The 3.1-million-member Lutheran Church in America (LCA) still has no “presiding bishop”—the 679 delegates to last month’s biennial convention again rejected the title for their highest officer. (Attempts to reconsider the issue after delegates voted it down failed.) At the convention, held in Baltimore, Maryland, Robert J. Marshall, who has recommended adoption of the title, was reelected president for a second four-year term. On the second ballot he defeated Wallace E. Fisher, the first person ever to campaign for the office in the denomination (formed by a four-church merger in 1962).

Election procedures were altered so that delegates could hear short speeches by the two top candidates on the issues facing the church. Fisher cited the danger of war and pollution as two areas that the church must confront. Marshall in his “election” speech after the first balloting told convention delegates that “the confessional issue” is the primary concern facing the church today. It is as important for the church corporately to understand its identity, he said, as it is “for us as individuals to know who we are. We need to think succinctly of what the church is.” Marshall cited fellowship and missions as the other two areas of church concern. “The last biennial,” he said, “we emphasized evangelism. This year it is theological education.”

To find out what the parishioners believe in relation to what the church teaches, theologian William H. Lazareth directed a two-year “Study of Theological Affirmations” requested at the last biennial convention. A Savannah, Georgia, pastor, James R. Crumley, chaired the committee that formulated the report. (Both men were nominated for secretary, the LCA’s second-highest office. After four ballots Crumley was elected.)

Lazareth visited seminaries, and he and the other committee members studied cassette-taped material supplied by 100 test congregations. They found that nearly 80 per cent of the church’s communicants believe Christ is Lord and accept the Bible as true, though only 25 per cent accept Scripture “in a literalistic way.”

The study revealed that LCA members seem unable to relate their Sunday faith to their Monday world. To help the people put the two parts of their life together should be a primary goal of the church, Lazareth thinks.

The theologian also stressed that the study was not “binding or juridical” but “pastoral and doxological”—an obvious reference to the adoption by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) in New Orleans last year of a doctrinal statement binding on all members. “We sensed that the mood of the people required a pastoral approach,” Lazareth added. For the LCMS, as its president, J.A.O. Preus, told the LCA two years ago, “affirmations” is too weak a word. But, as shown by their reaction to Missouri’s move, the LCA delegates wanted no such doctrinal guidelines.

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Although a motion to “disinvite” the representative from Missouri was defeated, a motion to invite a spokesman from Evangelical Lutherans in Mission (ELIM), the “moderate” camp within the strife-torn LCMS, passed unanimously. Missouri’s trouble-shooting President Preus was unable to attend the convention as planned but sent presidential assistant Robert C. Sauer to bring greetings. Admitting that “relationships between [the two denominations] have not always been as one would wish them to be,” Sauer commended the LCA “for initiating and implementing” the “Study of Theological Affirmations.”

Before listening to ELIM’s representative, the convention in an overtime evening session passed a “Statement of Concern” on the LCMS controversy. The original statement recommended by the Committee of Reference and Counsel—considered “too mild” by many delegates—received little convention support. Theodore E. Matson, president of the Wisconsin-Upper Michigan Synod, introduced what one delegate called a more “direct” statement that “deplored and rejected all official efforts to legislate adherence to additional documents that serve only to fence God’s Word and fracture God’s people.” Both statements were referred back to committee, and a compromise statement passed after much debate (the most debate heard at the eight-day convention). The convention voted to “regret” rather than “deplore and reject” the LCMS doctrinal statement.

ELIM president Samuel J. Roth, pastor of a church near St. Louis, Missouri, told the delegates, who greeted him with a standing ovation, that “the question for us is, How do we use power and authority?” ELIM, he added, exists “as a signal to the church that unless something is done, we are surely headed for schism.”

Marshall explained to Roth that the LCA convention “hears two voices from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The Lutheran Church in America wants to be related to all segments of the Missouri Synod,” he added.

