A “special long-range project on rapid economic change in the U.S.A.,” sponsored by the National Council of Churches’ Department of the Church and Economic Life, purposes to involve clergy and lay leaders at the national level and church members at the local level in economic trends.
The three-phase program is to overlap with President Kennedy’s four-year term of office. It is to include proposals of “changes required in the American economy for the United States to discharge its responsibilities to (a) the underdeveloped countries, (b) the NATO Powers, and (c) the Soviet-Sino economic challenge.” Preparatory commissions are meeting this month to plan a national conference in Pittsburgh, November 8–11, 1962, when co-ordinated emphases are to be disclosed. One proposal calls for an early meeting with inter-faith leaders.
The department chairman, Attorney Charles P. Taft, is an outspoken opponent of voluntary unionism, and has been criticized for “the National Council’s vigorous promotion of forced union membership” by proponents of right-to-work laws. Reed Larson of the National Right to Work Committee contends that “the NCC has probably damaged the cause of voluntary unionism to a greater extent than any other single group outside the union hierarchy itself.”
On NBC’s “The Nation’s Future,” William Buckley, publisher of National Review, scored some telling criticisms January 28 in a nationally-televised debate with Mr. Taft. Granting Taft’s insistence that the Church bears a social responsibility, Buckley protested the tendency of liberal churchmen (who have surrendered supernatural Christianity) to “gospelize” the welfare state, and to turn the Protestant pulpit into a political instrument. He deplored political and economic particularizations for which the Church has no mandate, and by which the NCC really implies “that those who do not share these positions are moral delinquents.”
CHRISTIANITY TODAY recently noted (December 19, 1960, issue) that NCC officials had not publicly disclosed that its Department of Church and Economic Life’s General Committee was comprised of many members biased in favor of larger government intervention. Among members were clergymen, business and industrial leaders, labor leaders, and the then Secretary of Welfare Arthur S. Flemming. The 18 key labor union executives included Walter Reuther, who had been listed as Lutheran-Missouri Synod (Victor G. Reuther, administrative assistant to the president, UAW, AFLCIO, is one of the department’s three vice chairmen). The roster of General Committee members has since been revised; Walter Reuther and two others have now been dropped, but 15 union leaders remain.
The Rev. Cameron P. Hall, executive director of the department, from whom the complete list of committee members is available, protested that CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S disclosure of the names only of labor leaders “can only result in a distorted, and therefore false, view” of the membership. The revised list includes union executives, churchmen and seminary professors active in socio-economic programming, and representatives of business and industry (who seem hardly to reflect the convictions of “organized business” with the same strength and authority as “organized labor”). A Congresswoman, Mrs. Edith Green (Oregon) is on the list, as is Charles C. Webber (an ordained Methodist clergyman salaried by AFL-CIO as Representative for Religious Relations) whose name, in contrast with that of other ministers, does not openly carry the title “Rev.” in the NCC list. Mr. Webber’s most recent “Office for Religious Relations” letter circularized AFL-CIO publications advocating additional taxes on United States stockholders, increased government spending for goods and services, more taxes on corporations, and lower taxes for low income families.
A Perennial Battle
Hawaii is girding itself for what may be the most intensive phase of a perennial battle to legalize gambling. Church and civic groups have joined hands in an effort to block the introduction of pari-mutuel betting.
For many years it has been customary for someone to introduce a bill into the legislature as it meets in historic Iolani Palace in Honolulu. The efforts to introduce horse racing, cock fighting, and other gambling activity have always met with defeat. But biggest showdown apparently is yet to come in the nation’s newest state.
Mainland interests, backed by large sums of money, are strongly arguing for pari-mutuel betting. Promises of increased tourist dollars, welfare support, and tax money are being held out as reasons why gambling should be legalized.
Protest petitions are being circulated in churches and elsewhere by the Hawaiian Citizens Committee for the Prevention of Pari-mutuel Gambling.
A uniform divorce law went into effect throughout Australia February 1, replacing widely differing state statutes.
The Federal Parliament passed the new law more than a year ago after a long controversy with religious groups. Church spokesmen had argued that the act would make divorce easier, citing a clause which permits divorce if a husband and wife have been separated for five years continuously and “there is no reasonable likelihood of cohabitation being resumed.”
A last-ditch petition to amend the clause was rejected by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of her Australian Federal Ministers. Anglicans and Roman Catholics have been particularly outspoken in opposition to the new law.
