Editorial Keynotes

"National Preaching Mission" Reactions

L.E.F. is editor of the Ministry

Supplemental word on the recent "National Preaching Mission," spon­sored by the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, may be in order. The reactions of liberal­ist and Fundamentalist papers are in­evitably divergent. The December Federal Council Bulletin, for example, enthusi­astically declares:

"The success of the National Preaching Mission, far beyond the highest expectations, is a revelation of the eager responsiveness of the people to an ardent, positive, and convincing presentation of the Christian message. We are witnessing what can only be called a recovery of evangelism and a re­vival of vital religion."

On the other hand, the Modernist Christian Century makes this complaint as to the doc­trinal content and method employed, and in the issue of December 2 says:

"There are two points at which a candid appraisal of the mission demands that we speak critically. One has to do with method, the other with message. As to method, it must be frankly said that the technique and doctrinal presupposition of the old revivalism were too much in evidence. Not in any crude form, but in principle. There is nothing which the contemporary Christian ministry desires so much as to be shown how to proclaim the gospel with power without resort to this discredited tech­nique."

But one of the conspicuous results acclaimed by both groups, one which is of deepest interest and significance to us as Adventists, is stressed in the Federal Council Bulletin for January:

"One of the unexpected outcomes of the National Preaching Mission is a new impetus toward church unity  .. such a concentrated spiritual momentum as has probably not been felt by the churches of America in our generation."

On this point the Christian Century heartily agrees, in the issue of December 2:

"But the missioners had a clear title to bring the idea of 'the church, the united church, into the pic­ture of the social gospel."

Then the next logical step in this line of reasoning is taken by the same journal, apply­ing this principle of homeland church unity to foreign mission enterprise consolidation, the far-reaching implication of which will be ap­parent upon a moment's thought:

"If the Federal Council is right in assuming that there exists enough actual unity in American Prot­estantism to conduct a home mission enterprise, how long must we wait until the churches make the Federal Council the organ of their foreign mission enterprise? And if there is enough unity to project a preaching mission, how long must we wait until the churches make the Federal Council the organ of the administration of missions at home and abroad ?"

Then this point of unity is pressed, as ap­plied to America and the Federal Council:

"Does not the fact that the Federal Council can engage in mission work such as that which in this mission it has carried to successful completion, sug­gest that the time has come for the churches to drop the inept word 'Council' from its name, and rechristen it with a name reflecting at once the function it is exercising and the actual state of facts in American Protestantism? Its true name should be 'The United Church of Christ in America.' "

Finally, the last page of the same journal for December 30 is devoted to the enunciation of the platform of the Federal Council as related to the National Preaching Mission, and to an appeal to rally to its support:

"The future of our Protestant churches depends upon Christian unity. Quickening spiritual life, working together, uniting for social welfare, elimi­nating competition,—these are the duties of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in Amer­ica. It is a federation of twenty-three national denominations, created by them and directed by their official representatives. It brings hitherto-separated churches into actual cooperation in a wide range of tasks that are of crucial importance to the spiritual life of the nation and the world.

"The Federal Council Has Four Major Functions

"Undergirding of national life with the united spiritual resources of the churches.

"Affording a central administration of services which no denomination can render alone, but which must be performed by a central agency.

"Securing a collective leadership, drawn from the best thinking of all denominations, in meeting the challenges of contemporary social and international problems.

"Eliminating duplication of effort and overchurch­ing by bringing about a greater practical efficiency.

"The National Preaching Mission of the Federal Council visited twenty-eight major centers of popu­lation and reached hundreds of other communities. This cooperative evangelistic effort is an evidence of what the Federal Council is doing for effective Christian unity. It is also an indication of the readiness of church people to respond to a united evangelistic witness by cooperating church bodies."

In the light of such expressed objectives, it is interesting and refreshing to read in the Pres­byterian of December 17, under the heading, "An NRA for Religion," these courageous words:

"Dr. E. Stanley Jones called for 'The Church of Christ of America.' Under it,' Dr. Jones said, 'we would have many branches, the Presbyterian branch of the Church of America, and so on.' It is passing strange to hear these churchmen who cry so loudly against a totalitarian state, at the same time advo­cate precisely the same expedients for the church which political degeneration and business degenera­tion have made possible in their fields."

No, we repeat, Seventh-day Adventists can have no part nor lot in this project based on the principle of federal unity of the churches, not only in home bases but in the mission fields. It is a false view and a misguided objective, one destined to foster that ultimate pressure that erelong will bring our inevitable independ­ence under fire and ostracism. Ours is a distinctive and divine commission.                  

L. E. F.

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L.E.F. is editor of the Ministry

March 1937

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