During debate the Greeks threatened to pull out, Negroes responded to other action with high praise. It was not a United Nations meeting. In view was not the East River but the Hudson. The site was New York City’s Riverside Church hard by the Interchurch Center in Morningside Heights. It was the regular June meeting of the policy-making General Board of the National Council of Churches, and the usual placid air of the assembly had been thrust aside by cleavage-revealing debate which bore the threat of disruption of the body politic.

Waging a strong battle against long odds was retiring Union Seminary President Henry Van Dusen, who is becoming in some respects a prodding NCC conscience that sometimes prevails but often as not doesn’t. Allied preeminently with him was New York attorney and board member Charles Rafael, who painted with vivid strokes the Greek Orthodox viewpoint in his role as representative of absent Archbishop Iakovos, primate of North and South America.

At issue was a proposed NCC statement opposing devotional religious acts in public schools. Dr. Van Dusen strenously attacked the document for two “inexcusable” omissions: the realities of God and of truth. “The premise that lies behind this document,” he charged, “is that we are not a religious people, that religion is a past phenomenon of history and does not have a vital role in the education of a child for life.” He opposed the document’s endorsement of the United States Supreme Court Regents’ prayer ruling.

Yale Divinity School’s dean emeritus Luther A. Weigle called for revamping of the statement to eliminate misunderstanding of its content, and asked: “Do we need to beat the Supreme Court to it on its decisions?” (The revamped form did—see News, p. 29. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

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

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