With a distressing number of seminary faculties adrift on seas of subjectivity, church officials find it increasingly difficult to recruit new clergy. Even lures of generous scholarships are failing to turn up sufficient applicants.

This problem and others have weighed so heavily upon Episcopal leaders that they have persuaded a group of their wealthy laymen to sponsor a major comprehensive study of theological education in the denomination.

The broad hope, according to the Rt. Rev. John E. Hines, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, is that “the study will lead to finding new ways of helping to prepare our clergy for more efficient ministry and our laity for better service in meeting new challenges in a changing world.”

“Theological education—the fundamental training for church leadership—requires revitalization.” said Hines.

Underscoring the significance of the study is the Episcopalians’ enlistment of the best-known educator in their ranks, President Nathan M. Pusey of Harvard, to head a special commission to direct the study. Pusey is generally considered a theological conservative. The study is to cover curriculum and financing of seminaries, periodic retraining periods for parish clergymen, theological training for laymen, and teaching methods. It is expected to take two years.

The sponsor is the Episcopal Church Foundation, an organization of key business people who provide the denomination with special financial support. Foundation directors include Edmond du Pont of Wilmington, Delaware, Harvey S. Firestone, Jr., of Akron, Ohio, and John R. Kimberly, of Neenah, Wisconsin.

Announcement of the study appears in the November issue of the Episcopalian, official denominational organ, which also notes that the clergy in the Episcopal Church in the United States increased from 9,545 in 1963 to 9,789 in 1964, but that the number of clergy in parish work dropped during the same period from 7,130 to 6,490.

Total baptisms also showed a decline, despite an increasing over-all membership.

One article pointed out that the Episcopal Church is the only major communion without a department of evangelism. It suggested that although “everything that is now being done under the leadership of the Executive Council is evangelistic concern,” other communions realize that “what is everybody’s business is nobody’s business.”

How much such concerns will engage the attention of the study commission is anyone’s guess. If rank-and-file church members get any voice, however, a whole parade of radical theologies may become a major issue. In some circles, denominational theologians seem to be playing can-you-top-this heresy game that makes the controversially liberal Bishop James A. Pike look like a fundamentalist.

Until recently, the new morality theologians headed by British Bishop John Robinson had been riding the biggest publicity wave, with their denial of fixed ethics. Now this love-is-decisive camp is being crowded by an interdenominationally elite cadre seeking to revive Nietzsche’s well-worn dirge, “God is dead.”

Such funeral strains are expected to prompt a fresh outcry of protest from laymen upon whose benevolence “Christian atheist” speculators indirectly depend. One leading lay churchman calls their theology “the most blasphemous idea ever perpetrated in the name of Christianity.”

Mutiny In The Diocese

In a Milwaukee showdown between the Roman Catholic diocese and the Negro civil rights movement, several priests and nuns decided against the church hierarchy.

Auxiliary Bishop Roman R. Atkielski, who is running the Milwaukee archdiocese while Archbishop William E. Cousins is in Rome, flatly prohibited fifty of his priests and nuns from setting up “freedom schools” during a public school strike.

Most gave in, but an estimated dozen priests and twenty-five nuns insisted on serving in schools providing education while Negroes boycott public schools they charge are segregated.

The bishop said the rebels faced “ecclesiastical consequences,” which will be up to the archbishop when he gets back from the Vatican Council.

The vice-chairman of the boycott-backing Milwaukee United School Integration Committee is the Rev. James E. Groppi. His parish bowed to the bishop, but on the first day of the boycott Negro children showed up anyway. He ended up leading them in freedom songs and a history lesson. But he and other priests eventually gave in, and the boycott failed after three days.

On October I, twenty-seven priests had signed a statement supporting the boycott because the school board had failed to discuss the situation. The board contends any racial separation in schools results from housing patterns, not school boundaries.

In nearby Chicago, the nation’s biggest fight against “de facto segregation” suffered a severe setback when social idealism bumped into political realities.

The U. S. Office of Education put $32 million in federal aid on ice, for reasons similar to those of the Milwaukee protesters. But the smoothly humming machine of Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley didn’t like it, and—according to Washington observers—fellow Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson couldn’t sit idly by with a friend in need. In a brisk about-face, the education office released the money. Angry columnists pointed out that the education office had no trouble in applying economic sanctions to Southern schools.

Half of Chicago’s students are Negroes, and civil rights groups claim 90 per cent of these attend segregated schools. Milwaukee is 10 per cent Negro, a low percentage for America’s eleventh-largest city. Of its 148 public schools, 25 enroll 81 per cent of the nonwhite pupils.

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