Golden Pin Award

Eutychus Foundation recorded this interview from its Annual Good Humor Award ceremonies. (Commercials are omitted.)

MC: Delighted to have you here, Eutychus. We know your column is meant to be amusing. Are we entering a period of good humor in church? Are there now more preachers in the red than pulpit pinks?

E: Yes, there is a marked increase in ecclesiastical humor, intentional and unintentional. The standard pulpit jokes are more used than ever.

MC: Standard jokes? Is there an official list?

E: Not exactly. It is a matter of unwritten tradition. Now and then a nonconforming minister will use another, but the last joke to secure universal consent, ab omnibus, is Cal Coolidge’s remark about the preacher who was against sin. It seems that “Silent Cal” was coming home from church, and …

MC: Yes, yes. I see what you mean. These canonical jokes are well known. But wouldn’t a little fresh humor help?

E: Oh, no. You will recall the quatrain:

All my fathers have been churchmen,

Nineteen hundred years or so,

And to every new suggestion

They have always answered, No!

This is the rule for humor; untested jokes are very dangerous.

MC: But isn’t the risk worthwhile? I heard no less a preacher than Billy Graham tell an excellent ecclesiastical joke. He said that a preacher had a dream. He dreamed that he was preaching; he woke up—and he was!

E: Heh, heh! That’s very good, and its not in the tradition. But it’s dangerous. After Dr. Graham told it, he had to explain that he wasn’t really sleepy, but was enjoying some kind of euphoria. And when I tried to tell it, and didn’t pause long enough after “he woke up” …

MC: What about situation humor? I’ve enjoyed reports about a Philadelphia rector who billed the British crown several thousand dollars for a church fence confiscated by the Royal Artillery during the Revolutionary War: $18 plus interest! E: Very whimsical, but I couldn’t convince my cab-driver that it was a joke. He thought this church money-raising scheme would divide the West. No, the Old Reliables are better. People recognize them as jokes and know when to laugh.

MC: Well, has the winner of the Golden Pin Award been announced?

E: Yes, it is Joe Bayly, for his charming farce, The Gospel Blimp.

MC: But there isn’t a conventional joke in that book. If standard jokes are …

E: Who needs a book for the Old Reliables? And Joe has a last chapter in which he explains his joke in the best ecclesiastical tradition. I should now like to pin this on him …


Article continues below
We Grope In Darkness

Dr. Wilbur Smith, in his article “The Holy Bible” (Aug. 28 issue), is to be commended for his great Christian fervor in supporting the authority of the Bible.… But, with all due respect … he betrays a weakness in attacking Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam of The Methodist Church.

Bishop Oxnam has expressed difficulty in understanding the Virgin Birth. There are many ministers in our land today of the highest personal integrity who feel that it is not absolutely essential to a positive Christian faith. When … an intellectual roadblock, many ministers have very wisely advised their constituents to circumvent the issue and move forward in more positive areas.…

Perhaps one of the most difficult problems to explain to the human mind involves the Resurrection. The school of opinion that insists upon a physical resurrection will not satisfy a scientifically penetrating mind.… On the other hand, the “Metamorphosis Theory” which calls for a mighty act of infinite power … is far more satisfying to the scientific mind.… God’s infinite power was demonstrated in the Resurrection and we still grope in darkness seeking an accurate explanation.…

It becomes difficult to understand why Dr. Wilbur Smith … feels constrained to attack Bishop Oxnam.…


Shelton, Conn.

Creeping Liberalism?

I was amazed at your report of the Wisconsin-Missouri break (News, Aug. 28 issue) which began: “Creeping Liberalism within the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod constituency was dealt a dramatic rebuke by a sister synod.”

… It is not “creeping liberalism” in Missouri. It is “creeping Christianity” in Wisconsin that has caused the split.… Wisconsin objects to such things as Boy Scouts, Army chaplains, etc.…

Missouri refuses to “creep” along. The King’s business requires haste.


Warren, Pa.

This opening sentence reveals an editorial stand on the … controversy which has been the subject of delicate negotiation and long deliberations … not to mention an exceptional amount of forbearance and patience, … rivaled only by the Geneva atom test talks.…


Graham Taylor Chapel

Chicago, Ill.

