weekend” for homosexual couples. (Homosexuality is not the only moral perversion condoned in UMC circles, by the way. The UMC communications agency in 1988 issued a statement on “erotica” which approved of sexually explicit pornography as long as it was not violent or coercive!) In 1992 the UMC Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns declared itself open to the full participation of all people, including gays and lesbians, and the top judicial body of the UMC ruled that the agency was within its rights to make such a declaration. In May 2000, the United Methodist Quadrennial Assembly voted to retain its ban on “holy union’’ services and homosexual clergy, but in practice there are many such things within the denomination. Only four months early, in January 2000, 14 United Methodist leaders joined more than 800 other liberal “clergy” in signing “a declaration on morality” that calls upon all faiths to bless homosexual couples and allow homosexual ministers. Signers included United Methodist Bishop Roy Sano of Pasadena, California, and professors from United Methodist seminaries in Dallas; Denver; Washington D.C.; Claremont, California; and Evanston, Illinois.
THE UMC AND PAGANISM. The new UMC worship book “showed respect for the spirituality” of America’s pagan Indians by including American Indian ceremonies with optional smoking of the peace pipe! A song in the new UMC hymnal is entitled “Lord of the Dance.” “They buried my body and they thought I’d gone, but I am the dance and I still go on. They cut me down and I leapt up high, I am the life that’ll never, never die; I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me; I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.”
THE UMC AND PACIFISM. At its 1984 national governing board meeting, UMC bishops called on America to disarm itself. “Unless we can abolish war, the chances are there will not be any world left for us to reform ... Christian conscience demands total disarmament by disbanding armies, navies and air forces over the face of the earth.” In 1986 the UMC bishops issued a pastoral letter titled “In Defense of Creation and a Just Peace” which opposed maintaining a nuclear deterrence and called the possession of nuclear arms idolatry.
THE UMC AND ABORTION. At its 1972 General Conference the UMC called for the legalization of abortion. The UMC was a founding member of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, which sought “to encourage and coordinate support for safeguarding the legal option of abortion.” In one year the Methodist Board of Church and Society contributed more than $400,000 to the abortion rights coalition. The UMC came out in support of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion in the United States.
THE UMC, DIVORCE, AND IMMORALITY. Though the UMC is officially opposed to immorality, in practice there is rampant moral sin. This denomination has fallen light years away from the holiness position of its forefathers. We have seen the UMC position on homosexuality and abortion. Divorce is rampant in the UMC. A comprehensive survey conducted by the denomination in 1986 revealed that divorce among the clergy is more than three times higher than among the non-ordained members. As of 1984, all three of the new Methodist bishops for the western part of the U.S. were divorced. United Methodist professor and minister Robert Elliott has developed a divorce service for couples seeking a blessing on their breakup. Joseph Quillian, dean of the school where Elliott teaches, called the divorce service a sound concept. The dean said, “There’s no reason something shouldn’t be done ceremonially for committed Christians who divorce.” Writing in the Christian Century magazine for Oct. 31, 1984, Methodist minister David Jaeger claimed that a pastor who has had sexual relationships with other women besides his wife may still be considered faithful to his wife, and claimed that adultery should not disqualify a man from the ministry. The UMC meeting held to celebrate Methodism’s 200th anniversary featured country-western entertainer Willie Nelson, who glorifies adultery and drunkenness in his music. Nelson said, “I think all music is religious. We’re all given our talents by some supreme being--God, Buddha, whatever. They categorize it and call it country, gospel, rock and roll, but it all comes from the same place.” The UMC Board of Discipleship, prior to 1980, owned many explicit sex films which it used in conjunction with its “human sexuality forums.” The movies depicted all sorts of moral reprobation, including male and female homosexuality.
