Church Income: Depressing Pinch

Falling income has produced among American church bodies the most serious financial pinch since the depression.

Most major denominations and a number of interdenominational groups, including the National Council of Churches (see October 10 issue, page 44), have been affected. The situation has not yet reached a crisis stage, but many boards and agencies are beginning to make modest cutbacks in expenditures.

The basic source of the churches’ current financial woes is the offering plate. There simply is not as much money in it these days. Rising costs are adding to the problem.

The downward trend in church finance goes back a number of months—in some cases years. Declines have on the whole been slight but steady. A special ad hoc committee was set up in the United Church of Christ to analyze the problem.

The Nixon administration’s battle to curb inflation may be contributing to the woes.

The American Baptist mission budget shows that for the first eight months of 1969 receipts totaled $7,078,718, down from $7,208,490 for the same period last year. Income for August was $677,119, or $68,443 less than was received for the same month a year ago.

“Since February we have had a monthly decrease,” said the Rev. Ralph R. Rott, executive director of the Division of World Mission Support. “At the beginning of the year the decrease was slight, but in August it was 1.1 per cent.”

The Presbyterian Church in the U. S. is also reporting continuing financial problems. The PCUS General Council voted to undertake an “independent” review of a major cutback in the denomination’s Board of Christian Education. In July, the board announced that its program would be reduced by almost one-third, including a 40 per cent cutback in personnel.

Last month, the PCUS Board of World Missions reported a 1968 deficit of more than $600,000, and an anticipated deficit surpassing $500,000 this year. A PCUS spokesman said that in 1970 instead of sending out a projected total of forty-five or fifty new missionaries, the board will send out only about fifteen.

Methodists have not made public any serious financial problems, but one action taken last month suggests they may be anticipating some. The United Methodist Church Program Coordinating Council recommended that the denomination call a halt to its increasing number of national consultations and conventions. “The costs in time, travel, and arrangements are very high for these meetings with results that are sometimes questionable,” said Dr. Paul V. Church, general secretary of the program council.

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It is somewhat ironic that the revenue losses are occurring in a year when blacks are demanding “reparations” from the churches. In September, the major target was the new National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C. (see story below). Dr. Carl McIntire also won attention with a reparations demand of his own at Riverside Church, New York.

Another financial problem for churches, this one mostly at the level of local congregations, has to do with mortgage money for new construction. High interest rates are discouraging. Moreover, banks are reportedly becoming more reluctant to lend money to churches. A specialist in church finance recently wrote in a banking magazine that churches have become bad risks because “a sophisticated generation” is disenchanted with church institutions. The question is thus raised whether the next generation will be willing to pick up the tab for current expenditures. As bank loan possibilities decline, more churches are beginning to issue bonds on their own or with professional help.

Tax reform, currently under consideration in Congress, may curtail income in some churches. Deduction exemptions, however, will probably not be significantly affected.

Of some concern is the Walz case now being argued before the U. S. Supreme Court (see July 18 issue, page 38). Theoretically, the court’s ruling in this case could end tax exemption for churches. Few observers anticipate such a decision, but there is cause for concern in that the court agreed to hear the case, and four justices had to agree to that.

Brother, Can You Spare $2 Million?

The doors of the National Presbyterian Church swung open to worshipers for the first time, and Dr. Edward L. R. Elson, pastor, declared that the new $8.5 million complex was for “all God’s people” (see September 26 issue, page 44). Exactly three weeks later, the Washington, D. C., chairman of the Black United Front (a Methodist minister) exhorted the congregation to pay $2 million in “reparations” to help “rebuild the burned-out places” of the city.

The money, said the Rev. Douglas Moore, ultimately would go to the Black Economic Development Conference, the organization spearheading a national drive for billions from the nation’s churches. Elson—who said Moore had asked to speak at the service and subsequently was invited—demurred on the $2 million request, noting that the congregation couldn’t vote on such an action. He promised to forward the demand to United Presbyterian governing bodies “where the decisions are made.”

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Other Washington, D.C., area churches were targets for Black United Front reparations demands last month, and the week before the National Presbyterian confrontation, Washington synagogues were asked for $10 million.

On Worldwide Communion Sunday, BUF representatives hit Washington Cathedral (the national Episcopal church) and Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church for $2 million each. Cathedral dean Francis B. Sayre said the cathedral was “not a collection agency” and could not liquidate its assets.

Lumps For COCU

The letter to participants in the National Conference on Program made up of leaders from the nine Protestant denominations in the Consultation on Church Union (COCU) outlined the goals:

“We are in Cincinnati (Sept. 30–Oct. 2) to explore how we might correlate some of our engagement in mission and to seek ways to draw our resources together in a way that could even now, prior to church union, make it possible for us to work in total mission through new relationships.”

