Liberals constitute, as everybody knows, only a small segment of the Southern Baptist Convention. Though in recent years they have been gaining ground, they do not yet have the strength to engage conservatives in frontal doctrinal combat and often work outside convention structures. The major confrontation at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention, held in Kansas City, Missouri, this month, pitched conservative against conservative on the issue of how best to contain liberal advances while maintaining the SBC’s evangelistic momentum.
Chief cohesive force of the SBC is its large missionary program. Present SBC leadership is wary of action which could disrupt this and other virile Southern Baptist cooperative enterprises such as home missions and Sunday School work.
The first half of this year’s convention reflected this mood, and an uneasy calm prevailed. The executive board of the Missouri Baptist Convention had petitioned the SBC to instruct trustees of Kansas City’s Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to proceed with whatever steps are necessary to complete the removal of the “liberalism which is still apparent among some of the faculty at Midwestern.” But to the bitter dismay of some, the petition was withdrawn in the interests of SBC harmony.
In the presidential address which came early in the convention, retiring President Herschel H. Hobbs of Oklahoma City stressed the basic theological unity of Southern Baptists, even while confessing the existence of certain tensions in theology. “Theology is the muscles of our denomination. We should not be using these muscles to bash in one another’s heads.”
But the third day of the four-day meeting produced an eruption of underlying tensions which transformed the early peace into a distant, nostalgic memory. Dr. Hobbs presented a new statement of faith which adhered closely to a 1925 statement (for content, see CHRISTIANITY TODAY News, March 29, 1963 issue). Conclusion of its presentation signaled the start of noisy controversy, the chair being assailed by motions, counter-motions, shouted objections, and pleas for prayer. Chief doctrinal debate centered on historic Baptist emphasis on the local church. Some messengers guarded this concept so zealously that they opposed the statement’s inclusion of a reference to the church beyond this as “the body of Christ which includes all the redeemed of all the ages.” But motion for deletion was heavily defeated. The entire statement of faith was subsequently adopted overwhelmingly with perhaps only 30 of some 13,000 messengers voting no.
NEWS / A fortnightly report of developments in religion
CLOSE RACE DECIDES PRESIDENCY
K. Owen White, London-born pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, came within three hairbreadths of missing being elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
A youthful pastor, standing in line to nominate White, changed his mind when another Texan was nominated and tried to make a seconding speech. Ruled out of order, he proceeded with his nomination of White.
On the first ballot Carl Bates, Charlotte, North Carolina, pastor, received a near majority of votes in an unusually large field of nine. A runoff with White loomed when Bates made a surprise withdrawal. The convention voted all over again.
Again White was one of the top two candidates. In the ensuing runoff, he was elected by a margin of less than two per cent of the votes cast—4,210 to 4,053 for W. C. Vaught, Little Rock, Arkansas, pastor.
The new SBC president studied at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville (Ph.D., 1934) and was pastor of churches in Washington, D. C., and Little Rock before coming to Houston in 1953. He is Texas Baptist Convention president.
For the first time in its history the SBC elected a woman as one of its two vice presidents: Mrs. R. L. Mathis, immediate past president of the Women’s Missionary Union
Then Midwestern Seminary was thrust once again into the spotlight. Last year’s convention had asked trustees and administrative officers of institutions and agencies to take necessary steps “to remedy at once” situations which threaten faith in the historic accuracy and doctrinal integrity of the Bible. This action arose from controversy centering on a book, The Message of Genesis, by Ralph Elliott, Old Testament professor at Midwestern. He was subsequently dismissed when he refused to withdraw his book from publication though some charge that more liberal professors than Elliott are allowed to remain.
At this year’s convention there were expressions of dissatisfaction with the extent of action by the Midwestern trustees and desire to bid the trustees get on with the job. Hobbs ruled this out of order inasmuch as the SBC’s similar resolution of last year provided for continuing action along these lines and because SBC procedure has always been to let agencies implement principles laid down by conventions. Due process, he indicated, is to replace trustees when dissatisfied with their performance through the regularly-scheduled convention elections. The Midwestern trustee president defended his board but did not wish to answer whether Elliott’s book was within the framework of the board’s principle of recognizing “the historical-critical” approach to the Old Testament. It was voted that all other questions about the seminary be referred to the Midwestern trustees, which as a result of a further vote would be required to bring a progress report to next year’s convention.
