Rejecting the recommendation of its own special nominating committee, the 178th United Presbyterian General Assembly elected Wichita lawyer William Phelps Thompson to succeed Eugene Carson Blake as stated clerk.

The 47-year-old Thompson, who has just completed a year as assembly moderator, is an experienced ecumenist who proposes to treat the wounds suffered by the denomination during its recent doctrinal tempest (see story, page 44). As one of the few laymen ever named to head a major ecclesiastical bureaucracy, he hopes to see resolved an “incipient polarization between clergy and laymen.”

Thompson was elected to a five-year term to the post made famous by Blake, who is leaving July 1 to head the World Council of Churches. The assembly refused pleas to limit the powers or term of office of the stated clerk. Blake’s take a large manner had prompted many to accuse him of reading too much into that part of the stated clerk’s job description that gives him responsibility for “all other matters for which provision is not expressly made.”

Thompson, whose salary will be $25,500 per year, was elected by a 502–302 vote over Dr. John W. Meister, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Meister had been nominated by a twenty-three-member, geographically representative committee elected by the assembly. A pre-assembly committee had reportedly brought in the names of Thompson and Dr. Arthur R. McKay, president of McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago.

“I covet your help and your prayers as the servant of this assembly,” Thompson said in a brief acceptance speech. Later at a news conference be promised to be a social activist in the tradition of his predecessor. Lethargy, he declared, is the biggest problem facing the churches today.

Thompson’s successor as moderator was Dr. Ganse Little, pastor of Pasadena (California) Presbyterian Church, where Blake served before becoming stated clerk. Little defeated Dr. John Calvin Reid of Pittsburgh by a vote of 431 to 241 on the second ballot. The new moderator is 61 years old and serves as vice president of San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Thompson was born in Beloit, Kansas, attended public schools in Kansas and Oklahoma, then studied at Bethel College and McPherson College, both in Kansas. He got his law degree from the University of Chicago.

While in military service, Thompson served as an assistant prosecutor in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.

He is a life-long Presbyterian, currently a member of First Presbyterian Church in Wichita. He has been active in the leadership of the local council of churches for more than a decade. In 1956 he was given an ecumenical award by the state council of churches.

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Thompson’s wife is the former Mary Alice Wood, who was a Methodist until they were married. The couple has three children.

Vacated Office

Archbishop Philip N. W. Strong of Brisbane was named acting primate of the Church of England in Australia following the resignation of Archbishop High Rowlands Gough of Sydney.

The noted Dr. Gough stepped down because of illness. Doctors had warned him not to undertake any duties for at least six months because of low blood pressure and general exhaustion.

A new Archbishop of Sydney will be elected at a special diocean synod within a few weeks. But a new primate will not be chosen until the quadrennial General Synod in September.

The election is expected to follow a procedure quite different from past methods. Formerly the primate was elected by the House of Bishops, a body of all Australian Anglican bishops. Only the archbishops of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Brisbane were eligible for the office. But new election procedures were framed when a new constitution of the Australian Anglican church was drawn up.

At that time the Anglican church in Australia became autonomous from the mother church in England. The procedures for naming a primate are subject to revision and ratification by the synod.

Gough submitted his resignation from London, where he has been undergoing medical care since March.

A German Bishop’S Optimism

Bishop Kurt Scharf of the Berlin-Brandenburg Church, titular head of German Protestantism, takes a “more optimistic” view than his predecessor Bishop Otto Dibelius, he says, of spiritual and moral conditions in East and West Germany.

Open debate of religious questions by young people and their ready enlistment in church social-service efforts are prime reasons for his optimism.

Scharf considers estimates that only 3 to 4 per cent of church members attend services “too low”; the figure could be put at 20 to 25 per cent of the population, he says, if one also includes more than 12 million radio listeners.

While in East Germany attendance varies greatly between industrial and rural areas, in the large cities where communicants are fewer, he reports, they are more intensively and actively committed than before. Although in Leipzig 95 per cent of the youth observe Jugendweihe, the secular socialist counterpart to confirmation, in Brandenburg and farming areas almost all the youth seek traditional confirmation.

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Scharf concedes that Germany is hardly in the throes of spiritual revival. “The God-is-dead theology is alive also in Germany,” he comments, noting that the tradition there reaches back 150 years to Feuerbach. But no prominent theologian champions the view, although some lecturers and prominent laymen in the Kirchentag movement espouse it. “But no churchmen in East Germany hold such radical views,” he comments, “any more than one finds atheists in Viet Nam.”

The new morality has also stirred debate in Germany, says the bishop. But open conflict over ethical and spiritual concepts, he thinks, provokes a hot-or-cold decision that transcends lukewarm religious attitudes. During the Nazi era, the Germans showed hidden spiritual reserves to combat forcible suppression of Christianity. Today, says Scharf, although a public-opinion poll would show that many church members do not acknowledge Christ’s resurrection in the true sense, still a reservoir of spiritual faith lies beneath their personal experience. Yet German Christians need constantly to be confronted with the Gospel, he says.

