Archive for the ‘United Church of Christ Predecessors’ Category

Of Their Time   4 comments

Hymnal 1911-1917

Above:  The Title Page of the Presbyterian Hymnal (1911) with the Supplement of 1917

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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World War I (1914-1918) was a devastating conflict which changed the map of the world.  Many of the problems of today have much to do with that war and the events of the years immediately following it.  Europeans promised the same territory to both Jews and Palestinians, created Iraq (where the British military became bogged down in an insurgency for years), broke up empires, and created new countries, some of which (Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia) which have ceased to exist.  U.S. President Woodrow Wilson (in office 1913-1921) oversold the conflict as a war to make the world safe for democracy.  Meanwhile, back home in the United States, which entered the war in 1917, early in Wilson’s second term, which he won on the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War,” xenophobia, nativism, and irrationality reigned.  The city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, banned performances of the music of Ludwig von Beethoven, an anti-imperialist who died in 1827.  Had the great composer been alive in 1917 and 1918, he would have opposed the policies of Kaiser Wilhelm II.  But why let reason stand between one and an irrational fear?  Mobs burned books in the German language or about Germany, vandalized buildings belonging to congregations where worship was not in English, dachshunds became liberty hounds, the state of Iowa outlawed public gatherings where the spoken language was not English (although many sheriffs in the state permitted Danish Lutheran congregations to worship in Danish), et cetera.  Opposing state-sponsored violence became a crime, one for which many pacifists went to prison and conscientious objectors suffered.  Really, were the Amish, Mennonites, and Quakers threats to national security?  Were the Dutch Reformed (of the Christian Reformed Church in North America in particular) and the Lutherans (especially those in the denominations we call The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod these days) worshiping in other tongues that threatening?  In November 1918, at the organizing convention of the newly merged United Lutheran Church in America (1918-1962), derived from German immigrant stock in North America since the 1700s, delegates felt the need to demonstrate their patriotism by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America,” due to lingering suspicions related to Germany, German-Americans, and the war.

The study of the past tells me that the war did not live up to its billing, that wartime hysteria and intolerance turned into widespread disillusionment, and that the psychological scars of the “Great War” or the “World War,” as people called it before World War II, influenced national decision-making (often for the worse) leading up to World War II.  Accounts of the “Lost Generation” and the false sense of security the Maginot Line engendered testify to the aftershocks of World War I.

These and other facts influence how I read certain texts from World War I and the time immediately following it.  How can they not, given my temporal relationship to that conflict?

During that war and immediately afterward some denominations amended their recent official hymnals.  The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. added the “Supplement of 1917” to its Hymnal of 1911.  This supplement consisted of three patriotic hymns:  “God of Our Fathers, Known of Old,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  The National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States added three hymns to The Pilgrim Hymnal (1912) after the war.  Hymns #542a-c were, respectively, “O Land of Lands, My Fatherland,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “America, America, The Shouts of War Shall Cease.”  “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was already present.

Two of those texts intrigue me.  The first is “O Land of Lands, My Fatherland.”  The author was the Reverend Washington Gladden (February 11, 1836-July 2, 1918), whose feast day in The Episcopal Church is July 2.  Gladden, a proponent of the Social Gospel, opposed corruption in government, favored civil rights for African Americans, and supported the labor movement.  He wrote many poems (including hymns), the most famous of which might be “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee.”  In 1918 he composed the following text:

O Land of lands, my Fatherland, the beautiful, the free,

All lands and shores to freedom dear and ever dear to thee;

All sons of Freedom hail thy name, and wait thy word of might,

While round the world the lists are joined for liberty and light.

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Hail, sons of France, old comrades dear! Hail Britons brave and true!

Hail Belgian martyrs ringed with flame! Slavs fired with visions new!

Italian lovers mailed with light! Dark brothers from Japan!

From East to West all lands are kin who live for God and man.

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Here endeth war!  Our bands are sworn! Now dawns the better hour

When lust of blood shall cease to rule, when Peace shall come with power;

We front the fiend that rends our race and fills our hearts with gloom;

We break his scepter, spurn his crown, and nail him in his tomb.

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Now, hands all round, our troth we plight to rid the world of lies,

To fill all hearts with truth and trust and willing sacrifice;

To free all lands from hate and spite and fear from strand to strand;

To make all nations neighbors and the world one Fatherland!

The second text was, as the hymnal labeled it, “A National Hymn of Victory Inscribed to the Builders of the ‘League of Nations.'”  The author was the Reverend Allen Eastman Cross (December 30, 1864-April 23, 1942), a Congregationalist minister from Manchester, New Hampshire.

America, America!

The shouts of war shall cease;

The Glory dawns! the Day is come

Of Victory and Peace!

And now upon a larger plan

We’ll build the common good,

The temple of the Love of Man,

The House of Brotherhood!

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What though its stones were laid in tears,

Its pillars red with wrong,

Its walls shall rise through patient years

To soaring spires of song!

For on this House shall Faith attend,

With Joy on airy wing,

And flaming loyalty ascend

To God, the only King!

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America, America,

Ring out the glad refrain!

Salute the Flag–salute the dead

That have not died in vain!

O Glory! Glory to thy plan

To build the common good,

The temple of the Rights of Man,

The House of Brotherhood!

To mock the optimism and idealism of the texts is easy to do, but I propose that to do so is in error.  No, these hymns did not predict the future accurately.  Yes, the brutality of history since World War I has belied these texts’ highest sentiments, but the dream those hymns represent has never ceased to be a noble one.  The texts are of their time in two senses:  certain references to nations and the level of optimism regarding the future.  Without a goal to which to aspire, however, how are we humans supposed to improve the world?

I value precision in language, so I mark the difference between the Social Gospel and Neo-Orthodoxy.  The former is more optimistic regarding human potential for effecting goodness than is the latter.  Neo-Orthodoxy, with its sober understanding of human nature, incorporates the best of the Social Gospel and emphasizes the human obligation to reform society and its structures for the better while stating that only God can usher in the Kingdom of God.  I read these quoted hymns through my lens of Neo-Orthodoxy and recognize a combination of naiveté and realism as I mourn the fact of those dashed hopes.  May nobody permit pessimism to prevent one from doing what one can to leave the world (or one’s corner of it) better than one found it.  God can save the world, but we can improve it.  We can love our neighbors as we love ourselves and seek to reform unjust social systems and institutions.  We have a moral imperative to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 12:  THE NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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SOURCES IN PRINT

I have provided hyperlinks to some sources.  My other sources were:

Bachmann, E. Theodore, with Mercia Brenne Bachmann.  The United Lutheran Church in America, 1918-1962.  Edited by Paul Rorem.  Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 1997.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints.  New York:  Church Publishing, 2010.

Mortenen, Enok.  The Danish Lutheran Church in America:  The History and Heritage of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1967.

The Hymnal Published in 1895 and Revised in 1911 by Authority of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America; with the Supplement of 1917.  Philadelphia, PA:  The Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work.

The Pilgrim Hymnal with Responsive Readings and Other Aids to Worship.  Boston, MA:  The Pilgrim Press, 1912.  Amended and reprinted, 1919.

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Good Trees for God   5 comments

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Above:  A Visual Protest Against Police Brutality and Corruption, June 11, 1887

Artist = Eugene Zimmerman (1862-1935)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-4792

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The Collect:

O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy.

Without your help, we mortals will fail;

remove far from us everything that is harmful,

and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 4:27-31; 5:14-16 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 17:2-13 (Tuesday)

Leviticus 16:1-5, 20-28 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:65-72 (All Days)

1 Peter 2:11-17 (Monday)

Romans 13:1-7 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:18-22 (Wednesday)

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These readings present us with some difficult material.  In the Torah an animal sacrifice atoned for unintentional sins, offering an unauthorized sacrifice led to death, and idolatry carried the death penalty.

So you shall purge evil from your midst.

–Deuteronomy 17:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Also, in the readings from Romans and 1 Peter, resisting authority is a sin, regardless of the nature of that government.    I will address these matters in order.

I.

One was supposed to keep a distance from the holy and approach God in a certain way in the Law of Moses.  Thus one had instructions to offer sacrifices just so, for example.  And touching the Ark of the Covenant was deadly.  In contrast, Jesus, God incarnate, ate with people, many of whom had dubious moral histories and bad reputations.  I side with Jesus in this matter.

II.

One ought to be very careful regarding instructions to kill the (alleged) infidels.  Also, one should recognize such troublesome passages in one’s own scriptures as well as in those of others, lest one fall into hypocrisy regarding this issue.  Certainly those Puritans in New England who executed Quakers in the 1600s thought that they were purging evil from their midst.  Also, shall we ponder the Salem Witch Trials, in which paranoid Puritans trapped inside their superstitions and experiencing LSD trips courtesy of a bread mold, caused innocent people to die?  And, not that I am equating Puritans with militant Islamists, I have no doubt that those militant Islamists who execute Christians and adherents to other religions think of themselves as people who purge evil from their midst.  Violence in the name of God makes me cringe.

When does one, in the name of purging evil from one’s midst, become that evil?

III.

Speaking of removing evil from our midst (or at least trying to do so), I note that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after struggling with his conscience, participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  I let that pass, for if one cannot kill (or at least plan to kill) a genocidal dictator in the name of morality….Sometimes life presents us with bad decisions and worse ones.  Choose the bad in very such circumstance, I say.  In the Hitler case, how many lives might have continued had he died sooner?

IV.

Christianity contains a noble and well-reasoned argument for civil disobedience.  This tradition reaches back to the Early Church, when many Christians (some of whom became martyrs) practiced conscientious objection to service in the Roman Army.  The tradition includes more recent figures, such as many heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  Many of those activists suffered and/or died too.  And, in the late 1800s, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, hardly a bastion of liberalism at any point in its history, declared that the Ottoman imperial government, which had committed violence against the Armenian minority group, had no more moral legitimacy or right to rule.  Yet I read in the October 30, 1974, issue of The Presbyterian Journal, the midwife for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973, that:

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the Lord’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

–page 11

That was an extreme law-and-order position the editor affirmed in the context of reacting against demonstrations of the 1960s and early 1970s.  A few years later, however, the PCA General Assembly approved of civil disobedience as part of protests against abortions.

V.

If one assumes, as St. Paul the Apostle and much of the earliest Church did, that Jesus would return quite soon and destroy the sinful world order, preparation for Christ’s return might take priority and social reform might move off the list of important things to accomplish.  But I am writing in 2014, so much time has passed without the Second Coming having occurred.  Love of one’s neighbors requires us to act and even to change society and/or rebel against human authority sometimes.

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The barren fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22 was a symbol of faithless and fruitless people.  If we know a tree by its fruits and we are trees, what kind of trees are we?  May we bear the fruits of love, compassion,and mere decency.  May our fruits be the best they can be, albeit imperfect.  May we be the kind of trees that pray, in the words of Psalm 119:68 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adopted from this post:

link

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Regarding Asceticism and Fun-Damn-Mentalism   2 comments

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According to the Reverend Henry Harbaugh, these man were sinning.

Image Creator and Publisher = Bain News Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-33887

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Therefore, my friends, I implore you by God’s mercy to offer your selves to [God]:  a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for his acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart.  Conform no longer to the pattern of this present world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds.  Then you will be able to discern the will of God, and to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect.

–Romans 12:2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Life is good.  My life is an enjoyable one, a time filled with graces small, medium, and large.  Today, for example, I ate lunch with my beloved.  It was a fine meal in terms of both cuisine and company.

