Meeting last month in an overcrowded room at O’Hare Airport’s overpriced Tower Hotel—press tables jammed with reporters and TV cameramen, aisles clogged with anxious women—the House of Bishops of the 3.1 million-member Episcopal Church invalidated the ordination of eleven women deacons by a vote of 129 to 9, with 8 abstentions. They were made priests July 29 by three retired bishops, Robert L. DeWitt, Edward R. Welles II, and Daniel Corrigan; a Costa Rican bishop participated peripherally (see August 16 issue, page 39). Presiding Bishop John M. Allin called the emergency meeting two days later. The bishops will meet in regular session next month in Oaxtepec, Mexico.

In his opening remarks to the 150 bishops who attended the two-day meeting, Allin stressed that the issue before them was “not the ordination of women to the priesthood or episcopacy” but the “internal question of episcopal responsibility to constitution and canon.” “What,” he asked, “is the evaluation and response of the House of Bishops to the Philadelphia happening?”

Allin requested that the bishops go into executive session, which would have barred press and observers from the proceedings, but the bishops disagreed. For the most part they did agree that the issue was canonical and constitutional, not theological. In a straw vote taken two years ago in New Orleans, the bishops approved the ordination of women by a vote of 74 to 61, with five abstentions.

Alexander Stewart of the Western Massachusetts diocese said the controversy of whether or not the “Philadelphia happening” was a valid ordination would have been raised regardless of the sex of the ordinands. While there were elements of validity, the canonical requirements had not been met, he said. An ordinand needs the approval of his diocesan standing committee and bishop. Each woman had been asked by her bishop not to participate in the allegedly illegal service.

Philip F. McNairy of Minnesota claimed the issue was “bishops, not women.” As James L. Duncan of the Southeast Florida diocese put it, “Are we going to have a constitutional church? We are preoccupied here with authority.” Duncan added that the house had been put into this position by “irresponsible bishops.”

Debate, heated at times, ranged from an assertion that the Philadelphia service was reminiscent of the “Watergate conspiracy” to a comment that the “Philadelphia four had gone too far so that we could go far enough.” Robert B. Hall of Virginia, who along with Paul Moore of New York was involved in the planning of the ordination service but decided not to participate, said he felt nothing but the deepest admiration for those who had not withdrawn. Much of the irritation expressed during the debate seemed to stem from the fact that nearly two-thirds of the bishops found out about the planned ordination through press reports. Allin himself first learned of it in a New York Times story shortly before the service occurred.

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Although the issue before the house was said to be constitutional and canonical, the eight-member theological committee met to determine what the theological response to the “Philadelphia four” ought to be. Their report stated that the committee “in no way seeks to minimize the genuine anguish” of many that the church has not yet approved women’s ordination, nor did it “question the sincerity of the motives of the four bishops.… Yet in God’s work ends and means must be consistent with one another.” The report reinforced Allin’s conviction that the issue was not women’s ordination but “the nature of the Church, the nature of ministry, the authority of bishops, and the meaning of ordination.” (Part of the wording of the report was incorporated into the final resolution approved by the house.)

Arthur A. Vogel, former seminary professor and bishop of West Missouri, answered each of the four questions raised by the committee. In explaining that ordination and the laying on of hands are the culmination of a process in and for the community of believers, he stressed that the four bishops did not represent a recognized community. Ordination is “not an isolated act,” he said. He also explained that since the ordination service had both valid and invalid elements, the service presented two contradictory messages to the church as a whole—the proper words and the “fracturing of the Episcopal community.” “Which are we to believe?” he asked. Because of this “schizophrenia,” the committee, he concluded, believed that while the service was valid as “outreach” it was not an ordination.

The house listened to a statement of the three retired bishops and the bishop of the missionary diocese of Costa Rica, J. Antonio Ramos. “What we did was done with informed conscience and in good faith,” their report said, “and we believe that what we did was right.” Ramos in separate remarks called the failure to ordain women “the new circumcision” and added that canon law was “no more sacred than civil law.” Although ten of the eleven women were present at the Chicago meeting, none was asked by the bishops to speak.