THE UMC AND FEMINISM. The feminist movement exercises a powerful influence within the UMC. Women have been ordained to the ministry in what is now the UMC since 1956. As of 1992 they had 4,743 ordained women ministers, far more than any other U.S. denomination. The UMC ordained its first female bishop, Leotine Kelly, in July 1980. In 1983, a UMC congregation in Florida sponsored the first father-daughter clergy team. The new UMC worship book contains a number of references to God as both Mother and Father. One statement in the worship book is “Jesus, good Lord, are you not also Mother?” In 1984, the UMC approved a report which called on all its churches to refer to God and Jesus Christ only in sexually inclusive language--in other words, not to address God as “He” or as “Father.” In 1986, the UMC Rocky Mountain Conference issued a ruling that REQUIRED all candidates for ordination to use “inclusive language” in referring to God. Candidates would have to use inclusive words such as Creator or Redeemer, and phrases such as Divine Light instead of Father, King or Lord. Candidates could refer to God as Mother and Father or he/she. The following year the Rocky Mountain UMC Conference softened this resolution somewhat in that they no longer REQUIRED inclusive language, but they still urged such upon their people. The new resolution said, “All candidates are encouraged to use inclusive language both in reference to the deity and to persons.” The unscriptural feminist attitude of many of the UMC “clergy” is illustrated in comments made by “Pastor” Kim Smith, speaking before a women’s conference in 1985. She said Paul held “what we would consider sexist views of women.” She claimed that Paul was a man of his time and that he never meant his statements about women to become the basis for the teaching of the entire church. Smith estimated that by the year 2000 half of the ordained clergy in California would be women. United Methodists participated in the production of the National Council of Churches inclusive lectionary, which removed masculine references to God; addressed God as “Father and Mother”; deleted passages which instruct the wife to submit to the husband; changed many words, such as “son” to “child,” “king” to “ruler,” “kingdom” to “realm”; and added the names of wives to the O.T. genealogies. NCC lectionary committee member Sharon Ringe of the Methodist Theological School in Delaware, Ohio, said, “Much hurt is caused by oppressive speech.” In 1984 the UMC Women’s Division issued an alternative to the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Mother/Father, who is everywhere, Holy be your names. May your new age come, May your will be done. In this and in every time and place. Meet our needs each day and Forgive our failure to love, As we forgive this same failure in others. Save us in hard times, and Lead us into your ways of love. For yours is the wholeness and the power, And the loving forever. Amen.” This was released in Women and Worship by Harper & Row Publishers.
See Eastern Orthodox.
“Originating between 1534 and 1560 with the Protestant theological program of John Calvin in France and Switzerland, Presbyterian refers to a church governed by presbyters (representatives). This denomination places great emphasis on the theology of God’s sovereignty over the world and people’s lives. ... Calvin (1509-1564) was French and trained in the law. Turning to theology, his keen legalistic mind and lust for freedom from the rigid, confining forms of Roman Catholicism drove him as a fugitive to Geneva, where he quickly grasped the reins of leadership in the Reformed sector. Resolute and often harsh with his opponents, he established his theological system in the Swiss capital, making it, according to Macaulay, the `cleanest and most wholesome city in Europe.’ Calvin’s whole thought revolved around the concept of sovereignty: ‘The sovereignty of God in his universe, the sovereignty of Christ in salvation, the sovereignty of the Scriptures in faith and conduct, the sovereignty of the individual conscience in the interpretation of the will and Word of God’” (Handbook of Denominations).
“Strictly speaking, John Calvin did not found Presbyterianism; he merely laid the foundations upon which it was constructed-in Switzerland, Holland, France, England, Scotland, and Ireland: From France came the Huguenots, and by 1560, there were in that country 2,000 churches of Presbyterian complexion; the people of Holland established the Dutch Reformed Church; British Presbyterians gained courage in their struggle against ‘Bloody’ Mary Tudor; and from Scotland came the Covenanters and John Knox” (Ibid.).
The doctrine of Presbyterian churches is traced to the Westminster Assembly which was held in England from 1643-48. This assembly of ministers was called by the English Parliament to establish a government in the Church of England which would do away with bishops. There was a tremendous disgust at that time with the king, Charles I, who had succeeded James I of King James Bible fame. One of the chief products of this Assembly was the Westminster Confession of Faith, which, embodying the teachings of John Calvin and his successors, expressed the doctrinal platform of Presbyterians in England, Scotland, and America. This Assembly also produced a Shorter and a Longer Catechism, which, together with the Westminster Confession, are called the Westminster Standard.
The Westminster Confession, while containing statements which the Bible-believing Baptist must reject, exalts the Bible and Jesus Christ in a particularly precise and comely manner. Other denominational confessions have borrowed heavily from the Westminster in many cases. Consider some excerpts:
“Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these: [here are listed the 66 books of our English Bible]. All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life. ...
“The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the word of God.”
“We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverend esteem of the holy Scripture, and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole, (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts.
“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. ...
“The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.
“The supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures.”
Consider the Westminster confession pertaining to God:
“There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”
Of the Trinity:
“In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.”
I would also note that the Westminster Confession had many statements purposefully refuting Roman Catholic heresies. It contains a statement denying the inspiration of the Apocrypha. It also identifies the Catholic pope with the antichrist. “There is no other Head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof: but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church, against Christ and all that is called God” (Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 25, section 6).