Scharf also takes a more optimistic view of East-West relations. West Germans have more access to relatives in East Germany on limited-period visas at the high church holidays. But West Berlin churchmen still cannot visit East Berlin churchmen, because party functionaries view West Berlin as an abortive facade for NATO. “Inside the churches there are differences,” says Scharf, “but no tensions.” Individual congregations in East Germany want close ties with those in West Germany, and West German churches sense a spiritual responsibility for brethren in East German churches.

What of theological and ethical differences? Scharf speaks of other matters than property rights, totalitarian power, and the welfare state. “There is more God-is-dead discussion in West Germany than in East Germany. Moral temptation is not so prominent in East Germany as in West Germany, where an affluent society creates a more difficult situation. East Germany has no sex and crime films, no illustrated press featuring risqué displays.”

When reminded that other content is censored from the East German press, the bishop acknowledged that the press advances what the government considers right and proper. “But freedom in West Germany carries more temptations,” he reiterated. The Council of the EKID (Evangelical Church in West Germany) has taken a stand for limitations imposed by decency on the liberty of the press; although it does not urge legislation, it encourages Christians to support what is right and proper and to abstain from what is improper. Asked whether the Church in East Germany has adopted a parallel protest against specific restrictions upon liberty of the press, Bishop Scharf replied that in 1964 the Bishops’ Conference adopted Ten Articles Concerning Freedom and the Service of the Church.

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Should the Church involve itself corporately in political affairs? Bishop Scharf answers ambiguously: normally, no—the details and execution of political policy should be left to the politicians; but in all matters of principle “the Church should interfere in politics.” He even makes pressure groups’ quarrel with the position of the Church “a test of the validity of the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel” and defends the Church’s advocacy of redistribution of wealth as commendable.

What of Billy Graham’s approaching crusade in West Berlin, his third in Germany? Scharf considers it of “great importance” that neither it nor the World Congress on Evangelism make “anti-ecumenical” or “provocative political-economic pronouncements.”

Graham’s first crusade, Scharf says, helped restore the broken relationship of many refugees to their churches, and many skeptics were brought in touch with Christianity for the first time. The second crusade was attended mainly by those already in the people’s church and in the free churches, but these were strengthened by seeing so many other believers gathered together. The important thing. Scharf thinks, is whether effective follow-up use is made of the names of converts. Graham’s earlier ministry, he concedes, enlisted some from among both the intellectuals and the avant-garde, who attended mainly out of curiosity over a mass religious activity.


Where Are The Recruits?

From his office just off Times Square, the Rev. Louis L. King commands a sometimes restless company of 860 dedicated missionaries in twenty-four countries. Keeping them in line can produce a headache a day for the 50-year-old chief of the foreign operation that dominates the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The problem that promises to cost him the most aspirin, however, is how to get more missionary candidates.

In rainy Vancouver. British Columbia, last month. King put the recruit shortage squarely in the laps of 1,197 delegates attending the 69th General Council of the CMA. “All of us have been sincerely exercised by the loss of missionary personnel during 1965,” he said. Eleven missionaries were lost because of “doctrinal deviations” and “spiritual failure” alone. Only thirty-one new missionaries, far short of the annual average of fifty-five, were appointed.

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The candidate shortage is even more vexing in large Protestant denominations, and New Jersey-born King offers no special credentials to be able to meet it. His earlier years were ordinary—three years in Bible school, eight as a pastor, and seven as a missionary to India. But he is now serving his fourth three-year term as CMA foreign secretary, and he is gradually gaining recognition as a missionary statesman. King’s prestige grew considerably from his masterminding the Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission, held at Wheaton, Illinois, in April.

Though normally quiet, King can rise to eloquence before a crowd. His hardest going is perhaps with his own CMA missionary subjects, some of whom tried to unseat him last year. One complaint is that he has been somewhat “high-handed,” another that he goes “too strictly by the book” in administering policy.

The candidate problem was not discussed as a separate topic at the six-day Vancouver council. Instead, it appeared in the wake of other issues, particularly the need for stepped-up recruitment and for a solid philosophy of higher education. Some even saw the candidate problem as related to CMA reluctance to get into the broader evangelical swim. Delegates answered that by voting to apply for membership in the National Association of Evangelicals. To meet the recruitment demand they authorized a full-time personnel officer.

The education question was more troublesome. It concerned the extent to which the four CMA Bible and missionary colleges should teach liberal arts subjects. No consensus was reached. More committee work was authorized, and council delegates will have another go at it next year.

Some have felt that the CMA needed to overcome a doctrinal fuzziness in order to consolidate its appeal. So last year’s council adopted a 553-word statement of faith. The action was implemented this year with a move to require educators and missionaries to subscribe to the statement. Pastors and laymen, get by with a much shorter, less explicit statement.

CMA President Nathan Bailey cited as “the greatest need throughout the homeland” a “recovery of the consuming passion that characterized apostolic Christianity in its evangelistic outreach.” Bailey’s annual report contained a ringing challenge: “Eighty per cent of all the people who will have lived from the birth of Christ to the end of this century will live in our generation. Can we not match that eighty with at least eighty new missionaries within the year? And more—can we not collectively produce the eighty new churches to support them?”

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