William Phelps Thompson, 47, a Wichita, Kansas, lawyer, was elected stated clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. on the first ballot, with 502 votes out of 819 counted. He is important, for he fills the post that Dr. Eugene Carson Blake developed into “the chief executive officer” of the United Presbyterian Church. As the moderator of the previous Assembly he had spent the entire year traveling throughout the church. He supported Dr. Blake in his ecumenical leadership, and it is clear from the address that he delivered at the opening of the Assembly that he is one of the rather rare laymen who is in a position to lead and to give Dr. Blake, as he moves now to the world level of ecumenical responsibility, the continuing support of the United Presbyterian Church. The Christian Century, June 8, 1966, quoted a nonvoting delegate in Boston at the time of his election as saying, “Anyone who dares to be a registered Democrat in Kansas can’t be all bad” (p. 740) .

Stated Clerk Thompson not only knows the program but he knows the language, and this was succinctly stated in the address, May 18, 1966, entitled, “Sent into the World.” In this address the four commonly heard phrases in the ecumenical jargon are not only used but developed: first, no difference between secular and sacred; second, mystery, as it relates to the Cross; third, “word of God” with a small “w,” which separates the message from the infallible, written Word of God; and fourth, reconciliation. All of these are to be used in the promotion of unity, which Thompson describes as being “one church.”

As the church goes into the world, she becomes like the world in that all distinction must be broken down between the sacred and the secular. So he says, “Each member of the church must understand that there is no validity in the demarcation between sacred and secular.” And as such he emphasizes that each “participant” must take part “in all of the decision making processes in which we are involved to be his agents of reconciliation.”

Ezekiel, the prophet who so severely denounced Israel for her apostasy, spoke specifically of this very matter. He said:

“Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no dilerence between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and 1 am profaned among them” (22:26).

“And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (44:23) .

And the faithful preacher “shall teach my people the difference.”

Earlier in the discussion of the Confession of 1967 we noticed the way the question of the death of Christ was shrouded in mystery and uncertainty and its meaning buried in what was called the love of God. This was done in order to cover up the fact that these United Presbyterian leaders simply do not accept and believe the specific meaning and clearly defined purpose of that death as set forth in the Holy Scriptures. In regard to this, Mr. Thompson said in his address as moderator, “While we do not fully understand, we believe that our Lord’s death on the cross is the only means by which we are reconciled to God and to our fellow men.” However, the one point of Scripture that God has explained in detail so that we will fully understand it is that Christ died on the Cross as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and to reconcile us to God. The transaction was one. The transaction was fully accomplished and all mystery and any possible misunderstanding concerning what God actually did for us has been forever removed in the proclamation of this Good News. The doubt and unbelief that is inherent in this inclusivist and modernist position manifests itself in “mystery.” Thus the Apostle Paul emphasized that it was not with any enticing words of man’s wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and ,power that he was determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. But how deceptive and confusing the terminology is in this address, unless one realizes the context in which it is presented-this General Assembly with all of its liberalism and especially with this “mystery” so clearly stated in the new confession.

The phrase “word of God” as used by the moderator was with a small “w” and this corresponds with the small “w” which is now used in the new confession, while the capital “W” was used in the Westminster Confession. The new way is that all Presbyterian ministers take the ordination vow to believe the Bible to be “by the Holy Spirit God’s `word’ [small `w’] to you.” The moderator’s sentence in which this occurs reads, “The church has become so acculturated that society is shocked and resentful when on rare occasions some fragment of the church attempts to speak the incisive, prophetic `word of the Lord.”‘ He obviously is referring to some word in relationship to social involvement and political action.

Later in the same address he exhorted: “On the most urgent [social issues] the Church should seek to articulate the meaning of the Gospel. Then the prophetic message should be communicated with unmistakable clarity to the world. We may not be able to announce with conviction, Thus saith the Lord,’ as did the prophets of old, but we should strive for something like their understanding of and identification with God’s will for society.” Thus there can be no question but that the moderator realized that with the small “w” neither he nor the church would be in a position to speak like the prophets of old, “Thus saith the Lord.” The present church and its ministers no longer have a message that they could present with that authority. Since abandoning the inspiration of the Scriptures and the infallibility of the Bible, their own conscience, their own manner of expression reveal that they have lost the message of authority and truth that the prophets gave to God’s people for all time and in every age.

Thus we arrive at their word “reconciliation” which, as we repeatedly observed, means the bringing of men together in social and political enterprises where concessions, compromises, and the like are made that there may be peace or what they may call progress.

Mr. Thompson then carries over all of this into the whole field of unity so far as the churches are concerned. He quotes the 19th General Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches as commenting “forthrightly in these words: `. . . the truth, recognized by the Reformers, that there is only one Church . . . and the present disunited state of the church is sinful in that it obscures this truth and our reconciliation . . . . To tolerate this disunity is to be a sharer in the sin.’ “

Then he quotes the Consultation on Church Union in its “Open Letter” addressed to the churches as saying, “…we envisage a united church,” and then he declares, “Much remains to be done, but the goal is one church.” He held before the General Assembly a world church, organically united in one great superstructure of some order.