Conservatives differed on whether the trustees could or would solve Midwestern’s theological problems. Those who had favored pressing the matter further were heartened by Dr. K. Owen White’s election to the presidency. He had introduced last year’s resolution on sweeping liberalism from the seminaries. Following his election he said his administration’s main thrust would be to
strengthen SBC evangelism and missions. But he indicated he would use his influence to remove liberalism from Baptist seminaries and schools. Said he: “The problem probably should be pressed further at Midwestern.”
Former President Harry S. Truman exchanged birthday greetings with the Southern Baptist Convention and gave messengers an impromptu lesson in local church autonomy. It was his own 79th birthday and the 118th for the SBC on the day Truman strode into the Municipal Auditorium at Kansas City where the SBC’s annual sessions were being held. The messengers sang “Happy Birthday” to him and he responded with a greeting of his own.
Truman told the convention that there had been “Baptists in my family for four or five generations—free will Baptists—the congregations had control over themselves.” As if to underscore a plea for continued local church autonomy he added, “Baptists are governed from the church up and not the top down, and I think that’s the way the Lord intended.”
Negro evangelicals from across the nation met in Los Angeles this month to form a new organization to promote the witness of their race. The Rev. Marvin L. Printis of Pasadena, California, was elected first president.
“We gathered to study the spiritual problems that face us today,” said Dr. Howard O. Jones, an associate of evangelist Billy Graham.
Jones, one of the new organization’s eight directors, stressed that “we do not see this as in competition with the National Association of Evangelicals or any other group.”
U.S. morals sagged in high places this month. Police dogs lunged at Negro demonstrators in Alabama, political experimenters in New Hampshire gave modern America its first state lottery, and the leading contender for the 1964 Republican presidential nomination tried to make divorce and remarriage look respectable.
The bid for equal rights by Negroes in Birmingham began as non-violent mass demonstrations. Police tried to disperse mobs with dogs and water hoses, however, and within a few days the Negroes were counterattacking with rocks, bottles, and brickbats.
The Negroes made their bid with a nominally Christian rationale. They used various Birmingham churches as assembly points. Their effort was spearheaded by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist pastor, an “editor at large” for The Christian Century, and head of the integrationist Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
For a time it appeared that the Negroes had gained a white martyr in the person of William L. Moore, a Baltimore postman who was murdered while walking along an Alabama highway carrying sandwich boards which called for racial equality. It turned out that Moore, a former mental patient, was hardly a model champion for Christian liberties. He had left his wife and child in New York reportedly “to be closer to civil rights groups in Baltimore.” Besides carrying the racial equality placards, he pushed a two-wheel cart with a sign, “Wanted—The Capture of Jesus Christ. He was an Imposter.”
In New Hampshire, the executive and legislative branches of the state government bucked almost solid Protestant clergy opposition to enact the first state-operated lottery in the United States in some seventy years. The sweepstakes program had national impact in more ways than one. Indications were that the lottery would be liable to a 10 per cent federal excise tax. On that basis, the federal government would receive $400,000 of the $4,000,000 proponents claim will be grossed to assist public schools. Governor John W. King said he would seek to have the sweepstakes program ruled tax-exempt.
Social concerns of U.S. religious institutions will be surveyed in an hour-long NBC telecast May 24.
The telecast, dubbed “The Quiet Revolution,” will include opinion samplings on the theology of social concerns as well as on-the-spot coverage of churchmen working in crowded slum districts, aiding narcotics addicts, fighting for the rights of migrant workers, and participating in a freedom ride.
Participants will include President J. Irwin Miller of the National Council of Churches; Albert Cardinal Meyer, Roman Catholic archbishop of Chicago; and Rabbi Julius Mark, president of the Synagogue Council of America.
Among those who will be interviewed during the program are Editor Carl F. H. Henry of CHRISTIANITY TODAY; Associate Editor Martin E. Marty of The Christian Century; Msgr. George G. Higgins, director of the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference; Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame; and Dr. A. Dudley Ward, executive secretary of the Methodist Board of Christian Social Concerns.
Methodist Bishop John Wesley Lord wrote a letter to King saying he considered the day of the enactment of the sweepstakes as “black Tuesday for our nation.”
“This action,” said Lord, “strengthens the Communist charge that we are a morally undisciplined and spiritually depraved people.”
A number of church officials also deplored the racial struggle in Birmingham, among them Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, stated clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.:
“I saw leashed dogs used to drive these people from the public streets. I saw the representatives of government using force to uphold unjust customs. I felt the indignity of the treatment of American citizens, and I was sick and disgusted.”
