A signal to the choir from ebullient emcee Cliff Barrows and the Greater London Crusade was under way. Billy was back, at the invitation of a group of laymen who thought “God has given him special gifts.” It was Graham’s biggest British effort since the famous Harringay meeting twelve years ago.
The opening-night crowd at the Earls Court indoor stadium was 19,000 (the hall holds 27,000), 2,000 of whom were in the choir. Oddly symbolic was the announcement that a lost and found department was operating. The meeting followed the familiar Graham pattern until he invited listeners to make a commitment or rededication by coming forward. Where the music ought to have started up, the choir and organ remained silent.
A lithe young Negro came first; then from all over the arena a steady stream of people: well-dressed, shabby, flamboyant, young, old, Oriental, European, African, at least as many men as women. They overflowed the platform area until the line was halfway up one aisle, 447 of them. It was three times the first-night response in 1954.
The second night’s meeting, aimed primarily at youth, drew 15,000, who heard a remarkable testimony halfway through from weight-lifter Paul Anderson, called the world’s strongest man. Once again, Billy Graham’s appeal was given without musical accompaniment. There were 734 inquirers, three-fourths of them under twenty-five.
Two newsmen watching such scenes were baffled. Finally one muttered a shade uneasily, “At least none of us are going forward.” “How do you explain it?” whispered the other. Answer came there none, but they had a whole month to pursue their inquiries.
The press reception in general has been more favorable than in 1954. Some news hawks have moved into Graham’s hotel, and others follow him and his team around constantly. One zealous photographer burst into Graham’s hotel room one morning and got a picture of the evangelist in his pajamas.
The British Broadcasting Corporation invited Graham to appear on a current affairs program but didn’t tell him until two minutes before air time that two of his most implacable enemies had been lined up for a confrontation. Graham went through with the program.
In other pre-crusade activities, Graham preached to the students at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. And at Southampton, he said he had come to present the Gospel, the good news, to people with a guilt complex, to the lonely, to those unable to find fulfillment in life.
He stressed that the crusade is a British one, run by a British committee. As if to underscore the point, the platform on opening night contained a brace of bishops, Major-General D. J. Wilson-Haffenden (executive committee chairman), and Viscount Brentford, who read the lesson.
The American preacher seemed well prepared for the continuous press probings. Asked about his “total world following,” Graham immediately responded: “I hope, none.” He termed himself a proclaimer, and not a leader of a separate movement but a churchman who does his work within the church.
Since Graham is a Southerner, his ideas on race also rated close scrutiny. Graham said the South has no monopoly on bias. The point was soon driven home when one of Graham’s Negro associates, Howard O. Jones, was asked to leave a rented flat at Drayton Place, Earls Court, after only one night.
Mrs. Gilda Jago, director of the dwellings for Langton Property and Investment Company, which owns the flat, said flatly, “We do not allow Negroes here.” When she took the booking she had no idea any of Graham’s colleagues would be colored. “With a name like Jones, for all I know he could have been Welsh,” she remarked. Two other team members, Danny Lotz and Irv Chambers, left the flats in protest,
Graham’s publicity in the States calls the London effort “the most carefully planned crusade we have ever led. Several of our team members have been in London nearly two years. The city has been organized block by block.…” Along with the central Earls Court effort, team members are holding scores of meetings all over town. Considerable TV and radio time also is being purchased.
All this is costly, and crusade treasurer Sir Cyril Black, M. P., will have about $840,000 in bills to meet. But the salaries of Graham, twelve other evangelists, and fifteen other staffers will be met by contributions to his American organization.
Graham told the press the crusade “costs about what Cassius Clay got for less than three minutes in the ring with Sonny Liston. It costs about one-fourth of one fighter plane that is used to destroy life. It costs one-fifth of what Elizabeth Taylor got for playing Cleopatra. It costs about what Julie Christie can now demand for one movie.”
Scotland: Pomp And Circumlocution
For hundreds of years, ministers and elders have made their annual trek to Edinburgh for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, one of the more democratic of the world’s forums. Money is always in short supply, but debate is as profuse as ceremony.
The Lord High Commissioner, installed as Her Majesty’s representative, emerges—in the tight little streets where Montrose was executed and Covenanters driven to slaughter like sheep—with an entourage in which all centuries contribute their particular dress and custom. He meets the city fathers, clothed in scarlet and ermine; they rendezvous with the moderators and fathers of the church, splashed in black, white, and scarlet, Siege is laid to the ear by a Highland pipe band.
And once begun, what does the assembly speak about? According to one editor, “about everything and anything except God.” Rhodesia, women in the eldership, the minimum stipend, industrial chaplains, the return of the Birch—you mention it and you will find it in the Blue Book.
