The Revealing Ratio: Its Review and Response

The responsible church of Christ is expected to carefully examine the contents of each Synod’s Agenda. In this year’s 496page volume the reader notes in Report No. 2 of Calvin College and Seminary two additional Appendices “A” and “B.” Appendix “B,” entitled “Report on Matter of Social Dancing,” originates in a Synodical recommendation of 1977 (Synodical Acts 1977, p. 97). It is to this second Appendix “B” that I would alert the church of Christ as she gathers in Synodical assembly this coming June.

Appendix “B” analyzes the detailed information received from a questionnaire of the Board of Trustees sent to the churches. Synod had requested the church to express itself on the debatable position which the Board had previously taken on the introduction on campus of what was termed “social dancing.” The responses of consistories and individuals were solicited and were to be forwarded to the Board Secretary. They were then tabulated and evaluated with a further conclusion for the Synod. This tabulation and the evaluation with conclusions are found in our 1978 Agenda.

What do we discover in this tabulation of reactions from the heart of the Chl. Ref. Church? What do we learn as constituency in the Conclusion (Part III) of the Board of Trustees report? Let’s take a good hard look at this tabulation and its relationship to the conclusions reached.

In the analysis of responses received, we find the following statistics:

Of total responses received, about 85% raised questions and objections, 4% asked for information and 10% expressed approval. The breakdown of responses is as follows: 9 classes responded, 1 approved and 8 disapproved; 159 churches responded, 24 approved and 135 disapproved; 95 individuals responded, 2 approved and 93 disapproved; 4 organizations responded, 1 approved and 3 disapproved.” So much for mathematical ratios and percentages on the problem. In reviewing these statistics what is one’s obvious conclusion? That the great majority of the church voiced their sentiments in the negative with respect to Calvin’s proposed introduction of a new mode of entertainment in social dancing. A ratio of 85% to 10% with 4% seeking further information is not to be discounted as irrelevant to the problem! Looking at the figures, one would normally conclude that the church by majority opinion and poll voices its wholehearted dissent to the proposal of the Board of Trustees for Calvin Campus.

But what conclusion does the Board arrive at in its report to Synod? Does it responsibly relate the dissent (85%) to the Synod and then recommend that such entertainment be discouraged or even categorically cancelled? Let’s review the report. On page 50 or our Agenda, the Board of Trustees draws the conclusion “that the church must address itself to the growing practice of social dancing.” So far, so good! But when the church does address herself and asks for grass roots opinion which evidences disapproval of such dancing, then what happens? The Board continues in its report to recommend—“We wish to state here that we value our Christian heritage. We cherish what our heritage has given us and we wish to preserve it. However, it is ow conviction that preservation cannot be accomplished by putting it away for safekeeping. . . . Thus, we are persuaded that the matter of social dancing must be confronted openly and honestly, that the Board of Trustees has done that responsibly within the guidelines of Synodical decisions, and that the church at urge must now do likewise . . . . ” Then one reads that the “Board of Trustees reaffirms its position re the Dance Issue token in May 1977 and reported to the Synod in June 1977 . . . .” They go on further to make their challenge to the Synod of our church by saying: “If there is a basic uncertainty as to the meaning of the 1966/71 decisions and their application to social dancing, we recommend that synod take steps to clarify its position while the Board of Trustees withholds implementation of its decision until the results of synod‘s study are available.”

What does this say to the church constituency wrestling with the problems of our modem dance, with rockn-roll and discotheque? In my opinion, our board has disregarded the negative response of the church with its deep concern. It is further clouding the churches’ thinking by asserting a confused consensus in the interpretation of the Synodical decisions of 1966/71. It elicits “different views on dancing” in the context of Christian liberty. The statement is made in the report that “we believe that every area of life, including the social dance. is subject to the redeeming power of our Lord.” Again, “The sanctified exercise of Christian liberty in all of these activities (eating, drinking, and entertainment) including the dance. is clearly our responsibility.” Finally, we read that “the Board has therefore encouraged the departments to continue toward the goal of providing the moral sensitivity and social skills necessary in using dance as a pleasant and wholesome opportunity for social interaction.”

Is this the proper route for the Chr. Ref. Church constituency who by majority have voiced their “No” to the questionnaire of the Board? Consistories, classes, and honest Christians, raise your voices to support your convictions in a “trumpet cry” of warning to our Board and our 1978 Synodical delegation. Tell them what is their responsible duty to Christ’s church and to its Lord.

Maybe if we go back and review what our Synod of 1928 emphasized regarding the spirit of worldliness in the dance and carefully study those principles set forth as to what worldliness includes, we shall strengthen our convictions that Synod 1966/71 with their “cultural mandate” emphasis did not speak the same language as Synod of 1928. The evil philosophy prevalent in 1928 has not disappeared, 50 years later in 1978!

C.W. Fliestra is pastor of the Christian Reformed Church at Hancock, Minnesota.