A dispute over evangelism is leaving theological scars on the Protestant and Orthodox Center now under construction at the New York World’s Fair grounds. Two key officials have already resigned. At least one exhibitor may seek a contract cancellation. And a protesting church in the Bronx threatened to withdraw from the sponsoring agency, the Protestant Council of the City of New York.

They are objecting to a film now being produced for showing at the center when the fair opens next April 22. The film, a pantomime, depicts Christ in the role of a donkey-riding circus clown who dies suspended from a tent pole.

First to resign was Emilio B. Knechtle, Swiss-born layman who served for two years as board chairman of the Protestant Council and more recently was chief fund-raiser for the fair project. Next to leave was program director J. Marshall Miller, for many years a professor at Columbia University’s School of Architecture. Both charge that the film smacks of sacrilege.

Ironically enough, a film featuring similarly sophisticated imagery caused a row at the Protestant Pavilion of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. The film was edited to accommodate those who objected. At that time, Miller, a Baptist layman, was taking up his duties for the New York fair and vowed to work for a more positive evangelical witness.

“While we did not succeed in achieving the goal we had visualized,” he says, “it was perhaps better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all.”

Miller and Knechtle declare that the attempt to present an evangelical posture failed because the Protestant Council’s steering committee is predominantly liberal in its theological outlook.

The Rev. Dan M. Potter, executive director of the Protestant Council, denied that ...

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