After lying dormant for the first sixteen years of the National Council of Churches’ existence, the subject of evangelism suddenly came alive this month. NCC leaders made evangelism a prime issue in their glittering seventh General Assembly in Miami Beach.
“There may have been a time when the churches thought they could afford to consider evangelism as an optional subsidiary activity of their life and mission,” said outgoing NCC President Reuben H. Mueller. “We dare not harbor such an illusion today.” Evangelism, he said, means in this age “what it has always meant: a call to conversion.”
Mueller’s successor, middle-of-the-roader Arthur S. Flemming, promised to give evangelism major emphasis during his three-year term. But he stressed that new attention to evangelism does not mean a let-up in the flow of social pronouncements by the NCC. The assembly bore him out by producing an ample amount of paperwork on political and economic concerns. By contrast, no consensus on evangelism was issued.
The fact that evangelism was even discussed, however, marked an NCC milestone. Billy Graham’s part on the program underscored the development. He told a luncheon of 2,500 persons that the Gospel is communicated by: authoritative proclamation, holy living, a consuming love for men, compassionate social concern, and the demonstration of unity in the Spirit.
“The greatest words in the Gospel,” he said, “are, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee.’ ” He also addressed several hundred persons at a sectional meeting devoted to a review of the World Congress on Evangelism. Half a dozen major denominational secretaries of evangelism hailed the congress as advancing the Christian cause.
Not everyone at the assembly was friendly to Graham (see following story). Some at NCC headquarters opposed the invitation to Graham to participate. The fact that they were outvoted suggests an opening to the right by the NCC. It probably signals as well an intensive tug-of-war within NCC ranks between advocates of the so-called new evangelism and those who favor evangelism keyed to a biblical perspective.
The assembly’s 868 voting representatives were treated to a week of ideal weather in Miami Beach—cloudless skies and seventy-five-degree temperatures. But business prevailed over pleasure, and surprisingly few churchmen ventured into the warm surf.
It was the NCC’s first major meeting without Eugene Carson Blake, now head of the World Council of Churches in Geneva. Two other noted social activists, Vernon Ferwerda and Arthur Thomas, were absent. Their departures from the NCC under unclear circumstances were announced quietly at a General Board meeting preceding the assembly. Ferwerda served the NCC as an assistant general secretary in charge of its Washington, D. C., lobby.The post is being abolished. Ferwerda will be succeeded by lawyer James Hamilton, whose title will be that of Washington office director. Thomas headed the controversial, freewheeling Mississippi Delta Ministry, whose budget has been cut back sharply.
The central figure in the NCC’s current evangelistic encounter is the associate secretary of its Division of Christian Life and Mission, Colin Williams. In a sixty-four-page book he wrote for pre-assembly study, Williams pleaded for a radical reconsideration of the concept of evangelism. Although 100,000 copies were said to have been issued, the book apparently made little impact.
The constituent count of the National Council of Churches rose to thirty-four communions with 41.5 million members at the Miami assembly, with the addition of four more denominations: the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; the Antiochian Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of Toledo, Ohio, and Dependencies; the Church of the New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian); and the Moscow-led Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church in North and South America.
Williams, an Australian Methodist, appeared before a press conference at the assembly with Harvard’s Harvey Cox, author of The Secular City. Williams said the new evangelism “takes just as seriously as the old the fact that the Christian faith calls men to a radical change of life. It also takes just as seriously the need for this call to be announced—preached. Where it is new is in its insistence that evangelism must also take seriously the new situations in which men must be addressed.”
Williams, long a critic of Billy Graham, again took issue with him, contending the evangelist does not go far enough in relating individual change of heart to change “of our attitudes to the world around us.” Williams said Graham’s type of evangelism has both good and bad effects. Cox refused to comment on Graham.
Whatever the influence of Williams, the avant-garde idealists seem to be losing their grip on the NCC. The steam has gone out of the preoccupation with the temporal and drive for social action of the early sixties. The mood of things may well be a swing toward personal discipline, and churches may begin taking closer looks at themselves rather than expecting so much of government.