During the period in England’s history in which the Westminster Confession was being defined, a civil war was waged against the British crown. Oliver Cromwell, a cavalry commander who led the opposition forces, ousted the king and attempted to establish a Commonwealth in England in the late 17th century. These efforts failed, and the monarchy was eventually re-established. Tens of thousands of Presbyterians, Puritans, and independents fled to America in the ensuing years in search of religious and political liberty.
The Westminster Confession reflected John Calvin’s system of predestinarian theology which has been summarized in five points by the acronym of TULIP: Total depravity of man, meaning man is incapable of responding to the Gospel; Unconditional election, meaning God chooses which men will be saved and which men will be lost; Limited atonement, meaning Christ died only for those who will be saved; Irresistible grace, meaning the sinner cannot resist God’s call to salvation; and Perseverance of the saints, meaning those who are saved will hold out faithful to the end.
We must hasten to say that the Westminster Confession’s teaching in these areas is contrary to the plain statements of the Word of God. The Calvinist wants to have a big God, and I am all for that. I am thankful for men who want to exalt God in an man-exalted hour. The Bible presents us with a BIG God and a little man, and I believe in that. I serve and worship a BIG God. He sits as King forever. He does His will, and no one can stay Him. No one can question His will; no one can thwart His will. He says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). Indeed, He will. He is Almighty God, and He is to be exalted.
It is wrong, though, and a very strange thing, indeed, to define a doctrine of the sovereignty of God which goes counter to what that God has said about Himself! The Westminster Confession says, “By the decree of God ... some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and OTHERS FOREORDAINED TO EVERLASTING DEATH. These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and UNCHANGEABLY DESIGNED; and their number is so certain and definite, THAT IT CANNOT BE EITHER INCREASED OR DIMINISHED. ... they who are elected ... are effectually called unto faith in Christ ... NEITHER ARE ANY OTHER REDEEMED by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, BUT THE ELECT ONLY.” This is erroneous human philosophy, and it makes out God to be a liar, but the Bible plainly says salvation is for whosoever will (Joh 3:16; Re 22:17). The Bible repeats this and repeats this and repeats this. The Bible says Christ “gave himself a ransom FOR ALL” (1Ti 2:6). He purchased even wicked false teachers who are lost and on their way to Hell; when these men deny the biblical Jesus Christ, the Bible says they deny “the Lord that bought them” (2Pe 2:1). He bought them, though they are damned and on their way to Hell! Away with any man-made doctrine of limited atonement.
The Westminster Confession says those who are saved are “effectually called unto faith in Christ.” This means God’s call to salvation is irresistible, but the Bible plainly says that God’s call CAN be resisted. The Lord Jesus Christ wept over Jerusalem and testified, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not (Mt 23:37). He would; they would not. There is no irresistible grace here. He said to the stubborn Pharisees, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (Joh 6:40). He would have given these lost men life, but they would not come. He would; they would not. There is no irresistible grace here, either. That God’s grace can be resisted and refused is a matter of Scriptural record from Genesis to Revelation. Cain refused God (Ge 4:5-16); men living during the Great Tribulation will also refuse God (Re 9:20-21; 16:9,11). Men have been foolishly refusing and rejecting God’s call for the entire, wretched, 6,000 years of human history.
Away with any man-made teaching which denies these plain statements of Scriptures. Someone might say, “I can explain those Scriptures.” Away with that, too. I don’t want anyone explaining away the plain teaching of the Word of God. The Bible requires careful interpretation, it is true, but if we can’t take the Word of God at face value, in context, there is no way we can dogmatically know what it is saying.
I have a big God, a sovereign God, and I know and believe that salvation is all of God; but I am neither Calvinist nor Arminian. The Bible says God would have all men be saved. I believe that. The Bible says man can say no to God. As amazing as this seems to me, I believe it. If God wants to give man the potential to resist Him and to reject Him and to say no to Him, who am I to say this detracts from His sovereignty or makes Him any less Almighty God? It does not detract from His sovereign power one iota. [See Atonement, Eternal Security, Gospel, Grace, Overcome.
Presbyterian Church Polity. The presbyterian form of church government “is based on the principle of representative government and of one spiritual order which is vested in the presbyters. A series of ascending judicatories-session, presbytery, synod, and general assembly-exercise government ... ruling and teaching elders chosen by the local congregation have spiritual responsibility over the people. Elders also represent the congregation in higher church bodies-presbytery, synod, and general assembly” (20th-Century). We should also note that there are a few fundamental Presbyterian congregations today which believe more strongly in the independence of the local assembly and which maintain rule by a plurality of elders but do not recognize the authority of presbyters outside the assembly.