Dr. Kenneth G. Neigh, general secretary of the United Presbyterian Board of National Mission, had a simple suggestion: Bypass COCU.

Neigh, a blunt-spoken bureaucrat who seems to be able to set long-fused bombshells and then get out of the building before the explosion, told the 150 delegates listening to a panel discussion: “The age of Blake and Pike doesn’t necessarily coincide with the Age of Aquarius.” (It was a sermon preached by the Rev. Eugene Carson Blake, Presbyterian, in the church of then Episcopal Bishop James Pike that launched COCU nine years ago.)

Neigh said COCU is “faith and order oriented” and could not be an effective ecumenical vehicle for countering the crisis in society because it is “missing two of the most vigorous, creative and far-sighted groups of all Protestant communions,” the Baptists and the Lutherans—not to mention the Roman Catholics.

“We are past the ‘my how we love each other’ stage and down to the nitty-gritty. And there probably is going to be union de facto long before ecclesiastical statutes can be tidied up enough to admit union de jure.”

He credited James Forman and the Black Manifesto with revitalizing the National Council of Churches. “The NCC has brought the conciliar movement back into a kind of currency and importance it was losing. The NCC in its restructure and re-examination probably will emerge, and probably ought to emerge, as [the] arena” for social action by like-minded groups—both religious and secular.

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“Somewhere, somehow, some group has to develop a valid doctrine of the Holy Spirit or we are dead, and someone must develop a valid doctrine of the Church,” he said, indicating that as the role of COCU. He added that it took three years to set up the COCU-sponsored program conference—and action groups can’t wait that long.

COCU also got its lumps from youth and the blacks. Leila Fenhagen, 18, the youngest, and by far the prettiest delegate, expressed doubt about the future of COCU in an interview.

“How can you have denominational union when we don’t even have individual church union?” asked the mini-skirted teen-ager from Spartanburg, South Carolina. “Every church has to deal with the problems of the blacks and the youth today if it is to be relevant. Great Scott! There’s so much to be done. COCU would be worthwhile if it happens soon. The Church needs a traumatic experience, and maybe COCU is it,” she said, somewhat ambiguously.

Paul Melrose, a student at New York’s Union Theological Seminary who sat on the youth panels, filled the role of flagellant at the conference. He lashed out at society for permitting the Viet Nam war, the Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinations, and the Green Beret murder. “COCU might be some place if they decided to take some action before leaving Cincinnati,” Melrose said. “Do something in support of the Viet Nam moratorium. If you do, you might restore some of our faith in the Church.” They didn’t.

The Rev. E. Franklin Jackson, secretary of the connectional budget board of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, said the question is, “What will COCU share with the black church and how much is it ready to accept? There has been so little recognition of what the black church has to offer.” He said the COCU book of worship failed to include even one spiritual. “It didn’t have soul,” he said.

Lucius Pitts, a student from Miles College in Birmingham, was more kind to COCU. “I hope COCU can be formed because in our present society it is needed.” (One delegate later remarked, “Did you ever notice how much more compassionate the blacks are than the white youths?”)

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In its concluding session, the conference asked the participating denominations to name a nine-member steering committee to “stimulate, observe, and evaluate existing and innovative united planning and action.” The delegates noted that “in some communities collaboration of parishes and congregations in mission enterprises has far outstripped concerted national church efforts.” United planning and action were urged in the areas of youth ministry, economic development, theological education, collaboration between whites and blacks and other minority groups, education, and peace.


Unexpected Kudos

Christian missionary efforts in Africa received plaudits from an unexpected source when an African head of state visited Canada in September. The visitor, President Diori Hamani of the Republic of Niger, is a Muslim.

President Diori especially requested the Canadian government to include a visit to the Toronto headquarters of the Sudan Interior Mission on his itinerary. During his visit to the aging red brick building in downtown Toronto, he invested SIM general director Dr. Raymond J. Davis as an officer of the National Order of the Republic of Niger, one of the country’s highest honors.

The award was made to Davis, declared the Niger president, in appreciation of the SIM missionaries’ contributions to his country. Niger, with a population of four million, has one of the world’s highest illiteracy rates (99.1 per cent) and an average life expectancy of thirty-seven years.

The SIM operates the only leprosarium in the country, one of Niger’s three hospitals, an agricultural school, a Bible school, and four other schools. Fifty-three SIM missionaries work in the country.

