Temporary separatism or permanent schism—which road will blacks in mainly-white denominations take?

That critical question stood disturbingly on the horizon at the second annual meeting of the National Committee of Black [changed significantly from Negro] Churchmen, which closed November 1 in St. Louis. White response to black demands for a fair say in church matters will largely dictate the choice, the churchmen said.

“Black churchmen are putting white churches on notice that old paternalistic relationships will not continue. Black people can’t stay in mainly white denominations if those groups can’t begin to deal with racism and distribution of power. Yes, it is still an open question, but if whites don’t answer positively, it could look pretty bad,” said Hayward Henry, president of the Black Unitarian Caucus. His comment hit the crux of issues thrashed over by some 300 committee members in denominational caucuses, workshops, and general sessions, most of which were closed to the press.

The committee had fewer than 100 members at its organizing meeting a year ago as clergymen began to tune into the black-power movement in the aftermath of the 1967 riots. The group still has only 375 members. Though some come from the big all-Negro denominations, most represent the two million Negroes in the white churches.

But black churchmen swing weight far beyond their size, through caucuses formed in every important white-dominated church. Last year blacks in the United Church of Christ got Chicago Negro Joseph H. Evans elected national secretary. This year black Unitarian-Universalists demanded and won $250,000 to spend as they please in ghetto programs. Thus less than 01 per cent of the denomination’s membership got 12 per cent of the budget prescribed for urban projects. Blacks in the American Baptist Convention won creation of a new Negro post, “Associate General Secretary Without Portfolio,” with promises to hire more Negroes in administrative posts and give more say to blacks in ABC ghetto programs.

In St. Louis, committee members evinced heady determination to make further gains in their churches. But a certain defiant cynicism about white responsiveness fringed their comments.

The Black Methodists for Renewal, for example, “must free this great big monster that smothers and strangles us” to give black people participation in their own destinies. If this is not done, “you can forget it, write it all off,” says the Rev. Cecil Williams, of San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church.

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Williams said black Methodists had heard of white opposition to the $20 million Fund for Reconciliation pledged by the United Methodist convention. He speculated that “a lot of local churches won’t give money.… If this happens perhaps it will be the best thing. We’ll finally see for the first time where white people stand.”

The delicacy of black caucus-denomination relationships showed in statements the two highest officials of the United Presbyterian Church made to the Black Presbyterians United. Stated Clerk William P. Thompson encouraged the caucus to “go apart from us for a while to seek a greater identity and selfhood; that need is real and you should honor it.” He and Moderator John Coventry Smith said they saw the caucus not as a threat but as an interest group. The caucus—composed of some of the 300 black ministers in the 3.3-million-member denomination—should stay within the church structure because “we need you,” the officials said.

Smith and Thompson came at the invitation of the caucus to receive a list of grievances dealing mainly with what was called the church’s emphasis on “abetting the American middle class at the expense of its ministry to the poor.…”

The Association of Black Lutheran Churchmen issued a statement charging that “racism has created a caste system” that “manifests itself in the oppression of black Lutherans by white Lutherans.” Caucus members, representing all three major Lutheran bodies, voiced intent to be “militant catalysts” for eradication of racism “in this complacent, apathetic church.…” The Rev. Cyril Lucas of Sacramento, California, said the Lutheran church has traditionally been lax in attempting to win black people for Christ for fear that white churchmen would leave.

Many black churchmen said they wanted to continue to work for change within their present church groups. But questions about their potential for effectiveness continued to nag.

Said Charles S. Spivey, Jr., executive director of the National Council of Churches’ social-justice department: “It is hard for a white man to accept defeat to a black man. And white bureaucratic structures can’t even recognize black structures as valid. American Baptists can work with Russian Baptists but not with black Baptists. Methodists can merge with the EUB but not with the three black Methodist churches.”

Ron Karenga, nationally known militant who espouses pagan African religion, hit hardest at blacks in white churches, saying they show “a dependency mentality. You are afraid you can’t make it on your own.” He said the “white church tries to co-opt the black power movements within itself. It finds your community organization, keeps control and co-opts your leaders.… Every black group the white church supports is a front group.… The National Council of Churches is all ready to deal with you. It even has black men in there to deal with you.”

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Karenga later denied that he meant black men should leave white denominations. But this ticklish question will continue to plague black churchmen, particularly black executives in white bodies, as they work out the relation of black power to Christian faith.

