Theologically conservative churchmen in Great Britain displayed their willingness this month to rally round an ecumenical flag. At their first National Assembly of Evangelicals, many indicated a desire to suppress minor differences in favor of a collective approach on key issues. The three-day conference at Westminster, organized by the Evangelical Alliance, saw a number of far-reaching proposals put forward.
“If we are to meet this challenge, we must stand together,” said the Rev. Peter Johnston, vicar of Islington, who presided. “The situation is too desperate to allow for unnecessary overlapping, let alone unseemly rivalry between us.”
Among resolutions put before the conference was one calling on the alliance to set up a group of Anglicans and Free Church representatives “to study radically the various attitudes of evangelicals to the ecumenical movement, denominationalism, and a future possible ‘United Church.’ ”
The resolution was approved, with the proposal that the group report in about a year to a subsequent assembly session. Some Congregationalists complained that this would be too late to help them in their “battle of conscience” about union with the Presbyterians, to which the Congregational Union of England and Wales is committed.
Other resolutions defined “certain fixed points beyond which evangelicals cannot go in pursuit of church unity in Britain.” One of these, for example, rejected “apostolic succession” completely; but in the course of debate there was some rewording, and acceptance of bishops within a “United Church” was finally construed as possible. It was emphasized, however, that the acceptance would not imply that this was the only means of validating the ministry.
Other limits laid down by the conferees held that the Bible must be the final authority on all matters of doctrine and conduct and that there could be no approval of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic mass or of any suggestion that the united church’s ministry was in any distinctive sense sacerdotal.
Religious News Service quoted observers who saw as “unexpected” the evangelicals’ expressed willingness to cooperate fully in a unity movement. The conference brought together Anglicans, Baptists, Congregationalists, and others. Observers from the British Council of Churches and from Australia and Europe also were on hand.
Yes, that was the chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania crawling up over a church gate so he could unlock it from inside and let the bishop in.
And those were shouted questions from the pews during worship at Cincinnati’s Revelation Baptist Church, hurled at the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, key aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On October 7, dissident members filed new charges that their pastor used high-handed tactics and committed financial abuses in running the church.
And it was another pastor’s comments against King that vexed the faithful at Harlem’s huge Abyssinian Baptist Church. The Reverend-Representative Adam Clayton Powell, veteran Democrat, threatened to quit his pulpit of twenty-eight years, then offered to reconsider if the parishioners gave him a vote of confidence.
All in all, it was a bad season for intramural ecumenism.
Baptist bloodshed is commonplace, but it isn’t often that the sedate surface of Episcopalianism is rippled with such a furor as that at North Philadelphia’s Christ Episcopal Church. The rector, the Rev. William Vaughn Ischie, Jr., 39, was ordained a Syrian Antiochian Orthodox priest last month. He submitted to the authority of the local Metropolitan and reported that all but twenty-five of his 350 members were “in process of converting to the Syrian Orthodox faith.”
What was Bishop Robert L. DeWitt to do? He charged Ischie with misconduct and insubordination and got a court order to evict him.
Ischie replied, “What he says means no more than if the Grand Lama of Tibet had said it,” and locked up.
DeWitt finally got through the front door and celebrated communion for a congregation of six, while about 200 persons joined Ischie for prayer in the rectory.
The Cincinnati case has been droning on for weeks, and some Sundays the sanctuary has sounded like a courtroom. After original charges by some laymen last month in Common Pleas Court, Shuttlesworth raised counter-charges against the laymen. The latest charges followed a judge-conducted audit report attended by 700 members. Another church meeting, judge and all, was forthcoming.
Religious Heritage of America presented its annual leading churchmen awards this month to Dr. Herbert H. Richards of the Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise, Idaho; Wallace E. Johnson of Memphis, president of Holiday Inns of America; and Mrs. Pearl Glenn Herlihy, director of the Martin Luther Foundation of Delaware. Special citations went to Dr. Jarrell McCracken of Word Records, religious film producer Dick Ross, and Religious Editor Harold Schachern of the Detroit News.
W. Maxey Jarman, chairman of Genesco, Inc., was honored this month with the American Churchman of the Year award conferred by lay associates of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
New bride Beverly Barnes said right after the wedding, “This one doesn’t count.” Then she and the groom, Lutheran James L. Barkenquast, Protestant chaplain in Moscow, went from the Soviet “wedding palace” to the American ambassador’s house for a religious rerun conducted by an Anglican priest.
The Methodist Church is setting up a special fund to repair and rebuild church properties hit by Hurricane Betsy. A special offering was to be taken in Methodist churches across the nation on October 17.
Merger of eleven seminaries related to the American Baptist Convention with other Protestant seminaries is being promoted by the denomination’s Board of Education and Publication. The board promised “substantial support” to those seminaries that meet its criteria, including seven newly adopted “guiding principles.” A board statement said it would be policy to provide theological education in a broad ecumenical perspective and to prepare graduates for both academic and professional vocations.
Roman Catholic Archbishop George Andrew Beck of Liverpool, England, dropped a verbal bombshell in Rome last month when he announced that the Beatles might perform at the opening of a new cathedral in Liverpool in 1967. “We are planning a festival of art and music in general,” he said, “and this would include a pageant or mime on the theme of Christ the king.”
The U. S. Supreme Court is being asked to rule whether it is constitutional for a state to bar voluntary prayers in public schools. At issue are two prayers uttered by kindergarten pupils in Whitestone, New York: “God is great. God is good, and we thank him for our food”; and “Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we cat, thank you for the birds that sing, thank you. God, for everything.”
Park Street Church (Congregational) in Boston plans a $1,000,000 expansion project. An eight-story auxiliary building will be erected at the rear of the church, located next to the Boston Common. With its 217-foot Christopher Wren spire, it is considered one of the finest examples of church architecture in the nation.
“Except for a few fanatical ecumenists, there is no widespread interest in the Blake-Pike plan.”—Dr. Charles C. Parlin, a president of the World Council of Churches and one of the architects of the proposed Methodist-Evangelical United Brethren merger.
DR. EVALD B. LAWSON, 61, president of Upsala College and a Lutheran clergyman; in East Orange, New Jersey.
DR. MARY FLOYD CUSHMAN, 95, renowned Congregational missionary physician in Africa; in Laconia, New Hampshire.
DR. ANTON T. BOISEN. 89, pioneer researcher in religion and mental health who is credited with founding the profession of mental hospital chaplains; at Elgin. Illinois.
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