Francis Schaeffer and Arthur Glasser respond to the Vancouver 1983 report in the September 16 issue of CT.

NO!To the Editor:

I have just read the article on the World Council of Churches in the September 16 issue. My reaction was one of sadness. There has been a spirit of accommodation in a section of evangelicalism for some time, and in this article and in the letter drafted and signed at the wcc meeting in Vancouver, that accommodation takes a step further. I thank God for Prof. Peter Beyerhaus in his discernment and courage to speak clearly as he and those with him spoke in contrast to the majority who signed the “Open Letter” in Vancouver.

This new step of accommodation to the world spirit about us is rooted in two groups: those who are willing to accommodate to a lower view of Scripture, and those who no longer hold to the third mark of a true church, discipline. With this loss comes the acceptance of a perpetual pluralistic church with the abandonment of the biblical teaching of the practice of the purity of the visible church.

It is strange that Lovelace quotes Spurgeon when he gave much of his life to stand against compromise with liberal theology, even though this brought a tearful division among British Baptists.

I must say also that I thought it poor judgment to use that large, ugly photograph of Ian Paisley as though he and those with him were the only ones to be opposed to accommodation to the WCC and all it stands for. A picture of Beyerhaus would have been in order.

Last May 11, I gave a talk to the Evangelical Press Association meeting on “Names and Issues.” The last sentence was, “Accommodation leads to accommodation, which leads to accommodation.” There has now been a further step down this road.

FRANCIS A. SCHAEFFERDr. Schaeffer is founder of L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. Dr. Glasser is dean emeritus of the School of World Mission of Fuller Theological Seminary.

YES!To the Editor:

I commend you for designating Richard Lovelace as your press representative at the Sixth Assembly of the WCC and him for his excellent report on what actually transpired there. But when I saw the Beyerhaus letter, I was filled with dismay since the issue that divided evangelicals at Vancouver was not the wcc so much as the responsibility of Christians for the unity and purity of the church. On this issue one cannot be neutral!

The many evangelicals who were in Vancouver soon realized that this assembly would not be a rerun of Nairobi 1975 and certainly not Uppsala 1968. The biblical witness was too strong. Only an ideological bigot could dismiss the speakers as non-Christians. The prayers for God’s guidance were not deliberate camouflage, and when we were constantly being confronted by a few determined outsiders who kept pushing the most scurrilous literature on us, blasting the WCC in a most irresponsible fashion, it was inevitable that we began to gather together to discuss the implications of the assembly. Many of us could recall instances in our own pasts when we had been sincere but intemperate in our criticism of the WCC, especially during its radical decades (1960–80). But now we were becoming aware of God’s grace—not only to the WCC but also to us.

Since there was a rather strong sentiment in our midst about “doing something,” I took the occasion to refer to the April 1967 National Evangelical Anglican Congress held at Keele University in England. John Stott called those present to involve themselves “without compromise” in the ecumenical debate. The “Open Letter” summarized the general thrust of the congress’s commitment:

We recognize that in dialogue we may hope to learn truth we have been blind to, and share with others truth we hold that they may have overlooked.… We want to enter this ecumenical dialogue fully. We are no longer content to stand apart from those with whom we disagree. We recognize that all who “confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill their common calling to the glory of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”[WCC Basis] have a right to be treated as Christians. It is on this basis that we wish to talk with them. Through dialogue, we look to God to instruct and reform us all, and thereby integrate us into one, through a deeper common grasp of his truth.…

This approach was so well received that Robert Youngblood, an executive of the World Evangelical Fellowship, asked me to write a tentative draft.

The following facts need to be kept in mind: (1) Participants were evangelicals from both WCC member churches and nonconciliar churches, the former predominating; (2) The document intended to encourage all Christians to be more concerned with ecumenical realities and to remind evangelicals in WCC member churches that they were obligated to speak out to an assembly that was open to their witness and insights; (3) Three of our brothers—Beyerhaus, Johnston, and Kim—walked out on the group because we refused to (a) repeat outdated stereotypes, (b) take a stand against the contribution of women to the assembly, despite Kim’s speech, (c) omit an expression of genuine concern for the renewal and unity of the church, and (d) judge the assembly by the occasional radical input of one or two speakers.

Article continues below

They belittled our numbers and our knowledge of the history of the WCC. Their statement, despite its many good points, was so selective and so suspicious of the validity of those in the WCC calling themselves “Christians” that it became subbiblical, even arrogant.

The question is whether evangelicals will be more biblical and less parochial, more theological and less ideological in their obligation to study the peace, purity, and unity of the church in our day. Evangelicals in Vancouver were confronted with enormous issues, issues that impinge on the very integrity of the evangelical movement in our day.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.