Religious leaders are worried about the impact President Kennedy’s tax reform would have upon charitable contributions.
A number have already expressed concern over the new rules proposed for itemizing tax deductions.
As set forth in Kennedy’s tax message to Congress last month, all deductions—including those claimed for church and other charitable contributions—would be subject to an overall 5 per cent “floor.” This means, in effect, that itemized deductions would be limited to those in excess of 5 per cent of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.
In filling out his return, therefore, the taxpayer would add up all his deductions (charitable contributions, medical expenses, interest payments, and so forth), then reduce that total by 5 per cent of his adjusted gross income.
At present, the average taxpayer may deduct all charitable contributions up to 20 per cent of his gross income, and up to 30 per cent in the case of donations to churches, educational institutions, and hospitals. If he chooses not to itemize deductions, he may claim a “standard deduction” which amounts to about 10 per cent of his income.
Kennedy’s proposal would extend the 30 per cent limit to “all organizations eligible for the charitable contributions deductions which are publicly supported and controlled.”
The President asserted that “present law permits a handful of high income taxpayers to take an unlimited deduction for charitable contributions, instead of the 20 to 30 per cent of income normally allowable.… They should be limited to the same 30 per cent deduction for charitable contributions as everyone else.”
It is estimated that more than 40 per cent of all individual income-tax returns are filed by people who itemize deductions. Kennedy said that under the proposed tax reform 6,500,000 taxpayers would no longer itemize deductions. He observed that the “broadening of the tax base which permits a greater reduction in individual income tax rates has an accompanying advantage of real simplification.”
He intimated that he did not foresee an adverse effect on charitable giving.
“This 5 per cent floor will make $2.3 billion of revenue available for reduction in individual tax rates. At the same time incentives to home ownership or charitable contributions will remain. In fact, this tax program as a whole, providing as it does substantial reductions in Federal tax liabilities for virtually all families and individuals, will make it easier for people to meet their personal and civic obligations.”
NEWS / A fortnightly report of developments in religion
‘CONCESSIONS’ SEEN IN EDUCATION PROGRAM
President Kennedy’s 1963 program for federal aid to education includes some “concessions” to parochial and other private schools and to private colleges, including those that are church-related, according to Religious News Service.
While the major part of the omnibus program would be restricted, as in previous proposals, to public schools only, the President has asked Congress to remove discriminations against teachers in parochial schools that were incorporated in the National Defense Education Act.
He urged that the forgiveness of student loans be extended to those who teach in private schools, as well as public schools, and in private colleges.
Kennedy also asked Congress to provide stipends up to $75 a week for teachers in private schools who attend summer institutes sponsored under the NDEA, RNS reported. At present, teachers in non-public schools may attend such institutes but do not receive the financial support which is given public school teachers.
In his message transmitting the program to Congress, the President made no direct reference to the religious issue which has been at the heart of the debate over federal aid, saving only:
“We can no longer afford the luxury of endless debate over all the complicated and sensitive questions raised by each new proposal on federal participation in education.”
A Roman Catholic priest in Pittsburgh stated that if a member of his congregation saves $100 through the Kennedy-proposed cuts in income tax rates, “maybe he will give $30 to $40 of that to the church.”
The consensus, however, seems to be otherwise. The Rev. T. K. Thompson, director of the Department of Stewardship and Benevolences of the National Council of Churches, declared:
“This proposal would undoubtedly make it harder for churches and charities to raise funds. And it’s already hard enough.”
Thompson said he had discussed the proposal with about a dozen philanthropic leaders at a meeting in New York and “most of them were of the opinion that the change would have a negative, although not a catastrophic, effect on giving.”
The Rev. Arthur Joyce of the United Presbyterian Department of Stewardship and Promotion told United Press International that tax deductibility “has unquestionably served as an extremely important incentive to giving.”
A legal official of the National Catholic Welfare Conference agreed that “the proposed change certainly wouldn’t make things any easier.”
The Wall Street Journal quoted a Baptist church official as saying that “without the deduction feature, I’m afraid there would be many people who wouldn’t give at all.”
A charity administrator whose institution depends largely on a large number of small gifts from people in the $5,000 to $10,000 income bracket said he did not think there would be any effect.
