A fortnightly report of developments in religion
The right of local presbyteries to “receive, dismiss, ordain, install, remove, and judge ministers” was upheld last month by the 174th annual General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. meeting in Denver.
The General Assembly’s Permanent Judicial Commission overruled two synodical decisions. A commission statement approved by the assembly declared:
“We are deciding that in our church’s system of constitutional government the presbyteries, now and historically, bear the heavy and primary responsibility of determining the qualifications of our ministers within the framework of our constitutional documents.”
The assembly thus reversed a ruling of the Synod of New Jersey that barred Professor John Harwood Hick of Princeton Theological Seminary from membership in the Presbytery of New Brunswick because he refused to affirm belief in the Virgin Birth.
Commissioners also upheld the Presbytery of Cincinnati, which has suspended the Rev. Maurice McCracken, a pacifist who served a six-month prison term for his refusal to pay income taxes, which, he said, would be used for military purposes.
In the Hick case, the assembly commission criticized the New Jersey Synod’s commission for irregularities in handling. Among other things, the assembly commission called the use of a round-robin letter instead of a formal meeting of the synod commission a grave error.
The main basis for the decision, however, was that of the presbytery’s rights. But the commission also called attention to the “principle of toleration” in the United Presbyterian Church, which permits a variety of theological viewpoints. It said that overturning Hick’s acceptance by the presbytery would only revive the fundamentalist-modernist controversy which shook the church earlier in the twentieth century.
Some observers interpreted the assembly decision as an indication that Dr. Stuart H. Merriam would have little chance of regaining his pulpit at Broadway Presbyterian Church in New York City (see adjoining story, “The Battle for Broadway”).
In other action, the assembly deferred action on a controversial report defining its position on church-state relations. Commissioners voted to distribute the 21,000-word report to the denomination’s local churches, presbyteries, and synods for their study and opinions. The comments are to be transmitted back to the committee which drafted the report, and it will resubmit a possibly revised report to next year’s assembly.
The Battle For Broadway
As the minister stepped to the pulpit to deliver his sermon, most of the congregation promptly rose and filed slowly out of the rear exits. The address was Broadway, New York City, but this was no musical comedy. The songs were hymns, and the people had been singing of the Church: “By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed.…” On the way out, their faces reflected awareness that they were passing through a solemn hour in which the life of their church seemed to be hanging in the balances. The silence was broken by a call from the pulpit for the narthex to be cleared. A young blond minister who had watched from the rear told reporters: “It appears to me that Dr. Merriam had led some of his people to worship him instead of Jesus Christ. In the church we think of this as idolatry.”
The observer was the Rev. Edward White, the church was Broadway Presbyterian, and he had been appointed by the New York Presbytery as head of a special commission to administer the affairs of the church, from whose pulpit the presbytery had removed Dr. Stuart H. Merriam (see News Section, May 25 issue.)
The 275 members who walked out re-assembled in the basement for prayer. Of the scattered 125 who remained upstairs to sing, “Where Cross the Crowded Ways,” most were visitors. They listened to a message by Dr. J. Carter Swaim, a National Council of Churches official, and then heard the Rev. Graydon McClellan, chief administrative officer of the presbytery, read a long “Statement to the Congregation.”
The report opposes Bible reading, prayer, and religious holiday observances in public schools. In addition, it said government support of parochial schools and legislation which prohibits the distribution of birth control information are inconsistent with the principle of church-state separation. It also called for the ending of exemption from military service for ministerial candidates and ordained clergymen.
Debate on the report, however, did not deal specifically with these provisions but centered on the use of the word “secular” in the document. Some commissioners argued that this would be interpreted to mean a Godless state. An agreement was finally reached to remove the word “secular” from the report being submitted to the church.
Commissioners urged President Kennedy to end the use of federal funds for the construction of segregated housing. The assembly also called upon Presbyterians to accept the burden of maintaining a balance of power with the Communist world, but to work through nonmilitary means to achieve peace.
Turning to the liquor question, it was obvious that Presbyterians had been stung by harsh criticism which greeted last year’s assembly statement, which while encouraging voluntary abstinence, recognized that many church members in honesty and sincerity drink moderately, and called for mutual respect between those who so drink and those that abstain. The assembly reaffirmed last year’s statement, which it regarded as upholding the “historic position of voluntary abstinence” but it also went on to criticize social drinking as the frequent introduction to, and context of, problem drinking, as well as being the principal influence in attracting new drinkers.
