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SIX INTERCHURCH GROUPS MEET

The interchurch relations committees of six denominations met together on October 25 -26 [1974] in Pittsburgh, Penna. Represented were the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Christian Reformed Church, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America, Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, and Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America. The joint group also invited the Reformed Church, U.S. (Eureka Classis) to participate in later such meetings.

A sub-committee was established to prepare a plan for cooperation among the respective churches, drawn from proposals suggested in the joint meeting. Such a plan would be presented to the full body for possible recommendation to the denominations themselves.

Among the proposals made was one urging the various churches to cooperate in world-wide relief services; the Christian Reformed Church has the most extensive such service now. Another proposal recommended publication of a directory of all the co-operating churches.

It was also proposed that there be a federation of Presbyterian and Reformed churches that would include coordination of agencies and the holding of consultative assemblies. The ultimate goal of union into one church was urged.

The Presbyterian Guardian, 43:10 (December 1974): 167.

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The ecumenical body known as the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Conference (NAPARC) held its constituting meeting on October 31-November 1, 1975.  The PCA, OPC, and RPCNA were among its founding Churches. Significant of the importance placed upon the matter, one of the early actions taken by this group was the 1977 Conference on Race Relations, held on March 24 and 25, with the following Statement issued upon conclusion of the Conference.

STATEMENT OF NAPARC CONFERENCE ON RACE RELATIONS

Preface

As participants in the NAPARC conference on Race Relations held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, March 24 and 25, 1977, we have entered in two days of discussion and self‑examination regarding the relationships of the conservative Reformed community to the struggle for racial justice. We have arrived at a consensus on a number of crucial issues and we offer our concerns to the larger NAPARC fellowship for deliberation and action.

None of the NAPARC churches can adopt a position of superiority over the other NAPARC churches in respect to its record on race. Nor can the NAPARC churches in general claim superiority to other churches in respect to problems of race.

We are convinced that we, as Reformed Christians, have failed to speak and act boldly in the area of race relations. Our denominational profiles reveal patterns of ethnic and racial homogeneity. We believe that this situation fails to give adequate expression to the saving purposes of our sovereign God, whose covenant extends to all peoples and races.

We are convinced that our record in this crucial area is one of racial brokenness and disobedience. In such a situation the credibility of our Reformed witness, piety and doctrinal confession is at stake. We have not lived out the implications of that biblical and confessional heritage which we hold in common with each other, with its emphasis on the sovereignty and freedom of grace, on the absence of human merit in gaining salvation, and on the responsibility to subject all of life to the Lordship of Christ.

I. The Unity Of Man With Respect To Creation, Sin, And Redemption

Although there are marked distinctions and even divisions among men, including those of race, mankind, according to the teaching of the Bible, has a single origin. Later distinctions and divisions are indeed significant and may not simply be pushed aside; nevertheless, the Bible clearly teaches that the gospel is universal in its offer and its call. All men are created in the image of God and have fallen into sin, and are in need of redemption. All those who are in Christ are united together with Him as their Head in a new humanity, in which the distinctions and divisions that otherwise separate men are transcended in a new unity. True, the distinctions mentioned in the Bible as having been overcome in Christ are not primarily those of race, nor does the Bible think along lines that correspond with the distinctions of race as we understand them today; nevertheless, racial distinctions and divisions as we know and understand them today certainly fall under those things that have been transcended in Christ. How, then, is the new unity in Christ to be expressed in the communion of the church today as it bears on the question of race?

The description of God’s people in I Peter 2:9, 10, as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, reveals the church’s visible oneness as the community of those separated unto the Lord. It is a oneness on the order of the racial, cultic, and national unity of Israel (Exodus 19:6), and it has as its purpose the declaration of the wonderful works of God. Therefore, the church’s identity transcends and makes of secondary importance the racial, national and cultic identities of the world.

We see in Revelation 7:9, 10, the chosen race worshipping the Lamb in heaven. They come from different backgrounds, yet worship with one voice. Is not the unity of our worship here on earth to be a copy of that which takes place within the heavenly sanctuary? Should not all those washed in the blood of the Lamb joyously worship together?

II. On Confession

In repentance we acknowledge and confess that we have failed effectively to recognize the full humanity of other races and the similarity of their needs, desires, and hopes to ours; and thus we have failed to love our neighbor as ourselves.

We see this failure on three levels:

A. Individual church members.

Within the church, our members have exhibited such attitudes and actions as discourage membership or participation by minority groups.

In the broader community our members have shared in attitudes and actions that exhibit hostility and alienation against minority groups, e. g. in housing and job discrimination.

We have thus been guilty of the sins of selfishness in refusing to share material things, of coveting, and in general of failure to love the neighbor as ourselves.

B. Churches

Our churches have not been free from such formal actions as discourage membership or participation by minority groups.

