Returning to YMCA work in August of 1955, I was again confronted with the movement’s confusing “C.” I say “again,” because I had worked in various YMCAs, part-time and temporarily, while a student from 1948 until 1953. I say “confusing,” because I know of no other Christian movement which tries so desperately to define its Christian content in such general and inclusive terms, yet conclusive enough to say, “We are Christian.”

What Is Christianity?

Just what kind of Christianity is this? Is it possible to have no formal Christian theology and yet be quite sure of what is meant by “Christian”? Can we be Christian by just saying we are, without reference to stated New Testament doctrines? I am not sure I wish to have these questions answered completely in the negative, though I lean in that direction. Neither do I feel comfortable, as a Christian, in a situation where we find ourselves somewhat embarrassed by certain New Testament convictions lest we seem “too much like a church.” Nor do I feel secure among those who wish the YMCA to be free of any kind of religious identification lest some type of theological setting tend to make us exclusive.

Almost every conference voices a Christian emphasis in our YMCA circles. Each edition of The Forum and The Bulletin expresses it. It is often mentioned whenever two or more “Y” secretaries discuss YMCA problems. But on such occasions the subject is directed back to our simple, dynamic origin as a Christian movement, and to names such as George Williams and Dwight L. Moody.

The reaction to these men and to our origin seems to be twofold. In most cases there is some pride that we, the YMCA, were able to produce such respected men and that our movement is known for its religious color, its ...

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