A cloud is hanging over the 19-story Interchurch Center at 475 Riverside Drive in New York City this summer. That’s the site of headquarters Offices for the National Council of Churches, which is in the midst of the biggest shakeup of top-level management in its twenty-three-year history.

Six Veteran NCC executives got their walking papers last month. Five were let go, according to NCC spokesmen, as part of organizational changes designed “to implement the new structure and management style voted by the NCC General Assembly in December, 1972.” The sixth, the head of the NCC’s big relief arm, said one reason for his dismissal was “deep theological differences.” Announcements of the firings stressed that the action in no way reflected on the personal integrity of the people involved.

NCC general secretary Claire Randall, who took Office January 1, refused to describe how the decision was made to fire the five.

Dismissal of the other official, James MacCracken, executive director of Church World Service, was announced in somewhat more explicit terms by Dr. Eugene L. Stockwell, associate general secretary for overseas ministries. Reportedly, the two had long been at loggerheads. Stockwell is a United Methodist clergyman and MacCracken a Presbyterian layman. Stockwell was quoted as saying that MacCracken was fired for complex reasons rooted in organizational factors. But MacCracken, 51, went beyond that, citing “personality conflict as seen by Dr. Stockwell,” criticism of CWS among certain denominational leaders and overseas church leaders, and “deep theological differences.” CWS has one of the world’s largest relief operations, and its budget is greater than those of all the other NCC agencies put together. Because of its reputation and because church people are willing to support compassionate works, CWS has raised funds more readily than other NCC agencies have done.

MacCracken’s relationship was severed immediately. The other victims may stay till the end of the year. They were initially said to be taking “early retirements,” but one of them, Dr. H. Leroy Brininger, objected to the phrase. “When a guy has a family to support and plenty of energy and some clear plans that extend past age 61, this is not an early retirement,” said Brininger, a United Methodist who has been the NCC’s associate general secretary for administration. The five are all white males over 60.

Another of those fired, Dr. David Hunter, an Episcopal clergyman who has been deputy general secretary since 1963, viewed the action as reasonable. “This is no half-baked, tyrannical act on her part,” he said, referring to Miss Randall.

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Also leaving are two other United Methodist clergymen, Donald Landwer, assistant general secretary for denominational support, J. Allan Ranck, associate general secretary for program planning, and Fletcher Coates, an Episcopal layman who is head of the NCC’s information department (a news release making the dismissals public was initialed by his associate, Dorothy Rensenbrink, a Presbyterian).

The posts occupied by the five men are being abolished and the work reassigned to lower levels. Brininger said they were told by Miss Randall that they were not being considered for lesser positions.

One other position is being phased out, that of associate general secretary for communication and Interpretation. The holder of that job, L. Maynard Catchings, a black clergyman, will be made a special assistant for minority communication and Interpretation.

Miss Randall explained that posts are being dropped to make way for a management style that she describes as collegial, facilitative, open, flexible, and horizontal. “I believe this is the direction the Governing Board primarily wants to go,” she said.

Appeal to the NCC restructure voted in 1972 surprised some observers, inasmuch as the organizational changes required by that action were less than drastic. Several much more radical restructure proposals had been decisively rejected. The new move is expected to arouse concem that staff leaders are trying to accomplish administratively what was rejected legislatively.

Rumors floated around church circles for several days before the firings were made public, after repeated inquiries from Religious News Service. Little was communicated within the Organization, apparently, and the New York Times reported that the unexpected moves “stirred some discontent.” NCC employees were reportedly mimeographing RNS reports to keep informed on the developments.

The affair received surprisingly scant notice in the secular press; many key religion reporters were covering the Presbyterian conventions in Louisville at the time, and some did not hear of the firings until days after they occurred.

Miss Randall and NCC treasurer Carl W. Tiller, an American Baptist layman, denied that finances played a large part in the terminations. Rumors persisted, however, that the NCC’s financial state is not expected to improve and that hard-headed decisions are required for the future. The NCC has been feeling the pinch for a number of years, and its administrative agencies have always had trouble raising funds.

