A serious and concerned band of 992 United Presbyterians from 50 states, one commonwealth (Puerto Rico) and three foreign countries (Cuba, Chile and India) sat down in Cleveland’s Public Auditorium May 18 for their 172nd General Assembly. After eight days of singing, worship and debate, they adjourned with some problems overcome and other solutions seemingly more distant than ever.
The Presbyterians were troubled initially by the world political crisis, for the summit meeting had just erupted in disaster and incoherent Russian frothing still filled the skies. A sober audience gathered that first Wednesday to hear Dr. Charles Malik, former president of the United Nations, ask, “How can there be coexistence with incalculable forces beyond the scrutiny of mankind, that may suddenly erupt without pretext?” He called for “Presbyterian coolness” in viewing the crisis, for “closing of ranks,” and added, “If these events mean that the scales have fallen from the eyes of some people who are now waked up to the realities of life, they have done a great service.”
The Presbyterians were soon acquainted with an acute situation of their own. A heartening invitation from Emperor Haile Selassie to begin new missionary work among tribes in western Ethiopia (where Russia has just imported 1,000 technical experts) ran into a boar’s nest of budgetary troubles. The record $42,950,838 budget for 1961 (one-third of which lies beyond the expected operating funds) would allow for expansion in Ethiopia, Brazil and Indonesia, where conditions are ripe; but last year only $24,713,340 came in. To meet the challenge of these “unmet priorities,” and to accept Haile Selassie’s bid, a special November offering was approved. However, skyrocketing costs of maintaining a world-wide mission establishment, plus ever-expanding theological seminaries, had the 992 commissioners shaking their heads in puzzlement.
The uneasiness was not limited to material problems. After a stout speech by Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, formerly of South India, and now general secretary of the International Missionary Council, the Presbyterians wondered whether their word “fraternal worker” was really an adequate substitute for the time-honored term “missionary.” Newbigin maintained that missions and missionaries were needed more than ever; that it was as wrong to say that the Church’s task was all “mission” as to say it was all “education” or all “evangelism” or “stewardship” or “worship.” He pointed out that Asian churches have already sent out 200 missionaries and are planning an Asian mission to western Europe.
Too, the Presbyterians were bothered about their evangelistic emphasis. They sounded what may be death knell of the annual pre-assembly evangelism conference by voting to permit “other phases,” notably Christian education, to move into the spot alternately. One commissioner asked whether the very fact that the church had to parade its evangelistic interest did not reveal “how sick we are.” The assembly subsequently amended the evangelism committee report to strengthen its doctrinal content, and voted to continue to emphasize evangelism.
Problem of Bigness
Another concern of the United Presbyterians was their church’s growing tendency toward institutionalism. Dr. Arthur R. McKay, president of McCormick Seminary of Chicago, asked, “Does the church not suffer from the same ailments as the society it is called to serve: sleek and prosperous, popular as never before, proud of its possessions, revelling in its status …?” And Dr. Newbigin added, “There is a dangerous question whether after we get all the churches together—after all our ecclesiastical joinery, we will still have an evangel left to proclaim.” He concluded it could happen “only when our egotism—including our fierce and terrible ecclesiastical pride—has been broken in the presence of the Crucified.”
In one area, however, the United Presbyterians showed confident and aggressive convictions to wit, social education and action. They expressed “horror” at the results of South Africa’s apartheid; called for “continued efforts to achieve an honorable understanding with the Soviet Union” and for disarmament “with adequate inspection and control.” They approved “peaceable and orderly disobedience” and “disregard” of such “laws and customs requiring racial discrimination” as “are, in our judgment … serious violations of the law of God,” thereby recognizing most Negro student demonstrators in southern lunchrooms and libraries as having conducted themselves in ways “consistent with our Christian heritage, the Federal Constitution, and the moral consensus of the nation.” They declared it “an act of irresponsible citizenship” to support or oppose a candidate for public office “solely because of his religious affiliation.”
The General Assembly found itself thwarted in continued conversations with the (southern) Presbyterian Church, U. S., regarding merger, and had to content itself with proposing official committee meetings when the officers could jointly “begin some new work together.” Proposals for opening merger negotiations with the new United Church of Christ were tabled for the present, out of respect to the latter Church.
