With the death of Pope John XXIII, the second Vatican Council was officially suspended, as Roman Catholic canon law requires, pending a decision of his successor whether it should be resumed.
The new pope, however, will be under great pressure to see that the council picks up where it left off. In fact, this consideration will be important in the papal selection processThe new pope will be elected by secret ballot at a closed-door conclave of the 82-member Sacred College of Cardinals. Pope John’s new rules call for a simple two-thirds majority. However, if the total number of cardinals present cannot be divided into three equal parts, one vote more than a simple two-thirds is needed. No cardinal may vote for himself. When a vote fails to produce a decision, the ballots are burned in a stove with damp straw, causing black smoke which indicates to the outside world that voting must continue. When the vote is conclusive, the ballots are burned without damp straw, producing a light-colored smoke. itself: informed observers are convinced that no pontiff will be elected who is not prepared to commit himself to reopening the council. There is an element within the Roman Catholic hierarchy which feels that John’s modernization program went too far. Some even deplored the calling of the council. It is generally expected that this conservative element will be overruled. But their influence could conceivably result in a measure of reorganization of committees, revision of recommendations, and amendments such as qualifying adjectives to statements on religious liberty.
Hopes that the council would be resumed were voiced in Rome by Msgr. Fausto Vallainc, head of the council press office. He said, however, that there was a strong possibility that it might be interrupted for more than a year, or else reconvened in a new form by the next pope.
Authoritative Vatican opinion is that, out of respect for John’s final wishes, and in deference to the considerable amount of work already accomplished by council fathers, the council will hold its second session in September as scheduled.
But the indications are that the session might be limited to the “briefest” study of the schemas already worked out by council commissions. A year later, general debate might be resumed and final votes taken on the schema.
NEWS / A fortnightly report of developments in religion
The following are leading prospects for the papacy:
GIOVANNI CARDINAL MONTINI, 65, Archibshop of Milan, former acting secretary of state of Pius XII. An expert in politics. Represents liberal wing.
GREGORY CARDINAL AGAGIANIAN, 67, head of Vatican missionaary department. Born in Tiflis, Armenia, the town from which Stalin came. Learned English in Boston. A moderate.
LEON CARDINAL SUENENS, 58, Archbishop of Malines-Brussels. Represented John XXIII last month at the United Nations.
FRANZISKUS CARDINAL KÖNIG, 59, Archbishop of Vienna. Recently active as a Vatican diplomat, visiting Warsaw and Budapest.
PAUL-EMILE CARDINAL LEGER, 59, Archbishop of Montreal. Believed to be the only serious contender from the Western Hemisphere. A liberal.
CARLO CARDINAL CONFALONIERI, 69, a Northern Italian who holds important positions in the Vatican. May have a chance in a deadlock.
GIOVANNI CARDINAL URBANI, 63, Patriarch of Venice, the office held by John XXIII at the time of his election to the papacy. Considered “middle-of-the road.” Described as one of John’s “favorites.”
The time factor, however, seems to speak against the scheduled September 8 opening of the second session. The conclave of the Roman Catholic cardinals to select a new pope will open June 19, which probably puts his coronation into mid-July. This, in turn, would give the new pope less than two months to prepare himself for the council session.
Once the council is under way, there is now speculation that it will be more prolonged than originally projected by Pope John, who stated publicly that he hoped for adjournment by Christmas of this year. Such an early closing probably would have eliminated consideration of some of the schema. The prospect of a longer council underscores the opinion in some quarters that the council will turn out to be a continuing legislative body meeting from time to time.
The death of Pope John did not immediately produce any influential pressure against resumption of the council. One conservative Italian cardinal, however, was quoted as saying that it would take years to undo the work of the most recent pontiff.
The course of the council will be the first major decision facing the new pope, and it will be one of the most important he will ever make.
The necessity of a meeting of Roman Catholic cardinals to elect a new pope raises new speculation over the possible release of Jozsef Cardinal Mindszenty, who has been in asylum in the U. S. legation at Budapest nearly seven years.
Vienna Radio reported that talks were scheduled to begin early this month between “Roman Catholic authorities” and Hungarian officials in Budapest on the cardinal’s status. Observers said that a “face-saving” transaction might be discussed, one in which the need for the prelate’s presence in Rome would be stressed, thus allowing the Communist regime to permit his departure without an application from him and without committing the regime on his status as a Hungarian prelate.