The marriage of New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller to the freshly divorced Mrs. Margaretta Fitler Murphy prompted disciplinary action against the officiating clergyman, the Rev. Marshall Lee Smith.
The Rev. Joseph Bishop, moderator of the Hudson River Presbytery, said a judicial commission would be elected May 24 to investigate Smith’s action. Bishop cited United Presbyterian constitutional procedure requiring special permission for remarriage of any person divorced less than a year. Smith failed to secure such permission, it was reported.
Smith is a United Presbyterian minister who is pastor of an undenominational church in Pocantico Hills, New York. Rockefeller is a Baptist.
The new Mrs. Rockefeller, as a remarried divorcee, has lost communicant status in the Episcopal Church although she is still a member.
As the Rockefellers honeymooned in Venezuela, the most conspicuous irony was that they were enjoying divorce terms unrecognized by the state over which he is governor.
Nrpc To Rprc
The National Religious Publicity Council voted at its thirty-fourth annual meeting in Chicago last month to change its name to the Religious Public Relations Council. The group, formed in 1929 to promote higher standards in the church communications field, today has more than 600 members in 13 chapters in North America. Although interdenominational in scope with no set creed, in practice it has been exclusively Protestant. Recently there has been talk of admitting Roman Catholics.
The Moral Problem
When the morals of an entire nation begin to crumble, and we find men in politics, in business and even in churches resorting to immoral practices, we may rest assured that some members of the Lord’s church are going to compromise and practice some of these unholy things.
—J. D. Thomas
A regrettable by-product of the Billie Sol Estes scandal was the undeserved embarrassment cast upon the Churches of Christ, the 2,000,000-member movement in which he has been a lay preacher. Hypocrisy hunters had a field day contrasting fraud-infested fertilizer tanks with Estes’ strictures against mixed bathing. Thus the topicSelected before the crackdown on Estes, who subsequently made a “public acknowledgment” before his local congregation. for Abilene Christian College’s 1963 “Bible Lectureship,” an annual event which is as close as the Churches of Christ come to holding a denominational convention, was ironically appropriate: “The Christian and Morality.”
Although some fallout from the Estes episode quite naturally landed on the forty-acre Abilene, Texas, campus, lectureship director J. D. Thomas made it clear he was not singling out any one person when he said:
“Every Christian should learn for himself ‘why he should he good’ and he should also be able to speak forthrightly about how one can tell the difference between good and evil.”
The forty-fifth lectureship attracted to Abilene last month some 7,500 Churches of Christ visitors from forty-one states and six foreign countries. Attendance at the five-day series was down slightly from last year, and Thomas said the college would go back to a traditional February date next year in an effort to draw larger crowds.
Abilene President Don H. Morris insists that the lectureships are not “conventions” but rather “teaching and fellowship meetings.” “There is never any kind of resolution or proposal made for churches—Churches of Christ are absolutely autonomous.”
Lectureships are a common event in Churches of Christ and on their college campuses. The Abilene series is perhaps the best known and features dozens of speakers, panel discussions, teaching classes, fellowship dinners, alumni meetings, missionary reports, forums, and musical programs. A tent this year housed church and commercial exhibits.
Churches of Christ have members in all fifty states, but they are predominant in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. They have been experiencing steady growth. Reuel Lemmons, editor of the Firm Foundation, predicted that growth will level off eventually but that strides are still ahead.
Expansion discussions are not just idle talk. One evangelist attending this year’s lectureship also used the time to promote an “exodus” in early June to the Long Island, New York, area. He said about seventy-five families from Texas and surrounding states have plans to establish a ready-made congregation in the Bay Shore area of Long Island. Many are professional workers and college and university graduates who are already resigning their jobs. Several families have already made the move. The Richland Hills Church of Christ in Fort Worth is reported to have underwritten a $52,000 guarantee for the purchase of land on which the Long Island church will be erected.
Churches of Christ missionaries are supported by individual congregations, also, and are not appointed by any boards.
Would Churches of Christ consider possible reunion with conservative elements of the Disciples of Christ (Christian Churches)?
“I think there’s a good possibility they may come closer together,” said Lemmons. “The ecumenical spirit in the air is having effect.”
He said there has always been a feeling that both were “brethren,” though each considered the other to be in error regarding Scripture.
Morris predicted that many conservative Disciples will come back to the Churches of Christ position, but indicated it would have to be on an individual basis.
