The General Conference Committee asked Elder Haynes to attend the important National Study Conference on the Churches and a Just and Durable Peace, assembled in Cleveland in January under the auspices of the Federal Council Commission on the Bases of a Just and Durable Peace. His report to the committee contained items of significant interest to the working force of the denomination, and he was requested to report them to readers of The Ministry.—Editor.
As an observer at this significant meeting of influential church leaders I was impressed with the spirit of deep earnestness that prevailed throughout. These men have no doubt that the course they are taking and the things they are recommending to the church and the world are for "the greater glory of God" and wholly in accord with His will and purpose. They may be mistaken, but they do not think they are. They have in mind to advance the interests of the kingdom of God and bring about its establishment on earth, and they are quite sincere about it.
This was an important meeting and very representative, the most representative of its kind which has been held. Thirty-three denominations, including the largest in Protestantism, were represented. I can recall no other meeting of ecclesiastics in this century in America more representative in character or attended by leaders from a greater number of religious bodies, coming from a wider range of Stafes and provinces.
The conference continued through four tightly packed days—two of detailed study and discussion by three study groups, and two of plenary sessions to mold and forge into final shape a three-thousandword statement to "the ecumenical church." This statement, the chief product of the conference, is a weighty and comprehensive document.
Not only were leaders from the various Protestant churches present, but also representatives from universities, labor unions, industry, great financial foundations, and Government. The striking and significant feature of the conference was the unanimity arrived at by men of such diverse schools of thought, and the determination to put their program into effect. They reached a common understanding and committed themselves to a common program.
Many days before the delegates started for the conference they had been sent and asked to study comprehensive memoranda issued by the Federal Council. These were in three sections : "The Program of the Churches for the World," "The Churches and the Current International Situation," "The Prophetic Witness of the Churches and the Program for Action."
No part of this study was for the purpose of making a pronouncement dealing with the only true program the Christian church has for the world—the proclamation of Christ's gospel of salvation for men. That was not discussed nor covered in the report. A new gospel, quite "another" gospel, wholly unknown to the New Testament, is presented in this report, and Protestants are asked to rally to it and make it foremost in their thinking, in their plans, and in their program.
Not once during any of the meetings of these four days was there the least intimation by any speaker or in any action that the kingdom of God is to be established by the return of the King. If this conference and the statement it has issued is to be considered the voice of American Protestantism, then American Protestantism has definitely and finally turned away from such a conception and teaching. It has given itself wholly and enthusiastically to the view that the kingdom of God is built through the improvement of human government. The state is to be influenced and reshaped by basically Christian principles until justice and righteousness become established by law. When the process has gone on long enough, that will be God's kingdom.
With that philosophy as a background there was beaten out on the anvil of vigorous and animated discussion a three-thousand-word statement entitled "The Churches and World Order." It was called "A Message to the Churches," because it was realized that this gathering of religious leaders had not been authorized to speak for the churches, but the hope was many times expressed that while this message was ostensibly addressed to "the ecumenical church," it would nevertheless be looked on as the pronouncement of this "ecumenical church" to the world, and particularly to the world statesmen who are shaping the peace.
The statement is in three sections : "Christian Faith and World Order," "Christian Standards and Current International Developments," and "Recommendations for Action." It commends the Dumbarton Oaks proposals for an international security organization "to the consideration of the churches," but urges measures for their improvement. These are the measures urged:
"(1) Preamble: A preamble should reaffirm those -present and long-range purposes of justice and human welfare which are set forth in the Atlantic Charter and which reflect the aspirations of peoples everywhere.
"(2) Development of International Law: The charter should clearly anticipate the operation of the organization under international law and should provide for the development and codification of international law, to the end that there shall be a progressive subordination of force to law.
"(3) Voting Power: A nation, while having the right to discuss its own case, should not be permitted to vote when its case is being judged in accordance with predetermined international law.
"(4) Amendment: In order to permit such changes in the charter of the organization as may from time to time become necessary, the provision for amendments should be liberalized so as not to require concurrence by all the permanent members of the security council.
