A fortnightly report of developments in religion

The greatest achievement ever made in the cause of human progress is the total and final separation of church and state. If we had nothing else to boast of, we could lay claim with justice that first among the nations we of this country made it an article of organic law that the relations between man and his Maker were a private concern, into which other men have no right to intrude.

—David Dudley Field

Governmentally composed prayers are ordinarily dismissed as an affront to the U. S. conscience. But in the emotional context of a historic Supreme Court decision last month they implicitly drew considerable support, creating thereby a major new church-state controversy which rivalled in intensity the reaction to President Truman’s proposal to send an ambassador to the Vatican and the religious issue of President Kennedy’s 1960 election campaign. Although the specific issue was narrow, the ensuing debate ranged far and wide, and some of the most ardent champions of church-state separation felt the court had gone too far. The American experiment in church-state separation, so often credited with fostering religious activity by keeping government out of it, had fallen upon lean times.

“It is a matter of history,” said Justice Hugo L. Black in delivering the majority opinion, “that this very practice of establishing governmentally composed prayers for religious services was one of the reasons which caused many of our early colonists to leave England and seek religious freedom in America.”

What the Supreme Court did on June 25 was to rule by a six-to-one majority that a 22-word interfaith prayer originating in the New York Board of Regents and recommended for daily recitation in state public schools was a violation of the Constitution.

Black declared that “it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government.”

Justice Potter vigorously dissented. Justice Felix Frankfurter, who is ill, took no part in consideration of the case, nor did newly-appointed Justice Byron White.

The wave of indignation over the court’s decision was bathed in the fear that it had opened a new precedent toward secularization of American culture. The reaction was probably intensified by a separate concurring opinion issued by Justice William O. Douglas, who cast suspicion on the constitutionality of a long list of religious activities exercised by the government, including service chaplains and the coin inscription “In God We Trust.”

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Most informed Washington observers were convinced, however, that none of the other eight justices share the extreme separation view held by Douglas. These observers noted that the nation’s highest court has yet to rule on pending appeals concerning the practice of daily Bible reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in schools of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The court did not rule on these cases because they were filed so late in the spring term that respondents did not have a chance to file their replies. The court reconvenes in October, by which time it may have still another such appeal from Florida.

Several other factors in addition to the extreme position taken by Douglas were behind the intense public reaction to the Supreme Court prayer decision:

—On the same day the court handed down decisions which permit magazines for homosexuals to use the U. S. mails and which throw out California legislation providing for imprisonment of narcotics addicts.

—The reaction was conditioned by a long series of unpopular decisions by the Supreme Court.

—The litigants who originally brought suit against the Regents’ school prayer are outside the Protestant-Catholic tradition. Two are Jewish, one belongs to the Ethical Culture Society, one is a Unitarian, and one is a non-believer.

Perhaps significantly, the court’s explanation of its decision did not defend the rights of the irreligious. Black’s majority opinion implicitly took the position that the decision serves the religious cause. Lawyer William J. Butler, who argued for the five litigants, echoed the view:

“In this country, with its many different faiths, religion has flourished because we have steadfastly adhered to the principle of separation of church and state.”

Evangelicals were divided in their opinion of the court ruling. Many feared a degrading precedent. Others said that the court’s only other alternative—to approve the Regents’ prayer—would have opened the way to much less inclusive prayers in other areas where one faith or another predominates. Some observers took a more neutral, positive stance and expressed hope that the widespread public discussion of the ramifications of the American church-state principles would have a wholesome long-range effect, one of the most immediate of which might be an impetus for Christian day schools. Still others were glad to see the New York prayer struck down because they said it promoted a highly-diluted religion-in-general and tended to reduce religion to mere form.

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What The Supreme Court Said

Majority Opinion by Justice Black

… The Petitioners contend among other things that the state laws requiring or permitting use of the Regents’ prayer must be struck down as a violation of the Establishment Clause because that prayer was composed by governmental officials as a part of a governmental program to further religious beliefs. For this reason, petitioners argue, the State’s use of the Regents’ prayer in its public school system breaches the constitutional wall of separation between Church and State. We agree with that contention since we think that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that in this country it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government.

It is a matter of history that this very practice of establishing governmentally composed prayers for religious services was one of the reasons which caused many of our early colonists to leave England and seek religious freedom in America. The Book of Common Prayer … set out in minute detail the accepted form and content of prayer and other religious ceremonies to be used in the established, tax-supported Church of England. The controversies over the Book and what should be its content repeatedly threatened to disrupt the peace of that country as the accepted forms of prayer in the established church changed with the views of the particular ruler that happened to be in control at the time. Powerful groups representing some of the varying religious views of the people struggled among themselves to impress their particular views upon the Government and obtain amendments of the Book more suitable to their respective notions of how religious services should be conducted in order that the official religious establishment would advance their particular religious beliefs.…

It is an unfortunate fact of history that when some of the very groups which had most strenuously opposed the established Church of England found themselves sufficiently in control of colonial governments in this country to write their own prayers into law, they passed laws making their own religion the official religion of their respective colonies.… But the successful Revolution against English political domination was shortly followed by intensive opposition to the practice of establishing religion by law.…