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On a related front, finances have been much more of a concern for the World Council of Churches. Unless there is soon a marked change for the better, the WCC’s Fifth Assembly may have to be moved or even canceled. Father Paul Verghese, chairman of the assembly’s program committee, says the WCC has been able to raise only half of the $3 million assembly budget. The meeting is now scheduled to be held in Djakarta, Indonesia.


Dean Harvey H. Guthrie, Jr., 50, of the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told the 1974 commencement audience he will resign if the seminary does not hire “an ordained female Anglican faculty member.” “This is blackmail, but I believe it is gospel blackmail,” he said.

There were twenty-eight male and four female graduates this year at the 107-year-old school. It has one female faculty member, a Catholic sister who teaches pastoral theology. The Episcopal Church admits women to the office of deacon, a sub-clergy level, but it does not ordain them to the priesthood.

Presiding Bishop John M. Allin, who voted against women priests in a House of Bishops vote, declined to comment immediately on Guthrie’s threat.

Patrick: Deplugged

San Diego deprogrammer Ted Patrick (see August 31, 1973, issue, page 40) was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $1,000 for a misdemeanor of which he had been cönvicted earlier in Denver. But Judge Zita Weinshienk suspended the fine and all but seven days of the prison sentence. The week in jail, she said, was intended to show Patrick “what deprivation of physical freedom means.” She admonished him not to participate in the kidnapping or detention of anyone.

The case marked Patrick’s first conviction since he began helping to “rescue” members of off-beat religious groups in 1972. In it, the jury had found him guilty of a misdemeanor count of false imprisonment. He was acquitted of more serious charges of conspiracy and kidnapping. These were the outgrowth of an incident last year, when families of two young women enlisted Patrick’s help in forcibly removing the girls from Denver to San Diego, where Patrick attempted to deprogram them. The parents alleged that their daughters had been alienated from them and the Greek Orthodox faith by the leaders of a Denver home prayer group.

Patrick more recently has been making headlines in Canton, Ohio. His target there has been a charismatic prayer group named “the Body of Christ.” It is headed by a former Presbyterian minister, Milton Vereide, son of the late Abraham Vereide, who founded the national prayer breakfast movement. One member of the group, Greg Gratny, 18, was seized the day he graduated from high school when his parents arranged a rendezvous with Patrick following a dinner in the boy’s honor. After three days of the Patrick treatment the boy reportedly decided to leave “the Body of Christ,” and he was sent for “recuperation” to an East Coast farm owned by one of Patrick’s friends.

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Deborah Dortzbach, the 24-year-old pregnant missionary nurse taken captive by guerrillas in northern Ethiopia (see June 21 issue, page 40), was released unharmed after twenty-six days. In fact, said she shortly after being reunited with her husband in Asmara, “My time in captivity fshowedl how much they all need help, and I would like to return some day.” The guerrillas reportedly abandoned a cash ransom request and asked missionary negotiators instead for medical supplies to counter an outbreak of Cholera. Mrs. Dortzbach was serving in a mission hospital as a short-termer with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church at the time of her capture. A Dutch nurse was shot to death in the episode.

In another Body of Christ case, however, Patrick apparently failed. A 38year-old woman, Mrs. Carl Barnard, charged she was held six days against her will at the home of her mother while Patrick tried to win her away from the group. A judge in a civil hearing ruled she was indeed illegally detained; a grand jury investigation of Patrick was expected to begin soon.

Deprogramming is a mind-altering treatment involving isolated detainment and hours—sometimes days—of psychological pressure. Its purpose is to “liberate” persons from attachment to certain beliefs or persons considered objectionable by one’s relatives.

Patrick told a reporter in Akron that the Hearst family has contacted him: if Patricia Hearst turns up, they want him to deprogram her out of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Australia: Uniting And Continuing

For many years the Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches in Australia have been moving toward union. There has been little doubt about the Methodists’ commitment to the project, and the Congregationalists too have been fairly strong in favoring it. A year ago both these denominations agreed to join the union, and the Methodists ratified their earlier decision 160 to 11 after the Presbyterians, divided on the issue, finally voted approval.