During that meal my mind wandered into theological matters.  My recent background reading for a series, Liturgy in the Moravian Church in America, soon to debut at this weblog, has brought many details to my attention.  Among them is the porous boundary between the sacred and the secular in Moravian tradition.  Often one’s approach makes all the difference on that spectrum.  Yes, some matters in the secular realm can never be sacred, but many can.  Laurence Libin, writing in the Foreword to The Music of the Moravian Church in America, provided an excellent illustration of that principle on page xv.  Once a strict minister chastised some single members of the congregation for playing sacred music on instruments on Sunday and serenades on the same instruments during the week.  An elder replied that the pastor preached with the same mouth he used to eat sausages.

Asceticism is a religious tradition with Christian expressions.  In Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, from the time of early Christianity to today, one can find examples of people seeking to make themselves uncomfortable, if not miserable, for Christ’s sake.  A partial catalog includes wearing a hairshirt, flagellating oneself, living atop a pillar, and having oneself nailed to a cross on Good Friday.  A few years ago I read about an Eastern Orthodox monk (later canonized) who lived in a cramped cell at the top of a winding and incredibly narrow staircase.  Such practices are foreign to my spirituality, for I do not seek opportunities to make myself uncomfortable, if not miserable, for anybody’s sake.  Asceticism has functioned as a self-imposed substitute for enduring persecution and facing martyrdom.  That makes three more things I hope to avoid, not that I endeavor to live rather than renounce Christ.

Related to asceticism is fun-damn-mentalism.  The Reverend Charles Finney (1792-1875) was a killjoy.  He condemned anything he considered self-indulgent, such as the consumption of meat, tea, coffee, and pastries or the practice of women wearing ribbons in their hair of fashionable clothing on their bodies.  On the other hand, he instructed people to maintain good posture, clean their nails, and do their laundry for the glory of God.  (“Sit up straight, sit up straight for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross….”  Sing along with me!)  Finney was suspicious of other appetites, such as that for fine literature.  He did not understand how a Christian could give time, attention, and shelf space to works of “a host of triflers and blasphemers of God,” such as William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Lord George Gordon Byron.  Likewise, the Reverend Henry Harbaugh (1817-1867), of German immigrant stock, had, in the words of Dr. Nathan C. Schaeffer, “hatred of every form of sham and humbug.”  This “sham and humbug” included not only such bad activities as drinking to excess and gambling, but dancing, reading novels, playing chess, playing dominoes, attending circuses, and wearing fashionable clothes.  (Be a joyless and overly earnest frump for Jesus!)

Contemporary killjoys, opponents of “worldly amusements,” continue to try to stamp out innocent entertainment.  I have heard (from a reliable source in Statesboro, Georgia) of quite strict Christian parents who will not permit their children to play soccer because the sport is “too worldly.”  Dancing has attracted criticism for a long time; the Roman Catholic Church condemned it before there were Protestants.  I can name at least one Protestant denomination which persists in its anti-dancing theological position.  These examples point to the misapplication of the Pauline ethic not being conformed to the world.  The Apostle did not mean to go through life as if one’s mother had weaned one on a dill pickle.

As for novels, just to focus on one of the targets of criticism by Finney and Harbaugh (and the Puritans before them), I make the following observations.  I have enjoyed a wide range of novels, from science fiction epics to historical fiction to comedy to serious works.  Some of them I classify as much theological as literary.  Others were just good reads.  Voltaire, a great intellect, writer, and smartass (It is better than being a dumbass!), gave us Candide, a hoot.  T. R. Pearson‘s A Short History of a Small Place, a hilarious story about life in a small North Carolina town from the perspective of a boy, contains an unforgettable account of a well-planned church Christmas pageant gone horribly wrong.  (The Virgin Mary dropped the baby Jesus, breaking his porcelain head, and startling the “camel,” who started barking uncontrollably.)  Graham Greene, a great Roman Catholic novelist, gave us both comedy and theology.  Our Man in Havana still makes me laugh, and I class The Power and the Glory with works of theology.  Frank Herbert‘s Dune and its sequels (I got lost in book five of six.)  are tales of politics, ecology, economics, religion, and struggles over scarce natural resources.  Philip K. Dick‘s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a meditation on hope, desperation, and what makes us human.  The book is much darker and better than even the final cut of the movie adaption, Blade Runner (1982), actually.  Graham Swift‘s Waterland, written in stream of consciousness, is a depressing tale which keeps me coming back for more.  The list of novels which has affected me deeply goes on and on.

Finally, where did I put my dominoes?  I feel like sinning again any moment now.  Wait, I cannot find them; perhaps I will have to settle for dancing instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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SOURCES (OTHER THAN MY MEMORY)

Haeussler, Armin.  The Story of Our Hymns:  The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church.  St. Louis, MO:  Eden Publishing House, 1952.

Knouse, Nola Reed, ed.  The Music of the Moravian Church in America.  Rochester, NY:  University of Rochester Press, 2008.

Sellers, Charles.  The Market Revolution:  Jacksonian America, 1815-1846.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1991.

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“Hope of the World”: The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1945-1969   19 comments

1955-1968 Dutch Reformed

Above:  My Copies of The Hymnbook (1955), The Liturgy and Psalms (1968), and Psalter Hymnal (1959)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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U.S. DUTCH REFORMED LITURGY, PART V

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Hope of the world, Thou Christ of great compassion,

Speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent.

Save us, Thy people, from consuming passion,

Who by our falsehoods and aims are spent.

–Georgia Harkness, 1953, The Hymnbook (1955), Hymn #291

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

In the early 1980s, hardly the pinnacle of humor on Saturday Night Live, some good jokes did slip through the filters.  Among them was this piece of faux wisdom:

Change is the only constant.  Then you need it for bus fare.

Change was among the constant factors in the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC) during the period of 1945-1969.  The RCA almost came apart at the seams because of the resulting tensions and resentments.  And the CRCNA moderated, much to the chagrin of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), with which it nearly merged.  By the end of 1969 the gap separating the RCA and the CRCNA had narrowed.

The process of taking notes for this post required me to spend much time with books and PDFs.  I have listed my hardcopy sources at the end of this post.  For the sake of convenience, however, I state here and now that the germane Agendas and Acts of Synod of the CRCNA are available at this link.  I have also provided other germane hyperlinks throughout the post as forms of documentation.

Before we continue, O reader, I inform you that the rough draft of this post, excluding the bibliography, filled sixty-eight pages of a composition book.  I have tried to be thorough without being excessive.  There is simply much material, despite the fact that I could have written many more pages.  So you might want to review Parts I, II, III, and IV of this series and take your time with this post.  The organizational structure should guide you through the material well.

I am, believe it or not, working on this series as part of a hobby.  I could be watching old Doctor Who serials, but I am doing this instead.  Make of that what you will.

Now, without further ado….

II.  ECUMENISM, BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION, AND BIBLE TRANSLATION

Liturgy does not occur in a vacuum.  To understand it properly one must have a grasp of its contexts.  The Hymnbook (1955), for example, was a joint project of the RCA and four Presbyterian denominations.  Thus that volume’s existence indicates something about the RCA’s ecumenical engagement at the time.  And the choice of Bible translation (the American Standard Version of 1901) for use in Psalter Hymnal (1959) points to the CRCNA’s official attitude toward the Revised Standard Version at the time.  So, before I undertake to explain details of liturgy in the RCA and the CRCNA from 1945 to 1969, I will lay a solid foundation.

Biblical Inerrancy and Infallibility

This issue arose in both the RCA and the CRCNA, with different results.

Before we proceed, O reader, we ought to understand definitions correctly.  The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition (1996), defines “inerrant” and “infallible” as synonyms.  They refer to being incapable of erring and to containing no errors.

The RCA had a contingent (mostly in the Midwest and the West) which valued inerrancy and infallibility.  The issue did not come before the General Synod until 1948, however.  In 1946 New Brunswick Theological Seminary hired Hugh Baillie MacLean, a Scottish Presbyterian, as Lecturer in Old Testament.  MacLean addressed the General Synod of 1948, causing a controversy in the process.  He affirmed the value of the Old Testament, arguing that the New Testament had not made it irrelevant.  That did not prove controversial, but the next part did.  He also stated that the Bible was a product of God and people, and that changing human understandings of God had influenced the development Scripture.  So, MacLean said, God never ordered the Israelites to commit genocide in Canaan, despite appearances in the Bible.  Actually, he argued, later writers told the story that way because they concluded that the Israelites should have killed all the Canaanites.

Had MacLean denied the truth of Scripture?  The General Synod of 1949 heard seventeen overtures (all from the generally more liberal East of the Church) supporting MacLean and thirteen overtures (all of them from the generally more conservative Midwest and West of the denomination) condemning him.  The scholar remained at his post until he died in 1959.  During his tenure he impressed his students with his knowledge, his ability to make the Bible come alive, and his commitment to divine love for people and for justice.

Among MacLean’s students was William Coventry, who became the center of a dispute in the RCA.  From May 1958 to January 1959 he struggled to receive a license to preach.  The conservative Classis of Passaic, where many of the ministers had graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary, an institution of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), denied Coventry said license in May 1958 because he had denied Biblical inerrancy and infallibility and argued that Adam had never existed.  Next four congregations of that classis appealed the decision to the Particular Synod of New Jersey, which sustained the appeal.  Yet the Classis of Passaic continued to refuse to grant the license to Coventry, not yet ordained.  So some progressive congregations, complaining of the stifling conservatism of the Classis of Passaic, requested transfer to a different classis.  The Classis of Passaic appealed the ruling of the Particular Synod of New Jersey to the General Synod of 1958, which directed the Particular Synod either to grant the license directly or to force the Classis of Passaic to do so.  Meanwhile, Coventry had accepted a call to a congregation in the adjacent Classis of Paramus.  That classis attempted to have him transferred to their jurisdiction so they could grant the license  to preach.  In January 1959, after consultation with clergy from both classes, an examiner asked Coventry specific questions regarding the interpretation of Scripture.  Coventry provided more orthodox answers and thereby received his license to preach.

Subsequent General Synods addressed the question of Biblical interpretation.  The 1959 General Synod ruled that the reality of a range of opinions regarding the proper interpretation of Scripture within the RCA and larger Protestantism did not constitute a cause for concern.  Four years later the General Synod approved a 1960 Theological Commission report which said in part,

Scripture as the Word of the faithful God is infallible and inerrant in all that it intends to teach and accomplish concerning faith and life.

The RCA rejected any rigid position on the subject.

The CRCNA, however, approached the topic differently.  This occurred in the context of a struggle between progressives (relatively speaking) and Confessionalists in the denomination.  The progressives favored a policy of permeation, or applying Christian faith in the modern culture, not hiding out from it.  They scored a victory in 1952, when all but one member of the Confessionalist old guard at Calvin Theological Seminary had to leave.  Nevertheless, these progressives were theological conservatives; they were just less conservative than the Confessionalists.  Affirmation of Biblical inerrancy and infallibility remained an assumed matter at Calvin Theological Seminary as late as 1959.  That year the CRCNA Synod received an overture that

no seminary student who is not wholly committed to the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture shall have access to any pulpit in the Christian Reformed Church

and deemed it

unnecessary at this time,

due to the orthodoxy of Calvin Theological Seminary.

Starting in 1959, however, there was an investigation of the Reverend Doctor John H. Kromminga, President of that seminary from 1954.  Professor Martin J. Wyngaarden, also of the seminary, alleged that Kromminga had, in writing, taken a position on Biblical inerrancy and infallibility inconsistent with the Belgic Confession of Faith.  The CRCNA Synod exonerated Kromminga of all charges, over Wyngaarden’s strong and vocal objections.  Kromminga, the Synod concluded, had merely used vague language initially; he had cleared up all misunderstandings with precise language.  He received indefinite tenure in 1962 and retired twenty-one years later.

