National Association of Evangelicals
A Report on the 54th Annual Convention held March 3-5, 1996
Dr. Ralph G. Colas -- Executive Secretary of the American Council of Christian Churches
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) met in Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 35, 1996, for their 54th Annual Convention. The theme was Reaching America: One Voice in Unity. (Next year's convention will be held in Orlando, Florida, March 46, 1997.)
NAE's president, Dr. Donald Argue, declared, "This may be one of the most historic meetings in the history of the NAE." One can easily agree with Argue's statement, for the evidence of radical changes were on every hand. NAE leaders admit they are moving into the "mainstream of religion" in America as they turn to social action and attempt to salvage neighborhoods and cities.
At a press conference a discerning reporter responded to this new emphasis on social action by saying, "You are not just going mainstream; you are moving into the mainline denominational position." (She referred to the position of the National Council of Churches' [NCC] mainline denominations and their commitment to social action.)
Speakers at this year's convention included --
Dr. John Allan Knight, general superintendent, Church of the Nazarene; Jill Briscoe, author end speaker; Dr. Joseph M. Stowell, president, Moody Bible Institute; Bishop Gilbert E. Patterson, pastor, Temple of Deliverance, Memphis, Tennessee; Luis Palau, evangelist, Dr. Leith Anderson, pastor, Wooddale Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota; John Corts, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; and Bill McCartney, founder of Promise Keepers.
Two individuals served as the convention "worship leaders." One was Larry Bach, from North Central Bible College (an Assembly of God school), the other was Timothy J. Mercaldo, Gateway Cathedral, Staten Island, New York. North Central's Concert Chorale and Northwestern's College Choir were featured during the evening sessions.
Convention Program Coordinator Dr. Joseph E. Jackson said, "Only in unity can we overcome the forces of darkness. The NAE's diversity should be used positively so the Association can stand at the forefront of a time of great opportunity." Jackson, who is a member of the Church of God, serves as treasurer of the NAE.
The Sunday morning worship service (March 3) induced a message by Dr. John Allan Knight, Church of the Nazarene. He used Romans 1:14-16 as his text, speaking on Our Stewardship of the Gospel. Pointing out that Paul had been compelled to share the Gospel, Knight added that "Evangelicals must likewise be willing to serve and sacrifice to reach America. Let's minimize our differences and maximize our commonalties."
At the conclusion of the sermon, the Rev. Caroline Michael, Advent Christian Church, raised her hand over the group as she pronounced the benediction. She also serves as a member of the NAE's Women's Commission.
The Annual World Relief Luncheon was held on Sunday, March 3, and Dr. Art Gay, World Relief president, gave an update on their work. (World Relief is a subsidiary of the NAE.) Its unrestricted income for 1995 was more than $24 million. It was announced that Dr. Paul Toms was the recipient of World Relief's 17th Annual Helping Hands Award. Toms, a former NAE president, served as World Relief's board president for fourteen years. He will now be minister-at-large for World Relief. Dr. John White, president of Geneva College, a signer of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document, presented the award to Dr. Toms.
Palmer Yngsdal, Executive Director, Greater Minneapolis Association of Evangelicals, at the Sunday evening service welcomed the group to Minneapolis. It is the NAE's largest state organization, with 70 staff members involved in a variety of ministries.
Dr. David Rambo, NAE chairman, made some remarks concerning changes taking place in Evangelical circles, adding, "even the Presbyterians are lubricating their elbows"-that referred to the practice common to people in Pentecostal/Charismatic groups lifting hands to signify praise to God. Rambo also added that "Jesus prayed that we be one. What could it be if all the children of God could unite?"
Dr. Robert P. Dugan Jr., vice president, Office of Governmental Affairs, Washington, D.C., spoke positively concerning the Religious Freedom Amendment and the NAE's Statement of Conscience.
The James DeForest Murch Award was given to Dr. Carl F.H. Henry. Though unable to attend in person, Henry via tape mentioned his association with Murch. Dr. George K. Brushaber, president of Bethel Seminary, accepting the award for Dr. Henry, said, "Both Dr. Henry and myself are glad to see the NAE emphasis on oneness of denominations."