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In the heart-searching among the Presbyterians, two questions were referred to the local churches in an attempt to discover the thinking at grassroots level. One concerned the general question of the denomination’s going into the union; the other asked the individual congregation whether it would enter the union to remain in a continuing Presbyterian church. When the result proved difficult to interpret, a second vote was taken. May 1, a bleak, grey day in Melbourne, was the day of decision: the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia accepted the proposal for union with a vote of 230–143, 230 being a bare six votes over the required three-fifths majority.

The assembly was not without drama. The Right Reverend Neil MacLeod, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales, rose to his feet and began, “In charity and love and with malice towards none, and with firmness in the right I crave leave to dissent.” He went on to make a speech disclaiming responsibility for schism, after which he led a walk-out of about thirty dissenters. They proceeded to a nearby hall where they formed the Continuing Presbyterian Church in Australia, electing MacLeod as moderatorgeneral. This does not represent the totality of the supporters of the continuing church. Many remained in the assembly, unwilling to leave while the church still remains Presbyterian.

It is plain that Presbyterians are deeply divided on this issue. There are 1,442 Presbyterian congregations in Australia, and 521 of them (more than a third) have declared they intend to stay out of the union. Opposition is strongest in New South Wales, but there will be continuing Presbyterians in all States.

There are trying days ahead both for those who favor union and for those who prefer to stay out. Denominational property poses problems. What is to happen to Presbyterian schools, theological Colleges, and institutions generally? To whom will trust funds belong? Neither group wants litigation, but the possibility is very real. In an attempt to avoid it the General Assembly has set up a Commission to deal with property questions. It has three members favoring union, three against, and three independents. Millions of dollars are involved, and the process will not be easy.

Other legal questions arise. There is division of opinion about the legality of the second vote taken in the congregations and how it affects the union. There is also the question of whether the Continuing Presbyterian Church is already in existence or whether it will not become a reality until the union, planned for June 2, 1976, takes place.

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Many evangelicals voted against the union, and it is accordingly probable that the continuing church will be more evangelical than its predecessor. But many of those who voted to stay out were more traditional Presbyterians than convinced evangelicals. The actual nature of the continuing church will not become clear for some time.

The Uniting Church of Australia will be the third-largest denomination in the country, behind the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics.


In Defense Of Life

Southern Baptist pastor Robert Holbrook of Hallettsville, Texas, chairman of Baptists for Life, addressed more than 2,000 persons as the keynote Speaker for the second annual Convention of the National Right to Life Committee last month in Washington, D. C. (The right-to-life people are against abortion on demand. They disseminate information and are seeking a constitutional amendment to Override the Supreme Court decision that liberalized abortion practices. Of late they have also been speaking out against euthanasia and genetic control.)

Holbrook’s role was among the latest indications of growing interest in the right-to-life issue among evangelicals. Interest has been increasing among other Protestants and Jews as well. Until recently, so much of the Support for the pro-life movement has come from Roman Catholics that many opponents have charged it with attempting to “write a particular theological view into the law of the land in violation of the principle of the Separation of church and state,” to quote United Methodist bishop A. James Armstrong.

Holbrook pointed out that the Texas law against abortion, overturned by the U. S. Supreme Court, was drawn up by Protestants, and that voters in predominantly Protestant North Dakota in 1972 overwhelmingly defeated a referendum calling for liberalized abortion.

Commented Oklahoma Senator Dewey F. Bartlett: “To hold that life has only relative value and not absolute value is to advance the Machiavellian philosophy that the end justifies the means.”

Mrs. Barbara Ruchowski of Pittsburgh cited documentation she said was evidence that the U. S. government is heavily financing pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia Propaganda for use in public schools across the nation.

Participants spent much of their time discussing how to overcome the view that the right-to-life issue is a “Catholic” one threatening church-state Separation and how to counter the impact of anti-life Propaganda in the media and in schools.