A comprehensive report on faith and health criticized Christian Science and Unity, as well as faith healers who “open themselves to the danger of a self-aggrandizing career in which sensationalism replaces spirituality and healing is emphasized out of all proportion to the other important aspects of the gospel ministry.”
The assembly elected as its moderator Dr. Herman Lee Turner, pastor (for 30 years) of Covenant Church, Atlanta, and author of the “Atlanta Manifesto” urging peaceful racial integration. In the closest election in history, Dr. Turner defeated by two votes his Negro opponent, Dr. Edler G. Hawkins, pastor of St. Augustine Church in the Bronx, New York. The tally was 471 to 469. Dr. Hawkins accepted Dr. Turner’s invitation to become vice moderator.
The assembly also dealt with some unfinished racial business of its own: a Negro church in Alexandria, Va., which has yet to be brought into Washington City Presbyter, and a Sioux Indian Presbytery (Dakota Presbytery) which still overlaps the synods of North and South Dakota and Montana. Final action remains to be taken.
A revised directory for worship was accepted, paving the way for a coming revision of the Book of Common Worship. The assembly rejected, however, a liturgical move to establish the proper place for morning offering and pastoral prayer after the sermon, rather than before as is customary.
Moderator Turner and Stated Clerk Eugene Carson Blake wired the assembly’s encouragement to the President.
The assembly noted that membership in the denomination increased by 50,120 to a total of 3,209,682 during 1959. Ordained ministers increased by 240 to 12,041.
Next year’s General Assembly will meet in Buffalo, New York.
Exodus: How Many?
So the whole number of the people of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go forth to war in Israel—their whole number was six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty.
—Numbers 1:45, 46 (RSV)
Israeli rabbis rebuked Premier David Ben-Gurion last month for questioning the Scriptural account of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt. The ultra-orthodox Agudath Israel Party introduced before the Knesset (Parliament) in Tel Aviv a non-confidence vote on grounds that Ben-Gurion had forfeited his right to lead the nation when he voiced the theory that only 600 Jews left Egypt, instead of more than 600,000 as recorded in the Bible.
The move was defeated 61 to 6, but observers suggested that the parliamentary test may have strained the premier’s coalition of socialist and religious parties.
Ben-Gurion originally advanced his views in a Bible discussion circle which met regularly in the home of President Itzhak Ben-Zvi. He contends that there had been Hebrews in the land of Canaan before Abraham and that only a few besides Joseph’s relatives migrated to Egypt during the great famine. He observed that the Scriptures record that 70 males went down to Egypt. Noting that the Bible names all the male descendants of Levi up to the generation of the Exodus, he pointed out that 25 males were born to this tribe in Egypt. By doubling the figure to account for females and multiplying the result by 12 to account for other tribes, he obtained the total of 600.
Jewish leaders are up in arms over Democratic Senator William Fulbright’s attitudes toward Zionist lobbying.
“We think that Senator Fulbright owes the U. S. Jewish community an apology,” said the National Jewish Post and Opinion last month.
Fulbright, in the course of Senate debate on foreign aid, charged that U. S. foreign policy in the Middle East “is being directed by minority pressure groups.” The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned against annoying Arabs by taking sides with Jews in the U. A. R.-Israel dispute.
The Arkansas senator incurred further criticism in commenting on charges of Democratic Senator Russell Long of Louisiana to the effect that “one of the principal causes of the overthrow of the [Korean] government appears to have been local dissatisfaction with the management of the $200 million a year we have been spending there.”
“If this is the cause of corruption,” replied Fulbright, “then Israel ought to be the most corrupt of all nations, because the total of our aid—Government aid, not private aid—has been $310,304,000 for a population of approximately 2 million.
“It is estimated that private sources have provided—and these amounts are tax exempt for those who give them—approximately the same amount.”
The National Jewish Post and Opinion, in a lead article, subsequently reported this inaccurate inference: “The Jerusalem Post called Senator William Fulbright’s remark that Israel is one of the ‘most corrupt of all nations since Israel had received so far some $600 million for only two million people’ something ‘unprecedented in the annals of the U. S. Senate.’ ”
Evangelist Billy Graham and his associates are studying the prospect of a crusade in Tokyo, world’s largest city, in 1963.