Much talk at the meeting centered on the idea that churchmen should identify fully with “blackness” and give political as well as spiritual leadership to black people in their quest for “community control.” In fact, a most startling aspect of the convention was the sight of black churchmen, mainly from the middle-class mold, who seemed for the first time to rejoice over their own “blackness.”

A racial confrontation on the eve of adjournment further united the turned-on churchmen. About 100 held a lobby sit-in at the Gateway Hotel, then split for a nearby church without paying their bills, to protest an employee’s calling some members “boys.” After they received a formal apology and a promise to inspect Gateway hiring practices, the churchmen paid their bills.

The confrontation scrubbed some workshops, but one group plans a week-long session next summer on black theology. Race director Gayraud Wilmore of the United Presbyterians said there are questions whether churches rooted in the sixteenth century have anything to say to blacks. The black identity search will include study of the third-century African church, the Coptic church, and other African religions, he said.

A minority of blacks, said Wilmore, favor “a reinterpretation of classical Christianity.” A majority are “searching for a new interpretation which may or may not be Christian, but are not willing to consider themselves heretics.” He added: “Black theology is in a very formative stage right now.”

‘Thinking Black’ In Newark

Philadelphia’s Conwell School of Theology suspended classes the week of October 20 for an experiment in “on-the-job training.” President Stuart Barton Babbage led his faculty and students to the streets of Newark, New Jersey, to learn about the problems of the ghetto community.

Hosting the Conwell group in Newark were two evangelical organizations, the Rev. Bill Iverson’s Cross-Counter ministry and the Greater Newark Tom Skinner Crusade. Iverson’s luncheonette ministry is an established work of witness and counsel to teen-agers in the tense city. Skinner is a black evangelist who has held meetings on the street, in churches, and in Newark’s Symphony Hall, where, in June, almost 90 per cent of those who responded to the Gospel were from the riot-scarred Central Ward.

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Babbage stated that the week was “an extraordinary educational experience.” His students learned that the white man can work effectively in the black community if he can “think black.” Iverson led the Conwell group into the ghetto where they met armed Black Muslims, armed white extremists, and a white Protestant businessman proud of his church’s foreignmission program who saw no poverty problems “if a person would only work” (“or,” quipped Babbage, “inherit a factory like he did”).

“Evangelicals tend to contract out our involvement with the world,” says Babbage. He and the Conwell faculty are out to produce a new breed of evangelical, one who can meet people where they are with the Gospel of Christ.

The Conwell men spent their mornings in seminars with Iverson and Skinner on problems of communicating the Gospel to the black, inner-city community. Skinner, a visiting lecturer at Conwell, says the emphasis of that community has “shifted away from riots toward political and economic development.”

He and his associate, the Rev. William Pannell, think that the black community is hungry for the reality of evangelical Christianity but that it “often incorrectly identifies Christianity with the white power structure.”

“It is bad news for the black man if Jesus Christ is a white Republican preacher,” says Pannell. But “if you present Jesus like he was … beard, sandals, non-Western, an angry young man yet packed full of love … you will reach the black American.”

Skinner believes a new affirmation of Christianity can and must emerge from the black community. “The black man cannot think of himself as beautiful until he realizes that Jesus Christ thinks of him as beautiful,” he says. “What’s to prevent the black man from doing to the white man what has been done to him?” “Here,” Skinner states, “is where Christianity can say ‘this will not happen.’ … What white Christianity has not been able to do for the black man and for himself, a new Christianity will be able to accomplish for both.”

To this end, Pannell says, “we preach the same essential Christianity.… We preach the cross, but we dare not ignore the basic social needs and aspirations of black man.”

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Evangelism Congress Statement

After a Halloween day meeeting, leaders of the U. S. Congress on Evangelism approved and released a nine-point Statement of Purpose for the congress and announced a list of nationally prominent members of the sponsoring committee.

The congress, with wide interdenominational support, is one of several regional follow-ups to the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism. It will be held in Minneapolis next September 8–14.


Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston made a big splash with the announcement that he wants to retire at the end of this year because of attacks he has suffered for his defense of Jacqueline Kennedy’s decision to marry Aristotle Onassis.

Many chided the Roman Catholic archbishop, saying officials must be prepared to face criticism without buckling.

But several less publicized facts about Cushing, who has been called the most Protestant of cardinals, suggest that he is not hung up on being a bishop and may have lost interest in the job some time ago.

The 73-year-old prelate has said repeatedly at public gatherings in the past five years that he wants to leave the Boston archdiocese to become a Latin American missionary with the Society of St. James the Apostle, which he founded.