Evangelicals on the Air
A radio broadcast representative of U. S. evangelical life and thought is on the planning boards. To be sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals, the programs will be designed primarily for public service use by stations which refuse to sell time for religious broadcasts.
The project was unveiled last month in a report made at the 18th annual convention of National Religious Broadcasters in Washington’s Mayflower Hotel. NRB is a fellowship of radio preachers and programmers.
Format particulars are still to be worked out, and a producer is yet to be chosen. Sponsors are agreed, however, that the aim is to present a program which will communicate evangelical distinctives to the general public.
Overseeing the project is a five-man NAE committee including Dr. George L. Ford, executive director, and the Rev. Donald H. Gill, assistant secretary for public affairs.
The committee hopes to release the program by this fall, according to Gill.
The proposed broadcast is regarded as necessary by the NAE in view of the continuing trend toward so-called sustaining programs in lieu of purchased time for religious broadcasts.
Dr. Charles E. Fuller, dean of radio evangelists, was given a gold-inscribed clock plaque by the ABC Radio Network last month “for 36 continuous years of broadcasting in the spiritual service of mankind.”
The anniversary presentation was made by Harry Woodworth, general manager of ABC’s western division. It marked also 11 years of consecutive network airing by ABC of Fuller’s “Old Fashioned Revival Hour.”
Beginning with a single radio station in 1925, the Fuller program has grown to where it is now heard by an estimated 10,000,000 people weekly over 600 stations around the world. The broadcasts originate in Eos Angeles.
Editors assembled in Chicago last month for the 13th annual convention of the Evangelical Press Association assured President Kennedy of their “prayerful support as he seeks to uphold his commendably forthright pledges in the realm of Church-State separation.”
A resolution adopted by the convention commended Kennedy for his stand opposing federal aid to parochial schools. EPA represents 165 publications (total circulation: 6,500,000).
“We endorse his opposition,” the resolution said, “because we recognize such aid as tantamount to application of public money for promotion of sectarian interests.”
Moral Re-Armament’s Role
“The future depends to a very real extent on the churches coming alive to the things God has given to Moral Re-Armament to emphasize.”
The words were uttered last month by Dr. E. Benson Perkins, Secretary of the World Methodist Council, at the MRA World Assembly in Caux, Switzerland.
He said that in emphasizing the guidance of God and the absolute moral standards, Moral Re-Armament was only putting in different terms the things for which Christianity stands.
Recruiting the Retired
U. S. military services are seeing a gigantic exodus of personnel who have served 20 years and thereby become eligible for paid retirement. A large percentage of the personnel are relatively young with many productive years still ahead of them. To what extent this large corps of manpower can be tapped by religious organizations was the concern of a four-day conference in Washington last month.
Sixty delegates from twenty-two denominations attended the Brent Conference on Church Vocations for Retiring Service Personnel, named for the late Episcopal Bishop Charles Henry Brent, senior chaplain of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War I. Sponsors were the Yokefellow Institute of Richmond, Indiana, and the General Commission on Chaplains and Armed Forces Personnel, aided by a grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc.
It is estimated that 180,000 service personnel will be eligible for retirement in the next three years. The conference explored means whereby some of these might be recruited to fill the churches’ mounting needs for administrators, camp directors, youth and educational leaders, and ordained clergy.
Among conference participants was Dr. D. Elton Trueblood, who is professor of philosophy at Earlham College and a noted Quaker leader.
Whither the Study?
The American Friends Service Committee, which is under wide suspicion for promoting leftist philosophies, plans to renew activity programs among U. S. youth, according to a report given at an annual meeting in Philadelphia last month.
There was no public reference, however, to the progress of a self-study promised following severe criticism of the AFSC last summer because of infiltration by Communist sympathizers.
The AFSC conducts youth seminars which have been branded as socialist-pacifist brainwashing sessions. Originally founded as a relief organization by Rufus Jones, a well-known Quaker, following World War I, the AFSC has in recent years taken on the character of a political action group with a subversive propaganda line. Although a number of Quakers are allied with it, the organization has no official ties with any yearly meetings. Other Quakers have been outspoken in their criticism of AFSC leftist tendencies.
Religion and Psychiatry
Dr. Rollo May, noted psychiatrist, says the current religious boom will backfire unless essential questions about the meaning of human life are given sound answers.
