As victory vibrations for the World Series-champion Cardinals died down in St. Louis, the International Convention of Christian Churches (Disciples) staged some celebrations of its own. Restructure and unity exponents rolled to a decisive (20 to 1) victory over conservative Disciples who vainly defended local autonomy against sweeping ecumenism.
For the first time the convention had elected delegates from congregations, regions, and agencies. Of the 9,575 persons registered at giant Kiel Auditorium last month, 4,085 were voting members.
Executive Secretary A. Dale Fiers called restructure approval “historic” and “the first step toward the Christian Churches’ becoming a denomination.” Delegates also sounded off on Viet Nam, narrowly rolled back a resolution supporting conscientious objection to a “particular” war, plunged anew into civil-rights and urban-renewal endorsements, and took a critical—but brief—look at ministerial racial discrimination.
Since the Christian Churches emerged out of nineteenth-century frontier America, the loosely federated congregations simultaneously have prized Christian unity and their own independence. The new “Provisional Design” could be adopted by the ICCC in Kansas City next September. Restructure will allow the local congregations to retain property, call pastors, and determine membership standards. But subsequently, the 1.9 million-member denomination would follow a centralized, representative government at regional and national levels.
Floor debate against restructure was mainly confined to a half-hour speech by the Rev. Tom Parish of Wichita, Kansas, speaking for the conservative Atlanta Declaration Committee. His contention that restructure was a “return to rigid sectarianism” was rebutted ...1
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