American Council of Christian Churches
74th Annual Convention, October 20-22, 2015
Reformation Bible Church, Darlington, Maryland
Resolution on the Papal Visit to America
Until fifty years ago, no Roman pontiff dared to enter the United States. In 1965, Pope Paul VI visited New York to view the Vatican’s pavilion at the World’s Fair, to visit the United Nations, and to confer with President Lyndon Johnson. His time in New York amounted to little more than 24 hours. Nevertheless, the visit, which was the fruit of the ecumenical movement and New Evangelical compromise with it, served to soften a longstanding Protestant opposition to anything having to do with Roman Catholicism.
In September 2015, Pope Francis spent the better part of a week in the United States, during which he received a state welcome at the White House, addressed a joint session of Congress (a first for a pope) at the warm invitation of Republican leaders, addressed the United Nations General Assembly, and participated in Roman Catholic events in New York and Philadelphia. During this period, the national press and media gushed in praise for the political, environmental, and economic ideas that the pope promotes. Any sentiments the pope maintains about pro-life views or his professed opposition to same-sex marriage vanished into the haze of leftist rhetoric that, as the first Latin American pope, he uses to excoriate the wealth-producers of the world.
The increasing weakness of American evangelicalism became sadly apparent as evangelical leaders either rushed to embrace the pope and his vision or else remained in the cowardly silence of neutrality. It was hardly surprising that Rick Warren received an invitation to join the pope in one of the public events in Philadelphia. Warren acknowledged that there are differences between evangelicals and Roman Catholics, but he claimed that the pope believes in the same God and labors for the success of the same Gospel. The groundwork that Billy Graham laid for cooperation with Rome as far back as 1950 has yielded an American Protestantism that no longer knows what it believes and that even wishes, ruefully, that the Reformation had never happened.
The distressing aspect of this spectacle is that, when it comes to Roman Catholicism, nothing has changed. Pope Francis, the first Jesuit ever elected to that position, echoes the familiar refrains of the Council of Trent when he speaks about Mary, the Mass, and the system of a priesthood that professes to reenact the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross in an unbloody manner on the mass altar. Despite this reality, the overwhelming majority of professing evangelicals welcomed the papal visit because they saw in the pope’s rhetoric a counter, however slight, to the hostile secularism that has come to dominate the culture.
Meanwhile, those who adhere to the Word of God understand that the message Pope Francis proclaimed during the week he spent in the United States, while attempting to focus on climate change and “homosexual rights,” was really an insistence on the view of salvation that has characterized Roman Catholicism for centuries, a view that continues to hold its adherents in the bondage of darkness and drags them inexorably toward final condemnation and the fires of Hell.
Therefore, the American Council of Christian Churches, at its annual convention, October 20-22, 2015, at Reformation Bible Church, Darlington, MD, resolves to maintain the truth of the Gospel that salvation is on the basis of grace alone without works, and that the just shall live by faith. The delegates to the convention refuse the temptation to go along with professing evangelicals who betray the sacrifices of the Reformers by downplaying the historic chasm between those who believe in the faith of the Scriptures and those who imagine that their works of penance will actually achieve favor with God. We urge the people of God in these days to recognize the Roman pontiff for what he is—a force for assaulting the truth and for the promotion of spiritual deception in its place. We call the people of God to take their stand with the Lord Jesus Christ, rejecting the testimonials of those who claim that they are true to the Savior while they promote that which He has condemned.