But concern was voiced particularly by administrators of institutions that depend on gifts from middle- and higher-income brackets.
An opposing viewpoint was registered by the treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Texas, Dr. R. A. Springer:
“We like to think people give to the church on principle, regardless of the tax situation.”
One current provision which would not be affected by tax reform encourages individuals to give stock to charities. Stock donations are deductible at current market value, even if the taxpayer bought the stock at a fraction of that value. If he sells the stock instead of giving it to charity, he must pay a capital gains tax.
A factor which keeps the deduction plan from becoming even more of an issue is the doubt that it will ever be enacted by Congress. Observers give the tax reform proposal little change of passage without major modifications.
Needed: More Vigor
Although White House encouragement was conspicuously lacking, a strong move was afoot in Congress to deal with the problem of obscene and pornographic materials.
A bipartisan group of 16 Senators introduced a bill last month to create a special federal commission to study the problem. Identical measures were introduced in the House.
A similar bill passed the Senate last year, but was not reported by the House Committee on Government Expenditures, headed by Democratic Representative William A. Dawson of Illinois.
The proposed 15-member commission would be empowered to investigate all types of indecent material circulating in interstate commerce, and would be directed to recommend legislation to Congress, as well as programs for more effective enforcement of existing laws.
As of the end of January, President Kennedy had not offered any recommendations on legislation to protect the public from indecent materials. In fact, he has had very little to say on the subject since he took office more than two years ago. His only specific action has been a “pocket veto” of a bill approved by Congress to strengthen the laws against obscene publications in the District of Columbia.
THE GOSPEL IN ORBIT
Alert communicators who hope to tap the potential of communications satellites for the cause of Christ got encouragement from the powerful chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee last month.
Democratic Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington challenged delegates to the 20th annual convention of National Religious Broadcasters to carry God’s message “throughout the materialistic world.”
“The scientific and technical means of communicating this message have reached capabilities undreamed of a few years ago,” Magnuson observed, “but I strongly question if their use for religious purposes has increased proportionately with this growth.” (An NRB survey showed that during 1961 its members had spent a total of $1,880,163.98 for the purchase of television time. That amount buys less than 15 hours of prime time on the NBC television network.)
He said that “our task is to increase the quantity of religious broadcasts and telecasts without diminution of the present high quality of many fine religious programs.”
Referring specifically to the missionary potential of communications satellites like Telstar, he declared: “What a weapon for the Christian and the free world if it is used right!” The Senator said the problems were “whether the content transmitted by communications satellites will include religious messages of significance and whether, once transmitted, the governments of certain countries will permit their peoples to receive them.”
His committee, Magnuson said, “will look to you for guidance and suggestions as to how best to achieve this objective.”
The Senate Commerce Committee has charge of legislation regulating radio and television. Magnuson and the committee have in years past fallen into disfavor with some religious leaders because of the committee’s perennial refusal to report out—favorably or unfavorably—a bill to regulate the advertising of alcoholic beverages on radio and television.
Another convention speaker, William J. Roberts of the Far East Broadcasting Company, disclosed that the U. S. government had taken over a missionary radio station during the Cuban crisis. The station, KGEI, which regularly beams Gospel broadcasts to Latin America from a transmitter near San Francisco, was on the air with President Kennedy’s crisis speech on 40 minutes’ notice. The government used the facilities of KGEI and nine other stations for another 23 days, until the crisis had subsided.
The Washington convention was also the occasion for the birth of a new federation which seeks “greater cohesion and closer cooperation among evangelical broadcasters.” The federation, to be known as International Christian Broadcasters, will embrace National Religious Broadcasters and the World Conference on Missionary Communications, both of which will continue to function as separate organizations as well. NRB’s field is primarily domestic, while WCMC is largely involved in missionary radio stations.
His veto after Congress had adjourned last fall killed the measure sponsored by Democratic Representative John Dowdy of Texas. At that time the President said:
“Although I am in complete accord with the Congress that the people of the District of Columbia should adequately be protected against the dissemination of indecent and obscene publications and articles, there are grave constitutional and other considerations which compel me to withhold approval.”
He suggested then that the 88th Congress consider the subject. There was no word from the White House as to whether Kennedy would favor the establishment of a federal commission on obscenity.