Cushing is known to have submitted his resignation to the Vatican at least twice. Until his latest announcement, he had planned to retire in June, 1970.

Cushing’s comments expressed a frank anti-institutional mood, or at least greater concern for Mrs. Kennedy’s feelings than for church rules. He said suggestions that her marriage to a divorced man made her a “public sinner” were “a lot of nonsense.… Why can’t she marry whomever she wants to marry, and why should I be condemned and why should she be condemned?” he asked. Cushing later said he didn’t mean the marriage was legal in church eyes and he told her so, but he supported her in the decision since she was “already committed.”

In the first Vatican reaction, an official weekly said Mrs. Onassis, under canon law, is “a public sinner” who has, in effect, renounced her faith and is cut off from the sacraments.

Cushing said he acted out of love for Mrs. Kennedy despite questions over the merits of her decision. “I am not a scholar … a theologian. I am simply a humble man trying to practice charity.… My life has been that of caritas … love for all people.”

The text of the Statement of Purpose:

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“1. To witness to the central fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ has power to save people in this age, and that faith in Jesus Christ is the way of salvation for all.

2. To find anew the Biblical basis and strategy for evangelism through the urgent proclamation and teaching of the gospel to each generation by a worshipping, witnessing, and serving church in which all believers once again declare boldly their faith in the risen Lord.

3. To teach believers how to do evangelism in the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. To experience a spiritual awakening within the church by the power of the Holy Spirit.

5. To challenge the powers of darkness, spurring the churches to stimulate believers everywhere to mount a vigorous attack upon the forces producing misery, inequity, emptiness, discrimination, and other evils in our society, and to lift, wherever possible, the spiritual and temporal burdens of man.

6. To encourage the church to develop and use modern and effective means for reaching people with the gospel in all its relevance.

7. To demonstrate practical Christian unity through witness to the world that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord.

8. To confess together past failures; to assess together opportunities for evangelism presented by a burgeoning world; and to strengthen one another in the common task of reaching out to that world for Christ.

9. To reaffirm that Jesus, the Lord of the church, is the Lord of history at whose return ‘every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father’.”

The congress is sponsored by a National Committee consisting of the Co-chairmen Billy Graham and Oswald Hoffman, a Minneapolis area Executive Committee, and thirty-four newly announced members.

Southern Presbyterian Schism?

Suddenly some Southern Presbyterian conservatives are talking about a split in the denomination. And if the current merger with the Reformed Church in America goes through, individual congregations will have a year in which to pull out of the denomination.

In Louisville this month, Kenneth Keyes, 72, president of the conservative lay group Concerned Presbyterians, said a split “is bound to happen within the next few years.” He predicted “there is going to be a continuing Southern Presbyterian Church. It may be known as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church,” and might include 500 to 1,000 of the church’s present 4,000 congregations.

Florida clergyman Daniel Iverson, 79, advocated a split in a recent North Carolina speech, but Dr. L. Nelson Bell, CHRISTIANITY TODAY’s executive editor and a leader in Keyes’s group, said this “would result in chaos.”

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Which Methodism Will Win?

The specter of global Methodism haunted a recent symposium on ecumension marking the tenth anniversary of the Methodist Theological School at Delaware, Ohio. It was a challenge and comfort to those who see positive values in denominationalism, and a curse for many who would like to dispense with denominations and get on with merger.

Some 500 pastors and laymen heard the issues discussed by three dozen theologians and church leaders.

Host Bishop F. Gerald Ensley offered little encouragement for Consultation on Church Union activists as he blasted away at the concept of national churches. He argued instead for a Methodist World Church with an international general conference, deriving its unity from a common basis of faith, ministry, membership, and general episcopacy—such as is now being proposed by the United Methodists’ standing Committee On Structure of Methodism OverSeas (COSMOS).

“For the foreseeable future, the real strength of Christianity will continue to be in its confessions,” Ensley said. A world confessional church is “a stage on the way” to a future united church, he said, but prevents identifying ecumenism with national churches. He called “nationalism clad in ecclesiastical vesture … an affront to the universalism of the Gospel.”

Reaction came thick and fast. Perhaps the strongest was from Principal Rupert Davies of Wesley College, England: “I’ve never heard such dangerous doctrine propounded in such a powerful and lucid way!” He said it means continuation of present Methodist “colonialism” with powerful, rich churches controlling the overseas programs. Many theologians agreed with him.

