A more tragic cleft within Protestantism than that of denominationalism is the “deepening cleavage and complete lack of communication between that segment of American Protestantism which adheres to what one of its intellectual leaders has described as ‘classical orthodoxy’ and, on the other hand, that segment to which most of us belong, which might be described as a more ‘liberal orthodoxy.’ ”
The speaker was Dr. James E. Wagner, president of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and co-president of the merging United Church of Christ; his forum was the February meeting of the General Board of the National Council of Churches in Syracuse, New York; and he had a newsmaking proposition:
“I would like to see the National Council seek to initiate with devout and competent representatives of our avowedly more orthodox brethren a series of quiet, unpublicized, prayerful consultations aimed at restoring confidence and communication between those whose differing from one another is really one of degree of adherence to what all would recognize as the great Christian tradition.”
Stretching to retain for his NCC fellows both liberal and orthodox values, Dr. Wagner asserted, “We believe we are true to the historic Christian faith, but we interpret that faith in the light of the historical circumstances which have marked its development through the centuries.”
He identified the classical orthodox group as being represented “in the better element in such organizations as the National Association of Evangelicals, just as we find ourselves at home in the National Council. The ‘orthodox’ group now has an influential journal, respectable in its literary and intellectual quality [Dr. Wagner did not specify CHRISTIANITY TODAY by name], just as ‘liberal ...1
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