In response to the LCA “Statement of Concern,” Preus wrote a letter to Marshall rejecting “this judgment on the part of your church body.” The letter released by Preus to the press added that “the judgment the LCA has made about us is the most serious that can be made against a church body, especially one holding to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.” Preus intends to form a committee to discuss the controversy with Marshall or his representative.

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Another theological issue of growing concern within the denomination, and one that Lazareth hopes the theological-affirmations study can help to resolve, is the growing interest in the charismatic movement. According to Eugene Brand, the author of a report on the charismatic movement requested two years ago by the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, the movement is “on the increase” in the LCA. Brand’s report offers fourteen guidelines for congregations facing charismatic renewal and attempts to help charismatic Lutherans “understand their experience in harmony with the Scriptures and the confessional position of the Lutheran Church.” Brand stressed that authentic charismatic renewal, one that “bears fruit,” is to be welcomed, though he admitted that in many congregations the movement has proved divisive. But, he added, there is no inherent reason why people cannot be both Lutheran and charismatic.

In a move to maintain grassroots involvement in church policy, delegates reversed the 1972 convention’s decision to reduce the size and double the frequency of conventions (constitutional changes require approval at two consecutive conventions). They also called for a study to determine the status of minority groups throughout the denomination and asked for more representation of women on church boards and in church offices. Delegates also approved a study to consider the use of sexist language in worship materials.

Each of Marshall’s three issues was evident at this year’s convention. In keeping with the theological emphasis, delegates participated in both convention-wide and small-group Bible studies. The fellowship issue was raised in the report on the charismatic movement. And missions came up in the report on money. According to the budget report, approximately one-third of the 1975 and 1976 budgets approved by the convention—$36.7 million and $37.7 million respectively—will be spent to “reach others with the Gospel.”

Humbard: Backing Away From The Brink

While the financial pressure on Rex Humbard’s Cathedral of Tomorrow has eased considerably, there are still some rumblings from dissatisfied backers, and courts are still probing the business operations of the large Akron, Ohio, church.

More than $8 million has been paid out to those holding securities and demanding their money back, said a court-appointed business manager, J. William Henderson, and there are no notes currently outstanding. The financial troubles developed when a severe cash shortage caused a massive unloading of cathedral properties (see February 2, 1973, issue, page 39, and March 2, 1973, issue, page 47). A court-created trust fund was set up to refund money to security note-holders. The cathedral is still building the fund as required by the court, although all refund requests have been met so far, said Henderson.

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Nevertheless, a Lexington, Ohio, couple, Mr. and Mrs. William E. Templeton, charged that the cathedral and Humbard had “bilked” them of their savings and other assets. They are suing the cathedral for $5.8 million. The Templetons claim they turned over to the cathedral their estate, including 6½ acres of prime land in downtown Lexington, along with the patent for a new lawnmower invented by Templeton, to “help spread the word of Christ.” The cathedral was to underwrite development and manufacturing costs of the mower, the couple charge, but the mower has gone undeveloped and the cathedral has refused to provide necessary funds. The land was to be given to the cathedral after the Templetons’ deaths, but they said it is already in the cathedral’s name. They turned it over in chunks in payment for some $80,000 advanced over a period of time for development of the mower. The cathedral also induced the Templetons to set up a company to develop the mower but then took full control of the company, the couple allege.

Cathedral lawyers say the case has no “significant legal merit” and deny any liability. Said Terry Grimm, a Chicago lawyer retained by the cathedral: “The $5.8 million figure is preposterous. They just pulled it off the top of their heads.” A formal response to the suit will be filed at a later date, he added.

Meanwhile, a 1966 deal between the cathedral and a New York wire-manufacturing company in which the company received the benefit of the church’s tax exemption in return for a fee was labeled a “sham” by a U. S. tax court.