A suggestion to this end came in a speech to the assembly by Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey, who chided American church-goers for their stinginess: “One statistic I have seen puts the total of Catholic and Protestant expenditures on services to others outside the churches, at about $500 million per year—only forty-one cents per month for everyone who belongs to a church in America.”
Humphrey said the essence of his religious conviction was that “the way you treat people is the way you treat God.”
As ecumenical church leaders show more interest in evangelism and biblical priorities, they know they will be in a better position for rapprochement with Roman CatholicsThe NCC General Board made a new move toward the Roman Catholic Church by recognizing it is subscribing to the preamble to the NCC constitution. and with evangelical Protestants now outside the conciliar movement. Ecumenists have great respect for evangelical zeal, which takes on new importance as declining church membership becomes a topic of concern.
Freud On Woodrow Wilson: A Delusion Of Divinity
Both Sigmund Freud and Woodrow Wilson were born in 1856, achieved world fame, and died in disillusionment. Beyond that the two had little in common until Look magazine this month ran an excerpt from a forthcoming book in which Wilson suffers second-hand psychoanalysis from Freud and William C. Bullitt, Wilson’s ambassador to Russia, who broke with him in 1919.
Princeton University’s Arthur S. Link, editor of the Wilson papers of which the first volume recently appeared, says the Look piece is “tame” compared to the book, which will claim Wilson was not just neurotic but a psychotic from at least 1907 to the end of his career because he couldn’t solve his Oepidus (father) complex.
Historian Link estimates the book is about nine-tenths “non-fact.… I couldn’t begin to count the demonstrable errors.” Another aspect—Wilson was “a zealous Christian, though not a fanatic,” while Freud believed “any religion was merely a projection of the ego.” Thus Freud asserts Presbyterian Wilson actually believed he was God. Link says that is “the most errant nonsense.” (See Link’s essay on Wilson’s beliefs in the July 3, 1964, issue).
Freud was not only an atheist but also a citizen of the Hapsburg empire defeated by the American Allies in World War I. With co-author Bullitt a political enemy, the combination is potent. Wilson is accused of giving in too easily to Allied demands because “the deep underlying femininity of his nature began to control him.” He was psychologically “destroyed” by his strong-willed father, Presbyterian minister Joseph Ruggles Wilson, and “his identification with the Trinity was in full control of him.”
Most of the nation’s 19,000 psychiatrists disregard the value of such posthumous psychoanalysis, and it appears Freud has provided them as much insight about himself as about Wilson.
Some Freud followers have reacted in disbelief that the founder of psychoanalysis would have done such a thing, and John Fearing, chairman of the public information committee of the American Psychoanalytic Society, said he is upset that the material ever was made public and doesn’t intend to read it.
The 1,200-member APS generally represents classical Freudian psychiatry, while the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, with 700 members, is a more eclectic Freudian group. A member of both, Northwestern University’s Jules Masserman, is “bitterly, totally, unalterably opposed” to the Freud book.
Evangelical Christian psychiatrists generally take a more friendly view toward Freud than Freud did toward Wilson. After all, Freud was a “sick old man,” says John A. Knapp of Charlottesville, Virginia. He believes Freudian concepts are “tools which can be used either to cut away diseased tissue, or to butcher,” and predicts that “all men who are not Freud’s religious slaves will be embarrassed.”
Knapp helped start the psychiatric section of the Christian Medical Society. Its current president, Truman Esau of Chicago’s Covenant Counselling Center, says that Freud’s idea that all religion is neurotic is “generally discarded” but that Freud has helped psychiatry differentiate between religion used in a neurotic fashion and religion as “faith and living reality.”
E. Mansell Pattison of the University of Washington thinks Freud was not really against religion per se but the institutional church as he saw it in Vienna. But because of Freud, there was “a lot of anti-religious bias inherent in psychiatry up till the early forties,” and some psychiatrists still have “an anti-religious chip on their shoulders.”
