For Ulysses Grant the road from Washington to Richmond was a harrowing one of blood and agony; yet his successes there made possible the reunion of the nation. For church leaders, however, that road seemed unmarked. The Protestant Episcopal Church had withstood the stresses of civil strife and remained united. On the other hand, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians divided. Not until 1939 were the Methodists reunited, and the Baptists and Presbyterians still look across the chasms that were created more than a century ago and that to many seem even wider now.

Unsuccessful Presbyterian moves toward reunion are well known. By comparison, efforts of the more loosely organized Baptist churches have been scant. Seeking to redress the situation, even if in a limited and inchoate way, is a volunteer group called the Baptist Unity Movement, which held its third annual conference last month in the First Baptist Church of Washington, D. C.

Mostly young ministers, the conferees included thirty-four Southern Baptists, nineteen American (formerly Northern) Baptists, and ten from the dually aligned District of Columbia Convention. The neighboring states of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania contributed two-thirds of the total attendance. Not all present were in harmony with the movement’s declared purpose; ultimate “organic union of Baptists in the United States … as soon as may be possible.” Supporters realistically acknowledge that the goal appears to lie far in the distance, but they seek now to create a favorable climate for its eventual realization. The formidability of their goal is highlighted by claims of some observers that their very existence as a group tends to retard rather than advance their purpose.

Proponents of merger point to the common heritage of American and Southern conventions until 1845, when division occurred chiefly over the slavery question.

The question of theological differences continually arises but is usually played down by spokesmen of the Baptist Unity Movement, who point to differences within the two conventions that are believed to be as large as those between them. But some Southern Baptists claim that their problems of internal unity, which are considerable, would only be exacerbated by interconvention unity efforts. And they maintain that the general theological orientation of the Southern convention is considerably more conservative than that of the American convention.

An indication of this was seen as the unity conference listened to evaluations of the Baptist Jubilee Advance, the recently concluded five-year program aimed at cultivating a spirit of fellowship and interdependence among Baptists of North America. An American Baptist perspective reflected the views of Dr. Jitsuo Morikawa, head of the ABC division of evangelism, who has said that “there cannot be individual salvation,” that “salvation has more to do with the whole society than with the individual soul.” A Southern Baptist presentation quoted Dr. Albert McClellan, program planning secretary of the SBC’s executive committee: “It is possible that our different methods of evangelism may indicate a different doctrine of salvation, for, after all, the method properly is the child of the doctrine.”

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Baptist Unity chairman, the Rev. Howard R. Stewart, pastor of First Church, Dover, Delaware, has spoken out in favor of participation of all Baptists in the ecumenical movement, even while noting strong Southern Baptist resistance at this point. But in last month’s Washington meeting, sentiment was voiced for modification of Baptist polity. Theologian Dale Moody of Louisville’s Southern Baptist Seminary said to the accompaniment of “amens” that Baptist associations “need to move on” to become presbyteries, from which, he added, would then emerge bishops (no “amens” on the latter point). He asserted the emergence of episcopacy in the later New Testament period but took pains to reject the state church concept of secular appointment of bishops.

Conferees voted to become a dues-paying membership organization, partly because the group is $600 in the red. Some Southern Baptist leaders point out that official convention leadership is not involved in this movement but rather is generally friendly to the idea of joining the proposed North American Baptist Fellowship. Such action was defeated at this year’s Southern Baptist convention but is to be reconsidered next year, reportedly with good chance of passage inasmuch as organic union is not envisioned in the fellowship plan.

Denominational leaders note that there are only some 600 names on the Baptist Unity mailing list, while there are more than 40,000 ministers in the conventions. Some Baptists fear that merger between the 10,395.940-member Southern convention and the 1,559,103-member American convention would be less a matter of union than of a large gulp followed by a severe case of indigestion. Conferees noted that the SBC has become a national rather than a regional body and shows far more interest in expansion by growth than by merger.

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Editor Gainer E. Bryan, Jr., of the Maryland Baptist spoke candidly to the Washington gathering in favoring the North American Baptist Fellowship approach: “I do not believe that the idea of organic union will get to first base, and I fear that continued advocacy of it might be a stumbling block to approval of the more limited continental fellowship.” On the other hand, Chairman Stewart, in asserting the need for the Baptist Unity Movement, indicated that the distant goal of organic union cannot be achieved unless something is done now to create a favorable climate. Responded one conferee: “I think we should create a climate for God’s will to be done. I’m not sure it’s organic union.”

Protestant Panorama

Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs will sponsor development of a Baptist research center in Washington, D. C.

Methodist Judicial Council will continue a hearing next April 22 on whether the denomination’s law-making General Conference has authority to integrate annual conferences.

Christian Education

A new interdenominational theological seminary is scheduled to open in Bareilly, North India, next summer. To be known as the North India Theological College, it will be formed by a union of three seminaries formerly located at Indore, Saharanpur, and Bareilly.

A $640,000 campus religious center was dedicated last month at American Baptist-related Keuka College for women at Keuka Park, New York. The school is marking its seventy-fifth anniversary.

Financing for a $500,000 student apartment building was approved by the trustees’ executive committee of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. A Nashville firm was employed to prepare a master campus design to be coordinated with the current $600,000 renovation program.

Foreign Missions

China Inland Mission is being reconstituted as the Overseas Mission Fellowship with membership “thrown wide open to people of any and every race who are suitably qualified and give evidence of a call from God to serve in countries other than their own homelands.”

West Indies Mission faces the task of rebuilding its Mission Center in southern Haiti, hit by Hurricane Cleo in August. Of the twenty-eight main buildings, twenty-five were severely damaged.

Missionary Aviation Fellowship began air service in Venezuela last month.

Evangelical Union of South America plans to open a Bible institute in Bahia Blanca, province of Buenos Aires.


Dr. Horace Savage was appointed president of Texas College, Tyler. Texas.

Dr. Archibald Watt was nominated to be next moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

The Rev. E. C. Thomas was elected president of the National Sunday School Association.

Dr. Harry Denman announced he will retire soon as general secretary of the Methodist General Board of Evangelism.

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