The CRCNA reaffirmed its position regarding Biblical inerrancy and infallibility in 1961.  One can read the full text of that position in that year’s Acts of Synod, pages 253-328.  The General Synod of the RCA would never have approved such a hardline position.

The World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism

The RCA had been a charter member of the Federal Council of Churches (1908-1950).  It maintained this affiliation through 1950, turning back overtures to leave in 1932, 1934, 1936, 1944, 1947, and 1948.  Objections to membership in the Federal Council included allegations that:

  1. The Council was Communist;
  2. The Council, if not Communist, was soft on Communism;
  3. The Council was too liberal; and
  4. Membership in the Council weakened the Reformed witness of the RCA.

The RCA also became a charter member of the World Council of Churches (1948-) and the National Council of Churches (1950-), the latter being the successor to the Federal Council.  Criticisms of RCA membership in the Federal Council became arguments against membership in these new Councils.  Within the right wing of the RCA other criticisms of them included:

  1. Charges of meddling in matters economic, political, and social; and
  2. Allegations that the Eastern Orthodox were not really Christians.

The General Synod turned back attempts to withdraw from the Councils in 1965, 1967, and 1968.

I will return to the first point periodically in this post, pointing out ironies regarding it.  As for the second point, I conclude that traditional Protestant hostility toward Roman Catholicism is germane, for that antipathy transferred to the Eastern Orthodox.

An intellectually honest approach to the question of Protestant anti-Roman Catholicism recognizes the fact the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), or Vatican II, was a dividing line in church history and ecumenical relations.  For many Protestants, however, Vatican II made no difference, for they remained hostile toward the Roman Catholic Church.  This applied to the conservative middle of the RCA, but not just to that segment of the denomination.  In 1960, for example, Norman Vincent Peale, pastor of Marble Collegiate Church, New York, New York, led a campaign against Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee for President, on the basis of JFK’s Roman Catholicism alone.

Nevertheless, the generally more liberal Eastern portion of the RCA practiced more tolerance or acceptance of Roman Catholicism than did the generally more conservative Midwestern and Western parts of the denomination.  Eastern RCA ministers usually wore a clergy collar, for example, but their Midwestern and Western counterparts seldom did.  And, when two RCA clergymen attended an interfaith service at a Roman Catholic parish in Pequannock, New Jersey, in 1968, parts of the right wing of the RCA objected vociferously.  There was also the 1963 case of an allegedly incriminating photograph of two RCA ministers, a Roman Catholic priest, and an Eastern Orthodox priest at an event during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  One conservative Midwestern RCA clergyman registered his displeasure in The Church Herald, the denominational magazine.  He argued that the photograph suggested wrongly that the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches were Christian.

Old prejudices had stubborn staying power.

If this was the reaction in the RCA, how hard was the anti-Roman Catholic line in the CRCNA.  Very!  The 1949 Minority Report regarding CRCNA membership in the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) argued for continued affiliation with that group and included Roman Catholicism along with

Unbelief, Communism, Modernism

as

the great foes of orthodox Christianity

which both the CRCNA and the NAE opposed.  And the 1957 Synod protested the appointment of a U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The Acts of Synod cited concerns about the separation of church and state, but anti-Roman Catholicism was certainly a major factor in the matter.  (Quotes from Acts of Synod, page 313)

The CRCNA was predictable in its opposition to the World and National Councils of Churches.  A report to the 1959 Synod referred to members of those Councils as

“churches,”

as if they were really sects, not churches, and stated that these alleged churches denied

the orthodox faith and Scriptural teaching.

(Quotes from Acts of Synod, page 60)

The picture became mixed at the CRC Synod of 1967.  The Majority Report (Acts of Synod, pages 380-443) recycled old criticisms of the World Council of Churches (WCC).  It is too liberal, the report said.  The WCC meddles in social, economic, and political issues, the report alleged.  The Synod adopted this report.  Yet there was the Minority Report (Acts of Synod, pages 444-485).  The bottom line of the Minority Report was the recognition of problem areas regarding potential CRCNA membership in the WCC with a noticeable absence of hostility toward that Council.  There were no charges of apostasy, for example.  It was a minority opinion, but it had a constituency within the denomination.

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE)

The CRCNA joined the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), becoming a charter member.  From then to 1951, when the denomination left, CRC Synods received overtures to withdraw.  Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the CRCNA heard requests to rejoin, something it did eventually, but not before 1970.  The complaints against CRCNA membership in the NAE had nothing to do with charges of Modernism, for the NAE existed in part to resist Modernism.  No, opposition to NAE affiliation within the CRCNA had mostly to do with Reformed identity and doctrinal purity.  Arguments against the NAE gathered from the CRCNA Acts of Synod (1948-1951) included:

  1. Membership in the NAE impairs the CRCNA’s Reformed witness (that rhymes with objections to RCA membership in other councils);
  2. Membership in the NAE might “accelerate the growth of Fundamentalism in the Christian Reformed Church” (Acts of Synod, 1949, page 288); and
  3. The NAE is too Arminian.

The Majority Report to the Synod of 1949 advised CRCNA withdrawal from the NAE

lest our Reformed witness be confused, submerged, and impaired; and lest our fellowship in the N.A.E. accelerate the growth of Fundamentalism in the Christian Reformed Church

because

Fundamentalism is anti-Reformed and anti-Calvinist

and is

at best Arminian, but in fact anti-theological.

(Quotes from Acts of Synod, pages 288 and 290)

The unsuccessful pro-NAE argument was a defensive one.  It held that the CRCNA must stand with the NAE because

the great foes of orthodox Christianity in our own day, Unbelief, Communism, Modernism, Roman Catholicism, are very strong and active today.  We believe that as history rolls onto the end this danger will become more acute.  This makes it all the more urgent that those who are fundamentally one in the Lord stand together to defend themselves.

(Quote from Acts of Synod, 1949, page 313)

A 1961 recommendation followed in the same vein, urging the CRCNA to rejoin the NAE to resist, among other influences,

Communism, Paganism, Roman Catholicism, and Modernism.

(Quote from Acts of Synod, page 476)

The CRCNA rejected NAE requests to send representatives to address denominational Synods and declined invitations to rejoin in the 1950s.  By the middle 1960s, however, the CRCNA and the NAE had become partners in creating the New International Version of the Bible, a fact which unsettled part of the denominational constituency.  And a 1967 NAE invitation to the CRCNA to return to the fold led to a study commission and a polite hearing, but not immediate re-affiliation.  Attitudes were softening.

The Revised Standard Version and the New International Version

The Revised Standard Version  (RSV) of the Bible did not change substantially between 1954 and 1969, but the CRCNA’s official opinion of it did.  Before the denomination approved of the RSV officially in 1969, however, it launched the process which led to the creation of the New International Version (NIV).

In the 1960s the RCA joined with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC), the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (CPC), the Moravian Church in America (MCA), and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) to authorize common Sunday School materials, the Covenant Life Curriculum (CLC).  Some of these volumes have entered my library.  Thus I cite them to document the fact that they cited the RSV primarily.  Some in the right wings of the RCA and the PCUS (at least) considered the CLC materials theologically suspect due to the presence of very mainline Protestant Neo-Orthodoxy in them.  (I draw upon my memory of research into the reactionary wing of the PCUS via primary sources to support the PCUS part of the previous sentence.)  The Hymnbook (1955) of the RCA, the ARPC, the PCUS, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA), and the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA) quoted both the Authorized (King James) Version and the RSV.  The RCA clearly had no official objection to the RSV.

For fifteen years, however, the CRCNA had a different opinion.  An overture to the Synod of 1953 led to the creation of a study committee.  That group reported to the Synod of 1954 and lambasted the RSV.  They labeled it inferior stylistically to the Authorized (King James) Version and worse, theologically Modernistic:

This bias does not appear on the side of faith.

(Quote from Acts of Synod, 1954, page 435)

The Synod accepted the report’s conclusions and advised against any use of the RSV in CRC congregations.

The RSV was a product of the National Council of Churches (NCC), which the CRCNA considered apostate at the time, so the translation’s origins influenced the Synod’s conclusions.  The CRCNA, having mellowed by the late 1960s, appointed a new study commission in 1968 and approved the use of the RSV the following year.  The denomination’s representatives on the matter even suggested some changes to the RSV ahead of the publication of the Revised Standard Version, Second Edition (RSV II), in 1971.  At the time of the 1969 CRCNA Synod the RSV translation committee had agreed to give all these suggestions serious consideration, had approved some, and had rejected none.  Engagement proved fruitful; labeling the translation faithless did not.

The RSV II, by the way, was the foundation from which the translators of the theologically conservative English Standard Version (2001) worked.

The process which led to the translation of the New International Version (NIV) began with an overture at the Synod of 1956.  The proposal was that the CRCNA join with other conservative Churches to produce

a faithful translation of the Scriptures in the common language of the people.

The Synod of 1956 referred the matter to the Old Testament and New Testament faculty of Calvin Theological Seminary.  By the early 1960s they had secured sufficient support, including much from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).  The rest was history; translation began in 1965.

This work aroused opposition within the CRCNA.  At the Synod of 1964, for example, Classis Central California made an eleventh-hour attempt to halt work on the NIV.  It proposed an overture to this effect, providing the following reasons as grounds:

  1. The American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901 is good enough.
  2. Creating a new translation will be too expensive.
  3. Having too many translations complicates needlessly he process of memorizing Scripture.
  4. There is insufficient support within the CRCNA for a new translation.

That overture failed, but a subsequent overture from the same classis led to the approval of the RSV in 1969.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (1954-1961)

From 1955 to 1961 the CRCNA considered merging with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA).  This proposal originated within the RPCNA, whose Synod of 1954 approved negotiations toward that end.  The CRCNA Synod of 1955 responded favorably, so talks commenced.  Major issues became obvious quickly and remain unresolved as the CRCNA stepped away from its traditional cultural isolationism, hence the failure of the merger negotiations:

  1. In 1956 the CRCNA Synod rejected a request from the RPCNA Synod to join it in supporting a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States recognizing Jesus Christ as “the Saviour and Ruler of Nations.”  The CRCNA affirmed the sentiment yet deemed the proposed amendment improper.
  2. Reports to CRCNA Synods from the late 1950s to 1961 pointed to differences between the two denominations regarding the Scriptural pattern of worship.  The RPCNA, unlike the CRCNA, rejected hymns, written prayers, and musical instruments.  Indeed, it still rejects hymns.  The RPCNA’s 2010 worship resource, The Book of Psalms for Worship, is exactly what the title indicates.
  3. These CRCNA reports to Synod also mentioned a different ethic regarding the Christian’s proper relationship to civil authority.  The RPCNA considered voting and holding public office sinful.

A 1959 CRCNA report labeled merger unlikely, a 1960 report held out some hope, and a 1961 report, citing

some traditional positions and practices

of the RPCNA, declared merger an impossibility.

(Quote from Acts of Synod, 1961, page 121)

The Orthodox Protestant Reformed Churches in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1957-1961

The Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA) broke away from the CRCNA in 1926 rather than affirm the Common Grace theology of Abraham Kuyper which the CRCNA Synod had made mandatory for ministers.  (I covered that ground in Parts III and IV of this series.  I have also provided links to all the previous parts of this series at the beginning of this post.)  The CRCNA was Calvinistic, but the PRCA was hyper-Calvinistic.  The PRCA split in 1953, when the Orthodox Protestant Reformed Churches in America (OPRCA) formed.

I use these labels for the sake of accuracy, but the CRC Acts of Synod usually referred to the PRCA as the PRCA (H. Hoekstra Group) and the OPRCA as the PRCA (De Wolf Group).  So, O reader, know that fact if you decide to read the Acts of Synod for details relevant to these groups.

