“They squirmed a little at the method, but then they saw it was necessary and they dug it.”

That was the way one youth delegate described the disruption of the special general convention of the Episcopal Church this month when black spokesmen for the Black Economic Development Conference told startled delegates they wanted $200,000 immediately and without strings.

The convention squirmed and struggled with the racial confrontation for four days; indeed, the matter dominated—and exhausted—everyone. Whether or not the 900 official delegates appreciated the militant methods (they included almost every trick in the book) they “dug it” enough to come up with the money—with a couple of strings.

This was only the second special general convention of the 3.6-million-member denomination (the last was in New York in 1821), and it was called to consider business left over from the Seattle general convention of 1967 (see October 13 issue, page 40).

The South Bend gathering, whose setting was the lovely lawns and ivied halls of Catholic Notre Dame University, was billed as the conference of structure (also mission and authority); press advances said organizational and legislative changes would be hammered out to shape the Episcopal Church for modern times. Instead, it turned out to be the convention of the Black Manifesto, the BEDC, and the “dump the military system” movement.

It also was the convention of compromise. And suspense.

The blacks got the money, two AWOL servicemen got de facto sanctuary for their opposition to the Viet Nam war, and conservatives (and some moderates) got the mitigated satisfaction of seeing the convention refuse to give reparations directly to the James Forman-affiliated ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: