On St. Patrick’s Day in Atlanta, ecumenical engineers unveiled a tentative framework for linking 25 million American Christians. The twenty-four-page outline, printed appropriately if coincidentally on green paper, builds the big new denomination upon multi-congregational “parishes” that are racially and economically inclusive but not necessarily geographically defined.

It promises the biggest shakeup in American Protestant history. As the project coordinator put it, “there is no more exciting possibility for the renewal of the Church at this historical moment.”

The outline, though not formally adopted, was the major development of the eighth annual meeting of the nine-denomination Consultation on Church Union. Guidelines came from the Principles of Church Union approved by the consultation three years ago. The outline itself was the product of a year’s work by COCU’s eighteen-member Plan of Union Commission. It was subjected to an intensive review in Atlanta, and delegates heartily backed the “parish” focus. The outline is scheduled to emerge as the final, full-fledged charter next year.

“Something irreversible” has begun in the life of the consultation, said Dr. Paul A. Crow, Jr., new COCU general secretary. “The matter of going out of business is not an option.”

COCU’s ninety participating delegates (ten from each denomination) continue to resist full commitment to historic creeds, despite pressures from non-participating communions. As some see it, the aim of becoming a uniting church may be doomed at this point. Dr. C. Thomas Spitz, Jr., general secretary of the Lutheran Council in the U. S. A., declared recently that COCU avoidance of confessional commitment makes it “increasingly difficult” for Lutherans and other historic ...

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