May told the second annual meeting of the Academy of Religion and Mental Health last month that the widespread interest in religion “is of course a result of the fact that great numbers of people, psychiatrists, psychologists and intellectuals of all sorts … have again asked the questions of the meaning of human life.”
Expressing the view that the questions reflect the positive aspect of the religious revival, he asserted that the answers given them were “inadequate.”
“Unless the answers to these questions are given on a more profound level both in psychiatry and religion, I believe that the present religious boom will backfire,” he said. “People will be left in a more alienated and meaningless state than before.”
The Lord’s Day Alliance of the United States is premiering a 30-minute sound film, “The Triumphant Tradition,” which traces Sunday observance from the time of the Pilgrims until today.
Parts of the full-color film, produced by the Protestant Radio and Television Center in Atlanta, were previewed at the alliance’s annual meeting in New York last month.
A spokesman said the film is now available for local church showings by special arrangement. It is advertised as a “presentation of the importance of observing the Lord’s Day from a positive standpoint.”
Background music for the film consists of an original score composed by a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
The Healthy Baptists
When the American Baptist Convention began an official survey and study several years ago to try to pin down the weaknesses and strengths of the body in which more than a million and a half church members are associated, it was with a warning that the results might well be discouraging.
But during the last week in January, more than a thousand of the convention’s clergymen, leading lay persons, administrators and missionaries gathered in historic First Baptist Church in Minneapolis to take a sobering look at the diagnosis, and declared themselves satisfied that the American Baptist Convention is a healthy organization with its greatest and most productive years still to come.
Most leaders attending the Convocation on The Mission of The Church approached their problems from a warmly evangelical point of view, and seemed to be honestly grappling with an underlying question of the contemporary, modern techniques which must be brought to bear upon society’s deep problems without doing harm to the basic proclamation of the Christian Gospel. Perhaps this warm and seeking spirit of the convocation was peculiarly fitting for the American Baptist leadership in this setting of the auditorium of Minneapolis’ First Baptist Church, where for more than a half-century the compelling evangelicalism of famed Dr. W. B. Riley had noticeable effect against “modernistic” erosions in the convention.
Although the convocation was not planned as a “revival meeting,” Dr. Paul O. Madsen, associate executive secretary of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, said at the conclusion: “There were definite indications that hundreds of persons found a new basis for spiritual renewal at the personal level in response to the challenges of the convocation.”
Dr. Madsen said many persons expressed in many ways “a new sense of evangelical concern for the world.”
“They also expressed deep concern as to whether our convention will be able to implement new techniques to face up to the rapid shifts and changing conditions in nations throughout the world,” he added.
Could the American Baptists take encouragement from the results of their major check-up?
“Yes, without question,” Dr. Madsen said. “The results of our wide study showed that the American Baptist Convention was at the crossroads in the 50’s. But we found ourselves, and with new vigor and vision in our mission, have shown growth and progress since 1955. With a new insistence on what it means for men and women to be new creations in Christ, American Baptists are humbly on their way to enlarged service and expanded ministry in a world that needs so desperately a truly consecrated commitment to the commission of Jesus Christ.”
The convocation disbanded on a sad note with the death of Dr. C. Arlin Heydon, 71, director of evangelism for the Arizona Convention of American Baptist Churches. Heydon, a participant in the convocation, had figured prominently in American Baptist activities for many years. He was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Phoenix for some 15 years and had served as Midwest director of evangelism under the American Baptist Home Mission Society. He was in semi-retirement for the past several years.
In the first such intensive, public self-analysis ever undertaken by an American church body, the convention learned such facts as these:
Baptists have changed from a predominantly small town membership to an urban membership. Baptists are fairly literate in biblical knowledge. The membership emphasizes worship as extremely important, with a growing concept of the central purpose of worship being to praise and thank God. The church, for Baptists, is primarily the place to hear the proclamation of God’s Word, as well as being the body of Christ. Fellowship is the single most important fact in attracting new members. Six of every ten active members are present each Sunday at worship. The inability of the prayer meeting to hold its own and enlist the support of the membership has been confirmed by the study. Forty-two of every 100 members give five dollars or more each week to the church’s financial support.
The study made plain that one of every three members is an “inactive” member, and gives the convention concern because the most inactive age group in the churches is that between the ages of 15 and 24, with the second highest inactive group being ages 25 to 39.
There are now 6,227 churches which consider themselves affiliated with the American Baptist Convention, and the average membership growth in the Convention is now 222 persons each week. Total membership at the end of 1959 was 1,548,795.
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