The 119th annual assembly of the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)—with appropriate pageantry—voted itself out of existence September 28.
Its long debated restructure converts the “brotherhood” into a denomination with strong national and regional governing units. The precious tradition of autonomous local congregations is preserved. They will continue to own and control their own property, determine membership, and choose ministers. Affiliation or secession from the national denomination will be purely voluntary.
Outgoing Assembly President Ronald Osborn, dean of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, added a major point: no congregation of the renamed “Christian Church” can be taken into the Consultation on Church Union merger, or kept out of it, except by its own will.
In restructure a biennial General Assembly with delegates replaces the annual assembly where all in attendance voted. Executive power rests in a General Board of 250 that meets annually, and an Administrative Committee of forty that meets three times a year.
The spirited debate on restructure consumed a full day at the Kansas City meeting, but from the start it was apparent the change would win, as amendment after amendment lost on the floor.
The Disciples Yearbook previously listed 8,047 congregations. Of these, 2,113 have now served notice that they will not participate in the restructured denomination and want their names taken out of the yearbook (see August 30 issue, page 40).
Executive Secretary A. Dale Fiers estimated that “about 500,000 of the church’s nearly two million members will no longer be part of the church.” He regretted their withdrawal and said they could return later if they wish.
These congregations have been “minimal” in support of national programs, Fiers said. During the past year they gave less than $125,000 of the denomination’s $14 million contributions to its agencies. Some withdrawing congregations have indicated they will continue to support some agencies.
Following the vote on restructure—in which only a few scattered “no” votes were heard—the anti-restructure Atlanta Declaration Committee said it would stick with the Christian Church despite its objections. The fifty-member group, headed by the Rev. Kenneth Johnston of Portland, Oregon, stated it “will continue to witness for a fellowship of free and responsible churches with an uncontrolled ministry at all levels of life and mission. We believe that the restructured church … fails to provide this kind of freedom.”
The Christian Churches were reconstituted as the Christian Church October 1 in a colorful ceremony for the 10,662 registrants, half of whom were voting delegates. The Christian flag headed a procession of Christian Church and ecumenical leaders. During the service communion was served to more than 8,000 people, and a group of female ballet dancers from Texas Christian University interpreted the assembly theme, “We Rejoice in God.”
Osborn’s keynote address sounded the theme of full ecumenical participation. He hailed the progress of COCU in uniting nine denominations and expressed pride in the selection of Disciples clergyman Paul Crow, Jr., as COCU’s first full-time executive.
Osborn said the Plan of Union due by 1970 will then be voted on by each denomination. “No one can predict how soon final action will be taken, nor what our decision will be. But I believe, and I fervently pray, that the Christian Church will, when the time comes, act affirmatively.…”
The assembly gave overwhelming approval to a Christian unity report that recommended continuation with COCU, talks with Roman Catholics, and merger negotiations with a fellow COCU partner, the United Church of Christ. New General Assembly Moderator Myron C. Cole predicted the two denominations might go ahead with a union prior to the consummation of COCU. “I see no reason why we could not have almost immediate merger” with the UCC, he said.
The Disciples gave major attention to their “Reconciliation” urban-crisis program, for which churches are supposed to raise $2 million or more in the near future. The tone for action was set by Washington, D. C., Mayor Walter Washington, who said urban problems have no simple answers because they are “interwoven into a human fabric relating to congestion, misery, tension, violence, crime, hatred, and discrimination.”
Strong objections were raised to past Reconciliation grants to the Poor People’s Campaign and to a California church where the militant Black Panthers have met. But after vigorous debate, a resolution supporting the aims of Reconciliation was adopted amid many negative votes.
The urban involvement is significant because the denomination has its major strength in rural and suburban areas of the Midwest and Southwest. Of the previous 8,047 churches, more than 4,600 were in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.
In a related action, a day of repentance over “racism” and “inaction” was set. At the closing session, World Council of Churches General Secretary Eugene Carson Blake issued a blistering attack on prevailing apathy of Western Christians toward world poverty.