An Amish farmer whose horses were seized because of his refusal to pay Social Security taxes apparently is not willing to pursue court action against the federal government.
The farmer, Valentine Y. Byler of New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, dropped a U. S. District Court suit after being caught in a religious dilemma. The Old Order Amish community to which he belongs does not believe in any form of insurance, but it also does not believe in court actions.
In view of the withdrawal of the suit, John Bingler, district director of Internal Revenue in Pittsburgh, said his department has no alternative but to attempt to collect back Social Security taxes from 76 other Amishmen who also have refused to pay.
The only hope for the Amish apparently lies with Congress, where bills have again been introduced to exempt from Social Security those who have religious objections against it. A similar bill was passed by the Senate last year, but was killed by a joint House-Senate conference committee.
The American Baptist Convention is appealing a local tax board ruling which places a $2.2 million assessment upon its new national offices and printing plant at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Under an agreement between ABC officials and local authorities, the convention has placed some $130,000 in escrow in lieu of a tax payment to Upper Merion Township. The money was placed in escrow pending the outcome of an appeal by the ABC to the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. The convention maintains that the property should be tax-exempt.
A majority of Southern Presbyterian General Assembly moderators feel that inclusion of United Presbyterians in talks now going on with the Reformed Church in America would seriously threaten those conversations.
Eleven of the last seventeen moderators of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. responded to a survey conducted by the Presbyterian Journal, an independent weekly with editorial offices in Asheville, North Carolina. Nine indicated opposition to the inclusion of the United Presbyterians at this time. Another said he was not opposed but questioned whether the move was timely. The eleventh moderator favored inclusion because it would “keep the matter before the church.”
A Florida presbytery has already prepared an overture to the 1963 General Assembly asking that United Presbyterians be included in the talks. At the same assembly, to be held April 25–29 in Huntington, West Virginia, the first report will be presented from Southern Presbyterian members of a joint Presbyterian-Reformed committee exploring possibilities of common witness and service.
A Theological Gulf
Protestant denominations that participate in the ecumenical movement were urged last month to establish closer relations with evangelical groups that remain outside the movement.
The gulf that exists between these two groups in the United States is being exported around the world and is hurting the missionary effort, Dr. Eugene L. Smith told the Methodist Board of Missions’ annual meeting in Cincinnati.
Smith, general secretary of the board’s Division of World Missions, warned that any such approaches to evangelicals must be made in a spirit of humility and on a person-to-person basis.
He said the ecumenical denominations should recognize that “the evangelicals have something to teach us in the traditional churches in several areas of church life: missionary zeal, the invasive power of the Holy Spirit, Christian stewardship, the practice of expectant evangelism, and communal prayers.”
Calling for personal contacts with evangelical bodies, Smith said “distrust of the conciliar movement is so keen among many of the conservative evangelicals that organizational approaches only intensify the problem.”
He also declared that the “guiding concern of our approach to the conservative evangelicals must be Christian truth, even more than unity.” Many of the evangelicals feel that the ecumenical movement emphasizes unity at the expense of truth, and this objection must be dealt with, he added.
Evangelicals “feel deeply that they are not approached by ‘ecumenicals’ as brothers in Christ but as people to be used for organizational purposes,” Smith said.
In view of this, he cautioned that ecumenical denominations must make sure their motives are “entirely free from even a hidden desire that in the name of unity we should seek to bring them into our organizational structure.”
A Merger Stalled
A membership vote of the Missionary Church Association fell 42 votes short of a two-thirds majority necessary to effect a merger with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
The referendum was the last major obstacle standing in the way of a union of the two groups, which together would have a membership of about 80,000 with an overseas missionary task force approaching 1,000.
Although the General Conference of the MCA approved the merger last August, it stipulated a membership vote with a two-thirds majority of those voting necessary to carry. The referendum was conducted in the 120 MCA churches on Sunday, January 6. Final tally showed 3,405 voting in favor of the merger and 1,765 against. A total of 3,447 was necessary for passage. The MCA has a total membership of about 8,000, but only those over 16 were eligible to vote.