The year 1963 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Campbell, father of Alexander Campbell, who withdrew from Presbyterianism to lead the movement later known as Disciples of Christ. Those who founded the Churches of Christ were originally members of the Disciples. The date of the split cannot be fixed because neither group has ever considered itself a denomination, but by the early part of the twentieth century it was clear that the two groups had drifted apart.
Churches of Christ make up the only major religious community left in the United States which has maintained its identity without resorting to coordinating agencies and officers. There is no organization beyond the local church.
Elders oversee the spiritual welfare of each congregation. Ministers are referred to not as “the reverend,” but as “mister” or “brother.” In worship, no instrumental music is permitted. The Lord’s Supper is observed every Sunday, and no special significance is attached to Christmas Day or Easter. Baptism by immersion is regarded as essential for salvation.
Despite the lack of inter-congregation coordination, Churches of Christ run more national advertising than any other non-Catholic group. Another wide ministry is the radio and television programs under the sponsorship of the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene. Currently there are more than 300 station outlets in North America and several other countries. One of the originators of the program is James W. Nichols, who is also editor of the Christian Chronicle.
Missing The Bus?
“Historically, the clergyman and the medicine man were the same person.”
The reminder comes from Dr. Winfred Overholser, newly elected president of the Academy of Religion and Mental Health, an organization of some 4,000 members divided about equally between clergymen of the three major faiths and professionals in medicine and the behavioral sciences. The group held its fourth annual two-day convention in Philadelphia last month.
Overholser, recently retired superintendent of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C., summed up the purpose and aim of the organization succinctly:
“We need to remember that historically, the clergyman and the medicine man were the same person.… Yet since these two activities developed into separate professions, there has been mutual suspiciousness for a considerable part of the time. However, the fact remains that probably more than one-half of all the people who eventually come to psychiatrists have gone first to clergymen. This illustrates the necessity for cooperation and mutual understanding. There is a need, therefore, for understanding not only the forces of nature, but the nature of man, spiritual, physical, and psychological. As members of the helping professions … medical, religious, and psychiatric … the more we know of each other’s aims, the more we can help those who come to us for assistance.”
One was struck by the absence of evangelical Protestant representation at the academy meeting. Notwithstanding this gap, the scientific disciplines and the ministry are learning to understand each other, and in many places to work together. Dr. Norman L. Loux, medical director of the Penn Foundation for Mental Health, described seminars in which ministers, psychiatrists, and physicians have interchanges of ideas. Others described teams in which individual members have distinct specialties. Evangelicals are “missing the bus” if they neglect these developments and forego active participation.
Assailing The Pope
Delegates to the twenty-first annual spring convention of the American Council of Christian Churches assailed Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris. They adopted a resolution which charged the pontiff with laying “the foundation not merely for the practice of peaceful coexistence, but for cooperation with the Communist world which will permit the Roman Catholic Church to exist under communism.”
Other resolutions adopted at the Long Beach, California, meeting (1) echoed perennial ACCC criticism of the National and World Councils of Churches, (2) approved a renewed emphasis on missions by the ACCC, (3) commended President Kennedy for the Cuba quarantine, and (4) voiced opposition to federal aid for education.
During the roiling religious controversies of the seventeenth century, Independency knew some matchless moments. In England its adherents formed the backbone of Cromwell’s army and reigned supreme during his ascendancy. In the New England colonies they exerted tremendous influence in shaping both the religion and the politics of the new country. By contrast, the twentieth century appears a lean one indeed from this perspective, with Congregationalists either splintering or moving under prevailing ecumenical winds into merger with Presbyterians.
The term Independency is itself no longer a popular watchword, but there is one U.S. ecclesiastical grouping that yet waves the name with separatist vigor against the interdenominational “Establishment,” charged with modernist apostasy. The Independent Fundamental Churches of America, itself wedded to a dispensational theology which goes back only to the last century but which is thought to have recaptured the eschatological genius of the Bible bypassed by the Reformation, met in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, last month for its thirty-fourth annual convention and affirmed its stand against apostasy.
