Southern Presbyterian conservatives claimed a major victory last month when the denomination’s presbyteries voted down measures to permit piecemeal merger with the more liberal United Presbyterians. Hopes rose, meanwhile, for presbytery approval of a plan of union, with the smaller, theologically conservative Reformed Church in America.
The defeated amendments to the Form of Government of the 960,000-member Presbyterian Church in the U. S. would have authorized local presbyteries and regional synods to unite with corresponding units of the 3,–300,000-member United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. Opponents saw the proposals as a backdoor merger plan. A full-fledged effort to bring together the nation’s two biggest Presbyterian bodies was tried in the mid-fifties and failed.
Not all presbyteries have yet voted, but more than enough have already turned down the amendments to assure defeat. President Kenneth S. Keyes of the conservative Concerned Presbyterians hailed the defeat as a sign that “when informed regarding issues which vitally affect the future of the Church, ruling elders as well as ministers will assume their responsibilities and vote their convictions.” Keyes called upon the 1969 General Assembly to follow up the decision by recognizing “the futility of continuing our participation in the Consultation on Church Union.”
The COCU matter is one of a number that complicate the other key question in the current poll of presbyteries: whether Southern Presbyterians should merge with the 377,000-member RCA. With six of the seventy-seven presbyteries still to cast ballots, the vote at the beginning of March stood at 53–18 in favor. An affirmative vote from fifty-eight presbyteries, plus ratification by the General Assembly, ...1
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