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 early stages of the split, have of late been much more outspoken and have been taking the initiative to hold on to their numbers. A PCUS “Committee on the Causes of Unhappiness and Division in the Church” has called on all Presbyterians to accept one another’s differences “as befits the family of God.” The committee, created by the 1973 General Assembly, said it is convinced “that no one need leave the Presbyterian Church in the U. S.” The statement came in a preliminary report mailed to all ministers and clerks of sessions at about the time the denomination’s separatists were getting ready for their first assembly, held in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. It was requested that the paper be read to the churches. The statement contends that “present tensions result from misunderstandings, exaggerations, and the ascription of general significance to isolated instances.”
A “Committee on Church Property,” also established by the 1973 assembly, has made available a resource file and a “legal memorandum” to loyal PCUS members for use if efforts are made to take their congregations out of the denomination. The guidelines, mailed to stated clerks of presbyteries and synods, are designed to prevent dissidents from keeping church property. Members of the “loyal remnant” are told to file with their presbyteries written appeals for help and, if necessary, to “resort to civil litigation to oust those who refuse to return the property to you.” Advising loyal members not to fear formality and procedure, the guidelines comment, “No one expects you to be an expert, and your notices, complaints and/or appeals do not have to be in any particular form. They may be well prepared or crudely drawn.”
NATIONAL IS NOT NATIONAL
The name of America’s newest denomination may give it some problems. “National Presbyterian Church” was chosen despite a warning in floor debate that such a selection would produce confusion with the well-known congregation of the same name in Washington, D. C.
Dr. Louis H. Evans, Jr., pastor of the capital congregation, says the choice is unfortunate. “It will raise problems for them and for us,” he said in an interview. Evans added that he was surprised the new denomination was willing to risk confusion with his church in view of the congregation’s affiliation with the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., which is generally more liberal in theology than Southern Presbyterianism. “But,” vowed Evans, who is regarded as a conservative, “we will try to work it out quietly with our Christian brothers, and we will welcome in love any folks who come to our church by mistake.”
Local congregations desiring to separate legally have had varying degrees of success: some have been dismissed by their presbyteries with their properties while others have had to resort to litigation.
A six-page “address” to all Christian churches adopted by the NPC General Assembly sets forth the rationale of the new denomination:
We are convinced that our former denomination as a whole, and in its leadership, no longer holds those views regarding the nature and mission of the Church, which we accept as both essential and true. When we judged that there was no human remedy for this situation, and seeing no evidence that God would intervene, we were compelled to raise a new banner to the historic, Scriptural positions which were the faith of our forefathers.
Ultimately it is because the PCUS General Assembly has reduced its view of Scripture to “one among many,” the statement later says,
that we have felt compelled by conscience before our Lord to depart from our mother Church.… A diluted theology, a gospel tending towards humanism, an unbiblical view of marriage and divorce, the ordination of women, financing of abortion on socio-economic grounds, and numerous other non-Biblical positions are all traceable to a different view of Scripture from that we hold and that which was held by the Southern Presbyterian forefathers.
In adopting a book of church order, the assembly included as one of the questions to be asked for candidates for the ministry: “Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?” Its doctrinal standards are those set forth in the Westminster Confession, together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms and the book of church order.
For all the debate, the separation has been remarkably amicable. The address even recognizes evangelicalsOne prominent non-separatist was a featured speaker at the NPC assembly: Dr. C. Darby Fulton, former moderator of the PCUS General Assembly and long-time executive secretary of its Board of World Missions. who have elected to remain loyal to the PCUS:
We trust that they will continue to contend for the faith, even though our departure makes their position more difficult. We express to them our hope that God will bless them in their efforts, and that there may come a genuine spiritual awakening in the PCUS.
One source of tension has been whether conservative groups instrumental in the separation should be allowed to rent facilities at the PCUS conference center in Montreat, North Carolina. The 1973 PCUS General Assembly defeated efforts to bar the groups, but the new General Executive Board of the denomination has registered its “strong disapproval.” The Wilmington, North Carolina, presbytery has petitioned the 1974 assembly to prohibit groups “openly antagonistic” to the PCUS.
The NPC’s General Assembly will meet once a year and between assemblies will carry out its work through four committees: world missions, mission to the United States, Christian education and publications, and administration. For now, at least, each will choose its own office locations and raise its own budget. Commissioners to the assembly will be appointed by local congregations rather than by presbyteries as in the PCUS. Titles to local church properties will rest with congregations.
