Telstar II, the communications satellite whirling around the earth at 15,000 miles per hour, served to promote the ecumenical dialogue last month. It brought together on television four leading churchmen and selected questioners from Rome, London, and Princeton, New Jersey. They were able to look each other in the eye and talk almost as if they were all in the same room. And people across North America and Europe saw them on the same television screen. The broadcast, second such “Town Meeting of the World,” was dubbed by some visionary “The Christian Revolution.”

How was it, asked a Newsweek correspondent in Rome of Dr. Franklin Clark Fry in Princeton, that less than two years ago the World Council of Churches’ New Delhi assembly was lamenting widespread indifference among the laity, and now church leaders were purportedly enjoying “a Christian revolution”? Could it be that ecclesiastical activity is largely confined to the higher echelons and that the laity is more aloof than ever?

Fry ignored the disparity between the two themes cited by the correspondent. He limited his reply to a denial that very many churchmen are promoting institutionalism.

As if reflecting church history, Fry and Bishop Lesslie Newbigin in London lost contact for a time with Rome. When communication was restored, a Princeton Theological Seminary student from India asked whether “all Christians everywhere” should be involved in some kind of a “meaningful program of family planning.”

The query drew laughter from both sides of the Atlantic, and the comment from Father Hans Küng that it was “one of the most difficult questions you could ask.” Küng noted changes in Catholic thinking on the subject in recent years, but added: “You can’t expect that we can find ...

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.