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It has been argued that to apply the Constitution in such a way as to prohibit state laws respecting an establishment of religious services in public schools is to indicate a hostility toward religion or toward prayer. Nothing, of course, could be more wrong. The history of man is inseparable from the history of religion. And perhaps it is not too much to say that since the beginning of that history many people have devoutly believed that “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” It was doubtless largely due to men who believed this that there grew up a sentiment that caused men to leave the cross-currents of officially established state religions and religious persecution in Europe and come to this country filled with the hope that they could find a place in which they could pray when they pleased to the God of their faith in the language they chose. And there were men of this same faith in the power of prayer who led the fight for adoption of our Constitution and also for our Bill of Rights with the very guarantees of religious freedom that forbid the sort of governmental activity which New York has attempted here. These men knew that the First Amendment, which tried to put an end to governmental control of religion and of prayer, was not written to destroy either. They knew rather that it was written to quiet well-justified fears which nearly all of them felt arising out of an awareness that governments of the past had shackled men’s tongues to make them speak only the religious thoughts that government wanted them to speak and to pray only to the God that government wanted them to pray to.

.… To those who may subscribe to the view that because the Regents’ official prayer is so brief and general there can be no danger to religious freedom in its governmental establishment, however, it may be appropriate to say in the words of James Madison, the author of the First Amendment:

“It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.… Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?”

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The judgment of the Court of Appeals of New York is reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

Justice Stewart’s Dissent

… With all respect, I think the Court has misapplied a great constitutional principle. I cannot see how an “official religion” is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it. On the contrary, I think that to deny the wish of these school children to join in reciting this prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation.

The Court’s historical review of the quarrels over the Book of Common Prayer in England throws no light for me on the issue before us in this case. England had then and has now an established church. Equally unenlightening, I think, is the history of the early establishment and later rejection of an official church in our own States. For we deal here not with the establishment of a state church … but with whether school childrn wo want to begin their day by joining in prayer must be prohibited from doing so.

… I think that the Court’s task, in this as in all areas of constitutional adjudication, is not responsibly aided by the uncritical invocation of metaphors like the “wall of separation,” a phrase nowhere to be found in the Constitution. What is relevant to the issue here is not the history of an established church in sixteenth century England or in eighteenth century America, but the history of the religious traditions of our people, reflected in countless practices of the institutions and officials of our government.…

At the opening of each day’s Session of this Court we stand, while one of our officials invokes the protection of God. Since the days of John Marshall our Crier has said, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.” Both the Senate and the House of Representatives open their daily Sessions with prayer. Each of our Presidents, from George Washington to John F. Kennedy, has upon assuming his Office asked the protection and help of God.

The Court today says that the state and federal governments are without constitutional power to prescribe any particular form of words to be recited by any group of the American people on any subject touching religion. The third stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” made our National Anthem by … Congress … contains these verses:

“Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!

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Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto ‘In God is our Trust.’ ”

In 1954 Congress added a phrase to the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag so that it now contains the words “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1952 Congress enacted legislation calling upon the President each year to proclaim a National Day of Prayer. Since 1865 the words “IN GOD WE TRUST” have been impressed on our coins.

Countless similar examples could be listed, but there is no need to belabor the obvious. It was all summed up by this Court just ten years ago in a single sentence: “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.” Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 313.

I do not believe that this Court, or the Congress, or the President has by the actions and practices I have mentioned established an “official religion” in violation of the Constitution. And I do not believe the State of New York has done so in this case. What each has done has been to recognize and to follow the deeply entrenched and highly cherished spiritual traditions of our Nation—traditions which come down to us from those who almost two hundred years ago avowed their “firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence” when they proclaimed the freedom and independence of this brave new world.

I dissent.

Concurring Opinion by Justice Douglas

… The point for decision is whether the Government can constitutionally finance a religious exercise. Our system at the federal and state levels is presently honeycombed with such financing. [Footnote cites numerous government ‘aids’ to religion.] Nevertheless, I think it is an unconstitutional undertaking whatever form it takes.

.… I cannot say that to authorize this prayer is to establish a religion in the strictly historic meaning of those words. A religion is not established in the usual sense merely by letting those who chose to do so say the prayer that the public school teacher leads. Yet once government finances a religious exercise it inserts a divisive influence into our communities.

.… Under our Bill of Rights free play is given for making religion an active force in our lives. But “if a religious leaven is to be worked into the affairs of our people, it is to be done by individuals and groups, not by the Government.” McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420,563 (dissenting opinion) …

In a televised news conference, President Kennedy observed that “we have in this case a very easy remedy, and that is to pray ourselves. And I would think that it would be a welcome reminder to every American family that we can pray a good deal more at home, we can attend our churches with a good deal more fidelity, and we can make the true meaning of prayer much more important in the lives of all of our children. That power is very much open to us. And I would hope that, as a result of this decision, that all American parents will intensify their efforts at home.”

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Kennedy also stressed the importance of supporting Supreme Court decisions “even when we may not agree with them.”

Asked about bills before Congress providing federal aid to higher education, the President did not indicate whether he preferred loans (Senate version) or grants (House), nor did he comment on possible effects upon such legislation by the Supreme Court church-state decision.

Reaction to the decision ran the full range from strong criticism uttered by evangelist Billy Graham and Cardinal Spellman to a defense by Dr. C. Emanuel Carlson, executive secretary of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, to non-committal comment from National Council of Churches President J. Irwin Miller and General Secretary Roy G. Ross. (For detailed comments, see page 46.)