The convention also approved:
• Enabling legislation for merger of the mostly-Negro National Christian Missionary Convention into the General Assembly, effective in 1969. Black identity will continue through a special biennial “National Christian Church Conference.”
• A hotly contested resolution supporting conscientious objection “to particular wars.” The 1966 assembly passed a similar resolution, but the 1967 assembly turned one down.
• A statement condemning South Africa’s apartheid policy and asking the U. S. government to persuade the nation to change it.
• An affirmation of support for servicemen, an appeal to the United States and other nations “to replace those elements in their present foreign policies which depend on massive retaliation through destruction and use of force of arms,” and a request that congregations pray about and study the Viet Nam war.
Two Against The World?
The birth-control controversy looked this month like a scenario with Pope Paul and Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle against the world, but no one knew how the picture could change when American Roman Catholic bishops, whose views are murky, open their semi-annual meeting in O’Boyle’s realm—Washington, D. C.—on November 11.
The position taken this month by Canadian bishops puts pressure on American prelates to take a less rigid stance than Paul and “Paddy.” The Canadians said Catholics may use contraceptives if an “informed conscience” so directs them.
For further impact, the unofficial Association of Washington Priests announced a November 10 mass rally at the Washington Monument for laymen who urge right of conscience.
But the Washington Priests’ Senate, the officially recognized group, set up a committee to try to find a solution in the dispute.
The association, which has led public dissent against O’Boyle’s strict enforcement, socked the cardinal with the charge of “arbitrary, unjust and scandalous misuse of authority” when he imposed penalties on thirty-nine of its members, five getting total suspensions.
O’Boyle, however, appeared to be uniquely in tune with views of the Vatican.In another issue, the Vatican issued temperate guidelines for dialogue with Communists and other atheists. The decree says benefits—and no dangers—arise if contacts involve mutual respect, sincerity, and truth-seeking. One worthy purpose is collaboration on secular problems. Christians are warned not to subordinate truth and belief to the needs of dialogue. In many languages and at great length, Vatican Radio broadcast passages from his hard-line pastoral letter (October 11 issue, page 34). Observers said Vatican Radio has only rarely carried so many excerpts from a prelate’s statement.
Meanwhile fifty-five London priests announced that birth control isn’t always sinful. An anti-O’Boyle statement came from two dozen Washington Jesuits, including the theology chairman, the liberal-arts dean, and 15 per cent of the faculty at prestigious Georgetown University. In a national National Catholic Reporter poll, half the parish priests took the liberal birth-control line.
Underscoring lay distress, crowds of 600 and 450 turned out for 7 A.M. masses, the only ones celebrated by some dissidents under O’Boyle’s discipline. Laymen from twenty parishes met to discuss what to do next.
On a related issue, the Canon Law Society produced a statement listing principles of due process that should be applied in redress of church grievances, including open trial, legal aid, and opportunity for mediation. All were largely absent in O’Boyle’s disciplinary actions.
Priests’ rights under church law promises to become more of an issue. Jesuit Father Edwin F. Falteisek of St. Louis University was dropped as a lecturer in a series on moral theology because he publicly opposed Paul’s encyclical. Monsignor Stephen J. Kelleher, presiding judge of the New York archdiocesan court, was transferred to a suburban parish after he called for abolition of the court system and said a Catholic should be free to decide for himself whether to enter a second marriage.
The hierarchy won a major victory when control of radio-TV programming was transferred to the National Catholic Office of Radio and Television, a hierarchy agency, from the National Council of Catholic Men, a lay group that had done the job for thirty-eight years.
It was unclear whether the award-winning television show “The Catholic Hour” would continue to run under the new set-up. A lecture series by Father Daniel C. Maguire of Catholic University, scheduled on the program, was recently canceled. Maguire has been a leading opponent of the birth-control ban.
As writings on the birth-control controversy by Catholic thinkers poured into the market, a sage word came from an outspoken papal critic, Swiss Professor Hans Küng. One of the first Catholic scholars to oppose Paul’s birth control decree, Küng urged Catholic theologians not to leave the church and not to drop their questions. In his latest book, Truthfulness—The Future of the Church, he says, “Time will show where the truth lay: with him [the theologian], with the church or—since there are so many half-truths—with both.”