The main purpose of the OPRCA (1953-1961) seems to have been to reunite with the CRCNA.  In fact, some congregations did this before the denomination followed suit in 1961, four years after talks started.  This rush back into the embrace of the CRCNA displeased the PRCA, which spewed ecclesiastical venom at its parent denomination.  A testy communication from the PRCA to the CRCNA in 1957 prompted this restrained and accurate summary in a report to CRCNA Synod:

The tone and contents of the letter are not as give promise of fruitful discussion.

(Quote from Acts of Synod, page 83)

Union between the OPRCA and the CRCNA became effective on July 13, 1961.  A letter from the PRCA to the OPRCA dated July 12, 1961, addressed the

Erring Brethren

and warned them to

desist from the evil path

they had followed since 1953.  (Quotes from Acts of Synod, 1962, page 461).  Then the PRCA picked a fight with the CRCNA over the records (before the schism of 1953) of churches, formerly PRCA but then OPRCA and later CRCNA.  The CRCNA resolved the matter by sending copies of all such records to the PRCA.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1959-1969

J. Gresham Machen, late of Princeton Theological Seminary and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA), formed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), initially named the Presbyterian Church of America, in 1936.  (Note the “of America,”  reader.  The Presbyterian Church in America, founded in 1973 as the National Presbyterian Church, produced a hymn book, Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition (1990), with the OPC, after two failed attempts at organic union with that body in the 1980s.  I also ponder how difficult naming a new Presbyterian denomination in the United States must be, for sounding much like another label is probably impossible.  Fortunately, I can keep the denominational names separate most of the time.)  Machen was a theologically complex man–not even hostile to Evolution–but he died on January 1, 1937, and a power struggle divided his nascent denomination five months later.  Thus the Bible Presbyterian Church came into existence.

The OPC and the CRCNA began their ecclesiastical dance in 1944.  The two started preparing joint Sunday School materials in the early 1950s.  The CRCNA Synod of 1959 sought merger with the OPC, which seemed likely for a few years.  Negotiators in the early 1960s considered only one issue–polity–a possible barrier to organic union.  They did not think of it as an insurmountable barrier, however.  The crux of this issue was that the OPC General Assembly was less prone than the CRCNA Synod to bind church members with pronouncements.  The CRCNA had stricter rules about liturgy, for example.

In 1966 the OPC backed away from potential organic union with the CRCNA.  At first the OPC cited some of its internal issues, such as the process of adopting a new Form of Government and the pursuit of merger negotiations with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES).  (The RPCES became part of the Presbyterian Church in America in 1982 instead.)  Actually, the OPC was more concerned with perceived liberal tendencies in the CRCNA.  This had nothing to do with Synodical decisions, for the CRCNA had maintained a hard line regarding Biblical inerrancy and infallibility, for example.  But the Synod had not made a definite statement about Evolution (something which Machen would not have asked them to do, by the way).  And a prominent CRCNA minister had sounded rather Arminian regarding the Atonement recently.  Furthermore, no matter how often the CRCNA called the World Council of Churches too liberal, the OPC remained unsatisfied.  No number of CRCNA assurances from 1967 to 1969 sufficed.  The CRCNA was insufficiently orthodox for the OPC.

The United Presbyterian Church of  North America and the Reformed Church in America

There was a 1944-1949 proposal to merge the RCA and the United Presbyterian Church of  North America (UPCNA).  This was not the first overlap between the UPCNA and a Dutch Reformed denomination.  As I have established previously in this series:

  1. The UPCNA had discussed merger with the CRCNA in the 1890s,
  2. The CRCNA’s Classis Hackensack had used and adapted the UPCNA’s Psalter (1887),
  3. The UPCNA’s Psalter (1912) served as the basis of the CRCNA’s Psalter (1914), and
  4. The UPCNA and the RCA had discussed merger in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The United Presbyterians and the Dutch Reformed were hardly strangers to each other, but the proposed merger in the 1940s failed.  The UPCNA passed it, as did the RCA General Assembly of 1949, yet not enough RCA Classes approved it by sufficiently wide margins.  Supporters of organic union had made their case:

  1. The two denominations were similar, therefore compatible;
  2. The RCA would become part of a larger and more prominent denomination;
  3. The merged body would enjoy better name recognition, for many people knew the name “Presbyterian” better than “Reformed;” and
  4. The merger would decrease Christian divisiveness.

Yet the proposed merger died because Midwestern and Western Classes of the RCA killed it in the name of maintaining Dutch identity, doctrinal orthodoxy, and liturgical similarity.

The UPCNA found its merger partner, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA).  They joined in 1958 to create the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA).

The Presbyterian Church in the United States and the Reformed Church in America, 1962-1969

The Eastern portion of the RCA, always more supportive of organic union with others than the Midwestern and Western sections thereof, tried again in the 1960s.  Potential suitors included the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the United Church of Christ, but the RCA leaders decided to try to merge with the Southern Presbyterians, the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), instead.  This proposal stirred up strong opposition within the right wings of both denominations, but the RCA’s right flank succeeded in preventing the merger.  RCA critics stated their reasons:

  1. The PCUS was insufficiently Reformed;
  2. The PCUS belonged to the Consultation on Church Union (COCU); and
  3. The PCUS was too liberal.

The 1969 death of the RCA-PCUS merger and the years-long debate leading up to it stirred up much resentment within the RCA.  Other issues contributed to the infighting in the RCA, but the proposed merger functioned as a major lightning rod.  Many progressives thought that conservatives had taken their denomination away from them.   Many conservatives wondered, however, how progressives had become so radicalized.  The RCA might have come part at the seams in the early 1970s had the General Synod of 1970 not decentralized much of the decision making in the denomination, thereby relieving the General Synod of the responsibility of issuing so many statements.

The PCUS merged with the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) in 1983 to create the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [PC(USA)].

III.  PUBLIC AND PRIVATE PIETY

Perhaps the proposed RCA-PCUS merger served primarily to crystallize a host of issues which divided the wings of the RCA.  These existed mainly in the realm of public and private piety.  The CRCNA dealt with the same issues also.

Racism and Civil Rights

The Dutch Reformed, whether theologically relatively liberal or conservative, were all over the proverbial map regarding how best to address questions of civil rights.  There were many overt racists in the pews, of course, as there were in the larger society.  These defended segregation with a host of reasons, including white privilege, the assumption that God had separated the races, and concerns for property values.  Among those who opposed racism disagreement about how best to correct the situation divided the ranks.  Those who focused on individual responsibility thought that a sufficient number of people repenting of the sin of racism was enough to solve the problem.  Others, however, added to that the moral imperative of the church to address social, economic, and political structures.  This was the kind of “meddling” for which many people criticized the World and National Councils of Churches.

The RCA’s Christian Action Committee (CAC) favored actions which upset both racists and solely individual-responsibility types opponents of racism.  The CAC, backed up by the General Synod of 1957, made the following statements:

  1. It encouraged the RCA to confess its racism and related sins.
  2. It  noted the lack of Biblical support for opposing interracial marriage.
  3. It opposed racially restrictive housing covenants.

The second and third points proved especially controversial.  Concern over property values was a financial consideration, of course.  Sometimes it was more than that, obviously.  But few issues have demonstrated the power to stir up deep emotions in people more strongly than human sexuality.  What consenting adults do with each other has proven to be a cause of much moral concern–frequently with good cause–but who may marry whom has often functioned as an issue which has focused bigoted opinions people have learned from others.  Cultures have long imparted prejudices to their members.  Such was (and remains) the case with opposition to interracial marriage.

The RCA was of a divided mind on civil rights.  The 1960 General Synod even refused to support the National Urban League (NAL) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for fear they might be Communist organizations.  And in 1969, the General Synod declined to request the U.S. Congress to improve working conditions for farm workers, especially migrants who picked grapes in California.  Was Cesar Chavez a radical?  Perhaps, but he was definitely a Roman Catholic committed to economic justice.

Both the RCA and the CRCNA addressed questions of Apartheid in South Africa.  Each denomination related more naturally to a different Dutch Reformed body in that country, the RCA with the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (DRCSA) (albeit uncomfortably) and the CRCNA with the Reformed Churches in South Africa (RCSA).  The CRCNA Synod of 1960 approved an overture to ask said Synod to send a letter to the RCSA, which had not taken a position regarding Apartheid.  The CRCNA letter reminded the RCSA gently of its Christian duty

to avoid any semblance of an attitude leading to estrangement between races.

The RCA, in a 1968 letter to the DRCSA, which used the Bible to defend Apartheid, condemned that misuse (if not abuse) of Scripture.  These were laudable letters, but the CRCNA’s communication raised the question of hypocrisy, for that denomination, while condemning Apartheid and encouraging its sister church to oppose that official system, accused the World and National Councils of Churches of meddling in social, economic, and political matters.  Did the CRCNA want to have it both ways?  And, assuming that there was (and is) a distinction between theological issues on one hand and social, economic, and political matters on the other hand, where was (and is) it?

The CRCNA also struggled with that theological-social, economic, and political distinction regarding domestic civil rights.  In 1957 Classis Hackensack sent to the Synod an overture emphasizing human solidarity and quoting the Bible to declare that determining

the opportunities in society on the basis of race and color is contrary to the will of God.

The grounds for the overture were telling.  Verbatim:

  1. The problem of race segregation is not confined to a single congregation or classis, but it is an issue on which many congregations in many places have need of guidance.
  2. The material provides guidance on a vital issue involving the Christian conscience in a matter with direct and immediate bearing upon the life of the church.
  3. This material also provides a witness from the Word of God to a world on a vital issue which has been disturbing the conscience of our society for many years.
  4. It is the duty of the church to address itself to such issues as this with courage and conviction, clarity, and constancy from the Word of God.

The Synod removed the last two grounds and passed the overture.

Just two years later, however, the Synod adopted a statement which emphasized (1) human solidarity, (2) love for one’s neighbors, (3) church responsibility to scrutinize its teachings and attitudes as well as civil laws in the light of Scripture, (4) avoiding even the impression of racial discrimination in the church, and (5) rebutting the argument that the Bible contains any evidence for or against interracial marriage.  The grounds for the overture included:

In view of the racial tensions and the flagrant violation of the Scriptural principle of equality occurring in society and church, both in America and in the world, the church has a calling to register a clear and strong witness to her members and her world.

(Quote from Acts of Synod, 1959, page 84)

The CRCNA addressed racism at home in 1968 and 1969.  The Synod of 1968 approved in full an overture which included condemnation of a racial segregation at a CRCNA parochial school.  That Synod also designated July 14, 1968, as a day of prayer and fasting for the sins of racism so that God might renew U.S. society.  And the Synod of 1969 approved an overture which stated that churches had a responsibility to address, social, economic, and political issues related to racism.

War and Peace:  Vietnam

The Vietnam War divided U.S. society and became controversial in ecclesiastical circles, including within the RCA and the CRCNA.

The relatively liberal establishment of the RCA represented a diminishing power base in the East, for numerical and financial strength was growing in the Midwest and the West, where congregations tended to be more conservative and where many communities were less diverse and cosmopolitan than in the East.  The accompanying shift in ecclesiastical power became obvious in the 1960s.  Although the General Synod had questioned the morality of the draft and affirmed the principle of conscientious objection to war and military service earlier in the decade, the 1969 General Synod rejected a proposal to provide legal counsel to draft dodgers.  Part of Richard Nixon‘s “Silent Majority” was vocal within the RCA.