Dr. Marshall L. Scott of Chicago, pioneer leader in church work in urban and industrial areas, was elected moderator. He was elected on the first ballot, receiving 574 out of a total of 979 votes cast, gaining the required simple majority. Two other candidates for the office were Dr. Elmer C. Elsea of Denver, who received 287 votes, and Dr. Floyd E. McGuire of Larchmont, New York, who received 118 votes.
The assembly also voted to provide “responsible” sex education for its members following adoption of a special committee report on marriage and parenthood in a changing world.
The report, which approved the medical practice of artificial insemination with certain safeguards, was endorsed overwhelmingly.
In calling for sex education, the church’s board of education was asked to develop programs for young people and adults that would “best communicate in a Christian context concepts of responsible sexuality and the basic value standards—spiritual, economic, and emotional—upon which a sound marriage can be built.”
Prefaced by the words, “this is a hard moment …,” the statement reviewed the action of the presbytery in ousting Merriam and the church session (board of elders). In a general assessment, the presbytery had noted some positive factors in the current condition of Broadway Church. Sunday morning worship attendance had tripled in the one year Merriam had been there, and so had missionary giving. Young people were being attracted and minority groups welcomed, three or four Negroes joining in one month. Merriam’s leadership talents were acknowledged, evidenced in the warm support of his congregation in the present crisis, as well as in the large amount of volunteer labor which has considerably improved the church property.
All this was reminiscent of Merriam’s Southern Presbyterian pastorate in Portsmouth, Virginia, where he doubled the church’s property within four years, while speaking out against segregation.
But the New York Presbytery had gone on to charge Merriam with impulsiveness and poor judgment, citing the minister’s introduction of his dog from the pulpit, and also his intercession with the State Department for an Iranian scholar who had charged his native government with corruption.
Historic Broadway Church, founded in 1825 and always a stronghold of theological conservatism, lies close to Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary. The New York Presbytery tends toward liberalism, and though denying that “a particular theology” was an issue in its case against Merriam, it asserted he was not “adapted” to a ministry “that would be of interest and value to the university and professional community.” It spoke of his “theological inflexibility” and his criticism of “neoorthodox theologians, such as Brunner, Tillich, and Niebuhr.” His “rigid approach to theological matters is unsuitable for such work with university students and faculty members.… He appears to be absorbed with the psychology of sudden conversion to a degree that makes him impatient with the kind of disciplined thinking that is so necessary in reaching the searching student. This applies also to his preaching.”
The session was charged with being seemingly unaware of the seriousness of the foregoing “deficiencies.” The presbytery would “consider recommending Dr. Merriam for further pastorates only after he has sought the help of a professional counselor acceptable to the Committee on Ministerial Relations.” Merriam’s income would be continued up to a year’s time if he remained without a call or other employment and if he did “not interfere with Presbytery’s right to conduct the affairs” of Broadway. The congregation would be permitted to select a successor to Dr. Merriam “when the Presbytery feels that the congregation is ready to do so.”
The presbytery’s choice of an interim stated supply was not without a touch of whimsy. He was Dr. Paul Franklin Hudson, 47, who had been minister of Second Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis for only a little over a year when he and ten members of the session were ousted by the Indianapolis Presbytery at the end of 1961. Second Church reportedly had been fragmented by gossip and bitterness.
On May 20, the Sunday following the Broadway Church’s walkout, Dr. Hudson interpreted his as a “ministry of reconciliation.” But he preached largely to visitors, for most of the members were again downstairs for a prayer service. The New York Times described Hudson’s sermon as neoorthodox, and quoted a leading elder who told the basement throng that their church had had “137 years of evangelical gospel preaching” and wanted it restored and continued.
Merriam, 38-year-old bachelor, had been asked to remove his personal belongings from and cease attending the church which had called him with the presbytery’s approval after a two-year search for a minister. He had never been installed, however, the delay having resulted from the death of his father and subsequent illness of his mother. His predecessor at Broadway, Dr. John McComb, had been a strong fundamentalist separatist. Merriam told reporters, “I am no fighting fundamentalist, but I am a conservative evangelical, and am still eager to cooperate on all hands. I remain a convinced, loyal Presbyterian.”
His training indeed was “pure Presbyterian,” having taken him to Davidson College in North Carolina, Princeton Seminary, Toronto’s Knox College, and New College, Edinburgh, where he earned a doctorate in church history.