BARBARA H. KUEHN
Hang Up On The Bible
Should evangelical missionaries cooperate with Roman Catholics in translating Scriptures? Leaders of eighty-four mission boards representing 15,000 missionaries largely agreed this month that the translation process contains enough checks and balances to allay fears about the end product. But will the constituency understand this?
Particularly in Africa, Roman Catholic priests are increasingly eager to join in Scripture distribution. But they also want a hand in translation work, a demand raising an important new issue in evangelical ranks (see December 8, 1967, issue, page 40).
The issue was bandied about in Winona Lake, Indiana, where the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association and the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association held a joint executive retreat for 225 of their leaders. Results were inconclusive, but more than one participant felt mere airing of the problem was as much as could be expected. It was only the second time that leaders from the two big Protestant mission groups had gotten together officially.
At the rate ecumenical liturgical projects are going, Christians may well worship in the same words long before they belong to the same church.
This month the United and Southern Presbyterian Churches released through their magazines the central “Service for the Lord’s Day” for inclusion in a worship book and hymnal due by 1972. Cumberland Presbyterians and the Reformed Church in America have also been involved in this thirteen-year project.
On a broader base, worship texts are being prepared by representatives of the nine-denomination Consultation on Church Union, the five-denomination Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship, and a Roman Catholic committee representing the hierarchy in twelve English-speaking nations.
These representatives, who previously issued agreed texts for the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, last month recommended to their parent bodies new wordings for the Nicene Creed (see box), the Sanctus, and the Gloria. Next month the group will discuss the Te Deum, other liturgical hymn texts, and a proposed common psalter.
The suggested Presbyterian-Reformed service uses the ecumenical Lord’s Prayer text from this group, and draws on a study of liturgical history. The result is more like Episcopal or Lutheran worship than what is commonly practiced in Presbyterian churches, what with antiphonal responses, two lessons, a sermon in the middle of the service, a prayer for the communion of the saints, and a strong suggestion that the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated weekly.
The most striking element is use of streamlined, modern English. (“Let us admit our guilt before God” replaces “Let us humbly confess our sins unto Almighty God.”) Bible quotations are drawn from the Revised Version, the New English Bible, the Phillips translation, and the Roman Catholic Jerusalem Bible.
Here’s where the action is—in the fluid world of Protestant journalism:
The Rev. B. J. Stiles flips out of motive. But the Rev. Allan Brockway reincarnates social-action magazine Concern as engage. The pace picks up with Tempo, started this month by the National Council of Churches. After temporary loan to the NCC, the United Presbyterians get back their newssheet approach (with a lower-case ‘a’ of course). The action is rounded out by several mergers and a Lutheran death.
The sagas of Stiles and Brockway, both young Turks but very different in disposition, reflect the conservative-liberal tug-of-war among Methodists. The gentlemanly Stiles says he quit after eight years of editing motive—outspoken, award-winning magazine for collegians—because of “subtle pressures” to avoid controversy. The pressures were from its publisher, the higher-education division of the United Methodist Church, headed by Dr. Myron F. Wicke.
“I felt I was editing more to satisfy the publisher than our constituents,” said Stiles, adding that he is the fifth person to quit the board-of-education staff in recent months “because of disagreement with administrative policies.” Wicke denies there has been censorship in any form.
Stiles wanted “total” editorial freedom with the magazine. He said “sex, politics, and language” in motive have caused a flap among Methodist bishops, congregations, and parents.
“The church has not understood what the magazine is trying to do—serve as an arena for dialogue on social change and the revolutionary implications of the Gospel,” Stiles explains. He says headquarters preferred a magazine that “discusses traditional religious topics in traditional language.”
Conservative Methodists reacted strongly when motive became the official magazine of the University Christian Movement, Stiles said. Apparently they feared loss of denominational control and disapproved of the ecumenical thrust.
