The National Association of Evangelicals, in the City of Brotherly Love for its annual convention last month, experienced an awakening of conscience. A “feeble awakening,” perhaps—as one well-known evangelical observed near the end of the four-day meeting—but an awakening nonetheless. With quiet candor and, at times, courage, a number of evangelicals addressed themselves to social problems of the day, particularly tensions between the races.
In some ways, the issues lay behind just about every speech or paper. NAE General Director Clyde W. Taylor said “evangelicals must take a renewed interest in the public life of our country,” and urged those present to meet “physical needs, help with the social problems, care for the sick.”
Donald Davis called divisions within the churches along racial lines “immoral” and “an abomination” in the sight of the Lord. Radio preacher Joel Nederhood asked how evangelicals can be “so untouched” by inner-city problems. His answer: Maybe they “do not see the people”; they see “only their souls.”
Speaking to 1,500 persons in a University of Pennsylvania auditorium the first night, Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon echoed some of these concerns. He called on the Church to set straight the values of the nation, correct the evils, and indicate to all Americans that “our affluence and our money are not enough.”
The most perceptive moments came during commission meetings scattered throughout the day. The evangelical-action and social-concerns commissions heard David L. McKenna, young new president of Seattle Pacific College, claim that in public morality, the evangelical church “wavers in the uncertainty of pluralism and relativism,” thus producing a “whisper” on moral issues that is “too weak” to call the ...1
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