There are at least eight Presbyterian denominations in the U.S. The Bible Presbyterian Church is a fundamentalist group with membership of roughly 10,000. It stands for old-line Presbyterian doctrine and is openly opposed to ecumenism and modernism. It’s origin is traced to the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversies of the early 20th century. Conservative Presbyterians who were opposed to theological modernism set up their own seminary and mission board to offer an alternative to the ones which had been taken over by liberal thought. The leaders of this conservative movement were brought to trial by the denomination and defrocked. The apostates charged the Bible believers with heresy! The group which subsequently pulled out of the old-line Presbyterian denomination formed two different independent groups: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, led by J. Gresham Machen, and the Bible Presbyterian Church, led by Carl McIntire. In 1941 the Bible Presbyterians joined with other fundamentalists to form the American Council of Christian Churches in opposition to the liberal National Council of Churches in America. In addition to standing against modernism and ecumenism, the Bible Presbyterian Church (BPC) granted autonomy to the local assembly. Unlike the liberal Presbyterian denominations, each church in the BPC owns its own property and calls its own pastor. In contrast to this, the old-line Presbyterian denomination “entered suits in the civil courts against scores of churches that had withdrawn, and in almost every instance the defending local church lost its property to the denomination. This was in spite of the fact that in most cases the local churches had purchased their property with no financial aid from the denomination” (David O. Beale, In Pursuit of Purity, p. 319).
The Free Presbyterian Church has a similar heritage. They stand firmly in the old Presbyterian faith, are strictly separated from the apostasy of the hour, hold to the Authorized English Bible, and exercise autonomy of the local assembly. The Free Presbyterians were founded in 1951 in Northern Ireland. The fiery fundamental Presbyterian Ian Paisley is identified with the Free Presbyterians. There are 17 of these congregations in North America and roughly 100 in the world. The following is from Separated Unto the Gospel, a book published by the Free Presbyterians to explain their position. We reprint these portions especially to show the contrast between old-line Presbyterianism and the modern apostate Presbyterianism represented by the Presbyterian Church USA. We have added headings to the paragraphs quoted:
SEPARATED FROM ECUMENISM: The Free in our name refers to our total dissociation from the major Presbyterian denominations of the world, which have largely repudiated the historic Christian faith. We have no affiliation with the World Council of Churches or any of its international, national, or local organizations. Thus Free speaks of our liberty to stand without compromise for Christ in a day of apostasy.
PROTESTANT: The church [is] unashamedly Protestant. Throughout its history it has stood opposed to the ecumenical movement’s efforts to promote union with the Church of Rome, because that church still holds to every dogma that caused the Reformation in the first place.
REFORMED THEOLOGY: In theology the church is Reformed. It stands foursquare in the great Geneva tradition of Calvin, Knox, the English and American Puritans ... The church has always tied its Calvinism to evangelism. It is a prayer church with a burden for the salvation of sinners. Its growth has been through unremitting evangelistic outreach, preaching the gospel `in season, out of season.’
WOMEN PREACHERS: A burning question for many today is whether or not women may be ordained to the ministry of the church. A woman is not permitted a pastoral or governmental position over men in a New Testament church. No ministry that places her in such a position is open to her.
KING JAMES BIBLE: In carrying on this preaching ministry the Free Presbyterian Church has, throughout its history, used the Authorized (often called the `King James’) Version of the Scriptures. We wish to avoid the confusion that arises from the use of many different translations and paraphrases in church services. We believe the Authorized Version is unrivaled as a translation of the Scriptures and that it reflects the authentic, historic Hebrew and Greek texts that God `immediately inspired, and by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages’ (Westminster Confession of Faith, I.8).
BAPTISM: Historically, the Reformed churches along with the Lutheran, Episcopal. Congregational, and Methodist churches have accepted that pouring, sprinkling, and dipping are all valid modes of baptism. They have also believed that baptism should be administered to believers and to their children because their children are included in God’s covenant with His people. ... Over against this view, Baptists and Anabaptists have argued that baptism must follow a personal profession of faith. ... On the mode of baptism, Baptists insist that only immersion is acceptable ... The Free Presbyterian Church ... hereby affirms that each member of the Free Presbyterian Church shall have liberty to decide for himself which course to adopt on these controverted issues ...
MORAL STANDARDS: We believe there are guiding truths in God’s Word that not only authorize the kind of standards we have adopted, but necessitate them. ... Gambling is the expression of covetousness. . Dancing in the modern context is openly sensual. ... our standard [is] abstinence from the nonmedicinal drinking of alcohol. ... Our country is sinking in an ocean of alcohol. ... no divorced person or one married to a divorced person may be elected to the office of deacon or elder. In addition, no Free Presbyterian church may be used for a marriage service involving a divorced person, nor may any Free Presbyterian minister officiate at such a marriage.