Miller and Ross noted that “no one can speak officially” for the NCC. The National Association of Evangelicals did not immediately issue a representative statement.

The Detroit News said it was not excited, adding, “If our religious faith is weakened by lack of a public school prayer, it is already on the road to extinction.”

Generally, Roman Catholic leaders appeared to be critical of the decision. Protestants were divided. Jewish leaders were largely in favor of it.

Catholic reaction was largely predictable, for the hierarchy has never shown enthusiasm for the principle of separation of church and state.

Officials of Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State said they would bring legal suits seeking a review of the Everson decision (see chart). They said they detected a change in the court’s thinking as to the location of the “money line” which separates church and state. In another statement, POAU criticized Kennedy’s support of federal aid to church-related colleges, now before Congress.

The New York school prayer litigation was filed with the state supreme court on January 22, 1959, by five parents of children in the public schools of New Hyde Park, Long Island. The local school board had voted the use of the Regents’ prayer:

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“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country.”

The parents contended that the prayer conflicted with their religious beliefs. The case has since borne the name of one of the parents, Steven I. Engel, and of William J. Vitale, Jr., who voted in favor of using the prayer when he was president of the local school board (the Regents left the decision on whether to use the prayer with the individual school boards).

The New York court rejected the protest of the parents by a vote of five to two.

When the U. S. Supreme Court reversed the New York ruling last month, a series of moves were proposed to overcome the decision. Dozens of resolutions were offered in Congress aimed at a Constitutional amendment and early public hearings were promised. The Governors Conference appealed to Congress for such an amendment.

The furor failed to settle the question of where the line of separation between church and state should be drawn. The late Justice Robert H. Jackson aptly illustrated the complexity of the question:

“It is idle to pretend that this task is one for which we can find in the Constitution one word to help us as judges decide where the secular ends and the sectarian begins in education. Nor can we find guidance in any other legal source. It is a matter on which we can find no law but our own prepossessions. If … are to take up and decide every variation of this controversy.… we are likely to make the legal ‘wall of separation between church and state’ as winding as the famous serpentine wall designed by Mr. Jefferson for the University he founded.”

Protestant Panorama

• The New York Presbytery’s ouster of the minister and session of Broadway Presbyterian Church was upheld this month by the judicial commission of the Synod of New York state. Dr. Stuart H. Merriam, the ousted pastor, said he would probably appeal to the General Assembly. Merriam also is being tried by the New York Presbytery on charges of “untruthfulness” and “talebearing.” The trial has been adjourned until September 22.

• Two Canadian Baptist pastors are planning to visit Russia in response to invitations from the Baptist Union of the USSR. They are the Rev. Leland Gregory, general secretary of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec, and the Rev. R. F. Bullen, general secretary-treasurer of the Baptist Federation of Canada.

• A replica of the six-sided study used by Alexander Campbell was dedicated last month in Washington. The $225, 000 shrine is known as the Earle Wilfley Memorial Wayside Prayer Chapel and stands beside the National City Christian Church. It is named after a former minister of the church. Building was financed by gifts from Mrs. Grace Phillips Johnson of New Castle, Pennsylvania.

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• The Pocket Testament League will conduct an all-out Christian witness at the Communist-sponsored World Youth Festival, which begins July 28 in Helsinki, Finland. More than 200,000 copies of the New Testament in 22 different languages will be distributed. International Students, Inc. will aid in follow-up work.

• Nyack (New York) Missionary College won accreditation this month from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The 80-year-old school is the first of the Christian and Missionary Alliance’s four colleges to gain regional accreditation.

• Melrose Baptist Church of Oakland, California, voted last month to withdraw its affiliation from the American Baptist Convention. Supporters of the move charged the ABC with being too liberal in its theology and with becoming too involved in relations with non-Baptist bodies, according to Religious News Service. The vote to withdraw was 232 to 56.… The Kansas Supreme Court, meanwhile, refused an application from a re-hearing on its ruling that the First Baptist Church of Wichita may not withdraw from the ABC.

Lutheran Merger In Detroit

Meeting in Detroit, stronghold of unionism and home of mass production, four Lutheran denominations quit their separate ways and united in a new, massive “Lutheran Church in America” with a total membership of 3,200,000.

Each of the four churches met separately to conduct its final closing-out business prior to the constituting convention, June 28-July 1. The Augustana Lutheran Church (630,000) ordained 46 theological graduates to the ministry and brought its 102 years of existence to a dramatic end by singing the hymn “Rise, ye children of salvation.” The American Evangelical Lutheran Church (25,000) paid tribute to its pioneer Danish pastors as it terminated its 84 years. The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Suomi Synod) (36,000) concluded its separate history and in its final convention decided that the pectoral cross worn by its presidents should be placed in the archives of Suomi College. The United Lutheran Church in America (2, 500,000), the largest of the four, whose origin goes back to colonial times, in a concluding action presented its president, Dr. Franklin Clark Fry with a new automobile in recognition of his 18 years of service as president.

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These four churches in a constituting convention at Detroit’s Cobo Hall on June 28 merged into a single church bearing the name Lutheran Church in America. In an hour of business and pageantry a crowd estimated at 7,000 witnessed the largest Lutheran merger ever consummated in America. A three-foot-high, 12-inch-thick, quartered candle was used to symbolize the union of the four churches. Its separate lights were joined by four acolytes into a single flame and the union was then celebrated by a communion service.

