The second general biennial convention of the American Lutheran Church convened at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus. Ohio, October 21–27, 1964. In an atmosphere of growing maturity after a four-body merger in 1960, the main drive of the convention was directed toward implementing the union and widening the effort to close Lutheran ranks in America.

To this end, high priority was given to creation of a new cooperative agency that will bring 81/2 million Lutherans into closer relations than ever before. The American Lutheran Church is the first body to act upon the proposal to establish the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A.; this will replace the old National Lutheran Council, which has outlived its usefulness. The projected council will begin functioning in 1967, and its membership will include the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the Lutheran Church of America, and the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, in addition to the American Lutheran Church. By overwhelming agreement the proposal was voted and sent down to the district conventions for approval in 1965. It is expected that the other Lutheran bodies will vote affirmatively at their own conventions.

Indicative of the delicacy of present negotiations involving the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod was the response of delegates to memorials from three districts that asked the convention to formalize pulpit and altar fellowship with the Lutheran Church of America. Dr. Fredrik Schiotz, president of the ALC and also of the Lutheran World Federation, acted to prevent the adoption of these memorials. Speaking from the rostrum, he warned the delegates that any such action would impede negotiations with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He added, however, that he did not want to make public any details. The delegates voted not to formalize pulpit and altar fellowship with the LCA.

In President’s Schiotz’s report to the convention he stressed the necessity of employing every peaceful means for supporting civil rights measures. “The state may have to use the sword, but the church eschews compulsion,” he said. “The state protects and punishes; the church proclaims and instructs. And surely a part of this instruction must be the scriptural teaching that human rights take precedence over all other rights—be they called property or states’ rights.” Later the delegates adopted a position paper asserting that “congregations must avoid segregation” and that “all pastors are expected to teach, to support and to practice the concept of the inclusive ministry. Any pastor who in word and deed denies the Biblical mandate should receive the pastoral counsel of his district president and executive committee.” Congregations that “stubbornly cling to patterns of segregation … should become the object of the pastoral concern of the ALC through the district president and executive committee of the district of which the congregation is a member.”

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The convention could not seem to get its bearings, at least for a while, on the subject of compulsory attendance at chapel services for students at the military academies at West Point, Annapolis, and Colorado Springs. First a resolution was adopted calling for complete freedom to attend or not to attend chapel services as a cherished right of religious liberty. But a number of military chaplains and former military chaplains pressured for a reconsideration of this resolution, and after heavy debate and a better understanding of the crucial issues the convention voted a new resolution calling for “freedom to attend available religious services of their choice in lieu of compulsory attendance of academy chapel services.” The new motion did not condemn compulsory attendance, as the earlier motion had, but simply asked that the cadets be given a choice of worship services.

Several unusual features marked the convention proceedings. Following a report on the film, radio, and TV activities of the church, the delegates called for the presentation of 191/2-minute audiovisual account of these activities, which have netted more than $2.5 million in free air time. The response of the delegates to the presentation was enthusiastic.

Several days prior to the adoption of the budget, the delegates saw a pageant that gave a pictorial view of the ministry of the church made possible through the budget. The pageant had such a dramatic effect that the representatives wanted it reproduced for home consumption.

The report of the Department of Youth Activity elicited considerable negative reaction, and dissatisfaction was expressed with certain aspects of its work. But the delegates sustained the department by substantial majority vote. The convention voted to continue discussions with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod regarding the possibility of cooperative theological education on the West Coast and asked that a report be presented at the 1966 convention. Other action of the convention included:

• Adoption of a statement of basic church teachings on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, and pastoral practices in these areas.

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• Adoption of a position paper on church-state relations advocating separation of church and state; opposing public bus transportation for parochial school students and any form of direct public support for religious institutions; and favoring payment of local taxes for municipal services such as water, sewage disposal, and police and fire protection.

• Adoption of a resolution against commercialism in the churches directed against ownership and management of income-producing properties and the selling of goods and services to support the work of the church. The resolution also opposed sub-Christian fund-raising methods, such as lotteries and games of chance.

• Adoption of a position paper on Sunday closing laws advocating settlement of the issue, not by law and the force of government, but by voluntary agreement worked out by each community. Lutherans were cautioned to buy only necessities on Sunday.

• Return to the commission for further study of a position paper on issues of war and peace which held that Christian doctrine does not require a belief that war is inevitable.

• Adoption of a $23,750,000 budget, largest in the history of the new denomination, despite the fact that previous budgets have never been met.

From Quebec To India

Some 400 delegates to the eleventh annual convention of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada witnessed a four-day program of missionary emphasis.

