A year ago the vast majority in the dissident “moderate” movement in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) said they would stay in the Synod “till death do us part,” recalled President Sam Roth of Evangelical Lutherans in Mission (ELIM). But last month some 2,500 ELIM members met at a hotel at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and voted unanimously to approve divorce.
The ELIM resolution stated flatly that the moderate movement “cannot afford to maintain a political battle.” It pledged support both to those who decide to leave the conservative-controlled 2.8-million-member LCMS and to those who decide to stay, whether in or out of ELIM and “in spite of the eviction notice served on ELIM” at the LCMS convention in Anaheim, California, in July (see August 8 issue, page 31).
After a “fruitless and frustrating” struggle, said Roth, the opponents of recent LCMS theological and procedural actions “have turned the corner.” Around the corner may be short-term organizational proliferation, confusion, and overlap. Eventually, however, Roth and others hope institutional unity will result for most of the nine million U. S. Lutherans.
The assembly urged those seeking a new alignment to form “clusters of congregations” for mutual support. Plans call for a meeting of representatives of these groups to meet in February to map future steps.
Delegates endorsed as a “promising alternative” a proposed “interim church body,” the Lutheran Church in Mission (LCM), which was formed as a standby organization earlier this year. ELIM executive C. Thomas Spitz, who heads LCM, announced that the organization will seek congregational memberships this fall arid will try to hold its first meeting of member churches in January. Whether the LCM becomes a separate denomination or a transitional holding body (pending merger, say, with another Lutheran denomination) remains to be seen.
At the Anaheim convention eight of the forty LCMS district presidents announced that for conscience reasons they could not abide by a resolution aimed at curbing Seminex, the rebel seminary backed by ELIM. The resolution forbade district presidents—on pain of discipline, including possible ouster from office—to ordain or place uncertified graduates of Seminex. In a statement at the ELIM meeting, the eight offered their “leadership in developing alternative forms of fellowship consistent with our Lutheran principles … if [our mission and ministry] cannot be achieved within the fellowship of the Synod.”
Six of the eight offered in a press conference few specifics or timetables for a proposed “parallel structure” to be created “within the Synod.” They declared that division is not their choice. It will come “when the harsh, arbitrary, and oppressive decisions of Anaheim” are implemented, they asserted. Action against one president would be “the handwriting on the wall” for the others, said President Harold Hecht of the non-geographic English District, a bastion of ELIM support. They made it clear that proceedings instituted against one would be construed as action against all. Roth estimated that 15 per cent of the 6,000 LCMS congregations will bolt if the disciplinary measures are carried out. As matters now stand, many of ELIM’s members are in churches still loyal to the denomination.
In the month after the Anaheim convention there were three ordinations or installations in violation of LCMS rules, and others were scheduled. (Several other planned ordinations or installations were postponed amid controversy by congregations in response to direct requests from LCMS president J. A. O. Preus.)
All eight districts, which together have about one-fifth of the LCMS membership, will hold special conventions or convocations this fall.
The Anaheim convention labeled ELIM’s activities as schismatic and instructed that they be ended. The ELIM delegates, however, unanimously recommitted themselves to those same activities and added a few others for good measure. The assembly:
• Declared full “pulpit and altar fellowship” with all Lutherans (the LCMS does not have such fellowship with the three-million-member Lutheran Church in America nor with other groups it disagrees with theologically).
• Pledged $860,000 of the projected $1.3 million cost of Seminex for the coming school year, up $300,000.
• Established a task force to develop alternative programs for the education of church workers.
• Told congregations they have a right to call and ordain as ministers “whomever they determine to be qualified”—including Seminex graduates. (Next year’s graduating class includes a woman who intends to seek ordination; the LCMS does not permit the ordination of women.)
• Reaffirmed that the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions are the only standards of faith and practice for Lutherans (a muted rejection of recent decisions requiring adherence to certain views of Scripture as a test of faith).