"(5) Colonial and Dependent Areas: A special commission should be established wherein the progress of colonial and dependent peoples to autonomy, and the interim problems related thereto, will become an international responsibility.
"(6) Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: A special commission on human rights and fundamental freedoms should be established.
"(7) Eventual Universal Membership: The charter should specify that all nations willing to accept the obligations of membership shall thereupon be made members of the organization.
"(8) Limitation of Armaments: More specific provision should be made for promptly initiating the limitation or reduction of national armaments.
"(9) Smaller Nations: There should be provisions designed more clearly to protect and defend the smaller nations from possible subjection to the arbitrary power of the great."
The statement then makes recommendations regarding procedures for the construction and form of the world security organization, the "Political Conduct Required to Promote Further Collaboration," "Economic Co-operation," "Human Rights," "The Peace Settlement in Europe With Special Reference to Germany," "The Peace Settlement in Asia With Special Reference to Japan," "Dependent Peoples," "Church and Federal ?Union," "Youth and the World Order," "Study and Action for American Participation in International Cooperation," "Relief and Reconstruction," "Race Relations." It urges "a meeting of the United Nations at the earliest possible moment to consider the Dumbarton Oaks proposals," and concurs in the resolutions of the Federal Council of Churches and many other religious and educational bodies, "urging that Congressional action on peacetime military conscription be deferred until after the war."
The assembled churchmen called upon the statesmen of the world to make possible immediately a world organization to maintain peace. In doing this they fully recognized that the nations would have to display a willingness to surrender some part of their individual sovereignty in order that this world organization might become effective.
These ecclesiastics recognized and freely admitted that for the churches to inveigh against a selfish nationalism on the part of governments, and to urge upon these governments to surrender some part of their sovereignty in order to obtain world unity and the maintenance of peace, would inevitably direct attention to the churches' relationships to one another. The churches are scarcely in a position to ask the nations to surrender sovereignty and unite, unless and until they in turn exhibit a willingness to surrender denominational independence, giving up some part of their sovereignty, and achieve a united front.
Consequently, both in the final statement and in discussions on the floor there was an urgent demand to bring about a union of all churches. This, it was claimed, will furnish to the nations an example of what the churches can do, and thus exert a favorable influence in favor of a world governmental organization.
The divided state of Protestantism came in for severe criticism. The statement does not hesitate to say to the world that "the present structure of denominational Protestantism is not adequate to deal with the issues of our time." Many of the delegates pointed out that "we can hardly demand that the nations get together when we cannot get together ourselves."
As a step in the direction of a united Protestant front, two proposals of unusual significance were made. These received enthusiastic support from denominational spokesmen.
Protestant denominations were called upon to agree to no longer send missionaries to overseas duty through separate denominational mission boards but to pool their missionaries in a world organization of churches, so that these missionaries, when going forward to their fields of labor, might go, not as Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, or Episcopalians, and not to represent these separate denominations, but instead simply as Christians, representatives of "the ecumenical church."
The denominations were also called upon to demonstrate Protestant unity by placing all theological seminaries on an interdenominational basis by constructing their faculties without reference to personal denominational affiliation, professors and instructors being selected without reference to, or inquiry upon, their doctrinal belief or denominational membership. It was believed that this would assure the turning out of a truly international product from these seminaries—workers who would go out with a consciousness and vision of world unity.
To the delegates at Cleveland it seemed that the great opportunity of the centuries for the world church had come. Statements were made by those who claimed to possess certain information that the populations of all countries are no longer interested in, but only repelled by, denominational activities and narrow doctrinal propaganda. "The hawking of ecclesiastical eccentricities" was frowned upon, and it was declared that the time had come for this to be discontinued. Indeed, it was felt that the great chance of the ages has come to set before the world the unity for which our Lord prayed. This, it was declared, is the present indispensable procedure necessary for establishing the kingdom of God. Anything else is disruptive and divisive.
