The National Association of Evangelicals, which reportedly experienced an awakening of its social conscience last year in Philadelphia, indicated in Cincinnati that perhaps only twelve months are needed to suppress any such stirrings of the inner man.

Most of the 1,200 delegates to the Cincinnati convention were over forty. They focused their Christian wrath on “The Moral Crisis in America” (read sex) but never said a mumbling word about racism in the Church, poverty, or alienation of youth, except in small meetings or corridor groups.

The backdrop of the stage in the Pavilion Caprice room of the Netherland Hilton, where the public meetings were held, consisted of a replica of a stained-glass window with the theme of the twenty-seventh annual convention, “A Vital Church—Concerned, Committed, Conquering,” in huge white letters on a dark blue curtain.

The backdrop was appropriate. The speakers seldom penetrated past the stained-glass window, and the delegates didn’t seem to object.

The only threat to the status quo was voiced offstage by the Rev. George W. Perry, president of the National Negro Evangelical Association (NNEA). “The race issue is at the core of every other domestic issue, and to be silent is passive,” he told this reporter. Why hadn’t he said that in his speech on the last day of the convention? “I didn’t have the time,” he said.

The articulate Negro minister did tell the delegates that it is difficult to understand race relations in an evangelical context. “In fact, we find the blacks don’t understand the word ‘evangelical,’ and frankly we doubt that some of you understand it either.” In the interview he said the NAE “is not geared to the needs of the black community—socially or spiritually. It will take black men to reach black men for Christ—both in the United States and overseas.” He did ask the NAE churches, however, to set aside a Sunday a year to take a special offering to support the NNEA’s programs.

(Perry also said his group is going to change its name to National Christian Coalition so its initials won’t be so similar to the NAE’s. When someone pointed out that the new initials would be those of the National Council of Churches, he said the NNEA might have to take a second look before becoming the NCC.)

The NAE resolution deploring the decline in morality made Sodom and Gommorrah look like bastions of Puritanism compared to America: “The cultural centers of many American cities are becoming cesspools of filth. Obscenity in its worst forms is sent through the mails with apparent impunity. Nudity has become open and flagrant on the motion picture screens of the land. At home sex vies with irreverence for domination of our television screens.”

The delegates also said they objected to public-school sex education courses offered without moral guidelines. Another resolution admittedly aimed at the U. S. Supreme Court urged Congress to limit the high court’s scope in setting aside or reversing state-court rulings in cases involving pornographic literature, on the basis that the lower courts are better judges of what constitutes community standards of decency than are the nine men in Washington.

Dr. Rufus Jones of Wheaton, past NAE president, agreed with the paper in principle but had some objections to its wording. “The answer to pornography is revival—not legislation,” he said. “There are those who would destroy our democracy and our judicial system, and I don’t want any part of it.” He then moved that an entire paragraph containing indirect reference to the Supreme Court be deleted. His motion was voted down and the resolution passed by an overwhelming majority.

A behind-the-scenes struggle was triggered by a resolution warning that federal control always accompanies federal funds and recommending that persons giving private gifts to schools get a tax break. The resolutions committee attempted to back off from the proposal and was not going to submit it. Dr. Clyde W. Taylor, the ubiquitous NAE general director who was author of the paper, cornered three members of the resolutions committee in the press room and convinced them they should put the resolution to a vote. It carried with only minor opposition—primarily from those whose denominations approve taking federal funds for their colleges, according to Taylor.

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Commenting on the convention’s narrow scope of issues, Taylor stated: “We keep a close file of resolutions passed in previous years and don’t repeat them. Some years the conventions are pretty innocuous. Next year, we may have a knock-down fight over four or five issues.”

Taylor, who gets fidgety when called a lobbyist, made it clear that conservatives should sound their voices loud and clear in the halls of Congress. “Some of the sins of our nation apparently can only be remedied at the political and legislative level,” he said. Shades of the NCC—National Council of Churches, that is.

It would be unfair to say NAE members have no social concerns—it just happens that they exercise them more visibly in foreign countries. NAE’s international relief arm—World Relief Commission—has an impressive list of good works with its schools, hospitals, and food-distribution programs in Korea and Viet Nam. It was announced at the convention that the WRC would assume responsibility for administrating a 120-bed children’s hospital north of Da Nang. It was built by the U. S. Marines.

NAE conventions always attract top conservative biblical scholars and provide warm fellowship for those of like mind. Daily Bible studies conducted by the Rev. Stanley Mooneyham, newly elected president of World Vision, proved to be a spiritual oasis among the multitude of commission meetings, public meetings, private meetings, and dinner meetings. George M. Wilson, executive vice-president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, was named “Layman of the Year.”

A Black Umbrella For Evangelicals

Young, revolutionary, nationalistic, are the words that describe the April 9–13 meeting of the National Negro Evangelical Association in Atlanta. Although attendance was abnormally small because of poor coordination on the national level and poor publicity on the local level, the mood was anything but one of defeat. Young people gathered from across the nation to give the convention an atmosphere of militant youthfulness. “Afro” hair cuts, and necklaces together with the African daishiki were in evidence on every hand.

The mood was set early as evangelist Tom Skinner propounded self-identity and black pride as a prerequisite to consecration. Jesus was a revolutionary and caused a revolution, said Skinner, and his disciples must do likewise. They must “dehonkify” their minds by throwing off the mentality of servitude and appreciate their own culture.

Missing were the pleas for integration one might have heard at such a meeting less than a decade ago. Now the cry is: black control of black institutions, cultural and social relevance, and racial pride.