Before Jill Briscoe brought the Sunday evening message, Diana Gee, chairman of the NAE's Women's Commission led in prayer. Dr. Art Gay, World Relief president, introduced Mrs. Briscoe. She serves as vice president of World Relief. In her message she used the subject of "trees," based on Psalm 137, where the children of Israel hung their harps on the willow trees. "The Wimp Tree is when we keep silent and hang our testimony there, while the Gripe Tree is one that includes our complaints," Briscoe said. "The Grudge Tree is there because we won't forgive. Like the man who said, 'For thirty years my wife wrote with a pencil, but she never used the eraser."' Other trees Mrs. Briscoe mentioned were the Gloom Tree and the Grief Tree.
On March 4, Timothy J. Mercaldo led the worship while seated at the piano. A video prepared by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) on Celebrate Jesus-2000 was shown. SBC's goal is to "share Christ with everyone by the year 2000." (Later on, a pastor referred to this video and forcefully declared over the microphone, "The Southern Baptist Convention need not think I am going to join them in their program. I'm not a Baptist!" The spirit of unity and oneness was suddenly broken!!)
Upon being introduced by Dr. Leonard Hofman, Christian Reformed Church and chairman elect of the NAE, Dr. Joseph Stowell responded that "it is a delight to be with you." He asked if Christians had eroded the cause of eternity by alienating people who need to know Christ. Stowell said "Christ never wants the church to have an angry face. Christ's face is the face of compassion." He told of those who are reaching their communities with social action projects such as free legal services and food pantries. Stowell reminded everyone, "It's hard to argue with lives that are well-lived."
A business meeting followed the Bible study hour, and Dr. David Rambo, president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, gave his farewell address as the NAE's outgoing chairman. "Fifty years ago, Evangelicals were a small, divided, sometimes contentious band. Theological liberalism had so impacted the Church in the first half of this century that Evangelicals were left fighting for their lives. Our only hope of survival was to unite," Rambo said. He added, "Today the Evangelical movement has grown from weakness and disunity to the dominant face in American and World Christianity."
Rambo challenged his listeners "to gain further attention from the large number of parachurch communities, most of whom have little or no affiliation with the NAE. The NAE has been the only body that proposes to speak for Evangelicals and now stands at a place of growing possibility for unity and influence."
The Nominating Committee brought in its report, and the body voted on the individuals suggested) by that committee. Those elected to serve with president Donald Argue, Assembly of God, are: Leonard Hofman, Christian Reformed Church; Lamar Vest, Church of God; Ed Foggs, Church of God; Ed Davis, Evangelical Presbyterian; end Joseph Jackson, Church of God. We note that four of these six officers, including Dr. Argue, are from the Pentecostal/Charismatic denominations.
NAE released An Evangelical Manifesto: A Strategic Plan for the Dawn of the 21st Century. The Manifesto, prepared by Dr. Richard Chase, former president of Wheaton College, presents a call to the whole body of Christ in the U.S.A. and the commitment of the NAE to that call. Its action centers around five areas: prayer, repentance and reform, unity and cooperation, evangelism, and cultural impact.
Included in this document is an urging of "Evangelicals in a demonstration of love, to work alongside others who may not necessarily have an evangelical identity on various specific issues." The statement concludes, "Our faithful witness will result in revival, reconciliation and renewal." The NAE leaders would like this four-page statement to become public information and to be used by other groups.
A second paper that was presented and later approved was entitled, Statement of Conscience of the NAE Concerning Worldwide Religious Persecution. The president of the NAE, Dr. Argue, declared this to be the most important document ever passed by the NAE-even the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supported the statement. One can easily understand the Roman Catholic support because a part in it criticizes those in other countries who "refuse to permit Vatican appointments of Catholic Bishops and those political leaders who refuse to allow Bishops to appoint local priests."
The NAE announced the Episcopal Church had endorsed the document and that other church bodies are expected to follow that suit. NAE leaders regretted that the National Council of Churches refused to endorse the Statement of Conscience.
Dr. Argue, NAE president, had a private 35minute conference with President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office regarding the NAE's Statement of Conscience. The document calls upon the President to initiate a new public diplomacy commitment that openly condemns religious persecution. Argue also invited President Clinton to come to this NAE Convention to speak to this issue. Dr. Argue told the press, "We are disappointed that President Clinton chose not to accept our invitation to come to our convention and address how his Administration intends to curtail the worldwide persecution of Christians and others." Argue also wants the Most Favored Nation status removed from those countries that are violators.
The press members were informed by Dr. Argue that President Clinton had given a copy of his State of the Union Address for the NAE president to critique. Argue admitted the suggestions he made to Clinton were, for the most part, ignored.