My research yielded little information about the CRCNA and the Vietnam War per se.  Nevertheless, I did notice that the Synod of 1969 reprinted verbatim the text of the denomination’s 1939 Testimony Regarding the Christian’s Attitude Toward War on pages 447-493 of Acts of Synod.  That Testimony condemned both militarism and pacifism while expressing support for both military personnel and selective conscientious objectors, those who objected to a particular war on moral grounds.  I do not assume that this position reflected unanimous opinion within the CRCNA, for I assume that there was no unanimous position regarding any issue within the CRCNA or any other denomination at any time.

Worldly Amusements

Some opposition to “worldly amusements” persisted in the RCA into the 1950s and 1960s.  The General Synod of 1911 had opposed the opening of a dance hall in Asbury Park, New Jersey, but the Christian Action Committee (CAC) , in response to an overture regarding to the 1963 General Synod, refused to condemn dancing at church colleges.

Social dancing can be good or evil….

the CAC replied.  And, despite the stringent Hays Code governing the censorship of Hollywood movies from 1934 to 1968, the 1940 General Synod condemned “unwholesome” movies and advocated for government censorship of such cinematic products prior to their export.  Nevertheless, certain denominational officers encouraged church members to attend some religiously themed films, a fact which seems to have troubled the Classis of Chicago in 1954.  The General Synod that year took no action regarding the overture from that classis.

The CRCNA, unlike the RCA, had forbidden its members to play cards, attend movies, or dance.  It had done this in 1928 and reaffirmed that position in 1951 in the context of the showing of Hollywood movies at Calvin College.  Then the denomination changed course in the middle 1960s.  An overture from Classis Eastern Ontario to the Synod of 1964 requested the appointment of a committee to study the issue.  That overture, which the Synod approved, noted the ubiquity of television, a post-1951 development.  It also reported survey data.  Of 615 CRCNA young people in that classis surveyed, 70.7% reported attending a movie theater at least once or twice annually, despite the denomination’s prohibition against doing so.  The most common reason for attending a movie theater was entertainment.  And the favorite movie was Ben-Hur (1959), with The Ten Commandments (1956) not far behind.  A traditionalist argument, then, entailed asserting that watching Bible-themed movies starring Charlton Heston was sinful.

ben-hur-jesus-crucified

Above:  The Crucifixion of Jesus, from Ben-Hur (1959)

Image Source = http://basementrejects.com/review/ben-hur-1959/

It was an argument the Synod of 1966 rejected.  The Film Arts Report cited Christian Liberty and stated that

the film arts as actualized in the cinema and television

were

a legitimate cultural medium to be used by the Christian in the fulfillment of the cultural mandate.

Furthermore,

Since the film arts is a cultural medium that can be used for good or evil, the products of the film industry must be judged on their merits in the light of Christian standards or excellence.

(Quotes from Agenda for Synod, 1966, pages 226-227)

Dancing was still forbidden, however.  This did not mean that no members of the CRCNA engaged in that activity, of course.

IV.  WORSHIP

Now that I have completed the process of laying the foundation I begin to construct the building proper.  Along the way I will refer to the foundation.

Opposition to and fear of change was not restricted to questions such as civil rights, “worldly amusements,” the Vietnam War, Bible translations, ecumenical activities, and Biblical inerrancy and infallibility.  They became evident also in liturgical matters.  For example, the CRCNA Synod of 1961 adopted an overture condemning the increasingly popular practice of “special youth services,” what my Episcopal parish calls “Children’s Church,” whereby children leave the main worship service for a time and have a service geared toward them.  The Synod reasoned that

parents and children should serve and worship together.

(Quote from Acts of Synod, 1961, page 514)

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the Christian Reformed Church in North America

The CRCNA was using English translations of traditional Dutch forms for Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  That started to change in the 1950s and 1960s.

Revision of the Form for the Lord’s Supper came first.  The process started with a 1952 overture which noted the archaic language and awkward structure of the ritual.  Two successive committees went back and forth with the Synod, which, until the end of the decade, forbade changing the order of the rite.  The 1959 Synod approved proposed Forms for trial use through 1963.  At the end of that period the committee, responding to feedback from congregations, made some changes.  The 1963 Synod approved the revised Forms for trial use for one year.  The 1964 Synod adopted those Forms, placing them beside the traditional Form, which became Form Number One.  The two new Forms became Form Number Two and Form Number Three.

Form Number One had three parts:

  1. The Preparatory Exhortation, which included 1 Corinthians 11:23-29;
  2. The Formulary, which included a reminder of the purpose of the sacrament, followed by a penitential prayer; the Lord’s Prayer; the Apostles’ Creed; the breaking of the bread; the distribution of elements; and the devout singing of a Psalm or the reading of a Biblical chapter recalling the Passion of Jesus; and finally Psalm 103:1-4 and 8-13, Romans 8:32, and Romans 5:8-10; then
  3. The Thanksgiving, a prayer followed by a repetition of the Lord’s Prayer.

Forms Two and Three retained that three-part structure, updated some of the language, and introduced noticeable differences.   In both the Preparatory Exhortation could come on either the communion Sunday or the preceding one.

Form Number Two:

  1. Added a prayer for grace at the end of the Preparatory Exhortation;
  2. Omitted the Lord’s Prayer;
  3. Allowed for the singing of a hymn during the setting of the table; and
  4. Provided for the singing of a hymn or the reading of Scripture during the distribution of the elements.

Form Number Three:

  1. Provided for an alternative prayer at the end of the Preparatory Exhortation;
  2. Quoted 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 in the Formulary;
  3. Added a congregational prayer of thanksgiving in the Formulary;
  4. Retained the Lord’s Prayer at the end of that prayer and prior to the Apostles’ Creed;
  5. Added the Anglican Comfortable Words to the Formulary; and
  6. Had the minister read Psalm 103:1-4, Revelation 4:11, and Psalm 145:21 after the completion of the communion.

The designated communion Sundays varied from congregation to congregation.  The Synods of 1948 and 1956 rejected overtures for the uniform celebration of the sacrament, despite the argument that the proposed practice would:

  1. Express unity, and
  2. Make the celebration of the sacrament easier for traveling CRCNA members.

Nevertheless, the Synods of 1948 and 1956 cited local prerogatives when rejecting these overtures.

The Synod of 1969 approved a proposed Form for the Baptism of Children for trial use.

Proper contextualization requires me to summarize the traditional Form for the Baptism of Infants, as found in the back of Psalter Hymnal (1959), first.  So here it is.  The old Form begins with a reminder that people are

conceived and born in sin, and therefore are children of wrath

who need spiritual regeneration, that

Holy baptism witnesses and seals unto us the washing away of our sins through Jesus Christ,

and that people of God are,

through baptism, admonished of and obliged unto new obedience, namely, that we cleave to this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that we trust in Him, and love Him with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength; that we forsake the world, crucify our old nature, and walk in a godly life….

It continues by stating that children partake in this sinful nature although they do not comprehend these matters and

so again are received unto grace in Christ Jesus….

The traditional Lutheran-Zwinglian Flood Prayer or a variant thereof follows.  (I covered the Flood Prayer in Part II of this series.)  Then the minister addresses the parents and asks them three questions:

First:  Do you acknowledge that our children, though conceived and born in sin and therefore subject to all manner of misery, yea, to condemnation itself, are sanctified in Christ, and therefore as members of the church ought to be baptized?

Second:  Do you acknowledge the doctrine which is contained in the Old and the New Testament, and in the articles of the Christian faith, and which is taught here in this Christian church, to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation?

Third:  Do you promise and intend to instruct these children, as soon as they are able to understand, in the aforesaid doctrine, and cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?

The parents answer in the affirmative, the minister baptizes the children (using the traditional Trinitarian formula), and a prayer of thanksgiving concludes the sacrament.

The proposed Form of 1969, located on pages 336-339 of that year’s Acts of Synod, is quite different:

  1. It contains no references to Original Sin and emphasizes the faithfulness of God.
  2. It requires parents to answer two questions (not three) and to confess Christ as “Lord and Savior” and to promise to raise the children in the Christian faith.
  3. The minister asks the congregation to support the family spiritually.
  4. The Apostles’ Creed follows.
  5. The baptism itself ensues, followed by a triumphant hymn and a prayer of thanksgiving.
  6. The tone is more positive than in the traditional Form.

Here dangles a thread which I will continue in Part VI of this series.

Tradition and Flexibility in the Worship in the Christian Reformed Church in North America

The Synod of 1964, noting that choirs had become more common in CRCNA churches, created a permanent Liturgical Committee to renew forms and practices.  The committee performed its duties in a time of rapid change, liturgical and otherwise.  The mention of church choirs reminded people of one change, for opposition to choirs had been one justification for founding the CRCNA in 1857.

The Liturgical Committee’s report to the 1968 Synod contained sage advice:

Respect for tradition in liturgy is a fence against individualism and sectarianism.  It keeps us from trying to improve liturgy through gimmickry and novelty for the sake of novelty.  It will keep reminding us of what is essential and what is peripheral.  It is also the best teacher of the lesson of flexibility, for it is the history of liturgy that we observe the fluidities along with the underlying stability of the church’s liturgy.

(Quote from Acts of Synod, page 156)

That properly cautious note came in the midst of liturgical upheavals, including the widespread abandonment of tradition just because it was old.  In truth not all tradition was bad and not all change was good; the good and the bad existed in both categories.  The Liturgical Committee understood correctly that flexibility was part of the traditions of Christian worship but that outer boundaries were necessary.  The alternatives included chaos and the blurring of the line separating worship from entertainment.  Both alternatives have become reality, unfortunately.

Psalter Hymnal–Centennial Edition (1959)

The usual maximum lifespan of a Protestant denominational hymnal in the United States is about thirty years.  Psalter Hymnal (1934) lasted for a quarter of a century.  Work on Psalter Hymnal (1959) began in 1951.  One of the reasons for its creation was the improvement over the poetic and musical content of the 1934 volume.  The finished product, the Centennial Edition, reflected a preference for the Psalms (310 of 493 musical selections) and retained four-fifths of the content of Psalter Hymnal (1934).  The Bible translation was the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901, consistent with the denomination’s rejection of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) at the time.  The Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy were in the back of the volume.

CRCNA Centennial Logo

Above:  The Centennial Logo of the Christian Reformed Church in North America

A scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Among the new content of Psalter Hymnal (1959) was the CRCNA’s Centennial Hymn (1957), by Marie J. Post:

O Lord, beneath Thy guiding hand

Our fathers’ fathers formed our creed,

Brought prayer and psalm to this fair land

And were supplied every need.

+++++

Belief in Thy sustaining power

Restored their hearts in days of fear;

Thy grace and glory, hour by hour,

Gave hope and blessing through each year.

+++++

In every part of life the light

Of knowledge shines, at home, abroad.

May covenant children, taught the right,

Tell others of their sovereign God.

+++++

Thy Name, O Lord, still leads, still draws;

That Name we sing with ardent voice,

That thousands more may know Thy laws

And in Thy saving cross rejoice.

Psalter Hymnal (1959), republished with revised liturgical forms and translations of creeds in 1976, lasted until 1987, when a new Psalter Hymnal took its place.

The Hymnbook (1955)

The RCA, in true ecumenical form, joined with four other denominations to create The Hymnbook (1955).   Thus it shared an official hymnal with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC), the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA), the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA), and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the last three of which had become one denomination by the middle of 1983.  The RCA’s Midwestern and Western constituencies had blocked a merger with the UPCNA in 1949, but the two denominations shared a hymnal for seventeen years.  (For three of the four Presbyterian denominations who authorized The Hymnbook in 1955 The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns became the next hymnal in the sequence in 1972.  On the other hand, the ARPC lists it as an approved hymnal in 2014.)  This being the RCA, however, official hymnal status meant little or nothing to many congregations.  Many Midwestern churches, for example, did not adopt it.

