A 20-foot chart displayed on a decorative brick wall greeted the Key 73 Central Committee as it convened in a motel near the St. Louis airport last month. The chart depicted the program calendar for the first joint evangelistic effort ever undertaken by North America’s leading churches. Its subsequent adoption in principle by a unanimous vote of the committee cleared a major hurdle.
“Calling Our Continent to Christ” is the theme of Key 73. The theme Scripture verse is Hebrews 13:8 (“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever”).
Debut of the multi-colored chart, jokingly compared to a dispensational diagram, was preceded by four years of planning and discussion. The 16-member Key 73 Executive Committee, responsible for programming, recommended it to the Central Committee.
Key 73, a year-long effort slated for 1973, includes most of North America’s leading communions (over 100 denominations and evangelistic agencies). Latest to join are the United Church of Canada and the Church of the Brethren. Each group has one representative on the Central Committee.
Although the program calendar lists some special cooperative events and allots times for simultaneous activities, no participant is bound to them. Dr. Theodore A. Raedeke, executive director of Key 73, reminded the Central Committee that “one of the outstanding features of this effort is that it enables all Christian denominations and groups to participate without violating or compromising their doctrinal position or practice.” Every denomination, he emphasized, “is charged with developing its own program or thrust.”
One new participant at the two-day St. Louis meeting commented that he was glad to see that the size of the participating groups did not seem to be determining the extent of their influence. He said he felt that “the Holy Spirit may be moving through the smaller denominations.”
A number of religious organizations are building their 1973 programs to take advantage of Key 73 and to contribute to its success. The American Bible Society has made generous offers of Scripture portions for use as evangelistic tools. Such publications as the Upper Room, the world’s most widely used devotional guide, plan to relate the content of 1973 issues to Key 73.
Newly named to fill vacancies on the Key 73 Executive Committee were Campus Crusade president William Bright and the Reverend John Anderson of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. Both groups have been active in Key 73 negotiations from the outset.
The effort gets its name from the Key Bridge consultations which led up to it. The consultations in turn were so identified because they met initially at a motel near the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The bridge spans the Potomac River between Washington, D. C., and Arlington, Virginia.
An editorial, “Somehow, Let’s Get Together,” which appeared in the June 9, 1967, issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, provided the stimulus for the consultations. Eventually a set of by-laws was adopted that established a small secretariat with an office in St. Louis.
Biggest debate at last month’s meeting focused upon financing; more than half the participating groups have yet to contribute (the Central Committee had decided last year against appealing for individual contributions for the time being). Highlighting the debate were cool but firm floor exchanges between Dr. Joseph Yeakel, head of evangelism for United Methodism, and Finance Committee chairman John Brown of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. The Central Committee decided to require financial participation of groups listed in an active category but not to condition membership upon a specified amount.
The Accc: New Leaders, New Goals
The American Council of Christian Churches is beginning its thirty-first year with a new general secretary and a new president: Raymond F. Hamilton, pastor of Temple Baptist (GARB) Church in Portsmouth, Ohio, replaced outgoing president J. Philip Clark of Calvary Independent Presbyterian Church, Glendale, California; and D. Donald L. Gorham, who has been the ACCC southern representative since 1966, assumed the executive role of John Millheim, who will teach theology and ecumenism at the Baptist Bible College (GARB) in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.
Clark—who had led the fundamentalist organization said to represent 750,000 members for three years—and Millheim will remain on the ACCC’s Executive Committee. The new officers were named at the thirtieth anniversary convention of the ACCC, held in St. Louis October 27–29. Sixty-eight voting delegates were registered. There were no blacks.
This convention seemed tame compared to the tumultuous affairs of the past several years. The council’s founder and chief attention-getter, Dr. Carl McIntire, was not present. Although he had threatened to show up and demand “retribution” for injustices allegedly laid on him in Pasadena (see November 20, 1970, issue, page 44), the radio warrior instead was in the nation’s capital demonstrating against President Nixon’s planned trip to mainland China and the expulsion of Nationalist China from the United Nations.
The week before, McIntire was again elected moderator of the Bible Presbyterian Synod (with one negative vote), and ten delegates were to be sent from that body to the St. Louis ACCC meeting, despite the fact that the ACCC expelled the Bible Presbyterians at Pasadena.
