Celebrating the 150th anniversary of “The Declaration and Address” of Thomas Campbell, more than 3,000 members of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ assembled in Atlanta June 24–28.

This annual gathering was unique in many ways. It was made up of ministers and laymen who are generally considered to be a part of the International Convention of Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) and are so reported in its Year Book. But because of the congregational polity of this communion they are free to associate themselves in this testimony for “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” In fact, this North American Christian Convention, which is considered “non-denominational, non-official and non-delegate,” has been meeting for 32 years.

“Christian Unity: Our Unchanging Plea” was the Atlanta theme, consonant with the thrust of the famous document of Thomas Campbell’s written in 1809. More than 4 million church members in America and another million overseas acknowledge this religious heritage, although they are now of three schools of thought as to how “the plea” should be implemented.

Olin W. Hay, convention president, opened the sessions with a definitive address in which he held that true ecumenicity can be achieved in our modern world only if there is a recognition of the authority of Christ, conformity to the New Testament pattern, diversity in matters of human opinion and charity toward all men. Other speakers dealt with Christian unity in church history, in theological terms, with respect to current ecumenical movements, and in its practical aspects among the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. Louis Cochran, author of The Fool of God, an historical novel based on the life of Alexander Campbell, was a special guest of the convention.

Extra-session activities were as colorful and important as the convention proper. Some 60 exhibits represented various publishing, educational, missionary, benevolent and evangelistic agencies supported by “the brethren.”

Over 20 colleges and seminaries (not listed in the Disciples’ Year Book) were represented. When theological liberals took over the major schools of the communion and the means of training a ministry, a “crash program” of education began which has produced amazing results. These rapidly developing schools now enroll over 3,000 students annually, most of which are training for the ministry or mission field. Two schools represented at Atlanta—Milligan College and Johnson Bible College—antedate this new movement and have long been noted for their loyalty to the biblical faith. Among newer schools the largest are Cincinnati Bible Seminary, Lincoln Bible Institute, Kentucky Christian College, Manhattan Bible College, Pacific Bible Seminary, Midwest Christian College, Minnesota Bible College, Atlanta Christian College, and San Jose Bible College.

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The missions exhibits told a thrilling story of work on 15 foreign fields by more than 500 missionaries largely trained in the above-mentioned schools. These evangelical agencies are characterized as “direct-support missions” and operate independently of the International Convention’s United Christian Missionary Society. The Philippine Mission is a good example of the work being done by the missions represented in Atlanta. It was established by Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Wolfe and now has 286 churches with 40,000 members in five language districts. Each district has its own training school for workers. Native leadership is in full control of all operations. Within recent months a beautiful six-acre site near the new capital of the Islands has been purchased for Manila Bible Seminary. Last year the Philippine Mission reported 1,428 baptisms at the annual convention where over 4,000 delegates registered.

The youthful mein of the ministers in attendance at Atlanta was noticed by visitors. Despite their conservative Bible-based theological views, these leaders exuded the modern spirit, talked not of the past but optimistically of the future. An exhibit devoted to the Christian Service Camps for youth of the churches gave out information that 36,000 registered in these camps last year. It is quite evident that the “Conservative Disciples” are on the march and that their best days are ahead.

The Atlanta convention was unique in another respect. It passed no resolutions. On this account the local press was hard put to devise newsworthy headlines. The lobbies were the scene of many a hot discussion over integration, Red China, pacifism, a possible steel strike, nuclear fallout, and West Berlin, but no one dared to bring any of these controversial matters to a vote on the floor of the convention. There is an unwritten law that matters of opinion, especially in social and political realms, are not pertinent to a Christian convention. Full individual freedom must be recognized in the application of Christian principles to daily living.

A mass Communion service in the Municipal Auditorium on Sunday climaxed the convention. This traditional observance, in a spirit of deep devotion and commitment to Christ, is characteristic of all national gatherings of the Disciples.

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Next year’s convention will be held in the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio, July 12–15. All arrangements will be in the hands of a Continuation Committee of 100, which is the convention’s only “official” organizational device. Edwin Crouch, an attorney from Columbus, Indiana, was elected president of the committee; Oren Whitten, minister, Largo, Florida, vice president; Hugh D. Morgan, minister, Inglewood, California, secretary; and Judge Gerald A. Fugit, Odessa, Texas, treasurer. T. K. Smith, who resigned as secretary after 25 years of service, was appropriately honored.