RENOVATING HEAVEN AND BRIGHTENING HELL
A church in southern England recently unearthed an ancient bill for repairs to its wall paintings, according to a Reuters news service story. The itemization:
“[For] renovating heaven and adjusting the stars; washing servant of the high priest and putting carmine on his cheeks; and brightening up the flames of hell, putting on new tail on the devil and doing odd jobs for the damned, and correcting the Ten Commandments.”
All for $23.
“Post-Anaheim casualties begin to mount,” blared a headline in Missouri in Perspective, a publication of the dissident ELIM movement in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (see preceding story). The tabloid contained stories of turmoil in several churches in the after-math of the recent LCMS convention, from the ouster of pastors to schism and heresy hunts.
Showdowns are expected on some campuses this fall. President Harvey Stegemoeller, 46, of Concordia College in St. Paul, Minnesota, reaffirmed his pro-ELIM views in a letter to pastors and hinted he may resign now that the majority of his board members are pro-Preus conservatives.
Another casualty is the already strained LCMS treasury. Some churches now are withholding contributions from the LCMS in protest against the recent convention actions and are sending the money to ELIM instead.
Still another casualty is the Lutheran unity cause. President Robert J. Marshall of the Lutheran Church in America and President David Preus of the American Lutheran Church both chided the LCMS in speeches at the Anaheim convention. They suggested that too much emphasis was being placed on the doctrine of Scripture at the expense of Christian life and work, and they indicated that the main concerns of the LCMS do not coincide with the ones of their denominations.
Jacob Preus insists that the heart of the LCMS problem is theological and that inerrancy of Scripture must be upheld if the LCMS is to be preserved from liberalism. The eight district presidents (preceding story) have differing views of Scripture. Emil Jaech affirms that “the whole Bible is the word of God, even in the areas we don’t understand.” Harold Hecht believes that “God is inerrant,” but that “when it comes to the printed page, there are problems.”
German librarians have confirmed that a book discovered in a pastor’s attic in 1958 is the first half of a two-volume Bible printed by Johann Gutenberg. The six-inch-thick leather-bound volume of 317 pages is the forty-eighth original Gutenberg Bible to be authenticated. It was first found when a former pastor of the Immenhausen church was moving out of a home, but appraisers who were consulted at the time failed to establish its importance.
Friedrich-Karl Baas, a school teacher who moved to the community in 1962 and later became a church officer, found the book on a church office shelf. He studied it carefully and found clues leading him to believe it was an original Gutenberg. One was an inscription at the end of the book of Ezra referring to a sermon preached in the church in 1523. It was not until this summer that he got experts to look at it. The fifteenth-century printer, who made his own paper and movable type, is thought to have produced no more than 200 Bibles between 1452 and 1456.
The well-preserved Immenhausen copy is thought to be worth over $1.25 million. However, the congregation in the medieval village of 6,600 people does not plan to sell it. It will be loaned temporarily to the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz. After proper facilities are provided at the Morhardsche Library in Kassel, it will be on permanent loan there.
A reconciliation meeting between Christian and non-Christian Nishis from the state of Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India broke down because of an anti-Christian clause in a proposed agreement. The 500 Christians at the meeting refused to sign because of an addition committing them to renounce Christianity. The meeting ended in an uproar, many were hurt, and the Christians fled once more into the jungles where they’ve been taking refuge from increasing persecution.
At a recent meeting of the North-East India Christian Council an appeal was issued calling for a government inquiry into repressive acts against the Christian minorities in Arunachal. In another action the council dismissed an allegation that foreign missionaries were conspiring to form a Christian state in eastern India.
Religion In Transit
A federal appeals judge and the Tennesee Supreme Court both ruled unconstitutional a 1973 Tennessee law requiring textbooks to present the biblical account of creation on an equal footing with evolutionary theories.