Under the deal, the cathedral ostensibly purchased the company, although owners Harry and Aaron Kraut, of Brooklyn, New York, continued to run it and were to receive 75 per cent of the Nassau Plastic and Wire Company’s earnings over a ten-year period. The court did not specify the fee paid to the cathedral. The company earned $1.48 million for the Kraut brothers and $250,000 for the cathedral before ceasing operations in 1969. Purchase price was to be between $500,000 and $3.5 million depending on the ten-year profit picture.

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Both the court and cathedral lawyers said the deal was legal under tax loopholes in existence at the time. The loopholes were plugged by a tax-reform act in 1969. Grimm said the sale was a “familiar procedure” between tax-exempt organizations and businesses prior to the tax changes.

Perhaps, said the court, but the deal was not a “bona fide sale.” And while it found no illegalities had been committed by the cathedral, it did uphold an Internal Revenue Service ruling that the Krauts owed the IRS back taxes on $1.2 million income claimed as capital gains under the cathedral’s exemption.


Ordination Of Women: Injured Episcopal Peace?

Four bishops of the 3.1-million-member Episcopal Church late last month ordained eleven women to the priesthood, despite pleas by their presiding bishop, John Maury Allin, to reconsider their decision, and threats by at least one of their fellow bishops to ask the House of Bishops to defrock them. Held in Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate, the service defied nineteen hundred years of history, tradition, and church law. Since 1970 women have been ordained to the diaconate, a pastoral order and the first of three (the other two are the priesthood and the episcopate). But the church at two consecutive conventions has denied women ordination to the priesthood, which would allow them to perform sacramental duties (see October 26, 1973, issue, page 55).

The three-hour overflow service (1,500 people attended) was interupted by several priests who contested its validity. As one irate priest explained later, “Today we have not gained eleven new priests; we have lost four bishops.” Three of the bishops are retired: Robert L. DeWitt, formerly of Pennsylvania, Edward R. Welles II, West Missouri, and Daniel Corrigan, who worked in Episcopal headquarters in New York. Costa Rican bishop Antonio Ramos also participated. The eleven women, whose ages range from 27 to 79, did not have approval of their bishops or diocesan standing committees for ordination, and as a result may be suspended—a decision for the individual bishops, however. While some of the women expressed dislike for confrontation, they felt that they had no choice.

The action is seen by many to be “schismatical, constituting a grave injury to the peace of Christ’s church,” in the words of Charles H. Osborn, executive director of the American Church Union, a conservative Episcopal group. But despite the controversy and irregularity of the service, some consider it valid.

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Bishop Allin in a statement released shortly after the ordination service said the four bishops “have exceeded their authority, and have not acted for the whole church, as is the norm in ordinations.” Therefore, he added, the newly ordained women will not be allowed to function as priests. In keeping with Allin’s directive the bishop of the Washington, D. C., diocese, William F. Creighton, ordered the rector of St. Stephen and the Incarnation, a controversial inner-city parish, to cancel plans for the newly ordained Alison Cheek to celebrate communion.

Relief, Not Revolution

Directors of Church World Service, relief arm of the National Council of Churches, have rejected plans to broaden the agency’s scope, although a similar stand by the CWS executive director reportedly cost him his job (see July 26 issue, page 37).

James MacCracken was fired last month in a policy disagreement with Eugene Stockwell, head of the NCC’s overseas ministries board. Reports after the dismissal indicated that Stockwell wanted the CWS to step up activities to change societies and systems that foster poverty.

Turning down that view, denominational representatives on the agency’s overseeing committee reaffirmed the organization’s “historic ministry” and refused to allow policy changes. Specifically rejected was the view that the agency should be involved in “systematic change” in areas of injustice. The organization “is not in the business of promoting violent revolutionary change,” said the committee.

The group of about thirty-five representatives met at an all-day closed meeting that reportedly centered on MacCracken’s dismissal.

Following the meeting, committee vice-chairman J. Harry Haines, a United Methodist relief official, assured his denomination that funds sent to CWS would be used only for relief and rehabilitation.


