Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, and a man named Marshall instead of Fry. These figures predominated in key actions by the 3.3-million-member Lutheran Church in America during biennial sessions in Atlanta last month.

As expected (see June 21 issue, page 43), the nearly 700 delegates elected Illinois Synod President Robert J. Marshall, 49, to fill the unexpired term of the late Franklin Clark Fry, renowned LCA president who died June 6.

Obviously swayed by references to Luther’s rationale of “just” wars, they put the LCA on record as the first Lutheran denomination to recognize selective objection to a “particular” war deemed by “conscience” to be unjust.

Delegates also voted, after the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.’s first major address since the death of his son, to launch a two-year, $6.5 million “appeal for emergency needs,” and to gear LCA priorities during this period to a “Justice and Social Change—The Urban Crisis” theme. They also handed King a $10,000 check from LCA “undesignated” funds for a “Poor People’s Development Fund” set up in memory of his son.

A vote for Marshall was, in effect, a vote for keeping the LCA Fry-oriented. A former professor at what is now the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, Marshall mirrors Fry in voice and views (see box, next page). He was chosen on the third ballot from a field of sixty-three candidates. His nearest competitor was President Carl Segar-hammar of the Pacific Southwest Synod, who received only seventy-seven votes. Fry’s former assistant, Dr. George F. Harkins, was elected secretary—the number-two LCA post—to replace retiring Malvin H. Lundeen, who chaired the convention.

Fry had correctly predicted that selective conscientious objection would be the meeting’s most controversial issue.

The statement, drafted by the Board of Social Ministry, was guided past opposition and attempts at dilution by Dr. George W. Forell, religion teacher at the University of Iowa.

“This is really an anti-Viet Nam war proposal that allies us with Spock and the draft-card burners,” criticized Executive Council member Bernhard W. LeVander. Others warned that it endorsed anarchy. Not so, argued theologian Martin J. Heinecken of Philadelphia. It was, he said, merely a matter of “being true to our historic Lutheran position.” He and others held that the Luther-heralded validity of “just” wars presupposed the possibility of “unjust” wars, thereby imposing the necessity for individuals to make “ethical decisions” about participation. The document finally passed 426–146.

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It affirms, in part, that the selective conscientious objector “is acting in harmony with Lutheran teaching,” and that he “ought to be granted exemption from military duty,” but that—pending a change in laws—he should “willingly” accept legal “penalties” for his decision. It further suggests that all C.O.’s “should be afforded equal treatment before the law, whether the basis of their stand is specifically religious or not.”

Social-ministry officials say the paper was designed to “have a functional purpose with draft boards” when selective C.O.’s register.

Controversy over finances arose when two Philadelphia clerics proposed a one-year campaign to raise $8 million for an LCA urban-crisis fund. Their appeal followed appearances of King and Atlanta Police Chief Herbert T. Jenkins, a member of the Kerner Commission. Delegates, including Marshall, voted 389–250 for a substitute measure that reduced the figure to $6.5 million and tied it more closely to the sagging LCA budget. (Treasurer Carl M. Anderson warned that apportionment receipts for the past few years were running more than 15 per cent behind quotas.) Spokesmen pointed to an additional $3.75 million already budgeted toward 1969 urban-crisis projects, including $200,000 for “community organizations.”

Delegates approved a $31.6 million budget for 1969 and $32.5 million for 1970.

In his speech, King said he would have no comments on his son’s assassination until the “plot” and “big money interests” that “are behind” the deaths of his son and the Kennedy brothers are exposed.

A statement on “The Church and Social Welfare” was adopted after deletion of a sentence that some interpreted as supporting a guaranteed annual income. Delegates also approved a paper on “Religious Liberty in the United States” that affirmed, among other things, the right of a person “to worship in accordance with the faith and ritual of his group, even in ways which appear curious or offensive to others, so long as the methods used are not legally defined as dangerous.…” Berkeley sociologist Charles Y. Glock, an LCA member, was among the architects.

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The LCA also:

• Endorsed gun-control legislation minutes before the convention closed.

• Scrapped the faltering Luther League, official denomination youth program, in favor of a new Youth Commission;

• Heard pleas for tighter Lutheran unity from: Dr. C. Thomas Spitz, Jr., head of the Lutheran Council in the U. S. A.; Dr. Fredrik A. Schiotz, president of both the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran World Federation; and Dr. Oliver R. Harms, president of the Missouri Synod.