The General Council of the CMA, whose polity is not so autonomous as the MCA’s, approved the merger last May and was expected to have ratified it this year. No referendum was involved.
Dr. Nathan Bailey, CMA president, observed that “the original conversations and the merger negotiations were conducted in a most cordial atmosphere. We know these cordial relations will continue in the future in our close cooperation and fellowship in the major task of world evangelization.”
There is some speculation that a new merger attempt will be initiated at the next General Conference of the MCA in August, 1964.
Both denominations had their beginnings about 75 years ago. They are similar in theology, principles, and practices. Until 1945 most of the missionaries sent out by the MCA worked in CMA fields. Cooperative efforts will continue.
Ethics In The Social Dimension
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville opened its doors to the fourth annual meeting of the American Society for Christian Social Ethics last month. Unlike some such conferences which approach ethical problems from the circumference of concrete issues, the two-day gathering moved from the center outward: that is, the papers were ordered in such a manner that the ethical norm was the primary object of search, while the day-by-day applications were made in the light of the central and the normative.
Three questions engaged the meeting: What is the source of the ethical norm? What are its sanctions? How may it be applied in a complex world?
Consideration of the first question began with another query: What does natural law reveal about central ethical requirements? Careful thought was directed to the relation between the universal and absolute deliverances which some students find in natural law on the one hand, and the relational and the individual conclusions established by pragmatic and positive law.
Attention was given to the manner in which natural law seems at times to contradict divine law, with the conclusion that the classical Greek understanding of the “law of the gods” as subject to the claims of man’s interpretation of nature has passed with many other antique notions. It was noted that the Christian faith is intimately bound to a historical understanding of reality, which frequently brings it into conflict with the permanent structures which natural law presupposes. The conclusion upon which the discussions proceeded seemed to be that the ethical norm is not derived from some supposed analysis of the nature either of “natural law” or of man, but is derived from divine demands which focus attention, not upon rational investigation of the structures of creation, but upon God’s right to expect total obedience. This was regarded as providing two requisites: first, the fixity upon which man may seek to ground his moral action; and second, the flexibilities by which today’s man may meet the unpredictable facts arising from his involvement in social change.
This structuring of the moral norm guided discussion of the sanction(s) upon which Christian ethics must rest. Significant emphasis was laid upon the contribution which H. Richard Niebuhr made to the study of social ethics in his value-theory and in his view that God is primarily good in an intrinsic sense, the expression of His goodness in an instrumental sense being distinctly secondary. This view was set over against that of Charles Hartshorne, who held that to be love, God must have creatures to love and to love him. Obviously one does not solve all ethical problems by asserting that in God supreme power and supreme love are united. What was stressed was that belief in a self-sufficient God affords the best possible basis for derivation of a relational ethic.
The application of the revealed norm engaged the meeting at a number of levels. Granting that the Christian ethic is one of duty, of commitment, of obedience to authority, it remains true that there are variables involved in understanding the content of that ethic for the concrete situation. First of all, there must be a recognition of individual differences and of contingent events. These “contingent events” offer the tantalizing possibility of an ethical breakthrough by which a tangible norm of love can or should be made concrete. Those noted especially were the questions of race, automation, juvenile delinquency, and of licit and effective means for exerting Christian influence upon public policy.
The question of minorities, particularly racial minorities, found careful analysis in a paper entitled “New Configurations in Minority Group Social Action”; the differing attitudes of several groups within our society were brought to focus. On the one hand, the melioristic attitudes and programs to which Christian ethicists are generally committed were confronted with minorities’ more radical demands for prompt, activistic solutions to the problems of manifest inequities. “Tokenism” was seen as less satisfactory to aspiring members of minority groups than to hopeful members of majority groups. Significantly, the mentality of the minority groups was given prominence in the discussion; to the minorities the urgent demands for justice take priority, at this moment, at least, over efforts to “build love” in the hearts of men.
Genuine, searching effort was made to grapple with the problems inherent in automation of industry, particularly those touching public justice. Clearly, there exists to date no simple panacea, for such measures as retraining fail to meet the basic problems involved in high school drop-outs, in the relative abundance of unskilled labor, and in the lack of prior background by which unskilled labor might be brought to the level of skills at which they could be placed in the scheme of our complex society. The intimate relationship between automated industry and juvenile delinquency was noted; proposed solutions prompted the conclusion that the social ethicist faces a complex of problems and problematic situations which will engage and challenge him for a long time to come.