Stiles’s resignation is effective January 1; his future plans are indefinite. He had been on a leave of absence to serve on the campaign staff of Robert Kennedy earlier this year.
If Stiles is out, Brockway is in with engage, which was baptized by United Methodists at this year’s general conference even as the old Methodist council killed its liberal predecessor, Concern.
Brockway, an aloof man who pulled this coup with “a hell of a lot of maneuvering,” said he’s trying to make engage even more gutsy on social issues than Concern. The only major difference is that engage will give more space to opposing viewpoints.
The council killed Concern because it was too much a promotion piece for its publisher, the Board of Christian Social Concerns, thereby overlapping the journal that promotes all Methodist agencies. This explanation was seen as a cover for conservatives who thought Concern was too radical.
Brockway says the new magazine has a stronger legal basis. The conference “instructed” the social-concerns board to publish engage, while the old Methodist group merely “permitted” Concern. So now Brockway says the only way to kill engage would be after a public debate on whether United Methodists “can tolerate a periodical that makes comments with which a significant portion of the church disagrees.”
The semi-monthly engage uses a simple format. The third printing October 15 was set for 6,000 circulation, but Brockway hopes this will rise quickly with subscriptions.
The United Presbyterians’ old Aproach gives way October 21 to the weekly news tabloid approach. The new paper will have “a dash of iconoclasm and informality. We don’t go for church jargon or propaganda,” said editor Edward Richter, a former newspaperman. Sounding a bit like Brockway, he said he’ll give spunky treatment to news on social issues.
“We’ll call one on the national agency as we see fit,” said Richter. “The church bureaucracy tends to insulate itself from mistakes. We’ll see if the church can swallow this.”
Three Presbyterian boards will finance approach: Christian education (publisher of its predecessor), home missions, and ecumenical mission and relations.
This summer Approach served as the official publication of the National Council of Churches’ “crisis in the nation” program. With its return to the Presbyterians, the NCC will inaugurate Tempo, a twice-monthly tabloid of news and features on NCC activities somewhat similar to the old Inter-Church News, according to NCC publicist Bruno Kroker. The first issue was scheduled for mid-October.
Also in the rise and fall of magazine fortunes were three mergers and one demise. Together, Methodist family monthly, will absorb EUB’s Church and Home as part of the denominational union.Predicted in “Church Journals Catch the COCU Spirit,” News, September 16, 1966, issue. First printing will be in February. Together hopes to boost its 550,000 circulation with the 190,000 Church and Home subscribers. Methodist and EUB women’s magazines and program journals will also merge within the next few months.
Edge, youth magazine published by the three major Lutheran denominations, is dying this month, just eleven months after its predecessor Arena One suffered a similar fate. The cause: “Not enough subscriptions fast enough,” said Editor Peter Kopka. He said the Lutherans’ joint youth-publications council may instead produce a “communications package” that will include films, posters, and flags for youth groups. It may market the package across denominational lines.
A final merger: In West Germany the Catholic hierarchy bound three news weeklies into one new national weekly, Publik.
BARBARA H. KUEHN
Presbytery Wins Property
A North Carolina judge ruled last month that the property of the Hillview Presbyterian Church in Reidsville, which seceded from its parent denomination in 1963, now belongs to Orange Presbytery. The congregation voted against appealing his decision, which ordered them to vacate the church building “forthwith.”
The dispute originally grew out of the church’s hiring of a supply pastor who was not an ordained Presbyterian. It marked the first time in the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. that a presbytery has sought by legal means to win title to disputed property for itself. In similar disputes the presbytery has always acted in behalf of a “loyal” faction.
The U. S. Supreme Court is currently considering a church-property case that is expected to have long-range significance. The case is built on legal grounds entirely different from those of the Reidsville case.
World Council of Churches chief Eugene Carson Blake says “we hear nothing from Nixon, Humphrey, and much less from Wallace” to provide hope they will provide leadership for America. Evangelist Billy Graham, reacting to an attack on Richard Nixon by former United Nations Ambassador George Ball, said the Republican nominee “is a man of high moral principle,” but Graham stopped short of formal endorsement.