Projects for rebuilding and rehabilitating institutions destroyed in war-devastated areas were recognized as furnishing an excellent occasion for putting this program into effect. Demands were made that such projects should be authorized, cleared, and given priority only through the World Council of Churches. It was thought that in this way denominationalism could be minimized and that "ecumenicity" would be advanced.
The statement makes pronouncements upon a number of political questions. The principle of imperialism was denounced. Dependent peoples, it was declared, are entitled to their independence. Demands were made for the immediate freedom of colonial peoples, such at least as are "now ready for self-government."
The statement declares that "we cannot in good conscience advocate the dismantling of the Japanese Empire... without at the same time insisting that the imperialism of the white man shall be brought to the earliest possible end. We cannot have a sound or stable world community so long as there is in force submission of one people to the will of another, whether in Korea, in India, in the Congo, in Puerto Rico, or anywhere else." The delegates voted for this without hesitation.
The statesmen of the United Nations were instructed regarding the postwar treatment of Germany and Japan. There must be no vindictive peace, although the peace must "remove the power as well as the will of aggressive elements" within Germany and Japan to make war.
Japan should be provided with a fair economic opportunity. Constructive forces inside Japan should be encouraged, and Japan should be promised an early entry into the new world organization. Regarding all of Asia and Africa, acknowledgment is made that there can be no lasting peace without white abandonment of color and race discrimination.
Racial equality was especially emphasized in relation to the Negroes of the United States. From one section of the preliminary study groups a recommendation was sent to the finding committee, asking that the churches record their approval of racial equality, "economically, politically, industrially, and socially," together with an "unsegregated opportunity" in all these fields.
Something happened to this recommendation in the finding committee, for when it came to the plenary session and was finally adopted, it was in the form of encouragement to churches and church members to "wage a continuing campaign against race prejudice in all its forms," and for "other measures designed to advance the well-being and constitutional rights of Negroes and other underprivileged groups."
Arrangements are being made to carry this Cleveland statement to the churches and the general public by preaching and study missions on several levels—interdenominational, denominational, the local church, and the individual Christian.
There appeared to be the most complete agreement throughout the conference with the view that the kingdom of God is to be brought into being by the work of the church in bringing about improved international, social, racial, industrial, and economic conditions. To accomplish this end there was an urgent demand that Protestant Christians everywhere be encouraged to take the fullest part in political activities.
The Cleveland conference is another evidence that we are passing through world-changing developments. The forces of organized religion are reaching out and striving for power, political power, governmental power. Moved by a conviction that the failures of men in the past to achieve stability and peace and security are the result of God's having been ruled out of the affairs of nations, they are convinced that no peace can endure which does not have religion as its base. In other words, the churches are offering to lead humanity to enduring peace.
This enduring peace must have as its foundation the Christian religion: In order to provide this there must be created a superchurch as well as a superstate. This new religious development is being referred to everywhere as the "ecumenical church." By this is meant, apparently, a religious combination which disregards denominational lines, rises above doctrinal differences, ignores old separations, and combines to control religion and worship.
It is not difficult for the student of prophecy to discern in all this that the trend is positively in the direction in which it will become quite possible for all the world to be made to worship, or at least ordered to worship, the trinity of evil predicted in the prophecies of Revelation. The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet are not far from a merger of interests. Bible students know that this will be followed by the miracle-working spirits of devils taking control and influencing the nations to assemble to the great day of God Almighty.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly or repeated too often that the Christian church has never been given any commission by the divine Master to educate the world, to reform the world, to civilize the world, or to govern the world. When it attempts to do so it is out of its place and unfaithful to Christ, having abandoned its proper sphere and work.
It is not the mission of the church to solve economic problems, or Christianize the social order, and certainly not to interfere in the government of the world. It has not been established for such a purpose. It is not equipped to achieve such objectives.
One mission alone does the church of Christ have—to "preach the gospel to every creature." It is in the world for nothing other, nothing less, nothing more. It has but a single testimony to give, a single statement to present, a single declaration to make, a single message to herald. This is comprised in the scriptural phrase, "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."