The question of the exertion of Christian influence upon public policy involved several related problems, notably the structuring of “publics” in our public life, and the mode of government’s response to these sometimes-diverse power groups. The discussion involved, of course, the so-called “radical right”—the denotation was changed at the outset to “resurgent right”—and accepted the view that those thus designated have at least some right on their side. On the whole, the treatment of those to the right of center was fair, with due recognition that while these persons may at times be confused in their ideology, they feel that they contend for action by principle in a world in which relativism underlies most of public policy. There was no downgrading of the right ad hominem, not any “condemnation by cliché,” but a serious quest for a re-relating of empirical ethics to the application of principle in public life.
The meeting was characterized by a degree of self-criticism which is not always easy for a new group engaged in a relatively new task. Particularly noteworthy was the emphasis upon the need for reinstatement, in the midst of the problematic and the pragmatic, of the claims of an ethical norm from a Source outside and above man, a norm grounded in One who is both intrinsically and instrumentally good.
H. B. K.
The Happy Confession
The Heidelberg Catechism, one of Protestantism’s most basic documents which is attracting new attention as a doctrinal median, was honored on its 400th birthday last month with ceremonies at Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Theological Seminary. The four-day observance embraced a seminary convocation and an annual meeting of the North American Area Council of the World Presbyterian Alliance.
Dr. Hendrikus Berkhof, a Dutch theologian, lyrically described the catechism as a “wonderful, radical, catholic, serious and yet happy confession.” Hailed as the “climax of the confessional literature of all Christian ages,” it was described by Dr. James I. McCord, president of Princeton Theological Seminary, as “the most ecumenical confession of the Reformation Period.” Dr. James E. Wagner, vice president of the alliance, recalled that “when Dr. Eugene Carson Blake made his now famous proposal for church union in an address in San Francisco in December, 1960, he … suggested that the Heidelberg Catechism might offer a good doctrinal basis on which the four denominations … could find satisfactory agreement.”
It was pointed out that when the Reformation came to the Palatinate of Germany, the region became enflamed over differences between Lutherans and Calvinists. Elector Frederick III, assuming the role of a peacemaker, appointed Ursinus, a Heidelberg professor, and Olevianus, a gifted preacher at court, to compose a confession of faith marked by biblical simplicity and free from scholastic subtleties. The product of these two men still in their twenties was a confession which has widely been hailed as the most sweet-tempered, the most devotional, and the most ecumenical of any of the confessions coming out of the Reformation—qualities doubtless interrelated.
The Heidelberg Catechism is still used today by Reformed churches in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Romania, Yugoslavia, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United States.
Dr. Howard G. Hageman of the Reformed Church in America pleaded that the catechism be salvaged from its “colossal neglect” and be used again as an “instrument of Christian nurture.” In view of its large disuse, he asked whether the anniversary was really “a birthday or a funeral?” Hageman described the Heidelberg Catechism as a “spiritual biography,” free from the more “speculative theology” of the Westminster Catechism, and said the Heidelberg, unlike later catechisms, retained the thousand-year-old traditional schema of contents. He spotlighted the warm devotional character of the Heidelberg by demonstrating that with slight changes in language the catechism could be uttered as a prayer upon one’s knees.
The church in America which most honors the catechism in practice is the Christian Reformed Church. Among other things, it uses the catechism as a basis for one sermon each Sunday. It is not, however, a member of the alliance.
Additional celebrations are scheduled in Denver in July and in Heidelberg, Germany. The West German government plans to issue a stamp commemorating the anniversary.
An Island Experiment
In 1930 a 35-year-old baronet and minister of the Church of Scotland left fashionable St. Cuthbert’s, in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, to become minister of a thickly populated area in industrial Clydeside. There during the depression years George MacLeod (he does not use his title) came face to face with unemployment, hunger, and human need, and the older generation in Govan still remember his sacrificial work on their behalf. His services were well attended, but he sensed a missing dimension: “the urgent and imperative necessity for the Ministry of the Church to meet the clamant needs of men if ever it was again to re-establish that active relevance to the whole of life which formerly commanded the allegiance of their fathers.”