The new Lutheran Church of America, sixth largest Protestant denomination in America, chose Dr. Fry as its first president. He was elected on the second ballot by the 1,000 delegates of the convention’s first business session in Cobo Hall. Dr. Malvin H. Lundeen’s election as secretary took only a single ballot.

The four churches, the United Lutheran (German), the Augustana (Swedish), the Suomi (Finnish) and the American Evangelical (Danish) united on a common acceptance of the Apostles, Nicene, and Anthansion creeds as “true declarations of the faith,” of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Small Catechism as “true witnesses to the Gospel,” and of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, Luther’s Large Catechism, and the Formula of Concord as “valid interpretations of the confession of the Church.”

Painfully aware, as Dr. P. O. Bersell of Minneapolis pointed out, that the new union “represents only a little more than a third of the Lutheran membership in America,” the delegates were reminded that the goal remains to achieve “the unification of all Lutherans” in America. A resolution was approved by the delegates to invite the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to appoint delegates to a joint commission to study the revolutionary proposal that would permit baptized children to receive Holy Communion before they are confirmed. The provocative proposal was presented to the LCA by its Joint Commission on Confirmation. The commission spoke in sharp criticism of the popular idea of confirmation which raises it above the sacraments. “Baptism is a sacrament,” it urged, “confirmation is not.” For the asserted “purpose of stimulating discussion,” the commission suggested that children of 10 years be permitted to receive Communion.” The invitation extended to the Missouri Synod and the American Lutheran Church to face this question with the new LCA, will confront these churches with a crucial ecumenical question.

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The LCA went on record as being in favor of a new inclusive inter-Lutheran agency to succeed the National Lutheran Council. The delegates of the LCA constitution convention voted unanimously to authorize negotiations with the American Lutheran Church and the Missouri Synod for the formation of the new association. The Missouri Synod earlier in the same week voted to participate in such a cooperative agency. The ALC will have opportunity to vote on this when it meets in Milwaukee in October.

The National Lutheran Council was organized in 1918. Because of mergers its membership has decreased in the past two years from eight to three, and will likely be further reduced to two by the end of the year by the expected acceptance of the membership of the Lutheran Free Church by the ALC. This would reduce membership of the National Lutheran Council to the ALC and the LCA.

“Cordial greetings and hearty felicitations” were extended to the new denomination by the Rev. John W. Behnken whose own denomination, the Missouri Synod, is supplanted by the Lutheran Church in America as the largest body in American Lutheranism. Urging that his church “has ever considered the issue of the Biblical doctrine and Scriptural practice of paramount importance,” he declared, “This is what we Lutherans in America and Lutherans throughout the world need most of all!” He thanked the Cobo gathering for being “so very kind and gracious as to invite me to your wonderful meeting,” and asserted that “it may please God to bring about union on the solid basis of true unity.” Dr. Behnken retired that very day from the presidency of Missouri Synod.

In other actions the new Lutheran Church in America adopted a combined over-all budget of $58, 641,332 for the first biennium of its history, and refused to adopt a floor resolution critical of the U. S. Supreme Court decision on prayer in public schools.

J. D.

Convention Circuit

Cleveland—As limousine proceeds from airport to city center, visitors to Cleveland pass the Bultman Coal Company. This (spelling and all) seemed to be about as close to neoorthodoxy as some 800 clerical and lay delegates of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod wished to go, as they assembled on the shores of Lake Erie, June 20–29, for their church’s 45th convention.

In the three years since the last meeting of the theologically conservative syn od, internal charges of doctrinal disloyalty to the standards of the church had been hurled. These seemed chiefly to center around the person of Dr. Martin Scharlemann, professor of New Testament interpretation at Concordia Semi nary, St. Louis, Missouri, and the key issue was the inspiration of Scripture. Two days of specially scheduled open hearings on doctrine and inter-church relations immediately prior to the convention, though helpful, did not dissolve tensions—Scharlemann objected to calling the Bible inerrant. And to the convention proper came a memorial asking that he be removed from office for having “publicly expressed teachings contrary to the clear doctrine of Scripture” and for failure to make a “clear-cut and decisive correction of these errors.”

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In an hour of high drama, Scharlemann personally confronted the convention. In a soft voice he solemnly read a prepared statement: “By the grace of God, I am—as I have been in the past—fully committed to the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures. I hold these Scriptures to be the Word of God in their totality and in all their parts and to be utterly truthful, infallible and completely without error.” He confessed that some of his essays had created confusion because of inadequate formulation. He proceeded to “withdraw” four essays “in their entirety,” and asked forgiveness for his contribution to “the present unrest.” Then, hat in hand, he walked off the stage and out of the auditorium to depart for St. Louis.

After extended debate—Missouri Synod is traditionally reluctant to cut short debate on doctrinal matters—the delegates voted overwhelmingly, 650 to 17, to forgive. Not all so voting were satisfied that the incident was closed, for some of these yet wished a “retraction of false doctrine.”