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The eight diocesan bishops of the ordinands also issued a statement calling for the house to “reaffirm its support” of the ordination of women and asking that the bishops “urge the acceptance of this principle by the next meeting of the General Convention.” In addition to Moore, Vogel, McNairy, and Hall, the eight include: Ned Cole, Central New York; Lyman C. Ogilby, Pennsylvania; George E. Rath, Newark; and Robert R. Spears, Rochester. The eight bishops said also, however, that the bishops who have violated the constitution and canons “must be censured by this House.” They asked that the next General Convention, not the bishops, decide whether the ordinations were invalid.

The resolutions committee received thirteen requests, most of them dealing with the question of validity. In its first recommendation to the house the committee presented a brief—and to some bishops, cavalier—resolution stating that “priestly orders were not conferred on the eleven deacons at the service in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974.” Even those bishops who agreed with the content disapproved of the offhand wording of the statement. After further consideration the committee presented a seven-paragraph resolution that expressed understanding of but disagreement with the four bishops, stated a “conviction that the necessary conditions for valid ordination … were not fulfilled on the occasion in question,” asked that the Minneapolis convention reconsider the issue, and called “upon all concerned to wait upon and abide by whatever action the General Convention decides upon in this regard.”

In voting, some bishops did not understand that the resolution invalidated the ordinations, and several later changed their votes from yes to no or abstention. Among the nine who voted no were Spears, Ramos, and Welles.

Moore, who said, “I don’t know how I could go home if this house just says flat out that the ordination was invalid,” abstained.

After the decision several bishops said, “I just don’t know what else we could have done.” Three bishops who had drawn up charges that the three retired bishops had violated canons, the constitution, and rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, later withdrew them. A presentment of charges requires the signatures of at least three bishops or two priests and eight laymen. Allin told reporters he hoped no other presentments would be filed. If any are, he said, he would be required to appoint an ecclesiastical court of not fewer than three or more than seven bishops. Inside observers say that other charges are likely.

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Allin, who before his election as presiding bishop last fall was a strong opponent of women’s ordination, said he no longer has theological objections. “But I’m not sure that there are any theological reasons for it.” When asked if the real issue was not theological rather than canonical or constitutional, Allin said, “Yes, but it’s d—— hard to get bishops to discuss theology.” Because constitutional amendments need approval at two consecutive conventions, even if the 1976 convention voted for women’s ordination, it could be as late as 1979 before the church had valid women priests.

Allin is concerned with the pastoral care of all communicants, and would like his fellow bishops to share his attitude. Replying to an offhand remark by Stuart Wetmore of New York that “many look to this house as the best club in the country,” Allin at the close of the meeting said, “If that’s true, then there is a real need for renewal among us.” He asked his fellow bishops to consider “deeply and prayerfully the nature of our fellowship” and expressed hope that the meeting in Mexico would be one of renewal and refreshment. He emphasized that “we are involved in a cause greater than this house or this church.”

Charles V. Willie, a black sociologist who preached the ordination sermon and has been vice-president of the denomination’s House of Deputies, called the decision “the most blatant exercise of male arrogance I ever saw.” Several days later he resigned as vice-president and executive-council member in protest. The eleven women said they could not accept the decision. “By what authority does the House of Bishops rule on such a weighty question?” asked their statement. Carter Heyward for one reaffirmed that “I’m still a priest,” and several others declared they would exercise their priestly functions wherever and whenever possible. A priest commenting on the decision said, “It’s as easy to de-ordain someone as it is to return a non-virgin to a state of virginity.”

William Frey of Colorado, who approves the ordination of women but who voted in favor of the resolution, explained the attitude of a female deacon in his diocese (who, unlike the other women deacons, was not asked to participate in the rebel service): “When it is God’s time for me to be ordained, the church will approve the ordination of women.”