Beyond this, the IFCA also reaffirmed its opposition to “any teaching that in any way would serve to break down lines of Biblical separation from apostasy and false teaching.” Professing strict adherence to “the great fundamentals of the Christian faith, such as the plenary verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, the Deity of Christ, His substitutionary atonement, His bodily resurrection, and His personal pre-millennial coming,” the delegates took note of “some theological leaders, who, while professing adherence to these truths, have sought to soften the lines of demarcation between those who believe these truths and those who do not.… Such theological positions are identified by such names as Neo-Liberalism, Neo-Orthodoxy, and Neo-Evangelicalism.” Included in the unanimously passed resolution was a call for the National Executive Committee and the editor of the fellowship’s (“we are not a denomination”) magazine, Voice, to “strengthen the content” of the journal “by regularly setting before our constituency the clear Scriptural exposition of our Biblical distinctive of separation, the evidence of the increasing compromise in Christian schools, missions, and evangelistic efforts, and the challenge to stand with our Saviour without the ecumenical and New Evangelical camps.” Extended debate which tended to dominate the business sessions of the six-day conference centered on the desired frequency of Voice’s delineations of the compromise of separatist principles.
Another resolution recorded opposition to what was regarded as the seeming capitulation of some faith missions to ecumenical pressures in “following the course of the New Evangelicalism in the compromise spirit resulting in such incidents as the Tokyo Crusade sponsored by World Vision.…”
Chief object of conference attack was obviously “Neo-Evangelicalism,” though even the conference leadership was hard-pressed to come up with a definition of it “because it’s a theological attitude, not a position.” National Executive Secretary Glen A. Lehman last year set forth the following definition in Voice, of which he is editor: “A movement among fundamental Christians ‘to stir the interest of evangelical Christianity in meeting the societal problems through the content of Biblical Christianity.’ These are the words of the founder of the movement [Harold J. Ockenga]. Several theologians have spoken in behalf of this viewpoint but other areas of interest are seen also in their writings such as: a critical attitude toward a rigid fundamentalism; a friendly dialogue with religious liberals; a reëxamination of the doctrines of inspiration of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit; a critical attitude toward dispensationalism; an emphasis upon higher education; a de-emphasis upon eschatology; a low view of the doctrine of separation and cooperation with religious liberals in evangelism.”
IFCA men profess fear that what they regard as slight deviations by some “neo-evangelicals” on such matters as biblical inspiration and evolution will lead to major departures later. A vocal right-wing segment of the conference, which professed minority status to suggest a conference shift from former years (denied by leaders), charged the presence within the IFCA of some neo-evangelicalism, terming it “a more deceitful and thoroughly Satanic attack” than the old modernism (“we knew what it was”) and predicted its eventual marriage to neoorthodoxy. Even Dallas Theological Seminary came under attack, in literature circulated at the conference, for inviting speakers identified in some way with neo-evangelicalism.
Consensus had it that most delegates felt they were being pushed too far by this group. A decade ago, the IFCA withdrew from the American Council of Christian Churches “not over the doctrine of separation,” but over extreme attitudes and methods. There are today signs of uneasiness over too negative an image. It is possible for one to be a member of both the IFCA and the National Association of Evangelicals, but this is considered “unwise” on the basis of separatist doctrine.
Organized in 1930 at Cicero, Illinois, by leaders of various independent churches concerned to safeguard fundamentalist doctrine, the IFCA has grown to a membership of 440 churches, with another 300 churches pastored by IFCA men. Many of these are Bible institute-trained, though seminary graduates are increasing. Approximately 90,000 lay members are represented in the organization. Sheer independency makes it difficult for the body to meet its budgetary needs, which this year were set at a modest $27,800.
A visitor could not help being impressed by the prominent and integral place given on the program for extended periods of prayer, and provision of a prayer room for delegates—exemplary for other church conventions.
Concern Over Glossolalia
The tongues movement is beginning to nettle church leaders, and two Episcopal bishops publicly expressed their concern this month. Bishops Hamilton H. Kellogg of Minnesota and James A. Pike of California warned their clergy of the dangers in the tongues movement. Both said that such movements can be divisive.
Kellogg issued his warning in an address before the Minnesota diocese’s annual convention. Pike ordered a five-page pastoral letter on the subject read in all churches of his diocese.
“While there is no inhibition whatsoever as to devotional use of speaking with tongues,” said Pike, “I urge that there be no services or meetings in our Churches or in homes or elsewhere for which the expression or promotion of this activity is the purpose or of which it is a part.”
More Than A Preacher
From the pen of his historian son this month came the first biography of the most widely heard of radio preachers, the late Dr. Walter A. Maier.
A Man Spoke, A World Listened, by Paul L. Maier, reintroduces a figure whose name was a household word among Christian families during the thirties and forties but whose influence was all but forgotten following his death in 1950 at the age of 56. It is an affectionate 411-page account of the man who made “The Lutheran Hour” the largest regular broadcast—religious or secular—in the history of radio.