It is to the credit of its early leaders that the NNEA, founded in 1963, recognized the need for an evangelical black bloc long before the black-power movement had gained any popular respect. Indeed, NNEA founders had to resist pressure from some who, in that day when integration was regarded as a supreme end, thought that such an organization was socially out of step and anachronistic.

While this year’s debates and discussions often seemed to reflect the secular black-power emphasis, there were significant differences. Speaker after speaker reaffirmed his lack of enmity toward the white community. Although the whites present were often expected to feel remorse for the guilt of their race, they were well received.

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Often issues were muddled and embryonic. Youth proposed to take over all institutions for the evangelization and training of black people that are now being run by whites. In the much discussed issue of social involvement, it was generally agreed that black evangelicals are to be intensely involved in social welfare and crisis. Whether it be feeding the hungry or bringing pressure to bear on slum lords, social involvement was seen as the Church’s calling.

One distinction often distressingly blurred was that of the difference between action which is temporal in its effect and that which is eternal. An onlooker got the impression that there was no difference in some minds. However, an occasional speaker noted that the Gospel of personal salvation was the motivation of social involvement. Some spoke in favor of theological balance and the need for emphasis on the “whole counsel of God.”

Division was sometimes mentioned and often demonstrated. The “generation gap” was an ever-present reality. Some of the older generation seemed confused, some annoyed, and some frustrated. One prominent black leader listening to the eloquent presentation of a young militant could be heard responding, “Theories, theories, theories!” Yet while not all adults agreed with, or even understood, the vehement young radicals, most encouraged them. And no matter how much difference of opinion was manifested on specific issues, a warm spirit of community prevailed.

The what’s-in-a-name discussion continued throughout the convention. The term “Negro” was said to have a negative connotation of self-subjugation and inferiority, while the term “black” was filled with meanings of racial pride, self-confidence, and self-initiative. “Black is beautiful” turned out to be an important emphasis of the convention.

Strategy for the future was mapped out in semi-private meetings of the membership. Considerable organizational shuffling is designed to make operation move more smoothly. According to George Perry, president of the NNEA, the emphasis is to be on its role as “an umbrella underneath which evangelicals may find shelter,” and a fresh appeal to a broad spectrum of Christianity is planned. “Black evangelicals are going to have to join together if they are going to survive,” said Perry.


Mormons: Visibly Staking A Witness

Early in June, U. S. housing and urban-development chief George Romney will be named “Churchman of the Year” by Religious Heritage of America. He will be the first of his faith to receive the award.

Few people in the political know in America would have trouble naming Romney’s faith; to a degree, his name and Mormonism have become fused in the popular mind. And few would question his receiving the award. Romney, for all his prestigious past and present, is a witnessing, tithing (he once sold a considerable portion of his stocks in American Motors when he headed it, to meet a tithing obligation) Mormon.

Back in 1887 fervor was running so high against Mormons for their polygamous espousals that Congress passed a law (later upheld by the Supreme Court) forbidding them the right to vote. Forty-three years earlier, Joseph Smith, their founder-prophet, was lynched in Nauvoo, Illinois, and the lynchers were aided and abetted by the military.

In those days the Latter-day Saints of Jesus Christ, as they called themselves, bent on “restoring the true Gospel” as it appears in the Bible with extraneous assists from the angel Moroni, numbered only in the tens of thousands. Figures released last month show worldwide LDS membership at 2.65 million, about two million of it in the United States.

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Substantial growth is said to be taking place “back east,” as a Utahian or Arizonan would view it—the East that persecuted the “saints” so fiercely that they found the barren hills of the Great Salt Lake Valley a paradise by comparison. It was anything but that, of course. After losing many members in the arduous trek overland, the settlers fought locust plagues and drought, working to restore Deseret as a land of beauty and plenty much as zealously as they now evangelize—two by two—to restore the faith.

Visible evidence of Mormonism is springing up all over the East—both in Canada and in the United States. Two new “stake houses,” as the district centers are known, have been constructed in Washington’s suburbs. Now, thirty-eight stakes and twelve missions accommodate the 238,000 members in the East. A dozen to fifteen legislators return east each January to serve in Congress; this means that the Mormons, a disenfranchised cult only two generations ago, now have the highest ratio of legislators per thousand members of all major religious groups in the country.

Mormonism will soon gain increased visibility on the Washington horizon. In suburban Silver Spring, Maryland, on fifty-seven acres bought for nearly $900,000, a six-spired temple modeled after the inspiring Tabernacle in Salt Lake City will rise 120 feet into the air—the sixteenth temple to be raised throughout the world.


The Rev. Paul E. Toms was chosen to succeed Dr. Harold J. Ockenga as pastor of Park Street Church, Boston. Toms, a Fuller Theological Seminary graduate, did pastoral and evangelistic work in Hawaii and New Zealand before coming to Boston as an assistant to Ockenga.

Pope Paul VI will visit World Council of Churches headquarters during a trip in June to the International Labor Organization in Geneva.

John Wesley Lord of Washington, D.C., was elected president-designate of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

Jan Cardinal Willebrands was named president of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. He has been serving as secretary, a post that now goes to Belgian-born Dominican Jerome Hamer, who is regarded as a conservative.

Forty-six Evangelical United Brethren churches that refused to merge with Methodists turned over $665,266 to redeem their properties. Six other congregations made separate settlements with the Methodists.

William Willoughby, Religious News Service correspondent, was named religious news editor of The Washington Evening Star.

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