Jesuit priest John J. McLaughlin, 48, who served as a speech writer for former President Richard Nixon, was married in a civil ceremony in Washington, D. C., to divorcee Anne Dore. McLaughlin was absolved of his religious vows by Pope Paul, say friends, and the couple will be wed in a Catholic ceremony after the bride’s previous marriage “is annulled.”
Franciscan priest John J. Tirella, 55, received a suspended five-year prison sentence for helping seven major narcotics dealers escape from a federal jail in New York City last year. Tirella, a volunteer chaplain who delivered styrofoam impressions of jail keys to others, at first insisted to a grand jury that he was innocent, then in July pleaded guilty.
Episcopal bishop Robert P. Varley of Nebraska, 53, says he will resign. His announcement came two months after an Omaha World-Herald interview in which he described his recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction during a six-week stay in a Minnesota treatment center. He acknowledged that disagreements about his handling of finances and his leadership style have persisted among the sixty-five parishes and missions of his 18,000-member diocese.
United Church of Canada cleric Floyd Honey, 59, resigned after serving seven years as general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches. A money crunch and staff cutbacks were blamed. Honey has over the years attracted the ire of many in the Council’s eleven member-denominations for his outspokenness and involvement in controversial political and social issues. This, say critics, is the reaon for the lack of support for the Council.
The first national meeting of Integrity, an organization of Episcopal homosexuals, was held at the Episcopal Church Center in Chicago. Spokesmen say the group, formed less than a year ago, has twenty-two local and regional chapters with 373 members. Speakers included clergyman Robert Herrick, a staff member with the National Gay Task Force in Washington, D. C., and Norman Pittenger, a former Episcopal seminary teacher now at Cambridge, England. “For the gay person it is best to be gay,” asserted Pittenger.
A task force to mobilize Protestant women “in defense of life” was announced by Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Evangelist Billy Graham, and two other women, Baptist Judy Fink, and Missouri Synod Lutheran Jean Garton. They were among twenty-five Protestants who met near Mrs. Graham’s North Carolina home to devise strategy to counter the nation’s pro-abortion forces and climate. Also on hand: surgeon C. Everett Koop, a United Presbyterian; Southern Baptist minister Bob Holbrook of Baptists for Life; and evangelical theologian Harold O. J. Brown, acting chairman of the recently formed anti-abortion Christian Action Council.
The ordination of women as deacons, priests, and bishops was called for in a resolution at the annual convention of the 3,500-member National Assembly of Women Religious, attended by 780 Catholic nuns. There was even talk about a woman pope someday.
Current regulations of the Federal Communications Commission exempts broadcasting stations with fewer than five employees from fair-employment reporting requirements. The FCC would like to change that to “fifteen or fewer,” a proposal denounced as “racist and sexist” by communications head Everett C. Parker of the United Church of Christ. Claiming the change would allow 78 per cent of all licensees to practice discrimination, he vows to lead a fight against it.
Some 300 delegates at last month’s eighteenth annual meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Anniston, Alabama, honored the memory of SCLC founder Martin Luther King, Jr., and passed a number of resolutions dealing mostly with improving the lot of the poor. There were calls to “get it back together again,” but the SCLC has been all but crippled by lagging finances and an exodus of key leaders.
Southern Baptist students on more than 300 campuses are cooperating with the American Bible Society in distributing Bibles to the estimated 227,000 internationals studying in America. So far, 51,000 have been given Bibles in their own languages, say officials.
Child Evangelism Fellowship will move its 100-person staff and headquarters from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Warrenton, Missouri, where it has purchased for about $2 million a Catholic seminary on a 660-acre tract. Plans call for the facility to be used for training hundreds of adult leaders each year.
No takers. Thus Trinity Parish in New York City took off the market ten commercial properties in lower Manhattan it offered for sale late last year for $14.6 million. The properties were assessed at $7.8 million.