In response to a number of memorials concerning the doctrine of Scripture, the convention itself left no doubt as to where it stood: “We reaffirm our belief in the plenary, verbal inspiration of Scripture, and that Scripture is in all its words and parts the very Word of God, as taught in the Scripture itself … and in the Lutheran Confessions.” The voice vote was seemingly unanimous for this resolution and virtually so for two others which dated back to the 1959 convention in San Francisco. There delegates had passed a resolution which declared that the synod’s pastors, teachers, and professors are held to teach and act in harmony with every doctrinal statement of a confessional nature adopted by synod as a true exposition of Scripture. This year’s convention ruled the 1959 action unconstitutional on the ground that it had the effect of amending the confessional basis of the synod’s constitution without having followed prescribed procedure for such action. Doctrine was assertedly not being questioned.

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A follow-up resolution reaffirmed the Synod’s confessional basis to consist of acceptance of Scripture “as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and practice,” and acceptance of the sixteenth-century “symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.” As for later synodically-adopted doctrinal statements, the convention urged all members to uphold their doctrinal content and called for a study of their status in the church. Spokesmen interpreted the act as a refusal on the part of the synod to accept further doctrinal restrictions which would make difficult its witness to other Christians, Lutherans in particular.

The old Missouri Synod isolationism is being replaced by an emphasis on the need for spreading the denomination’s conservative doctrinal witness. Interchurch relationships are now becoming a weighty concern, most widely publicized of which has been the proposal for a new Lutheran inter-church agency, toward which all U. S. Lutheran bodies are to be invited to join in conversations. National Lutheran Council officials had agreed to a Missouri Synod suggestion that theological and confessional discussions should be given priority. So to this convention came a resolution authorizing appointment of a committee to enter into the conversations. As delegates settled back in their seats for what was expected to be a lengthy and spirited debate, the silence was startling. Not a single delegate spoke; the resolution passed unanimously; and some thought they could hear a sigh of relief from Detroit. The Missouri Synod decision on whether to join the proposed agency is expected at the next convention three years hence. Dr. Oswald C. J. Hoffmann, Director of the Department of Public Relations who doubles as the dynamic radio preacher of The Lutheran Hour, pointed out that the area of cooperation, if the agency materialized, would be limited and would not, for example, extend to pulpit exchange, missionary work, or student work.

Heated debate was reserved for the next resolution on the agenda, which recommended no action in response to several memorials requesting severance of relations with the National and World Councils of Churches. The resolution pointed out that though the synod is not a member of these organizations, various of its departments have found it advantageous to use certain NCC and WCC services, and this was declared not “to violate the Scriptural principles of fellowship.” Controversy centered on the NCC, the leadership of which was charged with being “shot through with subversives and fellow travelers.” But delegates were assured that use of certain NCC services did not thus identify their church with the council or its program. On a voice vote, supporters of the status quo seemed to prevail by three to one.

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The convention heard Dr. Fred Kramer, Concordia Seminary professor, in a special essay praise the WCC for its refugee work and dismiss fears that it would become a super-church. But he presented two obstacles to synod membership: (1) some WCC churches minimize the doctrine of original sin and thus forfeit the purity of the Gospel; (2) some of its churches displace the biblical Gospel with a social Gospel and thus arrive at a false gospel.

Delegates voted to send official observers to future conventions of the World Council of Churches, the International Council of Churches, and other church federations, at the discretion of its presidium, and approval was given for continuation of doctrinal discussions between Lutherans and Presbyterians.

Turning to inter-church matters closer to home, the convention expressed its desire to re-establish doctrinal discussions with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, both formerly in fellowship with the Missouri Synod in the Synodical Conference. The first two Synods had severed relations with the Missouri Synod, which action the latter attributes to the extension of its theological witness to all Lutherans and others desiring to “talk biblical theology.”

Delegates also called for organization of an International Synodical Conference of Lutherans, based upon the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confession.

For the big-shouldered, fast-growing Missouri Synod (2,544,544 members), this convention marked the end of an era. Its president for 27 years, Dr. John W. Behnken, was now 78 years old, and he asked the delegates not to consider him again for the office he had held for a precedent-shattering nine successive three-year terms. He had been first elected here in Cleveland in 1935, when pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas. His successor at Trinity now became his successor as president: popular, forthright Dr. Oliver W. Harms, who had served in St. Louis since 1959 as synod first vice president. He told the press he foresaw no change in synod policies under the new admintration. Closing his acceptance speech, he quoted the synod handbook: “I pray that God may keep me loyal to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God and the Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church as a true exposition of the Scriptures.”

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Though handing over his gavel, the eloquent Behnken, who has been aptly described as a towering figure of twentieth-century Lutheranism, was named the synod’s honorary president. An able parliamentarian, he would long be remembered with smiling gratitude by ear-weary delegates for his soft-spoken but inexorable counsel whenever a leather-lunged enthusiast would start shouting into a microphone: “Would you step back a little from the microphone, please.”

F. F.

Grand. Rapids, Michigan—Plans for calling the fifth world-wide Reformed Ecumenical Synod were completed by the Christian Reformed Synod, which met in Grand Rapids, June 13–23. Organized in 1946 in Grand Rapids, the RES has met in the Netherlands, Scotland, and South Africa, and will hold its 1963 meeting on the Calvin College campus in Grand Rapids. Only selected Reformed churches chosen by the Ecumenical Synod are eligible for membership.