The Reverend Clinton M. Marsh, United Presbyterian moderator, says the split will speed the merger of his denomination with PCUS. Examining his own denomination, he notes that “the only obvious foot-dragging on the merger issue is from the black constituency in the southeast.” In that area, most United Presbyterians are black, and they fear that “if there is a merger, they will be outnumbered in regional presbyteries by white Southern Presbyterians who they feel are not especially sympathetic with their causes.”
The NPC is the third-largest Presbyterian denomination in America. It is now represented in fourteen of the fifteen states in which the PCUS has congregations, and more than a dozen churches in California were reported interested in joining. Said Williamson, “We’ll restructure the Presbytery of Texas!”
Pressure In Pittsburgh
There’s a quiet struggle going on at Pittsburgh Seminary, a United Presbyterian school. It involves a band of evangelically minded students and a group of perhaps not so evangelically minded professors. So far, the professors have the upper hand.
It all started in the fall when many of the school’s 340 students (287 are full-time degree students) expressed displeasure at the list of courses proposed by the faculty for the intensive three-week January winter term. In an interview, President William H. Kadel explained that the January courses were meant to be innovative ones, exposing the students to issues and situations not likely to be covered at length elsewhere in the curriculum.
The administration decided to ask the students to join the professors in suggesting other courses. Ideas were tossed around in a faculty-student meeting (Kadel suggested something on the theology of Watergate), and ground rules were laid down: 1. the need for the course must be evident; 2. a sizable number of students must sign up; 3. an appropriate professor must be secured; 4. financial support, if needed, must be assured; 5. there must be substantive and/or methodological innovation; 6. the proposed course must be publicly described.
Student conveners were selected to draft and post course proposals. One of the conveners was Wynn Kenyon, son of a Presbyterian minister and member of a seminary prayer group that attracts from ten to twenty students to weekly meetings. In discussions the group agreed that a course on Reformation theology, emphasizing evangelical distinctives—especially biblical authority, was most assuredly a need. Kenyon and his friends wrote out a course description and tacked it on the bulletin board. Twenty-eight students—10 per cent of the school’s full-time student body—registered to take the course.
Word drifted out to the surrounding area, and a number of ministers conveyed well wishes to the Kenyon group, by now organized as the Biblically Conservative Reformed Constituency (BCRC) with Kenyon and Ron Miller, a Gordon-Conwell Seminary transfer student, as co-chairmen. They proposed as teacher a staunch advocate of biblical inerrancy, Dr. R. C. Sproul—a graduate of Pittsburgh and of the Free University of Amsterdam, and scholar-in-residence at the nearby Ligonier Valley Study Center. Several other evangelical theologians were listed as alternates. Meanwhile, the BCRC received pledges of hundreds of dollars for subsidy of the course should it be needed.
The faculty members of the history and theology division, however, rejected the proposed offering. Their reasons, as listed by a teacher in an interview: 1. unacceptability of the stipulation that only a person committed to the evangelical viewpoint be named to teach the course; 2. it lacks innovation; 3. the idea of a course along a single interpretative line is objectionable and has not been practiced at Pittsburgh (demolishing somewhat the preceding lack-of-innovation argument); 4. not enough time exists to prepare the course; 5. personality problems (“we have our own profs who feel qualified to teach the course and at least one is personally upset because an outsider was considered instead”).
Several professors also said they felt the students were being used as pawns by the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee and Presbyterians United for Biblical Concerns. One said he fears it may be an opening move by the conservatives in an eventual attempt to take over the school.
The faculty suggested that the division’s own John Gerstner, an evangelical, could teach the course and grant credit on his history side of the division, but the BCRC held out for credit toward requirements on the theology side.
At a meeting on December 10 President Kadel suggested a further compromise: have Gerstner teach the course with theology professor Arthur Cochrane helping out as sort of team teacher and reactor. Perhaps then credit can be granted in theology.
Again the professors balked and said they needed more time to think about the matter. One professor blurted out that the BCRC’s biblical position has no standing in the United Presbyterian Church. Finally, a meeting was called for next month to decide whether there will be sufficient time to work up the course for sometime in 1975.
In the meantime, several of the other innovative courses suggested in November were scheduled to get under way this month.
Edward E. Plowman
It Happened On Long Island
A two-day gathering on Long Island last month brought together representatives of the establishment in the United Presbyterian Church and its conservative critics. Present were elected members and staffers of UPC agencies, members of the Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC), and members of Presbyterians United for Biblical Concerns (PUBC).
The meeting was called by UPC moderator Clinton M. Marsh in hope that both sides might arrive at a better understanding of each other’s viewpoints, thereby laying the foundation for a greater degree of peace within the troubled denomination. (The UPC budget is $7 million leaner this year, the ranks of conservative groups opposed to controversial social-action policies and alleged theologically liberal trends in the UPC are growing, and there has been a lot of angry talk within the denomination’s inner circle over the way restructure has been handled, especially in the reshuffling and axing of hundreds of employees.)