It is generally believed that Mindszenty could leave if he wanted to. His purpose in staying apparently is to pressure the Hungarian Communist authorities into recognizing his spiritual role over Hungarian Catholics.
In Washington, meanwhile, diplomatic sources were quoted as saying that the Vatican’s search for an accommodation with the Communist governments of East Europe was postponed. Such sources were also credited with the view that reestablishment of normal U. S.-Hungarian relations might be closely dependent on the outcome of Vatican moves. One report said U. S. officials believe that the policy of hostility toward the Hungarian regime has outlived its usefulness.
Until several weeks ago, when Pope John became seriously ill, it is known the Vatican had been conferring with Communist government representatives.
Catholic-Buddhist tensions came to a boil this month in South Viet Nam. Religious riots also broke out in Iran and Pakistan involving the Shiite Moslem sect.
Rioting in Teheran resulted in the declaration of martial law there after some twenty persons were reported killed or injured. Initial press reports indicated that supporters of the religious leader Rouhollah Khomoini were protesting the Shah’s programs for land reform and equal status for women. Shouting rioters invaded office buildings and set fire to government property. Armed troops dispersed the demonstrators.
It was reported that Khomoini had been arrested with a number of his supporters and that all would be tried.
In neighboring Pakistan, police reported 120 persons killed in strife between the Shiite Moslems and a group which interfered with one of their processions. The procession at Thari, 250 miles north of Karachi, was in observance of the beginning of an annual month of mourning. Police said that when the procession was upset, an enraged mob of Shiites set fire to the village.
In a similar clash at Lahore, two persons were killed and several injured. Some 180 persons were said to have been arrested.
In South Viet Nam, martial law was declared and public demonstrations banned at the former imperial capital of Hue after sixty-seven persons were reported injured and thirty-five arrested in clashes between Vietnamese army troops and Buddhists. Hundreds of normally peace-loving Buddhists, most of them students, staged a demonstration to protest religious discrimination by the predominantly Roman Catholic government of South Viet Nam.
The U. S. government got into the act by ferrying Vietnamese troops to Hue in Air Force C–123s and C–47s.
Similar anti-government demonstrations have been staged by Buddhists in various cities, including Saigon, Quangtri, Nhatrang, and Danang. They contend that they are persecuted because of their religious beliefs by the government of Roman Catholic President Ngo Dinh Diem. Many U. S. Protestant missionaries in Viet Nam are known to feel the same way. They have been silent, however, because of fear of reprisal.
(The Roman Catholic Register of Denver reported in a dispatch from Colombo that “alleged discrimination against Buddhists in Viet Nam … was seized upon by extremists among the Buddhist majority in this country to step up their campaign against the [Roman] church here.”)
Buddhists in South Viet Nam make up about three-fourths of the population, but Roman Catholics hold control of the government as a carry-over from former French rule.
Last month government troops fired on a group of Buddhist demonstrators in Hue, killing nine persons. They were protesting the government’s refusal to permit Buddhists to fly religious banners on Buddha’s birthday.
Some observers in Viet Nam feel that Diem is worried more about the Buddhist revolt than about the war against pro-Communist Viet Cong guerrillas. Roman Catholic Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc of Hue is a brother of Diem.
Londoners take their football seriously, and when Tottenham Hotspur last month became the first British soccer team to win a major All-Europe trophy, the traditional brass band inevitably headed a homecoming procession. Immediately following, however, were a group of three paraders who prompted an immediate protest from local clergy. Declared the Rev. Clifford Hill, Congregationalist pastor: “One supporter was dressed as Christ and others as angels. This is blasphemy and an outrage to Christians.” Lending substance to the protest were the placards carried by the three, which said respectively: “They Shall Reign for Ever”; “Hallowed Be Their Names”, and “Adore Them for They Are Glorious.”
The Bishop of London, Dr. Robert Stopford, expressed himself “deeply shocked,” and Dr. Aubrey Vine, general secretary of the Free Church Federal Council, commenting that this was something that could not be tolerated in a country that still regarded Christ as sacred, said he proposed to write to the Home Secretary and to the club.
A Spurs official abruptly denied any official connection with the angels, one of whom said: “We had no idea that anyone would be offended.”