Maier, Missouri Synod clergyman armed with a Harvard doctorate, began broadcasting in the fall of 1930, but fell victim to the depression some eight months later. He resumed the program after a lapse of more than three and a half years. It ran continuously thereafter under sponsorship of the Lutheran Laymen’s League, and it soon became known around the world. Maier gave a total of 509 addresses—some 2,500,000 words.
But Maier was more than a radio preacher. The diverse elements of his career are ably recounted by the author, who now teaches history at Western Michigan University and serves as chaplain to Lutheran students there. Given as one of Maier’s greatest disappointments was the refusal of Clarence Darrow to engage in a debate with him. Maier’s most famous book was a marriage manual (he opposed birth control). His voice coach for a time was radio’s Lone Ranger.
Maier preached for national righteousness as well as personal regeneration. He died of a heart ailment just as radio had reached its peak and was beginning its decline in the face of television. The death was announced at a Boston rally addressed by one who was just then picking up the torch for national righteousness and personal regeneration: Billy Graham.
A Bigger Job
Evangelist Billy Graham began his European evangelistic tour this month with a marriage service at Montreux, Switzerland. The bride was his oldest daughter, 17-year-old Virginia. The groom was Stephan Tchividjian, 23, a medical student.
Graham officiated at the ceremony, held in the 500-year-old Montreux Anglican Church overlooking Lake Geneva. The evangelist, who also gave his daughter away, led Virginia down the aisle of the church while Cliff Barrows, musical director of the Graham team, opened the ceremony.
Following the wedding, Graham was to spend a holiday with his family in Switzerland before leaving for Paris for the scheduled May 12 opening there of an eight-day crusade.
Pilgrims And Strangers
An Anglican-Methodist merger proposal was recommended for study by bishops assembled at the Canterbury Convocation of the Church of England this month. No dissentient voice was raised.
That the proposed merger will be the occasion of renewing the current Anglican controversy about establishment was seen when the Bishop of Leicester, Dr. Ronald Williams, cited the Anglo-Catholic view of a former generation which asked:
“Whoever heard of an established stranger? Whoever heard of an endowed pilgrim?”
The Bishop of Bristol, Dr. Oliver Tomkins, remarked that he recently assured a Methodist woman that church bazaars and raffles are not compulsory in the Church of England.
The ecumenical movement in Africa was formally institutionalized last month with the launching of the All Africa Conference of Churches. The AACC was formed at an eleven-day constituting assembly on the campus of Makerere University at Kampala, Uganda. It is the first continent-wide organization of churches and national Christian councils in Africa. Three hundred and fifty delegates from forty-two African nations were on hand.
Spokesmen said AACC functions would be six-fold: to promote consultation and action among the churches on such subjects as evangelism and service projects; to carry on study and research; to arrange visits and conferences between church bodies in the membership and to circulate information; to help churches to find, place, and share personnel and to utilize other resources “for the most effective prosecution of their common task”; to help churches train lay and clerical leadership; “without prejudice to its own autonomy,” to collaborate with the World Council of Churches and other appropriate agencies.
According to the AACC constitution, membership is open to all African churches which accept its basis: “Confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and only Savior according to the Scriptures and, therefore, seek to fulfil together their common calling to the glory of one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
The only difference between the AACC’s membership basis and that of the WCC is the word “only,” inserted with the adoption of an amendment introduced by Pastor Jean Kotte, secretary general of the Evangelical Church of the Cameroun.
A message adopted by assembly delegates noted that while “commercial enterprises use electronic computers to study the results of their work, and television and radio to spread their propaganda for good or for evil, the church relies on donkey cart methods of the past to reach a world that is passing by the door of the church with ever-increasing speed.”
The only snag apparent in the proceedings was cancellation of a news conference scheduled with a leading delegate, Dr. Kofi A. Busia, Methodist layman and sociologist from Ghana who is now living in England. In a speech to the assembly, Busia criticized the “disrupting” effect of Christianity in African culture and family life and the Christian missions’ past alliances with imperialistic powers. Most of his talk, however, was in praise of the work of Christian missionaries in Africa.
Spokesmen said that the proposed interview was called off at the request of Uganda authorities, who explained that foreigners were not permitted to criticize other nations while in Uganda. Busia is known for his outspoken opposition to the Ghana government.
The AACC elected a 20-member general committee and four co-presidents.
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