The southern Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) is approaching its June meeting of the general assembly with less than complete harmony. The cause of contention, ironically, is a constitutional amendment designed to bolster denominational unity.

Called “Chapter Six” because that is the constitutional section up for amendment, the proposed change would give the denomination control over the real estate, bank accounts, and trust funds of each of its 4,000-plus congregations, regardless of any legal titles held by a local board of trustees.

PCUS officials say the amendment only makes explicit what has been implied throughout the history of the denomination (it began with the Civil War). The proposed amendment states: “All property held by or for a particular church … is held nevertheless for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.”

Flynn Long. Jr., associate stated clerk, noted the Westminster Confession of Faith affirms “the oneness of the church,” implying that congregations are individually a part of a larger whole. Congregational independency has never been a tenet of an individual Presbyterian denomination.”

Another official said the new Chapter Six is not “some grab for power.” Joseph Grier, Jr., who last year chaired the Committee on Polity, said the amendment was necessary only as a legal safeguard, to “prevent churches in Georgia from withdrawing without the consent of presbytery.”

Opponents of the amendment have labeled it an effort to “deny the civil rights of the congregation to own property.” They vehemently dispute the amendment’s statement that it is “declaratory of principles” present since “the inception of the presbyterian form of church government.”

Yet the amendment has already been approved by the necessary majority of PCUS presbyteries. Thirty-three have approved it, 23 have voted against it, and 4 have yet to vote. The amendment is expected to be approved when the PCUS general assembly meets June 11 to 17 in Columbus, Georgia.

The strongest recent opposition to Chapter Six erupted in Mississippi, where all three of the state’s presbyteries oppose the measure. The 426-member Cleveland, Mississippi, church divided almost equally among members who want to leave the denomination and those who want to stay. Pastor Wilson Benton has been particularly outspoken against amendment. Two other Mississippi churches and 12 in other states have left or are trying to leave PCUS because of the property amendment.

Article continues below

A second controversial subject will also be considered at the June meeting: the reunion of the southern Presbyterians with the northern United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA). Fifteen PCUS presbyteries already have joint affiliation with the UPCUSA. A number of conservative churches also object to the reunion move because they fear it will eventually require election of women elders (UPCUSA now requires male-and-female boards.)

Cardinal Cody Of Chicago Dies At Age 74

John Patrick Cardinal Cody, archbishop of Chicago, died April 24 at his home there. He died of an apparent heart attack at age 74. Cody’s last months as leader of the country’s largest Catholic archdiocese were marred by accusations that he misspent church funds. A federal grand jury was investigating charges that he had channeled $1 million to a longtime friend, Helen Dolan Wilson. Cody denied the charges, saying, “any accusations against the shepherd are also against the church.”

A dramatic development hours after Cody’s death was the reading of a letter he had written months before. The letter was penned in the midst of the funding controversy with instructions that it be read at the cardinal’s death. Cody wrote that he forgave the news media and others who caused him “personal hurt” but added that “God will not so forgive.”

Cody’s letter expressed sentiments that those alleging misuse of funds had “malicious designs” against the archbishop. Nonetheless, he said, “I can turn away because I am a Christian, a bishop, a person. I do so.”

“But God will not so forgive,” the letter continued. “God’s is another way—He stands before my former enemies insisting forever with good will that they change.” Cody also lamented that some people, “even priests,” had attacked him “because a delusion is too compelling.”

Cody was head of the Chicago archdiocese for 17 years. Previously, he spent 11 years in Rome, earning three doctorates. He also served the church in important positions in St. Louis and Kansas City. Cody was widely known before his 1965 arrival in Chicago for his work in integrating Catholic schools in New Orleans, where he served four years. He was known for his defense of church doctrine and was a canon law scholar.

His successor will probably not be decided upon until next fall or later. Cincinnati archbishop Joseph Bernardin has been a frequently mentioned possible successor to Cody. Other possibilities include Theodore Hesburgh, now president of the University of Notre Dame. Many observers, however, suggest the next archbishop (to be appointed by the Pope) will be a surprise—some name new to most churchmen.

Article continues below

John Richard Keating, cochancellor for personnel of the Chicago archdiocese, was named interim administrator. Keating, 47, was ordained in Rome and has been in Chicago since 1963.