An Island Occasion
The tiny island of Iona, wind-swept and difficult of access, has always had a special place in Scottish hearts as the spot where Columba landed fourteen centuries ago. This event was commemorated on June 2 by an open-air service followed by Holy Communion inside the now restored abbey. It was conducted after the rite of the South India Church by Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, a former missionary of the Church of Scotland. Assisting him were Dr. J. S. Stewart, moderator of the General Assembly; Dr. M. H. Harland, Bishop of Durham; the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Carey, Bishop of Edinburgh; and Dr. Nevile Davidson, minister of Glasgow Cathedral. Serving the congregation (which represented five continents) were thirty ministers and elders of all the major non-Roman denominations in Britain. A priest of the Eastern Orthodox Church read one of the lessons.
In his sermon Dr. Stewart spoke of the Celtic Church’s concern for the total life of man. Here, he suggested, was “no irrelevant introverted piety, insulated from the social, political and industrial problems of the day. What we call foolishly the ‘secular’ was redeemed, was understood in its true spiritual light, when Columba went on pilgrimage for Christ.”
Televised over Eurovision, the service had a lighter moment when an appeal was made for the congregation not to put paper money in the collection plates, lest the notes be blown into St. Columba’s Bay.
A State Of Persecution
Protestant parents in Greece who are trying to establish a private elementary school met a roadblock when the Ministry for Cults and National Education rescinded a permit.
The permit was originally issued last summer following a decision by the Supreme State Council, highest court in Greece. A similar decision by the same court was handed down in 1953 but never heeded by the government’s executive branch.
A protest against the ministry’s permit revocation was lodged by a member of Parliament (its lone evangelical), who was told plainly that the action was at the insistence of Metropolitan Barnabas of Katerini. The prelate has been charged by evangelicals with seeking repeatedly to bring government pressure against them, so much so that the evangelicals in Katerini recently declared their church “under persecution.” This was described as the first time that such a declaration has been made by a religious minority in Greece.
In Athens, meanwhile, a 70-year-old man was engaged to a 60-year-old woman. They sought to be married in their Greek Orthodox church, but the local bishop refused to grant the necessary permit. Apparent reason: too old to get married.
The daily newspaper Vima of Athens severely criticized the bishop’s refusal.
The following report was prepared by Dr. Jacques Blocher, co-director of the Nogent Bible Institute near Paris and interpreter for evangelist Billy Graham at crusades in French-speaking countries:
Since 1955 many French Protestants had been looking forward to the return of Dr. Billy Graham. With great zeal they made preparations for a crusade in Paris and in several cities of the provinces, Lyons, Toulouse, Mulhouse, Montauban, Nancy, and Douai.
Paris seems to have no auditorium seating more than 4,000, so the crusade committee rented a tent that would hold 10,000. It came from Hamburg, Germany, and the only site available was in a slum district in the north of Paris.
Some Protestant Christians were enthusiastic, but others kept aloof and even gave the coming crusade the cold shoulder. The main objections were theological: Neo-universalists, believing that all men are reconciled with God in Christ with or without their consent, deemed it wrong to require a personal decision. Sacramentalists (particularly numerous among Lutherans) could not accept to hear that a man can receive the grace of God outside the sacraments. Others thought that Graham’s methods were not adapted to the French mind.
The press was sarcastic, unfair, hostile, or silent. Humanly speaking the prospect was not bright. And when the crusade began, the weather, generally very mild in May, turned cold and wet. Obstacles loomed so large that many supporters of the campaign could not help being faint-hearted.
But the crusade was a victory of the Spirit. Attendance grew every night, and people listened intently to the message of the Gospel, although at least half the audience was believed to be without any church connection.
In Paris Graham spoke to some 25,000 different persons, some of whom came to several meetings. About 1,200 came forward at the invitation of the evangelist, more than half of them unchurched. Others responded to the invitation but refused to divulge their names.
The inquirers included a university student who wanted to check out the sharp criticism of the press. He gave his life to Christ. A policeman on duty at the tent came back the next night in civilian clothes and also accepted Christ. An agnostic schoolteacher opened her heart to the Gospel, then brought her husband.