Ensley also argued that the Church must emphasize morality and holiness of life rather than union efforts. “Church union is not an absolute, either in the New Testament or in the history of the Church.” He surmised that John Wesley would have had little interest in ecumenism unless he had thought it could cure such maladies as declining membership and clergy figures, paltry stewardship, and cold worship.

Ensley’s comments were significant, since he is a veteran delegate to COCU sessions, including the tense 1964 meeting where a Methodist report containing many of the themes of the 1968 Ensley clouded the atmosphere. The United Methodist Church constitutes 40 per cent of the constituency of the proposed COCU denomination of 25 million, for which a definite Plan of Union is due by 1970.

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Dean Walter Muelder of the Boston University seminary, also a COCU delegate, said Plan-writers “will find that ecumenicity is not high on the priorities of the people of God, not because they have higher priorities of mission, but simply because they could not care less” about renewal.

Yale’s Paul Minear, a United Church of Christ minister, expressed another growing mood: many are tired of union talks, plans, and compromises, and favor secular ecumenism through involvement with social problems. “Where are the sacraments rightly celebrated? On the battle lines, among the sit-ins, in ghetto homes …”


Canadian Anglican Split?

With union plans accelerating between the Anglican and United Churches of Canada, a group of Anglicans is beginning to think in terms of a continuing, separate church.

Their spokesman is the Council for the Faith, an organization of clergy and laymen “who are concerned lest the current negotiations for union should mean that the witness of Anglicanism to Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order be lost or impaired in this country.”

As the wording implies, the council is not all “high church.” One of the leaders is Professor Donald Masters, an evangelical or “low church” Anglican. His co-chairman is the Rev. Carmino de Catanzaro, former professor at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Illinois and now vicar of St. Barnabas Church, Peterborough, Ontario.

In a newly published statement the council lists four purposes: to promote the Anglican witness in both its Catholic and Evangelical aspects; to labor for unity of all Christians in accordance with Scripture and the witness of the early Church; to combat union plans that tend to subvert the wholeness of the Gospel; and to work for a forceful expression of the gospel witness and for church reforms to ensure it.

The council says it is bound by the solemn declaration the General Synod passed in 1893, which appears in the Prayer Book. A key part of his declaration deals with the ancient creeds.

The council insists on continuing use of the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, while many United Church clergymen couldn’t care less. A new United Church creed was recently presented to the denomination’s highest ruling body, then sent back for revision (see August 30 issue, page 43). It was even too liberal for some of the most liberal minds in the United Church, but a spokesman said he doesn’t expect to see it changed very much. The creed is already in use in some United churches.

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The council is being pressured by some Anglicans to begin setting up a separate denomination immediately, but it wants to make sure of its moves and is proceeding carefully.


Rift In Mclntire’S Movement

Carl Mclntire, founder of the fundamentalist American and International Councils of Christian Churches, is accusing colleagues of trying to undercut him.

Things came to a head last month at the ACCC meeting in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, where—among other things—the council voted to set up permanent headquarters at nearby Valley Forge. Mclntire opposed this and other moves, and the discussions consumed most of the three-day meeting.

The apparent issue is the ACCC’s desire to break out of the one-man mold, and some embarrassment over Mclntire’s hard-line methods in his radio and publishing work. ACCC General Secretary John Millheim, one of the anti-McIntire leaders, denies any matters of doctrine are involved.

Millheim, 34, says Mclntire remains “a respected member” of the movement. But in his five years as general secretary “I have never called him up to ask, ‘What should I do today?’ You’re not supposed to do this.” He hopes the ACCC can attract “articulate young men who are hostile to the methods of Dr. Mclntire.”

This echoes behind-the-scenes complaints at the International Council’s August meeting. Its missions arm wrote the council executive committee expressing alarm at Mclntire’s “increasing involvement in political issues,” protest parades, and criticism of the government. “When he speaks in the area of politics, race, and civil rights, this causes irreparable damage to our missionary efforts,” said the letter, signed by outgoing missions executive J. Philip Clark, the new ACCC president.

Mclntire considers Clark, Millheim, and ACCC radio-TV director Donald Waite as leaders of the effort “to undermine me and to have me removed from leadership positions.” Waite, who formerly worked on Mclntire’s radio broadcasts, quit to join the ACCC this year, and Mclntire charges him with distributing anti-McIntire literature. Mclntire is also upset that the ACCC did not provide money for the international meeting or for his drive against the Federal Communications Commission.

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