The thunderstorm swept across the flat Ohio countryside and enveloped a college field house. The church folk inside sang, “Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,” and recited a new statement of faith. As flashes of lightning seemed even to dart their way into the building, one observer murmured jocularly, “I don’t think the Lord likes that statement.” Then amidst the crash of thunder, and through a crackling microphone, Dr. Edwin T. Dahlberg, president of the National Council of Churches, portrayed the horrors of the atomic age.

Such was the apocalyptic setting provided the second General Synod of the United Church of Christ for the convocation of its four-day meeting at Oberlin College. Two years before in neighboring Cleveland, the organization was begun with acceptance of a plan for union by the General Council of the 1,401,565-member Congregational Christian Churches and the 807,280-member Evangelical and Reformed Church. The traveler often finds it hard to get from Cleveland to Oberlin but this trip had been more difficult than most.

Behind the 700 delegates (and apparently ahead as well) was a road strewn with bitter recriminations and even lawsuits, as many Congregationalists had reaffirmed faithfulness to historic autonomous polity and shied away from compromise with presbyterian or pyramidal government of the E & R Church.

But now the delegates felt history was walking beside them. And if history faltered somewhat at this convention and delegates went away disappointed at the slackening of momentum of this “most daring leap of faith into the ecumenical church in our modern times,” it had to be conceded their task was difficult despite assured absence of merger opponents.

Meeting in Finney ...

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