Lutheran Merger

Representatives of four American Lutheran bodies, with a combined membership of more than 2,861,000, will meet in Chicago on December 12–13 to begin conversations toward organic union.

The denominations are the United Lutheran Church in America, Augustana Lutheran Church, Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church (Suomi Synod) and American Evangelical Lutheran Church.

All Lutheran denominations in America were invited last December to “consider such organic union as will give real evidence of our unity in the faith.”

Three other Lutheran bodies now engaged in negotiations for a separate merger said they will be “unable to participate in the meeting, whose sole stated purpose is to consider organic union.” They are Evangelical Lutheran, American Lutheran and United Evangelical Lutheran.

Also absent from the unity conference will be the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Wisconsin Synod and the Norwegian Synod. They declined the invitation on the grounds that they cannot discuss organic union before doctrinal agreement has been reached.

Baptists Add Colleges

A trend toward establishing Southern Baptist colleges in large cities will result in the opening of perhaps 12 new schools in the next 15 years.

(Records show that it costs about half as much per student to operate a college in a city of over 50,000 population).

R. Orin Cornett, executive secretary of the Southern Baptist Education Commission, said some of the schools will be junior colleges and universities.

The plans, hailed in many quarters, aren’t meeting with approval everywhere. Dr. W. A. Diman, executive secretary of the Chicago Baptist Association of the American Baptist Convention, denounced the move to Chicago and the North as “a bad case of bigitis.”

Dr. Diman, who said Southern Baptists intend to start 60 new churches and open a theological seminary in Chicago, said such action may “further divide a badly-splintered Protestantism here.”

(The University of Chicago has offered a 150,000-square-foot area on its campus to American Baptist Convention officials for headquarters of the denomination. Adoption or rejection will be decided at the annual meeting in Philadelphia next May.)

Major Religious Trends

Intense interest in the Bible and increased interest in theology on the part of laymen are among the major religious trends of the past 10 years, Dr. L. Harold DeWolf, of the Boston University school of theology, said recently. Dr. DeWolf, speaking to deans of Methodist pastors’ schools at Dickson, Tennessee, also noted that “extreme controversy” among theologians has given way to “a mood of mediation and communications and conciliation.”

Article continues below

He added:

“It was only a few years ago that theologians couldn’t understand each other and didn’t want to.”

The Bible, he said, occupies a place of greatly enhanced esteem and influence over previous years.

“There’s a new and increasing hunger for real biblical learning,” Dr. DeWolf asserted.

Unhappy Liquor Stores

God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform!

Church folk of Hamilton County, Tennessee, decided they wanted to vote Chattanooga’s 54 legal liquor stores out of business.

The Christians organized under the leadership of Major General Paul H. Jordan, who is retiring as leader of Tennessee’s National Guard in order to give more time to the three rural Methodist churches he is pastoring.

Sufficient signatures were obtained for a referendum, but Jordan, using the military’ tactic of surprise, kept the wets guessing as to when the vote would be called. The drys reportedly favored a special referendum because of the heavy vote in “controlled” wards on general election days. To offset this planning, the wets got some signatures of their own and filed for an unprecedented referendum to be held on November 6, with a big vote assured by the Presidential election.

The battle about bottles began, with the liquor store operators catching it from all sides. They had to finance the wet campaign. Political leaders of one party, with the “say so” on retail licenses, put the squeeze on them for funds. The other party, irritated about the money given to the opposition, passed the word their followers would vote dry unless contributions were forthcoming.

J. B. Collins, staff writer for The Chattanooga News-Free Press, said the liquor dealers, fearful of being drained by politicians and then being voted out of existence, were in a sad plight … somewhat like the farmer who knocked down a hornets’ nest while trying to beat out a grass fire around his barn. He didn’t know whether to fight fire or swat hornets.

Then came the vote. With well-organized church support, the drvs collected 29,704, and the wets trailed with 27,180. The wets asked a court injunction to keep the election commission from certifying the results, on charges that phrasing of the ballots and vote machines was confusing. Chancellor J. Clifford Curry denied the injunction and the votes were certified.

Article continues below

The 54 stores have 90 days to liquidate their liquid.

This case may be the only one in history where whiskey stores asked for a referendum in which they were voted out of business.

Philadelphia Story

The New Berean Baptist Church is located in a section of Philadelphia where a large part of the population is colored.

Eighteen months ago the church called as its pastor the Rev. David E. Gregory, 40, a graduate of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

He believed in ministering to the people of his community, no matter what their color. In 1955 about 30 per cent of children in the Vacation Church School were colored. This year, a Negro minister was invited to participate in the Vacation School program. Another adult Negro worker was enlisted.

The enrollment was 194 children, and 80 per cent of them were Negroes.

Deacons of the church became alarmed at the trend, especially when Negroes began attending the worship services. A questionnaire was sent out by the deacons to the membership, asking three questions:

First, should the church seek members among the Negro race?

Second, would members be willing to receive Negroes into the church if they applied?

Third, would the present members remain in the church if Negroes were received?

To the first question, most members said they would not seek Negro members, but would not reject those who applied of their own volition. A majority replied in the affirmative to the second. In answering the third, 31 said they would leave and over 50 said they would stay.

The deacons then sent out a letter to the congregation stating that the church policy would be neither to seek nor admit Negroes to membership. A special meeting of the congregation was called. Mr. Gregory said that according to the church constitution the deacons could not formulate a policy for the congregation. Deacons pressed for a vote to uphold their stand. The church constitution required a month’s notice before a vote could be taken on a change of policy and said a two-thirds majority vote of those present was necessary in order for it to become a law of the church. A majority endorsed the deacons’ stand when a vote was taken.