The Niger president did not confine his praise to the headquarters’ visit: at a government dinner in his honor, he devoted most of his address to lauding the missionaries’ work. “The seeds of kindness sown by these missionaries long before we became independent have been a factor in the friendly relations we now enjoy with your government,” he told the legislators.

Christian missionary work has been assailed as an expression of Western colonialism; this Muslim head of state pointed to the other side of the coin.


Publications: What’s New

A new magazine called Letterman will be launched in February with sports news for 2.5 million high-school athletes. Paul D. Nyberg, for ten years editor of Venture, became publisher of the new publication last month after leaving the staff of the Christian Service Brigade.

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The bimonthly will be mailed to boys after they qualify for its free distribution through high-school coaches. An initial circulation of one million is contemplated. Wheaton College veteran coach and athletic director Harvey C. Chrouser is president of Letterman Publications, Inc., formed to own and publish Letterman.

Starting with the December issue, Faith at Work magazine will be published jointly by the Faith at Work organization and Word, Inc. A new editorial board will add Keith Miller. Kenneth Chafin. Ben C. Johnson, and Jarrel McCracken to the Faith at Work staff. Rodeheaver, publisher of sacred music, is now a division of Word.

In another cooperative venture, next January John Knox Press of the Southern Presbyterian Church and the United Presbyterian Westminster Press will join sales forces. And a new magazine called Church and Society—continuing the sixty-year history of the United Presbyterian Social Progress—will be issued six times a year beginning in January by agencies of both denominations.

Christian Times readers this month received the first renovated issue of the Tyndale House publication. The four-page center section, which adds 50 per cent more space, is designed as an evangelism piece for the readers to pass along. Expansion involves an arrangement between Tyndale House and Harvest Publications in which Christian Times acquired the editorial service of Today editor David Olson and his editorial staff at Harvest’s Chicago offices. Olson has become editor of both Christian Times and Today; Don Crawford, who edited the Christian Times since its inception in 1967, is now specializing in book writing.

Charter subscribers to Context, “a continuing survey of Protestant trends and opinions” edited by theologian-editor-historian Martin E. Marty, were to receive the first issue of the twice-monthly newsletter this month.

Meanwhile in London, a new, interdenominational, evangelical weekly began publication October 3. The Christian Record is produced by the Church of England Newspaper. Managing Editor John Capon, 31, expects the new venture to fill a gap created last June when The Christian and Christianity Today was terminated (see June 20 issue, page 31).

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Roman Synod: Room For Democracy?

Weeks before the October 11 opening of the Roman Catholic Synod of Bishops, liberal and conservative prelates scheduled to attend the international gathering in Rome had already drawn up battle lines for a possible showdown.

For example:

The church has “absolutely no room for democracy” in its structure, declared Joseph Cardinal Siri, Archbishop of Genoa and a conservative leader of the rigid Roman Curia. The non-democratic character of the church, he added, is the will of God and this “we cannot change and may not change.”

Other prelates disagreed. Among them was the popular and outspoken Leo Joseph Cardinal Suenens, Primate of Belgium, who earlier had published an extensive criticism of the Curia and urged greater “co-responsibility” in the church.

And a symposium of bishops, theologians, and canon lawyers meeting in Dayton, Ohio, last month, urged Pope Paul VI to allow greater authority for the Synod of Bishops. At least twenty-three hierarchies, including that of the United States, reportedly have asked that the Pope consult with national bishops’ conferences before making major pronouncements.

At the Dayton meeting, a statement issued by Bishop Alexander Carter, chief prelate of Canada, and fourteen American scholars recommended that full supreme power for governing the church belong to the whole episcopate. The Pope’s supremacy is “a primacy within rather than over” the rest of the universal body of bishops, the statement said.

The decision to call the synod into extraordinary session was made after a number of national hierarchies issued differing interpretations of the pontiff’s 1968 birth-control encyclical.

The official agenda for the meeting (a closely guarded secret until it leaked out) curiously did not mention either the birth-control issue or the celibacy of priests—two flash points of recent months. According to the Vatican, the main topic for the prelates was to be the relation between the national conferences of bishops and the Holy See, as well as among the conferences themselves.

The debate on authority was expected to surface during discussion of the requirement that national hierarchies obtain clearance from Rome “before publishing any declaration on a grave matter” (a Vatican recommendation).

Six American prelates, including John Cardinal Dearden, president of the U. S. hierarchy, were to be among the 146 bishops, fifteen Eastern Rite bishops, heads of fifteen Vatican departments, and several others named by the Pope to attend the synod.

