In a time of troubles and change, what are the Church’s priorities?

That was the question that kept popping up for commissioners to the 180th General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church during a cool week in May in Minneapolis. Whenever it seemed an answer was ready, the question was raised again.

Answers were slow in coming, and debate lasted long in the denomination’s first assembly since its 1967 adoption of a new doctrinal stance. The ambiguity of the church’s Book of Confessions was reflected in some of the governing body’s actions.

Commissioners got one of their cues from John Coventry Smith, the veteran executive of the Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations (COE-MAR), elected as this year’s moderator (see page 42). “The Christian in a time of troubles” was the theme of his Sunday sermon in Westminster Presbyterian Church. A Christian’s faith and hope, he said, give him impetus to work for the establishment of the kingdom of God. Smith added the Christian knows that his work “must deal with more than the life of individual persons.” Suggesting political involvement, he added, “People are also participants in the structures of society, structures which can enhance their humanity or dehumanize them.”

From this departure point the assembly went into a variety of recommendations from agencies dealing with denominational programs. COEMAR won endorsement of its plans to spend some $100,000 in deploying seventy-five overseas missionaries and churchmen in American urban centers during the remainder of 1968. The national missions agency got endorsement of its emphasis on housing. In its action on an evangelism report, the body called for production and promotion of materials to aid in personal evangelism, but it ...

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