Delegates who wondered why the Reformed Church of America was not invited were informed that ecclesiastical relationships did not yet warrant an invitation. The Christian Reformed Church owes its origins to a separation from the Reformed Church in the Netherlands and to a later separation from the Reformed Church of America.

Theologically conservative, and traditionally of strong doctrinal concern, the CRC has had a long history of small sympathy for the ecumenical movement. In 1924 it withdrew from the Federal Council of Churches declaring that “ecclesiastical alliances between orthodox and liberals are contrary to God’s Word.” It is not a member of the World Council of Churches, and in 1958 decided that no consistory or congregation should affiliate with any local arm of the National Council of Churches. A committee recommendation that the Synod of 1962 send a warning to its sister church, the Gereformeerde Kerken of the Netherlands, urging it not to join the WCC was rejected as an “affront to our sister church.”

Dr. Hendrik Bergema, professor of missions, member of the Indonesian parliament, and fraternal delegate from the Gereformeerde Kerken, spoke to the synod of the lively interest in his churches, and in other churches of the RES, for affiliation with the WCC. He also reported that his churches are astir over possible reunion with the Netherlands Reformed Church (Holland’s former State Church).

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The most controversial issue found on the synod’s agenda was the reappointment of Dr. John Kromminga to the presidency of Calvin Seminary. The center of a small tempest last year over scriptural infallibility, Kromminga was reappointed by an overwhelming vote. Attempts to substitute a rotating rectorship for the office of president was defeated (by 12 votes) when the synod decided to give President Kromminga life tenure. Dr. Louis Praamsma of Toronto was elected professor of church history in the church’s seminary. The Rev. Bernard E. Pekelder was given a two-year appointment as student pastor for Calvin College. This is the first time the college has had an official college pastor for student counseling.

The synod moved to take option on an additional 105 acres of land adjacent to the recently-acquired new Knollcrest campus. Resolutions were adopted to proceed with the drawing of plans for additional new buildings on the new campus. The freshman class of 1962–63 will be the first to occupy the new college facilities. The church is attempting to sell its present campus.

In what may prove to be of far-reaching significance was the adoption of a new method of financing Calvin College. In the past each family in the denomination was under quota for an equal number of dollars for the support of the college. Last year the amount per family was $17. The new plan divides the denomination into seven geographical areas. The amount of assessment in any given area per family is determined by the number of students attending Calvin from that area. The new varying quota will range from about $ 11 for the Iowa and Canadian areas, to $24 for the Grand Rapids area.

This “pay according to service received” plan was regarded by some observers as the first step toward setting the college free from denominational ownership and control. Though committed by theological conviction and long tradition to free, non-parochial schools, the church, for practical reasons, has made Calvin College an exception. If these observers are correct, the new plan of regional payment according to services received may well precipitate new practical considerations which could drive the church back to the non-parochial principle for Calvin College.

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The new method of financing Calvin was prompted by a demand for relief for such areas as Chicago and Iowa which have Christian colleges of their own but receive no support from denominational quotas.

Three other decisions indicate the ambiguities in which the church is caught because of divergence between principle and practice. It rejected an overture from Classis Alberta North “to change the status of Calvin College to conform to the principle that the church do not own a college.” In two other decisions the synod approved the decisions of Classis Sioux Center that the Rev. B. J. Haan could retain his ministerial status as president of Dordt College, and also approved the decision of Classis Chicago South that the Rev. Harold Dekker could not retain his ministerial status as president of Trinity College.

With the synodical approval of the ordination of Scott Redhouse, the denomination acquired its first Navajo minister. The church has carried on mission work among the American Indians of the Southwest for many decades. Authorization was granted to expand the church’s mission staffs in Formosa and Southern Argentina, and to take over new fields on Guam and the Philippine Islands.

Because of its covenantal theology the church counts itself in terms of families, of which it has some 54,000. Adopting an all-time high denominational budget of $4,351,000, the synod adopted a quota of $77 for each of its families. Of this $39 is earmarked for missions.

The synod rejected a call from one of its classes to issue a pronouncement on capital punishment.


Detroit—At the annual meeting of the Conservative Baptist Association of America, more than 2,000 delegates witnessed an acute debate in which one amendment to the constitution of the association was defeated and another referred back to the CBA board for further clarification. The amendments would have tightened the requirements for churches wishing to affiliate with the CBA and redefined the purpose of the association along more separatist lines.

Submitted for debate by the members of the board, in a movement opposed in resolutions of the Eastern and Western regional conferences last fall, was an amendment to delete the phrase “without regard to other affiliations” from a statement regarding autonomous Baptist churches wishing to associate with the Conservative Baptists by affiliation. Exclusion of this phrase from the constitution would have made the outside associations of these churches a factor in discussion of proposals for their affiliation. A number of churches are associated with the Conservative Baptists while retaining their membership in other national bodies. After considerable discussion, the amendment was referred back to the board for reconsideration and will be submitted again at the next annual meeting scheduled for Atlantic City next May.

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A second proposal sought to make the purpose of the association more explicit. It read in part, “The Conservative Bapist Association of America has been brought into existence to provide a fellowship of churches and individuals upon a thoroughly biblical and historically Baptist basis, unmixed with liberalism and those who are content to walk in fellowship with unbelief and inclusivism.” This proposal, cited by Dr. Rufus Jones, director of the Home Mission Society, as “the heart of controversy” at the Detroit meeting, failed to receive the required two-thirds vote.