Affirming Conservatism

Questions of biblical infallibility and ecumenical cooperation on the foreign mission field brought forth decidedly conservative decisions at last month’s annual synod of the Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Some were inclined to view the decisions as reflecting an increased “fundamentalist” or separatist trend in the staunchly Calvinistic, 500-congregation, quarter-million-member denomination. Others regarded the actions as stemming a “trend to modernism.” The moves seemed to reflect clearly the growing power of an ultra-conservative wing that has been critical in recent years of the younger, sometimes called more progressive, leadership of the denomination and its educational and missionary outreach.

The synod adopted six statements on inspiration and infallibility of Scripture as formulated by the Reformed Ecumenical Synod held in South Africa last year and a resolution of its own which read:

“It is inconsonant with the Creeds to declare or suggest that there is an area of Scripture in which it is allowable to posit the possibility of actual historical inaccuracies” (cf. Art 5 Belgic Confessions, “believing without doubt all things contained therein”).

A study committee was appointed to: (1) study the matters of inspiration and infallibility in the light of Scripture and the creedal standards; and (2) examine further whether views of Dr. John Kromminga, president of the church’s seminary in Grand Rapids, are consistent with the creeds.

The controversy had involved a 1959 Calvin seminary graduate John Hoogland, author of articles in Stromata, seminary student paper. Kromminga and several members of the faculty had defended Hoogland’s right to express himself. However, a senior member of the faculty, Dr. Martin J. Wyngaarden, charged before the synod that the young (41) seminary president had compromised the seminary in his handling of the matter, that he had “committed the seminary in its policies to a drastic reinterpretation” of historic creedal statements concerning infallibility of the Bible.

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The synod was subsequently assured that Hoogland agreed with the creedal resolution and, by a near-unanimous vote, he was admitted to the ministry. He plans to enter the Army chaplaincy.

The synod frowned on cooperative training of pastors in the Nigerian mission field as embodied in the Theological College of Northern Nigeria, a united seminary project sponsored by several indigenous African denominations, the Sudan United Mission and the African General Conference. After a full day of debate, it was decided to limit Christian Reformed participation to the continued loan of Dr. Harry Boer as teacher of Reformed theology, a status he has held since 1955. At the same time the synod instructed its Board of Missions and its staff of 40 missionaries in Nigeria to develop its own pastors’ training program with a view to future establishment of a distinctively Reformed theological seminary for training African pastors.

A protest was authorized to be sent to Defense Secretary Neil H. McElroy against the “unnecessary use of the Sabbath for regular training of the National Guard and reserves,” an issue that has been brought to a head in some localities recently and especially by the request for a National Guard officer’s resignation in the Michigan area.

The synod rejected a proposal to establish a special department of religious education within the denomination at this time. It also rejected another of its committee’s recommendations to appoint one of its clergy to a special mission promotion post.

Construction of a half-million dollar Calvin seminary building on the new Knollcrest campus site outside Grand Rapids was given the immediate go-ahead signal. The synod authorized Calvin’s board of trustees to sell the present crowded campus in Grand Rapids. It covers 20 acres with 6 buildings, as compared to the 166 acres of the new Knollcrest campus.

P. D.

People: Words And Events

Deaths: Retired Methodist Bishop William Walter Peele, 77, in Laurinburg, North Carolina … Dr. A. Roland Elliott, 64, director of immigration services of Church World Service in Marlboro, New Hampshire … Dr. J. L. McElhany, one-time president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, in Glendale, California … Dr. O. G. Wilson, 67, general superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, in Houghton, New York.

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Appointments: To the newly-created office of executive vice-president (chief administrative officer) of Baylor University, Judge Abner V. McCall … as professor of Christian philosophy and theology at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Thorwald W. Bender … to the Rylands Professorship of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis in the University of Manchester, England, Dr. F. F. Bruce … as professor of journalism at Bethany College, James W. Carty Jr.

Elections: As first woman moderator of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, Miss Frances Kapitzky

as moderator of the Church of the Brethren, Dr. Edward K. Ziegler … as president of the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Bishop George W. Baber … as moderator of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Virgil T. Weeks … as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Dr. Bernard J. Bamberger … as Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hamburg (Germany) Pastor Karl Witte … as president of the Association of Council Secretaries, the Rev. H. W. Hollis.

Resignations: As pastor of Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Thomas Albert Fry Jr. (to accept the pastorate of First Presbyterian Church, Dallas, Texas) … as executive secretary of the American Bible Society, the Rev. Richard H. Ellingson … as president of Scarritt College, Dr. Foye G. Gibson.

Grant: (Fulbright) to Dr. Ned B. Stonehouse, dean of faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, as lecturer in New Testament at the Free University of Amsterdam.

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