A fresh experiment was called for, which would bring together two groups of men: the worker and the minister. So in 1938 George MacLeod suddenly resigned his charge, and with a group of eight, craftsmen and young ministers, set off for the Hebridean island of Iona. Here in a place fairly inaccessible and offering few distractions was a worthy task and a spiritual challenge. Together, as they toiled to rebuild the abbey precincts, sharing the fellowship of work and of worship, ministers and laymen would seek to carry out what they regarded as the task of the Church: “to find a new community for men in the world today.” This year, with 150 regular members, 600 associate members, and more than 5,000 “friends” throughout the world, The Iona Community is celebrating its 25th birthday.
The task of rebuilding is virtually complete, and the present aim is “to prevent the decay of the fabric and to ensure an innkeeper winter and summer in all time coming.” The mainland center at Community House in Glasgow’s dockland is used as a place of fellowship and training, and is available also to groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous with whose aims the community is in sympathy. Formerly autonomous, the community is now under the jurisdiction of the Church of Scotland.
Four things are stressed: the constant commitment of the Church is to mission; parishioners must be trained to take responsible political action; the Church must recover the ministry of healing; worship must be related to daily life. The “political responsibility” injunction is coupled with a pronounced left-wing alignment and a pacifism which is no mere wartime profession: a large number of the 70 ministers who staged a ban-the-bomb parade in Glasgow are Iona men. MacLeod himself (winner of the Military Cross in World War I) remains a controversial figure. Known as “the Leader,” he is the only man in modern times whose election as moderator was challenged in the General Assembly.
The focal point of his theology is the Incarnation, which he aims to express in social terms. “Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves.” (At every stage of His life he was identified with mankind.) This “comprehensive” view, reminiscent of F. D. Maurice’s Christian Socialism, which flourished briefly a century ago, is reflected in a typical day’s program on the island: worship, study, work, a service of spiritual healing, a talk on Eastern Europe, and a dance.
Of evangelicals MacLeod says: “They are forever arranging the next revival campaign, so that more can ‘get Christ’ and so become involved, while they themselves who have ‘got Christ’ continue to escape involvement!” His voice was raised against the Kirk’s invitation to Billy Graham some years ago, in which cause his magnificent oratory was as unavailing as it is annually in the General Assembly when he seeks condemnation of the bomb. His pacifism and his politics, combined with a certain arrogance of manner, cause periodic eruptions in the correspondence columns of the Scottish national press, and ensure that his experiment does not lack publicity.
“I object to presenting religion as a joke and believers as being mentally deficient,” said a past president of the Catholic Stage Guild. Though lacking grammatical clarity, the message came through, along with 182 other complaints made by the normally phlegmatic British against BBC-TV’s satirical program “That Was The Week That Was.”
On this particular Saturday evening the producers presented a consumer report on comparative religions: Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Church of England, Islam, Buddhism—and Communism. The emcee, 23-year-old Cambridge graduate David Frost, who is also a Methodist local preacher, reviewed what the consumer had put into each religion, what he could expect out of it, and what it cost him. In advance, however, he slyly extracted some potentially critical teeth by pointing out that if in publicity and advertising the churches “used the values and methods of the world,” then they could expect to be judged by such values.
Roman Catholicism was examined as “a cradle-to-grave service from a priesthood unimpeded by family ties,” characterized by the slogan “confess your sins quickly before you do it again.” Communism came off worst under investigation, and the Church of England was recommended as the best buy (“you must believe that the Queen is the head of the Church, that the Prime Minister should appoint the Archbishop of Canterbury, and in God”). A London Roman Catholic newspaper, giving it front-page space, didn’t like the program at all and sought to drum up opposition from the more famous faithful. At the top of the list was the curious comment by comedienne Bebe Daniels: “I think it’s disgraceful. It’s the first time I’ve walked out of my own living room.” Another comedian is quoted as having said: “The only consolation I derived was that the program will be lucky if it lasts two years, whereas the thing it was taking the mickey out of has already lasted 2,000 years.” It may be that the newspaper had not forgiven a previous program which allegedly featured a group of cardinals at the end of the Vatican Council singing “Arrivederci, Roma!”
