“The rural Baptist church once sat at a crossroad village and neither the church nor the farmers and villagers who were its members received any aid from the government. Now that little church sits on a fine farm-to-market road paid for by state and federal funds, is lighted by REA electricity subsidized by the federal goverment, probably also has a telephone service similarly subsidized by the federal government, and depends for its support upon the tax-exempt tithe which the farmers derive from the government crop supports and subsidies.”

In these picturesque terms President Abner V. McCall of Baylor University describes the current predicament of Southern Baptists, who traditionally have made up the biggest resistance movement to U. S. government encroachment upon religious affairs. This fall, the question of what federal funds ought to be taken by fifty colleges related to the Southern Baptist Convention has raised what some call the hottest issue for the denomination in a generation. The battle is being waged in state conventions and denominational publications and in special hearings and seminars from Florida to California.

McCall and other key Southern Baptist educators are now pressing for a substantial share of the $5 billion the federal government invests in education annually. But many of the denomination’s pastors and influential editors oppose additional involvement in public funds and regard college aid as a crucial place where the line should be drawn. Southern Baptist Convention officials have not yet taken sides officially but are beginning a comprehensive, two-year study. The findings “will be advisory to the state conventions and to the boards of trustees controlling the schools,” according to an SBC spokesman.

The issue is bound to be intensified by the higher education bill Congress sent to President Johnson October 20. It is a massive affirmation of federal aid to college education.

It includes a dozen forms of aid, such as: direct scholarships for needy students, payments to needy students for part-time work ($129 million next year alone), doubling of authorizations for building college classrooms, library aid, and special federal backing for small, struggling colleges. Most of the latter is expected to go to Negro colleges in the South.

But the Baptist tug-of-war preceded passage of this bill. Helping to precipitate it was Furman University’s acceptance of a $611, 898 federal grant for construction of a science building. That development prompted the General Board of the South Carolina state convention to ask for a two-year moratorium on acceptance of federal grants to Baptist institutions.

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In North Carolina, a lawyer member of the state convention’s board wondered whether the convention should “turn loose” some of its seven colleges so they could accept construction funds.

In Georgia, the state convention’s education commission recommended that its institutions flatly refuse federal government grants. The recommendation was issued following four hearings across the state to gather grassroots opinion.

In Mississippi, a Baptist college refused to sign compliance with the Civil Rights Act and lost about $200,000 formerly available as aid to students in federal loans.

In Washington, D. C., last month a showdown came at the ninth annual Baptist Conference on Religious Liberty sponsored by the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs.One of the speakers was U. S. Commissioner of Education Francis Keppel, who has an eighteen-year-old daughter attending Methodist related Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, where classes open with prayer and six hours of Bible and religion are required. Southern Baptist voices were prominent, and one observer said of the aid question: “There was no doubt about this being the hot spot of the conference.” The final session of the three-day conference brought out intensive feelings, with some participants on the edge of tears.

In widely circulated Southern Baptist state periodicals, the federal aid debate has been most eloquently expressed in articles by college presidents. Dr. G. Earl Guinn of Louisiana College urges rejection of public money: “How we would extricate ourselves from our entanglement seems to be beyond our present knowledge, but this should be our goal.”

In an article that amounts to a rebuttal, five Southern Baptist college presidents led by Baylor’s McCall insist that “there is no way today for Southern Baptists to avoid some outside control of their colleges, If such controls are intolerable to Southern Baptists, they have no alternative but to abandon completely and wholly the field of higher education.”

The five assert that, like it or not, government aid to church-related institutions is a fait accompli: “The hard decision facing Southern Baptist colleges is whether they are going to refuse to accept the return of some of the tax money paid into the public treasury by their own constituents while they stand aside and watch this tax money used to strengthen other institutions supported by other religious denominations.”

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The main issue sidestepped by the five, however, is at what point Baptists should resist further deterioration of the line separating church and state.

McCall et al. acknowledge that aid brings influence and control. But they contend that “it is one of the least-used and most ineffective methods of control.” They point to government licensing power as a more formidable example.

Guinn sees much larger issues. “If the separation of church and state device has done much to preserve religious liberty,” he says, “it has also done much to threaten it. Growing secularism, whose philosophical basis is materialism, has been encouraged by the separation of church and state.… A secular mind has developed in a secular state immunized against religion by secular schools. Many believe this could be a greater threat to religious liberty than the breaches in the wall of separation of church and state.”

