It took only twenty minutes for the 108th General Assembly of the 960,000-member Presbyterian Church in the U. S. (Southern) to say yes to marriage proposals involving the smaller Reformed Church in America (see story following).

Commissioners (delegates), meeting last month at Montreat, North Carolina, voted 406–36 in favor of a plan to create the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America. Ratification by three-fourths of the seventy-nine PCUS presbyteries and by next year’s assembly, with similar acceptance on the RCA side, must precede the constituting session, set tentatively for Memphis in 1970.

Upon final agreement, a new confession of faith and liturgy will be drawn up and a twenty-four-member joint commission will be given four years to set up housekeeping structures. Meanwhile, a syncretistic “Plan of Union” will guide household government and liturgy.

Liberals and conservatives voted harmoniously, the liberals “for the ecumenism of it,” the conservatives in the hope of picking up strength “at top levels.”

Everyone agreed that the most crucial issue, from a PCUS viewpoint, had to do with a denomination on the sidelines: the 3.3-million-member United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. Deluged with pleas from PCUS “border” states, commissioners facilitated formation of “union” synods and presbyteries with UPUSA bodies. But many, though they favor such ecumenical moves, fear they will result in worse strain on PCUS support, described as “lagging badly” by outgoing Moderator Marshall C. Dendy.

Dendy’s cousin, conservative, congenial Patrick D. Miller, 68, who is guest professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, was elected moderator 240–207 over Dr. Warner L. Hall of Charlotte, North Carolina. Sporting a thirty-nine-cent corn-cob pipe, Miller told newsmen he was “just a country boy who has come to town.”

Dendy celebrated his relative’s arrival in town by dumping a sack of PCUS ills on the assembly floor. Among them: “tension” and “hurting witness” from strife between the liberal Fellowship of Concern and the conservative Concerned PresbyteriansThe FOC, numbering 500 members, says it formally disbanded in May but will continue to deal with issues on an ad hoc basis. Concerned Presbyterians, with “over 500” ruling elders, vows to continue to lobby for conservatism in the PCUS. It has five staffers, a $72,000 budget, and a monthly bulletin mailed to 50,000.; racial hang-ups in Mississippi churches; “unrest and dissatisfaction” over board policies.

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Commissioners nevertheless upheld most of those prickly policies. They said no to numerous overtures demanding the end of contributions to non-PCUS causes, such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference ($750) and striking Memphis garbage-collectors ($5,000), but they specified that “ordinarily” such funds should come from non-budget sources. They dodged dealing with the much criticized liberal editorial stance of Presbyterian Survey, the official denominational journal, and asked only for “continued discretion” by staffers. In their closest vote—211–208—they gave the PCUS Council on Church and Society permission to make pronouncements between annual assemblies—a decision that may lead to deeper cleavages.

Amid battering emotional debate, commissioners backed abolition of clergy draft deferments, but they declined to recognize conscientious objection to “particular” wars. When they refused also to endorse the SCLC Solidarity Day March in Washington, 115 commissioners paraded to the clerk’s desk to register their minority vote.

Assembly page James Graves, student-body president at Richmond’s Union Theological Seminary, was allowed to read a statement he and other students had hastily drafted. It scorched commissioners for their frown on selective conscientious objection and for alleged “insincerity” on race issues. It questioned whether ministerial students’ “intellectual, leadership, and pastoral abilities could be used in the church in the next few years.” National Ministries board executive John F. Anderson, Jr., added his scathing rebuke. In a bid for funds for the nation’s crisis, he accused: “White racism is still in this assembly tonight!” But an irate delegate shot back: “We are as a church lacking in spiritual insight!”

A lengthy split-conclusion report on the new morality was referred to the churches for study. The commissioners strongly endorsed gun-control legislation and open-housing measures but took vaporous positions on civil disobedience and on exertion of church economic power.

They voted to maintain PCUS membership in the National Council of Churches (272–118) and in the Consultation on Church Union (278–83). COCU Plan of Union draft chairman William A. Benfield, Jr., a PCUS pastor, assured delegates that “we are not in the midst of de facto union,” and that only their action could authorize anything beyond the talking stage.

