The Sixth World Order Study Conference appealed for a Red Chinese seat in the United Nations, repeating a stand of the last conference (1958) that sparked a grassroots rebellion against the conference sponsor, the National Council of Churches.

But a nagging new issue has arrived since 1958: Viet Nam. Here, too, World Order countered American foreign policy in calling for an end to bombing of North Viet Nam.

There was anxiety throughout the conference about what would finally be said about Viet Nam. At a session marked by unusually strong disagreements, this issue proved the most divisive.

Dr. Harold Row, a pacifist who went on the NCC study tour of Viet Nam, led those who thought the United States should immediately slop all military operations in Viet Nam. He was opposed vigorously by Harold Stassen, Republican and Baptist leader.

The final compromise statement acknowledged “with repentance” America’s part in the growing war and called on the United States to request immediate negotiations with North and South Viet Nam. Stassen and others were soundly defeated when they tried to make the statement closer to present American policy.

The current rash of demonstrations over Viet Nam led to affirmation of the right of Americans “to appraise, criticize, and endeavor to mold opinion concerning our country’s foreign policy,” A bid to insert “by legal means” after “endeavor” was defeated. Civil disobedience was countenanced, if participants are willing to take the legal consequences of their action.

The Red China statement was significant in the light of that nation’s present belligerence toward the United States and the U. N. The conference also asked for free travel between American and mainland China, sale of food and other non-strategic products to China, cultural exchanges, and negotiations on such issues as disarmament. It asked study of diplomatic recognition.

No report condemned Communism as such, or mentioned its atheism. Both sides were blamed in the United States-Red China rift. Traditional concepts of patriotism were conspicuously absent. In conference terms, it was clear that national self-interest must yield to larger concerns of the community of nations.

In one report “alternatives to Communism” were offered, but nothing concrete was suggested except that the nation should not trust in military power. Originally, this report said a form of Communism might be preferable to anarchy and destruction. This was deleted and the following cryptic statement was inserted:

“Our support for democratic institutions and our anti-communist convictions should not compromise our belief in the right of a people to determine the form of government best suited to its time and needs.”

World Order made no specific judgment on U.S. action in the Dominican Republic, but it recommended strong protest against unilateral intervention. As for Cuba, the conference called for lifting of the travel embargo and sending of funds, food, and material on a people-to-people basis.

The 600 delegates who gathered in St. Louis October 20 to 23 also heard several provocative lectures. Most notable was that by eminent British economist Barbara Ward, who said the gap between rich and poor nations today is greater “now than the gap seventy years ago between a Rockefeller and an unemployed immigrant just landed from Europe.”

Miss Ward, a Roman Catholic, said perhaps “the first and greatest task of the ecumenical movement is to form and unite a Christian conscience” on the obligations of wealth and the rights and needs of the poor. Her theories were sociological, political, and economic, rather than distinctively Christian. She never related these theories to the Christian Gospel but made gratuitous allusions to “self-professedly Christian” nations which should share wealth. The conference heartily endorsed her one concrete suggestion, that rich nations give 1 per cent of their gross national product to social development, through the U. N.

But the study documents overshadowed these speeches and interviews. The topics included not only the Asian crises but a plethora of other issues such as the Connolly amendment; the Selden resolution; South Africa; the U. N. convention on genocide, slavery, forced labor, and women’s rights; and the Manned Orbiting Laboratory.

Unfortunately, there was not nearly enough time in the plenary sessions to deal adequately with the many thorny issues. Many times all discussion was cut off, and amendments were offered without debate. Yet it is doubtful that these stringent measures—necessitated by poor organization—really changed the vote on any issue.

At its heart, the conference was an anomaly. Perhaps because of the 1958 criticism, the St. Louis delegates were most anxious to have it known that World Order spoke only for itself, not for the NCC or its constituent denominations. As one delegate put it, “Whatever happens, don’t blame the NCC.” This contention conforms to the facts, especially when one considers that almost all recommendations were at odds with American policy. But such a position seriously weakens the impact a conference of this kind is calculated to make, and delegates sensed this. Just how seriously is a non-representative conference to be taken?

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The conference failed to justify its existence in another respect. Nowhere did it relate its policies to theology, and to the more fundamental mission of the Church to preach the word of reconciliation. In other words, it failed to demonstrate why it, as a delegated conference of a council of churches, should speak on the broad spectrum of political issues under consideration.

Spirit Of St. Louis

Three church groups met the same week as the World Order conference (story above) and beat it to the punch.

The British Council of Churches asked negotiations that include the South Vietnamese rebels; the Methodist Board of Christian Social Concerns asked admission of Red China to the United Nations.

The Viet Nam protest movement in America caused continuing concern about the rights of pacifists and dissenters in general. One hundred New York clergymen upheld the right of protest. The co-ordinator of a peace march to the White House November 27 told a Washington church club that American policy is leading to “a new wave of McCarthyism.”

Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, top United Presbyterian executive, said that Christians increasingly oppose the Viet Nam policy and that repercussions of killing Asians will soon outweigh any advantages.

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