North American Scene

Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) agreed with NBC television to split coverage of the Nabisco-Dinah Shore Invitational golf tournament. Ironically, the deal was made during the Coalition for Better Television’s boycott of NBC. The coalition considers NBC particularly guilty of offensive programming and an “anti-Christian” bias. NBC chairman Grant Tinker stated that the CBN agreement “shows that we’re thoroughly objective about everything.” CBN carried the early rounds of the tournament with NBC televising the larger-audience finals.

A French study of astrology concludes that there is no correlation between people’s character traits and the signs of the zodiac under which they were born. The Los Angeles Times quoted Michel Gauquelin, the study’s director, as saying that “the results were completely negative.” Gauquelin’s group compared the biographies of 2,000 successful people with their astrological signs. The subjects included athletes, soldiers, actors, politicians, and writers. For all 12 signs, a statistical analysis found that the correlations between personality traits and signs were no better than would have been predicted by chance. Gauquelin’s paper appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer, a journal set on debunking claims of the paranormal.

Cult deprogrammer Ted Patrick was cleared of charges of kidnapping, assault, and sexual battery. Patrick was accused of kidnapping a 19-year-old Cincinnati woman whose parents thought she had been led into lesbianism through mind control. The prosecution contended the woman’s parents paid Patrick $8,000 to organize the kidnapping. Patrick’s attorney said his client was not involved. The woman, Stephanie Riethmiller, has also filed a $2.75 million civil suit against her parents, who are said to have instigated the “deprogramming.”

Article continues below

The largely homosexual Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches has cleared the first hurdle to becoming a member of the National Council of Churches. The council cautions that the controversial denomination has still not been accepted, however. An NCC committee did vote to send the denomination’s membership application to the NCC’s governing board. That board will decide this month if the church is eligible. Founded in 1970, the homosexual denomination now has 172 churches in eight countries. An estimated 15 percent of the membership is heterosexual.

The Lutheran Church in America is considering closer ties with the Episcopal church. A recommendation for the LCA’s biennial convention in September calls for mutual LCA-Episcopal recognition, provision for joint worship, interim eucharistic hospitality, and sharing of facilities. It has been praised by LCA bishop James R. Crumley, Jr., and Episcopal church presiding bishop John M. Allin. The priority item at the LCA’S convention will be another proposed strengthening of ties. The LCA is considering a union with the American Lutheran Church and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches.

North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt’s Commission on Crime wants that state’s legal drinking age raised to 21. The commission also suggested that two-or-more-times offenders be referred to an alcohol treatment center. That would focus on the offender’s alcohol problem rather than place emphasis on drunk driving merely as a crime. Persons 18 and over may now buy beer and wine in North Carolina, but not liquor. The commission wants the age raised to 21 for purchase of alcoholic beverages. The commission’s recommendations were accompanied by grim statistics: at least 360 of the 1,330 fatal accidents in the state in 1980 were alcohol related, and 61 percent of those killed in one-car accidents were intoxicated.

The red-clad followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh outvoted long-time residents in a move to disincorporate Antelope, Oregon. A vote of 55 to 42 will keep the town (officially listed as a ghost town) incorporated and on the map—unless a judge decides some voters weren’t eligible and nullifies the vote. Antelope natives attempted to disincorporate the town so that Rajneesh’s 300 Oregon followers would have to deal with county government (county residents would outnumber the Indian guru and his followers in any votes). The original Antelope residents fear Rajneesh will take over their town, then raise taxes to drive out the “old-timers.” Meanwhile, Rajneesh has plans to incorporate his own town just 18 miles away from Antelope (CT, April 23, p. 38).

Article continues below


Richard S. Reilly has been appointed director of Gospel Literature International. Reilly, formerly a missionary in India, was director of Calcutta Youth for Christ and secretary of the United Missionary Society.

Vonette Bright, wife of Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright, was honored as distinguished alumna of Texas Woman’s Univeristy. She graduated from the school in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in home economics.

George C, Fuller, 50, will be the next president of Philadelphia’s Westminster Theological Seminary. Fuller is a graduate of Princeton and Westminster. He has taught at Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, and Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He succeeds the retiring Edmund Clowney, president of the seminary 16 years.

Donald Robinson has been declared the new Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Australia. He succeeds Marcus Loane. Robinson is a graduate of Sydney University and Cambridge.


Susan Alamo, 56, cofounder of the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation, a Pentecostal ministry to drug addicts and runaways, and the target of some cult deprogrammers; April 8, at Oral Roberts’s City of Faith Medical Center in Tulsa, of cancer.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.