A UPC reporter described the exchanges in the Long Island meeting as “sometimes formal, sometimes heated, and sometimes conversational.”
PLC president Paul J. Cupp disclosed that the circulation of The Layman, a PLC publication that began with a print order of 48,000 copies in 1968, is close to 350,000 “and still growing.” There are sixty-one PLC chapters, he said, and support comes from some 20,000 contributors.
The main complaint of the conservatives was that few evangelical-conservatives have been chosen to serve in UPC policy-making positions. Yet, said PUBC president J. Murray Marshall, evangelicals want to work within the church for the church’s good, to be a positive rather than a disruptive force.
UPC executive officer William P. Thompson countered with the suggestion that the evangelical-conservatives had not tried hard enough to become involved in the inner workings of the denomination. He also accused them of betraying confidences in connection with past meetings, making it more difficult to get together in the future.
Others hinted that the conservatives should strive to bring about change in the UPC in ways that are more constructive and less destructive.
After it was all over, Marsh commented: “We don’t know what has happened here.… It takes hatching time.…”
The Confidence Gap
Americans have more confidence in their garbagemen than in their religious leaders, if a recent Lou Harris poll of more than 1,800 persons across the country is truly representative.
The U. S. Senate-financed survey found that only 36 per cent of the population has confidence in “organized religion”—one of twenty-two familiar “institutions” listed in the poll. But that is 6 per cent better than last year.
Only two of the institutions drew support from a majority of those questioned: medicine (57 per cent, up from 12 per cent in 1965) and local trash collection (52 per cent). At the bottom of the list was the White House with a 19 per cent vote of confidence, just a notch below organized labor. Higher educational institutions (44 per cent), television news (41 per cent), and the military (40 per cent) all placed ahead of organized religion. (It was not clear whether respondents included local churches in their thinking or just denominational structures, councils of churches, and the like.)
In other sampling, 53 per cent agreed that “there is something deeply wrong with America.” Economic problems and “integrity in government” were listed as the two major concerns.
Anglicans and Roman Catholics may have moved a step closer to eventual reunion with the publication last month of a “basic agreement” on the nature of ministry and ordination in both their churches. The 3,200-word statement was made by a joint commission of the churches and sent for study to Archbishop of Canterbury A. Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI, who approved its publication.
The new agreement, which in effect ends a 400-year-old dispute, now seems to provide a theological rationale for recognition of Anglican priests by Catholics (in 1896 Pope Leo XIII declared Anglican Orders “null and void”), a point which the commission said was “a source of controversy between us.”
The commission, composed of twenty-one bishops and theologians from both churches, put off until later consideration of a more thorny issue—the authority and primacy in the ministry, especially the controversy over papal infallibility (the main reason for the Church of England’s split from Rome in 1532). “Agreement on the nature of ministry is prior to the consideration of mutual recognition of ministries,” the commission explained.
Because the pastor and deacons take their church covenant literally, there’s a bit of trouble at First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Arkansas, the city’s largest black congregation.
Letters of dismissal were reportedly issued to four members for selling alcoholic beverages, a practice prohibited in the covenant. (In many Baptist churches members at regular intervals recite a covenant that has been widely used for years, vowing to uphold the code of Christian conduct it prescribes.)
Julius Dillon and Ernest McGraw, members of the church since the 1950s, argued that a large part of their contributions to the church came from beer sales. Dillon threatened to file suit if a settlement could not be worked out.
Mrs. Willie Mae Ingram, another long-time member who was dismissed, said she gave much of her time and money to the church, too.
Willie Edwards, who joined the church recently after promising to quit selling beer in July when his license expired, said he couldn’t make a living just selling groceries. So, he explained, he was forced to renew the license.
The group was set up after Ramsey and the Pope met in 1966 and agreed to initiate “serious dialogue” between their churches. Its task was to “find a way” of overcoming doctrinal differences and move toward “the unity we seek.” After its first meeting in 1970, the commission published a statement of “substantial agreement” on the Eucharist in 1971. The ministry agreement comes after the commission’s fifth meeting, held at Canterbury, England, last summer.
Subjects covered in the statement included mission and the ministry in the New Testament and early church; the priesthood of Christ, the faithful, and ministers; the sacrament of ordination; and the apostolic succession of bishops and their churches. It opens with the assertion that ministry is a privilege and obligation belonging to all Christians, clerical and lay, and that “all ministries are used by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the church.”