In your editorial (i.e., news report) … you pontificate. May this Missouri Synod pastor suggest that such a lead sentence dealt a dramatic rebuke to the primary canons of honest journalism (accuracy, fairness, objectivity) as well as two primary Christian virtues (charity and truthfulness).…



Lutheran House

Detroit, Mich.

I have considered the Missouri Synod members as watchmen on the walls of Zion for the pure doctrine. We (American Lutheran) have never been pure enough for them.

Article continues below


St. Paul, Minn.

I am still pleased to belong to that church which Time magazine once labeled the “most conservative Protestant denomination in America.” May God always keep it so.


Messiah Lutheran Church

Beloit, Wisc.

The Messiah

I enjoyed Dr. Henry’s good article in the Aug. 28 issue.… I share with you the truth that both Israeli leaders and Christian missionaries need to re-think their religious outlook.

I am Jewish. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Jewish Messiah 42 years ago … and I have felt that I was a better Jew because I accepted what my Jewish Bible and Jewish prophets predicted, portrayed, and prophesied when I saw in Jesus of Nazareth the fulfillment of my hope and promise for my salvation. I had to change from my rabbinical, traditional, and ceremonial ideas to biblical Judaism.


Hollywood, Calif.

The incident (“Jewish Mobs Stone New Church in Jerusalem,” News, July 31 issue) has been used by the Arabs … to mock Israeli “democracy” in relation to freedom of religion.… A further harm was antagonism among some ignorant people in this country against Christian missionary activity.…

The people of Israel cannot be reached with the Gospel in the same manner as heathen in Africa, India, China, or other lands.… The Church of Christ missionaries were only asking for trouble when they brazenly opened their doors in an Orthodox Jewish district and offered inducements for Jewish children to attend their meetings.

This is a touchy subject.… Millions of dollars have been raised … to “Save Our Children” from the mission schools. The Jews … have greatly exaggerated the numbers … and “harm” done to these children.…

… In Israel today there is more actual religious freedom … than there was under the Protestant Christian Mandatory Government.…

These things and many more have to be known and understood before a proper evaluation can be made of a minor disturbance …, result of over-zealousness on both sides.


Zion Christian Mission

Jerusalem, Israel

Episcopacy And Ecumenics

Thank you so very much for printing the article “The Apostolic Ministry” by Roland Thorwaldsen (July 17 issue).… This in my experience is the view of Episcopacy believed in by at least 90 per cent of Episcopalians.


St. Timothy’s Church

Iola, Kan.

It is significant to note the words of an Anglican, S. L. Greenslade, Canon Residentiary of Durham Cathedral and Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham. Evaluating the teaching of Irenaeus and Tertullian concerning heresy he emphasizes three significant points: (1) Their first concern is always for the preservation of true doctrine. “They are only secondarily concerned with the means by which the institutional Church is maintained in being.…” (2) “… the apostolic succession in question consists in the line of bishops in each local church, not a chain of consecrator and consecrated.…” “Apostolic succession always means (this) in the early Church.” (3) There is no particular stress on their being bishops. “The argument does not stand or fall by episcopacy.…” “The essential point,” as Greenslade observes, “is that there should be an orderly succession of responsible ministers in each local church” (Early Latin Theology, ed. by S. L. Greenslade, Library of Christian Classics, Vol. V, Westminster Press, 1956, pp. 28–29).

Article continues below

So far as any hope for a greater unity (not necessarily organic union) among various Protestant communions … is concerned, the view Calvin held of the ministry of the Church is far more helpful.… It may be briefly summed up … as follows: The ministry is Christ’s gift to His Church, of which he is both her foundation and only head. The ministry is validated by the apostolic marks of preaching and teaching the Word (canon), and administering the Sacraments according to the institution of Christ. Christ is the Church’s true Bishop; all ministries derive from his and are corporately held in his. The Church’s unity depends upon union with Christ himself, and not upon a monarchical bishop, though he may be a useful instrument. The apostolic succession of the ministry is dependent upon Christ’s gift to the Church and his secret call to men, and their exercise of their calling (Word and Sacraments). Ranks, administration, are political only, not divinely ordained. Therefore, the Church must employ that polity which will in no way obscure the headship of Christ to his Church. The form, obeying this principle, will vary according to the circumstances and by what will best exalt Christ.