HEAD COVERING: The New Testament insists that it [head covering in public worship] is required for women and banned for men. In this age of so-called sexual equality-a misnomer for the philosophy of radical feminism and anti-Christian humanism-this may seem strange.
ELECTION AND EVANGELISM: We have no time for a dead, intellectual Calvinism that refuses to offer Christ freely to sinners with the assurance that ‘whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Ro 10:13). Some of the greatest revival preachers in history have been strong asserters of God’s sovereignty in salvation, men like John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, Asahel Nettleton, George Whitefield, Robert Murray McCheyne, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH U.S.A. (PC-USA) is the largest Presbyterian denomination in America, with roughly 3,000,000 members in 11,500 churches. It was formed in 1983 from a merger of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church in the United States. These two denominations had resulted from a division along the lines of North and South following the outbreak of the Civil War, and were reunited in the 1983 merger. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is modernistic and radically ecumenical. It is a member of the National and World Council of Churches. Like most liberal denominations, the PC-USA has been losing members steadily. The denominations which formed the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. lost 1.3 million members between 1965 and 1992. Membership in the PC-USA has been declining by 30,000 to 40,000 a year.
The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PC-USA) is the largest Presbyterian denomination in America, with roughly 3,000,000 members in 11,500 churches. It was formed in 1983 from a merger of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church in the United States. These two denominations had resulted from a division along the lines of North and South following the outbreak of the Civil War, and were reunited in the 1983 merger. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is modernistic and radically ecumenical. It is a member of the National and World Council of Churches. Like most liberal denominations, the PC-USA has been losing members steadily. The denominations which formed the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. lost 1.3 million members between 1965 and 1992. Membership in the PC-USA has been declining by 30,000 to 40,000 a year.
THE PC-USA AND ECUMENISM. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is a member of the radical National and World Council of Churches. Mainline Presbyterians were instrumental in the founding of these liberal bodies in 1948 and 1950. The PC-USA maintains dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church. The ecumenical mindset of the average Presbyterian minister is reflected in an article written by Dr. Richard Lovelace, professor of Church History at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and an ordained Presbyterian Church U.S.A. minister. In his article Three Streams, One River? Lovelace not only cited examples of the fact that Catholics, Charismatics and Evangelicals are moving closer together--he actually advocates and seeks to encourage such unscriptural unity. ... Dr. Lovelace says that Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans have much to contribute to the formation of a “united church which is truly Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal.” In 1986 the PC-USA General Assembly voted to share ministry and sacraments with the Lutheran denominations which formed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Efforts to absorb Presbyterians with other liberal denominations in the States have been in progress though the Consultation on Church Union (COCU) since 1961. This attempted union of Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and others has been making steady progress through the years. In June 1993 The PC-USA approved a proposal to enter into covenant communion with the other denominations in the COCU.
THE PC-USA AND MODERNISM. The gospel promoted in the PC-USA is primarily a false social gospel. In 1984, moderator Harriet Nelson said, “The Gospel is not just telling people they are saved. It also means meeting needs--things like providing food for the hungry and clothing for the naked.” The PC-USA supports all sorts of radical social-political causes in the world, but gives very little to evangelistic work. A survey taken in 1986 revealed that only 5% of the “clergy” and 16% of the membership in the PC-USA believe the Bible is to be taken literally. More than 75% of those polled rejected the idea that those who have not heard of Jesus Christ will be damned. In 1987 the PC-USA adopted a report which says that Christians and Jews worship the same God and that Jews are already in a covenant relationship with God and do not therefore need to be born again through faith in Jesus Christ to enjoy such a covenant. In 1982 the United Presbyterian Church ordained Mansfield Kaseman in spite of the fact that he denied that Jesus Christ is God, that He was sinless, and that Christ rose bodily from the dead. In typical neo-orthodox doublespeak Kaseman said, “I believe in the resurrection without necessarily believing in the bodily resurrection.” When asked if Jesus is God, he replied, “No, God is God.” Yet the presbytery voted 165-59 to admit Kaseman to the Presbyterian ministry. Also in 1982 the director of the United Presbyterian missions program, G. Daniel Little, rebuked fundamentalists for supporting creationism, and labeled the literal creation view “denial of the living God” and “calcifying of narrow, outdated views.” The “Brief Statement of Faith” approved at the 1991 General Assembly of the PC-USA contained no clear affirmation of the Trinity; made no reference to Heaven, Hell, or the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it affirmed sexual equality and environmental concerns. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. General Assembly for July 2001 rejected a declaration that people can be saved only through faith in Jesus Christ. Instead, it passed a loosely-worded statement that Christ is “uniquely Savior” but that it does not know whether or not non-Christians can be saved through their own religions.