An invitation which is perhaps the most challenging of his career was presented to Graham last month at the Southern Baptist Convention. Shuichi Matsumura of the Japan Baptist Convention travelled to Miami Beach to present the invitation personally. Meetings would be held in a huge stadium which is also scheduled to be the site of the 1964 Olympics. Graham accepted the invitation “tentatively,” saying he must confer with his team about it.
Graham’s next major campaign is in Washington, D. C., June 19–26. Meetings are scheduled for Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Senators baseball club, Sundays at 3 p.m. and nightly at 8 p.m. The evangelist also plans to address special gatherings in the Pentagon and elsewhere. Crusade leaders are hoping for wide radio and television coverage.
Next month Graham will speak at conferences in South America and Europe. In August and September, he and several associate evangelists will conduct crusades in Switzerland and Germany.
Church losses from major fires rose sharply in North America during the past year, according to a report from the National Fire Protection Association. Ten major church fires in 1959 caused some $3,000,000 damage. Only four major fires were recorded in 1958, with damage totalling $1,170,000.
Churches of Hilo, Hawaii, the city hardest hit by last month’s seismic sea waves, miraculously escaped damage. The Rev. Paul Toms, CHRISTIANITY TODAY news correspondent who lives in Hilo, says no churches are located in the coastal area which suffered the most severe pounding.
Toms said that the heavy loss of life was largely attributable to neglected warnings. Tidal wave alerts were broadcast just before residents retired for the night. Some chose to ignore them. The first wave struck at 1:25 a.m. Others followed soon after.
Thirteen prominent Protestant church leadersSigners of the petition: Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, stated clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.; Dr. Edwin T. Dahlberg, president of the National Council of the Churches; Dr. George L. Ford, executive director of the National Association of Evangelicals; Dr. Herbert J. Gezork, president of the American Baptist Convention; Bishop Gerald H. Kennedy, president of the Council of Bishops of The Methodist Church; Dr. Louie D. Newton, minister of the Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta; Dr. Harold John Ockenga, minister of Park Street Church in Boston; Dr. Norman V. Peale, minister of Marble Collegiate Church in New York; Dr. Daniel Poling, editor of The Christian Herald; Dr. Ramsey Pollard, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Dr. Fredrick A. Schiotz, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; Dr. Ernest Trice Thompson, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S.; Dr. Thomas F. Zimmerman, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. are asking Congress for “immediate action” on proposed legislation to ban drinking on commercial aircraft.
“It is difficult to understand why no decisive action has yet been taken to eliminate the service and consumption of alcoholic beverages on commercial airlines,” said a letter from the clergymen. They urged the lawmakers to close this “glaring gap in air safety.”
Within a few days after the letter was made public, a Senate commerce subcommittee favorably reported a bill which would make illegal the serving of alcoholic beverages on aircraft in flight. This action brought the bill before the Senate Interstate Commerce Committee, where similar measures have repeatedly been stalled in recent years.
A California obstetrician’s decision to spend a year in Africa exemplifies a growing trend within the Christian missionary enterprise.
Dr. William H. Wickett, Jr., leaves with his wife and five children this month for a remote missions hospital in Southern Rhodesia. Already another doctor in the Los Angeles area has expressed an interest in relieving Wickett next year. Methodist missions officials say a pattern might be established whereby specialists can serve at overseas missions for short periods. The missions hospitals could use the arrangement to best advantage by timely scheduling of treatment and surgery. Chest operations, for example, might all be scheduled for a month during which a thoracic surgeon is anticipated.
Wickett is setting a “tremendous example,” says his pastor, Dr. Winston Trever of the First Methodist Church of Fullerton, California. “We are beginning to see that the church has a great, untapped asset in laymen with professional training and experience in medicine, agriculture, education, and engineering. Many might be able to serve overseas on a short-term basis where they could not give three to five years.”
• A record distribution at home and abroad last year of 17,650,917 portions of Scripture was reported by the American Bible Society at its 144th annual meeting in New York last month.
• The Assemblies of God plan to erect a new $2,500,000 headquarters building in Springfield, Missouri.
• Establishment of compulsory dancing courses in Norwegian public schools is being protested in a number of Protestant quarters.
• The Southern Baptist Convention’s Sunday School Board will begin publication next October of a monthly magazine in Braille for use by blind teen-agers.
• The Central Methodist Mission in Sydney, Australia, will use a newly-acquired $250,000 site in the downtown section for expanded facilities.
