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A Federation of Presbyterian and Reformed Church

Under this title one finds a brief article written by the Reverend Edwin H. Rian, a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian denomination, in “The Banner” for the week of Friday, February 13th, 1942. Out of fairness to the writer we must emphasize, as he also does, the fact that this article is not written by the Reverend Mr. Rian in an official capacity as representative of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, but “simply as an individual who is keenly interested in a united testimony to the system of truth and world and life view contained in the Bible and expressed in such creeds as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism”. Hence, the purpose of this contribution is to give expression to the writer’s “hope that these ideas informally stated will fire the imagination of the readers and eventually lead to a cooperative effort on the part of truly Calvinistic churches so that a real impact can be made upon American culture”.

The body of this article is devoted to the answering of four questions pertaining to the nature of the Federation itself, the membership of such a Federation, the projects this Federation could possibly undertake cooperatively, and a practical way for the bringing of such a Federation into existence. As to the nature of the proposed organization, it is suggested that “it would not be an organic union of churches”. That means, for example, that “the Federation would not be a super-denomination since it would not perform ecclesiastical functions in the technical sense nor bind the separate churches”. It also implies that each separate denomination maintains its own distinctiveness and independence, exercising “cooperative effort, based upon the Calvinistic confessions”.

Mr. Rian mentions four Presbyterian and Reformed Church denominations, which, in his opinion, might form such an organization. They are the Christian Reformed Church, The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod. These are suggested not as a complete list of denominations which could possibly enter, but because they “readily come to mind”.

Three projects are mentioned as possible of realization by way of cooperative effort. The first is perhaps the most noteworthy. It is the familiar reminder that we should establish an “American Christian University, based upon Calvinistic principles”. The writer believes that this project is a practical possibility upon the basis of such “cooperative effort” for the following reasons: first, “under the encouragement of a Federation and independent of all denominations with the board members and professors chosen from among the various Reformed groups” it would “make an appeal to students in every church as an American enterprise”, and second, it would “at the same time clearly state that the university’s doctrinal stand is that of the Reformed Faith”. The second project suggested is the formation of a Reformed Christian Literature Association. “Such a society could encourage the publication of scholarly and popular expositions of the Word of God which are not being published today due to lack of funds and stimulus”. This society’s function as far as the American world of culture is concerned is to rival the Tractarian movement conducted by various heretical groups. The third project the Federation might undertake is the sponsorship of a nation-wide radio broadcast. The reasons for this last suggestion are perfectly obvious.

Mr. Rian’s article is not merely theoretical. It contains more than suggestion as to what should be done. Included is a concrete, practical plan for the launching of this Federation. “Let each General Assembly and Synod of the above-mentioned churches at least, appoint committees to consider and explore the possibilities of such a Federation and then report back to their respective churches in 1943”, he submits. It certainly goes without saying that every wide-awake young member of any of our churches should watch with interest the growth or death of this plea.

It is not easy, I find, to express one’s opinion in respect to these things. We will be forgiven, I am sure, if we admit a bit of skepticism as far as the possibility of the realization of these things is concerned.

Nevertheless, these are worthy ideals. And who knows, but that the effort aroused will at least clarify the meaning of such terms as “Reformed” and “Calvinistic” when used by men of these denominations.