This reporter asked Dr. Argue at his press conference if he would consider the proposed plan of Dr. Konrad Raiser, World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary, that the WCC reach out to embrace both Evangelicals and Pentecostals. Argue said he had received no direct contact from the WCC, but had established a relationship with Joan Brown Campbell, NCC general secretary. He said the initial meeting with Campbell came at their audience with Pope John Paul 11 while the Pope was in the U.S.A. Argue had also visited the NCC headquarters and Joan Brown Campbell had made a courtesy visit to the NAE offices. He added, "We have a mutual respect for one another and will be getting together later on."
Dr. Argue was asked about the NAE's financial difficulties and accompanying resultant downsizing of staff in light of the NAE ending the previous year in the black. Argue replied that the financial stress came because of increased expenses, but a large estate had recently been received which would be used to bring them out of the red ink. He said, "Funding will follow vision." (At a general session, nineteen denominations were recognized for their per capita giving to the NAE. Some of the nineteen groups honored with the "Open Hand Award" were the Conservative Baptist Association, the Evangelical Free Church, the Presbyterian Church of America, and the Wesleyan Church.)
Argue announced that the NAE has obtained free time on 1,300 radio stations. The NAE will use these spots to give updates on "revival and renewal."
Others present along with Dr. Argue at the 45 minute meeting with Pope John Paul II (when he visited the U.S. A.) were Bill Bright, Charles Colson, and Pat Robertson. This meeting was hosted and arranged by John Cardinal O'Connor and Bill Cardinal Keeler. Father Jeffrey Grohs of the U.S. Office of Catholics was the NAE's guest at this Convention in Minneapolis and was recognized publicly at a general assembly meeting.
The NAE changed its format at this year's convention, actually doing what both the National and World Councils of Churches have done for years. The entire group was divided into small "discussion tracks" with five options given: denomination, missions, education, pastor, and family. Moderators were already chosen and assigned, as well as the subjects to be discussed. The discussion focused around "culture." Among the questions considered by the five groups were: Do you consider culture to be a friend or enemy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What is your theology of culture? To what extent can a church plan its ministry to reach the culture without destroying the unity of the church? What are some developments within our culture that we can utilize to further the Gospel? (The family track responded, "Culture must be considered a friend of the Gospel." The missions track declared, "Utilize rock music, sports, and technology."
The smaller groups then gathered together in a general assembly for a concluding panel discussion. A panel of experts provided responses as the discussion leaders gave summation reports. NAE vice president David L. Melvin explained, "We can explore and seek strategies together rather than allowing traditional segmentation to tax our endeavors. The potential of this new forum is greater than the relative uncomfortableness of its novelty."
The final day of this year's convention began with a Global Briefing Breakfast sponsored by World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF). WEF represents 150 million Evangelicals worldwide through its national fellowships. (It is possible to be a member of the apostate World Council of Churches and the WEF at the same time!!) John Corts, president and chief operating officer of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, was the speaker at this breakfast.
Next year WEF's Tenth General Assembly is scheduled for May 6-15, 1997, in Vancouver. More than 600 evangelical fellowship representatives are expected to attend. Among the confirmed speakers are Luis Palau, Ravi Zacharias, Peter Kuzmic, and Brian Stiller, executive director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
The speaker at the Social Action Luncheon was Dr. Leith C. Anderson, Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He defined culture as "a patterned way in which persons relate to one another. We must connect with our culture. Some look on culture as an enemy and become separated and isolationists. We need to read the culture because Sunday services are not the building tool for a church. It is seminars and small groups that produce. I have changed our traditional service to the early morning one, and then at 11:15 we lock the organ, dress informally, and have praise choruses instead of hymns." As an example of change in the '90s, Anderson added, "The Worldwide Church of God (Herbert Armstrong's group) is now an Evangelical group and no longer a cult."
When all five discussion tacks came together that afternoon, Anderson spoke briefly on Preaching to the Contemporary Minds. His counsel included, "Don't communicate deductively, but inductively. Tell lots of stories. Leave the decision in the mind of the listener."
Anderson went on to add, "There's a mushrooming ecumenism in America with the ProLife Movement and Promise Keepers. These are reshaping the face of America and this is the way to go-use relationships."
Someone asked Dr. Anderson as to the procedure used by their church in starting another church. After first checking to see if the television cameras were off, so it would not be recorded, he said, "Our church is a member of the Baptist General Conference, but we are presently starting a church in union with the Christian Reformed denomination!" It would appear that Dr. Anderson, a graduate of Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary and Fuller Theological Seminary, has embraced an ecumenicity encouraged in both institutions.