They have been guilty of a lack of positive action concerning mission to ethnic groups in their own neighborhoods and to ethnic groups at large.

They have practiced a kind of cultural exclusivism, thinking of the church as “our church” rather than Christ’s.

This involves the sins of pride and idolatry.

C. Social structures

The communities which we reflect and represent have supported or failed to protest against those industrial and economic policies and institutions which are advantageous to our own persons and institutions, but which accentuate the plight of the disadvantaged. In this we have been conformed to the world rather than transformed to the will of God (Romans 12:1, 2).

III. On South Africa

The NAPARC Conference on Race Relations calls to the attention of the NAPARC churches the turmoil confronting our Christian brothers in the nation of South Africa.

The Conference requests NAPARC to encourage member churches to study the charges that the laws of the South African government deny to God’s people of every race the opportunity to fulfill God’s cultural mandate and covenant responsibility, to wit:

A. Certain laws encourage, if not necessitate, the separation of husbands from wives and parents from children, and, therefore, lead to the disintegration of God’s institution, the family.

B. Certain laws make it difficult for Christians to practice the Biblical principle that the laborer is worthy of his hire.

C. Certain laws requiring separate development of the nations lead to serious conditions of malnutrition especially where there is a large population resettled in lands of minimal productivity.

The Conference also encourages the NAPARC churches which are not members of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod to respond to the request of the RES meeting in Capetown on August 20, 1976, to wit:

1. “To request member churches to give early and serious attention to those problems involved in creating an atmosphere of dissatisfaction and unrest which led to the present riots as matters of great urgency.”

2. “To urge all Christians to reach out to each other in a demonstration of love, thus promoting peace in South Africa.”

The Message of Capetown, p. 5

IV. On Seminaries

We commend the Calvin Theological Seminary faculty for its decision to implement policies calculated to improve preparation for ministry in multi‑racial areas; and Westminster Theological Seminary for its ministerial institute which intends to assist inner-city pastors in their continued training in ministry and Covenant Theological Seminary for its Urban Ministers’ Institute; and request these institutions to communicate to the other NAPARC‑related seminaries both their understandings of the biblical basis for those programs, and also progress reports concerning the accomplishment of the goals of those programs, with practical advice for the seminaries.

V. On Changing Communities

A. We encourage congregations to reach out to the entire community around them.

B. We encourage congregations to rise to meet the challenge of racial diversity in changing neighborhoods.

C. We encourage members of our congregations to remain in those communities where there are racially changing patterns.

D. We acknowledge that in order to change our unbiblical profile, we should urge churches in NAPARC to give priority to a vigorous pursuit of evangelism and church planting in racially, economically, and ethnically diverse communities.

E. We encourage NAPARC to sponsor seminars and workshops toward implementing church growth along racially, ethnically, and economically diverse lines.

F. We call upon NAPARC churches to define and incorporate new, small congregations and that provision be made for financial viability.

VI. On Missions And Evangelism

A. That the grace and righteousness of Christ may be demonstrated by loving, visible, cross‑cultural and multi‑class relationships; it is recommended that creative, vigorous and sacrificial diaconal ministries be developed in the local church, meeting common human need as close to home as is possible, enlarging the opportunities of the less fortunate socially in terms of physical, social, economic, educational, and spiritual needs.

B. We recommend that the fall NAPARC conference on the diaconate take into account the effects of ecclesiastical and institutional racism, so that renewal of the diaconates in our various churches may reflect a consciousness of this specific evil in their efforts to administer mercy in the name of Christ.

C. In reaffirming the great commission, we recommend that:

Cross‑cultural evangelism be encouraged in our churches through preaching, modeling, and discipling, through the elders and pastors, beginning with the use of our covenant families and homes, and house‑to‑house neighborhood outreach;

And that NAPARC form a task force to prepare seminars and institutes for pastors and elders, churches, and seminary professors and students in cross‑cultural evangelism;

And that resource teams be developed to serve NAPARC churches and groups of churches.

VII. General Recommendations

Our present discussions have been only a small beginning in considering more faithful paths of obedience in the area of race relations. Therefore, we call upon NAPARC and its member denominations to:

A. Convene a conference at which minority brothers and sisters from the other evangelical fellowships meet with NAPARC members for mutual conversation and edification;

B. Appoint a committee to study the feasibility of a NAPARC Institute on Justice and Human Relations;

C. Encourage NAPARC denominations to send representatives to the NBEA conference in San Francisco.

We commit ourselves to working locally and denominationally for these goals.

Further thought and action in these areas is necessary for such reasons as:

1. Scriptural data on the unity of the church and the plan of God to restore the unity of the human race;

2. The need for our Reformed fellowships to avail ourselves of the gifts of members of the Body in minority communions;

3. The need for our denominations, congregationally and corporately, to promote justice for the oppressed, to uphold the cause of the poor. For Christ will not ask us about doctrinal purity or ecclesiastical fellowship; He will ask us about the people who are hungry, thirsty, naked, in jail, and without family.

