Churches in the nation’s capital divided sharply over the August 28 “March on Washington” by civil rights demonstrators.

Many top denominational leaders endorsed the march and urged constituents to lend full support. Several national churches in Washington, however, were among scores that have balked at participation and endorsement.

“I am a liberal in civil rights and social action,” said Dr. George R. Davis, minister of National City Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), “but I am against this demonstration. It has been a very difficult decision for me, but I cannot in good conscience support such method and procedure.”

National Presbyterian Church decided to cooperate, but on a very limited scale. The church will act as an “information center” at the request of United Presbyterian Stated Clerk Eugene Carson Blake. It will also open its Hospitality House to Presbyterian ministers. The church session hotly debated the extent of cooperation. Only by a narrow margin was the request for the “information center” approved.

Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church, the national Methodist church, turned down a bid for cooperation, explaining that its ministerial staff was on vacation.

A number of other churches, by contrast, pledged to pitch in. Chief among them was Washington Cathedral, where officials endorsed the march enthusiastically. The use of the cathedral was offered, as well as beds and food.

Members of National Baptist Memorial Church were among slated marchers, but the church took “no official stand” (it was to be open for worship August 28).

No church leader seemed to question the right of public demonstration and protest. But some felt that the massive movement “on” Washington was objectionably coercive. If mob ultimatums ...

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