In Lyons, one of the oldest cities in France, where the Christian church was founded one century after the death of Christ, the beginning of the crusade was conducted by associate evangelist Leighton Ford. Graham was on hand for closing services. The beautiful Olympic Sportpalace was filled with 11,500 persons. Some had come from as far away as Italy and Switzerland.
At Toulouse, ancient capital of the Southwest of France, and in the neighboring city of Montauban, American evangelist Eugene Boyer, speaking very fluent French, conducted the preliminary campaign with his team. The meetings were most encouraging, and when Graham came for the last night, it was an extraordinary climax. Many people came from all over the Southwestern Province to join the Toulousains. The huge hall, holding nearly 7,000, was filled to capacity. As the crowd was blocking the entrances, the doors had to be closed; many latecomers were turned away. Again the Spirit of God broke through, and many people came forward to receive Christ. One of the many who rose and came was a well-known sculptor who had long searched for peace and truth.
The following morning Graham and his team had to take a chartered airplane to reach the industrial city of Mulhouse, near Basle, where the German, Swiss, and French borders meet. Here the crusade had begun with meetings held by Associate Evangelist Grady Wilson. These meetings, well prepared by a very active committee, had already been, before the coming of Billy Graham, a great blessing for the many people who attended. Also present at Mulhouse was Associate Evangelist T. W. Wilson, who had held a crusade in Nancy; there, in spite of many obstacles, he had also witnessed the power of the Spirit at work.
The last Mulhouse meeting was held in a big stadium, which was nearly filled. A vast crowd of over 11,000 was gathered to hear the closing message of the crusade in France. The response to the invitation was like a flood overwhelming the central football field.
Such are some facts about the Billy Graham Crusade in France. What are now the conclusions drawn by the Chritians who supported this wonderful enterprise?
The impact made on the French evangelicals has been very important: they have felt between themselves a wonderful sense of spiritual oneness, and they have been strengthened in their faith in the saving power of the Word of God and encouraged to be witnesses unto Christ.
Those who had been reluctant, before the crusade, because they feared to see American methods used in France (publicity, insistent invitation, psychological or emotional action on the audience, and so forth) have been, to a large extent, convinced that the methods used by Graham and his team are well adapted to this country and cannot shock anybody.
Those who were opposed for theological reasons do not seem to have moved from their initial position, but it has been manifest that this point of view was primarily restricted to ministers and that a large portion of the laity of the Protestant churches were favorably impressed by the crusades.
A few statistical figures will show the relative importance of the Billy Graham evangelistic campaigns in France. The vast majority of the French Protestants are the sons of the Huguenots, so long persecuted, and belong to the Reformed Church (400,000) or, in the East, to the Lutherans (300,000). Unfortunately most of them are only “nominally” Protestant, and 10 per cent at the most ever go to church on Sunday and may be considered as communicant members. This means that no more than 70,000 persons in the whole of France attend a Protestant church on Sunday. The other evangelical churches—Baptist, Methodist, Evangelical Free, Pentecostalist or the Plymouth Brethren and Darbyites—do not gather more than 30,000 people. Thus the total French Protestant “active” community does not reach the 100,000 mark!
The Billy Graham crusade, although it did not touch regions known for their rather high percentage of Protestant population (e.g., around Nimes or Strasburg), has gathered at least 60,000 different persons out of whom 3,000 came forward to dedicate their lives to God. The Roman Catholic Church forbade the meetings to its members, underscoring the truth of the statistics which show that half of the audience had no church affiliation, Catholic or Protestant.
This fact proves that contrary to the affirmations of many experts, there is in the population of France a very large number of people, of all professions and callings, who are concerned with the “oldtime” religious problems such as suffering, evil, sin, death and man’s destiny. For these people the Graham type of evangelism, which is the old-fashioned evangelistic preaching in a modern setting, is wonderfully effective. And what may be stranger still to many “specialists” is the proportionately high sumber of “intellectuals” (students, professors, artists) who came forward.
The crusade has been a tremendous incentive to the few evangelical Christians of France, belonging to all Protestant denominations, who believe that the spiritual awakening their country needs could be the fruit of evangelistic effort of this kind. Most of them are connected with the French Evangelical Alliance, which will be, they hope, the embodiment of a new spirit of evangelism throughout France. They think that the magazine Decision, now published in the French language, and the Billy Graham films will greatly help them to reach their goal.