Dr. Joseph Stowell, president of Moody, again led the Bible study hour on Tuesday. He spoke from John 17, "That they may be one." Stowell said, "Christ's prayer is up against all opposition. We have divisions among us. There are differences and regional preferences and class. God never intended that our differences would divide us. We belong to Christ so our mission and purpose are the same. If you belong to Christ you are lifted above the differences, and all else becomes secondary. Promise Keepers Clergy Conference in Atlanta showed the unity that is possible. We must be liberated so we have the capacity to work together."
He added, 'We must repent of our attitudes as I did in Atlanta. I went to a man who held different doctrines than I held and apologized because I never cared about him. Our differences are not that big, and we must realize this is what will build trust. Revival happens when God's people network together. The world shall know we are one by our love."
Listening to Dr. Stowell speaking on the NAE platform with words of commendation for these New Evangelicals, and knowing he is serving on the NAE's Education Commission, there came to this reporter's mind something Dr. Stowell's father had written back in 1972. His father at that time issued a communication to the churches in the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC), which he then served as its national representative. Dr. Stowell Sr. wrote, "The historic stand of our Association has been (and is) to hold full-orbed separation as the Bible teaches. By this we mean not only separation from apostates and unbelievers, but separation from believers who walk disorderly (Ephesians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 11-15). This is the basis for our stand against such compromises as ecumenical evangelism and those who practice it, even though they may be true believers."
Dr. Stowell Sr. added, "BE ON GUARD. At this very moment there is a strong thrust by a segment of Fundamentalism which is rejecting fullorbed Biblical separation and is pleading only separation from unbelievers. This plays right into the hand of the new evangelical camp and holds a position not far removed from the National Association of Evangelicals. I raise a warning flag to our churches and pastors. We came into being a completely separated entity and broke fellowship in service with those who would not break fellowship with unbelievers. This is a critical issue."
The warning forcefully given by Dr. Stowell Sr. has not been heeded by his son, who associates with, supports, and commends such men as Dr. Luis Palau, an ecumenical evangelist. Dr. Stowell Jr. is serving in a leadership capacity for Palau's Chicago Crusade in 1996.
After being introduced, Dr. Luis Palau, president of Luis Palau Evangelistic Association, at this NAE convention in Minneapolis publicly commended the president of Moody Bible Institute, Dr. Joseph Stowell Jr. Palau, who it is said has spoken face-to-face to eleven million people in 63 nations, spoke on History Past and Present. He challenged convention attendees to "practice our oneness in spite of the pressure of denominations. Promise Keepers is the touch of God with its message of reconciliation," Palau declared.
Palau made some major proposals for the NAE. He said the NAE is "the umbrella to use to work together, to stay together, and to be revitalized." He suggested the NAE put businessmen instead of ministers on its board of directors, organize the NAE in every city, invite minorities to take their place at the table in a big way, bring in the younger generation, and work together to capture the cities for Jesus. He mentioned that 1,600 churches in the Chicago area are participating in his giant crusade. (While the Roman Catholic diocese has not of fully endorsed the Chicago Crusade, individual Roman Catholic priests are involved in leadership roles.)
This convention made certain changes in the NAE statement of faith. "Man" was changed to "people" so the statement would be "politically correct." However, the NAE statement on the Bible includes "inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God." Not unexpectedly, no effort was made to add the word "inerrancy," which means "without error" to this statement on the Word of God. Back in 1972, at the NAE convention in St. Louis, Dr. Hudson Armerding, then president of the NAE, spoke out against those in the NAE who were rejecting inerrancy.
This year, Fuller Theological Seminary had one of the only 35 display booths in Minneapolis. One literature item that this school handed out at its display explains why Fuller removed inerrancy from its doctrinal statement. This New Evangelical school on the West Coast said, 'Where inerrancy refers to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the churches through the Biblical writers we support its use. Where the focus switches to an undue emphasis on matters like chronological details, precise sequence of events, and numerical allusions, we would consider the term misleading and inappropriate. A danger is that it implies a precision alien to the minds of the Bible writers and their own use of the Scriptures and it leads those who think there is one proven error in the Bible (however minor), to regard its whole teaching as subject to doubt."