In a ruling expected to affect a number of other churches, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court decreed that the United Methodist Church can retain control of the property of two breakaway congregations in southwestern Pennsylvania. The latter, formerly Evangelical United Brethren congregations, voted unanimously in 1970 to withdraw from the UMC and to affiliate with the Evangelical Church of North America.
The court cited the UMC Book of Discipline as “a contractural agreement between the parent denomination and its members.” When a local church is a member of a hierarchically governed denomination, it cannot sever the relationship without forfeiting its property to the parent denomination, commented the court.
Religion In Transit
National Council of Churches president W. Sterling Cary announced that four of ten American banks involved in a recent series of loans to the “racist” South African government are pulling out. Several denominational agencies and an NCC unit had been pressuring the banks.
Claude Taylor, 10, was dismissed from membership in a Cub Scout pack in a rural community near Hanover, Maine, because he had crossed out the word “God” in the Scout Promise on his application. The boy’s father, a former Columbia University educator who describes himself as an atheist, argued that the Scouts are not a religious organization. Scout officials in Maine upheld the decision, maintaining the Boy Scouts of America position that “no boy can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God.”
Dr. Morris Chafetz, head of a federal agency on alcoholism, estimates that 450,000 pre-teens and young teenagers in America have serious problems involving alcohol. Alcoholism among 9-to-12-year-olds is soaring, he says. (Two dozen Alcoholics Anonymous groups geared to pre-teens have sprouted up in the last five years, and they are growing, according to reports.)
Operation PUSH, the breakaway civil rights group founded by former Southern Christian Leadership Conference worker Jesse Jackson, is broke. Board members said there are debts of more than $50,000 but only $6,000 in the bank.
More than 25,000 persons attended the sixty-sixth annual meeting of the four-million-member Church of God in Christ, held in Memphis. Nine of the ten days were given over to spiritual pursuits. On the final day, the General Assembly of the predominantly black Pentecostal denomination voted a budget of $1.9 million. The sessions were closed to the press.
North Carolina congressman Sam Ervin, the Democrat of Watergate fame, has come out in support of radio preacher Carl McIntire and the minister’s case against the Federal Communications Commission. (The FCC declined to renew the license of McIntire’s WXUR in suburban Philadelphia. Ervin says he thinks the FCC’s “fairness doctrine” ought to be overhauled or scrapped.) Meantime, McIntire got national publicity when he proclaimed widely that the comet Kohoutek is a sign of the second coming of Christ. Other signs include the UFOs, says McIntire, who believes they are operated by intelligent beings from somewhere other than earth.
David “Moses” Berg, head of the Children of God sect, announced that the comet Kohoutek is a sign of impending judgment and national calamity. He urged his followers to flee America by January 21, when presumably the judgment will fall.
Boston, Massachusetts, police are investigating allegations that some Roman Catholic priests have been givingpayoffs to police in connection with illegal gambling activities in some parishes. The allegations turned up in a letter at a special post-office box for citizens wanting to report possible police corruption.
I.Q. of 145 and Can’t Remember?
A noted publisher in Chicago reports there is a simple technique for acquiring a powerful memory which can pay you real dividends in both business and social advancement and works like magic to give you added poise, necessary self-confidence and greater popuarity.
According to this publisher, many people do not realize how much they could influence others simply by remembering accurately everything they see, hear, or read. Whether in business, at social functions or even in casual conversations with new acquaintances, there are ways in which you can dominate every situation by your ability to remember.
To acquaint the readers of this publication with the easy-to-follow rules for developing skill in remembering anything you choose to remember, the publishers have printed full details of their self-training method in a new booklet, “Adventures in Memory,” which will be mailed free to anyone who requests it. No obligation. Send your name, address, and zip code to: Memory Studies, 555 E. Lange Street, Dept. 690-10, Mundelein, Ill. 60060. A postcard will do.
Dr. R. H. Edwin Espy, the retired general secretary of the National Council of Churches, will head up a project of New York’s Interchurch Center aimed at stressing America’s religious heritage during the U. S. bicentennial. Also envisioned: a clearinghouse for information on what other religious groups are planning for 1976.
A Portland, Oregon, Episcopal clergyman, Charles Howard Osborn, is the new national executive director of the American Church Union, a high-church body within the Episcopal Church.
Episcopal Church executive officer John F. Stevens was elected to a two-year term as president of the Joint Strategy and Action Committee (JSAC), a coalition of the national mission agencies of eleven denominations.
Doctors have advised Pope Paul VI, 76, to cut back his public appearances and work load. The prelate is suffering from a heart ailment.
