NEWS: Ecclesiastical Affairs

A half-dozen Church of England clergymen are publicly at odds with the hierarchy and long-standing tradition.

One man has indicated he is resigning from the ministry of the Church of England (following in the footsteps of two other evangelical clergymen who resigned in recent months), one minister has resigned his parish, and two others are defying their bishop by refusing to baptize babies.

More public dissent is expected to follow in the next month or two.

The Rev. David L. Gardner, intimating to his parishioners that he is leaving the Church of England, said that the Thirty-nine articles, the Prayer Book, and the Ordination Service do not adequately express “the present theological position of the Church,” and that there is “no pretense” that it does.

Mr. Gardner, vicar of Alne, Yorkshire, attacked the “disastrous travesty of the truth” involved in the doctrine of baptismal regeneration and the unscriptural view that presumes that “the Church of God should be in any way subordinate to Parliament, especially when Parliament could become almost totally non-Christian.”

The complaints of the other three clergymen also involved infant baptism. The Rev. George H. Forester, vicar of St. Paul’s, Beckenham, says he is resigning his parish because he no longer believes in the practice, but hopes to remain within the Anglican Communion.

The Rev. Richard Vick and the Rev. Christopher Wansey, both of the diocese of Chelmsford, have simply said that they will not baptize babies. Mr. Vick declared that the practice was unscriptural and suggested dedication instead, and Mr. Wansey said that infant baptism “not only eviscerates the sacrament but also deprives that child of the privilege and unique experience of adult baptism in later years. This is a deprivation that the Church should not follow.”

Mr. Vick was told by his bishop that he should resign if his decision was final.

Some Anglican observers have assailed the dissenters, most of whom are evangelicals. “We hope that a statement will soon be forthcoming from the highest authority to remind dissident clergy of their plain duty and their solemn oaths,” said the Church Times, an independent Anglican weekly.

In refusing to baptize infants, the ministers are in breach of ecclesiastical law and are liable to suspension for three months.

The issue has flared up at a time when a shortage of ordinands has closed one or two liberal colleges (and when evangelical colleges are bursting at the seams).

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Ballot Boycott

Dr. Martin Niemoeller came up with another controversial suggestion last month and was promptly denounced by West German Protestant leaders. Niemoeller urged voters to cast only blank ballots in the 1965 general elections as a protest against “dictatorial” rulers. He claimed that West Germany’s political parties ignore the people’s views on issues of world peace and disarmament.

Bishop Hanns Lilje of Hannover, chairman of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany, branded the proposal as “a wrong means to promote world peace.” Similar views were expressed by Dr. Joachim Beckmann of Dusseldorf, president of the Evangelical Church of the Rhineland, and Dr. Hermann Dietzfelbinger, of the Lutheran Church in Bavaria.

Niemoeller, retiring president of the Evangelical Church of Hesse and Nassau, charged in an article in the Voice of the Parish, a publication affiliated with the Confessional Church founded in 1933 to uphold the Christian faith against Nazism, that democracy existed in West Germany in name only and that the three parties on the ballot were “power greedy” and “no longer interested in the people’s welfare.”

The parties are the Christian Democratic Union (with its Bavarian affiliate, the Christian Social Union), the Social Democratic Party, and the Free Democratic Party—all represented in the coalition government set up in October, 1963.

In condemning Niemoeller’s proposal for what amounted to a “boycott” of the elections, Lilje said it was “a just concern for an orderly state that should cause men to use the available means of a democratic state order with conscientiousness and care.”

“Therefore,” he stressed, “the command of the hour is not abstinence [from voting], but rather a responsible and courageous participation in public, political, and civic life.”

Conceding that Dr. Niemoeller’s “provocatory utterances” stemmed from a genuine concern about peace, Lilje said that nevertheless he was urging the “wrong method” in proposing that the people express their will for peace by voiding ballots.

Beckmann said he shared Niemoeller’s concern about West Germany democracy, but he did not believe that an election boycott was the correct way to counter democracy’s shortcomings.

“One cannot guard against the danger of dictatorship by invalidating ballots or abstaining from the polls,” he said.

The Church In The North

Newly developing Eskimo communities are creating a need for many more churches and missionaries, according to Anglican Bishop Donald B. Marsh, who made an eight-week tour to recruit workers.

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He said in London last month that at least two young married clergymen have agreed to serve this diocese of 1½ million square miles.

“For the first time in the Arctic,” he said, “communities have been formed with three or four hundred people living in each. As a result, the Eskimo is now having to adjust himself to a totally new way of life.”

In an effort to educate the Eskimo, he said, the Canadian government has tried to change the Eskimo’s nomadic way of life by providing wooden houses in small communities. Problems of finding employment have developed, however, and relief programs apparently will be necessary for a considerable time.

He said that the establishment of churches and provision of pastoral leadership in the new communities is a pressing need as more and more Eskimo Christians are for the first time experiencing a normal church life.

Liberty Or Enslavement?

