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 ...1
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