Such an understanding of the ministry to the Church would permit mutual recognition of ministries and intercommunion of members … the two great stumbling blocks between Anglicans and Presbyterians.


Westminster Presbyterian Church

Burbank, Calif.

All talk of reunion must begin with a common faith in one Redeemer.… What are the God-chosen means of preserving and spreading this faith among men? The Bible is one of these. The effective signs of Baptism and Communion, specifically commanded by our Lord, are another. To the vast majority of those believing in the divinity of Christ (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican Old Catholic, etc.) there is yet another, and this is the apostolic ministry. Long before our present canon of Scripture was fixed the biblical titles of bishop, priest (presbyter), and deacon were given to those who through the scriptural rite of laying on of hands were set apart to carry on the evangelical and disciplinary work of the Apostles.… As a preliminary to reunion, is it too much to ask the brethren-in-the-minority to receive once again that safeguard which they have lost?

Article continues below


Church of St. Margaret, Episcopal

Margarita, Canal Zone

Right And Left

Couldn’t help laughing at the actions of some of the ministers withdrawing from the Louisville Area Council of Churches in protest against its retention of Dr. Magruder as executive director (News, July 17 issue).

Were I a gambler I would wager heavy odds that these righteous Pharisees have never attempted similar action over a leftist member of their holy council.


Arkport, N. Y.

For The Record

We are more than ever convinced that “all” is a rather large word in spite of its only having three letters. In the July 17 issue (News) it was stated that “All Evangelical and Reformed congregations became a part of the new church automatically” (United Church of Christ).

For the sake of the record, we … know two of these congregations have remained outside of the union, keeping their property.… Both of these are in Ohio—one at Xenia and the other at Akron.


Presbyterian Church

Spencer, W. Va.

Prayers For The Dead

Professor A. C. M. Ahlen makes the statement that “The Apology to the Augsburg Confession specifically states that prayers for the dead are not forbidden” (July 17 issue). As the sentence stands, it is very misleading. No doubt Prof. Ahlen refers to Article XXIV “Of the Mass,” specifically to section “Of the Mass for the Dead” (De missa pro defunctis). There it says in section 94: “Now, as regards the adversaries’ citing the Fathers concerning the offering for the dead, we know that the ancients speak of prayer for the dead, which we do not prohibit.” However, if he will read the preceding paragraph, he will note what is meant: “It appears therefore that the Greeks made an offering as thanksgiving, and do not apply it as a satisfaction for punishment.” Every time a member in our congregation dies, we have a prayer, thanking God for having brought him to faith in Christ and beseeching Him to comfort the survivors. This is something quite different from what the Roman Catholic church understands under praying for the dead.

Article continues below


Highland Park Lutheran Church

Los Angeles, Calif.

It might be well to note that in the Smalcald Articles Luther is supposed to have made this question of prayers for the dead debatable (II, ii). A thoughtful study of his words in the Smalcald Articles ought to convince anyone that it was not Luther’s intention to make this point debatable any more than it was his intention to make another point in the immediate context debatable—namely, whether Augustine without Scripture could establish articles of faith! Luther merely indicates that if his adversaries abolished “the traffic in masses” he would then discuss these other two points with them, too; but it is an entirely unsupported assumption that he therefore considered these matters debatable. It would, no doubt, require a whole volume such as Dr. H. Martinsen-Larson wrote to defend this practice among Lutherans; but a mere careful reading of the few passages in our Lutheran Confessions which refer to this matter will make it evident at once that prayers for the dead, in the sense in which President Kennedy urged them, find no approval in our Confessional writings.


Holy Cross Lutheran

Minneapolis, Minn.

Modern Assyrians

A report in the March 27 issue (News) states, “After 40 years of wandering in a ‘modem’ wilderness, 48 refugee families who still speak Christ’s native language of Aramaic will be given new, permanent homes this summer by the World Council of Churches.” It continues, “They are a group of refugees from Armenia.…”

While there are large numbers of Aramaic-speaking Armenians, most people whose natural language is that of Christ are Assyrians.… The 195 men, women, and children in the 48 families are … Assyrians.


Forest Hills, N. Y.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.