This reporter would emphasize that Fuller Theological Seminary leaders, along with other New Evangelicals, appear to ignore the fact that either the Bible includes error or it does not. Fuller Seminary, founded by the late Dr. Charles E. Fuller, has embraced and forthrightly teaches the higher critical view taught in apostate schools everywhere. (In 1995 Fuller Seminary hosted a meeting of the World Council of Churches, with the president of Fuller welcoming the apostate leadership of the WCC to his institution.)
At the NAE's 54th annual banquet, Bill McCartney, founder of Promise Keepers, was given the NAE's Lay Person of the Year Award. The NAE explained that this award is presented annually to someone who demonstrates leadership in Evangelical activity and thought.
At this same banquet, Dr. Billy Graham was recognized with the NAE's Lifetime Achievement Award. John Corts, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association president, accepted the award for Dr. Graham. Graham addressed the convention via video.
The final activity of this year's convention was the passing of the gavel from the outgoing NAE chairman (David L. Rambo) to the new chairman (Dr. Leonard I. Hofman).
1. In the 1992 book published by the NAE, written by Arthur H. Matthew's, entitled Standing Up, Standing Together, the record of the NAE's birth is given. A challenge was issued by the American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC) back in 1942 to have only one organization instead of two. The ACCC, which had been organized in 1941, stood (and continues to stand) for complete separation from the liberal, apostate Federal Council of Churches (now the National Council of Churches). Such complete separation was rejected by the NAE leaders. J. Elwin Wright declared, "We should be able to at least shake hands over the tops of the fences." Stephen Paine (president of Houghton College) said, "The feeling of the NAE men has been that our organization was not founded to fight anybody." Lewis Sperry Chafer of Dallas Seminary observed, "I believe our first obligation is in the line of positive proclamation of God's truth rather than a negative objection against some specific enemy."
Fiftyfour years later it is evident that the NAE and NCC are working together. The NAE has moved from "shaking hands over the tops of fences" to being in the same camp. An inclusive position, such as that of the NAE, can only lead to more and more identification and compromise.
2. Dr. Donald Argue, NAE president, is moving his organization at a rapid pace toward the paths of the mainline denominations. His association with Joan Brown Campbell, NCC leader, reveals the direction he is taking. In his book, Claiming the Center: Churches and Conflicting Worldviews, Jack Rogers wrote about holding the middle position: "There is a necessary role in our culture for mainstream denominations if they will claim the center, ecclesiastically, intellectually, and morally. Most people are struggling to find the center. They want to be rooted in a stable tradition but they need support in coping with modernity. They are neither fundamentalists nor liberals. They are somewhere in the middle. And that is where a mainstream church should be."
3. The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) refused to invite President Bill Clinton to speak at their convention. However, Dr. Argue invited President Clinton to come to Minneapolis to speak to the NAE. The issues NRB raises about President Clinton's position regarding abortion, homosexuality, and affirmative action have not changed. These apparently did not hinder the NAE leaders from extending an invitation for President Clinton to speak at their meeting.
4. The NAE Convention recognized official visitors from NCC churches including two men and one woman, all three being pastors from American Baptist Convention churches. Father Jeffrey Grohs, U.S. Office of Catholics, as previously mentioned, along with one individual from an Ecumenical Institute were also recognized from the NAE platform.
5. The NAE represents 42,500 churches from 47 member denominations, and individual congregations from an additional 26 denominations, as well as several hundred independent churches. Their membership includes 245 parachurch ministries and educational institutions. Thus the NAE would claim to represent over 27 million people. The largest constituency in the NAE comes from Pentecostal/Charismatic groups.
6. While its motto is "Cooperation Without Compromise," the NAE practices just the opposite. One can be in the NAE and the NCC at the same time.
7. A defender of the position held by the NAE recently wrote to this reporter: "We would rather come together on issues that unite us, than let some of our differences separate us." In his defense this individual overlooked the many passages of Scripture that forbid fellowship with unbelievers and those who err from the Faith. For example, Ephesians 5:11 is skill in the Bible and it still enjoins true believers to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."
The American Council of Christian Churches is a Fundamentalist multidenominational organization whose purposes are to provide information, encouragement, and assistance to Bible-believing churches, fellowships, and individuals; to preserve our Christian heritage through exposure of, opposition to, and separation from doctrinal impurity and compromise in current religious trends and movements; to protect churches from religious and political restrictions, subtle or obvious, that would hinder their ministries for Christ; and to promote obedience to the inerrant Word of God.