Few psychiatrists seem to take Freud’s latest seriously. The mood of the episode was captured by New York Times humorist Russell Baker: “What this country needs is a legal guarantee of the citizen’s right not to be publicly psychoanalyzed by people he has never met. Violation of this right should be made a crime. It could be called ‘Freudulence.’ ”
If, however, evangelism retains the attention of the NCC, it will demand definition. Right now there is wide disagreement and even confusion.
Some churchmen found it hard to get excited about human need in the environment of the assembly headquarters, the luxurious hotel Fontainbleau, which claims to be the “leading resort in the world.” Nevertheless, a long list of social concerns was voiced. Some examples:
From a “Message to the Churches”: “We in this assembly call upon the constituencies of this council to concern themselves actively with the great responsibilities that have confronted this assembly, including the basic need of men to know the living Christ and under his Lordship seek the elimination of racial injustice, poverty, hunger, war, and the disunity in the household of Christ.”
From a resolution: The “General Assembly welcomes the action of Pope Paul VI in calling for an extension of the Christmas ceasefire in Viet Nam.… The General Assembly calls upon the United States government to respond affirmatively …”
From a General Board resolution: “We suggest that there are better ways of ensuring our national security and of meeting the manpower needs than the present Selective Service system with its patent inequities.”
Using the term “demons,” Dr. Willis E. Elliott unleased a scathing attack on evangelist Billy Graham and CHRISTIANITY TODAY Editor Carl F. H. Henry at the NCC General Assembly (story above). He compared them with the New Testament scribes who persecuted and helped kill Christ.
Elliott, a United Church of Christ official, accused Graham and Henry of a “cancerous over-attention” to the Bible, which he said amounted to bibliolatry. Elliott also complained of the “oppressive atmosphere” at CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S recent World Congress on Evangelism, where he was an observer.
“I do not consider the Red Chinese pollution more dangerous than that of John R. W. Stott, the main Bible teacher at the congress,” Elliott said.
“In us and our churches,” he added, “are demonic forces determined to fight off the future, and in this speech I have attacked just one of these demons, namely the scribal mentality.”
The speech was presented to a sectional meeting of the assembly, with several hundred persons present. One denominational official afterward recorded a vocal protest.
Elliott boasted that assembly leaders had not seen his text in advance. Although he kept it from them, he is known to have distributed it to reporters several days before the meeting. He works in the Division of Evangelism and Research of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries.
Canadian Council Revamps
The Canadian Council of Churches, meeting at Geneva Park, Ontario, November 22–25, voted unanimously for sweeping organizational changes. The 150 delegates gave formal approval to a provisional constitution to serve until 1969. The new structures are designed to move away from the traditional denominational patter and make way for greater ecumenical enterprises.
Presbyterian Wilfred Butcher, general secretary, said the council had advanced only a little further “than the threshold of genuine ecumenical movement.… We expect to have quite a different type of council, neither coordinating nor reflecting the departmental action of the churches, but rather based on the very nature and need of ecumenical encounter and action.” The old departments will be replaced by three commissions: ecumenical encounter, research, and education. The council saw itself as an agency working in areas where individual churches could not do the job, including ecumenical talks and cooperation with Roman Catholics.
The council called for action by the Canadian government to secure United Nations recognition for Red China, self-determination on Taiwan, and a halt of U.S. bombing of North Viet Nam on the grounds that “it appears that North Viet Nam will not join in any peace talks unless the United States stops bombing its territory.” A special day of prayer is to be called on behalf of Viet Nam, and member churches will be asked to contribute more effective aid to the suffering civilians in both North and South Viet Nam.
Some evangelicals at the council cautioned against over-involvement in social action when the primary task of the church is to preach the Gospel.
The council voted to meet triennially instead of biennially, and elected the Rev. Reginald Dunn, a Toronto Baptist, as president.
J. BERKLEY REYNOLDS
For forty years Washington Cathedral has been in the Christmas-card business, and this season the demand is greater than ever. Some four million cards produced by the Episcopal national shrine are expected to pass through the mails.
