Eight thousand miles from the scene of battle, ranking American churchmen squabbled last month over the war in Viet Nam. Should U. S. troops get out? A considerable number of the ecumenical elite, members of the General Board of the National Council of Churches meeting in Madison, Wisconsin, obviously thought so. Resistance to U. S. policy grew so apparent at the meeting that one churchman gave fellow board members a scolding:
“The lone here seems to be that anything supporting the Administration is basically unchristian.”
The Administration eventually got a fair measure of support, but cloves outlasted hawks in live hours of debate spread over two sessions. The consensus of the General Board belittled the merits of U. S. military involvement in Viet Nam and suggested more economic aid and new efforts toward a negotiated settlement with the Communists.
The discussion started with a 1,056-word “policy statement” proposed by the NCC s Sixth World Order Study Conference in St. Louis in October. An objective, relatively mild analysis, it generated little heat. It suggested nothing more drastic than temporary suspension of bombing raids on North Viet Nam as a strategic maneuver to encourage negotiations. It called for a parallel effort to induce Hanoi to stop sending troops and arms into South Viet Nam.
What roused the board was the introduction from the floor by noted ecumenist Dr. Eugene Carson Blake of a hurriedly prepared four-page “message” originally intended for “the members of our churches.” The document asserts “we must do more” than study the St. Louis paper. Blake hit sharply at the “unilateral” aspect of U. S. action in Viet Nam, charging that such a policy alienates Asians. He voiced concern that “Christians in the United ...1
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