An Old Believers group of 225 men, women, and children arrived in New York this month from the Lake Manyas area in Turkey.
Most of the group, a Russian Orthodox sect, made the sign of the cross when they climbed out of the jet that brought them across the Atlantic. Prior to boarding the jet at the Ankara airport they had travelled for two days by ox cart.
They came to the United States under special asylum granted by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and with the sponsorship of the Tolstoy Foundation of New York, headed by Countess Alexandra Tolstoy, daughter of the Russian novelist.
The countess was among leaders on hand to greet the new arrivals. Acknowledging welcoming speeches made by their sponsors, many of the Old Believers bowed low in unison, their heads nearly touching the ground.
The newcomers are believed to be the last descendants of a band of some 5,000 Old Believers who split from the Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union during the seventh century over religious disputes and migrated to Turkey. They have found temporary homes in Valley Cottage, New York, and Seabrook, New Jersey.
A Damper On Gifts?
A current church construction slump may be attributable to President Kennedy’s proposal for tax revision, according to a Washington report from Religious News Service.
Government observers who study the monthly estimates of new construction by churches and religious institutions believe that the unexpected downturn that occurred this spring was due to apprehension among taxpayers concerning possible limitation on tax deductions on charitable contributions.
Church construction amounted to some $80,000,000 in January, when Kennedy urged that all deductions be made subject to a 5 per cent “floor” (that is, the taxpayer would total up his deductions, including contributions, interest payments, and local taxes, and subtract 5 per cent of his adjusted gross income from this total before figuring his tax).
The figure dropped to $75,000,000 in February, and instead of showing the usual spring upturn in March it dropped again—to $71,000,000. Moreover, the decline continued in April, going to $70,000,000.
At the same time, building activity by the non-public schools and private colleges, many of which are church-related, also has shown signs of softness. This was in face of strong demands for new buildings to meet rising enrollments.
These decreases are in marked contrast with building activity in other fields which showed the usual spring upturn.
Washington experts point out that a building campaign must secure a number of large capital gifts at the outset, and these come from individuals or corporations particularly sensitive to tax policies. Fund-raisers have reported privately that donors of capital gifts indicated they will delay until the end of the year commitments as to the size of their gifts.
The result, observers claim, appears to be that several million dollars worth of new building projects have been deferred, since there was a noticeable drop in the number of new building contracts let during the early spring of 1963.
Most Washington observers believe that Congress is reluctant to enact the tax deduction revision. But until Congress takes definite action—to approve, amend, or defeat the proposal—the overall effect seems to be a deterrent one.
J. Howard Pew, president of the United Presbyterian Foundation, described the Kennedy plan as a “frustrating situation” in his report to the General Assembly last month.
“The Church is God’s instrumentality for the spread of the Gospel,” he said. “To classify churches and related institutions with other charitable organizations and with interest, medicine and taxes, is a failure to distinguish between religious and secular affairs. This degrades and violates the dignity of the Church.”
Pew added that “it is intolerable that we should permit political authorities to impose a tax on gifts to spiritual institutions. Yet, by indirection they would accomplish what they know would be impossible to achieve by direct action.”
He called on assembly commissioners to write letters of protest to their congressmen.
Would a domestic Peace Corps violate the principle of separation of church and state?
The Rev. W. Barry Garrett, associate director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, says that the proposal involves “possible church-state problems.”
Establishment of a domestic Peace Corps, officially referred to as the National Service Corps, is now being considered by Congress. Enabling legislation has been introduced in both houses.
Garrett said a problem arises because the bills provide that the corps shall make its volunteers available to “both governmental and non-goverenmental agencies.”
“Church-state complications can arise in the use of corpsmen and public funds by church agencies in carrying out the purposes and programs of the act,” he said.
Among projects suggested for the corps are service to the mentally ill and mentally retarded, health and education for migratory farm workers, assistance to Indians both on and off reservations, help for residents in depressed regions and slum areas, and care of the elderly, the disabled, and juvenile delinquents.
Church-related agencies are active in all these fields, Garrett pointed out.
Presbyterians are lining up on opposite sides as a long-simmering debate over student work comes to a boil at the University of Tennessee. In Knoxville last month the Presbyterian U.S. (Southern) Synod of Appalachia took decisive action that could lead to ending its cooperative program with the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. at the Tennessee campus.
