A fifteen-member ecumenical task force was created last month as a step toward restructure of the National Council of Churches. The move came at the climax of a five-day meeting of the NCC General Board, longest in its history, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Board action implemented a proposal made in December by Dr. R. H. Edwin Espy, NCC general secretary, for a new “General Ecumenical Council” that would embrace many now outside the conciliar movement, including the Roman Catholic Church (see CHRISTIANITY TODAY, December 19 issue).
The task force was asked to “assist the General Board in exploring the implications of applying the guidelines to the roles and functions for the NCCCUSA in respect of (a) planning and program, (b) funding, (c) accountability and staffing, (d) scope, and (e) organization and structure, and to do so by developing various alternatives or options for the General Board to examine and to act upon together at the [next] meeting.” The next meeting will be held in Washington. D. C., June 20 and 21.
Chairman of the group will be the Rev. Arie R. Brouwer, 34-year-old program secretary for the Reformed Church in America. Iowa-born Brouwer is a newcomer to ecumenical affairs. He is a graduate of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary. Before joining the denominational headquarters staff in New York in 1968 Brouwer pastored churches in Michigan and New Jersey.
The task force was appointed by Espy and Dr. Cynthia Wedel, NCC president. It includes two denominational presidents, the Rev. Robert Marshall of the Lutheran Church in America and the Rev. Robert Moss of the United Church of Christ. There are also two students on the committee.
The Tulsa board meeting was a quiet affair, a marked contrast to the December General Assembly of the NCC in Detroit, where radical elements repeatedly disrupted the proceedings. Plenary sessions were held in a sixteenth-floor ballroom of Tulsa’s Mayo Hotel. Social issues took a back seat as the board spent most of its time discussing the future of the council and housekeeping matters.
Alongside Espy’s restructure plan the board had a report from a preliminary reappraisal committee headed by United Presbyterian stated clerk William Thompson. The ideas were described as having much in common, but board members seemed to sense some conflicts. The Espy plan is built around decentralization of present structures and more diversification and autonomy for constituent boards. The Thompson proposal emphasized experimental projects in behalf of member communions. The floor debate was in general terms. There was no effort to examine aspects of council activity that have been repeatedly criticized by evangelicals.
A financial report showed board members that the NCC faces continually shrinking revenue. Tighter controls over expenditures were promised by the chairman for general administration and finance.
The draft of a tribute to the late Czech theologian Josef Hromádka prompted a measure of discussion. As originally worded, the statement included a reference to the fact that Hromádka’s resignation as president of the Christian Peace Conference grew out of political pressure prompted by his denunciation of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Over the protests of a number of board members, including a majority of the youth delegation, the tribute was amended so that the resignation was explained merely as having been “precipitated by pressures on Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact countries.”
The board turned down a request that it go on record as opposing the nomination of Federal Judge G. Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court. It adopted a resolution urging extension of voting rights to those between 18 and 21 and another supporting the right of public employees and employees of non-profit public-service institutions to organize and bargain collectively.
Which Way Presbyterians?
Realignment, not reunion, is the direction in which the “Northern” and “Southern” Presbyterian churches should move. This was the view expressed by Kenneth Keyes, president of Concerned Presbyterians, at a January meeting of the Joint Committee of Twenty-four in Alexandria, Virginia.
The committee, composed of twelve members from the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. and twelve from the Presbyterian Church in the United States, has been charged with the task of proposing a plan of union for the two denominations, which divided a century ago. The purpose of this most recent meeting of the committee was to allow blacks, youth, women, unchurched young adults, conservatives, and liberals to express their views.
Keyes, along with representatives of the Presbyterian Lay Committee (UPUSA) and Presbyterian Churchmen United (PUS), spoke for conservatives. These seemed to be of one mind in most of their concerns (affirmation of the authority of Scripture, continuing adherence to the Westminster Standards, rejection of any form of universalism, support of involvement of individuals in social action combined with rejection of public pronouncements on purely political issues by church leaders, and greater lay participation in the church).
Keyes contended that reunion would compound rather than cure the tensions and divisions within the two denominations. He suggested that Presbyterians from both denominations who embraced conservative and traditional Presbyterianism should unite in a continuing Presbyterian U. S. Church, and that the more liberal and ecumenically oriented should come together in the United Presbyterian Church.
COCU by any other name may be “Church of Christ Uniting.” At least that is the tag proposed for the 25-million-member Protestant church that could emerge from the Consultation on Church Union. The commission drafting the ecumenical plan wanted to emphasize the ongoing process of union. It’s not “the end of the pilgrimage,” said chairman William A. Benfield, Jr.
Representatives of the women of both denominations called for a greater involvement of women in the total mission of the Church. One of the women expressed the problem by saying that “whatever frustrations laymen feel within the Church, women feel within the laity.”
Black representatives approved union, but only if their present advantages in the United Presbyterian Church (such as having most of their representation at the national level because two Southern synods are predominantly black) are not only maintained but enhanced, with blacks and other minorities represented on all boards at all levels.
The non-church young adults made a slide presentation and then let questions “bounce off them” so that the committeemen could hear what one segment of society had to say. The committee could hardly endorse what it heard since the gist of it was that non-churchmen couldn’t care less what happens to two denominations that were still divided a century after the slavery debate that split them had ended. One young non-churchman commented that all the talk about union or community didn’t matter if there were not a common understanding of what the community was to do. Getting together just to get together was not worth crossing the street for.
James Francis Cardinal McIntyre, 83, announced his retirement as Archbishop of Los Angeles. He will be succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop Timothy J. Manning, 60. McIntyre has had the reputation of being an unyielding conservative. Manning was born in County Cork, Ireland.
The Rev. Richard J. Schultz was elected president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois. The 50-year-old Schultz has been a member of the Concordia faculty since 1965. He succeeds Dr. J. A. O. Preus, who was elected president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod at its denominational convention last summer.
The Rev. Robert Masterson was named dean of Catholic University’s School of Sacred Theology. A faculty-student group had sought the post for the Rev. Roland E. Murphy. Murphy had been nominated, but his name was withdrawn, reportedly because he had signed a statement taking issue with Pope Paul’s encyclical against birth control.
Dr. Gerald H. Anderson will succeed the retiring Dr. D. D. Holt as president of Scarritt College for Christian Workers in Nashville, Tennessee. Anderson has been a Methodist missionary in the Philippines since 1969 and taught church history and ecumenics at Union Theological Seminary, near Manila.
Dr. H. Leo Eddleman resigned as president of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and was named executive vice-president of Religious Heritage of America. He has been head man at New Orleans since 1959.
Gil A. Stricklin, public-relations director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for the past five years, has been named staff associate for personal evangelism in the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The 35-year-old Texas native coordinated press, radio, and TV coverage of the World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin in 1966.
Verent J. Mills becomes the executive director of the Christian Children’s Fund this month. He has been associated with the fund since 1948. The fund, largest organization of its kind in the country, assists in the care of more than 100,000 children around the world.
The Rev. John E. Richards has been named executive secretary of Presbyterian Churchmen United. He is minister of First Presbyterian Church in Macon, Georgia, and will continue in that post. The PCU was organized to help ensure the continuation of a church that is Reformed in doctrine and Presbyterian in government.
A U. S. Senate subcommittee’s hearings on oral contraceptives were disrupted last month by a group of women who demanded to know why only men were testifying. The group, most of whom were described as being in their early twenties, said they were members of the “Washington Women’s Liberation.” They issued a press release asking such questions as, “Why isn’t there a male pill? What kind of reparations will be made by the white male medical establishment to women who have been used as guinea pigs in this mass experiment?”
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