Merriam said that he had opposed the walkout and had intended to absent himself. But he was overrulled by mounting pressures partly brought to bear by an eminent Presbyterian clergyman who thought the situation required a dramatic protest.
The presbytery and conservative Broadway Church had been at odds for 60 years. A former moderator of presbytery has said, “We should have done this long ago.” But John Sutherland Bonnell, minister emeritus of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, called this exercise of the presbytery’s power over a congregation “disturbing to ministers and elders of the Presbyterian Church at large.”
Top legal counsel rallied to Merriam’s cause, including Dr. Edward Burns Shaw, co-author with United Presbyterian Stated Clerk Eugene Carson Blake of Presbyterian Law. The presbytery’s action is being appealed to the New York Synod.
The minister and officers of Manhattan’s Rutgers Presbyterian Church denounced the presbytery and offered Merriam the use of their church on Sunday evenings. The respected minister, the Rev. George Nicholson, had argued strongly on behalf of Merriam before the presbytery, but to no avail:
“Dr. Merriam inherited a feud. If the Archangel Gabriel himself had gone into Broadway Church he would have been in trouble. He would have had to walk a tight rope between what Presbytery thinks and wants and intends to have done in Broadway Church, and what Broadway Church wants—and perhaps rightly wants.…
“Moderator, in all honesty, is it not true that everybody knows that what Dr. Merriam did or did not do is utterly irrelevant to the real issue? He is a mere pawn in this game of power—this machine control. You know, Moderator, much better than I, that this is a plan to make Broadway Church subservient. It has been again and again cynically stated at meetings, although omitted from minutes. What Presbytery wants in Broadway is a willing ‘yes’ man. Everybody knows it but nobody says it, at least, not openly!
“Good men everywhere in this Presbytery are weary of this interminable scheming and plotting—and all of it, God help us—in the name of Christ and always after a perfunctory prayer.… Here is a young man at the beginning of his ministry and he is told of his sudden removal and this after ‘long and prayerful consideration’ (perhaps the most pious and lethal phrase in the ecclesiastical vocabulary).”
Along the sandy, palm-studded shores of Biscayne Bay last month, two globegirdling paths converged. The Christian and Missionary Alliance, whose task force of 860 missionaries is among the largest in Protestantism, marked its 75 th anniversary General Council in Miami by approving a merger with the smaller Missionary Church Association.
The two-thirds majority necessary for approval came easily in a secret ballot (673 for, 146 against) after delegates by a standing vote had defeated a compromise amendment which would have invited the MCA to join the CMA. Final CMA ratification of the merger plan is expected at next year’s council. A referendum will be conducted, meanwhile, among the 115 local congregations of the MCA if a basis for union is approved by its biennial General Conference. If a merger is consummated, the new organization will be known as The Missionary Alliance. It will embrace some 80,000 members in North America and nearly twice that many overseas.
The paths of the merging groups have crossed before. They had similar nineteenth-century roots characterized by emphasis on (1) missionary outreach and (2) the Spirit-filled life. MCA founders had considered uniting with the CMA back in 1898, but abandoned the plan because the nature of the CMA was considered “undenominational and without intention for organizing local churches.” The two groups have nonetheless cooperated for many years, particularly in missionary effort. Curiously enough, although the CMA now has some 1,200 churches across North America, some constituents still insist that it is not a denomination but an interdenominational missionary society.
Delegates to the six-day jubilee CMA council assembled even as war clouds hung low over two of their key mission regions, Southeast Asia and New Guinea (more than a third of overseas resources are currently committed there). The delegates called for a special day of prayer for the crisis.
Held in conjunction with the council was a week-long evangelistic campaign with Dr. Merv Rosell, who said he was grieved that military expeditions seemed to ba outpacing the evangelical missionary enterprise.
“Helicopters are carrying our guns where men have never met our God,” he declared. “We stand red-faced before people who have seen our trinkets but not our tracts, our generals but not our evangelists, our Red Cross but not the old-rugged Cross.”
Equally provocative observations on the Christian home front were voiced by Dr. A. W. Tozer, who was described by Miami Herald Religion Editor Adon Taft as “the man with perhaps the most vivid pen in the American church.” Tozer told Taft in an interview that the biggest contemporary problem in the American church is the hiatus between creed and worldliness of conduct within orthodox Christianity.
“We have religious schizophrenia today,” said Tozer, editor of the Alliance Witness and author of nearly a dozen books. “We are orthodox in creed and heterodox in conduct.”
He predicted that small groups of Christians may rise to protect the present condition of the church and bring on more divisions in Christianity.
Four days after Tozer’s remarks appeared in print, there was a sobering illustration of the disparity between preachment and practice in the council sessions themselves. A Monday morning prayer session attracted only six of the 1,460 delegates at the appointed hour, despite repeated pleas during the preceding days for intercession and dedication of life in behalf of the missionary enterprise.
CMA President Nathan Bailey said the need for a broader base for society efforts was a must.
“There are numberless opportunities for enlarging our home work,” he observed, cautioning that “the motivation must never be the by-product of the missionary dollar.”
Bailey added, “Our outreach must be for the purpose of bringing lost men to salvation and leading believers into their privileges in Christ. It is true that God-touched and God-filled men will become the source of new missionary prayer and financial support.”
The CMA has always been characterized by a pioneering faith. Latest expression is an unprecedented 15 per cent budgetary increase—to $4,500,000 for the current year—despite a domestic membership gain of less than one person per church during 1961. Last year brought the society its most serious financial crisis in recent years, but a correspondingly amazing recovery as well. The net result was the largest overseas expansion of any one year in society history. Nearly 10,000 baptisms were counted.
Back in 1882, pioneering faith was exercised in the founding of the CMA movement by Canadian-born Dr. A. B. Simpson, minister of the Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church of New York City. The movement began with a meeting of seven people, and a few weeks later the work was organized with 3 5 members. Simpson’s early text was Zechariah 4:10: “For who hath despised the day of small things?” His theology was “the four-fold Gospel” exalting Christ as Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. As a result, CMA churches traditionally stress the baptism of the Holy Spirit as “a second definite work of grace.” Anointing the sick has been widely practiced, and many healings have been recorded. The emphasis on the work of the Spirit stops short of speaking in tongues, and the CMA generally does not consider itself aligned with either the holiness or the Pentecostal movements.
The CMA originally functioned as two distinct organizations, the Christian Alliance and the Evangelical Missionary Alliance, subsequently designated the International Missionary Alliance. In 1897 the two were consolidated into the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
Simpson’s associates in the early days included Henry Wilson, an Episcopalian; Kelso Carter, a Salvationist; Stephen Merritt, a Methodist; and Albert Funk, a Mennonite who subsequently became the first president of the Missionary Church Association.
By the time Simpson died in 1919 the CMA had some 340 missionaries. Today there are 860 who serve in 24 fields and preach in 180 languages. They publish about 91,000,000 pieces of literature a year and conduct 162 radio broadcasts per week in 16 languages. Most are graduates of one of CMA schools: Nyack (New York) Missionary College, St. Paul (Minnesota) Bible College, Simpson Bible College in San Francisco, and Canadian Bible College in Regina, Saskatchewan. Toccoa Falls (Georgia) Institute and Bible College also maintains links with the CMA.
The CMA is currently upgrading its schools and is working toward establishment of a graduate school of theology.
Council delegates, wary of degree mills, turned down a committee recommendation that CMA schools be empowered to grant honorary doctorates.
The MCA has only one school—Fort Wayne (Indiana) Bible College. It has always considered itself a denomination.
If it merges with the CMA it will lose its collective membership in the National Association of Evangelicals. Some CMA pastors and congregations are NAE members but the society as a whole has refused to join, although its leaders are now believed to be reconsidering.
The MCA has had merger negotiations in the past with the United Missionary Church. However, no talks are currently pending.
The General Association of Regular Baptist Churches at its annual meeting in Springfield, Massachusetts, last month went on record as disassociating itself “from all those who would sacrifice our historic Baptist faith” to participate in church mergers.
A resolution reaffirmed the GARB stand “as orthodox Bible-believing Baptists without compromise at all.” It said the association will maintain its “positive and unyielding loyalty to the Word of God as our absolute and final authority in all matters of faith and practice.”
A resolution on “patriotism” declared that “many people who have been jealous of our country are scorned and ridiculed for their expressed loyalties, being designated as extreme rights and superpatriots.”
The association said it was committed to no organization or movement “in the field of open support of our government,” except the American Council of Christian Churches.
A resolution defending U. S. nuclear testing was adopted by the American Council of Christian Churches at its 20th annual spring conference in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The resolution stated that this country “has a moral obligation to its citizens and to the free world to continue nuclear testing.”