Responding to several strongly worded overtures from Knoxville-area congregations and from Knoxville Presbytery, the synod created a sixteen-man commission with authority to take any “advisable” action. Creation of the strong commission was seen as an indication that the synod wanted immediate and decisive action. Proposals that investigating committees be appointed (to report to a full meeting of the synod) were defeated.
The overtures alleged that there was not a “proper Christian program” at the jointly operated Presbyterian student center and that it had failed to achieve the purposes for which it was created.
Key figure in the controversy is the director of the center, the Rev. Ewell J. Reagin, former Cumberland Presbyterian minister who is now a member of Union Presbytery (UPUSA). In its overture, Knoxville Presbytery (U. S.) asked for an examination of his theology. Also in question was his use in the center program of personnel from the left-leaning Highlander Folk School, which had been closed by the state of Tennessee and which now operates under another name.
Reagin and his program have been endorsed by the United Presbyterian Board of Christian Education (through its general secretary, Dr. William A. Morrison), Union Presbytery, and some Knoxville UPUSA congregations. The Presbyterian U. S. Board of Christian Education has made no public statement so far.
‘House Of Refuge’
The 150,000-member General Association of Regular Baptist Churches went on record last month against “all efforts by ecclesiastical organizations to coerce the state to implement their programs of social reform.”
At its thirty-second annual conference in Omaha, Nebraska, the association also adopted resolutions endorsing capital punishment and warning of an “ever increasing” decline in this country’s moral standards.
Dr. Robert T. Ketcham, who serves the association under the title of “national consultant,” predicted that the GARB’s role in the future will be as a “house of refuge” for groups opposed to the ecumenical movement.
“As modernism gets more bold and rank, more churches will be squeezed out,” he said, adding that his association would be an alternative to church union.
In another resolution, the 900 delegates declared their opposition to development of the United Nations into a world government. They criticized, moreover, Pope John XXIII’s encyclical on world peace on the grounds that the pontiff rested his case “for his dream world upon the nature of man and not upon the nature of God.”
Combatting The Secular
The Baptist Bible Fellowship International bestowed its blessing upon “occasional Bible readings and public prayers in school” last month. A resolution adopted at the group’s four-day annual meeting in Springfield, Missouri, deplored “extreme interpretations of the separation of church and state that would create a completely secular nation.”
In another resolution, some 2,000 messengers opposed government aid to church-related colleges or elementary schools, and the welfare state which gives the “delusion of security.”
The fellowship, founded in 1950, is a “voluntary association of Bible-believing, fundamental Baptist churches.” It claims a membership of some 1,300 congregations with 1,000,000 members in forty-five states and twenty foreign countries.
Missions And Extremism
Conservative Baptists carried their movement past a critical shoal last month onto the broad sea of a renewed missionary thrust.
Delegates to the twentieth annual Conservative Baptist fellowship in Atlantic City took a thankful look at “what God hath wrought” since their movement broke away from the American Baptist Convention in 1943. The foreign mission society appointed thirty new missionaries in the past year, bringing its total force to well over 400. It was noted that American Baptists, with five times the total constituency of the Conservatives, have fewer foreign missionaries.
The Conservative Baptist Home Mission Society issued a financial report labeled “the best ever.” General Director Rufus Jones then asked for $1,000,000 for an immediate thrust into U. S. inner cities, climaxing a week-long emphasis on the church’s urban responsibility.
During the six-day sessions at the Ambassador Hotel, some ministers had been pushing extreme positions in eschatology (pretribulation rapture only), in ecclesiology (near landmarkism), and in separation (opposition to ecumenical evangelism). Eighteen months before this minority had launched a competitive missionary agency, the World Conservative Baptist Mission. It was overwhelmingly rebuffed by the more than 1,000 delegates, who reaffirmed confidence in the Conservative Baptist Foreign and Home Mission Societies. General Chairman W. Theodore Taylor, New York City pastor, summarized the critical struggle by stating that Conservative Baptists indicated their desire “to proceed in the line of their historic convictions.”
The public walkout of one delegate and the absence of the dissident leadership in the closing business sessions heightened speculation that the extremist faction might leave the movement.