THE PC-USA AND ABORTION. The PC-USA is a member of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, which seeks “to encourage and coordinate support for safeguarding the legal option of abortion.” Its 1985 Assembly reaffirmed its support for the right to abortion and determined that no new studies on abortion be undertaken. This was a move to permanently silence abortion opponents within the denomination. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A.’s medical benefit plan even pays for abortions! When conservatives attempted to have the 2001 General Assembly require notification of a parent at least 48 hours in advance of any abortion performed on a minor daughter, it DECLINED! It also declined to ban late term abortions, referring the matter, instead, to a committee!
THE PC-USA AND HOMOSEXUALITY. A vote to disassociate the PC-USA from homosexual ministries within the denomination failed by a margin of 2-1 at its 1984 Assembly. The PC-USA has a formal policy that allows for homosexuals to be received as members, and even allows for the ordination of homosexuals as long as they do not engage in same-sex relationships. In practice, homosexuals within the PC-USA carry on with their perverted lifestyles, and the PC-USA brings no discipline against them. The committee which recommended the change in homosexual policy in 1991 equated “sexism” and “heterosexism” with “racism” and condemned resistance to homosexuality as homophobia. The 1988 assembly of the Presbytery of Genesse Valley, New York, invited the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus to perform a concert. In 1991 the PC-USA filed a “friend-of-the-court” legal brief in support of the attempt to overthrow Kentucky’s sodomy law. In 1992 the PC-USA Committee on Educational Ministry recommended that the denomination refuse to allow Boy Scout troops to use church basements to punish the Scouts for their policy of barring homosexuals from being troop leaders. Erig Graninger, associate general counsel for the Presbyterians, said, “It is not for the state to tell the citizens of Kentucky what their morals should be.” Delegates to the 1993 PC-USA Assembly voted to support Clinton’s effort to remove the military’s ban on homosexuals. A poll taken in 1996 showed that 35 percent of PC-USA pastors and 32 percent of the members supported homosexual ordination. The attitude of many of the homosexuals within the PC-USA is represented by a statement made by Howard Warren at the General Conference, July 1996 -- “I do not like how THIS HETEROSEXUAL DICTATORSHIP treats my people.” There are 73 PC-USA congregations which identify themselves as “More Light” churches, “meaning they are willing to ordain gay and lesbian members to church office.” According to the Associated Press, July 5, 1996, “about 20 ordained pastors have told their congregations they are gay or lesbian.” In January 2000, seven professors from Presbyterian USA seminaries signed “a declaration on morality that calls upon all faiths to bless same-sex couples and allow gay and lesbian ministers” (“Liberal Clergy Endorse Declaration on Sexual Morality,” Associated Press, Jan. 18, 2000). On May 24, 2000, the Presbyterian Church’s Judicial Commission made two rulings in favor of homosexuals. It ruled that ministers may perform “holy union” ceremonies for homosexual couples as long as they don’t call it “marriage.” It also ruled that a church in New Jersey may accept a homosexual man as a candidate for ordination (“Presbyterian Church Approves ‘Holy Unions’ for Gays, Lesbians,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 25, 2000). On June 30, 2000, the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly narrowly voted to prohibit ministers from officiating at “holy union” ceremonies for homosexuals. This does not settle the matter, though. The measure (which passed by a vote of 268 to 251) must go before the denomination’s 171 presbyteries. It becomes church law only if passed by a majority of the regional bodies. Even if it becomes law, the Presbyterian Church USA will continue to be the same unholy mixed multitude that it has been from its inception, because there is no call for unrepent homosexuals to be put out of churches as the Bible demands (1 Corinthians 5). The mainline denominations do not follow the Bible; they practice religious politics. That is apostasy.
THE PC-USA AND FEMINISM. The predecessor Presbyterian bodies which formed the PC-USA have long been involved in feminist causes. The Presbyterian Church in the USA was the first of the mainstream religious bodies to ordain women as ruling elders in 1930. By 1993 PC-USA had 2,419 ordained women ministers. Women were elected to head the PC-USA in 1984 and again in 1989. It is interesting that 61% of PC-USA membership is female. The new Presbyterian hymnal adopted inclusive language for God and deleted “Onward, Christian Soldiers” because of the “military imagery.” The PC-USA contributed a grant of $66,000 to sponsor the WCC Re-imagining conference November 1993 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The most radical forms of feminism and goddess worship were promoted at this meeting. The conference coincided with the midpoint of the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women, an initiative of the World Council of Churches that began in 1988.