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National repentance and intercession for oppressed Christians in Communist and Muslim countries are the themes of an international day of prayer scheduled for August 17 in some sixteen nations.

The prayer day is backed by a bevy of Christian leaders, among them Senator Mark Hatfield, singer Pat Boone, broadcaster Pat Robertson, and evangelist David Wilkerson. The project is entitled “If My People” and is based on Second Chronicles 7:14, says International Coordinator D. Leland Paris. Activities are scheduled for most capitals and leading cities; Christians are expected to pray in front of embassies and consulates. In Washington, D. C., Bible smuggler Brother Andrew will lead the observance, which will include prayer in front of the Soviet and Afghanistan embassies as well as prayer “for the peace of Israel” at the entrance to the Israeli embassy.

Convention Circuit

Summer months bring church conventions. Here are the facts and figures on some of them:

Evangelical Free Church of America. Delegates to the ninetieth annual Conference, held in Green Lake, Wisconsin, voted to cut denominational ties and make Trinity College, Deerfield, Illinois, an independent Christian College. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, on the same campus, will remain within the denomination. The primary reason for cutting the College loose was finances; the College should now be able to develop a broader financial base, say church officials. Nevertheless, three board members will be from the denomination. The 1,000 delegates also voted to increase missionary work in Asia. The denomination has 616 churches in North America and twenty-three in Japan. The Japanese branch is itself sending missionaries to other parts of Asia.

Church of fhe Brethren. Reacting to widespread hunger problems, delegates to the church’s Convention, held in Roanoke, Virginia, approved a broad plan for local churches to collect and störe food to meet community needs. Individuals were asked to cut their intake of animal protein. The hunger Problem gets top priority, said the 1,054 delegates, urging increased “sensitivity” in local churches to the world hunger Problem. Chosen moderator-elect for the 1976 Convention was A. Blair Helman, 53, President of Manchester (Indiana) College. He defeated the first woman nominated for the post, Phyllis N. Carter, chairman of the denomination’s World Ministries Commission. In other action, delegates appealed for no “re-intervention” in Indochina by American forces and approved sex education as part of the church-school Curriculum.

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Conservative Baptist Association in America. At St. Paul, Minnesota, delegates heard that Conservative Baptist missionaries baptized an “all-time high” of 5,253 last year and that there is a prayer goal of 6,500 baptisms for this year. Missionary giving reached $4.9 million in 1973. Approved was a worldwide day of fasting with funds saved to be channeled to church relief agencies. The group urged rejection of those portions of the charismatic movement not “true to God’s word.” Watergate was hinted at in a resolution noting dishonesty and deception in government and urging Baptists to get personally involved in the political process.


SANDFORD FLEMING, 86, former president of the then Berkeley (California) Baptist Divinity School; in Santa Barbara, California.

TONY FONTAINE, 47, Gospel singer and recording artist; in Los Angels, of cancer.

ARTHUR J. MOORE, SR., 85, retired Methodist bishop, a self-educated former railroad flagman who gained recognition as a leader of wold Methodism; in Atlanta.

MALCOLM E. PEABODY, 86, retired Episcopal bishop; in Boston.

Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Commissioners approved the Start of a two-year study of church unity—first in the denomination’s 144-year history. A Huntsville, Alabama, pastor, David A. Brown, was chosen moderator. The delegates learned that the 90,000-member church took a slight upturn in membership last year. They approved support for the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution; supported amnesty; agreed to expand the church’s work with prisoners; and deplored moral decline “represented by Watergate.”

General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARB). Resolutions adopted at the annual Conference, held in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, severely criticized the charismatic movement and “the new evangelicalism” as unbiblical. The 3,100 delegates also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment.

Religion In Transit

Stirred by the appeals of Catholic Relief Services to alleviate hunger in drought-stricken sub-Sahara Africa, an anonymous donor sent the agency a single coin. But the coin proved to be a solid gold 1908 Austro-Hungarian crown, valued at more than $200. Said the donor in a message to CRS: “1 love that gold—but I love Christ more.”