Editor F. Paige Carlin of Together magazine takes over this month as executive editor of United Methodists Today, which replaces Together.
Minnesota’s youngest state senator in history, 21-year-old Wayne OIhoft, is a Lutheran involved in the charismatic movement. A farmer on the 1972 Democratic-Farmer Labor ticket, Olhoft ran on the three-plank platform of Christian discipleship, integrity in government, and emphasis on the rural community. He says his real heroes “are the people who are living in God’s will and being blessed because of it.”
President Richard J. Schultz, 53, of Concordia Seminary in Springfield, Illinois, has resigned to do home-mission work for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in New Jersey.
Robert W. McIntyre, editor of the Wesleyan Advocate, was elected general superintendent of the 85,000-member Wesleyan Church, and George E. Failing took over the publication’s editorship. Failing had left the magazine several years ago to head up a church-sponsored school in suburban San Diego that never got off the ground. More recently he has been teaching at a denominational college in Pennsylvania.
Tension is mounting between the South Korean government and the nation’s churches. In a recent consultation, the Korea National Council of Churches drafted a declaration of human rights. Among other things it states that politically the people have been deprived of their sovereign rights and that only a facade of democracy exists in the land. Seminarians and students at church-related colleges have been boycotting classes and cutting their hair in protest along with conducting all-night prayer meetings.
The Dutch government announced it will give $179,000 to the World Council of Churches anti-racism program. Additionally, it will give $100,000 to the WCC’s fund for evacuating foreign refugees from Chile.
Prison authorities in Ireland say that about 50 per cent of the nation’s prison population attends Sunday church services. There are some 1,000 persons in Ireland’s seven jails for juveniles and adults.
Much of the opposition to the martial law regime of President Ferdinand E. Marcos of the Philippines is coming from Catholic and Protestant church leaders, according to news reports. Prominent Methodist educator Nemisio Prudente and a number of nuns and priests have been among those arrested. In New York, a National Council of Churches statement implied that American corporate investment policy is partly to blame for allegedly repressive conditions in the Philippines.
The closely-knit congregation of the Greek Evangelical Church in Katerini, the largest in Greece, celebrated the church’s fiftieth anniversary. Among the 1,500 celebrants was former pastor Argos Zodhiates, expelled from the country several years ago and now pastor of a Greek Evangelical church in Boston.
At a church-growth-workshop in Venezuela in 1972, five denominations which had grown 60 per cent during the preceding decade planned to increase their growth rate over the next ten years to 202 per cent (20.2 per cent yearly). But at this year’s workshop it was discovered they had already added 1,506 members in the past year—a 68 per cent increase.
There are probably more Christians on university campuses in Cuba now than ever before, according to an eye-witness West Indies Mission report, which also mentions “revival” in many Methodist churches. The government seems to have a more relaxed attitude toward church work, the report goes on, and several thousand Bibles recently passed customs.
Seven Ghana churches are expected to unite in 1975, if plans proceed on schedule. Involved are the Anglicans, Evangelical Presbyterians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Zion Church, Evangelical Lutherans, and Mennonites.
The World Council of Churches will help rebuild the North Vietnamese hospital at Hai Duong with $2 million of the $5 million it hopes to raise from its 267 member churches. Of the remainder, $2 million will be used in South Viet Nam and $1 million in Laos and Cambodia.
More than 200 Arabs publicly professed Christ at the opening service of the Assemblies of God Christ Church in Beirut, Lebanon, according to interim pastor Charles Jones.
Overdrafts of about $10 million, escalating at the rate of more than $1 million per year, have been incurred by Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Dublin (Ireland), and banks are no longer willing to lend without a guarantee of repayment within ten years. The debts were incurred in connection with new building programs.
An Iberian Congress on Evangelism will be held June 4–7 in Madrid, and the Japan Congress on Evangelism is scheduled for June 3–7 in Kyoto, sponsored by the Japan Evangelical Alliance (1,300 delegates will be selected).
Bibles for the World, directed by Rochunga Padaite, has plans for mailing The Living Bible to 500,000 telephone subscribers in Ireland next spring.
President Amin of Uganda has banned twelve religious groups, calling them “dangerous to peace and order.” They include Campus Crusade, Navigators, Child Evangelism, Pentecostal Assemblies of God, a Quaker group, and the Ugandan Church of Christ. In a statement on the Middle East, Amin said Hitler was right in killing six million Jews; “the Israelis are criminals.”
The Vatican newspaper said that archaeologists had opened the tomb of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem and found it empty—confirming the tradition of Assumption (the belief that Christ’s mother was taken bodily into heaven).
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