Dr. Arno Weniger then countered with the proposal that the statement be adopted as a resolution, but this motion was also overrulled. According to association by-laws, a resolution requires only a majority vote of the assembled “messengers.” Commenting upon the rejection of both proposals to amend the constitution, Dr. Vincent Brushwyler, director of the Foreign Mission Society, expressed pleasure that motions which would have brought the CBA closer to the policies of the General Association of Registered Baptists had been defeated. “They would have made the Conservative Baptists more separatist,” he noted.

Further debate upon the floor of Cobo Hall centered around the application for membership of an independent Baptist church in Everett, Massachusetts. It ended inconclusively. In an action initiated two years ago, the Everett church had applied for membership in the CBA by a vote of 4 to 3 with 20 of those present at the meeting abstaining on doctrinal grounds. Both those abstaining and those voting against the application had reportedly done so because of the requirement in the CBA constitution that associated churches subscribe to a pre-millenial theology. When it became known that the action of the Everett church was two years old, a motion was passed to return the application to the church for reconsideration.

Three other resolutions were adopted at the final business meeting. One of these opposed the use of public funds for parochial schools; another expressed concern over two recent court cases in which the majority memberships of churches had lost their church property to minority groups. A third proposal, submitted by the laymen, was enthusiastically passed, overriding the objections of those who had opposed it on procedural grounds. It called for “a year of prayer for revival and spiritual unity among the conservative Baptists.”

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No official action was taken at the convention regarding the new and widely controversial new mission society. At a series of pre-convention meetings held in the Joy Road Baptist Church in Chicago, however, the new World Conservative Baptist Mission elected officers and adopted policies for the society. Elected were Dr. Bryce B. Augsburger of the Marquette Manor Baptist Church, Chicago, as president; Dr. Ernest Pickering of Minneapolis, vice-president; Dr. Kenton Be-shore of Denver, secretary; and Rev. Henry Sorenson of Pekin, Illinois, treasurer. The new society did not have a booth at the convention nor did it distribute literature.

Nearly all the association’s officers were reelected.

Ocean Grove, New Jersey—Dr. Andrew W. Cordier, for 16 years an assistant secretary general of the United Nations, was honored at a testimonial dinner held in connection with the 176th annual conference of the Church of the Brethren. Cordier, an ordained minister in the historic “peace church,” left his U. N. post July 1 to become dean of the Graduate School of International Affairs at Columbia University.

In presenting an award to Cordier, Brethren moderator Dr. Nevin Zuck praised him for his “long, sustained, brilliant and dedicated services to the causes of international peace and justice.”

Some 6,000 church members who were on hand for the six-day conference voted to send an observer to the Consultation on Church Union to be held next year at Oberlin, Ohio. The consultation is made up of representatives to the Methodist, Episcopal, and United Presbyterian churches and the United Church of Christ who are discussing the possibilities of merger.

The conference was climaxed with a trip to Washington by 500 of the Brethren for a “peace walk.” Their vigil took them to the White House, the State Department, and to Capitol Hill. The demonstration, similiar to those conducted by those who object to nuclear weapons tests, was the first to be sponsored officially by the national leadership of a Protestant denomination.

Brooks Hays, special assistant to the President, conferred with the peace walkers in behalf of President Kennedy to receive their statement of belief that “war is sin” and that “evil is overcome by good.”

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The Rev. Ralph E. Smeltzer, director of peace and social education for the Brethren, emphasized that the demonstration was a “witness” and not a “protest.”

Smeltzer says that as one step to help reconcile East-West tensions, the Brethren propose to carry out an exchange of its leaders with the Russian Orthodox Church. Moreover, they seek also to send an international delegation of Brethren into Communist China. The Brethren support membership of all nations in the United Nations, including Communist China, “in order to provide a forum for the discussion of the issues which divide mankind.”

Little Rock, Arkansas—Public apologies marked the 132nd General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Dr. Glen W. Harris, fraternal delegate from the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., said his denomination bears a great deal of the blame for the split which led to the formation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Cumberland Presbyterians replied to the apology with a plea for forgiveness of their own sins and a pledge of future cooperation.

The Cumberland Presbyterians withdrew from the parent body in 1810 in a dispute over extending the church to the frontier west of the Appalachian Mountains. During 1906 and 1907 about two-thirds of the Cumberland Presbyterians rejoined the main Presbyterian body, which was then the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., but a series of law suits over property followed the reunion.

Said Harris: “Though we believe we were legally correct 55 years ago, it is clear that we in the larger church should recognize and repent what we did to these Christian brethren.”

“We are conscious,” he added, “that 55 years ago and in the years immediately following, our church appeared to be more interested in church property and legal rights than in Christian love and witness. For this, too, we ask your forgiveness.”

In an unprecedented gesture, the audience rose to its feet as Harris finished his speech.

In their reply, Cumberland Presbyterians observed that “it is much easier for both of us to confess the sins of those who have gone before us than it is to recognize our own failures and ask for personal pardon … But we reply in the same spirit of confession of our personal sins and a plea for pardon and future cooperation in our own day.”

“In our effort to maintain our right to be different,” the reply added, “and to fulfill what we consider a distinct mission, we have sometimes felt inclined to magnify our differences and to oppose those with whom we differ more than to recognize our common witness and to fulfill our mission.”