THE PC-USA AND PAGANISM. The Utica, New York Presbytery of the PC-USA appropriated $700 to bring a Buddhist monk from Bangkok to Utica to train local Asians in Buddhist doctrine. They said they wanted to protect the Asian culture. The 1992 General Assembly of the PC-USA was opened with a pagan Indian ritual to expel unwanted spirits and attract desired ones. In March 1989, a witch named Starhawk addressed the San Francisco Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She spoke under the auspices of a campus group called the Feminist Perspectives Committee which attempts to raise awareness concerning feminist issues. The witch performed ritual chants as prayers to “the powers under the earth.” Starhawk is a licensed priestess of the Covenant of the Goddess. She referred often to the “Mother-Father God,” a concept used in feminist theology.
Presbyterians participated in the production of the National Council of Churches inclusive language lectionary, which removed masculine references to God; addressed God as “Father and Mother”; deleted passages which instruct the wife to submit to the husband; changed many words, such as “son” to “child,” “king” to “ruler,” “kingdom” to “realm”; and added the names of wives to the O.T. genealogies. A paper entitled “Theologies Written from Feminist Perspectives” was distributed at the 1988 General Assembly of the PC-USA. The author, Cythia Campbell of the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Texas, said that many feminists reject the concept of redemption because it “reinforces a notion of human passivity ... and, they question whether the worship of a redeemer who is male is possible or healthy for women.” Campbell admits that feminist theology is open to “goddess religion and Wicca, more popularly known as witchcraft.” At the 1988 assembly of the Presbytery of Genesse Valley, New York, a liturgy was distributed which had been written by a lesbian Episcopal priest. Included were the words: “We give you thanks, O empowering Mother, for our sisters and brothers in all nations--black, brown, yellow, red, and white; older and younger; richer and poorer; lesbians, gay men, lovers, spouses, parents, children, teachers and learners; workers in many tasks; siblings in a common home.”
As we have noted, the PC-USA was a chief sponsor of the World Council of Churches Re-imagining conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in November 1993. A key theme was the celebration of Sophia, the supposed goddess of creation. The conferees joined together in repeating a prayer to Sophia, including these words: “Our maker Sophia, we are women in your image. ... Sophia, creator God ... shower us with your love. ... we invite a lover, we birth a child; with our warm body fluids we remind the world of its pleasures and sensations. ... Our guide, Sophia, we are women in your image. ... With the honey of wisdom in our mouths, we prophesy a full humanity to all the peoples.” Korea’s Chung Hyung Kyung told the crowd, “My bowel is Buddhist bowel, my heart is Buddhist heart, my right brain is Confucian brain, and my left brain is Christian brain.”
THE PC-USA AND IMMORALITY. Divorce and immorality are rampant in the liberal denominations because there is no clear separation from the world. We have seen the denomination’s tolerant attitude toward homosexuality. A report entitled “Sexuality, Spirituality and Social Justice” was distributed throughout the PC-USA in 1990-91. It said “the moral for Christians ought not be marriage, but rather justice-love. ... Where there is justice-love, sexual expression has ethical integrity. That moral principle applies to single, as well as to married, persons, to gay, lesbian and bisexual persons, as well as to heterosexual persons.” The report indicated that a person can have sexual relations outside of marriage and still be right with God. At its General Assembly in July 2001, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. voted 317 to 208 to rescind its “fidelity and chastity” rule for clergy. This law was passed in 1996 after a long battle by conservatives within the denomination, but it is now on its way to becoming history. (The General Assembly’s decision must be ratified by the denomination’s 173 presbyteries.) The “fidelity and chastity” law required that pastors “live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.”
The Presbyterian Layman magazine in 2001 declared the PC-USA General conference “an apostate assembly,” and rightfully so, but we would ask these “conservative” Presbyterians why they remain yoked together with unbelievers in direct disobedience to the Bible?
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
The United Church of Christ was formed in 1957 through the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Churches. The first of these had itself been formed by a merger in 1931 of Congregational Churches, the Christian Church, the Evangelical Synod, and the Reformed Church. The United Church of Christ has been on the cutting edge of ecumenical/modernistic weirdness from its inception. In 1996 the UCC published a new politically-correct, feminized hymnal contains hymns which address God as Mother. The lyrics to “Be Thou My Vision,” for example, were changed to read: “Mother and Father, you are both to me/ now and forever, your child I will be.” Theologically, the UCC is rapidly becoming unitarian and gnostic. In 1959 the UCC adopted a non-Trinitarian “Statement of Faith” which Unitarians found acceptable and said “might, in fact, have been adopted by any Unitarian church of a century ago.” In an interview with Witness magazine, Winter 1996 issue, Dr. Donald Bloesch, Professor of Theology at Dubuque Seminary and one of the most widely known and read UCC theologians, made this assessment:
“The theological trend in the UCC is toward a new gnosticism. It could be called post modern theology with its strong emphasis on relativism. Its primary drive is a need for immediate knowledge of God through experience. The role of the Bible in this theology is simply to provide a textbook of spiritual experiences from another age. ... the UCC seems to be following in the path of the United Church of Canada which has become a unitarian church because it sees the three persons of the trinity as metaphors rather than distinct entities.”