On the tax front: The United Methodist Publishing House will be severely curtailed in tax exemptions under a ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Now the Publishing Company will be allowed exemptions only for that property used for Publishing material solely for the denomination. Meanwhile, Colorado tax officials are giving the Guru Maharaj Ji’s operations a close scrutiny. The tax men are bothered by the scope and variety of the Guru’s tax-free purchases (among them fifty-six cars and trucks, including a Rolls Royce and three Mercedes-Benz) and are questioning their legality.

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Nearly a year after Alice and Lawrence Parker withheld insulin from their dying diabetic son (see September 14, 1973. issue, page 50) in the belief that he was healed, Alice Parker admitted in court that she’d made a mistake and should have given 12-year-old Wesley the insulin. The two were charged with involuntary manslaughter after the death. The Parkers had also refused to have the boy buried, believing he would be resurrected.

Calvin Christian Retirement Home of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is bankrupt. A number of investors lost sizable sums in the collapse of the $5 million project.

Tornados blew the roof off the headquarters building of the Oral Roberts Association in Tulsa, resulting in extensive water damage, and severely damaged a $2 million aerobics building under construction on the Oral Roberts University campus.


Marjorie Hyer of The Washington Post won the Supple Memorial Award, the top honor for reporters who cover religion for the secular press, at the twenty-fifth anniversary meeting of the Religion Newswriters Association in Louisville. The Schachern Memorial Award for excellence in religion sections went to the St. Petersburg Times (Ms. Lee Kelly is religion editor), and the Supple Special Award for writers on papers with 50,000 or less circulation went to Roger Ipswitch of the Ventura County (California) Star-Free Press.

United Methodist clergyman Gerald F. Moede, 44, since 1967 a research executive with the World Council of Churches, was named general secretary of the nine-denomination Consultation on Church Union (COCU). Dr. John Satterwhite. an African Methodist Episcopal Zion clergyman and professor at Wesley Seminary in Washington, D. C., was selected as associate general secretary.

Another male bastion has fallen. The Reverend Alice M. Henderson, an African Methodist Episcopal minister from Tndian Springs, Georgia, is the first woman chaplain in U. S. Army history. A graduate of Turner Theological Seminary, Atlanta, Georgia, the new chaplain will be assigned to duty after spending time at the army’s school for chaplains.

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United Methodist bishop Paul Wash-burn of Chicago announced he will actively serve as “chief pastor” of the strife-torn First United Methodist Church of Evanston with Dow Kirkpatrick remaining on as senior pastor. In a split vote First’s congregation had asked Washburn to remove Kirkpatrick (see June 7 issue, page 50), but Washburn refused, saying, “I cannot give the signal to the whole United Methodist Church that our episcopal System is about to yield to a congregational System.”

United Methodist home-mission executive Paul Stauffer was elected President of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO). He succeeds American Baptist home-mission staffer Atha Baugh. IFCO’s board also approved grants of $320,000 for U. S. and foreign self-help projects. The largest was $140,000 for relief in Africa’s drought-stricken Sahel region.

World Scene

The Catholic Church in Portugal is in turmoil, Many in the laity accuse the bishops and priests of collaborating with the former authoritarian regime and even with its secret police and of remaining silent in the presence of oppression and torture.

Colombia’s president-elect Alfonso Lopez has promised to exempt evangelical church buildings and Jewish synagogues from taxation (Catholic churches are already exempt). He says he will also press for equal legal rights for women and for the right of divorce for civil marriages (the only alternative to Catholic marriages in Colombia).

Panamanian authorities, citing lack of evidence, released two men held in connection with the February murder of Canadian missionary Gilbert Reimer of the Gospel Missionary Union. No motive for the murder was established. He was stabbed and beaten to death, and no valuables were taken. Some theorize it was a case of mistaken identity, others that he was counseling a drug addict whose supplier got worried or wanted revenge.

One immediate result of the first-ever Iberian Congress on Evangelism held in Madrid, Spain, recently, was the formation of a group to coordinate evangelism activities of churches, missions, and para-church organizations working in Spain and Portugal. More than 700 delegates from both countries attended the affair.

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