Groups of clergymen and seminary students descended on the nation’s capital last month in an effort to speed up passage of the civil rights bill.
Services were being held daily at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill. Seminarians, meanwhile, determined to maintain a round-the-clock vigil at the Lincoln Memorial.
In one demonstration, a group of men and women reportedly numbering about 160 gathered at the church for a two-hour service, then marched to the Capitol. They paused en route on the steps of the Supreme Court Building to utter prayers commemorating the tenth anniversary of the decision outlawing public school segregation. The demonstration was sponsored by the National Council of Churches’ Commission on Religion and Race.
A statement delivered to senators said that “the emergency we face as a nation requires immediate and dramatic action if the potential for major civil disorder is to be lessened and the realization of freedom and justice for all our citizens is to be achieved without further unnecessary delays.”
The marchers were welcomed on the Capitol steps by Democratic Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Republican Senator Kenneth B. Keating of New York. Both are leading proponents of the civil rights bill.
Humphrey praised the group as “good citizens who come in the great American tradition of petition.”
Keating similarly hailed religious support of the pending legislation and said that church groups are leading the effort to obtain a cloture vote which would limit debate on the bill.
The procession then moved into the Senate gallery, where debate on the civil rights bill was under way. Later dividing into small groups, they visited individual senators to press for passage of the legislation.
The speaker at the service that morning was Dean Francis B. Sayre of Washington Cathedral (Episcopal). His sermon noted that “it’s strange that we should have to review these ABC’s here every morning, while some who are sworn to uphold the Constitution twist and turn like the snake round Eden’s tree to evade the express command that we should love our neighbors as ourselves.”
“Law,” he declared, “which might not be the author of love can at least reflect it, protect it, guarantee its sacredness to all.…”
The daily services as well as the Lincoln Memorial vigil were to continue until a civil rights bill is passed. Both activities are somewhat an outgrowth of an interreligious convocation on civil rights held in Washington in late April. More than 5,000 persons attended.
The seminarians got some encouragement at the end of the second week with the appearance of President John C. Bennett of New York’s Union Theological Seminary, Father George H. Dunne, assistant to the president of Georgetown University (Roman Catholic), and Dr. Bernard Mandelbaum, provost of the Jewish Theological Seminary. They stood watch for forty-five minutes.
The regular shift is for three hours. A schedule is kept around the clock. Thomas Leatherwood, chairman of the vigil, said that numerous schools had indicated a “willingness to take part since reading about it in newspapers. “Several hundred seminarians will participate,” he said, noting that more professors were also expected.
Mrs. C. E. Williams was elected ruling elder of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, less than two weeks after the 104th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. (Southern) ratified legislation providing for ordination of women as deacons, elders, and ministers.
Mrs. Williams is believed to have been the first woman named to a session (ruling body) under the change.
The Central Methodist Mission of Sydney, Australia, plans construction of a new evangelistic center costing some $2,240,000 to replace facilities heavily damaged by fire in February.
Chief Justice Earl Warren assisted in the dedication of a 301-foot bell tower constructed atop the Episcopal Cathedral in Washington, D. C. He observed that the interaction of religion and the state is “as fruitful and unfettered as we have the strength to make it.”
One person was killed and 200 were injured when worshipers rushed to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem for the celebration of the Eastern Orthodox Easter.
A relief agency of the World Council of Churches agreed to seek worldwide support for a “project of aid and reconciliation” in the Mississippi Delta. A global appeal for funds and personnel was issued by the National Council of Churches.
The Far East Broadcasting Company, a missionary radio organization, is dictating the Scriptures over the air for the benefit of listeners in Communist China. Reports have already been received of Chinese listeners who are writing the Bible portions as they are dictated.
Ground was broken last month for construction of a new Baptist college at a site between Dallas and Fort Worth. The faculty and equipment of Decatur Baptist College, located forty miles away, will be moved to the site to form the new school’s nucleus. It will be known as Dallas Baptist College.
Central Alaskan Missions, Inc., began a new radio ministry this spring with a 5,000-watt station in Glennallen, Alaska.
Major Protestant denominations in Spain formed a Spanish Evangelical Council as an outgrowth of a yearly congress supported by the Spanish Baptist Union, the Federation of Independent Churches, the Spanish Evangelical Churches, and the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church. Plymouth Brethren elected not to join the council.
A minority element of the British Consultative Committee of the International Council of Christian Churches that opposed a severing of relations with the parent organization announced a reorganization under the original name. The breakaway group now calls itself the Bible Christian Unity Fellowship.
A new college will be built in Jamaica under joint sponsorship of Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Disciples of Christ, Methodist, Moravian, and Presbyterian churches. It is expected to open in 1965.
Dr. Bernard Hillila named dean of California Lutheran College in Thousand Oaks, California.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was chosen “1964 Clergyman of the Year” by Religious Heritage of America, Inc. J. C. Penney was named “Lay Church Man of the Year,” and Mrs. Dale Evans Rogers was designated “1964 Church Woman of the Year.”
Military Chaplains Association presented its annual Citizenship Award to entertainer Bob Hope. The citation commended Hope’s “personal interest in members of the armed forces … in his tireless, unselfish efforts to bring them warmth and cheer by personal visits and performances in their far flung outposts.”
Dr. J. Theodore Mueller is retiring as professor of systematic theology at Concordia Seminary.
“The burst of national self-consciousness, of self-determination, of self-improvement has in no small part been due to the teaching and influence of Christian missions.”—Dr. Harold J. Ockenga.
THE RT. REV. WILLIAM BLAIR ROBERTS, 83, retired Episcopal bishop of South Dakota; in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
DR. HOWARD TILLMAN KUIST, 68, professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary; in Princeton, New Jersey.
CARL A. GUNDERSEN, 69, treasurer of the National Association of Evangelicals; in Chicago.
DR. HENRY ORR LIETMAN, 59, editor of The Garden of Prayer, a United Presbyterian devotional guide; in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
POLLY JOHNSON, 24, gospel recording artist; one of forty-four persons killed in the crash of a Pacific Airlines plane in California.
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