In the ecumenism-charged air of the United Church of Canada’s biennial council this month, a minister’s daughter disrupted the proceedings by blurting out, “You will all be over with the Pope yet.” To which one of the 400 commissioners retorted, “That may be truer than you realize.”

Rome notwithstanding, the United Church, biggest by far of Canada’s Protestant denominations, took a key step toward union with the somewhat smaller Anglican Church of Canada. Before the decisive vote, a debate brought out a measure of friendly anxieties: the liberals are afraid of creeds, the conservatives are afraid of losing Reformed traditions, the Presbyterians are afraid of bishops, and the Methodists are afraid of nothing. Until the Anglican merger is realized, there may also be fear of the Consultation on Church Union, which aims to unite nine big U. S. denominations. UCC observers have attended COCU meetings, but an invitation to take part has been declined.

The commissioners were kept in suspense by the Rt. Rev. Ernest Marshall Howse, who had indicated he might break with tradition and seek a second two-year term as moderator if nominated from the floor. Many commissioners were relieved when no such nomination came and Wilfred C. Lockhart was elected (see next page).

Howse said that his term was marked by two major issues: the new curriculum and union with the Anglicans. He hailed the much debated new Sunday school courses as the result of modern and sound biblical scholarship but as too conservative in some areas. He hopes these will be corrected. He blamed difficulties in getting the curriculum accepted on “ministers who have not adequately faced issues that might be disturbing.…” On union, Howse said that “we in Canada perhaps can render our greatest service to our faith in this stage by pioneering a new degree of unity.… Documents are necessary, but they come second to deeds.… What is more important is that we grow together in … creating union.…”

The third day of bristling debate brought adoption of Principles of Union between the Anglican and United churches. Two resolutions that seemed too specific were replaced by one that committed the UCC, not to unite with the Anglicans, but rather to seek a basis upon which agreements to unite may be reached.

The UCC seems willing to accept the episcopacy in a modified form that would permit an equal place for the clergy and laity, but will insist on having ordained women and does not want to be bound by ancient creedal structures or rigid liturgy. Unless the Anglicans are not worried about a break with the worldwide Anglican Communion, the ordination of women could be a major stumbling-block.

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When the commissioners were assured that the Principles were not binding but merely provided a “working document,” the overwhelming vote was sung in with “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Only one or two voted against the motion.

In another ecumenical move, a standing ovation gave unanimous approval to absorbing the Canadian Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren into the UCC. The other EUBs in America are on the verge of merger with Methodists. Bishop Reuben Mueller of the EUB, also president of the National Council of Churches in the U. S., sparked the jubilation that made the UCC richer by 10,000 members without any change in doctrine or polity.

In a press conference, General Council Secretary Ernest E. Long blasted CHRISTIANITY TODAY as “anti-ecumenical,” “sectarian,” and “narrow.” Later, he addressed an ecumenical overture to evangelicals: “With deepest sincerity we say: we must seek to increase understanding with our more conservative brethren and decrease any sense of antagonism. It would be a tragedy if we moved in one direction (Anglican) and not in the other.” The church was asked to study the “Wheaton Declaration” issued at this year’s Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission.

The Honorable Donald Flemming, a former Tory finance minister, gave the world missions report and sounded more like an evangelist than a politician as he brought sixteen recommendations for greater commitment. The UCC gives less than one cent per member per day to missions and in recent years has been unable to fill even one-quarter of the overseas requests for personnel. The church has only 260 overseas workers in 1966, compared with the 540 it had when the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists first formed the UCC in 1925. Although many in the denomination are critical of Billy Graham, Flemming said the evangelist has an important role in the Church’s mission and revealed he had signed the petition urging Graham to preach in Canada during next year’s national centennial.

The council asked the government to relax abortion laws and permit therapeutic abortion if the fetus threatens the mother’s mental or physical health. The resolution was aimed at preventing inexpert and illegal abortions by what one official called “those bloody people who operate the third most profitable business in Canada.”

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The key phrase in a resolution on divorce was “marriage breakdown” as a sensible grounds, with divorce permitted after married couples have been separated for at least three years and have made reconciliation attempts. At present the only grounds is adultery. The report also called for controlled sale of birth-control devices presently outlawed in Canada.

The UCC had strong words on international affairs. It attacked both Viet Cong atrocities and American bombing of North Viet Nam, and supported the Canadian government in sending no military aid. It urged table talks with all parties in the fighting. The council accused Portugese Angola of discrimination against Protestant missionaries, urged termination of the Smith regime in Southern Rhodesia without use of force, condemned racial discrimination and South African apartheid, and urged admission of Red China to the United Nations. There was little reference to Communism as an evil. In fact, the report was more anti-American than anti-communist.