The minutiae of organizational affairs are not without significance. In an assertion of individuality at this year’s assembly, the ranks closed in opposition to a move to require all congregations to accept the Model Constitution for “efficiency and unity.” Some of the churches still have their own constitution and rights over property, a legacy of former years.
In deliberations on church union, more divisiveness was inevitable. Conversations with Anglicans and Methodists were reported as hopeful, but slow and dangerous. On balance, it seems the Presbyterians are more “open” than Anglicans. The 245-to-223 vote to continue church union discussions showed the sharp feelings on the topic.
Meantime, a lively ecumenical diversion was provided by protesters, led by a Baptist minister. They infiltrated the assembly and, at a given moment, opened their coats to reveal canvas vests with such slogans as “No Bishops.” The same ploy was used by others when the Archbishop of Canterbury went to the Vatican recently.
If the Presbyterian-Anglican breach is unbridged, the gap with Roman Catholics is wider still. A major cause of offense is the odious ne temere policy—children of a mixed marriage must be pledged to the Roman Church—essentially unchanged despite Pope Paul’s recent “new” policy on the subject. Delegates recalled a recent instance in which a Presbyterian minister was unable to officiate at the marriage of his own daughter to a Roman Catholic.
On the floor, the church complained to broadcasting authorities about programs that more and more lapse into vulgarity and obscenity. The Scots are concerned with the “remote control” of programs from London, which some nearly equate with Sodom and Gomorrah. In another item, the church came down against “breathalisers” to check alcoholic consumption by auto drivers as an “invasion of liberty.”
The commissioners, conditioned to suspicion about Scottish weather, filed into the capital with umbrellas and mackintoshes, but the sun took over. At one outdoor session, a grueling, all-day sitting was necessary to deal with the crowded agenda. Summer heat, augmented by television arc-lamps, had the Scots melting in their tweeds.
Conservative Baptist Splinter
All the talk at the Conservative Baptist Association’s annual “fellowship” this month was about unity, but this troublesome fact remains: after a year of internal struggle, the CBA has been unable to placate its small strongly conservative wing, and peace now appears impossible.
The breakdown became clear during the CBA meeting in Philadelphia. At an almost simultaneous meeting in Indianapolis, dissident churches that were represented at last year’s CBA meeting in Denver but have since pulled out of the association formed a new organization.
The new group, the New Testament Association of Baptist Churches, was first proposed at that Denver meeting in a separate session attended by about 200 delegates, but it then failed to materialize.
Since that meeting, according to this year’s annual CBA report, forty-four churches have withdrawn from the association. Most of them were represented at that private meeting in Denver, and form the core of the new organization.
The differences between the two associations are not so much doctrinal as operational. Leaders of the new group fear a “mood of tolerance” in the CBA that they claim will first tend toward more centralized power and eventually lead to doctrinal compromise. They claim a decline in financial support and in new membership in the CBA as evidence of grass-roots sympathy with their criticisms.
The CBA, which had an average annual increase of seventy churches and reached a total of more than 1,200 in 1963, has since lost ninety churches. Finances increased until 1963 but have since remained constant.
To counter charges, CBA officials point first to their two mission groups, which have grown to a combined yearly budget of almost $3.5 million and which this year appointed twenty-one new missionaries, the largest class in more than ten years.
As for the CBA itself, loyalists say its present decline is the result of two factors: dissatisfaction and suspicion stirred by the right-wing element, and a natural leveling-off period after twenty years of expansion.
The guess among Baptists in Philadelphia was that Baptists in Indianapolis had picked up about as much support from CBA ranks as they could expect.
Christian Science And Redevelopment
The Christian Science Church may have a “wholly spiritual” mission, but 15,000 of Mary Baker Eddy’s disciples who convened at the Mother Church this month witnessed the beginning of a church-sponsored redevelopment project that will alter the Boston skyline.
As Erwin D. Canham, editor-in-chief of the Christian Science Monitor, took office as church president for the coming year, wrecking crews began to make way for an $8 million church center, including a twenty-six-story headquarters building.
Canham told the Scientists—who filled the Mother Church sanctuaries and overflowed to the nearby War Memorial Auditorium in observance of the hundredth anniversary of Mrs. Eddy’s healing—that the threats of nuclear war, population growth, and “sensuality and licentiousness” could be countered only “as individuals strive to understand God’s laws … the truth of being.” With Christian Science’s special insight into spiritual healing, he said, “there is no problem facing mankind today which cannot be solved.”
At a news conference, the veteran editor said that while his church has no interest in church union, it welcomes “all aspects of this new atmosphere” of ecumenicity. Informal explorations of matters of common interest have been held with Presbyterians. Responding to a question on whether Scientists were seeking recognition as Christians, Canham said, “I didn’t know we were not.… Was there any serious doubt?” At last year’s annual meeting, the five-member Board of Directors offered fellowship “to every true Christian, to every adherent of any God-centered faith.”