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As tension mounted last month between those who advocated stronger papal authority and those who plumped for greater sharing of it, a rival conference of progressive European Catholic priests was set to open three days earlier. The “little synod”—also to be in Rome—was called for at a “rump assembly” of priests held in Chur, Switzerland, last summer when the Second Symposium of European Bishops met there. Celibacy, birth control, and mixed marriage were set as agenda items for the proposed rival meeting in an attempt to steal thunder from the Bishops.

The Hindu-Muslim Conflict

Armed forces quelled violence in northern India last month, just in time for the centennial of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth on October 2. Sites of the rioting between Hindus and Muslims included Ahmedabad, the city in which Gandhi lived during the early years of his nonviolent struggle for India’s independence.

Cows typically touched off the disorders: when they wandered into prayer areas, Muslims killed them, thereby inviting retaliation from Hindus, who consider the cow sacred.

But the hostility goes deeper. Muslims moving from farm to city often feel at a disadvantage because Hindus have traditionally been India’s businessmen and because in India jobs usually come through caste connections. Also, Muslims have resented the removal of Urdu to unofficial status; their language was once the dominant one in northern India. Further, Muslims see Jan Sangh party efforts to change India from a pluristic state to a Hindu country as a threat to their participation in Indian life.

Although Muslims make up only 11 per cent of India’s population, they number 55 million. Only Pakistan and Indonesia have more Muslims. In a message to the Indian government, Pakistan expressed “deep concern” at the Hindu-Muslim riots and asked protection for Muslims and their property. Unofficial figures listed more than 350 dead and 700 injured before the army intervened in the disorders.

Joining A Higher League

The English soccer world has been rocked by the decision of two top players to leave the game for full-time service with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Last month, heedless of pleas from the giant crowd that included many tearful girl fans, 23-year old Peter Knowles played his last game for Wolverhampton. Two weeks later Bobby Tambling, 28, of Chelsea, an all-England forward, also decided to quit a lucrative career, be baptized, and give 150 hours a month as a “pioneer” with the sect. His pay would be $5.88 a month with $72 annual clothing allowance.

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From London’s $720,000 Watchtower House a spokesman denied special efforts to convert famous sportsmen, but football officials are skeptical of the disclaimer. “If any player is approached by these people we would welcome a chat with him before he gets too involved,” says Cliff Lloyd, secretary of the professional footballers’ association. Meanwhile managers are understandably jumpy; as someone has said, they never know when a player will enter their office with the announcement: “I would like to pray with the Jehovah’s Witnesses next season.”


Whither Parochial Pupils?

Should the federal government provide money for public schools facing heavy enrollment increases because of the closing of parochial schools?

Yes, says Dr. Glenn L. Archer, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“Every child coming from a parochial school must have a guaranteed place available to him in the public school,” said Archer. He suggested establishment of local contingency funds to meet emergencies and said that the money should be provided by the federal government, by the state, or by a combination of both.

He called the “impacted aid” principle a precedent for such funding. It provides special help from Washington for school boards in areas where sudden influxes of population have been brought about by federal agencies.

Religion In Transit

The Rev. James E. Groppi said he was “happy” to go to jail in Madison, Wisconsin, and refused $50 bond to carry out his “holy act.” The militant Roman Catholic priest, protesting Wisconsin welfare cuts, was arrested for disorderly conduct early this month and cited for contempt of the Wisconsin State Assembly when he led demonstrators into the assembly chamber. The citation, first ever issued under an 1848 law, could keep the Milwaukee priest behind bars for six months without a trial.

As predicted (see September 12 issue, page 50), Paul C. Allen resigned as editor of the American Baptist newsmagazine Crusader to become an editorial writer for three Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, newspapers.

The Senate has passed and sent to the House of Representatives a liberalized food-stamp program that, among other things, will allow churches and other nonprofit agencies to administer food-stamp programs and to serve meals to elderly persons in exchange for food stamps.

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Madalyn Murray O’Hair listed 20,000 people who oppose religious broadcasts from Apollo space flights. Family Radio Stations in San Francisco used a one-and-a-half-ton truck to send NASA more than 300,000 approving letters received since it began “Project Astronaut.”

A Maryland church runs a play of its own during Baltimore Colts football games. The first Baptist Church of Cambridge sponsors games broadcast over radio station WCEM with one-minute “commercials”—testimonies of professional football players geared to sports fans.

The largest Sunday school in the United States is that of Akron (Ohio) Baptist Temple, with an average attendance of 5,763. Seven of the top ten Sunday schools fall within a 500-mile radius of Cincinnati, Ohio; nine are Baptist.

