The National Council of Churches recently ordered a poll on what people think of it, and we must admire the council leaders for their candor in releasing as much of the resulting information as they did. Considering that inclusivism and relevance have been major goals of the council, the picture drawn by the poll is not very encouraging.

Particularly disappointing to the National Council is the indication that 40 per cent of American adults have never even heard of it. Of those who know of the council, about 55 per cent are said in general to approve of it. Twenty-two per cent disapprove, and 23 per cent have no opinion.

The great divide comes at the point of the council’s practice of taking sides on selected social questions. About 59 per cent of all those polled said they disapprove of the involvement of the churches in social and political issues such as the urban crisis, Viet Nam, and civil rights. Some 37 per cent approved. The remainder were indifferent or undecided.

Interestingly enough, it was found that the people who approve of the churches’ social involvement are generally those who don’t seem to care to involve themselves in the churches. People who attend church every Sunday, it was shown, are much more likely to object to corporate involvement in social issues than those who go irregularly.

We hope that American church leaders will take serious note. In a few weeks the National Council will be holding its triennial assembly, and it is a good time to go back to some definitions. The council needs to re-evaluate its goals and its responsibility to its constituency.

Council spokesmen make much of the need to be “relevant,” of the summons to “prophetic leadership.” Realistically ...

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