The cathedral isn’t in it just for the money, but a spokesman readily acknowledges that the $6,200,000 gross income since 1926 has been a “significant help.”
The steady growth of the Christmas-card business is obviously a result of the bargain offered: ten high-quality cards with envelopes for a dollar, one hundred for nine dollars. Most of the cards are richly illustrated with traditional religious art. A few cards show contemporary religious art and scenes of the cathedral. Producers search far and wide for suitable art, and last year they scored something of an ecumenical first by reproducing with credit a painting that hangs in the museum of ultra-fundamentalist Bob Jones University.
Despite increasing production costs, the cathedral has been able to keep prices down because of its efficient staff and the increased sales volume. All profits go to the building and maintenance of the cathedral, which is about two-thirds finished. Completion of the building is not expected until about 1985.
The cathedral is said to have started printing Christmas cards when many of its friends complained that commercial ones pictured only Santa Claus or winter scenes and had little or no religious significance. Churchmen of the cathedral say that the success of their cards caused commercial card companies to add religious cards to their lines. These churchmen also cite another rewarding aspect of their card project: it prompts spiritually needy people to write the cathedral about their problems and enables counselors to provide a direct and personal Christian service.
In the aftermath of last month’s approval of merger by the general conferences of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches (Nov. 25 issue, page 38) some ecumenically minded Methodists are complaining that the EUBs were railroaded into passage.
Two official Methodist magazines, the missions journal World Outlook and the social action organ Concern, said the 10.3 million Methodists conceded virtually nothing to the 750,000 EUBs. Outlook said it was not “church union” but “denominational triumphalism,” and Concern expressed wonder that the EUBs went along at all (they passed the union plan by a mere sixteen votes).
The handling of negotiations is of significance to the Consultation on Church Union, which both denominations also participate in.
Methodist COCU delegate Albert Outler says he voted against the EUB merger because it was handled by “a small power group with a lay pope as its pyramid” and seemed more like a corporation merger than a spiritual exercise. The “pope” was Charles C. Parlin, lawyer, World Council of Churches leader, and opponent of COCU.
The same week the two general conferences discussed merger, the Methodist bishops also met in Chicago and called for a quick end to the Viet Nam war and proposed a “world consultation” of religious leaders, probably in Asia, to seek a way out. A week later, President Odd Hagen of the World Methodist Council said during a U. S. visit that he was asking other leaders of world confessional bodies, including Pope Paul, to join him in a pre-Christmas appeal for peace. Paul had previously issued an appeal of his own.
Holiness Unity On Tiptoe
Acknowledging ecumenical currents, and concerned over their own lack of a unified front, representatives of thirteen holiness denominationsDenominations represented were: Brethren in Christ, Churches of Christ in Christian Union, Evangelical Friends Association, Evangelical Methodists, Evangelical United Brethren (Northwest Conference), Free Methodists, Holiness Methodists, Missionary Church Association, Church of the Nazarene, Pilgrim Holiness, Salvation Army, United Missionary Church, Wesleyan Methodists. ranging in membership from 1,000 to 350,000, tiptoed toward a working relationship during a closed-door study conference that ended December 2 in Chicago.
The job tackled by the 150 church leaders was ambitious in the light of the differences in size and—at least until recently—a historic attitude of denominational independence. The answer to a closer alliance lay, conference leaders felt, in a “federation in which all of us have an integral part and yet maintain our own identity and carry on our own program.”
The conference came at a time when delegates within the group were involved in both merger and separation. The Wesleyan Methodist and Pilgrim Holiness Churches are in the process of merging. Should the merger between the Methodists and Evangelical United Brethren take place, the EUB Pacific Northwest Conference is likely to become independent.
The federation study grew out of a recommendation last year to the National Holiness Association. The NHA served first to get the denominations together for inspiration but during the last fifteen years has eased members and observers toward ecumenical thinking.
Myron F. Boyd, the Free Methodist bishop who made the proposal in 1965, gave the keynote address in Chicago. He spoke heartily for unity among holiness denominations but reminded the representatives that they were there only to study the feasibility of inter-workings in administration, publication, education, and missions.