Church of the Nazarene. Delegates to last month’s assembly in Kansas City faced problems of a denomination that, though not old, shows increasing signs of middle age.

One concern for the sixty-year-old church is institutionalism. What was once a simple, evangelistic group now has burgeoning colleges at home and increasing educational and medical work in forty-eight foreign fields.

The Board of General Superintendents wants to keep evangelism in the primary place. In the state-of-the-church message, General Superintendent V. H. Lewis, who with two other incumbents was reelected by a wide margin, warned that colleges should “proceed carefully” and keep close ties with the denomination. Financial commitments, he said, should be held “within manageable limits.”

Two new junior colleges, voted by the 1964 assembly, will open this fall, in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and Olathe, Kansas. A Bible college opened last September in Colorado Springs. With these additions, the church now maintains eight liberal-arts colleges, the Bible school, and a seminary. Financing the colleges within boundaries outlined by the church is an increasingly severe test for college administrators.

While financial needs seem great, the nearly 500,000 Nazarenes contributed $23.7 million during the last four years. During 1967, per-capita giving went over $190, the highest among denominations of 100,000 members or more.

Among the goals not reached was establishment of 500 new churches. The denomination started scarcely half that number, and the mark for the 1968–72 term was reduced to 400. Some leaders think the church is too largely a denomination of small congregations. Of nearly 5,000 churches, about half have fewer than fifty members. New churches should not be organized, said retiring Superintendent H. C. Benner, at the risk of “weakening existing ones.”

The world-missions program is to undergo a serious study during the next year. Here again, institutions will be scrutinized. Dr. Howard Hamlin, a missionary surgeon in charge of a South African hospital, noted that only four applicants were available last year for forty-four requests for preachers on Nazarene mission fields.

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Besides electing three new general superintendents (see July 5 issue, page 39), delegates chose a new seminary president. President William Greathouse of Trevecca Nazarene College was named to succeed the Rev. Eugene Stowe—one of the new general superintendents—as head of Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City.

In other action the assembly:

• Supported “the equal opportunity, according to one’s ability, to earn a living free from any job or economic discrimination”;

Successor To Fry

Similarities in speech and ideology link Dr. Robert J. Marshall, new president of the Lutheran Church in America (see page 50), to his late predecessor, Franklin Clark Fry, grand patriarch of the LCA. One notable difference: Marshall, a youngish 40, is more reserved.

In Fry-like nasal tones (like his predecessor he suffers from sinusitis) Marshall announced he would “attempt to tread the path Dr. Fry trod so well.”

Marshall told CHRISTIANITY TODAY his views theologically are “biblical, evangelical, and Lutheran.” Billy Graham’s positions, he affirmed, are “not far from what I accept wholeheartedly.”

As for evangelism: “I agree that our primary task is to reach mankind for Christ, but personal evangelism cannot be divorced from community needs, from social aspects of the Gospel.”

“On no major issue” does he differ from Fry, he says.

Like Fry, he is “happy” over observer-consultant status in the Consultation on Church Union via the Lutheran Council in the U. S. A., but he shares Fry’s frown on full participation in COCU as “confusing, not clarifying, to us.” He is “more interested” in the pursuit of unity with other Lutheran groups, especially the Missouri Synod, with whom Fry-initiated “informal” doctrinal discussions are under way.

Educated at Wittenberg College and Chicago Lutheran Seminary, Marshall was a pastor and an Old Testament professor before his election to the Illinois Synod presidency in 1962.

He sees as priorities for LCA involvement: the nation’s “emergency,” Lutheran unity, youth and education, and the international “crisis.”

“This,” he Fry-fashioned in response to his election, “is no time to trip lightly into the presidency.”

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• Set up a fund to “aid existing churches and establish new churches in our cities that are faced with interracial ministries”;

• Voted to dissolve the separate Negro Gulf Central District;

• Voted down a move to make church membership legal for persons who were divorced and remarried persons on other than “scriptural grounds”;

• Rejected the idea of giving ministers a call to a pastorate with an indefinite time limit;

• Decided to join the 100-year-old National Holiness Association.

