How many more congregations will switch from the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. to the National Presbyterian Church?

That’s the big question now that the new evangelical denomination has been formally organized and is functional (see December 21, 1973, issue, page 39).

W. Jack Williamson, moderator of the first NPC General Assembly, predicted that the church would have at least 500 congregations within a year. It already embraces about 273 local churches with some 60,000 members.

Dr. Charles E. S. Kraemer, moderator of the PCUS General Assembly, has said, “My guess is that everybody who is going has gone by now.” He has qualified that by conceding that “a great many are on the borderline.” If all the PCUS congregations that have initiated separation proceedings are successful, the membership of the big Southern denomination will be brought down to about 900,000.

Williamson has contended that liberals forced the split because they went back on their word to include an “escape clause” in a plan to unite the PCUS and the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. A plan of union that included such a clause was discarded last February. A new proposal, made public last month and due to be presented to the General Assemblies of both denominations, eliminates the clause.

“Our liberal friends promised this method,” said Williamson, a 54-year-old Phi Beta Kappa lawyer from Greenville, Alabama, “and we accepted their promises in good faith.”

Williamson had been a member of the committee drafting the merger proposal. Had it provided an out, he said, that would have been the best method for “peaceful realignment.”

PCUS officials, who seemed rather passive in the ...

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