• An African Anglican clergyman from Mombasa, Kenya, the Rev. Edwin Adinya, is beginning a year’s duty as assistant to the rector of St. Peter’s, one of the most select Church of Ireland parishes in Belfast.
• The Knoxville (Tennessee) Presbytery is resolving a race controversy over its new $243,000 camp ground near Watts Bar Lake with a program of one integrated session and two segregated sessions this summer.
• Anglican Bishop Frederick H. Wilkinson of Toronto says his diocese, largest in Canada, will make special efforts to befriend the large number of Italian immigrants who have recently arrived in the area. Most of the newcomers are said to be unchurched.
• American University, burgeoning Methodist school in Washington, D. C., is launching a 10-year campaign to raise $40,000,000 to prepare the campus for an anticipated enrollment of some 12,000 students by 1970. The campaign got its initial impetus with a $1,000,000 appropriation for the next four years voted by the Methodist General Conference in Denver.
• The Council of Churches of Greater Houston (Texas) is changing its name to the Association of Churches of Greater Houston. Officials say the change was made to stress the autonomy of the group, which is nonetheless affiliated with the National Council of Churches. The officials admitted privately that recent charges of Communist infiltration of the NCC was a factor in the name change, Religious News Service reported.
• The all-Negro National Christian Missionary Convention was merged with the United Christian Missionary Society last month. Both groups have been associated with the Disciples of Christ brotherhood.
• The Soviet Embassy in Washington is releasing 8,000 feet of film showing worship services in Moscow’s First Baptist Church. The films were taken by the National Broadcasting Company and the Southern Baptist Convention for 30-minute telecasts in this country. Another 2,000 feet of film was withheld by the embassy.
• A dispute over segregation prompted the resignation last month of the Rev. Philip Gresham, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Roanoke, Virginia. Gresham favors racially-integrated church functions. A number of his vestrymen have been opposed.
• Ground will be broken this month for a $150,000 fine arts building on the campus of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Cost of erection is being borne by an anonymous Santa Barbara resident. The gift is the largest in Westmont’s history.
• The first volume in a series of newly-translated Calvin commentaries was released last month by the William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, which is observing its 50th anniversary year.
• A call for 300 new missionary candidates came out of The Evangelical Alliance Mission’s 70th annual conference in Chicago last month. The mission, commonly referred to as TEAM, now has 807 missionaries in active service.
When H. P. Sconce, 54-year-old Baptist minister, died last December, he bequeathed an unusual asset to the radio broadcasting industry: some 300 15-minute tape recordings in which he had interviewed noted personalities in government, industry, sports, and other fields as to their Christian convictions.
Each of the tapes is a complete radio program ready to be aired under the title, “Christian Celebrity Tyme” (Sconce applied old English spelling for effect). One of the most remarkable aspects of the program is that no appeal for funds is made. Support is raised privately.
“Christian Celebrity Tyme” began six years ago this month while Sconce was a pastor in Hermiston, Oregon. He subsequently moved his family to Sun Valley, California, where his wife still coordinates distribution of the tapes to radio stations across the country.
Musical theme for “Christian Celebrity Tyme” is “Just for Today.” Following the theme, Sconce introduces the guest (a different person for each program) and asks for a Christian testimony. The scope of the interviewing is such that some are more Christian than others. The program closes with the playing of the guest’s favorite hymn.
Merger on the Left
Governing assemblies of the American Unitarian Association and The Universalist Church of America, meeting simultaneously but separately in Boston last month, approved a merger to become effective in May, 1961. The Unitarian vote was announced as 725 to 143, and the Universalist as 365 to 65, meeting a two-thirds majority requirement in both cases. The consolidated organization, to be known as the Unitarian Universalist Association, will have a constituency of some 200,000.
The 36th quadrennial General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which attracted nearly 2,000 delegates to Buffalo, New York, last month, voted to create a judicial council to interpret church law and to consider appeals between sessions of the General Conference. Establishment of such a council—which would include five elders and four laymen—must first be ratified by the 49 annual conferences of the AME Zion Church.
Four new bishops were elected: Dr. Felix S. Anderson of Louisville, Kentucky; Dr. William M. Smith of Mobile, Alabama; Dr. William A. Hilliard of Detroit; and Dr. S. Dorme Lartey of Liberia.
The church’s Board of Bishops urged the United States to take immediate steps “to integrate the Negro into every phase of American life at all cultural and skilled levels.”