A $9.05 million budget was adopted along with a “challenge” goal of $900,000, “urgently needed” for World Missions board capital and operational expenses.

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Some observers believe that the PCUS-RCA wedding is a must for PCUS vitality. They cite ominous reports showing a shortage of ministers (4,002 churches, 2,681 pastors) and a steady five-year decline in professions of faith, baptisms, Sunday-school enrollment, and number of churches. New geographical vistas, they say, may help enliven PCUS outreach efforts. The PCUS had its roots in Scotland but has operated exclusively in the U. S. South. The Dutch-background RCA is in the North and West.

The honeymoon may well start with a spat, however. The constituting assembly must determine “ecumenical relationships” of the new church while “taking into account those previously sustained by the two uniting churches.” The RCA has rejected COCU, and it may have second thoughts about PCUS groups in “union” with UPUSA counterparts. The RCA might just feel like a third party to its own marriage.



Delegates to the Reformed Church in America General Synod took hours to do what commissioners to the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. Assembly did in minutes.

By finally approving the proposed plan of union for the two denominations, the RCA’s top judicatory only set the stage for what one delegate called “the great debate of ’68” in the lower courts. Forces on both sides of the question are organizing for the encounter. Approval of two-thirds of the judicatories (called classes) will be required for merger. The most optimistic predictions say the vote will be close.

Although the RCA’s top court and the Presbyterian assembly met simultaneously, they were separated by distance and by extent of debate over union, as well as by stands on some other issues. Site of the Reformed churchmen’s gathering was the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. It was the group’s first meeting on a secular campus.

Negotiating committees of the two churches kept in touch over a “hot line” telephone hookup. Agreement was reached on nine proposed amendments to the plan, but the RCA delegates took nearly four hours to approve the nine and to debate other suggested changes.

Of the proposals failing to win approval, the one discussed the longest called for including the office of deacon in the new church. Both denominations now have deacons, but the plan provides only the offices of minister and elder. By a vote of 103 to 124 the General Synod declined to alter the plan by adding deacons.

After the discussion of amendments, another three hours were spent on the main motion to submit the plan to the classes for their vote. With only a simple majority necessary for approval, it passed 183 to 103.

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Drawing some fire during the debate was the plan’s provision for women officers. During the past year an amendment to allow women to be ordained deacons and elders had failed to receive the necessary approval of two-thirds of the classes. (It got twenty-six pro votes and nineteen con.) An attempt to send the issue down for another constitutional vote, independent of the plan of union, lost 129 to 138.

The court also refused to send down to the lower judicatories a proposal for union classes (presbyteries) and union synods with the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. and the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. It did send down for a vote a proposal to allow union congregations with the other two denominations.

Still another issue on which the General Synod stand differed from that of the Southern Presbyterians was participation in the Consultation on Church Union. In an overwhelming voice vote, the court again declined to join COCU. One of the principal speeches against COCU was made by New York pastor Norman Vincent Peale, who had spoken earlier for union with Southern Presbyterians (“our own family”). Calling himself a conservative and noting that he had chosen to come into the Reformed Church from a Methodist background, he declared, “If we flirt with COCU, we flirt with the episcopacy.” He also took issue with COCU’s doctrinal stance.

Peale, widely known pastor of New York’s Marble Collegiate Church, was named vice-president of the General Synod early in the session. If precedent is followed, he will become president next year. Taking over this year as president, after a term as vice-president, was Raymond Van Heukelom, a pastor in Orange City, Iowa, who has served on the committee negotiating union with the Presbyterians.

Money matters also came in for a share of the court’s attention. Peale, who has served as chairman of a capital-funds drive seeking $6 million, reported that pledges total just over $5 million. Although this amount set a national record for campaigns of this sort and although the RCA continues to lead members of the National Council of Churches in per-capita giving, the percentage of contributions flowing into denominational headquarters fell off last year. Agencies said they had to curtail programs and dip into reserves.

The Board of North American Missions requested and, after extended debate, received permission to establish priorities for the use of its limited resources. They are: (1) mission to the city; (2) renewal of the church in town and country; and (3) development of new churches. The same recommendation, as passed by the court, also asks all RCA groups to reconsider current building plans in favor of “projects of highest priority.”