In its report to the assembly, which was closed to non-Scientists, the board called for renewed spiritual discipline to bring “to the world a higher concept of God as divine Principle, in the realms of business, government, social service, the political sphere, and in every phase of human thought and action.” It also announced a new international department and a new youth division to meet growing demands. Four hundred campus organizations and 1,200 informal student groups have been established.
The board also took heart from the “God is dead” movement, which meshes neatly with its own ideas of the “nature of God as infinite Spirit, which Christ Jesus declared Him to be; as omnipresent divine Mind, that mind which was also in Christ Jesus.…”
After the one-day business meeting (which was not deliberative, since the board makes all decisions), the visitors divided their remaining 2½ days between standing in line at restaurants and sharing in workshops. Unlike most denominational meetings, the Christian Science assemblies are devoted more to education and inspiration than to issuing pronouncements on social issues. A Mother Church staffer explained that the church’s social outreach comes chiefly through spiritually healed individuals.
Faced with image problems outside the church, Christian Scientists are often lumped together with “positive thinkers,” but they refuse the label. Within the church, said a member of the Committee on Publications, there are difficulties in getting information between the Mother Church and the branches and individual members.
The redevelopment program planned by famed architect I. M. Pei will renovate and expand the Mother Church area and include high-rise offices and apartments and middle-income housing.
Unitarians Write Off God
God really is not controversial enough to merit our attention, some 1,500 delegates and observers at the Unitarian Universalist Association assembly seemed to agree.
The Creator was written off by one of the first speakers, along with outmoded concepts of order, reality, and morality. He was barely mentioned again in the six-day annual session at Hollywood, Florida, the first UUA meeting in the South. The group concentrated instead on treating the world’s social ills with thousands of pungent words in a multitude of up-to-the-minute, though repetitious, resolutions.
The Rev. Jack Mendelsohn of Boston’s Arlington Street Church put the gathering at the swank, beachside Diplomat Hotel in motion by observing that “the Christian mind [which he equates with the Middle Ages] assumed that reality, though beyond man’s ken and really beyond his proper concern, was controlled by a personal and beneficent God. The modern mind assumed that reality is ordered and that it is man’s glory to search it out and use it. The post-modern mind assumes that reality is not ordered in any way that man’s mind can comprehend.”
The result: “We will probably never again speak meaningfully of reality, morality, or God as existing by themselves apart from us.… I, for one, can hardly wait to see what divinities, what moralities … await us round the bend.”
From there, the Unitarian Universalists moved to more controversial subjects such as civil rights and Viet Nam. Most of the debate in the smoke-filled Regency Room and around the cocktail tables in hotel lounges centered more on the choice of words for the many resolutions than on the actual stand to be taken.
The closest thing to real controversy appeared in divergent views expressed by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the annual Ware Lecture, considered the highlight of the annual assembly, and by Harvard theologian James Luther Adams in the principal worship service.
Adams insisted that persistent, violent civil rights agitation is necessary if the United States is to “become an authentic democracy”—“sweet and slow persuasion” won’t accomplish needed changes. But King defended his philosophy of non-violent action and pleaded that violence never be used as a weapon to fight for racial equality.
The UUA members responded quickly to King’s plea for support, adopting a 3,500-word statement that, among other things, urged a federal open-occupancy law.
The civil rights resolution was one of many which reiterated past stands by the denomination. Others urged negotiations with “any and all principals” in Viet Nam, a U.N. seat for Red China, and more federal impetus for birth control. A call for investigation of the Central Intelligence Agency was turned down for technical reasons.
The Sex Conference
A Roman Catholic observer was surprised that the Second North American Conference on Church and Family was “80 per cent sociological-psychological and only 20 per cent theological.” Joan Lark, theologian and staff member of the Grail Movement, said that in a similar Roman Catholic conference, the percentages would be reversed.
She also was surprised that sex led the delegates into so many other fields of social life. As if bent on proving Freud right, the more than 600 delegates meeting at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, led off with sex and, without ever really leaving it, branched out into economic, political, religious, educational, legal, and cultural matters.
Some few voices thought there was nothing really new in American sex life. But the majority of delegates and speakers spoke of a “sex crisis” and of a “sexual revolution.” The crisis was attributed to reaction against a Puritan ethic, the fluidity of modern society, and the tensions of modern life. Many delegates said these tensions result because Protestant American capitalism lives and sets its values not “by grace” but by the norms of a “work-achievement ethic.” Seeking antidotes, Alvin Pitcher of the University of Chicago Divinity School said “we ought to have a guaranteed family income for everybody,” and contended American family life would also be stabilized by public health clinics (including mental health services), legal aid services, consumer credit protection, and cooperative credit unions.