Mr. Gregory resigned as pastor.

Integration problems, seemingly, are not confined to the South!


Milestone In Mexico

The year 1957 will mark the 100th anniversary of Benito Juarez’s “Reform Constitution of 1857,” a milestone in Mexico’s struggle to achieve civil and religious liberties.

Article continues below

Appropriate ceremonies throughout the republic will celebrate the occasion.

The Reform Constitution opened the doors to Protestant missions and introduced evangelical Christianity to the people of Mexico, after 300 years of domination by the Roman Catholic clergy.

Benito Juarez, described by Stuart Chase (author of Mexico—A Study of Two Americas) as “perhaps the greatest name in Mexican history,” was a full-blooded Zapotec Indian from the state of Oaxaca. He was educated, first for the priesthood and later for the bar, becoming Minister of Justice and eventually Constitutional President of the Republic.

As president, he legislated against the special privileges of the military and the clergy, confiscating vast land holdings of the church valued at $125,000,000. Into his Reform Constitution he wrote the laws which decreed the separation of Church and State, severed relations with the Vatican, placed priests under civil authority, closed parochial schools and made the state responsible for the education of all children, forbade churches to own property, prohibited foreigners from officiating as priests or ministers, reserved the right to perform marriages and burials, and guaranteed liberty and equality for all religions.

His efforts were interrupted by foreign (French) intervention and the ill-fated empire of the Hapsburg Archduke Maximilian. Juarez died in Mexico City on July 18, 1872, before his program was carried into effect.

Thirty years of dictatorship under Porfirio Diaz further delayed the reforms. It was not until “The Revolution of 1910,” which overthrew Diaz, and “The Constitution of 1917,” which embodied all of the major tenets of the first reform, that Juarez’s dream of religious freedom for the common people was realized.

It is within the framework of this constitution that modern missions and churches operate today in Mexico.

Since the constitution forbids churches to own property, land and buildings for mission schools and hospitals are held in the name of legally constituted holding companies composed of individual missionaries and Protestant Mexicans.

When some of the mission schools were closed, student homes and hostels were opened, providing dormitory facilities under Christian supervision for Protestant young people attending nearby government schools.

Since no foreigner may be a minister or priest, only native-born Mexicans are pastors of the churches and only they may officiate at the sacraments. Foreign evangelistic missionaries, however, are allowed to preach, to hold special services and to engage in personal work—completely unmolested.

Article continues below

Celebration of the centenary of Juarez’s reforms is expected to be bitterly opposed by anti-Protestant church leaders, and some observers predict that the occasion will be used as a pretext for the Catholic church to make an open bid at regaining some of her former prestige and power. Should this occur, trouble undoubtedly will ensue.

But Juarez evidently thought the reforms were worth any trouble involved. He said, “Upon the development of Protestantism largely depends the happiness of our country.”


Faithful And Fruitful

The Rev. David Finstrom had two great assets when he arrived in Venezuela in 1899—faith in God and willingness to serve.

He began his pioneering work in La Victoria, Aragua.

At the beginning of the century, when a great battle during a civil war was fought in La Victoria, he and his wife did everything they could to help the people. They cared for the wounded and dead.

As a reward, Grab J. V. Gomez, when he became president of the country, granted Mr. Finstrom a personal right to address the Congress of Venezuela. Gomez, a tyrant for 26 years, was a great admirer of the missionary. A mistress of the president was converted under the preaching of the faithful servant.

Mr. Finstrom lived to see the small beginning grow into churches and conventions of churches, with thousands of believers. A Bible Institute was founded. In 1914 he published the first issue of his paper, El Faro Evangelico (The Evangelical Beacon), which spread throughout the country.

The 57 years of fruitful service came to an end recently when he died in Palo Negro, Aragua State. His widow survives.


Tongue In Cheek

Twenty-three Protestant ministers of Mount Ida, Arkansas, have proposed, with a trace of sarcasm, that speeding, theft and prostitution be legalized and taxed for revenue in the state.

The clergymen attacked arguments that “drinking and gambling should be legalized because people are going to do them anyway,” and said, “it is just as consistent to legalize and collect taxes” from other vices.

Bible And Flag

The Woodmont Kiwanis Club of Nashville, Tennessee, is sponsoring a drive to place a Bible and American flag in every home of the city.

Profits will be used to buy recreational equipment for church orphanages.

Article continues below

Offhand, the combination appears to be the world’s best buy!


Clergymen as a group are “not good, safe drivers,” in the opinion of M. L. Allison, accident prevention department of Employers Mutual Casualty Company, Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Most clergymen drive like they are going to a fire,” he said.

Digest …

Dr. Harold J. Ockenga honored on 20th anniversary as minister of famed Park Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts … A. F. (Tex) Keirsey, church editor of Amarillo (Texas) News-Globe, wins 1956 Press Award of Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Rep. Ruth Thompson (R-Mich.), defeated at polls on November 6, seen working cheerfully as volunteer at Washington, D. C. Central Union Mission on November 7 … Superior Court Judge in Montreal, Canada, rules testimony not acceptable from witness who does not believe in heaven and hell … The Rev. H. Lawrence Love, Jr., pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, appointed associate executive director of World Evangelical Fellowship.

Baptist General Convention of Texas approves record $10,000,000 budget for missionary work during year.

Billy Graham speaks to over 7,000 in Moody Church auditorium and overflow halls. Service relayed to seven other churches … Mrs. Billy “Ma” Sunday, 88, widow of noted evangelist of 1920’s, elected president of Winona Lake (Indiana) Bible Conference.

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.