Would the National Council of Churches seat Governor George Wallace if the United Methodist Church sent him as one of its delegates to the governing board? Such a question preoccupied the board at its fall meeting in New York City while it was trying to pass a raft of pre-election political announcements.
The United Methodists have not chosen to name the controversial Alabama governor to the NCC board, but his name came up as an example while the policy-making body agonized over the problem of a member who has been accused of World War II crimes in Romania. Archbishop Valerian Trifa of the Orthodox Church in America, the accused, was not present at the meeting last month, but Jewish youths who charge him with “ritual slaughter” of Jews and Christians were there in force. They occupied the platform in the Roosevelt Hotel’s ballroom during a lunch break, and when members returned a shouting match ensued between NCC president William P. Thompson, various members of the board, visitors, and the young Jews. The afternoon business was delayed for more than an hour, but the protesters finally left after they were assured that the matter would be put on the board agenda.
The assignment of considering how inclusive—or exclusive—the NCC should be was given to the board’s credentials committee. Two days later, just before adjournment, it came back with a report that did not gain easy acceptance. The ensuing debate found Thompson taking the unusual step of leaving the chair and speaking from the floor. He defended the report, which stated that member communions alone can determine who represents them on the board. He added that, as a lawyer, he had to assume the Orthodox prelate was innocent until proven ...1
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