“We are not here just to promote programs and to push professional interests. We hope to reproduce here the basic experience at Pentecost out of which the New Testament Church arose when they were all together in one place with one accord.” So spoke Dr. Robert W. Burns, president of the International Convention of Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ), on opening night of the annual assembly held last month in Miami Beach. There was indeed the distant sound of a rushing mighty wind, yet it came not from heaven but out of Cuba. Her name was Flora, and she served only to keep attendance down to 6,500.

But Disciples who came to Miami Beach were seeking means to hurl back a tide which seemed to be running against them. Founded on the nineteenth-century American frontier with a view toward unifying Christians everywhere, their body now seemed fractured, racked by uncertainty now on its founding principles, its early momentum slowed to a walk. After a year of travel to the borders of the “brotherhood” (Disciples historically have resisted the fact that they have become a denomination, though they now more readily admit it), President Burns was deeply concerned and talked in terms of sickness and pitiful failure. He cited a 1 per cent gain in world membership during the past decade as compared to 19 per cent for Protestantism as a whole. Spot checks of the 1963 reports indicate a membership drop larger than last year’s net loss of 14,500. “Our evangelism has not lagged for lack of adequate plans,” he said, “but because too many of us lack a deep concern for the salvation of our neighbors’ souls.” And pointing to his audience, he asked: “How long since you were the means through which God added a soul to the church? How long since ...

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