Targeted For Death

Accused assassin Marcus H. Chenault, Jr., whose real name was often replaced in common usage by the title “Servant Jacob,” may have been apprehended in time to save the lives of ten black ministers allegedly on a Chenault “death list.”

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The 23-year-old accused slayer of Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr., presented the list to Atlanta detectives, declaring, “I’m a Hebrew and was sent here on a mission, but it’s only partially accomplished.” Columbus, Ohio, police found an identical list in Chenault’s apartment. Targeted for death were ministers Jesse L. Jackson of Operation PUSH in Chicago, Ralph D. Abernathy of Atlanta’s SCLC, Cecil Williams of the Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, and the increasingly popular “Reverend Ike,” among others.

Police are also investigating the possibility of Chenault involvement in the mysterious deaths recently of two Dayton ministers: William Wright of

Straightway Baptist Church and Eugene Johnson of True Holy Church of the Living God. Both were unexplainably shot during normal pursuits; no money was taken from either.

How Marcus Chenault, whose father “didn’t send them but took them to the Tabernacle Baptist Church every Sunday,” became involved in his anti-Christian crusade is a strange story. The change began, it is believed, while he was a student at Ohio State University. Particularly influencing the youth was a 69-year-old religious teacher and pamphleteer named Hananiah E. Israel (formerly Stephen Holiman), whose home Chenault visited frequently.

Leon Vaughn, 20-year-old OSU senior, said of his former fellow-student: “Marcus was really a beautiful cat. He interpreted things to me like the Bible and the Star of David. He told me the real church of God was facing east and that parts of the New Testament were false.” Also, added Vaughn, “he resented preachers riding around in Cadillacs.”

Much of what Chenault professes sounds similar to teachings of various organized groups of Black Jews or Black Hebrews scattered in various major cities. But neither he nor his mentor Israel is formally attached to any such body.

In fact, Chenault had pretty well organized his own following in Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Youngstown, Ohio. These followers, numbering about two dozen, are all blacks with a college education, and they rely on the twenty-third chapter of Jeremiah for guidance. The group is known as “The Truth” (mistakenly reported as “The Troop” by some newspapers).

Israel (Holiman), who insists that he did not preach violence to Chenault admits to giving the youth “the key to understanding the Scriptures,” which saved Chenault from “the sleep of death, the grave of ignorance.” He apparently is the source of Chenault’s belief that blacks are the “original” Jews who had their beginnings not in Africa (though the Falashas there are viewed as a continuation) but in Palestine. Comments Israel:

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We are original Hebrews, Israelites, or Jews. And our God is the great, good, and terribly black God, the one who created heaven and earth. He sent black people here among these devils for 400 years to teach us to fear him. The real God is not a God of love. He is a terrible God, and the first precept is to fear him. White folks are not in that book [the Bible] except on the damnation list. And they know that as long as we are here in captivity, our God cannot destroy them.”

Israel believes that all blacks will return to Palestine, where “my people will have a chance for 1,000 years to obey him.” He says that he is “not too close to Black Jews or Black Hebrews.

“I [don’t] take on with them too fully since they seem to be integrated with the so-called Jews, the white ones. And I don’t fool with no churches, period.”


The Right To Reply

The “Life Line” radio program does not constitute “a commentary within a newscast” and therefore cannot be exempted from the so-called fairness doctrine, the Federal Communications Commission has ruled. The ruling grants religious groups attacked on the program the right to free time to reply on stations airing the program.

The decision was in response to requests by stations WGCB of Red Lion, Pennsylvania, and WXUR of suburban Philadelphia that the FCC reconsider its 1973 decision that the United Church of Christ (UCC) was entitled to free time for reply. (WXUR, denied renewal of its license, is no longer on the air.)

“Life Line” had charged that the UCC is part of a conspiracy to cause prison unrest through illegal means and that it financed violent and subversive anti-white militant groups.

The FCC cautioned stations offering free time in compliance with the fairness doctrine not to use it as an occasion to repeat and renew the previous charges. Such a practice, said the FCC, would discourage the attacked party from defending himself, and thus would frustrate the objective of the fairness doctrine—to encourage “robust debate.”