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In another action related to the urban situation, the General Synod asked its investment agents to consider putting as much as 15 per cent of unrestricted investment funds into low-cost housing. The recommendation finally adopted was a substitute for one directing that 15 per cent of all agency investments be assigned to “investments of social significance.”

Plans of all the agencies were contingent not only on future receipts but also on the reorganization now in process. All the boards are being combined, and the General Synod took steps to elect one program council to govern them all. The single agency will formally begin operations next January 1, with the church’s stated clerk, Marion de Velder, as its general secretary.

Also reinforced at this meeting of the court was last year’s decision to put both denominational seminaries (New Brunswick in New Jersey and Western in Michigan) under one board.



“I still really can’t believe it happened,” the Rev. Stuart Coles of Toronto told reporters after the Presbyterian Church in Canada voted overwhelmingly to modernize the 300-year-old rules of the denomination.

Coles is a member of the Congress of Concern, a group within the church that recently called for freedom to change traditional forms of worship. He will now head a panel of three to recommend revisions.

The Presbyterian assembly asked that the Canadian government try to stop Britain’s shipment of arms to Nigeria in its civil war with rebel Biafra.

The government also was asked to set up suicide-prevention centers.


For the first time in its sixty-year history, the 383,000-member Church of the Nazarene on June 18 replaced three of its six policy-setting general superintendents. Vacancies were created by action of the 1964 quadrennial assembly that set 68 as the retirement age.

As about 10,000 Nazarenes looked on in Kansas City, the 676 delegates chose evangelism Secretary Edward Lawlor, 61, Nazarene Theological Seminary President Eugene Stowe, 46, and home-missions Secretary Orville Jenkins, 55. All three men are former district superintendents who were raised in other denominations. Lawlor, a convert from Roman Catholicism who was something of a dark horse, was the first elected. Eliminated in the fifth and final ballot was foreign-missions Secretary E. S. Phillips, despite his prominence in the missions-minded church.

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Will the Southern Baptist Convention survive without schism its deepening evangelism-versus-social-involvement rift?

Yes, according to random polling of “messengers” (delegates) among the 15,000 attending annual SBC meetings in Houston last month.

Social-action advocates went home boasting a newly struck “progressive” stance on race, violence, and Viet Nam. Convention resolutions acknowledged a “climate of racism” in the nation, backed gun-control legislation, and called for “immediate” ceasefire by “all sides” in Viet Nam.

Evangelism enthusiasts were happy, meanwhile, over virtually unanimous commitment to ambitious new goals. “Their” man—president-elect W. A. Criswell of the 15,000-member Dallas First Baptist Church—vowed to immerse the SBC more deeply in evangelistic endeavors during the next two years. His pledge was praised by evangelist Billy Graham, who also said he was “proud” of the SBC’s “historic actions” socially.

Things began cooking less than one month before the convention when North Carolina collegian Terry Nichols formed “Baptist Students Concerned” to “wake up” the SBC to “the vital issues.” Next, seventy top-rank SBC staff leaders released a controversial 1,000-word “Crisis in Our Nation” statementArchitects were: SBC Executive Secretary Porter Routh; Foy Valentine, Christian Life Commission head; Clifton J. Allen of the Sunday School Board; Baker James Cauthen, Foreign Missions Board secretary; and C. Emanuel Carlson, of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. they asked the SBC to adopt and implement. Confessing, “As Southern Baptists … we have come far short of our privilege in Christian brotherhood,” it went on to affirm, in part, “We will personally … welcome to the fellowship of faith and worship every person irrespective of race or class.” It recognized the SBC’s “obligation to work” for social betterment, and it bade Southern Baptists “engage in Christian ventures in human relationships, and to take courageous actions for justice and peace.” Convention agencies were asked to “take the leadership” in devising remedial action. All things considered, it was the SBC’s strongest social-conscience stand ever.