Another resolution declared that the council is “unalterably opposed” to providing U. S. wheat for Communist China.
The Presbyterian Church, U.S., practiced ground-root ecumenicity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, May 10–15. The 102nd General Assembly opened sessions in the First Baptist Church, took meals in the Centenary Methodist and Calvary Moravian churches, held regular sessions in the First Presbyterian Church, and conducted a Sunday morning Communion worship service in the Carolina Theater.
Four fraternal delegates conveyed greetings to the 452 commissioners of the assembly from their respective churches: the Reformed Church of America, the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Each urged expansion of the ecumenical conversation and expressed hope for its ultimate fulfillment.
Recalling that Presbyterians had split at the time of the Civil War into “Northern” and “Southern,” Dr. William A. Morrison of the United Presbyterian Church (Northern) warned each church to “avoid a pathological fascination with the past.” He also expressed hope that none of the current conversations each church is carrying on with others, would hinder the efforts to heal the Civil War breach. Many sources, however, feel that the enthusiasm for merger between the two Presbyterian churches has been chilled by the United Church’s interest in the Episcopalian aspect of the Blake proposal. The assembly defeated a proposal looking to unite with the United Presbyterian Church by a vote of 192 to 154.
The Rev. Marion De Velder, fraternal delegate from the Reformed Church, reminded the assembly that their two churches had already adopted a Plan of Cooperation in 1874. Later the assembly unanimously adopted a new plan formulated by a joint committee of the two denominations. The plan lists 14 areas of “common concern” for study and exploration that the two churches may “seek together a fuller expression of unity in faith and action.”
In the assembly’s opening session, the Rev. Wallace M. Alston, retiring moderator, urged his denomination to thrust vigorously forward into a future whose dimensions are as large as the God who enters it with them. He called on his church to break from provincial and sectional limitations and strike out boldly into the nation and the world. The sin against the future is to measure the future with a small-guage faith. If we would keep up with God, we must run at full speed, he cried. The church, he added, needs “a fresh, first-hand experience of God’s power and presence.”
Evidence of the Southern Presbyterians’ restless energy and determination was the assembly’s adoption of a $12,000,000 capital funds campaign. This is only the fourth, but also the largest such campaign in the denomination’s 101-year history. Some $5,000,000 is earmarked for the Board of World Missions.
The assembly adopted a benevolence budget of $9,650,180. Although this is the highest in the denomination’s history, it represents only a third of one per cent increase ($33,000) over 1962—the smallest increase in the denomination’s history.
A proposal to establish a central treasury for all the assembly’s boards and agencies set off an extended debate. The announced purpose of a central treasury was to insure that each agency receive its proportionate share of the church’s total contributions. After considerable discussion the assembly voted to refer the proposal to an ad interim committee for study and report to the next assembly.
A layman, Dr. Edward Donald Grant, chemical manufacturer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was chosen as moderator. Grant came to this country as a Scottish orphan-emigrant 53 years ago. He became the church’s twelfth ruling elder to be chosen for the honor of top post in the General Assembly.
The only other nominee was Dr. Warner L. Hall, minister of the Covenant Presbyterian Church of Charlotte, North Carolina.
In other action the assembly instructed the Permanent Committee on Christian Relations to make another study of racial relations and report back to next year’s assembly. This decision was touched off by Lamar Williamson, Jr., a missionary in the Congo who asked what had been done in this area in the past year and learned that the church had not made an official pronouncement on racial matters since 1954.
The perennial battle over withdrawal from the National Council of Churches ended after a four-hour floor debate in a 294–91 vote to continue affiliation.
Another prolonged debate developed over the Layman’s Bible Commentary, published by the John Knox Press, the church’s official publishing house. An overture from the Asheville Presbytery requesting “stronger editorial safeguards” charged that the commentaries disparaged the historical accuracy and the editorial integrity of Scripture by assigning to it legends, fabrications, falsehoods, epic sagas, erroneous teaching about God, and the doctrine that all men shall be saved whether in Christ or out of Christ. The validity of the criticism was not denied, the last mentioned attracted no comment whatever, and the overture of Asheville was defeated by a vote of 323 to 74. Many analysts felt that the vote was not truly indicative of the theological position of the commissioners.
A resolution was adopted which decried the “steady barrage of blatant filth” in pornography and which urged the pastoral responsibility of providing pre-marital counseling.
The assembly also went on record as opposed to federal aid either in the form of grants or loans to private or parochial schools for any purpose.