The Delaware Department of Justice dropped a blasphemy charge against a high-school student, explaining that the 143-year-old statute was probably unconstitutional. William F. Bertolette was co-publisher of an underground high-school newspaper that contained an article referring to Jesus as a bastard.

A common Communion cup may spread infection, according to the report of a test conducted at Bethesda Lutheran Hospital in St. Paul.

American families should have only two children, urges a resolution passed in a special meeting of the Association for Voluntary Sterilization.


JAMES C. BAKER, 90, retired Methodist bishop, founder of the Wesley Foundation movement on college and university campuses; in Pomona, California.

HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, 91, author, leader of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, founding pastor of Riverside Church in New York City; in Bronxville, New York (see editorial, page 31).

M. WILLARD LAMPE, 86, organizer and longtime director of the University of Iowa’s School of Religion; in Iowa City.

JOE EMERSON ROSE, 67, radio gospel singer of the thirties heard nationally on “A Word and a Song” and “Hymns of All Churches”; in Waynesville, North Carolina.


On the last Sunday in September the Rev. Allan R. Watson, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, became the first ordained Baptist minister to conduct White House services. The previous week’s speaker was Dr. Charles H. Malik, a Greek Orthodox layman from Lebanon who formerly was president of the United Nations General Assembly.

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Dr. Frank E. Farrell, at one time on the staff of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, has assumed duties as associate editor of World Vision Magazine after a stint at Gospel Light Publications.

Judson College will get a new president in December. Dr. Harm A. Weber will leave Covenant Baptist Church of Detroit, one of the largest in the American Baptist Convention, to head the liberal-arts college in Elgin, Illinois.

Evangelist Monroe Parker has been appointed general director of Baptist World Mission. The fundamentalist preacher will continue his evangelistic ministry while directing the mission from its new headquarters in Decatur, Alabama.

At an appreciation dinner in Chicago, Dr. Clyde W. Taylor, general secretary of the National Association of Evangelicals, was honored for a quarter century of service.

Dr. Kent S. Knutson was installed as president of 116-year-old Wartburg Theological Seminary last month. The theologian is the American Lutheran seminary’s ninth president.

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale presented the Good Samaritan Trophy of Guideposts magazine to United Methodist clergyman Dr. John L. Peters, president of World Neighbors.

The world’s oldest continuous gospel radio program, the late Charles E. Fuller’s “Old Fashioned Revival Hour,” has a new name, “The Joyful Sound,” and a new speaker, David Allan Hubbard, president of Fuller Theological Seminary.

Baylor University religion professor Kyle Yates has retired to write and preach at Bible conferences. Yates, a contributing editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, served on a committee to produce the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Waterloo Lutheran University in Ontario will confer an honorary doctor of divinity degree on Paul-Emile Cardinal Leger next month. The former Roman Catholic archbishop of Montreal is visiting Canada this fall for the first time since he left in 1967 to minister to lepers in Cameroon, Africa.

World Scene

In the Philippines, two rival congressional candidates met for prayer before a political debate. The interreligious assembly sponsoring the politics-with-prayer program hopes to avoid the gun battles that accompanied 1965 elections.

Dr. Lars Thunberg, director of Scandinavia’s Ecumenical Institute in Sweden, anticipates a Scandinavian Church Council composed of denominations presently part of the World Council of Churches. Still uncertain is the status of the Roman Catholic Church.… Baptist seminaries in Sweden have a combined enrollment for the current year of seventy-two. For the first time a woman is president of the student body at one of the two seminaries.

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Rumors that the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs plans to put a synagogue in the cellars of the Al Aqsa Mosque are “completely baseless,” said Dr. Zerah Wahrhaftig. The ministry head recalled that the chief rabbis had specifically forbidden Jews to enter the Temple Mountain area where the mosque is located. An Australian Christian is on trial for arson in the September burning of the mosque.

One of the last links between East and West Germany was broken when Communist pressure split the German Evangelical Church last month. Dr. Albrecht Schoenherr, formerly administrator of the eastern portion of the divided Berlin-Brandenburg diocese, was elected to the top post of the new Federation of Evangelical Churches in East Germany.

Bands, bunting, and Bob Jones, Jr., opened the Rev. Ian Paisley’s new church (estimated by Religious News Service to cost $420,000) in Belfast, Ireland. After a clash with police during the processional to the church, an estimated 6,000 persons from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the United States overflowed into two tents to hear the president of Bob Jones University (Greenville, South Carolina) preach.

The vote planned for next May on union of English Presbyterians and Congregationalists has been postponed until 1971 because of legal issues.

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