The heretical theology of the UCC has produced immorality. Consider the attitude of the UCC toward homosexuality--a sin which the Bible labels an abomination before the Lord. The homosexual can be saved through repentance and faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, but if he is saved he will be a new creature in Christ and will no longer continue in his sinful homosexual ways (2 Co. 5:17). The same is true for an adulterer or a drunkard or for any other type of sinner (1 Co. 6:9-11). All sin can be forgiven through Christ’s atonement. From the first century until now many homosexuals have been saved by the grace of God and have been changed to the glory of Jesus Christ. The problem today is that some are claiming that homosexuality is not a sin, that it is a natural condition, that the homosexual can serve Jesus Christ even while continuing to practice his homosexuality. This is an incredible last-days error. (We have refuted this error in our article on “sodomy.”) And it is an error which the United Church of Christ has promoted vigorously. Consider the facts as they were published by the UCC’s Office of Communication, March 1, 1996:
1969--The UCC’s Council for Christian Social Action declared opposition to all laws criminalizing private homosexual relations between adults; also opposed the exclusion of homosexuals from the military.
1972--William Johnson became the first openly homosexual person to be ordained by a mainline denomination. He was ordained by the Golden Gate Association in Northern California.
1973--The UCC Executive Council recommended that sexual orientation should not bar candidates from ordination. The General Synod also gave official standing to the UCC Gay Caucus.
1977--In Virginia, Anne Holmes became the first openly lesbian woman ordained in the UCC.
1983--The UCC General Synod passed a resolution recommending that sexual orientation should not be grounds for denying ordination.
1984--Diane Darling became the first openly lesbian woman to pastor a UCC congregation, the College Avenue United Church of Christ, Modesto, California.
1987--The UCC General Synod declared opposition to all sodomy laws.
1991--The UCC General Synod “boldly affirms, celebrates and embraces the gifts of ministry of lesbian, gay and bisexual persons.”
1993--The UCC General Synod voted by a wide margin to denounce the ban on homosexuals in the military.
1994--UCC leaders, including its president, Paul Sherry, joined the “March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Equal Rights and Liberation.”
1996--It was reported that more than 180 UCC congregations affirm homosexuality. There are three which are predominately lesbian and gay: Liberation United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ in Minneapolis and Phoenix United Church of Christ in Kalamazoo, Mich.
The United Church of Christ, as is the case with most mainline denominations today, glories in its “unity in diversity.” This means there is a great variety of doctrine within its midst. There are those who deny the deity of Jesus Christ and those who affirm it, those who believe salvation is personal regeneration through faith in Christ and those who believe salvation is redemption of the environment. This is true for the issue of homosexuality. Not all of its churches or all of its regional associations support ordination of homosexuals. But the fact remains that this denomination’s General Synod, speaking on behalf of all its congregations, has come out in support of this unscriptural abomination, and the fact remains that all of the congregations participating in this denomination share the guilt of those in their midst who practice these things. The Bible says the solution to sin and error in churches is discipline: “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Corinthians 5:13). Churches which refuse to follow the Bible and which refuse to exercise discipline are Ichabod, meaning they are rejected by the Lord. “And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel...” (1 Samuel 4:21). “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16).
BREAK DOWN THE BARRIERS BETWEEN DENOMINATIONS?
This documentation could be greatly expanded to include other denominations. Promise Keepers and other ecumenical organizations are calling for denominations to come together. When examined in the light of the character of today’s mainline denominations, it is clear that this is a call for fellowship with apostasy. Either ecumenical leaders are ignorant of the facts we have brought out, or they simply don’t care. Either way, they demonstrate that they are unqualified to lead God’s people. When confronted with these facts, many respond, “Yes, there is much apostasy in the denominations, but we must stay in them and be salt and light.” This is disobedience to God’s Word. The Bible says a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Leaven in Scripture is a symbol for evil and error. A little error, if left alone, will quickly permeate an entire church or denomination. This is precisely what has happened. God does not instruct His people to stay in the midst of apostasy; He instructs them to come out and be separate (2 Cor. 6:14-18; Rev. 18:4).
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