The havoc following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., heightens church unrest in North America. Many clergy and laymen, already indignant over trends in the big denominations, see today’s riots as sprouting from the seeds of civil disobedience planted and watered by new-breed churchmen.
The scope of ecclesiastical dissent is substantial. Ad hoc protest groups are springing up all across the United States and Canada. Conferences are being called, newsletters, books, and pamphlets are being published, campaigns are being launched—all aimed at exposing the perilous course Protestant leaders are now charting. Within a number of major denominations, unofficial but organized fellowships of constituents are working to arrest liberal trends. Not only leaders of objectionable causes but even clergymen who “go along” are losing the respect of many parishioners.
The intensity of the dissent recalls the slam-bang fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the twenties. Indeed, a newly aroused laity could usher in a new phase of that historic dispute (see “Dare We Revive the Controversy?,” June 10, 1957, issue). A big showdown could come fairly soon. All that may be needed to bring things to a head is an event or series of events that would typify and dramatize the conflict—as the Scopes trial and the Fosdick sermons did in the twenties.
The United Presbyterian Confession of 1967 produced a big theological furor, the largest in America in recent years, and the Consultation on Church Union may soon provide another. The confession won final approval from presbyteries in a lopsided 165–19 vote. This approval may have indicated more about the desire of conservative ministers and elders to preserve denominational unity than about ...1
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