It was the Year of the Pill. Rarely has a single event so predominated the year’s religious news as Pope Paul’s birth-control encyclical, and subsequent ferment in the Catholic Church.

It was the good old days of Vatican II turned bad, with front-page stories on Catholicism abounding. First, the reaffirmation of church teaching against any “artificial” contraception. Then the waffling reactions by several national hierarchies, culminating in the (apparently) conservative support’ from the most powerful group of bishops, the Americans.

Internally, this issue was the occasion, if not the cause, for dissent on a wide range of Catholic concerns: papal authority, church authority in general, the role of individual conscience in disagreement with that authority, discipline and “due process” for accused priests, and—in general—the limits of free speech and thought in Catholicism.

Externally, the Catholic stand had stunning consequences for the population curves of the next generation. For whatever the extent of disobedience among sophisticated Catholics in educated and affluent nations, the church teaching has great force in nations where population is potentially more dangerous. But even in the United States the conservative weekly newspaper Twin Circle was able to lead a December edition with an article arguing not only that there is no population explosion but that a growth in world population will aid world prosperity.

The murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Memphis garbagemen’s strike was a second major event. And unlike many deaths it both symbolized and set off a complex series of social forces. Weeks before the murder the Kerner Commission had indicted U. S. society for white racism. Weeks after, King’s proposed mass protest occurred in Washington, D. C., but “Resurrection City” did little more than highlight the agony within the civil-rights movement, and the difficulty of applying old protest strategies to new, complex problems of employment and economics. By year’s end, the long alliance of Negroes and Jews seemed crumbling in New York City over the school strike.

Within the Church, black power took a bold new form, as formerly quiescent black blocs lobbied for ecclesiastical power, formed new organizations, and talked of black theology, and even of separation.

Many denominations pledged special efforts toward racial justice and aid to the poor, led (on paper) by the United Methodists’ $20 million “Reconciliation” fund.

Despite the deaths of King and of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, violence continued not only as a motif of American life but as a growing theme in liberal theology and as a “justifiable” means of domestic social revolution. That it could be met in kind was easily seen in police conduct at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and in the 13.5 per cent national vote for George C. Wallace as president.

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In international affairs, the Soviet Union did strange things to some ecumenical presuppositions. The onus of evil had been hung for years on the United States over the Viet Nam war.

Churchmen’s protests both inside and outside the United States continued even after the partial bombing halt of the spring, and the volume of the past era was replaced by a mere whisper of praise when all bombing ceased. Then the Soviets sent as many soldiers into liberalizing Czechoslovakia overnight as the United States had sent to Viet Nam in years. And the suffering church of East Europe stared into the darkness ahead.

Otherwise, world ecumenism featured increasing friendship between Rome and the World Council of Churches and Protestant and Orthodox groups around the world. And a point of increasing contact was social action, a theme that captured much attention at the WCC’s Uppsala assembly and in U. S. National Council affairs.

In American ecumenism, the Consultation on Church Union voted to write a union plan for 25 million Protestants by 1970. The United Methodist Church was formed from the Methodists and Evangelical United Brethren, and there were significant developments toward unity among more conservative Wesleyan groups. The Southern Presbyterian and Reformed Church conventions voted for merger, subject to regional approval. More Baptists than usual found a point of unity in plans for next year’s evangelistic Crusade of the Americas. And The American Lutheran Church voted intercommunion and a merger hint for both the Lutheran Church in America and the Missouri Synod.

But the ecumenical and social-action developments produced a growing counter-reaction, as protest organizations surfaced in several denominations. The Christian Churches quietly lost 2,113 congregations over the “restructure” that passed this year. Other denominations watched anxiously as the U. S. Supreme Court decided to rule on two Georgia Presbyterian churches that quit the denomination and sought to keep their property.

Within evangelicalism, there were also some signs of growing inter-group cooperation, and of grappling with pressing social issues (see page 31). The Southern Baptist Convention issued a crisis-in-the-nation statement, the Reformed Ecumenical Synod passed a fairly strong statement on race, and most of the churches of South Africa joined in a statement against apartheid that could be an overture to one of the twentieh century’s great church-state confrontations. Black and white U. S. evangelicals broke barriers with a bid at relevant revival in Newark, New Jersey.

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The biggest new ethical issue of 1968 was transplantation of human hearts, a procedure that proved to have 99-to-1 odds of failure in about that many actual operations. And the Nigerian civil war and the agony of breakaway Biafra raised anew the human peril of starvation and its cynical use as a weapon of war.

