Friday, June 20, 2008

The Brethren and the Ecumenical Church

On Friday evening, June 20, 1958, Kurtis Naylor addressed the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference meeting in Des Moines, Iowa on "The Brethren and the Ecumenical Church." Naylor was pastor of the Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Denver, under appointment as Church of the Brethren representative to the World Council of Churches and director of Brethren Service in Europe.

Elfan Reece of the World Council of Churches recently told of visiting the refugees in the Middle East. In talking with one of the men he asked him, "What would you most like to have?" The man paused a bit and then said, "I would most like to have a key." "A key?" said Dr. Reece in surprise. "Yes," said the man, "a key to a house, that I might have a home."

Tonight the question facing us is: "Do we have a key to give to the men of the world that they might have a home?"

It is just in this situation that we must face the fact that God calls His church, His people, that they might be His ministers to the men of the world. ... We, the Church of the Brethren, in this two-hundred-fiftieth anniversary year, are called to expect great things of God. This is the "Day of the Lord." ... We are called to expect a great summons from God rather than to protect ourselves, or to enshrine our heritage, or to harden it into an idol for our own worship.

As we gather here in this Annual Meeting, it may be necessary that we concern ourselves with program and problems, with the planning and the progress of what we have and are to do. But we must never forget that this concern with our inner life and the outward work of our labor in the "vineyard of God" is to be always in the light of the call of God in order that the world might believe that Jesus in the Christ.

Naylor continues by addressing two passages of Scripture: (1) God's Call to Abram (Genesis 12) and God's Call to the Church (John 17); before concluding with (3) God's Call to the Brethren Today.

Our task in this anniversary year of the Church of the Brethren is threefold. First, we must call the church to a new acceptance of her missionary task to the whole world. Secondly, in obedient answer to the prayer of our Lord we must do everything in our power to extend the areas of co-operation between all Christians in the fulfillment of that task by seeking to draw all into fellowship with Him and through Him, being united each to the other. And, third, we must see that it is time for the Church of the Brethren to press with all vigor the necessary steps, the encounter, and the discussion leading to full organic and visible union with some other church in the family of God, so that the day may be hastened when all the family of God shall be united to Him....

Source: The Adventurous Future, Chapter 22