The commissioners instructed the Permanent Judicial Commission to submit recommendations to the 1963 General Assembly for such changes in the Book of Church Order as would, with the advice and consent of the various presbyteries, allow women to be ordained to office, including that of the ministry. The decision was adopted by a 251–105 vote.
Action on a resolution which opposed the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere was postponed. It was referred to a committee for further study.
Plans were announced last month for a merger of Presbyterian and Methodist congregations in Pennsylvania. Religious News Service called it “a sort of grassroots approach” to possible merger.
Congregations of both churches, at the local level, will be encouraged to consolidate wherever they are floundering because of inadequate budgets, small memberships, and needless competition.
Officials of the two groups insist that the merger plan is “not a mandate” but at the same time there were strong indications that it would be pushed when necessary—perhaps even to the extent of denying the assigning of a pastor to a reluctant congregation.
Methodist Bishop W. Vernon Middleton and Dr. Douglas S. Vance of the United Presbyterian Church jointly announced the merger proposal.
The Evanston Institute for Ecumenical Studies, founded in 1957 to train clergy and laymen for ecumenical leadership, was merged last month with the Church Federation of Greater Chicago. A spokesman said negotiations were being conducted to have the Rev. Joseph Mathews, of the controversial Faith and Life Associates of Austin, Texas, serve as new director.
• Fifteen Episcopal ministers were cleared last month of breach-of-peace charges in Jackson, Mississippi, where they were arrested last September in an anti-segregation demonstration. A county court judge ruled that the prosecution had not proven charges against the biracial ministers’ group.
• The National Evangelical Film Foundation cited “Dark Valley,” a motion picture produced by Gospel Films, as the best film of 1961.
• The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has become the largest Lutheran body in America, but not for long. Its 2,544,544 members now outnumber the 2,495,763 of the United Lutheran Church in America, which held the lead for 44 years. The new Lutheran Church in America, representing a merger of four churches, will have over 3,200,000 members. Its constituting convention is scheduled in Detroit June 28-July 1.
• Salaries of professors in accredited seminaries have increased some nine per cent in the last two years, according to a report of the American Association of Theological Schools. The range was given as from $5,770 to $19,318, with a median maximum of $10,350 and a median minimum of $9,120.
• The Disciples of Christ plan to establish a four-year liberal arts college in conjunction with Brevard Engineering College at Melbourne, Florida.
• An official delegation of Japanese Christian leaders visited Korea last month. It was the first group of Japanese churchmen admitted to Korea since World War II.
• The American Bible Society distributed last year 24,000,000 Bibles and Scripture portions, an all-time record, among 100 countries.
Upholding The Minority
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last month that the First Baptist Church of Wichita may not be withdrawn from the American Baptist Convention even though a majority of the congregation voted for such an action.
Reversing a decision of a state district court, the Supreme Court declared that “not even in an autonomous Baptist church may the denomination of the church be changed by a mere majority vote.”
Two years ago the congregation, then the largest in the denomination, voted 739 to 294 to withdraw from the American Baptist Convention, the Kansas Baptist Convention, and the Wichita Association of Baptist Churches to protest the denomination’s affiliation with the National Council of Churches.
Settling The Issue
Evangelist Billy Graham says he supports a proposal for a national referendum on an amendment to the federal Constitution which would permit Bible reading and prayer recitations in public schools.
The referendum proposal originated with Dr. J. Calvin Rose, pastor of Miami Shores (Florida) Presbyterian Church.
Graham, during a visit to Miami on the eve of a major crusade in Chicago, endorsed Rose’s proposal.
“It’s a good thing,” said the evangelist. “Then we will have a majority opinion and I believe the majority has a right to be heard.”
Graham was reported to be confident that in such a referendum the U. S. citizenry would uphold the practice of Bible reading and prayer in the public schools.
Graham was slated to launch his Chicago campaign on Memorial Day. The impact of the crusade is being extended throughout North America by use of television. Five hour-long telecasts from Chicago are being carried on successive nights by stations from coast to coast.
Furor At The Fair
A controversy is being waged at the Christian Witness Pavilion of the Seattle World’s Fair over a 10-minute “Sound and Light” film dealing with the biblical themes of creation, redemption, and hope in abstract photography and symbolism.
The pavilion’s sponsors have named a three-man committee to make editorial revisions in the film, which was produced by Sacred Design Associates of Minneapolis.