In theology, Germany’s young Jürgen Moltmann came into prominence in 1968 with his Theology of Hope, which did not neglect Christian origins in its effort to recapture the vision of the future world. In denominational life, orthodoxy retrenched again as the United Church of Canada paraded a proposed doctrine-less modern creed, and the Lambeth Conference cast a skeptical eye at Anglicanism’s Thirty-Nine Articles.

And personalities made news this year. Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy married divorcé Aristotle Onassis and became the world’s most famous fallaway Catholic. Pop artist Sister Corita became America’s most famous fallaway nun. Pentecostal healing evangelist Oral Roberts became a Methodist. Carl McIntire charged that new leaders of the fundamentalist American Council of Christian Churches which he founded are trying to force him to the sidelines. Yale Chaplain William Sloane Coffin, Jr., was among those convicted of conspiring to circumvent military draft laws.

Billy Graham proclaimed anew the old-time religion with crusades in Australia; Portland, Oregon; and Pittsburgh; and turned out to be an important influence in Richard Nixon’s decision to run for president and—perhaps—an influence in garnering votes for Nixon.

New faces: President Robert J. Marshall of the Lutheran Church in America, and Editors Alan Geyer and Harold Lindsell of rivals Christian Century and CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Significant figures who died during 1968 included Karl Barth, the century’s pre-eminent theologian; Augustin Cardinal Bea, founding leader of the Vatican’s Christian-unity secretariat; President Franklin Clark Fry of the Lutheran Church in America; J. Ray Hord, the controversial social-action director of the United Church of Canada; journalists Daniel Poling (Christian Herald) and Kyle Haselden (Christian Century); and six American missionaries, killed by Viet Cong terrorists in January in Viet Nam.

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And, as always in religion, the really important developments of 1968 may not have been chronicled at all. What new idea, its hour come at last, might have been born? Or what now obscure personality might one day change history? Perhaps one of those 375 college students who attended Inter-Varsity’s Missionary Convention and, during 1968, sent in a card indicating a decision for foreign missionary service. Or one of the 652 others who signed willingness to consider missionary work.


In a year of ins and outs, the Evangelical Candor Award for 1968 goes to the Ohio school that issued a press release stating:

“A recent evaluation of the Presidency has been made by the Salem Bible College Board of Trustees, and it has been their unanimous decision to have the Rev. George E. Bowen terminate his connections with the College effective January 31, 1968. Rev. George E. Bowen has tendered his resignation accordingly.”

Sign of Progress: On December 16, 1968, Spain officially revoked the government order expelling all Jews from the nation. It was put on the books by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.


A second look at the national executive committee for next September’s U. S. Congress on Evangelism showed all Republicans (Senator Mark Hatfield, former Congressman Walter Judd, Congressman Albert Quie, Judge Luther Youngdahl). The remedy: Add presidential candidate and Senator George McGovern, a Democrat and Methodist who was a delegate to the World Council of Churches assembly.

New Congressman Earl Landgrebe (R-Ind.) is on the Executive Committee of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, Lutheran Church in America.

R. Burnett Thompson, Houghton College graduate and former Methodist minister, will be the administrative assistant to new Congressman G. William Whitehurst (R-Va.).

FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson praised a fellow member of Kenwood Country Club, Episcopal Bishop William Creighton of Washington, D. C., for working from within to end club racial bias. Episcopal activists had demanded the bishop quit Kenwood.

Leighton Ford passed up a bid to take over the “Old-Fashioned Revival Hour” to speak alternate weeks on colleague and brother-in-law Billy Graham’s “Hour of Decision.” The move cast Canadian Ford in an heir-apparent role.

Louisville’s Duke McCall was flying National to Miami to confer with other Southern Baptist seminary presidents—he thought. Turned out he was on the latest plane hijacked to Cuba, but he got back in twenty-four hours.

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Baptist pastor Thedford Johnson is the first Negro to head the Miami area church council, and the U. S. Catholic Conference named black priest Charles Burns as field director of its race-and-poverty agency.

Veteran Church of the Brethren service director W. Harold Row is moving to Washington, D. C. to head both government liaison and interchurch relations.

Scottish Episcopal Bishop John Howe, a 48-year-old bachelor, is new executive of the Anglican Communion.

Retired Anglican Archbishop Edwin Morris of Wales defended Enoch Powell’s controversial proposal to repatriate non-whites from England, noting the plan was voluntary.

