“Principles of Church Union” may chart a course for 25.5 million Protestants

Efforts to merge ten Protestant denominations into a great united church containing 25.5 million members were actively encouraged a year ago when the Consultation on Church Union met in Dallas, and for many months delegates have been engaged in a selling job to their parent denominations. Books on church union have been published; study groups have been formed. Next month COCU meets again, this time at the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And this month pastors of the participating denominations will exchange pulpits in an attempt to further interdenominational understanding and prepare for the May meeting of the consultation. Their pulpit theme will presumably be: “I believe in COCU because …”

The subject is a significant one, but it raises even more important matters. Many who are asked to believe in COCU will be asking what COCU itself believes. They will be asking about the doctrinal basis of the proposed united church. What will be its creed? What do the Principles of Church Union say about the faith of the church and its doctrine? What do they say about Scripture, tradition, and the outstanding doctrinal confessions of church history? What will be the ultimate source of authority for the united church? What authority will guide the path to union? These questions are of interest to all the participating churches, especially to those built on a creedal foundation. They will be of great importance to United Presbyterians, for instance, who are just now reaffirming the confessional nature of their church by adopting the Book of Confessions, to be approved finally by the General Assembly in Portland, Oregon, in May.

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