Presbyterian Life rushed to the defense of a proposed new confession last month after a flurry of protests over a phrase on political priorities.

An article appearing under bold red lettering, “One Criticism of the Confession Is Irrelevant,” sought to characterize the issue as loyalty to God versus loyalty to country. The article was signed by the new stated clerk of the United Presbyterian General Assembly, William P. Thompson.

At issue are six words in the so-called Confession of 1967, a statement of faith now being voted upon by presbyteries. General Assembly offices have been getting numerous letters arguing that the six words “even at risk to national security” may compromise members’ loyalty to the United States.

The phrase became a major concern for denominational officials this summer after it was learned that at least three military legal officers had advised servicemen who are United Presbyterians that under the present wording they would have to resign their church offices. Some actual resignations were reported, and church officials appealed to the Defense Department to overrule the legal officers.

The phrase appears in the following context:

“God’s reconciliation in Jesus Christ is the ground of the peace, justice, and freedom among nations which all powers of government are called to serve and defend. The church, in its own life, is called to practice the forgiveness of enemies and to commend to the nations as practical politics the search for cooperation and peace.

“This requires the pursuit of fresh and responsible relations across every line of conflict, even at risk to national security, to reduce areas of strife and to broaden international understanding.”

Through an apparent typographical muff, quotation marks ...

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