Among speakers at the 15-day conference were Vice President Nixon and Dr. Edwin T. Dahlberg, president of the National Council of Churches. The keynote address was delivered by Bishop Herbert B. Shaw of Wilmington, North Carolina.
The AME Zion Church has more than 3,000 congregations with a total membership of approximately 780,000.
The 17 bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church hailed increasing progress toward racial integration and church unity in a statement presented to the 36th session of the denomination’s quadrennial General Conference, held last month in Los Angeles.
Some 5,000 delegates and visitors heard the statement read by Bishop Joseph Gomez, secretary of the church’s Council of Bishops. The 144-year-old denomination has nearly 6,000 churches and more than a million members.
The statement said the time was not yet at hand for union of the AME body with The Methodist Church, whose “jurisdictional feature involving Negro Methodism … grows less satisfactory to a large and growing Methodist liberalism.”
In a resolution, delegates called for a “Universal Year of Human Rights” to coincide with the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963. Delegates also voted to subsidize salaries of 700 ministers who serve small parishes with amounts ranging from $600 to $1,800 a year, depending upon scholastic preparation and tenure of the ministers.
Two new bishops were consecrated in ceremonies conducted by Senior Bishop Sherman L. Greene: the Rev. Joyn D. Bright of Philadelphia and the Rev. George N. Collins of New Orleans.
The conference opened with a sunrise service in Pasadena’s famed Rose Bowl.
Missions and Theology
The 63rd General Council of the Christian and Missionary Alliance voted to establish a graduate school of theology the location of which is yet to be determined. The Alliance now operates undergraduate schools in Nyack, New York; San Francisco, California; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Regina, Saskatchewan. A graduate school of missions is scheduled to begin classes in Nyack this fall.
The council, held annually, drew 694 delegates to Portland, Oregon, last month. The delegates approved a record foreign missions budget of $3,876,000, used to support 824 active missionaries in 22 foreign countries. In North America, the Alliance has 1151 churches with a combined membership of about 60,000.
People: Words And Events
Deaths:Professor Hans-Joachim Iwand, 60, one of Germany’s leading Lutheran scholars, in Bonn … Bishop L. L. Baughman, 61, of the Evangelical United Brethren Church; in Wellington, Kansas … Dr. Thorvald Olsen Burntvedt, 72, retired president of the Lutheran Free Church; in Minneapolis … Dr. Francis Shunk Downs, 74, former secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.; in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania … Dr. Wade C. Smith, 91, associate editor of the Presbyterian journal; in Weaverville, North Carolina … Dr. William A. Phillips, 69, retired Baptist missionary; in Denver.
Appointments: As dean of Wittenberg University’s Hamma Divinity School, Dr. Bernhard Hillila … as dean of the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, Dr. Jerald C. Brauer … as academic dean and professor of church history and New Testament at Pacific Bible Seminary, Harold W. Ford … as president of Shelton College, Dr. Clyde J. Kennedy … as dean of women at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mrs. Andrew Q. Allen … as minister of evangelism for the Reformed Church in America, the Rev. Herman J. Ridder … as executive secretary of the Council of Churches of the National Capital Area, the Rev. Virgil E. Lowder.
Resignations: As president of Cascade College, Dr. Edison Habegger … as president of Shelton College, Dr. Jack Murray … as executive director of Christ’s Mission and editor of Christian Heritage, Dr. Walter M. Montano.
Citation: To George W. Cornell of Associated Press, the fifth annual Faith and Freedom Award for excellence in religious newswriting by the Religious Heritage of America.
Korea’s Acting President, Chung Huh, who already has popular approval, is a devout, mild-mannered Methodist.
The new national leader, who is also Korea’s Foreign Minister, comes from a non-Christian family background. His introduction to the Gospel, he recalls, was in a tiny Australian Presbyterian missions school which he attended as a boy.
Later baptized in The Methodist Church, he is now, with his wife, a member of the Ehwa University Methodist Church in Seoul and also serves as vice-chairman of the board of directors of the Seoul YMCA. During his years in America he helped to found the Korean Methodist Church in New York City.
Dr. Albert G. Huegli, academic dean and director of the graduate division of Concordia Teachers College, is turning down an invitation to become executive director of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He reportedly prefers to remain on the educational “front line.”
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