The National Council of United Presbyterian Men was cautioned against the perils of ecclesiastical meddling in political and economic affairs, in which church leaders are fallible, to the neglect of inspired precepts and principles, by J. Howard Pew, president of The Foundation of the Presbyterian Church in U.S.A.

The session in Chicago’s Palmer House marked the first united meeting in a century of laymen of the Presbyterian and United Presbyterian Churches, scheduled to merge in May.

Mr. Pew declared that the Foundation, already gifted with more than $700,000, is concerned not only with acquisition and custody of funds, but with “the preservation of a spiritual heritage of precept and principle” embodied in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Mr. Pew stressed the basic Presbyterian tenets of individual freedom to exercise private judgment in matters of conscience, and the corporate church’s restriction from involvement in matters that are properly the concern of the state.

The founders of Presbyterianism, he granted, “fully believed that the teachings of Christ should be extended to every aspect of human affairs,” and it is “the very essence of Presbyterianism that churchmen shall apply the principles of their religion to every problem that confronts them.” But he emphasized the right of individual determination in public affairs and clerical fallibility in political and economic matters: “If we subject ourselves to the advice or opinions of a governing group in a matter which each of us ought to decide for himself, we are simply ascribing to it an infallibility which, in fact, it does not possess.” The Westminster Divines, he noted, incorporated into the Confession of Faith a statement on the possibility ...

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