Several delegates wondered how such environmental factors relate to the good life. One reminded the conference that some of the finest Americans come up out of culturally deprived ghettos. Another responded to Pitcher’s call for a fixed guaranteed income by pointing out that many children from a good environment have no initiative, and added, “I wish some of these kids had a little capitalistic spirit.” One confessed adherent of “liberal Christianity” called for a full discussion of environment. He said “evangelicals challenge liberal Christianity at this point,” and admitted, “I do not know the answer.” No one challenged Pitcher’s application of the Bible’s description of the Church as a “body” to society in general.
The conference was marked by deep-seated differences over the question of law, love, and freedom.
Dr. Gibson Winter, another professor at Chicago, said “personal responsibility is going to be the essence of any morality of sex in our time.… We will have to determine appropriate rules and relevant sanctions. We may spend a lot of time in our deliberations talking laws, sanctions and obligations to external authorities—human or divine—but this will be rhetoric largely for our own gratification and quite irrelevant to the issues at hand. Rules of the game are needed, but we shall have to seek them as guides and supports for personal responsibility. Hence, our basic task is to grasp the criteria of personal responsibility.”
Cynthia C. Wedel said it is “presumptuous” to ask about “the place of marriage and family in God’s plan for his children,” since “none of us can pretend to comprehend the wisdom or the plan of God,” but then went on to show she did comprehend a considerable amount of biblical wisdom on family and marriage. Dr. Harvey G. Cox looked to Christ for the norm, contending he is the “new man” from whom a “new community” is emerging. Cox lives in a Negro ghetto in Roxbury, Massachusetts, by a choice he described as “Christological,” for he sees emerging in the suffering of the ghetto that new community which is “the miracle of God’s grace.”
Dr. Pieter de Jong, visiting professor of systematic theology at New York Theological Seminary, was even more explicitly Christocentric than Cox and called for a “new living style.” He said we must “get back to the story of Jesus and his relation with his family.” De Jong asked what many regarded as extremely indiscreet, intimate questions about Jesus’ sexual life. The sudden embarrassed silence was not broken by answers, presumably because of the Bible’s silence and because Jesus neither courted women nor took a wife.
Dr. Lester Kirkendall, professor of family life at Oregon State University, countered De Jong’s appeal to biblical teaching authority by warning against “dependence on revelation for authority,” alluding to what Romans (ch. 1) has to say about the homosexual. The Rev. Dr. George Johnston, professor of New Testament theology at McGill University, said he did not see “how a Christian could say he could approve of any homosexual act,” but added that the Church should ask itself whether its judgmental attitude toward the homosexual has done “more harm than good.”
Dr. Mary S. Calderone, executive director of the Sex Information and Education Council of the U. S., said, “People don’t have to marry today to get a housekeeper, or for sex—so what do we marry for? Shall we have marriage in twenty-five years?” At the same press conference she asserted, “Men and men can live together—and women can live together—as decent, God-fearing people,” for it is the “general view” of psychiatrists, sociologists, clergymen, and businessmen who make up the SIECUS board of directors that “homosexuality can be as constructive as marriage can be destructive.”
On the last day, Professor J. C. Wynn of Colgate Rochester Divinity School spoke of the conference’s self-pity and tried to comfort the delegates, reminding them that they were not “orphans,” but stood in the long moral tradition of the Church. He said there is no reason to believe that the “only alternative to heavy-handed legalism is moral anarchy.” He also told the delegates it is a mistake to think that “sexuality depends on complete candidness”; there is a mystery, he said, about “our sexuality which is hidden in God.”
Dubbed by newsmen as a “sex conference,” the May 30-June 3 gathering was co-sponsored by the Canadian Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches.
The conference, in its Message to the Churches, complained that those professionally working “with family members have not been heard seriously by theologians.” The Message avoided any specific, substantive stands on family or sex issues, but called for budget and personnel to clarify the relationship of “love, law, and freedom,” a broad program of education, and greater research into family disintegration, abortion, homosexuality, and social responsibility. The final message spoke of a “sexual revolution” demanding “as radical a call to ministry and involvement as the civil rights movement,” and concluded, “We welcome the ferment of this hour … and its reaffirmation of God’s creative action.”
The conference as a whole moved uneasily and with little sure-footedness on the question of the objective moral standards within which authentic love and freedom move. A telling sign of the critical uncertainty was the often asserted, and rarely challenged contention that today’s sexual rebellion stems from the fact that the moral norms of our society confront us as decisions already made, in whose making we have had no part.
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