Professor Zuidema, the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands, and the World Council

In 1964 the Synod of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands declared that there is “no sufficient hindrance for the Reformed Churches to join the W.C.C.” At the same time Synod decided as yet not to proceed to affiliation, because there is still much disagreement on this point in the churches themselves. It called the churches to study the decision of Synod and also invited sister-churches, belonging to the Reformed Ecumenical Synod. to give their opinion. The N.Z. churches have already sent a letter to the Dutch churches. Our Synod charged their Deputies for Ecumenicity to do so within three months after Synod.

In the meantime the discussion within the Dutch churches is going Oil. Recently Prof. S. U. Zuidema has written a booklet “Op de twee sprong” (At the cross-roads), published by T. Wever, in which he subjects the synodical decision to a penetrating analysis. Unfortunately he does it at times in such a rallying tone, that one wonders whether he takes his opponents (i.e. the majority of Synod) seriously. We call this unfortunate, because we are afraid that the result will be that they do not take his passionate plea against affiliation seriously. And this would certainly be to the detriment of the discussion and of the churches themselves. For there can be no doubt that Prof. Zuidema raises important questions, which are not answered in the synodical decision. We mention some of them.

1. In the first statement Synod declares that the Reformed Churches have to fulfill their ECUMENICAL calling. That sounds good, but what does Synod mean by the word ‘ecumenical’? Today there is much confusion about this word. Is Synod aware of what the W.C.C. means by this word?

2. Synod declares that the basis of an ecumenical organization must be CHRISTOLOCICAL. Again, that sounds good. Every Reformed person will agree with this. But what does this mean ‘in the case of the W.C.C., where several christologies are held side by side? What does it mean when some of these christologies exclude and contradict one another, and yet all are regarded as legitimate within the framework of the W.C.C.? Does affiliation then not mean a relativizing of one’s own christology?

The same question applies to the TRINITARIAN extension of the basis accepted in New Delhi, 1961. What does this addition mean, when participating churches tolerate office-bearers who deny this doctrine? When they even send these office-bearers as official delegates?

3. Does Synod ‘realize that the W.C.C. is no longer PROTESTANT, i.e., based on the fundamental principles of the Reformation (by grace alone, by Scripture alone, by Christ alone, by faith alone)? Since Evanston (1954) and especially since New Delhi (1961) the W.C.C. has received several Eastern Orthodox churches (e.g., the Russian Orthodox church) into full membership. These churches, however, reject the principles of the Reformation. What is more, they claim to be the only true and infallible church of God. Can one confess unity-in-Christ with these churches, without attacking their errors?

4. What does Synod mean, when it calls the W.C.C. “an ATTEMPT to make the fallen and divided churches in the whole world fulfill the requirements of their being and mandate more and better”? Is this really true? Does the W.C.C. indeed do this? When and in what respect has it ever done this? Is it not rather so that this is only a claim made by the W.C.C. itself? Is the W.C.C. with its lack of doctrinal unity and with its one-sided emphasis on common action, able to do such a thing?

5. Is Synod aware of the REAL NATURE of the W.C.C.? It is true that in the so-called Toronto Statement (1950) the Central Committee of the W.C.C. emphatically declared that “the W.C.C. is not and must never become a Super-Church.” It also declared that “the purpose of the W.C.C. is not to negotiate unions between churches, which can only be done by the churches themselves.” Yet it is obvious that THE great aim of the W.C.C. is to bring such unions about, be it in an indirect way. In New Delhi the Report on Unity spoke of the “educative function of the Council,” which means an education to a better mutual understanding and eventually to union of the participating churches. I n accordance with this is the idea (very popular in W.C.C. circles!) that all participating churches must be willing to die as denominations in order to rise with Christ in the one great World Church of the future. Are the Dutch churches willing to do this on the present basis?

It is further to be noticed that the W.C.C., which started as an organization critical of all institutions, has become an institution in its own rights. It is not a super church, but it undoubtedly regards itself as the scaffolding within which the one church of the future is evolving. Because of this unique function, there is a great deal of intolerance in W.C.C. circles towards those who disagree and defend the good right of their own denomination.

6. Is Synod aware of the basic ideas of RECIPROCITY and SOLIDARITY which determine the views and actions of the W.C.C.? These ideas arc so fundamental that, e.g., all evangelistic work among members of other participating churches is forbidden. According to this principle Protestant evangelists may no longer work in Eastern Europe. What will happen if Rome will also join the W.C.C.?

7. Is Synod aware of the fact that the W.C.C. is developing into an INSTITUTION OF POWER, which in the U.S.A. and especially also on the mission fields has led and is leading to MONOPOLISM, so that churches that refuse to affiliate with the W.C.C. are hindered in the execution of their work, and sometimes even are prevented from entering certain areas, using broadcast facilities, etc.?

These are a few of the questions which Prof. Zuidema lays before his own churches, and in our opinion they have to be studied before further steps can be taken by these churches. If these things are true (and we believe that many of them are only too true), then it is NOT the ecumenical calling of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (or of any other Reformed Church) to join, but rather to disassociate themselves from the W.e.e. No one should call this a negative altitude. To say “No” to an organization that is marred by so many defects, which in the Name of Christ allows so many views contrary to the Word of God, is not negative but positive! Just as positive as when Luther said “No” to the Diet of Worms: “God help me. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”

Prof. Klaas Runia of the Reformed Theological College, Geelong (Victoria), Australia, comments briefly but pointedly on the issues which are involved for a confessional Reformed church contemplating membership in the World Council of Churches.