For three crowded days in April more than 1,000 delegates thronged the Pick-Congress Hotel in Chicago for the twenty-second annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals. The theme of the gathering, “Evangelicals Unashamed,” with its reference to Romans 1:16, was what might have been expected. The structure of the convention followed precedent with some twenty commissions, committees, and boards meeting separately and simultaneously; with general daily sessions and special luncheons; and with each day climaxed by large evening meetings (the one addressed by Dr. Billy Graham on the opening night overflowed the Great Hall of the hotel with an audience of some 1,800). As one passed room after room in which delegates sat hearing papers, debating issues, and sharing experiences, and as he heard the resolutions adopted, an impression of intense activity was unavoidable.
More significant, however, than these externals were the underlying mood of the convention and certain of its accomplishments. Along with the basic drive of the organization, new forces were at work. The slogan, “Evangelicals Unashamed,” began to come alive, as the convention moved forward. This 1964 gathering was not only “unashamed” of the Gospel of Christ; it was also “unashamed” of intensified social advance (symbolized particularly by the resolution on civil rights), openness to discussion of other views (manifest in thoughtful examination of ecumenism), and willingness to think about dialogue with other groups. It was as if NAE were coming out of a shell and, within its own conservative doctrinal framework, taking a stand on some matters about which it had hitherto said little.
It may well be that the association, as represented by its leadership at the convention, is in a period of honest soul-searching and realistic appraisal in the light of such developments as the “thaw” of Rome toward Protestantism and the present racial crisis.
At any rate, there were indications of a change in outlook. Among these a few may be mentioned. In discussing the sensitive subject of academic freedom in the Christian college, Professor Arthur Holmes of Wheaton said that “to deny academic freedom is suicide”; he pointed out that the evangelical public as he has met it “has yet to be sold on liberal arts education” and that “some [evangelicals] are … insecure in their faith, overly defensive and overly cautious.”
A lively session of the Evangelical Action Commission that dealt with the Roman Catholic ecumenical movement heard some plain talk from Dr. Herbert S. Mekeel, who warned that, despite its increased biblical emphasis, Rome’s intransigent insistence upon its own primacy remains unchanged. Dr. James DeForest Murch declared, “We have passed the day when we as evangelicals can be isolationists,” and proposed immediate steps for evangelicals to observe an annual week of prayer for Christian unity, to establish a permanent commission on Christian unity, and to initiate studies in the nature of the unity we seek.
Widening of outlook and sympathies was also evident through sessions devoted to such subjects as the relation of evangelicals to national ecumenicity on the mission fields, the spiritual needs on the home front of the inner city, the evangelical stake in the social welfare movement, and the training of Negro ministers. Theological concern was focused upon issues like the liberal misrepresentation of the evangelical commitment to biblical inerrancy and the dangers of universalism.
Regarding the racial problem, delegates heard some blunt words from the Rev. Howard Jones, a Negro minister associated with Billy Graham, and from Dr. Graham himself. Mr. Jones decried evangelical failures in segregated worship, lack of integration in higher education, retreat of churches when Negroes move into communities, and the continuance of some ministers to justify segregation by preaching “the curse of Ham.” Dr. Graham, also critical of evangelical failures in racial matters, joined with Mr. Jones in declaring that the ultimate answer to the racial question is in Christ and in the demonstration of his love.
Dr. Robert Cook’s presidential address referred to the infiltration of evil into evangelical life through accommodation to lowered standards. “It is my impression,” he said, “that a high percentage of high school young people that came from Christian homes lack moral fiber.”
Morning devotional meetings, though warm in spirit, were not largely attended. In contrast to Billy Graham’s crowded evening meeting, representatives of the two largest conservative, evangelical bodies in the nation, neither of which is a member of NAE—Dr. K. Owen White, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Dr. Oswald C. J. Hoffmann, preacher on “The Lutheran Hour”—spoke to a partially filled auditorium, a fact attributed to lack of local publicity.
The convention adopted a resolution supporting the military chaplaincy, calling for resistance to “efforts of the Civil Liberties Union or others who would in any wise hinder, subvert, or destroy the military chaplaincy,” and expressing concern “that military chaplains are required to use a particular type of Sunday School literature, that military personnel are required to attend chapel services without regard to their religious freedom and that informal Bible study groups are sometimes suppressed.”
In other resolutions, elimination of radio and television advertising of tobacco and liquor was advocated; an amendment to Public Law 480 was supported, restating the purpose of the act (that provides for agricultural surpluses to be given free to voluntary agencies for distribution abroad) as being the meeting of human need rather than the purposes of state policy; the present non-recognition of the Communist governments of Cuba and China was supported; and in a resolution on the Church and Welfare, “the clear responsibility” of “the Christian as an individual and the church as a group for the social and economic welfare of men, especially those of ‘the household of faith’ ” was affirmed not as “the church’s primary mission” but as “an integral part of her total Christian obligation.”