Full religious liberty in Spain would mean the “enslavement” of the consciences of the country’s Roman Catholic majority, according to a prelate who is regarded as a spokesman for conservative elements among the Spanish hierarchy.

Titular Archbishop Luis Alonso Munoyerro of Sion, military ordinary of the Spanish armed forces, clearly had in mind the declaration on religious liberty scheduled to be a top-priority item on the agenda of the Second Vatican Council’s fourth session.

In an interview with a Madrid monarchist daily, the archbishop urged Spaniards to be “circumspect” in the matter of religious liberty, stressing that they should not “join the chorus of those champions of liberty who judge the success of the Vatican Council by whether it produces the enslavement of the conscience of Catholic people, and among them the Spanish people.”

Archbishop Munoyerro’s remarks were regarded by observers in Madrid as especially significant in view of proposed legislation to grant greater freedom to the country’s Protestant minority. Although the projected law would retain the present ban on Protestant missionary activity, it would enable the Protestant churches, among other things, to operate schools and publish newspapers.

Arch bishop Munoyerro buttressed his warning against full religious liberty by charging that an international conspiracy was trying to “make Catholic unity disappear from our fatherland.”

He described a newspaper editorial, subsequently traced to the New York Times, as typical of the enemies of Spain who want to deprive her of her Catholic heritage.

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The archbishop said their religious heritage enabled Spaniards to drive the Moors out of Europe, to make an impact on the Council of Trent, which fought against the Protestant reform, bring the Gospel to Latin America and the Philippines, “and, ultimately to free Europe from Communism by the defeat Spain inflicted upon it in our crusade of liberation.” The “crusade” referred to was the Spanish Civil War.

Ecumenical Accreditation

Another well-known evangelical seminary seems assured of full academic accreditation. The American Association of Theological Schools announced last month that its Commission on Accrediting had recommended Gordon Divinity School “on the basis of accreditation schedules completed by the school and evaluation by teams from the commission.” Under a newly adopted procedure, accredited membership in the AATS is granted only by a vote of delegates to the organization’s biennial meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for 1966.

Also recommended for accreditation at the 1966 meeting was Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. The Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia, was accepted into accredited membership in a special category of “Schools of Religious Education” contingent upon favorable action by the American Association of Schools of Religious Education upon the agreement approved by AATS.

For the first time, an Orthodox school has won recognition from AATS. St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminar)’, a Russian Orthodox institution in Tuckahoe, New York, was recommended to the 1966 biennial meeting for associate membership along with Ashland (Ohio) Theological Seminary.

It appears, moreover, that Roman Catholic theological schools will soon be operating under AATS, which is the officially recognized accrediting body for North American seminaries. The AATS reports:

“Confronted with inquiries about or applications for membership from eight Roman Catholic theological schools, the committee first affirmed that such membership in conformity with our standards would be to the advantage of theological education in the United States and Canada, then instructed the staff to deal with such applications as with those from any other schools and appointed a special committee for counsel to the staff.”

Succeeding Mr. Oikumene

Who will succeed the retiring general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr. W. A. Visser ’t Hooft?

The fourteen-member WCC Executive Committee thought it had come up with the answer last summer in the Rev. Patrick C. Rodger, a Scottish Episcopal priest who has been executive secretary of the Faith and Order Department of the council. Announcement of his nomination by the Executive Committee raised a furor, however, presumably not over Rodger himself but over the propriety of making public the selection in a way that made it seem to be a sure thing. Angered members of the 100-member Central Committee came forth with heated reminders that they alone were entrusted with the final choice.

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This month the Central Committee meets at Enugu, Nigeria, to consider a successor. Visser ’t Hooft, who will be sixty-five this year, is widely regarded as ecumenism personified; one highly placed source regards his leaving as “the retirement of omnicompetence.” He has a chain of service as WCC general secretary dating back to 1938, when the organization had only provisional status.

It is unlikely that the Central Committee will fail to accept Rodger. There is a possibility however, that the post will be divided into two or more offices.

The Winds Of Change

A prominent American Baptist clergyman is changing denominations this month.

He is the Rev. Harleigh M. Rosenberger, who has resigned as president of the American Baptist Ministers’ Council and as pastor of the Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church in Detroit to become the pastor of the United Church of Christ in Rochester, New York.

“I have always had a great ecumenical concern,” said Dr. Rosenberger in explaining the move. “I am certainly not leaving as a protest.” He also said his call was to a specific congregation rather than to a generalized ecumenism.

A United Church of Christ official said that the denomination includes pastors coming from other denominations.

Both the American Baptists and the United Church of Christ hold to the autonomy of the local congregation. Members of both churches have attended the Consultation on Church Union—a six-way merger plan; the United Church of Christ participated officially, and the American Baptists were observers.

The United Church of Christ baptizes infants, and Baptists dedicate them. However, Dr. Rosenberger has indicated his willingness to baptize infants. He also said that there were no major doctrinal differences between the two denominations.

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