The proposed merger between two seminaries of the United Methodist Church—United Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Methodist Theological School in Delaware, Ohio—has been called off. Reasons: high moving costs, the minimal savings to be achieved under joint operation, and ruffled feelings. The plan was to close United, a former Evangelical United Brethren school, but former EUB members in the UMC pointed out that their seminary in Naperville, Illinois, had already been merged with the UMC’s Garrett seminary in Evanston. This time, they reasoned, the former UMC school in Delaware should be closed, and United should be allowed to continue.
Some 3,000 persons are expected to attend the evangelical-oriented Continental Congress on the Family in October in St. Louis, say organizers.
Church-state separationists are fighting the state of Pennsylvania’s latest effort to provide aid to private schools, a $31 million program providing “loaned” textbooks, other instructional materials, counseling, and speech and hearing therapy. The package, together with the free bus transportation provided parochial students, amounts to about $95 annually per pupil, says a state official. Public school districts get about $480 per pupil from the state, he adds.
The 1.2-million-member Knights of Columbus will pick up the tab for worldwide coverage via satellites of three major papal events annually (Christmas midnight mass, Good Friday activities, and an Easter sermon). The four satellites of the Intelsat system will be used at a cost of about $25,000 for each of the three ninety-minute live telecasts. Networks and stations must negotiate with Italian television, which operates a Vatican TV pool, for the right to pick up satellite feeds.
Attorney Reynell Andreychuck of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, was elected the first woman president of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Canada.
The village leaders of Oberammergau, Germany, have decided to use a different script for the next performances (in 1980) of the celebrated eight-hour Passion Play. Written in 1750, the replacement—unlike the current text—blames the death of Jesus on Lucifier and makes little mention of the Jews. The switch came after pressure by Jews and Catholic leaders who alleged that the play contains anti-semitic references.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh-day Adventists won separate Greek court cases that accorded them status as “well-known” religious groups, a category enjoying a greater degree of religious freedom than otherwise under the constitution. One court established the legality of Witnesses’ marriages and baptisms. Another granted Adventist clergy exemption from military service. Some 16,000 Witnesses met recently in Athens for an annual conference.
The Christian Council of Lesotho, a kingdom of two million population surrounded by South Africa, appealed to the nation’s political leaders to govern responsibly. Political troubles have caused “the slaughter of many of its citizens, heavy property losses, the flight of hundreds of people into exile, and produced a reign of fear.” The Council includes the Lesotho Evangelical, Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Assemblies of God, and African Methodist Episcopal churches.
The 100-student Belgium Bible Institute, the largest of the ten Bible schools operated by Greater Europe Mission, has purchased for nearly $1 million a Jesuit seminary in a Brussels suburb. The new facility can house 500 students, say spokesmen.
More than half of Sydney’s high school students have experimented with “the occult and Satanism,” according to a study commissioned by Anglican archbishop Marcus Loane. A number of students in other major Australian cities likewise were involved in “witchcraft and Black Masses,” said the commission.
Recently elected to the Hungarian parliament were a number of churchmen, including Bishop Tibor Bartha of the Reformed Church and Bishop D. Zoltán Kaldy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, according to Hungarian church press sources.
A seventy-five-day strike at the Christian Medical College and Hospital in Vellore, India, is over but the costs are still being counted: about $300,000 so far. The strike, marked by violence and involving 600 of 2,400 workers, occurred after several employees were fired for accepting bribes and falsifying admission records. The state and national governments took opposite sides in the dispute.
CORNELIUS P. HAGGARD, 63, in his thirty-sixth year as president of 1,200-student Azusa Pacific College, a Wesleyan-Holiness school, and a noted evangelical leader associated with the Evangelical Methodist Church; in Arcadia, California, following neural surgery.
E. LANI HANCHETT, 55, Episcopal bishop of Hawaii; in Honolulu, of cancer.
CLEMENT D. ROCKEY, 85, retired Methodist bishop who served in India, Burma, and Pakistan; in Eugene, Oregon.
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