Complaining he didn’t receive the “blessings, benefits, and rewards” promised him by his church, a Miami electrical engineer is suing Allapattah Baptist Church in Mami for a refund of $800 in donations. Hugh McNatt claims he tithed at the urging of Allapattah’s pastor. Exactly what blessings he expected are between himself and the church, he told reporters.

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Nearly One In The Spirit

Since the first official meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, in June of 1972, a dialogue team of Catholics and Pentecostals (including mainline charismatics) has been pressing toward a common understanding of the historic, scriptural, theological, psychological, and sociological dimensions of the Pentecostal renewal movement. During the fifth year, in 1976, the team hopes to issue a statement on witness and evangelism.

The results of the dialogue which was initiated by the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, won’t be officially binding on Catholic or Pentecostal Churches, or on charismatic fellowships within mainline Protestant denominations. Still, the annual meetings appear to be making progress at the nitty-gritty theological level of the worldwide movement—a dimension somewhat overlooked or subordinated in the popular enthusiasm for Holy Spirit baptism.

This summer’s conference, held at the Ecumenical Academy, Wetzhausen, Germany, came to grips with what the Holy Spirit does in the rites of baptism, both infant and adult, and confirmation. Delegates had trouble with water baptism; the classical Pentecostals insisted on immersion of the adult believer. Also, according to a summary paper, there was inconclusive argument about confirmation and the imparting of the Holy Spirit: is it a part of initiation, or a kind of ordination? How many impartings of the Holy Spirit are there? Delegates agreed, however, that in regard to infant baptism “the New Testament reflects the missionary situation of the apostolic generation of the Church and does not clearly indicate what happened to the second and following generations of believers.”

Dr. Rodman Williams, Presbyterian (U. S.) president of Melodyland School of Theology (an ecumenical, charismatic school at Anaheim, California), and a dialogue member since 1972, noted a “mutual appreciation” among members: Pentecostals are cautiously seeing value in the sacraments and church order, and Catholics are recognizing that the sacraments, to be meaningful, must be appropriated by personal faith.

Catholic members of the dialogue were purposely non-charismatic, Williams said: “We don’t want to be talking to ourselves.” But, he added, in the time since core teams were picked, one of the Catholic members has “had the charismatic experience.”

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Topics that didn’t surface in this, the “theological” discussion year, were the inspiration of Scripture (rather, Williams said, the role of tradition in the transmission and interpretation of Scripture was raised with “considerable disagreement”) and Mariology, which “wasn’t even brought up” despite Cardinal Leo-Josef Suenen’s plea at Notre Dame’s huge Catholic charismatic conclave in May (see July 5 issue, page 47) that the movement maintain allegiance to Mary.

Dialoguers, speaking of the charismatic movement in the historical churches, agreed in the uncirculated summary paper that “there is justification for new groups and communities within churches. But such groups should strengthen and participate in the full life of their church and not compete or be separate from it, and should recognize the authorities of their church.”


Reverend Ike: He’S Back

The flamboyant “Reverend Ike” is back on the scene after an absence of several months, during which the national black press carried rumors of a nervous breakdown or hospitalization. Rumors began to circulate after several radio and television stations stopped broadcasting Ike’s programs. (Spokesmen said tapes ceased to come and contracts expired without being renewed.)

The disappearance took on special significance for followers who were aware that Ike had begun a shake-up of his organization just before he disappeared from view. But Mrs. Priscilla Alexander, office manager for Ike’s United Christian Evangelistic Association, at 175th and Broadway in New York City, said simply that Ike was “in retreat in his private home in the Los Angeles area” working on a new “Science of Living” textbook.

At his reappearance in New York recently, he chided the 5,000 attending for believing the rumors. “I gave you a test, and some of you flunked it royally,” he scolded. Nevertheless, said he, “I’m not going to work as hard as I did last year.”


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