The Hymnbook (1955) is a conservative hymnal stylistically, for a small minority of hymns dated to later than 1920.  Two of these were “Morning Has Broken” (1931) and “Hope of the World” (1953.  Editor David Hugh Jones stated that the greatest innovation in the book was the placement of the hymn numbers on the outer edges of the pages.  The arrangement of hymns is also far from revolutionary, for it ordered some texts by church year and others by topics.

The Hymnbook (1955) contains more than hymns and service music (1600 selections).  In the front are Aids to Worship, Invocations, Prayers of Confession, Assurance of Pardon, Prayers of Thanksgiving, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed.  In the back are Scripture Readings (some of them responsive) arranged in three categories:

  1. The Christian Year,
  2. The Christian Life, and
  3. The Civil Year.

These readings come from the Authorized (King James) Version and the Revised Standard Version.

The Hymnbook (1955) had such staying power in the RCA that, in 1987, two years after the debut of the unpopular Rejoice in the Lord (1985), twenty-nine percent of RCA congregations still sang from it.  This volume was considerably more popular than its immediate predecessor in the RCA, The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920), which only eighty-four congregations (a minute percentage of RCA churches) had adopted by 1928.  Of those eighty-four congregations, fifty-seven were dissatisfied with it that year.  And no more than seven percent of RCA congregations adopted Rejoice in the Lord.  It sold well outside the denomination, however.  In fact, my copy bears the stamp of a congregation of the United Church of Christ.  Interestingly, many Presbyterian congregations found The Hymnbook unsatisfactory due to the inclusion of gospel songs.  They preferred the old Hymnal (1933), a stately worship resource of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

The Liturgy and Psalms (1968)

Attempts to revise the Liturgy of 1906 had been in the works since 1932.  They had failed for various reasons:

  1. Not enough of the Classes approved of proposed changes.
  2. The proposed merger with the United Presbyterian Church of North America had delayed the process.
  3. Finally, in 1950, the General Synod created a committee to revise the Liturgy of 1906.  That committee produced provisional liturgies, which congregations used from 1952 to 1955.  These forms, which returned to Protestant Reformation-era liturgies for inspiration, proved too “Romanist” for many people, so the requisite two-thirds of Classes did not approve the provisional forms by the Spring of 1956.

The RCA, back at Square One, published new provisional services again in 1958, authorizing them for trial use for five years.  These rites reached back not only to the Protestant Reformation for inspiration, but all the way back to the second century C.E.–the time of the early church.  The form of Holy Communion in the Didache emphasized redemption, not confession of sin.  A sufficient number of Classes approved the new forms in 1966, and the hardcover book, intended for the pews, debuted in 1968.

The Liturgy of 1968 was simultaneously ambitious, idealistic, conservative, innovative, and dated.  It called for the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, something still not a reality in most RCA congregations.  There were prayers for the harvest yet none regarding nuclear energy and war.  The pronouns were archaic, being “Thee,” Thy,” et cetera.  Old forms of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were present, as were new ones.  Thus the new Liturgy contained conflicting theologies of those sacraments.  Was Baptism primarily about Christian initiation or church membership?  Whatever one thought about that issue, there was a ritual to affirm it.  And the book was generally not in the pews.

The Liturgy of 1968 lasted until 1987, when Worship the Lord replaced it.

Liturgical Variety in the Reformed Church in America

By the late 1960s liturgical variety in the RCA, long a reality evident in the multitude of hymnals congregations used, had increased.  Sunday evening services, a Reformed tradition, had become less common, especially in the East.  The Liturgy of 1968 met with widespread disregard.  And “seeker services” were becoming more plentiful.  The tradition was taking quite a beating, despite the best efforts of good liturgical scholars.  Worship was becoming more about the people and less about God in many churches.  Entertainment was replacing reverence, mystery, and awe frequently.  But at least the beat was good, right?

Dutch-Language Worship Resources

Many Dutch people relocated to Canada after World War II.  The RCA and the CRCNA competed with each other and other denominations for the allegiances of emigrants while ministering to them during the timeframe this post covers.  Most of these new Canadians were poor and knew little or no English when they arrived, so their initial worship resources were mostly in the Dutch language, of course.  The CRCNA, which had resisted Americanization for a long time, found itself in the ironic position of encouraging new arrivals to acculturate fairly rapidly.

V.  CONCLUSION

Change comes in two varieties–good and bad, yet both types make many people nervous.  Good change challenges our prejudices and keeps healthy traditions alive by replenishing the bone marrow in the skeleton of continuity.  Bad change abandons that which is laudatory and throws open the city gates for the barbarian forces of gimmickry, narcissism, and trendiness to enter and to commence the reign of schlock.

This has been an account of two parallel spiritual journeys, each of which contained elements laudatory and shameful.  Both the RCA and the CRCNA wrestled with change of both the good and the bad varieties from 1945 to 1969.  Although the CRCNA moved to its left and toward the theological center, the RCA moved all over the map.  Those journeys led to some interesting developments starting in the 1970s.

The saga will continue in Part VI.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.  Third Edition.  Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.

Bible.  American Standard Version, 1901, 1929.

__________.  Authorized Version, 1611.  Updated, 1769.

__________.  English Standard Version, 2001.

__________.  New International Version, 1973, 1978.  Updated, 1984 and 2011.

__________.  Revised Standard Version, 1946, 1952.  Apocrypha, 1957.  Catholic Edition, 1966.  Second Edition, 1971.  Expanded Apocrypha, 1977.  Second Catholic Edition, 2002.

The Book of Psalms for Worship.  Pittsburgh, PA:  Crown & Covenant Publications, 2010.

Brumm, James Hart, ed.  Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 57.

Coalter, Milton J., et al.  Vital Signs:  The Promise of Mainstream Protestantism.  Second Edition.  Grand Haven, MI:  FaithWalk Publishing, 2002.

__________, eds.  The Confessional Mosaic:  Presbyterians and Twentieth-Century Theology.  Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990.

The Encyclopedia Americana.  Volume 19.  New York, NY:  Americana Corporation, 1962.

Encyclopedia Britannica.  Volume 23.  Chicago, IL:  Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1968.

Hart, D. G.  Defending the Faith:  J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America.  1994.  Reprint; Phillipsburg, N J:  P&R Publishing, 2003.

The Hymnal.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, 1933.  Reprint, 1938.

The Hymnbook.  Edited by David Hugh Jones.  Richmond, VA:  John Knox Press, 1977.

Japinga, Lynn.  Loyalty and Loss:  The Reformed Church in America, 1945-1994.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 77.

The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America Together with the Psalter Selected and Arranged for Responsive Reading.  New York, NY:  The Board of Education of the Reformed Church in America, 1968.

Psalter Hymnal.  Grand Rapids, MI:  CRC Publications, 1987.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Centennial Edition.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, 1959.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Board of Publication of the Christian Reformed Church, 1976.

Rejoice in the Lord:  A Hymn Companion to Scripture.  Edited by Erik Routley.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985.

Rhodes, Arnold B.  The Mighty Acts of God.  Richmond, VA:  The CLC Press, 1964.

Schuppert, Mildred W.  A Digest and Index of the Minutes of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, 1906-1957.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 8.

__________.  A Digest and Index of the Minutes of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, 1958-1977.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 7.

Smidt, Corwin, et al.  Divided By a Common Heritage:  The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 54.

Thompson, Ernest Trice.  Presbyterians in the South.  Volume Three.  1890-1972.  Richmond, VA:  John Knox Press, 1973.

__________.  Through the Ages:  A History of the Christian Church.  Richmond, VA:  The CLC Press, 1965.

Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition.  Suwanee, GA:  Great Commission Publications, 1990.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns.  Philadelphia, PA:  The Westminster Press, 1972.

Worship the Lord.  Edited by James R. Esther and Donald J. Bruggink.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUPER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Posted June 9, 2014 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 11, Moravian (General), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Predecessors, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Predecessors' Offshoots, Psalm 103, Psalm 145, Reformed (General), Revelation of John, Romans 5, Romans 8, United Church of Christ, United Church of Christ Predecessors

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“God of Our Fathers”: The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1914-1945   16 comments

Psalter 1914-1927 and Psalter Hymnal 1934

Above:  My Copies of The Psalter (1914/1927) and the Psalter Hymnal (1934)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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U.S. DUTCH REFORMED LITURGY, PART IV

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God of our fathers, whose almighty hand

Leads forth in beauty all the starry band

Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,

Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

–David C. Roberts, “God of Our Fathers,” 1876; from Psalter Hymnal (1934)

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

This series of blog posts, which I predict will run its immediate course in eight installments, with potential for a ninth eventually, has become quite involved–more so than I had thought previously.  That is fine; I am not complaining, for I have been learning much while preparing Parts IV and V and sketching the broad parameters of Parts VI and VII.  The intellectual pleasure of learning so much so quickly has been rapturous for me.  Yes, I am a geek–indeed, a nerd–and a proud one at that.  I like my brain.

One of my undergraduate education professors at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, in the 1990s told our class that students need hooks onto which to hang details.  I have tried to follow that advice well in a series of classrooms.  And I adhere to it now.  So, with that segue accomplished, here are your proverbial hooks, O reader:

  1. The Reformed Church in America (RCA) remained Americanized and, on the official level at least, favorable to ecumenical engagement.  This commitment was evident liturgically in The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920), a joint project with the (German) Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS).
  2. The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC) became more Americanized from 1914 to 1945, partly because of the domestic and foreign experiences of World War I.  The denomination remained strongly culturally isolationist for much of the period, though.  And it retained its status as a bulwark of very conservative Calvinism.  Nevertheless, the CRCNA was insufficiently right-wing for those who seceded in 1926 to form the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA).  Despite its conservatism, the CRCNA did liberalize sufficiently to reverse its traditional Psalms-only rule for the majority of the denomination, in which pockets of hymn-singing had existed with Synodical approval since the 1880s.
  3. The RCA and the CRCNA, parent and breakaway child, have long had a non-hostile relationship on the official level.  The two have exchanged fraternal greetings annually at CRCNA Synods and RCA General Synods for a long time.  Nevertheless, the two have not traveled the same path for most of the time since the CRCNA broke away in 1857, hence the long separation.  By the end of World War II the RCA and the CRCNA, although still far apart on many issues, were closer than they were at the start of World War I.

II.  CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS, DENOMINATIONAL AND OTHERWISE

Liturgy is an extension of theology.  For example, whether one sings Psalms and hymns or just Psalms in church is a theological decision.  Liturgy also occurs in the contexts of culture and history.  Thus I must establish the contexts of liturgical decisions and patterns first if I am to adhere to the optimum policy.

World War I and Postwar Disillusionment

President Woodrow Wilson (in office 1913-1921) was reluctant to take the United States into World War I (1914-1918).  This raised the ire and scorn of former President Theodore Roosevelt (in office 1901-1909), who accused the incumbent of cowardice.  (Roosevelt ceased to extol the manly virtues of the war after he lost a son to it, but that is another story.)  Wilson won a second term narrowly in 1916, largely on the fact he had kept the nation out of the war.  Ironically, he led the United States into that conflict formally in the second month of that second term.  Reasons included a German threat to the territorial integrity of the country as well as serious financial considerations, such as the fates of historic trading partners in Europe.  The charges of a “capitalists’ war” were not entirely unfounded, even if they were overly simplistic.