Six more missionaries were commissioned for service in India under the fellowship’s newly established missionary society. India was chosen to bridge a missionary gap created by entry restrictions against American personnel. Two Canadian missionaries are already on the field.

The fellowship is also trying to step up evangelistic activities among 5,000,000 Roman Catholic, French-speaking people in Quebec. During the convention, held last month in Toronto, delegates were told of efforts to establish French-language schools for Protestant children, most of whom now have no alternative but to attend Roman Catholic schools.

Eight Evangelical Baptist pastors now conduct gospel radio broadcasts over private stations in Quebec. One has a regular telecast. Another edits a Protestant magazine in the French language.

Revolt At The Vatican

What might be described as a minor revolt erupted this month at the Second Vatican Council when more than 800 of the 2,000 bishops present expressed disapproval of what they thought was a move to play down their authority in the church.

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Religious News Service reported that the “revolt” came as council fathers voted on the first chapter of a schema in which the crucial issue of collegiality is involved. The chapter deals with practical measures to increase the bishops’ power and decentralize the church’s government.

Extensively debated at the council’s second session last year, the draft was revised and is now a combination of two schemata.

The ballots showed that of the 1,965 fathers voting, 1,030 favored the chapter and 77 were against, while 852 were in favor but with reservations. Six votes were declared void.

These “reservations” were occasioned by a textual alteration in a passage of the chapter that had originally stated that the bishops, in union with the pope, enjoy “full and supreme” power over Roman Catholicism as a whole. The text had been amended during revision so as to eliminate the word “full” and to speak simply of “supreme power.”

No explanation was given for the change. It was generally believed that the bishops voting “yes with reservations” felt that since the old draft had defined the power of the college of bishops in union with the pope as “full and supreme,” this principle should be reflected in a similar passage in the schema on the duties of bishops.

Archbishop Pericle Felici, the council’s general secretary, announced that because the chapter failed to receive the necessary two-thirds majority of votes it will have to be amended.

Early this month Pope Paul VI presided for the first time over a working session of the council. He said in a brief Latin homily that he meant his appearance to dramatize “the importance of the missionary activities of the church.” He stayed for two hours as council fathers took up discussion of a missionary schema. The mass that day was conducted in the Ethiopian rite with native African singers chanting, clapping, and beating tom-toms.

Recalling A Heritage

Seldom has Billy Graham preached in a place so steeped in religious history. The very name of the city of Providence was given by the pioneering Roger Williams more than three centuries ago “in grateful remembrance of God’s merciful kindness to him in distress.” Although New England’s second city can claim no special piety today, Graham did find there the same kind of spiritual hunger that pervades much of contemporary Western culture.

Graham’s appearance in Providence climaxed a four-city tour of New England hurriedly arranged following his Boston crusade (see the three previous issues of CHRISTIANITY TODAY).

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Some 10,000 persons turned out to hear him, but only 8,000 were able to get inside the overcrowded Rhode Island Auditorium. The remaining 2,000 listened outside on a balmy autumn evening via an amplification system.

Rhode Island, as everyone knows, is not an island. It is, however, as everyone also knows, the smallest state in the union. It dates back to the 1630s when Williams, a victim of religious persecution who was banished from Massachusetts, set up a “lively experiment” in church-state separation. The original island in Narragansett Bay was named after the Mediterranean Isle of Rhodes, and the entire locality subsequently became known as Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

The new church-state relation, significantly enough, presupposed the helping hand of God. The original charter of the American Isle of Rhodes read: “We, whose names are underwritten, do swear solemnly in the presence of the Great Jehovah, to incorporate ourselves into a body politic, and as he shall help us, will submit our persons, lives and estates, unto the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and to all those most perfect laws of his, given us in his most holy word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby.”

Graham’s coming to Providence this year seems especially appropriate in light of the fact that 1964 marks the bicentenary of the founding of Brown University. Originally established to educate ministers (Adoniram Judson was an early graduate), Brown has long since lost any appreciable Christian orientation. The spacious campus in downtown Providence lies adjacent to the historic meeting house that claims the title “First Baptist Church in America.” The church with its 1,400-seat sanctuary is in good repair and is used regularly. A typical Sunday morning service, however, draws no more than 200 persons, and Brown’s 4,635-student enrollment is poorly represented in the turnout.

The university and the church are joining in a special commemoration this month in memory of James Manning. Two hundred years ago on November 15 Manning became the president of the university now known as Brown. He was also pastor of the church, which was closely allied with the school and used regularly for commencement exercises.

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