Discussion of the civil rights resolution, adopted unanimously, included lively debate on the description of Billy Graham’s Birmingham rally as “integrated” instead of “bi-racial,” with “integrated” being approved, and the defeat of an amendment supporting “reasonable demonstrations,” the convention apparently having felt that the resolution deals with principle rather than with method.
The appointment of Dr. Arthur M. Climenhaga as executive director completes a realignment of NAE leadership (see CHRISTIANITY TODAY News, February 14, 1964, p. 43). Dr. Climenhaga is a former missionary to Africa who has been serving as president of Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania, a school operated by Brethren in Christ.
Congressman John B. Anderson of Illinois, a member of the Evangelical Free Church, who set the good example of staying by his legislative responsibilities, was honored in absentia as “the evangelical layman of the year.” The winner in the church design contest, sponsored jointly by NAE and Christian Life magazine, was Highland Covenant Church of Bellevue, Washington.
Minneapolis—The tendency of some Christians to equate holiness with passivism found no place in the program or procedures of the National Holiness Association at its 96th annual convention last month in Minneapolis. Speakers and delegates struck vigorous blows at attitudes and conduct that they regarded as unethical, immoral, or just plain sinful.
N. A. E. And Civil Rights
Following is the text of the resolution on civil rights adopted by the National Association of Evangelicals:
“The National Association of Evangelicals boldly asserts the relevancy of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the critical problem of civil rights. We point with thanksgiving to Billy Graham’s integrated Easter Sunday (1964) rally in Birmingham.
“We believe that the Biblical solution to the problem of race prejudice is through the transformation of the individual by the power of the Holy Spirit resulting in a love for all men.
“Recognizing that not all men have thus been transformed, we call upon evangelicals everywhere in the name of the God who loved the world and our Savior who died for all men to support on all levels of government such ordinances and legislation as will assure all our people those freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution.
“Further, we call upon our churches to accelerate the desegregation of their own institutions both in spirit and in practice and we urge the opening of the doors of all sanctuaries of worship to every person, regardless of race or national origin.”
The association not only frowned on the Supreme Court’s ban on religion in the public schools but proposed to do something about it. The approved resolution states that reading of Scripture and the offering of nonsectarian prayers “in no way violates” the principle of church-state separation. The association also called on denominations, colleges, seminaries, mission boards, and other groups affiliated with it to “bring all possible pressure to bear upon Congress” to obtain enactment of a constitutional amendment that would remove any doubt about the legality of such religious exercises.
Corruption in public life and laxity in private morals were other targets. A resolution asserted that “sordid instances” of the former that have been publicized “are to be regarded not only as violating ethical principles but as jeopardizing our nation’s security; such things will bring the judgment of God upon our beloved country.”
At the other end of the scale, the association viewed “with repugnance” what it termed “the apparent willingness of many publishers and educators to regard the present laxity in private morals as being acceptable.”
Immorality that is allowed to pervade some churches drew the fire of the Rev. James C. Lentz of Marion, Indiana, Evangelical Methodist minister and missionary evangelist for World Gospel Mission, who charged that “too much energy has been expended in the defense of doctrine rather than in heralding the great truths of Christianity.”
“When the Christian message is presented positively by lives that can demonstrate its claims, it will meet the conditions of our nation and society today as the same message reached England in the day of John Wesley,” said Mr. Lentz.
The association also approved resolutions: deploring the use of the Scriptures in attempts to justify racial discrimination and praising civil rights leaders who “have steadfastly refused to forsake their programs of non-violence”; recommending that the tax exemption for religious institutions be retained; commending the Salvation Army for its rehabilitation program for city dwellers.
Professional boxing was denounced as having no place in civilized Christian society, and Christians were asked to “refrain from watching such brutal spectacles” on television.
The National Holiness Association is made up of fourteen denominations, including the Free Methodists, Wesleyan Methodists, Holiness Methodists, Salvation Army, United Missionary Church, and several yearly meetings of Friends (Quakers).
Following the convention, association leaders designated Pentecost Sunday, May 17, as a special day of prayer for revival.
Oklahoma City—Voluntary prayers and public school Bible reading that is free of sectarian interpretation are favored in a resolution adopted by the North American Baptist Association at its fifteenth annual convention. The resolution opposes requirements for public school students to recite prescribed prayers.
Some 4,000 delegates from twenty-five states attended the three-day convention. The association is composed of churches with an aggregate constituency of 330,500 members.
Delegates were told that the association’s foreign missions work would be extended into France, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
Philadelphia—A “Call to Action on Race Relations” was issued by the 284th annual session of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends to its ninety-two monthly meetings, urging specific steps to promote integration.