Guinn adds, “It is very doubtful that federal aid will make the church colleges greater bulwarks against secularism. To accept it will play into the hands of secular forces.… The great need is not tax support but a rebirth of conviction within our churches as to the indispensability of these colleges to the entire Christian enterprise. What our churches lack is not money but awareness of the seriousness of the plight of our colleges, conviction as to their relevance to Christian missions, and the courage to reshuffle budgetary priorities in order to make them secure.”

Protestant Panorama

Boston University’s School of Theology is planning a major restructuring next fall. A 100-credit-hour master’s degree program will replace the present 90-hour bachelor’s degree course. The new program at the Methodist seminary will stress greater involvement in community affairs and city problems, and will integrate relevant materials from social and behavioral sciences.

Presbyterians in Washington, D. C., are planning a six-month pilot school for laymen who will be sent overseas in the normal course of their employment. The aim is to inform them about the religions and cultures they will encounter.

Presbyterian Life attributes its loss of 21,150 subscribers this year partly to crusading on civil rights and other social issues. A spokesman said the church is in a turmoil of debate, criticism, and change. The magazine should survive, however; it still has 1,091,393 subscribers.


A worried World Council of Churches commission appealed for “yet another attempt” to resolve the Rhodesian crisis without a revolt of that colony against Britain. The colonial government wants independence on the current basis: rule by the white minority. Britain insists on reform.

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The United Nations Commission on Human Rights is to draw up a draft statement on eliminating religious intolerance for submission to the General Assembly next fall.

The Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops has accepted an invitation from the National Lutheran Council for theological discussions early in 1966.

Canada’s Christian broadcasters are forming a convention and hope to upgrade the quality of their programs. A multi-faceted core of 123 delegates met in Toronto to discuss problems.

After the Taal Volcano’s tragic eruption in the Philippines, missionaries in the evacuation area went to work as 12,000 refugees thronged aid agencies. The Far East Broadcasting Company helped distribute supplies. Evangelicals at aid centers distributed thousands of copies of the Gospel of John.

A fire at the Johann-Ludwig Schneller School in Lebanon destroyed most of the farm harvest, which would have fed 250 students. The institution is successor to the famed Schneller orphanage, begun in Jerusalem in 1860.

Moody Bible Institute has decided to grant bachelor’s degrees to graduates who study two extra years at approved colleges. This recognizes current patterns: nearly two-thirds of Moody’s recent graduates have gone to other schools to earn their degrees. President William Culbertson noted a growing demand for missionaries and other Christian workers with degrees.

The first chapel at the Rockview (Pennsylvania) Prison opened last month. It was built of sandstone prisoners had cut from a mountainside, faced, and laid. Some 400 men were involved in the eighteen-month project.


At age 74, an advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury has converted to Roman Catholicism. Canon George Edward Brigstocke had lived the past four years at Lambeth Palace, examining papers from ordination candidates.

A dozen Methodist ministers may get saddle-sore, but they’re likely to garner some publicity. The twelve plan to ride horseback from their hometowns to the Methodist bicentennial in Baltimore next April. They’ll preach along the road, in the circuit-rider tradition. Among the recruits is seventy-seven-year-old Sumner L. Martin of Greencastle, Indiana.

Maryland’s Court of Appeals overthrew the murder conviction of Buddhist Lidge Schougurow, because jurors had to swear fidelity “in the presence of Almighty God.” Buddhists believe in a moral force, not a deity, and the court said the defendant wasn’t tried by “peers.”

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PETER H. EEDERSVELD, 55, speaker on the Christian Reformed Church’s “Back to God Hour” (heard on more than 300 radio stations) since its inception; in Chicago, of a heart attack.

JOHN C. EVANS, 75, Episcopal clergyman and longtime (27 years) religion-education editor of the Chicago Tribune; in Chicago.

HENRY D. SIMS, 70, bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; in Philadelphia.

JOHN WALTER DOBERSTEIN, 59, author, former head of the religion department at Muhlenberg College, and homiletics professor at Lutheran Theological Seminary; in Philadelphia.

JOHN J. GRAVATT, 84, former Episcopal bishop of South Carolina; in Lexington. Virginia.

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