Elected to places of leadership were men who in strength and stature reflect the historic, mainstream position. Dr. Robert Carlberg of Hollywood, California, became president of the Conservative Baptist Association of America. Dr. Lester Thompson of Denver and Dr. Charles W. Anderson of New Jersey were reelected presidents of the foreign and home mission societies.
The Conservative Baptists became the first denomination to take a stand on mandatory use of a unified curriculum in the Protestant Sunday schools of the armed forces. They adopted a resolution which charged that the mandatory provision “is a breach of our Constitution in separation of Church and State.” “The mandatory use of the unified curriculum by military chaplains will in some cases commit them to a curriculum contrary to their consciences,” the resolution added.
A $100,000 fund for church extension in the next ten years was authorized at the thirty-seventh triennial session of the General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church. Since 1960, the number of the denomination’s churches has dropped from sixty-four to sixty, primarily because of closings in its southern jurisdictions and a merger in Chicago. The council was held last month in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.
An inter-faith resettlement program worked out between Protestant and Catholic relief agencies promises to surmount religious differences which have hindered relief projects for refugees from Cuba.
Earl Redding, director of the Church World Service refugee center in Miami, said an agreement had been reached between CWS and Catholic Relief Services which was expected to break the log-jam on resettlement.
Protestant churches around the nation have had a backlog of unfilled job and family placement opportunities for Cuban refugees, but most of the Cubans are registered with the Catholic center, whose list of Catholic sponsors has been exhausted.
Under the new agreement, Redding said, CWS will provide lists of Protestant sponsors to the Catholic center, whose personnel will carry out explanatory interviews with refugees to find some who would be willing to accept Protestant sponsorship.
Those willing refugees will then be turned over to CWS, which will arrange for relocation with the understanding that the Protestant sponsor will provide jobs and housing without any attempt to intrude on the refugee’s religious life.
An uncle of the Queen and an Edinburgh University professor combined to sound a true evangelic note at the outset of the Church of Scotland General Assembly last month. As Lord High Commissioner, the Duke of Gloucester had congratulated Dr. James S. Stewart on his election as moderator. Then he commended to the assembly some words spoken by Dr. Stewart on another occasion: “I beg you, in this realm of religion, which means in the deepest intimacies of your life and the most secret fastnesses of your soul—make Jesus king! For please God, a day is coming when the same words which they wrote upon the cross of Calvary are going to be sung around the throne, not now in Greek or Latin or Hebrew, but sung by a great multitude of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues, in the language of heaven—‘This is Jesus the King.’ ”
Listening intently in the Throne Gallery was an unexpected visitor described later by one enthusiastic reporter as “a broad and burly figure who could easily be said to personify the solid worth of the Church of England.” This was Dr. Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was later given a special welcome and invited to address the assembly, after the moderator had referred to one who was a “citadel against the battering ram of theologies which would desupernaturalize the faith.” Acknowledging overwhelming applause which left no doubt as to the cordiality of his reception, Dr. Ramsey conveyed greetings from the Church of England and alluded approvingly to resumption of conversations between the two national churches.
If the archbishop’s visit was significant, no less significant was a decision made across the street, where by its moderator’s casting vote the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland agreed to invite Professor Stewart to address them. Not for many years had the moderator of the larger assembly been received. Many had felt that after Dr. A. C. Craig’s call on Pope John XXIII, some gesture was called for at home, where an equally notable if much less spectacular task of reconciliation was still to be done. Despite the closeness of the vote (and the heated discussion which had preceded it), Dr. Stewart’s reception at the Free Kirk Assembly was most cordial.
In the discussion on recruitment for the ministry it was pointed out that some presbyteries had not produced a minister for forty years. Those congregations which were providing men were generally those of an evangelical sort, said Dr. T. F. Torrance, adding: “If we are not producing ministers, we are not preaching the kind of Gospel that can call forth ministers.”
Seconding a report on temperance and morals, Dr. Joseph Maycock referred to the harm done by a recent series of lectures in Scotland which tried to set up a false distinction between charity and chastity. He commented: “I am quite certain that no psychologist with a reputation to lose would defend license as a cure for neurosis”—perhaps a shrewd dig also against certain crusaders in church circles south of the border. Because it was God acting creatively when a man and woman came together in marriage, suggested Dr. Torrance, “when a man commits adultery he is making God a party to his adultery.” Dr. Torrance, probably Scotland’s best-known theologian today, did not speak in vain: the assembly promptly encouraged him to submit for publication a statement on doctrinal aspects of this matter.