That this involves union with the Roman Catholic Church he makes perfectly plain in that he illustrates what he considers significant in their conversations which have already begun “without formal structure” thus: “The priest reported to me that one of their most valuable meetings was devoted entirely to the subject of janitors. The problems of equipment and people involved in keeping the House of the Lord clean are not parochial.” Humorous in a way, as this most assuredly is, he concluded: “We do not minimize the differences which separate us from the Roman Catholic Church. They are substantial and of long duration. But this is a new day in which we can sit down around one table with friends of that church as followers of one Lord and discuss problems of common concern. From cleanliness we shall certainly progress to the deep issues of the faith.”

Even those who are called the evangelicals and who are an increasing concern of the ecumenical leaders—that somehow they may bring them into ecumenical co-operation-was discussed in this address. He said, “For several years representatives of the United Presbyterian Church participated with others in conversations with persons in conservative evangelical groups.” Just what these groups have been or in what way these conversations have been going on has not been made public. Only recently it has become known that Dr. Carl Henry of Christianity Today and some of the “new evangelicals” have indeed been participating in these “conversations.” But such evangelicals had already accepted the inclusivist principle in the National Association of Evangelicals and believe that it is possible for them to work within the fellowship of the World Council of Churches. Mr. Thompson continued: “These conversations which were undertaken quietly will be reported to this Assembly. Moreover there is increasing ‘trans-denominational’ co-operation among the conservative evangelical groups themselves which have previously avoided any ecumenical involvement.”

It is perfectly clear that at this point he is speaking about the National Association of Evangelicals and not in any way referring to the International Council of Christian Churches or the American Council of Christian Churches!

Running through the entire address there is manifest a great concern and an open confession that there is a definite gap in the church between the clergy and the laity and that division is evident within ;he church. He said: “…since the last General Assembly there has been new evidence of division within our church. In three separate centers, one on the east coast, one on the west coast, and one in the middle west, groups apparently independent of each other have organized within the membership of the church. Each of these groups identifies itself as a group of laymen. Each group seeks some change in the program or emphasis of our church.” Then he says: “They behave as if they believe they have some special insights because they are laymen. Apparently there is an incipient polarization within our church between the ordained clergy and the laity. This alienation may account in part for a noticeable tendency for members of the clergy to leave the parish for the classroom or for completely secular pursuits.”

This confession in a moderatorial address would never have been made if the situation was not indeed of the greatest concern. The issues that have shaken these laymen have undoubtedly been the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., the activities of Dr. Eugene Carson Blake and his trips to Russia, and more recently the National Council’s call for the recognition of Red China and its admission into the United Nations.

The very program that the General Assembly has approved for its new confession in these areas of reconciliation has in it the issues that have brought about this division and strong opposition on the part of laymen, and which will now, in view of the church’s inclusion of these matters as a part of faith itself, confront these laymen with the major decision of actually remaining in fellowship with such a testimony and program.

That the National Council of Churches is involved in this picture is apparent from this address. Thompson told the Assembly: “Despite baseless attacks upon councils of churches, the United Presbyterian Church continues to carry out significant portions of the `work of the Gospel’ through such councils. Our church has been a founding member of virtually all of them. Some of the most creative United Presbyterian clergy and laymen serve on the staffs of councils at all levels.” They are indeed “creative” when it comes to the departure from the moral law in relationship to these matters of the recognition of Red China and civil action programs which transgress the most basic rights of individuals, under God, in relation to property and freedom, and which have contributed to revolution, civil disobedience, and hatred between the blacks and the whites, born out of such strife and turmoil.

The new stated clerk could not end his speech without indicating what he called “some techniques by which I believe the incipient polarization between clergy and laity can be resolved.” He declared, “One of the sources of tension and frustration has been the lack of opportunity for dialogue between occupants of pulpit and pews.” Thus it is clear that there is a very urgent local problem of reconciliation inside the church, which has developed as a result of attempts to engage in the larger area of reconciliation with the Communist world, in political action, and the prospects of return to the Roman Catholic Church in order to establish the “one church.”

It was suggested by Time magazine that this layman was elected stated clerk in order to help deal with this particular problem. If this element was involved in the decision, the church put in charge of the matter a layman who fully outlined his platform. All efforts at this so-called reconciliation and this suggested dialogue as it relates to the laymen is to one end, that they may be held inside the church with their financial and numerical support on behalf of the whole ecumenical cause. The question now is, How many laymen will actually be won over to the church by this approach? Will they—at least a considerable number of them—capitulate, as the conservative clergy did in Boston? If so, then the program of unity, inclusivism, and particularly the use of terminology to deceive those who truly believe will be strengthened and the realization of its ultimate goal hastened.