I know what you are doing; I know that you have the reputation of being alive, even though you are dead! So wake up, and strengthen what you still have, before it dies completely.

—Revelation 3:1–2, TEV

John’s divine message to the church at Sardis was appropriated by Ralph Abernathy last month as a relevant word for the American religious establishment. Abernathy told the General Board of the National Council of Churches that failure to press more vigorously for social justice is a fatal symptom.

The board members gave Abernathy a warm welcome to their two-day meeting in Washington and expressed their gratitude for his prodding address. Actually, however, they didn’t need to be reminded of the moribund condition of American conciliarism, for the main item on the agenda was an attempt to rescue the perishing.

A fifteen-member task force had been named in January to come up with alternatives to the present NCC. The group, “after two intensive two-day meetings,” came up with a thirty-five page report giving four options. The Reverend Arie R. Brouwer, an executive of the Reformed Church in America who serves as chairman of the task force, said the report “was generated almost entirely in the meetings of the group. Through it all we kept scrawling ideas and observations on pieces of newsprint which were then taped around the walls.… The material thus generated was put into the hands of Dr. David Hunter.… From it he compiled the report.”

Hunter is deputy general secretary of the NCC and is considered by some to be heir apparent to the American conciliar throne.

Perhaps more important than the options suggested (the final plan will doubtless be an adaptation with features from two or more of the proposals) were these recommendations ...

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