To Change The Subject
Should doctors allow one patient to die in order to save another?
The question was put recently to a group of hospital chaplains by Dr. Neal Bricker, professor of medicine at Washington University, St. Louis. At a campus meeting with chaplains of the three major faiths, Bricker posed a situation in which a respirator is turned off on patients who are hopelessly injured so that their kidneys can be used for transplants. The prohibitive cost of an artificial kidney, plus the mounting need of kidneys for transplant, are arguments in favor of such a decision.
When Bricker asked for a straw vote on the morality of the decision, however, the chaplains changed the subject.
The most apparent area for cooperation seems to be publishing. The Holiness Denominational Publishers Association, which is nearly a decade old, produces a Sunday school curriculum for children and youth materials under a common imprint. But even here, the lack of denominational distinctives has been noted with occasional disfavor.
Outside publishing, concrete suggestions for closer working relationships were hard to come by. Long-range projections had to do with standardizing requirements for ministers, the possibility of a common publications board, merging of some educational institutions, and cooperative ministries in the inner city and on secular campuses.
A steering committee of eight men, plus two yet-to-be-named representatives from each denomination, was approved as an “intermediate step” between the study conference and “any future federating convention.” If a federation develops, it would ally thirteen denominations of about 800,000 members in approximately 10,000 congregations.
ELDEN E. RAWLINGS
School Aid Challenged
The constitutionality of aid to church schools under the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act is challenged in a suit filed with the New York State Supreme Court and a federal district court by the New York Civil Liberties Union, American Jewish Congress, United Federation of Teachers, and United Parents Association. The effort is backed by both the Protestant Council of the City of New York and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Half Of A Tv Debate
When Dr. Carl McIntire arrived in Los Angeles, one of his first questions was, “Is he going to show?” The answer was no. Episcopal Bishop James A. Pike had agreed to debate McIntire, a longtime fundamentalist assailant, on Joe Pyne’s TV talk show. But Pike told producers ten days before the November 30 taping he couldn’t make it. McIntire wasn’t told about the cancellation.
The Pyne people then replaced the bishop with the leftish Rev. L. P. Wittlinger of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Palo Alto, California. When he learned this backstage before the show, McIntire said, “If [Pike] is not here I will go on alone, but not with anyone else.” So a solo interview was agreed upon. The results were seen in many cities last week.
Pyne’s program, taped in Los Angeles and syndicated across the nation, is the top-rated talk show in many markets, including New York. Off camera, Pyne is rather likeable, but his program has soared to popularity because of his verbal assaults on guests. The emcee’s strange interest in religion is evidenced by a glance at his guest list. His producer revealed, “Joe was once a Catholic, but now is nothing.”
With McIntire, Pyne was untraditionally lacking in stinging attacks, but things heated up when the show was ten minutes old. Wittlinger made up his mind he was going to appear, pulled up a chair, and moved in on the chat, to the surprise of McIntire, Pyne, and his staff.
After McIntire made it clear he did not accept the boyish-looking clergyman as a substitute for Pike, the arguments over the Trinity and Virgin Birth began. The advocate of Pike-like belief was generally out-debated by McIntire, who at one point told the priest, “Sir, you need to be saved; you need to be born again.” Some of Pyne’s words-in-edgewise dealt with “the funny little stories in the Bible such as Noah’s Ark.” He also pressed McIntire into admitting that a room in his Cape May, New Jersey, conference hotel is dedicated to the memory of John Birch.
There were also some verbal clashes between members of the studio audience. McIntire had gathered about twenty supporters, and they appeared quite upset when others heckled McIntire. When the McIntire segment of the show ended, his followers left.
As McIntire departed, he issued yet another challenge to Pike, and a spokesman for the show said he was confident Pike would appear with McIntire at a future date. But not, an aide said, unless McIntire’s expenses are paid. This time he flew to Los Angeles on his own. Wittlinger’s expenses were paid by the program.
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