20th Century Reformation
by Ronn Spargure
American Mercury - December 1958
Behind the draped pulpit, a tall, big man straightened his sandy hair, arranged a few papers, fingered his tie and brushed some nonexistent lint from his dark blue suit. Then, he gently announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Fourth Plenary Congress of the International Council of Christian Churches is now in session."
Delegates hushed their conversations and bow their heads in the opening prayer. The next 10 days of the ICCC's every four year Congress would be filled with planning the course of a movement that had increased steadily in scope and power since its inception. The flag-hung auditorium of the hotel Quintandinha, in Rio-Petropolis Brazil, would witness the continued development.
Dr. Carl McIntire, ICCC's president from Collingswood, New Jersey, was the big man behind the pulpit. For him, he thought, the Fourth Plenary Congress would be the end of 10 years hopping from country to country, organizing and encouraging the ICCC's regional councils and associations. After 10 days of cheering general sessions and spending nights in committees, he could go home to his 1500 member Collingswood Bible Presbyterian Church.
For 52 year old Carl McIntire, the fourth plenary Congress began after a long plane ride from the States, a Saturday night rally in Sao Paulo's huge municipal theater, and a Monday afternoon press conference with Brazilian reporters from Rio de Janeiro. He had a full schedule ahead of him.
Somewhere along the line, the instantaneous translation equipment had been led to another conference. There were not enough translators to make clear the broken English of some delegates and the machine gun chatter of the Spanish and Portuguese representatives.
Out of this Babel of languages, Carl McIntire had to direct the resolution, reorganization, executive, and planning committees in developing a positive, dynamic program for the next four years. The big job would be getting a stack of resolutions discussed and voted on.
At the end of the Congress Carl McIntire was exhausted but the assembly had voted into effect 20 resolutions dealing with most areas of activity touched by religion; elected a new slate of officers for the next four years; seen the groundwork laid for three non-associated international organizations intended to represent the interests of four specific denominations not affiliated with either the ICCC or the World Council of Churches; revamped and revitalized the Council's worldwide youth program by juicing up summer camps, seminars, student exchange, and publication of an international youth letter in six languages; and taken some healthy jabs at peaceful coexistence with Communism and the proposed membership of the Russian Orthodox Church in the World Council of Churches. Not forgotten was the most Rev. Geoffrey Fisher's statement that it could be God's will to destroy the world with an H bomb. Delegates called the Archbishop of Canterbury an unsettling force in the Christian world and said such a statement was scripturally not sound.
When all the resolutions were passed and the final speech spoken, delegates were congratulating each other on the most successful of the Council's four congresses. The meetings began a new decade of increased Council activity throughout the world. No slowdown was indicated in its running war with the Communist threat to historic Christianity and the "one world, one government, one church" doctrine of the Ecumenical Movement. The latter fight goes back to the days of the American Council of Christian Churches. In 1948, the controversy went international as both the ACCC and the National Council of Churches joined in forming representative organizations on the world level.
Dr. Carl McIntire was president of the ACCC in 1941. In Amsterdam in 1948, he was a dynamic force in declaring the dangers to the "historic Christian faith" both from within and without the ranks of the protestant clergy. He was articulate in his arguments. Some 150 delegates from 29 countries said he should lead the infant ICCC.
Some sources claim the ICCC exists only to offset the wide ranging influence of the World Council of Churches. One of the chief criticisms of the group has been its intensive program of blasting all WCC moves for Christian union with Russian churches and the spread of a "modernistic, social gospel." And the ICCC has not been slow to link the United Nations and the WCC together in its blasts against a one world government. The flaws of the two organizations are the same, International Council men say. One world government is scripturally sound.