(End, Statement of NAPARC Conference on Race Relations)

Words to Live By:
We are, in Jesus Christ our Lord, one Body. There is no room for attitudes of superiority one over another. Thinking like that is entirely contrary to the Gospel. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ came to serve, not to be served, and such service and humility should be true of all who call themselves Christians.

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taylorgaikenToday’s post looks at the life of G. Aiken Taylor, and so provides a good place to first announce that the PCA Historical Center will again be sponsoring a contest for the best essay on American Presbyterian history. The contest will be open to currently enrolled seminary students who are members in good standing with any of the NAPARC denominations. Entries must be received by July 15th this year. More information to follow very soon!

Very Much the Churchman

George Aiken Taylor was born on January 22, 1920 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, the son of Presbyterian missionaries George W. Taylor and Julia Pratt Taylor.  The influence of that upbringing was clearly manifest in later years, for one of Dr. Taylor’s adversaries once said of him, “Dr. Taylor was born of missionary parents in Brazil, and I happen to know that he is ‘not conscious of color…'”

When he was fifteen years old he returned to this country to complete his education, graduating from the Presbyterian College of South Carolina with the A.B. degree in 1940.  He taught in the South Carolina public schools for a year, and then entered the U.S. Army in 1941.  He served with the 36th (Texas) Infantry Division and rose to the rank of Captain, commanding a heavy weapons company in the 142nd Infantry.  He participated in five major campaigns in World War II, was wounded once and decorated once.

Taylor married the former Blanche Williams of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1942. Together they raised four children.

After the war, Taylor entered Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, graduating with the Bachelor of Divinity degree, Magna Cum Laude in 1948.  He was also ordained that same year and installed as pastor of the Smyrna Presbyterian Church in Smyrna, Georgia, where he served for two years before becoming pastor of the  Northside Presbyterian Church in Burlington, North Carolina.  In 1950 he entered Duke University for graduate study and was later awarded the Ph.D. degree by Duke for his dissertation, John Calvin, the Teacher, a study of religious education in Calvin’s Geneva.

Dr. Taylor served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Louisiana from 1954 to 1959, and during those years he became interested in the work of Alcoholics Anonymous through his own work with alcoholics, developing an appreciation for A.A.’s principles. His book, A Sober Faith, was one result of that work and was published in 1953.  A second book, St. Luke’s Life of Jesus, was published in 1954.

When Dr. L. Nelson Bell stepped down as editor of The Southern Presbyterian Journal in 1959, it was Aiken Taylor who took on those duties, serving as editor until 1983. It is interesting to note that one of Dr. Taylor’s conditions for taking the job entailed a name change for the magazine, which now became simply The Presbyterian Journal. This name change was a reflection of Taylor’s own ecumenical aspirations. Taylor was instrumental in the formation of the National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship (NPRF), which in turn led to the formation of another conservative ecumenical organization, the North American Presbyterian & Reformed Council. During his tenure as editor, he was also active in the conservative movement within the Presbyterian Church, US (aka, Southern Presbyterian Church), an effort which eventually led to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973.  Subsequently Taylor was a key leader in the PCA and was elected moderator of the General Assembly of that denomination in 1978.

In 1983, Dr. Taylor was named president of Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where he succeeded the founding president of the school, Dr. Allan A. MacRae. Taylor was inaugurated in December of that year, but just three months later—on March 6, 1984—he died suddenly.  Memorial services were held in Pennsylvania, with funeral services at Gaither Chapel in Montreat, North Carolina.  Dr. Taylor was buried in nearby Swannanoa, North Carolina.

Words to Live By:
I have been told that it was Francis Schaeffer who coined the phrase “split P’s” when speaking of all the many divisions among Presbyterians. But for all those divisions, the latter half of the twentieth century turned out to be largely a time of focus on union and cooperation. Among the conservative Presbyterian denominations, merger talks were actively underway between various groups from 1956 until about the close of the century. Sadly, since that time the silence has been deafening. Dr. Taylor had the right idea in forming the NPRF, where conservatives of all denominations could fellowship together and thus overcome distrust and distance. Leaving all talk of mergers entirely aside, for the cause of Christ we as conservative Presbyterians need to be creating opportunities to work and fellowship alongside one another. Some might say that the many para-church groups now provide this function, but is that really enough, and are they effective for this purpose?

For Further Study:
In his years as editor of The Presbyterian Journal, Dr. Taylor was no stranger to debate and even controversy. One of the more (in)famous incidents involved his editorial titled “Lo, the TR!” and the many responses that followed. Our readers may be familiar with the term “TR” but to get the full story in context, click here.

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