The President, who had warned prior to April 1917 that U.S. entry into war would lead to many people forgetting that there had ever been such a thing as tolerance, embraced such intolerance once the nation had gone to war.  Nonviolent critics broke the law by engaging in activities such as giving speeches and distributing leaflets or attempting to do so.  Thus they violated statutes, which Wilson had signed into law, and went to federal prison.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld these convictions, but President Warren G. Harding (in office 1921-1923) exercised his power of the pardon generously, much to chagrin of the right wing of his Republican Party.  The founding of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was no accident, given the many violations of civil liberties in the United States during the war and shortly thereafter.

The intolerance extended to state laws, urban ordinances, and mob actions.  One man faced persecution under the Minnesota Espionage Act because he criticized a woman who was knitting socks for soldiers.

No soldier ever sees these socks,

he had said.  It was an unkind comment, but was it a criminal offense?  The City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, banned performances of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, who had died in 1827.  Was a man who had been dead for nine decades and who had in life opposed the imperialistic policies of Napoleon Bonaparte supporting the Kaiser’s war effort?  And many Christians who worshiped in the German language had to contend with intimidation and vandalism.  During this time many Lutherans made a rapid transition to worshiping in English.  What became of freedom in the land of the free?

The CRCNA, which offered few English-language services on any given Sunday in 1915, also accelerated its use of English in worship due to pressures from jingoists, vandals, and state laws.  Some states, such as Iowa, outlawed preaching in Dutch.  And vandals attacked parochial schools, alleging that they were somehow Prussian.  The denomination’s position on World War I did not help matters when many people lost their minds, rallied around the flag, and renamed German names of dog breeds and food products.  In an age of Liberty Hounds (Dachshunds), Alsacian Shepherds (German Shepherds), and Liberty Cabbage (Sauerkraut) the CRCNA’s stance that the war was (a) evidence of total depravity and (b) God’s punishment on the U.S.A. for national sins aroused much ire outside the denomination.

Wilson oversold the war.  It was “the war to make the world safe for democracy,” allegedly.  Postwar realities, being grim, especially in Europe, inspired widespread disillusionment, as in the literary Lost Generation.  In this context the RCA, which had once considered World War I a holy war, learned a harsh lesson and backed down from its gung ho stance.  At the same time, however, the CRCNA learned a different harsh lesson and began to move away from its culturally isolationist position under pressure from returning veterans who belonged to the denomination.  When the U.S. entered World War II formally in 1941, the CRCNA was gung ho and the RCA supported the war effort without resorting to grandiose language.

Confessional Calvinism, Common Grace, and the Christian Reformed Church in North America

Two sides in the three-way disagreement over the Kuyperian Paradox locked horns within the CRCNA in the 1920s.  The Antitheticals, who favored Christian separatism, had lost the argument at the Synod of 1906, where the Confessionalists had won.  The two sides joined forces to oppose Calvin Theological Seminary professor Ralph Janssen, whom they accused of liberalism, and therefore heresy, because he had incorporated higher criticism into his Biblical studies.  These critics won at the Synod of 1922, which removed Janssen from his post.  Two years later, however, the CRC Synod made affirmation of Abraham Kuyper‘s later Common Grace theological stance mandatory for pastors.  That position held that even the unredeemed could function as God’s instruments.  In 1924-1925 the Reverend Herman Hoekstra and others refused to obey.  These Antitheticals seceded instead and formed the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA).

Ecumenism

The RCA was, at least officially, enthusiastic about ecumenism.  It had become, for example, a charter member of both the American Bible Society (1816) and the Federal Council of Churches (1908).  The RCA considered itself a mainline denomination, albeit a fairly conservative one.  Yet even this position proved too liberal for much of its Midwestern and Western constituency, which was generally suspicious of social progressivism, membership in church councils, and plans to merge with other denominations.

There was more than one unsuccessful merger proposal involving the RCA from 1914 to 1945.  The first was a plan to merge the RCA and the (German) Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) in the 1910s.  The only fruit this tree bore was The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920), a joint project of the two bodies.  The RCUS, by the way, went on to merge in 1934 with the Evangelical Synod of North America (ESNA), of Prussian Lutheran-Reformed heritage, to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church (ERC).  The ERC’s legacy became part of the history of the United Church of Christ (UCC) in 1957.  Thus the 1920 Hymnal of the Reformed Church preceded two streams of successors:

  1. The Hymnbook (1955), Rejoice in the Lord (1985), and Lift Up Your Hearts (2013), the RCA lineage; and
  2. The Hymnal (1941), The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ (1974), and The New Century Hymnal (1995), the Evangelical and Reformed Church-United Church of Christ lineage.

The second plan, which began in the late 1920s, was to merge five denominations:

  1. The Reformed Church in America (RCA);
  2. The Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS);
  3. The Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the old “Southern Presbyterian Church;”
  4. The Presbyterian Church in then U.S.A. (PCUSA), the old “Northern Presbyterian Church” (a misleading label since it was a national body; and
  5. The United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA), whose Psalters the CRCNA and parts thereof had adapted.

The plan failed on several fronts as denominations removed themselves from it.  The 1931 Southern Presbyterian General Assembly, citing questions of race and alleged doctrinal unsoundness in the PCUSA, withdrew, for example.  And an attempt to expand the union into a six-way arrangement including the CRCNA failed in 1930, when the CRC Synod declined, citing doctrinal concerns regarding the other five bodies.  These issues included Modernism, alleged laxity in church discipline, and permissive policies regarding membership in secret societies, such as the Masonic Lodge.

Of the five denominations only the RCA still exists.  The United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA) merged with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA) to create the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) in 1958.  The UPCUSA and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) reunited in 1983 to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [PC(USA)].  And the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) merged into the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1934-1957).  The current body which bears the RCUS name is a rump of the original denomination.

The CRCNA also contained a large number of people wary of membership in church councils.  It had joined the Federal Council of Churches in 1918, for the FCC was the only agency which placed military chaplains at the time.  Yet concerns about Modernism led the CRCNA to withdraw from the Federal Council in 1924.  The denomination became a charter member of the anti-Modernist National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1943.  Nevertheless, a vocal CRCNA constituency, objecting to such close work with Arminians and Fundamentalists and concerned about the allegedly detrimental effect it had on the CRCNA’s Reformed witness, succeeded in prompting the denomination’s withdraw from the NAE in 1951.

Worldly Amusements

Q:  Why don’t Fundamentalists have sex standing up?

A:  It might lead to dancing.

–An old joke

Hostility to “worldly amusements” has long been a characteristic of certain varieties of conservative Protestantism.  I have read such condemnations in the sermon notes of my great-grandfather, George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), and old-style Southern Methodist.  And stories of Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and other types of churches calling members to account for dancing, hosting dances, attending fairs, and/or playing card games from the 1800s to the 1900s are numerous.  Such hostility was also present in Dutch Reformed enclaves in the Midwest and present in both the RCA and the CRCNA.  The latter, however, unlike the former, made such hostility denominational policy in the twentieth century.

The theological principle of separation from the world (not being conformed to it), not to mention the insertion of long poles far into many spiritual large intestines, informed the condemnation of “worldly amusements.”  (How could some of these people sit down comfortably or at all?)  Thus, in the case of the CRCNA, the ruling that no member should play cards, attend movies, or dance became not just a recommendation but a piece of obligatory guidance.  As the Reverend Doctor Peter Y. De Jong wrote:

Because these principles are solidly grounded on Scripture, they must be heartily believed and conscientiously practiced by all of our members.  Such spiritual practice is far richer than refraining from sin because the church requires it.  In the light of these every Christian who prayerfully considers any problem can come to full light.  Only then will our spiritual life be full and rich and deep, which is pleasing to our faithful Covenant God and Father.

The Christian Reformed Church:  A Study Guide, Centennial Edition, 1956; reprint, 1964; page 81

I will return to this matter in subsequent posts.

III.  PSALTERS AND HYMNALS

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  From Dutch to English–The Psalter (1914)

The liturgical transformation within the CRCNA proved difficult for many people.  By 1940, however, English was nearly universal in the denomination, which had lost some members to the process.  The Psalter (1914) was far from popular in some quarters of the CRCNA.  Henry Vander Werp, a CRCNA alternate to the committee which had created The New Metrical Version of the Psalms (1905 and 1909), the basis of the United Presbyterian Psalter (1912), itself the basis of the CRCNA Psalter (1914), had created a Psalter of his own.  It retained more content from the Genevan Psalter (1563) and less from The New Metrical Version than did The Psalter (1914).  The Synod of 1912 rejected an overture to adopt his Psalter, justifying the decision by citing the fact that it was the work of one man.

The Psalter (1914) broke with CRC tradition in ways other than the obvious:  the exclusive use of English.

  1. It introduced different patterns of meter to the CRCNA.  Traditional Dutch meters kept the Psalms intact and applied a variety of meters and rhyme patterns to them.  Scottish Presbyterian meters, however, divided the Psalms into segments, thereby applying more than one versification to some texts.
  2. It also replaced many traditional melodies with tunes new to the CRCNA.  Only two Genevan Psalter tunes remained in the new Psalter.  The transition proved easier for the young than for the elderly.

The Psalter (1914), reprinted with the 1920 translation of the Church Order in 1927, contained rituals and other important documents in the back:

  1. The Heidelberg Catechism;
  2. The Belgic Confession of Faith;
  3. The Canons of Dort;
  4. The Liturgy;
  5. The Church Order; and
  6. The Formula of Subscription to the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession of Faith, and the Canons of Dort.

The Liturgy contained:

  1. Baptism;
  2. Public Confession of Faith;
  3. The Lord’s Supper;
  4. The Discipline–Excommunication and Readmission of Excommunicated Persons;
  5. Ordination of Ministers of God’s Word;
  6. Ordination of Elders and Deacons;
  7. Installation of Professors of Theology;
  8. Ordination of Missionaries;
  9. Marriage; and
  10. Consolation of the Sick.

These followed the traditional Dutch forms.

The Protestant Reformed Dutch Churches in America (PRCA) continued to use this volume after the CRCNA adopted the Psalter Hymnal (1934).  The liturgical forms available at the PRCA’s website in 2014 are nearly identical to those in the back of The Psalter (1914).

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  Uniform Orders of Worship (1920-1930)

The European Reformed churches of the Protestant Reformation were liturgical, complete with service books and forms of worship.  This well-attested fact constituted news–irrelevant at best and unpleasant at worst–to many U.S. members of Reformed churches in the 1800s and 1900s.  That statement applies also to many of the U.S. Reformed in 2014.  Sometimes the tradition to which people cling is of more recent vintage than the alleged innovations to which they object.  So which one is the innovation?  The reality of Continental Reformed liturgical history did not, however, trouble the members of the CRCNA committee which produced three uniform orders of worship in time for the CRC Synod of 1920, which made them mandatory.  The Acts of Synod (1920), pages 185-204 contains the full orders with interesting explanatory notes.

The order of worship for the first (morning) service was as follows:

  1. The Introductory Service–The service opened with the Votum (Psalm 124:8) then continued with the Salutation (Romans 1:7) before leading into a Psalm of gratitude.
  2. The Service of Reconciliation–The confession of sin and absolution, parts of Protestant Reformation-era Reformed liturgies, were present.  They proved especially controversial due to rampant anti-Roman Catholicism, however.  The order of service specified forms for the invitation, the confession, and the absolution.  The Apostles’ Creed and the Psalm of praise followed.
  3. The Service of Thanksgiving–A general prayer, concluded with the Lord’s Prayer, led into the Offering, then a Psalm of thanksgiving.
  4. The Service of the Lord–There was no responsive reading, for the committee deemed that practice to be primarily a way of maintaining interest among members of the congregation.  Thus the minister, representing God at the church service, read a portion of Scripture.  Then the sermon followed.
  5. The Closing Service–A prayer, a Psalm or the Doxology or both, and the Benediction closed the service.