Consensus of those opposing the film is that it is mystifying and confusing, instead of enlightening, according to Religious News Service.
The pavilion was visited by some 105,000 people during the fair’s first three weeks. The sponsoring organization represents 23 denominations and 19 church-related agencies.
The Washington Scene
Church colleges and other private agencies are eligible for financial aid under a newly-enacted federal program to assist educational television.
A bill passed by Congress a few weeks ago and subsequently signed by the President permits grants to tax-supported educational agencies or to nonprofit agencies “organized primarily to engage in or encourage educational television” and meeting the Federal Communications Commission regulations.
The original Senate bill called for $51,000,000 for a five-year program of grants to the states. The House version provided for a four-year program of matching grants totaling some $25,000,000. A compromise was worked out which authorizes $32,000,000 over a five-year period for federal matching grants.
Other developments in Washington:
—The Supreme Court rejected a plea that it consider the constitutionality of tax exemptions granted by the state on church properties. Its refusal allows to stand a decision of the Rhode Island Supreme Court which held that such exemptions are within the exclusive authority of the state legislature.
—President Kennedy led a tribute to Bishop Angus Dun upon his retirement as head of the Protestant Episcopal diocese of Washington. Kennedy entertained Bishop and Mrs. Dun at a White House luncheon.
—Kennedy’s Memorial Day proclamation urged Americans to observe the day “by invoking the blessing of God on those who have died in defense of our country,” a phrase interpreted by many Protestants as tantamount to prayers for the dead.
—A study of the top thousand jobs in the current administration shows no religious favoritism, according to a report made by Protestant and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State. A POAU statement, however, expressed “certain areas of apprehension.” Another study “in much greater depth” was recommended in about 18 months “when the current administration shall have attained greater maturity and its trends can be more clearly ascertained.”
Act Of Reconciliation
The verger of the English village church at Great Barton, Suffolk, hanged himself in the bell tower last month. The church was immediately closed until a curious and unusual service had taken place. From the Middle Ages it has been held that blood shed in a church causes a breach between God and the worshipers, and that this can be healed only by “an act of reconciliation.” The Bishop of Dunwich conducted the necessary service at which the Archdeacon of Sudbury explained that he considered the procedure binding, and the church was reopened for worship.
The Congregational Union of England and Wales is a somewhat loose confederation of 2,000 churches. At its annual assembly last month, the union took an important step toward becoming in fact “The Congregational Church” when it decided that a draft constitution should be considered at next year’s meeting.
The move was seen as an indication that the traditional “independency” had become “interdependency” in that Congregationalists were tending to speak with one voice on most major issues.
Good From The Gallows
His experience with a man condemned to execution for “a particularly beastly murder” was recounted by the Bishop of Durham, Dr. M. H. Harland, when last month’s Convocation of York debated a motion to abolish capital punishment. “I went to the condemned cell,” said the bishop, “and asked to be locked in with the man. He sat back smoking, looking supercilious, his feet on the table. I read to him and said he need not listen. Divine inspiration led me to read about the prodigal son. The man broke down, sobbing. Then he turned to me and said, ‘I’m a murderer.’ Then began, within a week, the most wonderful reclamation and conversion I have ever seen. Never have I been so conscious of the work of the Lord. I confirmed him, and the night before he died I was with him. He said, ‘I want no dope. I want to pay.’ He had his Communion. If ever I have seen a man fit for his maker and for eternity, that was the man.”
Dr. Harland said he wished deeply that he could vote for the motion, but because of such circumstances, where life and death and God and the next world became a reality to a condemned man, he found it very difficult to vote against capital punishment. He concluded that the hardest task he had was breaking the news to two men who had been reprieved, for they then had the task of making good again. Despite Dr. Harland’s appeal, the motion was carried by an overwhelming majority.
The London Sunday Telegraph, commenting that the Bishop of Durham was supplying an excellent theological reason for hanging everybody, said that the whole debate was “a first class illustration of the muddle that ensues when complicated social and political questions to which Christianity affords no conclusive answers are treated as though they could be settled by a straight appeal to the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount.”
Since the 1957 English-Scottish Interchurch Relations Report the Church of England has been giving special consideration to the place of laity in the church. The Bishop of Chichester, Dr. R. P. Wilson, referred to this in the Canterbury Convocation when he pointed to the weight of opinion in favor of the laity’s greater participation in church government. He suggested that there was no intrinsic difficulty about proposals which had been made to achieve this.
