The Consultation on Church Union voted without a ripple March 27 to write a plan of union for 25 million Protestants. A drafting group will propose the text to representatives of the nine denominations next March in Atlanta, or by 1970 at the latest.

The work group that made the proposal called it “reckless obedience” to God. Speed is sought both by those who want COCU to settle touchy issues and by zealots who want to get a merger through (with as few advance commitments as possible) while the ecumenical tide is still running high. This year’s sessions in Dayton, Ohio, gave plan-writers little guidance as to which controversies the merger document should face head-on.

Last year COCU had stated an open-ended commitment to work on a plan, and four commissions spent the intervening months in spotty spadework on structure, unification of ministers and members, and reaction to the basic Principles of Church Union approved in 1966.

The cap has been off the bottle for seven years now, and COCU is losing its fizz. The talks have a do-or-die atmosphere. “We do not have the time to be leisurely,” said outgoing Chairman David Colwell, who thinks COCU isn’t keeping pace with “the world’s agenda, which in theological terms is God’s agenda.”

If COCU doesn’t act, some fear, scattershot mergers will occur locally, denominational boards will go ahead and create a de facto union, and youth will declare the Church irrelevant. In a bid to that youthful grandstand, COCU told denominations to add a tenth delegate under twenty-eight years of age, but the action also will add negotiators from outside the Protestant establishment.

The second key Dayton decision was to set up COCU’s first full-time secretariat later this year. A big-name executive and ...

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