It reminded the constituency that while Quakers were possibly the first Americans to condemn slavery—in the Yearly Meeting as early as 1688—and theirs is a record down through the years of befriending the Negro, their meetings for worship, their numerous schools, and their individual practices have not resulted in integration to any great degree.
Salt Lake City—David O. McKay, the 90-year-old elder statesman of Mormonism, says that three dangers threaten the success and happiness of youth. In an address to the 134th annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President McKay issued a sharp warning against “the pernicious habit of smoking cigarettes, the increasing number of divorces, and the tendency to hold less sacred the moral standards.”
McKay and other speakers reminded the assembly that Mormon founder Joseph Smith had enjoined his followers from the use of tobacco and strong drink.
McKay heads the largest of the Mormon churches, with an inclusive membership of: more than two million.
Independence, Missouri—Delegates to the biennial world conference of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints settled a question of representation that has plagued the church intermittently since 1880. Beginning with the 1966 world conference, only selected elders will be permitted to vote. Their number will total only a few hundred, in contrast to the more than 2,000 who voted this year. An elder in Mormonism is a lay spiritual leader.
For years, leaders of the 180,000-member church have contended that the rule that grants voting rights to any of the church’s 5,000 elders who attend the biennial general conference makes for an unwieldy assembly.
Under the plan just approved, voting rights in the future will be accorded only to an elder who is a high priest or holds one of a number of specified offices.
Shakespeare And Methodism
Opposite the parish church in Stratford-on-Avon, England, where Shakespeare is entombed, a new Methodist church was dedicated last month in his honor.
The ceremony coincided with the 400th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare. Among dignitaries present was Dr. Charles C. Parlin, New York lawyer who is a vice-president of the World Methodist Council and a member of the presidium of the World Council of Churches.
The new church features a flèche that rises from a porch and is surmounted by a tall cross. At right angles to the sanctuary is an assembly hall with a stage, and, in the rear, smaller rooms and a kitchen.
The church was intended to be associated with world Methodism and to be especially designed to offer a welcome to American and other overseas visitors. There is a lounge in the front of the hall, connected to the sanctuary by cloisters. In the lounge is a servery where Stratford Methodists can welcome visitors to their church and to their world-known pilgrimage city.
The unveiling of a bronze Aldersgate commemorative medallion from the U. S. office of the World Methodist Council was part of the service. The medallion includes the design of world Methodism and two quotations from Wesley: “I felt my heart strangely warmed” and “The Methodists are one people in all the world.”
Liquor Commercials Diluted
Liquor advertising on New York City radio has retreated to the privileged domain of public service.
Radio station WQXR had announced earlier that it planned to carry liquor commercials on late evening programs. Two distillers, Schenley and McKesson & Robbins, signed contracts with the station.
After the controversy that followed the announcement, McKesson & Robbins withdrew completely, and Schenley announced that its commercials would be restricted to public service announcements of a cultural nature. The one-minute spots will boost museum programs, concerts, and cultural centers. Liquor will not be advertised, but Schenley’s “corporate name” will be mentioned at the end of the commercials.
WQXR’s liquor advertising plans ran into opposition both from the National Association of Broadcasters, whose code bars such commercials, and from Congress. Democratic Senators John O. Pastore (R. I.) and Warren G. Magnuson (Wash.), have introduced a bill barring the advertising of “distilled spirits” on radio and television.
The radio station, which has AM and FM programs largely devoted to classical music, news, and commentary, is sponsored by the New York Times. It is a member of the National Association of Broadcasters but does not subscribe to its code.
Mrs. Ruby E. Nelson
The 52-year-old wife of a Seventh-day Adventist medical missionary was reported slain by robbers in India last month.
Dr. Phillips Nelson, medical secretary of the Southern Asia Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Mission of Chicago, said that he and his wife were driving from Ranchi to New Delhi when their car had a flat tire. Leaving his wife in the car, Nelson went on to the next town to obtain a new tire. When he returned hours later he found that Mrs. Nelson’s throat had been cut and that her purse, containing about $400, and a wristwatch were missing.
Honors In Religious Journalism
Four member periodicals of the Associated Church Press were honored last month during the organization’s forty-eighth annual convention in Washington:
Arena, a monthly for young adults published by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, “in recognition of excellence in graphic appeal achieved through unique and creative layout and design”;
Interaction, a monthly for church school workers published by Concordia Publishing House, “in recognition of excellent achievement in interrelating editorial content and graphic design”;
Youth, a bi-weekly published by the United Church of Christ, “in recognition of editorial courage and creative presentation of critical issues”;
Unitarian Universalist Register-Leader, official monthly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, “in recognition of consistent editorial excellence in pursuing ideas and issues inherent in liberal religious journalism.”
The ACP also elected three honorary life members: Dr. Harold E. Fey, retiring editor of the Christian Century; Peter Day, former editor of the Living Church; and Leland Case, retired editor of Together.
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