As could be expected, the Los Angeles riots of August 11–15 set off a stream of ecclesiastical comment. The opinions of churchmen ranged from confessions of failure to dire predictions. Ministers around the world, in prayers as well as sermons, expressed their concern over one of the bloodiest uprisings in U. S. history.

Although the varied diagnoses could fill volumes, a consensus soon became clear. Most churchmen whose statements were publicized felt that poverty in the predominantly Negro district of Watts was the underlying cause of the mass disorder that resulted in at least thirty-six deaths and untold injury and property damage (miraculously, no appreciable damage to churches was reported.)

Watts has known poverty for many years, but the Rev. Harry McKnight, secretary of the Church Federation of Los Angeles, said he knew of no creative effort by the churches to meet the problem.

Religious News Service characterized it as “an ingrained poverty of not only staggering economic proportions but a spiritual poverty that has led to personal hopelessness and frustration.”

Snipers were still firing away when evangelist Billy Graham arrived in Los Angeles to fulfill commitments arranged before the outburst. Graham and an associate evangelist, T. W. Wilson, donned bullet-proof vests and were taken on a helicopter tour of the stricken area.

Graham’s observations were sobering. “This is a dress rehearsal for a revolution.” he said. “If thirty or forty cities became ensnarled in this kind of havoc at the same time, it would take the armed might of the United States to quell it.”

Dr. Martin Luther King also flew to Los Angeles, interrupting a swing through the religious conference circuit. King noted that on a previous visit he had suggested a civil rights march in Los Angeles. “When there is a march, they don’t riot,” he said.

King, like many other clergymen, aimed criticism at James Francis Cardinal McIntyre, Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles, regarded as an ecclesiastical and political conservative who has forbidden his priests to engage in civil rights activity.

King came to Los Angeles from San Juan. Puerto Rico, where he addressed a crowd of about 10,000 at the Seventh Assembly of the World Convention of Churches of Christ. Following his California visit, King journeyed to Montreat, North Carolina, to speak to a conference of the Southern Presbyterian Board of Christian Education. The Presbyterian Journal noted that it was his “first speech ever delivered under the auspices of a Southern-based denomination.”

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Some clergymen said police brutality also figured in the riots. In other quarters, however, clergymen themselves were assigned a measure of responsibility because they had set a bad example by defying local laws in demonstrating for Negro rights.

One critic of clergy demonstrators was Democratic Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, who also noted that despite decades of economic stagnation in the southern Appalachians, “these people never resorted to burning, looting, rioting, assaulting, injuring, murdering, and destroying.… There were no welfare programs, no antipoverty programs, no federal aid as we know it. But there was no disorder.”

Other developments on the religious-racial frontier: An Episcopal seminary student was killed and a Roman Catholic priest was critically wounded while engaged in civil rights activity in Hayneville, Alabama. The Rev. Donald A. Thompson. Unitarian minister of an integrated church in Jackson, Mississippi, was seriously wounded by shotgun pellets. In the area of Corinth, Mississippi, authorities were investigating the burning of three white churches.


Reports reaching London said that armed troops invaded church properties in the Sudanese city of Juba in early July in search of fleeing refugees. The reports declared that more than 1,000 persons were shot down indiscriminately or burned to death in their homes by government forces.

Bills were introduced in the U. S. Congress for a resolution designating 1966 as “The Year of the Bible.” The legislation was prompted by the American Bible Society, which will celebrate its 150th anniversary next year.

The Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic fraternal society with some one million members, will build a new 26-story building in a downtown renewal area of New Haven, Connecticut. When the building is completed, the K of C will increase its headquarters staff from 500 to about 700.

A Protestant pastor in Nepal, the Rev. Prem Pradhan, was given a royal pardon after serving 4½ years of a six-year sentence for baptizing converts.

Child Evangelism Fellowship and Word of Life Fellowship will undertake religious instruction for more than 100,000 school children in Sao Paulo, Brazil, who have registered their preference for a Protestant curriculum. Brazilian law requires religious instruction one hour per week in all schools in Sao Paulo.

Twelve young men were chosen for a new program of Christian leadership program sponsored by the Erickson Foundation. A broadly Christian range of opportunities will be given to the twelve to help them attain positions of spiritual influence in their chosen professions. One Catholic university is represented, plus several evangelical schools.

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A high-ranking priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, admitted that he had stolen and sold an automobile in his efforts to help a poor mission parish. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years’ probation.

A government medical examiner issued a verdict of suicide in the death last May 1 of Melvin Steakley, religion editor of the Houston Chronicle. A gun rigged to the clutch of his small car fired a bullet into Steakley’s chest.


The Rev. Robbins Strong is beginning a six-month term as acting director of the Division of World Mission and Evangelism of the World Council of Churches. He succeeds Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, who is returning to service with the Church of South India. Strong had been serving as general secretary of interpretation and personnel of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries.

Dr. James Ralph Scales resigned as president of Oklahoma Baptist University to become dean of arts and sciences at Oklahoma State University.

Dr. Arthur LeRoy Schultz was chosen as president of Albright College, succeeding Dr. Harry V. Masters, who retired. Schultz is an ordained pastor of the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

The Rev. Marion Gordon Bradwell took up the executive directorship of the Lord’s Day Alliance of the United States. Bradwell is a Presbyterian minister, a graduate of Bob Jones University and Columbia Theological Seminary.

Sir Philip Messent, noted Australian surgeon, was elected to a five-year term as president of the World Convention of Churches of Christ.

Dr. Samuel D. Proctor, associate general secretary for communications of the National Council of Churches, is resigning after a year in that post to resume government service with the new Office of Economic Opportunity.

They Say

“People sometimes say we must accept more on faith now than in the past because we have less evidence of God’s miracles, that we do not have Jesus before us in the flesh. I don’t believe this to be true. We have more and more evidence of the work of the Supreme Architect as we learn more about the universe. It is difficult to contemplate the complex workings of millions of planetary bodies—and the unknown immensity of the universe—without realizing what a fantastic miracle it all is, including our little earth.”—Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., in an address at the First Methodist Church of Seabrook, Texas, prior to the flight of Gemini 5.

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