DR. FREDERICK C. GRANT, 83, Episcopal clergyman and a translator of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible; in Gwynedd, Pennsylvania.

Religion In Transit

Arguing that marriages solemnized by the church should be dissolved by the church, a Delaware Unitarian minister has written a divorce ceremony for churches. David R. Kibby wants separating couples to settle legal matters involving children and property, get a divorce “license,” and then have a church ceremony before receiving a divorce certificate.

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The Free Methodist Church will continue studies toward merger with the Wesleyan Church, it decided recently at its annual conference, held at Winona Lake, Indiana. Administrative boards of both churches approved a union plan in May.

World Wide Pictures, the movie arm of the Billy Graham organization, acquired from Twentieth Century Fox the distribution rights to The Gospel Road, singer Johnny Cash’s eighty-minute color film on the life of Jesus. World Wide will dub in several foreign languages and show the film in some sixty countries.

Five evangelical churches in Puerto Rico are in the forefront of opposition to the introduction of slot machines on the island. Luxury hotels want the machines to help win back vanishing tourists, but the churches warn they will bring more problems than they solve.

The 400,000 member Christian Methodist Episcopal Church will have future Sunday-school material supplied by a predominantly black-owned Chicago publisher, Urban Ministries Incorporated. The new material will relate Bible truths “in the black idiom,” according to church officials.


Lutheran theologian Peter Beyerhaus, an outspoken German evangelical, is the new dean of the Protestant Theological Faculty of the University of Tübingen, considered by many to be the leading theological school in Germany. Beyerhaus succeeds Jürgen Moltmann, known as a theologian of “hope” and of “revolution.”

New president of the American Leprosy Missions is Roger K. Ackley, of Carmel, Indiana, a specialist in international refugee-resettlement work.

World Scene

Britain’s evangelical relief agency. The Evangelical Alliance Relief (TEAR) Fund, reports that in 1973 it channeled over $1 million to 132 evangelical sponsored relief projects in forty-one countries. Forty of the projects involved the support of short-term medical and other personnel working overseas. The two projects with the highest budget (about $80,000 each) were a hydroelectric power scheme in Burundi and a well-drilling program in Maharashtra, India.

The women’s rights movement is credited for the change in the theme for the Baptist World Congress to be held in Stockholm in July, 1975. The theme will now be “New People [rather than New Men] for a New World—Through Christ.”

Communist China and Soviet Russia are at loggerheads again, this time over religion. In a Radio Peking broadcast the Chinese expressed dismay that the Kremlin has “allowed a religious fervor” to grip Russia and that “tens of thousands of religious believers … swarmed into churches” over Easter.

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Fundamentalist preacher Billy James Hargis dropped his strident anti-Communist message for a brief time this summer to urge his followers to “stone” Congress over the impeachment issue. The result was an avalanche of rocks and pebbles arriving in congressional offices daily, each wrapped in a Scripture verse: “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” The aim, according to Hargis, is to register displeasure with “impeachment-minded liberal congressmen” and point out what he feels is a double standard among those judging President Nixon.

Predictably, the House Judiciary Committee was the target for most of the rocks. Aides to New York Republican Hamilton Fish, Jr., who supported the first two impeachment articles, told newspapers he had “a drawer full of rocks.” Robert Drinan, a Jesuit priest and Massachusetts congressman, has a box full and also received a telegram saying, “If you can’t impeach him, exorcise him.” A woman telephoned Virginia congressman M. Caldwell Butler’s Washington office asking for the address of his district office. She wanted to send the pro-impeachment Butler thirty pieces of silver. Another voter was even more aroused, the Washington Star-News reported. Ohio Democrat John F. Seiberling received a package containing a five-pound rock mailed at a cost of $2.05 parcel post.

The entire episode led one wag to suggest that the Judiciary Committee members now had enough rocks and pebbles to build a stone wall.

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