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Protestantism and Non-Christian Religions

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American Council of Christian Churches

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

A federation of conservative Protestant denominations, the American Council of Christian Churches was founded in 1941 by Carl McIntire, a former Presbyterian minister. Its avowed aim is to preserve the basic tenets of what the member bodies consider the essentials of Reformation Protestantism. McIntire and his followers organized the American Council as a rival body to the National Council of Churches, which they believed to be infected with Modernism and communism. See NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES.

In 1936 the Presbyterian Church in the United States was involved in a doctrinal controversy with McIntire and J. Gresham Machen, founder of the Presbyterian Church in America. These men had openly criticized the teaching of the parent church, and action was taken against them. McIntire, according to his own account, was ousted for opposing his denomination’s theological liberalism and its compromise with Christian fundamentals. The Presbyterian Assembly declared it found him guilty of “advocating rebellion against the constituted authorities of the Church.”

After many legal battles, McIntire lost his pastorate, but his congregation of 1,200 loyal members renounced the denomination’s jurisdiction. Both Machen and McIntire favored a fundamentalist concept of Christianity, now the hallmark of the American Council of Churches. This fundamentalism includes belief in the divinity of Christ as God Incarnate, in the inerrancy of the Bible as the infallible word of God, in Mary as the virgin mother of Christ, in the bodily resurrection of Christ, in the resurrection of the dead on the last day, in Christ’s atonement for the sins of mankind, and in His early Second Coming to judge the living and the dead. See CREED.

Although the American Council of Churches currently numbers only some dozen fundamentalist denominations, its impact on Protestantism in the United States has been much greater than the membership would indicate. This influence has been exercised in various ways. Its leaders have consistently criticized the National Council of Churches for its libertarian spirit; basic Christian doctrines are said to be compromised in the interests of efficiency. Its aggressive dogmatism, though criticized as antiquarian, has fostered a growing number of Bible-minded denominations and produced a powerful force in American Protestantism. In recent years, its use of communications media has made millions of unchurched Americans aware of their Christian heritage.

More important, the American Council, with its emphasis on faith and a basic creed, has clarified a dimension of Protestantism that church mergers generally tend to obscure. This emphasis has won admiration and respect even among those who are not sympathetic to the fundamentalism of McIntire and his followers.


Catholic Encyclopedia for School and Home
Vol. 1., 1965, pp. 190-191

Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica

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