Actually, the basic difference between the ICCC and the World Council is the logical. All other differences spring from this source. The ICCC represents pure fundamentalism, the historic Christian faith that recognizes the Bible as the plenary inspired, infallible word of God. All its member denominations subscribe to that basic creedal statement as a part of their summary of the great evangelical doctrines. But, ICCC spokesman pointed out, the World Council sidesteps any similar creedal statement and is "inclusivist" of all manner of opinions, belief and unbelief, concerning Jesus Christ. Certain high ranking leaders of the WCC have expressed their doubts as to the trustworthiness of the Bible and have publicly questioned the traditional Biblical concept of the deity of Christ. Here the two councils divide sharply.
The International Council, its healthy Christian cooperation, desires the whole counsel of God. On the other hand, ICCC leaders claim, the World Council seeks to direct the course of the nations with the brotherhood of man philosophy which will bring in a socialistic kingdom of God society.
The competition has spread into other areas as well. Dr. J. B. Matthews, of New York City, former chief investigator of the House Un-American Activities Committee, led credence to the ICCC accusation that "modernist" clergy were being used to further Communist activity in the United States and other countries. Combined with the refusal of the WCC to issue a clear-cut statement about their position on the Communist question and their appointment of Communist clergy to the WCC central committee, information about duped clergymen became another weapon for the ICC and its fight against Communism and that exposure of World Council modernism.
For 10 years now the charges have been leveled against the World Council and Communism, often including both. Most of the time, the ICCC charges have been ignored and the public kept uninformed as the issues developed. WCC men have refused to discuss the statements in public. "To do so," they say, "will tend to blow up the issues out of all proportion to their importance." But George Cornell, Associated Press religion editor, writing about McIntire and his impact on the World Council, points out that "virtually every major church leader knows of him and has discussed him in exasperated private conversations."
Throughout the world, the two Councils have continued to butt heads. Despite an apparently large numerical strength, the World Council has felt ICCC stings in Singapore, Australia, and throughout the United States. Bishop B. Bromley Oxnam, chairman of the board of bishops of the Methodist Church in America, found his speaking engagements in Singapore in 1956 thwarted as the result of an ICCC booklet, "Oxnam: Prophet of Marx," written by Carl McIntire. And ICCC Truth Squad composed of Christian leaders from Canada, England, Singapore, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and the United States, successfully hampered promotion of the WCC activities and exposed Josef L. Hromadka, WCC executive committee member, as the world's number one Protestant Communist, in Australia during 1956. In 1957, while WCC leaders were touring Russia, the International Council brought refugee clergymen from Poland, Latvia, Estonia, the Ukraine, and Hungary, to the United States for a tour of the country climaxing in revealing sworn testimony before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. The refugee ministers reported on the conditions facing Christians in Iron Curtain countries.
Only recently, World Council leaders were obliged to delay the general assembly meetings a year as the result of opposition to a merger of interests between the International Missionary Council and the WCC, at meetings in Ghana in January. Conflict arose due to facts uncovered by the ICCC is Associated Missions, IMC and WCC opponents to the merger made use of International Council research to delay the meeting of minds.
Result of all this activity has been a hobbling of the WCC program and a negative labeling of almost all ICCC projects. Carl McIntire has been accused of a new democratic leadership, called an "apostle of discord," dismissed as a "lot of noise." But the program throughout the past decade, has never let up in intensity.
At the close of the Fourth Plenary Congress, Carl McIntire looked the situation in the face again and remarked, "You have to accept criticism when you expose corruption anywhere."
"The ICCC program," Dr. McIntire said, "is not negative but positive in its approach. Its ultimate aim is to keep protestants from forming any alliances with communist clergy and to clear away the cobwebs of modernism. There has been such a confusion of issues by modernists," Dr. McIntire accused, "that the majority of sincere, church-going, Bible believing Christians in America, and in other countries, really do not understand the nature of the organization they are unheedingly supporting.
"There is a vacuum created by the apostasy in world Christianity today, that has to be filled. World Council leaders have established themselves on a lofty philosophical plane that has no room for their constituency. Between philosophy in reality there's a gap that must be filled by historic, Bible believe testimony. Today, we believe the International Council is that testimony."