A United Presbyterian Church agency sent telegrams to the three parties complaining that campaign talk of “law and order” lumps together complex problems of student protest, war resistance, crime, “ghetto rebellion,” and school and housing segregation.
Puerto Rico’s ruling Popular Democrats put a birth-control plank in their 1968 platform. In 1960 a similar plank caused criticism from the Catholic hierarchy.
Citizens for Educational Freedom, a largely Catholic lobby seeking aid for private schools, praised the Republican Party for its openness to private-school aid in its 1968 platform. CEF expressed regret that the Democrats didn’t do likewise.
Monsignor Edward Hughes, superintendent of Philadelphia Catholic schools, urged church members to seek defeat of state legislators who voted against aid to Catholic schools earlier this year. The $4.3 million proposal is now law.
Church President David O. McKay urged Mormons to oppose the liquor-by-the-drink proposal on next month’s Utah ballot.
Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy is planning a 200-seat memorial chapel to her husband in New Hampshire’s White Mountains ski area. One wall will be inscribed with Psalm 121:1, 2.
AWOL Marine Corporal Paul Olimpieri, arrested after taking “sanctuary” in the Harvard Divinity School chapel, said that it was all a “mistake” and that he was being used by religious activists to publicize “their political goals.”
Washington, D. C., City Council Chairman John Hechinger said churches have generally been inept in coping with city problems and suggested they start with voluntary contributions in lieu of city taxes.
Sister Ghislaine Roquet, former head of the philosophy department at a Montreal Catholic college, is representing Canada on the United Nations cultural committee.
The first English-language Eastern Orthodox convent in America opened in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, headed by Mother Alexandra, formerly Princess Illeana of Rumania.
Wesley A. Kuhrt, board chairman of Barrington College, Rhode Island, was named president of Sikorsky Aircraft.
Wycliffe Bible Translators founder W. Cameron Townsend is using an invitation from the Soviet Academy of Sciences to study linguistic work there.
Lord Timothy Beaumont, wealthy Church of England clergyman who owns the firm that publishes the New Christian, was elected president of Britain’s third party, the Liberals.
Attacking a council of churches declaration against apartheid (October 11 issue, page 36), South African Premier John Vorster warned clergymen to stick to preaching “the Gospel of Christ and not turn the pulpit into a political platform” for opposition parties.
An explosion did heavy damage to small Mount Gilboa Baptist Church near Canmer, Kentucky, which had recently been vandalized twice. Three other Kentucky Negro churches have been bombed since June.
The Lutheran Church in America’s foundation for bequests and special gifts received $2.4 million in the first eight months of 1968, almost as much as it got during the previous five years.
The Roman Catholic Church in the United States set a goal of $22 million for foreign missions this year. The St. Louis Archdiocese recently increased pay for pastors from $150 to $225 a month, plus a $75 car allowance.
The Episcopal Church Executive Council diverted $500,000 to other projects after the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization failed to raise a like amount in matching funds by September 1. American Baptist home missions has granted IFCO $200,000.
The United Methodist Church named Negro bishops to head two major boards: Noah W. Moore, Jr., in evangelism and Charles F. Golden in Christian social concerns. The church has also named a committee to explore union with the three major Negro Methodist denominations. A commission headed by Albert Outler will study the united church’s creedal position for 1972 action. A special General Conference was called for April, 1970, in Baltimore.
The Peruvian Evangelical Church voted to form a confederation with the Evangelical Christian Union of Bolivia as the first step toward a proposed international federation of denominations started by faith missions.
Korean Presbyterians are sending two missionary couples to Ethiopia, their sixth foreign field. And a Full Gospel spokesman said 200 Koreans are ready to evangelize Britain if Britons don’t do the job.
In Eastern Europe: Five of six Soviet churches in the World Council of Churches have now criticized its protest at the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. A Catholic paper says that registration for religion classes in Czech schools is the highest in years. The All-Union Council of Soviet Baptists reports 5,047 converts were baptized last year. In East Germany, Protestant and Catholic membership dropped 35 per cent from 1950 to 1964, according to a census just made public.