The other two orders of worship were quite similar to the first.  At the second (evening) service there was no Service of Reconciliation and the Decalogue moved into the Service of Thanksgiving.  The third order of worship, just for

Christmas, Old Year, New Year, Good Friday, and Ascension Day

Acts of Synod, 1920, page 199,

also omitted the Service of Reconciliation.  The third order of worship lacked the Decalogue, however.

These orders of worship became quite controversial, so the Synod of 1930 removed the absolution and made the orders optional.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  Singing Hymns

The practice of singing Psalms–yet not hymns, allegedly the compositions of sinful men and women and therefore unworthy, as the traditionalist Reformed criticism describes them–used to be more commonplace in the Reformed world.  In 2014 some denominations retain the practice, but most sing hymns.  Objections to the singing of hymns in the RCA helped to form the rationales for the Secessions of 1834 (in The Netherlands) and 1857 (in the United States), thus they were among the justifications for the founding of the CRCNA.  Nevertheless, that denomination, from the middle 1880s forward, did not adhere strictly to the practice of singing only Psalms.

At first the CRCNA permitted groups with joined the denomination to continue their practice of singing hymns.  As I wrote in Part III of this series, some German-speaking congregations affiliated in the 1880s and English-speaking churches joined in 1890.  The Germans continued to sing their 355 hymns in addition to the 150 Psalms and Classis Hackensack kept singing its 190 hymns plus the 150 Psalms.  It even modified The Psalter (1914) to include its 190 hymns.  The camel’s nose was already inside the tent.

For the majority of the CRCNA, however, hymns were forbidden in worship.  Article 69 of the Church Order (1920 translation) read:

In the Churches only the 150 Psalms of David, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Twelve Articles of Faith, the Songs of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon, the Morning and Evening Hymns, and the Hymn of Prayer before the sermon shall be sung.

Nevertheless, many young members of the CRCNA favored singing hymns by 1918.  The Synod of 1928 appointed a committee to study the issue.  That group, which favored hymn-singing, issued its report two years later.  In 1932 the CRCNA modified Article 69 of the Church Order to permit the singing of hymns throughout the denomination.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  Psalter Hymnal (1934)

Psalter Hymnal (1934) was a landmark worship resource for the CRCNA.  It both reached back into the denomination’s tradition and paved the way for changes.  On one hand Psalter Hymnal (1934) included more Genevan Psalter (1563) tunes than did The Psalter (1914), but on the other hand it opened the flood gates for hymn-singing to become more popular than Psalm-singing in the CRCNA.  The new hymnal emphasized the Psalms, which comprised 295 of its 458 musical offerings.  There were 140 hymns familiar to members of other denominations.  A few these songs were:

  1. O Worship the King;
  2. Now Thank We All Our God;
  3. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel;
  4. Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing;
  5. Silent Night! Holy Night!;
  6. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross;
  7. The Church’s One Foundation; and
  8. Abide With Me.

The standards for selecting hymns were:

doctrinal soundness, New Testament character, dignity and depth of devotional spirit, and clearness and beauty of expression.

Psalter Hymnal (1934), page iii

Much of the material in the back of the volume was similar to that in the rear of The Psalter (1914), the main difference being a revision in the English translation.  There were more offerings, though.

  1. The Three Ecumenical Creeds–Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian–were present.
  2. There was also a treasury of Christian prayers.

Also, the 1914 forms for the ordination of Ministers and Missionaries became forms for the ordination or installation thereof.

Psalter Hymnal (1934) stood in lineage with Psalter Hymnal (1959/1976), Psalter Hymnal (1987), and Lift Up Your Hearts (2013), books I will analyze in subsequent posts.

The Reformed Church in America:  The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920)

The history of hymnals in the RCA has proven to be more complicated than in the CRCNA.  Prior to The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920) the last official hymnal had been Hymns of the Church (1869), almost a carbon copy of the Anglican Hymns, Ancient and Modern (1861).  This Anglican-Reformed approach met with the disapproval of much of the RCA, which convinced successive General Synods to approve the use of third-party hymnals.  Thus the RCA, despite having a series of official hymn books, has long experienced a plethora of hymnals in use on the congregational level.

The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920) was a joint project with the (German) Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS).  It started as a revision of The Hymnal of the Reformed Church in the United States (1890) in 1911, but the committee decided to try to make the new book an ecumenical venture.  The RCA General Synod of 1912 accepted the invitation to participate in the project, and the rest was history.  The joint committee wrote in the 1920 Hymnal:

Our purpose has been to lead congregations in every way possible in a more heartfelt worship in all Church services, and a more general participation in congregational singing.

The organization of the 700+ hymns was topical, not pegged to the Heidelberg Catechism, as early RCA hymnals had been.  And the RCA Liturgy was present in the RCA edition.

The Hymnal of the Reformed Church, in the RCA, preceded three other official hymnals.

  1. The Hymnbook (1955) was a joint project with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC), the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA), and the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA).
  2. Rejoice in the Lord (1985), a solely RCA project, sold better outside the denomination than within it.  In fact, only seven percent of RCA congregations adopted it.  My copy of the hymnal bears the imprint of a congregation of the United Church of Christ.
  3. Lift Up Your Hearts (2013) is a joint project with the CRCNA.

Those, however, are topics I will explore in subsequent posts in this series.

IV.  CONCLUSION

Disagreements within denominations are frequently more important than those between or among them.  The Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) experienced 1914-1945 differently yet with some similarity.  Both had warring wings, for example.  The RCA, though, kept its wings in balance until immediately after World War II, when Part V of this series will begin.  In contrast, the more conservative, culturally isolationist wing of the CRCNA began to lose power to relatively progressive elements.  Nevertheless, the denomination forbade dancing from 1928 to 1982 and attending movies from 1928 to 1966. So we know that its culturally isolationist wing retained some power for a long time, despite the vocal and repeated protests of dissidents, who had entered the twentieth century mentally.  The CRCNA moved forward and backward from 1914 to 1945.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Brink, Emily R., and Bert Polman, eds.  Psalter Hymnal Handbook.  Grand Rapids, MI:  CRC Publications, 1998.

Brumm, James Hart, ed.  Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 57.

De Jong, Peter Y.  The Christian Reformed Church:  A Study Manual.  Centennial Edition.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House, 1956.  Reprint, 1964.

Haeussler, Armin.  The Story of Our Hymn:  The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church.  St. Louis, MO:  Eden Publishing House, 1952.

Hall, Kermit L., et al., eds.  American Legal History:  Cases and Materials. 2d. Ed.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1996.

The Hymnal; Containing Complete Orders of Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Eden Publishing House, 1941.

The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ.  Philadelphia, PA:  United Church Press, 1974.

The Hymnbook.  Richmond, VA:  John Knox Press, 1955.

Japinga, Lynn.  Loyalty and Loss:  The Reformed Church in America, 1945-1994.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 77.

Lift Up Your Hearts:  Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013.

The New Century Hymnal.  Cleveland, OH:  Pilgrim Press, 1995.

The Psalter, Doctrinal Standards, Liturgy, and Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eeerdmans Publishing Company, 1927.

Psalter Hymnal.  Grand Rapids, MI:  CRC Publications, 1987.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, 1934.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, 1976.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Centennial Edition.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, 1959.

The Psalter Hymnal:  The Psalms and Selected Hymns.  Pittsburgh, PA:  The United Presbyterian Board of Publication and Bible School Work, 1927.

Rejoice in the Lord:  A Hymn Companion to the Scriptures.  Edited by Erik Routley.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985.

Smidt, Corwin, et al.  Divided By a Common Heritage:  The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 54.

Thompson, Ernest Trice.  Presbyterians in the South.  Volume Three.  1890-1972.  Richmond, VA:  John Knox Press, 1973.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Posted June 6, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Predecessors, Reformed (General), United Church of Christ Predecessors, Wesleyan (General)

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Victims and Religious Persecution   3 comments

mary_dyer_being_led

Above:  The Quaker Mary Dyer Being Led to Execution on Boston Common, 1 June 1660

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

except that of knowing that we do your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Psalm 6

Matthew 10:5-23

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Some Related Posts:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-are-tortured/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-inflict-torture/

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My eyes are wasted with grief

and worn away because of all my enemies.

–Psalm 6:7, Common Worship (2000)

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Follow God and face persecution.

How is that for a message to use when recruiting and seeking to retain servants of God? Ebed-melech the Ethiopian risked his life to save the life of the prophet Jeremiah, who had sunk into the mud in a cistern. Jesus and most of the original twelve Apostles died violently and suffered before that happened. Nearly two millennia have passed since the time of Christ. During that span countless numbers of Christians have suffered for the faith. Many have become martyrs.

I am among the fortunate Christians who have not faced any form of persecution, partially because of the freedom of religion and the separation of religion and state. But I know that persecution and martyrdoms continue. Cases of them do not always make headlines, but they persist, unfortunately. And the blood of the martyrs continues to water the church.

Perversely, many people who make others martyrs do so in the name of God; they believe that they are acting righteously. This has been the case in the past and remains so in the present. Puritans who hanged Quakers in colonial New England in the 1600s thought they acted righteously to defend their community from a great threat—pacifistic egalitarians in a hierarchical society, actually. (People who kill pacifists do not impress me.)  In parts of the world Islamic extremists attack Christian churches, but many other Muslims defend their Christian neighbors’ houses of worship. And the shameful track record of anti-Semitism in Christian history, from merely bad attitudes to small-scale attacks to large-scale pogroms, needs no further comment here. May we criticize the extremists and mistake them as true representatives of entire faith systems.

One lesson to draw from such cases is, in the name of Christ, to act compassionately toward others, especially those with whom we disagree theologically. Torturing, imprisoning, and killing others in the name of Jesus, himself an innocent victim of capital punishment, is wrong, regardless of one’s concept of God. Yes, sometimes life brings us to some unpleasant circumstances with only bad choices—such as violent ones as the means of survival—but there is a difference between self-defense and religious intolerance acted out. I am not naïve about that reality.

Yet the definition of freedom includes liberty to those who differ from and with us. And moral absolutes do exist. Among them are the immoral natures of torture and religious persecution, terms one should never apply when they are not applicable. May we stand with the victims, not those who victimize them. And may we certainly never victimize anyone in the name of God or any other name.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DESIDERIUS/DIDIER OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUIBERT OF GORZE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST ROSSI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-7-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Guide to Posts About the German Reformed Church/Reformed Church in the United States (1793-1934)   2 comments

134346pv

Above:  Interior, German Reformed Church, Alexandria, Pennsylvania

Historic American Buildings Survey

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS PA, 31–alex, 14–4

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“United as Members of One Body in True Brotherly Love”:  The Reformed Church in America, 1628-1857:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/united-as-members-of-one-body-in-true-brotherly-love-the-reformed-church-in-america-1628-1857/

“That It May Please Thee to Remove All Sects and Scandals”:  The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1857-1913:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/that-it-may-please-thee-to-remove-all-sects-and-scandals-the-reformed-church-in-america-and-the-christian-reformed-church-in-north-america-1857-1913/

“God of Our Fathers”:  The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1914-1945:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/god-of-our-fathers-the-reformed-church-in-america-and-the-christian-reformed-church-in-north-america-1914-1945/

“Lead Me, Guide Me”:  The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1970-2000:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/lead-me-guide-me-the-reformed-church-in-america-and-the-christian-reformed-church-in-north-america-1970-2000/

“Let Us Break Bread Together”:  The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 2001-2014:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/let-us-break-bread-together-the-reformed-church-in-america-and-the-christian-reformed-church-in-north-america-2001-2014/

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