The protestant leaders around the world have been responding to the ICC sales call. Dr. David Hedegard, Sweden; Dr. W.H. Guiton, France; Dr. H. C. Slade, Canada; Rev. E.C. Eicher, Lebanon; Rev. Beshai Saeed Beshai, Egypt; Rev. Antonion F. Ormeo, Philippines; and Prof. J.J. van der Schuit, the Netherlands have been working enthusiastically to develop the ICCC program in their countries.
Despite negative claims by individuals not sympathetic to the Council's work, the ICCC has been active in a positive way around the world. Since 1953, some 850,000 gospel portions have been sent via Bible balloons into Iron Curtain countries. Follow-up checks with refugees indicate the airborne Scriptures are reaching their mark. In 1950, ICCC aid relieved war victims in Korea. In February, 1953, ICCC cash and clothing was among the first to reach flood victims in the Netherlands. Summer camps supported by ICCC regional associations provide wholesome activity for use in Europe, the Far East, and North and South America.
Five regional councils have come into being since ICCC was organized in 1948. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1951 the Latin American Alliance of Christian Churches was formed; the Middle East Bible Council was organized in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1952; the Far Eastern Council of Christian Churches was founded in Manila, in 1951; the Scandinavian Evangelical Council began functioning in Jonkoping, Sweden in 1955; and the ICCC European Alliance was formed in Hillerod, Denmark in 1957.
The ICCC carries on its worldwide program without centralization of authority in the United States. Each regional organization is expected to carry on its own vigorous program advancing the aims of the Council in its particular area. International headquarters for the organization are located in Amsterdam. A small staff assists Dr. McIntire in Collingswood.
Such emphasis on regional programs is given in order to keep each association functioning should a central office be forced to close for any reason. Also, regional leadership tends to create favorable local impressions. By delegating authority, the Council leaves each area with a staff of men who understand local problems.
"We have not developed agricultural evangelism projects for our friends in the Far East," Dr. McIntire pointed out, "nor have we built sidewalks in the slums of South American countries as have our contemporaries. We're interested in the rights and liberties of the human soul. We're interested in spreading and defending the true gospel and the historic Christian faith. We do not propose to compromise the gospel, the liberties of the Christians we contact, or the sensibilities of the men and women we seek to win to our movement."
The total movement has been consistently gaining momentum. ICCC members regard their cause as a 20th century reformation. Growth can be seen in every phase. In the United States, eight radio stations have been added to Dr. McIntire's 20th Century Reformation broadcasts since January, 1958. Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Richmond are among the major population centers been reached by the program. There are now 63 denominations and associations of churches belonging to the Council. Its ranks also include 25 national and regional associations plus 22 missionary societies in its associated missions. Members include Methodists, Baptists, Reformed, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Congregational. Many are national branches of international denominations. During the past four years, nine new organizations were added to the Council. Three withdrew. Three new constituent members were gained at the August meetings and a dozen observers from interested denominations went home to bring their churches into the ICCC fellowship. At the present time, the Council is represented in 60 countries.
In Brazil, the Fourth Plenary Congress received what has since been called "the most extensive news coverage ever accorded a Protestant conference and South America." Dr. McIntire told delegates in Brazil, "It has taken us time to secure our positions, but God has blessed us and in his strength we are ready to move forward more vigorously than ever before."
For Carl McIntire, moving forward more vigorously means meeting issues head on. "The World Council is wooing the Red Chinese clergy," he noted. "Their plans call for a tour of Red China when the Reds invite them. When they do, or Truth Squad will be in the Far East to make sure the real issues and the real facts are placed before Christians and the world."
In the meantime? In the meantime Carl McIntire and the ICCC will continue what they have been doing for 10 years: holding a bastion in the middle of the Christian world apparently indifferent to what is slowly happening to human love freedom and liberty.