Strong dissent came from Canon J. Brierley of Lichfield. It was not right, he asserted, “to take away from the ordained officers of the Church the power of final veto in all matters, including the most detailed questions of theology.” Similar objections were made in the York Convocation where one speaker said that the proposals minimized the essential difference between the function of the clergy and the layman. Recommendations on the subject by the church’s committees will be fully debated at the fall convocations.
Where Stands Scotland?
At a press conference in Edinburgh, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, Dr. Nevile Davidson, cited two “long-term” subjects: his hope for the ultimate reunion of Christendom and the question of revising the Westminster Confession of Faith. Dr. Davidson, minister of Glasgow Cathedral, has been actively connected with the recent Church of Scotland-Roman Catholic meetings (see “Review of Current Religious Thought,” May 25 issue), and is a strong critic of the traditional Scottish Sabbath. Referring to the dissent by the Church and Nation Committee from the Westminster Confession’s view of Sunday observance, he said: “I think this is one of the first occasions on which the General Assembly is to be asked to depart from one of the sections of the Westminster Confession.” On the doctrine of predestination and election, among other issues, Dr. Davidson considered that the Church of Scotland had departed from the position laid down in the Confession. He added: “There have been numerous changes in the last 100 years, and a document which is adequate in the twentieth century should be different from one which was adequate in the seventeenth century.”
Commenting on the point, a former Moderator and Principal of New College, Edinburgh, Dr. Hugh Watt, said: “My personal feeling is that if the thing is to be rewritten it is not for the Church of Scotland—it is for the whole Presbyterian world.” This raises interesting features, for even at home both the Free Church of Scotland and the Free Presbyterian Church (which wield substantial influence in the Highlands and Islands) regard themselves as jealous guardians of the 316-year-old Confession, and would vigorously oppose any suggested emendation.
The Second Phase
A joint commission to study differences between Anglican and Orthodox churches was agreed upon last month when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Arthur Michael Ramsey, visited the Ecumencial Patriarch Athenagoras I in Istanbul.
The commission will continue discussions opened by a similar commission in the 1930s and ended because of the war.
A special committee set up by the Greek Ministry of Worship is studying problems involved in the prolonged strike of theological students at the Universities of Athens and Salonika.
The students walked out last February to protest a new education program which drastically cuts the number of hours devoted to religious instruction in the schools. They say the strike was called “to protect their professional interest” and “to defend Orthodoxy.” They call it a “religious renaissance” in Greece.
People: Words And Events
Deaths:Dr. John W. Beardslee, 82, retired president of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary; in New Brunswick, New Jersey … Dr. Edward Graham Gammon, 77, president emeritus of Hampden-Sydney College and a prominent Presbyterian clergyman; in Hampden-Sydney, Virginia … Dr. Raymond T. Stamm, 68, retired professor of New Testament at the Lutheran Theological Seminary; in Allenwood, Pennsylvania … the Rev. Charles Stephen Conway Williams, 55, noted biblical commentator and Augustinian scholar; at Oxford, England … the Rev. Andrew W. Gottschall, 70, a well-known Disciples of Christ minister and a regional official of the National Conference of Christians and Jews; in Philadelphia … the Rev. Herbert E. Eberhardt, 70, superintendent of the Central Union Mission, Washington, D. C.
Appointments: As president of Grace Theological Seminary and College, Dr. Herman Hoyt … as president of William Jewell College, Dr. H. Guy Moore … as professor of biblical languages at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Henry R. Moeller … as academic dean at Buffalo Bible Institute, the Rev. Gerald Winkleman … as an associate general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. T. Paul Verghese, a priest of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Malabar, India … as first primate of an independent Church of England in Australia, Dr. H. R. Gough … as Anglican Bishop of Sheffield, England, the Rev. Frederick John Taylor … as professor of Old Testament languages, literature, and theology at New College, Edinburgh, Dr. G. W. Anderson … as chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, Dr. John Marsh.
Citation: To Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr., the first annual Citizenship Award of the Military Chaplains Association.
Elections: As president-designate of the Council of Bishops of The Methodist Church, Bishop Paul Neff Garber of Richmond, Virginia … as Anglican Bishop of Calcutta and Metropolitan of India, Pakistan, and Burma, Dr. Hiyanirindu Lakdasa Jacob de Mel.
Nomination: As moderator of the General Assembly of the United Church of North India, Dr. William Stewart.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more