TWTWTW was also the subject of a question in the House of Commons last month, after the program disclosed the results of research into Members who had seldom if ever said a word in Parliament during the past three years. One of them broke silence long enough to ask if this was not a breach of privilege. The Speaker took until the following day to decide that That Was No Breach That Was.
A Reunion Plan?
As of late January, there was talk aplenty in Great Britain about the possibility of an Anglican-Methodist merger. A reunion committee was due to present findings of a detailed study report on February 26. One member described the report as “encouraging.”
Problems In The Sudan
The government of the Sudan found itself the target of many an angry accusation last month in the wake of missionary expulsions and alleged anti-Christian persecution. A high ranking Roman Catholic prelate met violent death under ambiguous circumstances so sketchily reported that any assessment of motivations seemed premature.
Twelve more American Protestant missionaries were forced out of the northeast African republic. Eleven of them were United Presbyterian and Reformed missionaries who had previously seen six of their colleagues banished. The other was a woman missionary of the Sudan Interior Mission, an interdenominational body which has more than 30 other missionaries still at work in the Sudan.
Most of the charges of anti-Christian persecution, however, have come from Roman Catholic sources. Vatican Radio asserted that about 100 Roman Catholic missionaries were expelled within two months.
Spokesmen for the government of the Sudan, however, insist that policies are not motivated by anti-Christian sentiment.
The Sudan embassy in Washington issued a statement challenging the accuracy of reports of anti-Christian persecution. The statement declared that “the policy of the Republic of the Sudan has always been, and shall always be, to guarantee and protect freedom of religion and worship for all citizens and all foreign residents without discrimination of any kind.”
The statement implied that missionaries had been expelled only because of “improper and illegal political activity.”
Other sources defending the government of the Sudan pointed to the fact that a number of Christians occupy influential posts whereby they can influence and implement national policies.
Avoiding A Test
Observers in Athens say that in “indefinitely postponing” its civil suit against a Greek Orthodox prelate, the national government may have avoided a politically embarrassing test of strength against the Orthodox Church in Greece.
Members of the Holy Synod, in a meeting just prior to the trial’s postponement, had gone on record as stating that the civil suit was, in effect, an attack upon the church and its prelates.
Metropolitan Ambrosius of Eleftherupolis—and five newsmen who printed his statements before the Holy Synod in November—was to have been brought to trial for “abuse” or libel of the government. The metropolitan, in discussing the government’s proposed clergy pay plan, had said the “Greek state behaves like a robber toward the Church.”
His comments were made during a Holy Synod session which had rejected the state’s recommendation, which, it charged, would have absorbed two church agencies within an organization that could be dominated by the state.
“Postponement” of the trial was interpreted in Athens by observers to mean that it would never be called and in time will be dropped.
It was revealed that at a session of the synod held five days before the scheduled date for the trial, Archbishop Chrysostomos of Athens and All Greece charged that the civil suit was actually a persecution of the synod. He noted that if carried out it would mark the first trial of a bishop before a civil court since the establishment of the Greek state.
Archbishop Chrysostomos subsequently proposed a $6,130,000 pay increase to be distributed among some 8,000 priests. Based on education training, the recommended pay scale would provide 67½ per cent increases at the highest level and 70 per cent at the lowest. The highest class now receives $684 a year; the lowest, $360.
Now To The Vatican
A United Press International dispatch from Madrid reported last month that the Spanish Catholic hierarchy had agreed to a government bill that would grant Protestants equal rights with Catholics.
UPI quoted “reliable sources” which said that the Spanish bishops at their recent annual conference had decided to drop objections to a “bill of Protestant emancipation” prepared by Foreign Minister Fernando Maria Castiela.
The decision was to be reported to Rome by the Archbishop of Saragoss. No agreement will be published officially until it has received Vatican approval, the report added.
The bill would permit Protestants to have their own schools and distribute Bibles, and would give them certain other rights such as those relating to marriage laws.
Meanwhile, in Buffalo, New York, the executive committee of the National Association of Evangelicals adopted a resolution commending Spanish government efforts to ease restrictions. The resolution called for “full religious freedom” and “not just … religious tolerance.”
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