Methodist theologian Albert Outler treated the eleventh World Methodist Conference in London last month to a satirical romp through “current theologizing and its vogue-ishness.” Included in his survey was what he called “the old orthodoxy,” which, far from vanishing, was growing and becoming increasingly articulate and reflective. “This is a world come of age, as every sophisticate knows,” exclaimed Outler in mock surprise. “Supernaturalism has had it, modern man is radically secular and has jettisoned his cargo of overbelief.… And yet the fundamentalists and conservatives refuse to roll over and play dead … insufferable cheek! Billy Graham makes at least as much of a dent in London as the Bishop of Woolwich has made.”
The Southern Methodist University scholar then gave a quizzical glance at the old neo-orthodoxy and decided it was doing well, before giving a zany account of “the noisiest beach-party on our stretch of it”—the new humanists who were having a ball, fascinating the journalists, and upsetting “the ecclesiastical lifeguards.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer came in for some rare criticism here as “that fortunate martyr who secularized the distinction the fundamentalists have always made between religion (n.g.!) and Christianity (O.K.!) and did not live to discover that real secularists … can dispense with Christianity as readily as religion (or rather more so).”
Bishop Fred Pierce Corson of Philadelphia, who as president of the World Methodist Council had earlier arrived in London for council and conference meetings, found heated discussion about a press report that attributed to him a prediction that Methodists and Roman Catholics would be considering a “definite” union plan by 1971. Corson said there had obviously been a ...1
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