McIntire, presenting his ambitious Temple-building plan (see October 8 issue, page 56) to the BP Synod, had glad-hand Maryland state comptroller Louis L. Goldstein in tow, extolling the virtues of the “great ecumenical venture” designed to bring together, Jews, Catholics, and Protestants. Describing the Bible Presbyterians’ response to that disclosure, one observer declared: “There was unanimous silence.”
And less than a week before the ACCC meeting, McIntire led his fourth Washington, D. C., March for Victory in Viet Nam. It rained on his parade—again. The response was almost as dismal as the weather: liberal estimates were that 2,500 conservative supporters joined the two-hour rally on the Capitol grounds.
And in still another McIntire machination, the radio preacher claimed in his Christian Beacon that the Free Chinese ping-pong team he had brought to the United States from Taiwan had caused Red premier Chou En-lai not to send the Red Chinese team although that team had already accepted an invitation to tour the United States.
McIntire cited as evidence for the foiling of the Red team a story that appeared in the Sing Tao Daily News of Singapore on October 9. Chou, according to the article, reportedly told sixty Americans in a news conference that China “is deeply upset about it” (the ping-pong coup).
The ACCC, which mustered only about seventy persons for its national sessions in St. Louis after the first night (when perhaps 600 saw the new Bob Jones University film Flame in the Wind), differs little from McIntire’s position regarding the United States and Red China. In a blistering resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of the United States from the U. N. and the removal of U. N. headquarters from American soil, the council denounced the “tragic, unjust, and immoral action of the U. N. … in accepting Red China and expelling Nationalist China.…”
A companion resolution called for President Nixon to cancel his trip to mainland China. Other resolutions condemned abortion on demand, and favored the proposed Constitutional amendment to allow voluntary prayer in the public schools (adding that Bible reading should also be permitted).
Delegates voted in favor of capital punishment, saying that the death penalty “is taught in the Bible and that God Himself instituted this form of justice.” Other resolutions scored an experimental social-science course for elementary schools (“Man—A Course of Study”) for its “humanism and naturalism,” and roundly denounced the ecumenical movement for deepening apostasy and the “New Evangelical movement (National Association of Evangelicals, Evangelism-in-Depth, Key 73, Campus Crusade) as … compromising groups” and “erring brethren.”The ACCC believes that Scripture teaches a trinity of separation: “from apostates and false teachers (2 Cor. 6:14, 18), from brethren who walk disorderly (2 Thess. 3:14, 15), and from the world (1 John 2:15–17). We do not share the belief of some that there are degrees of separation.” All resolutions were adopted unanimously after minimal debate.
The ACCC accepted a new body into its membership: Asbury Bible Churches, a fellowship beginning with six congregations last month. (Gorham, 35, is vice-chairman.) The following day ACCC-affiliated groups organized the American Association of Bible-believing Methodists, composed of the Fundamental Methodist Church, the Evangelical Methodist Church (not to be confused with a larger group with the same name in the NAE), Asbury Bible Churches, Bible Protestant Church, the Francis Asbury Society of Ministers, and independent Methodist churches.
While the ACCC voting membership is composed of eleven associations of churches, the largest by far of which is the GARBC with 130,000 members, Gorham said in an interview that the council will endeavor to put more emphasis on “service to individual Bible-believing churches” in the 1970s, and less emphasis on denominations.
Other goals involve more vital linkage to laymen, youth, and “Bible-believing, separated” Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Negroes. Judging from the small attendance and apparent lack of solid support at St. Louis, the ACCC brass have a decade of work cut out for themselves.
Disciples Pick Black
A black minister, the first of his race, was elected moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Louisville last month. Dr. Walter D. Bingham will head the 1.5 million-member denomination, formed 170 years ago in Kentucky during slavery days, until 1973. The predominantly white church (it has about 50,000 blacks) is America’s largest native denomination.
Bingham, 50, was elected without opposition. He is pastor of Louisville’s Third Christian Church. “It’s both an honor and a challenge,” he told 6,000 delegates who stood to applaud his election at the biennial assembly.
In other elections, Mrs. H. H. Wilkes of North Hollywood, California, became the first woman to be a vice-moderator of the denomination.
During the early hours of the main convention, the delegates whisked through nineteen church reports in record time, and a crowd of 7,000 was served Communion in the pews in a mere five minutes.
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