Working papers for what could be the world’s biggest Protestant church floated to finality with surprisingly little trouble at this month’s Consultation on Church Union in Dallas.
Delegates from eight churches with 24 million members (see chart, next page) gave the “Outline Plan of Union” the less troublesome title “Principles of Church Union,” passed most of it as proposed, and amputated the controversial last two chapters on structure and the time table for the united church. These two “papers” will be distributed, then discussed further at next year’s meeting in Boston.
The consultation is on the wing. The open letter to churches, preamble, and chapters on faith, worship, sacraments, and ministry form a basis for design. The effort to unite the eight denominations is now somewhere in limbo between Stage 2, acceptance of the outline, and Stage 3, negotiation of a specific plan of union.
Three of the eight denominations have authority to proceed with negotiations: The United Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ). The commitment of each to joining the proposed church is clear.
At Dallas, the consultation “urgently invited” the other five denominations to get authority to enter into preparation of a union plan.
The Evangelical United Brethren and The Methodist Church will hold joint conferences in November, principally to decide on their own bilateral union, but COCU will be in the wind. The Brethren may vote authority, but their ultimate destiny probably will rest with the Methodists, who are not expected to act until the 1968 general conference.
Supporters of the Consultation on Church Union (story above) hope the surprise entry of the Southern Presbyterians ...1
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