Christian Reformed Church. In its first official pronouncement on modern racism, the church synod went all the way, Almost. The historic pronouncement instructed the 275,000 members and denominational boards that “full Christian fellowship and privilege” must be granted to any Christian regardless of race or color, on pain of excommunication.

“Fear of persecution or of disadvantage to self or our institutions,” declared the 144 delegates, “does not warrant denial of full Christian fellowship and privilege in the church or in related organizations, such as Christian colleges and schools, institutions of mercy and recreational associations.” The synod warned that members who advocate such denial “must be reckoned as disobedient to Christ” and be dealt with by church discipline, which, if resisted, ends in excommunication.

Although many delegates observed that this was not a full statement on race, it was a hard-hitting one and was adopted with little dissent. The exclusion of Negro Christian children by a CRC school in Chicago was what brought the issue before the synod.

Meeting in Grand Rapids last month under the presidency of the Rev. John C. Verbrugge, delegates also heard vigorous opposition to the 1967 synod’s refusal to issue restrictive theological pronouncements on God’s love in Christ for all men. Many delegates insisted that the dissent was an attempt to reopen a case that indirectly affected Harold Dekker, professor of missions at Calvin Seminary. For three days the case moved back and forth like a weaver’s shuttle, from committee to floor to committee. After declaring that God’s love, and Christ’s death, for all men must not be presented in such a way as to deny other basic Reformed doctrinal tenets, delegates unanimously rejected the attempt to reopen the 1967 case.

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In a tense atmosphere, heightened by confusion and contradictory reports, the synod became an official participant in the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. Christian Reformed minister Harry R. Boer has been the principal of the union seminary since its founding. Fear that the Africans would not be “soundly Reformed” had withheld official sanction from CRC’s many years of cooperation with the seminary.

In a historic action, the synod withdrew its endorsement of the Conclusions of Utrecht, formulated in the Netherlands and adopted by the CRC in 1908 to protect its unity by, among other doctrinal matters, granting official toleration to supralapsarians. The endorsement was withdrawn to further the union efforts of the denomination’s Canadian congregations with other churches in Canada.

For the first time within the memory of most delegates, the synod reduced its budget for Calvin College—by one dollar.

Evangelical Free Church of America. President Arnold T. Olson proposed a 1971 Chicago conference on theology, sponsored jointly with the Evangelical Covenant Church, in his report to the annual meeting at Trinity College and Divinity School in Illinois. Olson said the meeting would invite leaders from free churches in seventeen European nations. Olson also proposed a summer study session on race and inner-city problems, to be sponsored by several evangelical denominations.

At the organizational meeting for a Free Church Laymen’s Fellowship, high-school principal John C. Swanson of Rockford, Illinois, said, “Today’s youth feels that the organized church has failed to take a stand and commit its human and material resources in support of many humanitarian movements which are aimed at alleviating the social evils of our day. While we have issued vociferous denouncements of liquor and sex, we have been strangely silent concerning civil rights, poverty, prejudice, materialism, and bigotry.”

Luke Saba, 25, who heads Free Church youth work in the northwest Congo, told delegates of a meeting of 4,000 people at Gemena where 2,000 made professions of faith in Christ.

Olson said Free Church membership now stands at 54,589.

The Wesleyan Church. More than 4,000 Pilgrim Holiness and Wesleyan Methodist members and friends turned out in Anderson, Indiana, June 26 to witness the first major conservative Wesleyan union in decades. And there were signs of further ecumenicity among holiness groups.

Besides creating a new church with a membership of 122,000 and a constituency (based on Sunday-school enrollment) of 300,000, delegates moved far beyond committee recommendations. They resoundingly adopted a floor proposal for preparation of a basis of merger with the Free Methodist Church—if possible, before next summer’s Free Methodist conference. Such a merged church would have a constituency approaching half a million.

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If there was doubt about how widespread merger sentiment was, Free Methodist Bishop Myron Boyd dispelled it when he spoke to six thousand of the new Wesleyans on Sunday. “I’m thrilled,” he said. “Now I’ve got to get our people on the move so we’ll be ready for you.”

Officials were quick, however, to disavow any interest in entering America’s more liberal, mainstream ecumenical movement. “This is union among people who already agree on doctrine,” they said.

The conference also approved:

• A world plan with gradual establishment of completely indigenous regional general conferences.

• A quadrennial program of evangelism and—in a spontaneous move from the floor—selection of a full time evangelism director.