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Later the assembly named a Permanent Committee on Inter-Church Relations to work for a closer relationship between Cumberland Presbyterians and other Presbyterian and Reformed groups. Some observers saw the move as a first step toward eventual reunion. The United Presbyterians number some 3,000,000, Cumberland Presbyterians about 100,000.

In other action the assembly voted to move the denomination’s theological seminary from McKenzie, Tennessee, to Memphis some time after 1964.

Also approved was the use of the Covenent Life Curriculum, a program presently being developed by the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. When the educational curriculum is introduced in October, 1963, five denominations will begin using it: the Southern Presbyterians, the Reformed Church in America, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Moravian Church in America, and the Cumberland Presbyterians.

During the Cumberland Presbyterian assembly a tract of land eight miles north of Little Rock was presented to Rose City Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It will provide for a log cabin shrine on the site where the first sermon was preached by a denominational minister in the Arkansas Territory in 1812. The City of North Little Rock gave the church a 50-year lease on the land for a token payment of one dollar.

Texarkana, Arkansas—A resolution supporting “all those in any Baptist group endeavoring to hold the line against infiltration of modernism into its ranks” was adopted by the American Baptist Association at its national convention.

The resolution charged that in recent years there has been a “departure from the historic Baptist position on the part of some of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention.” It commended the efforts of some Southern Baptists to “weed infidelity” out of the convention.

The ABA, organized in 1905, comprises some 3,000 independent missionary Baptist churches, mainly in the south. A new headquarters building in Texarkana was dedicated in connection with the convention.

About 3,500 delegates and visitors at the meeting were greeted by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, who contended that Americans are being given “the false philosophy of reward for idleness and sinfulness.”

“The welfare state, which we are seeing today, encourages young people to do wrong, and the honest and industrious are being taxed to give to people for sin and idleness.” he said.

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Beer For The Boys

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsey, sent for a nine-gallon barrel of best bitter from the local pub for the refreshment of his guests. He was entertaining 35 shipyard workers on their annual outing from Sunderland, an industrial town in the north of England. “When I was Bishop of Durham,” said Dr. Ramsey, “I used to visit the shipyards and got to know the workmen. I know what they like and I know what I like—and I shall be having the same as them, of course.”

J. D. D.

Democracy In Action

Demonstrations against nuclear weapons are now a familiar part of British life, and the number of people arrested so far this year runs into thousands. In Scotland most of the protests are centered around the American Polaris submarine base in the Holy Loch on the Firth of Clyde. The nearest town is Dunoon which, because of the number of lochs which cut deeply into the country at this point, is most conveniently reached by sea from Greenock, on the north shore of the Clyde. This naturally creates difficulties of transportation for large numbers, but the demonstrators solved it easily in arranging the latest protest. From British Railways, a nationalized concern, they hired a special train from Glasgow to Greenock, and a special steamer from Greenock to Dunoon. British Railways regarded it as a purely business transaction, but one might think it a significant boost for democracy that a government is prepared to supply transport for the purpose of making demonstrations against itself.

Among the 140 arrested on this occasion was the Rev. Ian McDonald Tweedlie, 33, American-born minister of St. Ninian’s Church, Cumnock, who was given the choice of a fine or going to prison for two months. Tweedlie asked if he could be sent to prison at once, but the judge refused—said that he would have to wait until the expiry of the 14 days officially allowed for payment of the fine.

J. D. D.

People: Words And Events

Deaths:Dr. Franklin J. Clark, 88, former secretary of the National Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church; in Flourtown, Pennsylvania … Dr. Gilbert Q. LeSourd, 75, noted Methodist minister and former assistant secretary of the John Milton Society; in Schenectady, New York … Dr. Eugene M. Austin, 52, American Baptist minister and president of Colby Junior College; in Hanover, New Hampshire … William R. Barbour, 77, president of the Fleming H. Revell Company; in New York.

Retirements: As editor of the Mennonite Gospel Herald, Dr. Paul Erb … as executive secretary of the Colorado Baptist General Convention, Willis J. Ray.

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Elections: As bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, the Rev. Albert A. Chambers … as moderator of the Church of the Brethren, Dr. Harry K. Zeller, Jr. … as moderator of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Eugene Warren … as president of the Christian Reformed Church, the Rev. John C. Verbrugge … as moderator of the Evangelical Free Church of America, the Rev. Andrew Johnson … as president of the Association of Council Secretaries, the Rev. Robert L. Kincheloe … as president of the National Conference of Quaker Men, George Castle.

Appointments: As professor of practical theology and dean of field education at Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. Arthur M. Adams … as dean of students at Taylor University, Henry W. Nelson … as professor of pastoral theology at the University of Chicago, Dr. Charles Roy Stinnette, Jr. … as professor of English Bible at the San Francisco Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Charles A. Hauser, Jr. … as general secretary of the Student Christian Movement of Great Britain and (Honorary) Assistant Bishop of London, Dr. Ambrose Reeves.

Award: To William E. Rowley, religious news editor of The Knickerbocker News, Albany, New York, the 1962 James O. Supple Memorial Award “for excellence in reporting the news of religion in the secular press” by the Religious Newswriters Association.

Nomination: As Chief of Army Chaplains, Methodist Chaplain (Colonel) Charles E. Brown, Jr., effective November 1.

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