Woman Is My Idea, a Broadway comedy about U. S. Mormon troubles in the 1870s over polygamy, closed after five performances. Author Don Liljenquist was born into an Idaho Mormon family.
In celebrations of failure of the Communist coup three years ago in Indonesia, more than 1,000 Muslim students burned piles of obscene pictures and films and marched to urge a government crackdown on offenders.
Assemblies of God missionaries in Costa Rica are using an inflatable nylon-vinyl “air cathedral” for services. Three blowers are used to inflate the church, which was designed by two Firestone engineers.
Nearly 100 persons were injured in riots at Londonderry, Northern Ireland, when police broke up a march sponsored by Roman Catholic groups protesting alleged Protestant discrimination in voting, jobs, and education.
Some 20,000 pilgrims and curiosity-seekers, some in ambulances and wheelchairs, waited in vain October 7 in St. Bruno, Quebec, for an appearance of the Virgin Mary, promised by six schoolgirls who reported a previous vision July 22. Catholics came from as far as California and Mexico.
Leaders of the world’s half-million Muslims, meeting in the United Arab Republic, called for a jihad (holy war) against Israel.
The Journal of American Insurance says employees are robbing U. S. business of $4 billion a year, an increase of 15 per cent a year in “white-collar crime.”
Medical Assistance Program says the East Coast longshoremen’s strike will cause serious delay of $1.5 million in medical supplies bound for seventy-five mission hospitals.
Sign of the times: The United Presbyterian Synod of Southern California is doing a take-off on dail-a-prayer tagged “dail-an-issue.” The first phone message backed the grape-pickers’ strike.
Vermont’s Supreme Court ruled that state dormitory construction aid to two Catholic colleges does not violate the U. S. Constitution. At the federal district court for Connecticut, a suit was filed to block nearly $1 million in federal building aid to four Catholic colleges.
Two members of a Virginia snakehandling cult were fined $150 and jailed sixty days for participating in a service where a member died of rattlesnake bite.
Leighton Ford’s crusade in Edmonton, Alberta, ended as it began—with an overflow crowd. The two-week crusade drew 75,700 total attendance, with 928 spiritual inquirers.
The new constitution for Greece passed last month begins with an invocation in the name of the Trinity. The Orthodox Church tried to strengthen already severe provisions against proselytism, but this and other religious matters remain as in the 1952 constitution.
The legislature of Madhya Pradesh, India, passed a bill making conversions to Christianity “virtually impossible,” Religious News Service reports. But India’s Supreme Court rejected a claim by Bihar State that a Catholic college should not be recognized because it serves only a religious minority.
Representative Dominick Daniels of New Jersey wants Congress to tighten safety rules for the nation’s 11,200 resident, travel, and day camps, many of which are church-related.
For the first time in three years, Turkish government officials have called on Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Istanbul, a possible sign that pressures to flee the historic see will end.
NEW NICENE CREED TEXT
We believe in one God, almighty Father, maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible.
We believe in the one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only son of God,
begotten of the Father from all eternity.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God:
begotten, not made, one in being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven.
By the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary and became Man.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried.
He arose on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.
He entered into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will never end,
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Together with the Father and the Son he is adored and glorified.
He has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We iook for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
KYLE HASELDEN, 55, appointed the fouth editor of the Christian Century in 1964; South Carolina native who filled American Baptist pulpits in New York, Minneapolis, and West Virginia; writer on race relations and preaching; in Evanston, Illinois, ten months after brain surgery.
JAMES F. COX, SR., 90, former president of Abilene Christiaa College; in Abilene.
PHIL MASTERS, 50, of Iowa, and STANLEY DALE, 52, of Tasmania; missionaries with the RegionG Beyond Missions Union; slain by natives in West Irian, Indonesia.
PADRE PIO, 81, stigmata-bearing Capuchin priest; of bronchitis, in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.
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