The best-laid schemes of committee men sometimes go awry, and on two issues the assembly confounded officialdom. First, an overture from the Presbytery of Hamilton, at first sight innocuous, proposed that stipends should be appropriate to the needs of the ministry rather than to the resources of the individual congregations. Disparities in stipend, one speaker said, introduced a factor which, when a minister was considering a call, was unnecessary and undesirable, and placed a strain on the spiritual integrity of many. In a quite extraordinary scene, ministers of some of the land’s “plum” parishes leapt to their feet and virtually advocated equal pay for all. The most effective intervention came from Dr. Nevile Davidson, retiring moderator. He said that as “one who has enjoyed a more than adequate stipend” (just under $5,000), he felt constantly ashamed when he thought of others who, working no less devotedly than he, received much smaller remuneration because of the accidental economic situation in the parish. (Current minimum in the Kirk is about $2,600.) A heavy majority carried the vote, and the Maintenance of the Ministry Committee was instructed to draw up details of the suggested new stipend system.
The second setback to the establishment came when the assembly discussed that section of a church and nation report dealing with the Christian use of Sunday. The 1962 assembly had approved the somewhat liberalizing tendencies suggested by this committee, but since then some Highland presbyteries had put their heads together and made a strong appeal against what constituted a radical departure from the Westminster Confession of Faith (the Kirk’s subordinate standard). The situation was not devoid of humor. The subject came up at a time when many of the fathers and brethren had departed to prepare for the Lord High Commissioner’s garden party. Scorning such frivolities, the Highland host sat tight. The somewhat cavalier confidence of the committee’s convener began to wilt in the face of Celtic protests, to be succeeded first by uneasiness after an abortive attempt to have the matter adjourned until a more “representative” occasion, then by angry reaction as the vote went against him and his committee was instructed to think again.
Last year’s general assembly instructed the Inter-Church Relations Committee to “take into earnest consideration the question of Presbyterian reunion in Scotland.” Overtures were made to three of the four smaller Presbyterian denominations (total membership of the four does not exceed 50,000). Left out was the Free Presbyterian Church, from which, implied the 1963 report, it was not thought there was “the slightest prospect of response.” Yet this little church on the western seaboard was at the same time proving that it was not the inflexible and unimaginative body its big sister assumed it to be, for at its annual synod in Inverness it was in process of making history by electing an African minister as its moderator. The committee’s convener further announced that talks had been begun with the Methodists, resumed with the Anglicans, and arranged with the Congregationalists. In some cases, he admitted, the doors were stiff, the walls of partition high.
One depressing feature of the assembly in recent years has been its reluctance to make firm decisions on theological grounds. This kid-gloved approach was especially in evidence this year. Again and again Professor Torrance risked unpopularity by his determined reiteration of biblical and doctrinal principles, yet his own committee’s excellent report on baptism, the outcome of several years’ hard work which would have given the Kirk a uniform approach to the subject, had its chief recommendation rejected on grounds of sentiment and caution (the former a more potent force).
Caution again predominated when for the first time in history the assembly took up a petition for ordination by a woman. Miss Mary Lusk, 40, assistant chaplain of Edinburgh University, licentiate of the church and brilliant scholar, took this revolutionary step as a test case. She argued persuasively, and cited the Pauline words: “There is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
She did not expect her petition to be granted, but professed her gratification afterwards when it was not summarily dismissed but referred to the Panel on Doctrine for a full consideration of all the issues involved.
On an evangelic note the Assembly had begun; on an evangelic note it ended, when Dr. Stewart said in his closing address: “Is there not something disturbing, even nauseating, about the present vogue, which exists in certain quarters, of a continual disparaging of the Church’s witness and all its works?… By all means let us as a Church be down in the dust of penitence and contrition, for we have failed our Master atrociously. But let us also hear the voice that cries from heaven, ‘son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak with thee.’ ” No other Reformed gathering can muster anything like the newspaper, radio, and television coverage annually accorded to the Kirk for nine days; no moderator’s words have ever been more worthy of study in a land which can never quite forget John Knox.
J. D. D.
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