While Nichols’s students staged a “silent vigil” outside, the fifty-eight-member SBC Executive Committee during pre-convention deliberations toned down the document’s “confession” section and added a favorable “review” of past SBC efforts to make it more palatable to critics, among them Texas Executive Secretary T. A. Patterson, who objected that the SBC was being “put on the spot.” Quizzed about the paper’s origin, Clifton J. Allen, one of the framers, declared: “We did not create the situation; it exists. The ends of the ages have come down on us. We would have spoken by our silence.”

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Debut Of A Denomination

When Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches merged to become the United Methodist Church in April, some Pacific Northwest EUB members were distressed. They considered the old Methodist Church too liberal. It “just isn’t compatible with my conservative theological position,” said one former EUB district superintendent. So last month another denomination was born: the Evangelical Church of North America.

Fifty-one of the fifty-four Washington and Oregon EUB churches that withdrew from the United Methodist Church sent representatives to Portland to organize the new denomination. They paid $75 rent to meet for three days in the Lents EUB Church, which under church law belongs to the parent denomination.

Meanwhile, the twenty area EUB churches that are going along with the union met in Portland’s Milwaukie EUB Church to carry out merger actions. The Milwaukie congregation was among those seceding.

The new church, said its organizational statement, “is orthodox in its beliefs, evangelical in its emphasis, and Wesleyan-Arminian in its interpretation of the scriptural meaning of salvation. Thus its mission is to proclaim the glad tidings of a free and full salvation to all men in this present life.”

The property problem loomed large over the new denomination, especially when the UMC claimed the property of three of the seceding congregations. (The following Sunday fewer than a dozen people appeared at the three churches, designated as UMC mission works.) The withdrawing congregations offered to settle the question with a lump sum based on property value, home-mission help, pension obligations, and other factors.

Despite unanswered questions, observers saw little evidence of bitterness at the June 3 meeting in which the withdrawal became official. And the committee sent by the parent denomination to each of the withdrawing churches commended “the generally good attitude of the respective congregations.”

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During the meetings, representatives of the new, 6,500-member denomination elected a secretary, the Rev. R. L. Morris; two superintendents, the Rev. V. A. Ballantyne and the Rev. George K. Millen; a board of trustees; and directors of evangelism, stewardship, and Christian social action. They also established several boards, among them missions, Christian education, and evangelism. And they resolved to maintain the old EUB Discipline until a committee can draft a new one.


Former SBC President Herschel Hobbs and other respected luminaries voiced support, and 197 SBC foreign missionaries meeting nearby unanimously urged its passage. The committee, with only three dissenting votes, approved it and sent it to the messengers, who fought off crippling amendments and delay tactics, finally passing it 5,687 to 2,119. Passage led one flustered ministerial opponent to move—unsuccessfully—that “all in sympathy with this statement be given a one-way ticket to Resurrection City.”

The Sunday School Board and Christian Life Commission introduced new study materials on race and the nation’s crisis, and SBC religious educators formally requested even more in their call for “educational experiences … designed to help our church members overcome their [prejudices and closed minds] so that they can truly be a part of the answers … and not a part of the problem.”

While most convention speakers stressed a “both-and” approach to evangelism and social action, the former got precedence. Criswell, a backer of the crisis paper, nevertheless warned of the “dangers” of preoccupation with social affairs. To repeated applause, New Orleans Seminary Professor Clark H. Pinnock charged that “an early-stage drifting away” by the SBC from “biblical, Christ-centered” theology “is apparent” and that “millions” of Christians are “forsaking the biblical Christ for a false Christ of process philosophy and revolutionary social action.” And Graham warned: “We’ve made the mistake of going too far in the other direction.… We need to get back to preaching the Gospel, to evangelism.”

Some SBC leaders privately express uneasiness. Seminaries reported a decline in the number of ministerial students; this is due, say some liberal academicians, to the SBC’s “unattractive” conservatism. Others put the blame across the hall. Also, a goal of 1.6 million baptisms for the next four years is only slightly more than the expected junior-department enrollment of SBC Sunday schools in that time.

On other fronts, SBC messengers:

• looked unfavorably on proposed congressional legislation to fix certain national holidays on Monday, fearing more weekend exoduses;

• urged “stronger” highway-safety legislation.


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