• Procedures through which ministers expelled for immorality can be restored, upon repentance, to the ministry. “Let’s not be harder than God is,” urged one international delegate after hours of hot debate. The conference agreed by a 6 to 1 vote.

The conference gave no time to social action. Retiring General Superintendent Harold Sheets did pray once that God would help the new church to “make an impact on the ghettos, on the inner cities, on the ethnic struggles.” But such matters were not mentioned on the conference floor.

American Baptist Association. Representatives of the 731,000-member group, meeting in Hot Springs, Arkansas, passed a resolution against “riotous civil demonstrations, draft card burning, and flag desecrations.” In the same spirit, President Martin Canavan of Dominguez, California, condemned “unqualifiedly” any Baptist participation in picketing or street demonstrations. The proper Christian demonstration, he said, is in “manner of living.” He believes ministers “should either get back to preaching and upholding the doctrine of the plenary verbal inspiration of the Bible or resign.”

Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The stifling of dissent denies “the present activity of the Holy Spirit and seems to make the ideas of some, not the Scriptures, the yardstick of faith,” said the Rev. T. V. Warnick of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He told he General Assembly meeting in Oklahoma City that “real prophets have a poor record of being men-pleasers.” Later a resolution said none of the denomination’s 88,000 members could join “riotous street demonstrations” in the name of the Church. The Rev. Loyce Estes of Austin, Texas, was elected moderator.

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Church of the Brethren. Although there was opposition, the church administrative board reaffirmed staff and financial support of the Poor People’s Campaign at the annual conference in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. A statement asked for welfare reform with a “floor of support” for all citizens.

Despite the debut of a Brethren lobby to get the church into the Consultation on Church Union, delegates voted 587–349 not to review a previous decision against COCU. The church voted full support for the National Council of Churches, though a minority report had shown interest in sending observers to the National Association of Evangelicals.

Moderator M. Guy West of York, Pennsylvania, said the denomination faces internal conflict over COCU, church-council membership, the Viet Nam war, and efforts for social justice.

The 190,000-member pacifist church also urged state and national firearms control and cited “the need for ultimate total disarmament of the citizenry and discontinuance of arms-bearing in normal police activity.”


Outside the upper echelons of both churches, the one thing lacking in Church of England and Methodist circles at present is enthusiasm about the merger proposals (see Current Religious Thought, page 56).

No one who travels around England and attends local places of worship on Sundays would suspect that this should have been one of the most exciting years in English church life since the Reformation. The grass that has grown long on the village path between church and chapel has, indeed, been little disturbed in the five and one-half years since publication of the initial Anglican-Methodist report.

Meanwhile, top-level discussers have exercised their wits in controversial divinity and produced answers to questions that people have not been asking, and that in many cases they can as little understand as the scuffle over a diphthong at Nicea in 325.

Until recently, much of the opposition came from Methodist dissentients, whose advertising was refused by the Methodist Recorder, a self-styled “completely independent newspaper” that has all along been on the side of the unionists.

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Two recent developments, however, have concerned Anglican groups between whom normally there is a great gulf fixed. In this case both evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, while far from thinking alike, find themselves united in opposition to the present scheme of union with the Methodists.

Leading what he calls the Catholic wing, Bishop Graham Leonard of Willesden alleged that the project was “splitting the Church of England from top to bottom.” He cited instances of disquiet among bishops and clergy, and severely criticized the Services of Reconciliation. “Many of us,” he said, “cannot see how, with a clean conscience, we can take part in prayers to God which are deliberately disingenuous. This is not a matter of a fine point of theology—it is a matter of common honesty.”

Meanwhile, fifty-two evangelicals sent an open letter to the archbishops and bishops, expressing deep misgivings about the present proposals. Approving the principle of “unity of the visible church,” and welcoming suggested new doctrinal amendments to the scheme, they too see the Services of Reconciliation as a major obstacle. As a means of establishing full communion (“the acceptance of each Church’s ministers as well as communicants by the other”), these are based, say the signatories, on episcopal exclusiveness, which is biblically indefensible.

They point out that the present scheme is bound to divide the ministry in both churches; they “cannot accept that such disunion is a fit price to pay for the union of majorities”; and they feel that episcopal exclusiveness as a basis for full communion cannot be applied to future unions.


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