The Rev. J. Ketelaar, 40, was fired as head of the Dutch Baptists’ evangelism committee because he spends too much time on his new “Radical People’s Movement” for social justice.

Father Charles Coughlin, right-wing radio priest of the thirties, put out a pamphlet charging Catholic bishops are “social engineers” who play ball with dissidents.

Latest Catholic clergy dropouts: Jesuit Paul Harbrecht, 45, dean of the University of Detroit law school and until August board chairman at Georgetown University—to marry. And Alkuin Heising, 41, abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Michaelsberg, West Germany—to protest “authoritarian” church policies.


KARL BARTH, 82, the twentieth century’s foremost Christian theologian (see pages 22, 34).

THOMAS MERTON, 53, French-born intellectual who, despite vows of silence as a Trappist monk in Kentucky, had great impact through the written word, as in his best-selling 1948 autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain; champion of racial justice; in Bangkok, Thailand, of accidental electrocution.

HOWARD HAMILTON, 65, layman who headed United Presbyterian ministerial relations; in Worthington, Ohio.

HANS C. JERSILD, 72, president of the Danish Lutheran body who sparked talks toward The American Lutheran Church merger; in Rock Island, Illinois.

ILSLEY BOONE, 89, nudist leader who quit the Reformed Church and became a Baptist clergyman; in Oakland, New Jersey.

HOMER A. TOMLINSON, 76, head bishop of the Church of God (Queens Village, New York), which split off the Pentecostalist group his father founded; jolly Presidential candidate and self-proclaimed “King of the World” who circled the globe to be crowned in his portable aluminum “throne”; in New York City.

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Church Panorama

The Southern Presbyterian Church joined the long-range church-education planning project previously formed by the United Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and United Church of Christ.

Episcopal Church executive council members discussed a “theological” cleavage found in the Episcopal Church after visits to eighty-two dioceses. The Virginia diocese held an emergency meeting last month because pledges are running $85,000 behind, partly in reaction to national social-action programs.

After a closed meeting in Atlanta, a Consultation on Church Union committee said its merger plan for 25 million Protestants won’t be ready this year but is expected in 1970.

Dallas pastor Neil Jones thinks the Southern Baptist Convention should put out a national newsmagazine.

Moody Memorial Church closed its doors to a Crusade of the Americans rally when it learned American Baptist President Culbert Rutenber would be on hand. But 2,000 Baptists from six denominations turned out at another church to hear Rutenber, National Baptist President Joseph Jackson, and former Southern Baptist President Herschel Hobbs.

Top Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic executives issued an implied rebuke against National Guard troops that have been patrolling black sections of Wilmington, Delaware, nightly since April.

Regional accreditation has been won by The King’s College, New York; Southern Baptist Seminary, Kentucky; Crozer Seminary (American Baptist), Pennsylvania; and Houston and Mobile Baptist Colleges.

Nine evangelical missions and national groups have formed the first permanent body for united action in Paraguay.

Nearly half the summer-school students at Union Theological Seminary, New York, were Roman Catholics, as are 15 per cent during the current term.

Dubuque Theological Seminary (United Presbyterian) and Aquinas Institute (Roman Catholic) in Iowa plan complete sharing of campus buildings.

Two dozen hooded students held a street march to protest a ban on dancing at Eastern Baptist College (American Baptist), Pennsylvania.


Berkeley medical researcher Joel Fort studied 9,000 teens in northern California high schools, and found more than a third of twelfth graders are on marijuana and nearly half had experimented with it; 11 per cent had tried LSD; 15 per cent had used amphetamines.

The Gallup Poll estimates that 49 per cent of Protestants voted for Nixon, 35 per cent for Humphrey, and 16 per cent for Wallace. The Catholic vote went 33 per cent for Nixon, 59 per cent for Humphrey, 8 per cent for Wallace. Nixon did not run as well among Protestants as he did in 1960, but did better than Barry Goldwater.

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Northern Ireland’s regime gave virtual amnesty to Roman Catholic “civil rights” demonstrators and appealed for calm and an end to street protests.

The Malaysia Evangelistic Fellowship and the Asia Evangelism Fellowship planned to seek to reach the poor of Laos, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore with the gospel message and needed food and clothing during the Christmas season.

Ontario’s government decided against taxing church property, despite recommendations from two committees.

The Anglican cathedral in Ottawa invited thirty-eight convicts to join a choir for a special service, similar to others arranged by law officers across Canada. At the close of the service there were only thirty-seven.

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