In the UCC’s current theological milieu, program speakers seemed to be calling the church toward the center. Dr. Andrew C. Lawson, prominent Toronto pastor, preached what many called “an old-fashioned Methodist sermon” called “Let’s Have a Revival,” which many labeled as outdated.

The choice of such speakers at a time when the church is seeking spiritual renewal through cell groups seemed to indicate real concern for some kind of revival in this wealthy denomination that had a net increase last year of only eighty-two members. The denomination treasurer, Harold Arnup, seemed to paraphrase Revelation 3:17 when he told the council, “We are rich financially, but poor spiritually.”


A Moderate Moderator

It took four ballots for the United Church of Canada to elect a new moderator. The final choice was between two seminary principals, Elias Andrews of Queen’s College, Kingston, Ontario, and Wilfred C. Lockhart of United College, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

At a time when the Anglican and United churches are drawing toward union, the council decided to choose the 60-year-old Lockhart, who said he would foster union with “enthusiasm and concern.”

At his first press conference, the new moderator disquieted any who might have thought the denomination would continue to elect moderators as theologically radical as the retiring Ernest Marshall Howse (see adjacent story). Lockhart sees no problem in believing in the Virgin Birth, although it is “not essential to belief for all Christians.”

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Howse did not believe in Jesus’ physical resurrection, but Lockhart says “it is a fact. It is undergirded by the whole of New Testament theology.” He is not sure the Second Coming is to be a real act in history, but would agree with Niebuhr that it is at least an act “beyond history.”

In his farewell, Howse called for a longer term and more authority for the moderator. He no doubt was reacting to reminders that while he was moderator he did not always represent the stand of the church. In the UCC, the moderator speaks officially only when acting under authority of the General Council. He is an elected representative but has no authority in himself.

From Risky To Risque

Intersection Center for the Creative Arts, an ecumenical project in San Francisco, gained notoriety last month when a male jazz dancer disrobed completely during performances. His act was described by Intersection’s director, the Rev. Laird Sutton, as conveying the message of its title, “Psychedelic Experience.”

Sutton told the Chronicle’s Donovan Bess that Bill Couser’s sixty seconds of animated nudity apparently meant “the psychedelic experience renders a man completely naked to himself and to other people.”

Up to that point in its two-year history, Intersection had received little attention from the press and had been largely unnoticed—and unknown—by the public, including the constituency responsible for paying most of the bills. Current outcries from the latter have sent denominational executives into huddles with Intersection board members, but no changes in policy are foreseen.

An outgrowth of the former Bread and Wine Mission beamed at North Beach beatniks, Intersection was begun ostensibly to establish church contact with the city’s “artist community.” Pledges were soon made for its $20,000 annual budget: the United Church of Christ assumed half; Methodists, about $3,000; Presbyterians, $1,000; American Baptists, $250. An anonymous Methodist family supplied the remaining $6,000.

Sutton, married and father of two, is a Methodist graduate of the Pacific School of Religion. A student of “relationships” between contemporary art and theology, he is a recognized avant-garde sculptor.

Intersection is quartered in a rented hall on the edge of the downtown Tenderloin district. It operates six nights a week, with alternating programs of life drawing, poetry, experimental films, drama, and the dance. The public is invited to attend its offerings of “art,” at admission fees ranging from fifty cents to three dollars, depending on the program. (The money is given to performers.) For life drawing (Monday nights) the fee is $1.25 (“model fee”). The audience may vary from a dozen on a routine poetry night to a capacity 100 when headline performers or “exceptional” experimental films are billed.

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But Sutton insists such programs are not for the sake of entertainment. Instead, they are intended to be “catalysts” for communication between artists or performers and audiences, especially church people.

Actually, says Sutton, the Church has more to learn from the artist than the artist from the Church, for the artist is both priest and prophet. As priest, he is a mediator between the unseen and seen. Sutton cites “psychedelic art” as an example, a medium through which “non-psychedelics can be joined in mind with psychedelics.” (He is a proponent of LSD’s capacity to “expand the mind and promote creativity.”) As prophet, the artist expresses “an intense awareness of the existential situation.” Remember, says Sutton, the message of Broadway is more listened to than the message of the Church. As another example, he points to a painting on display: with many embellishments, it depicts San Francisco and a well-known topless performer chained to each other.

“We make no restrictions on the art form,” says Sutton. “There is no censorship. We ask of the artist only that he [act] with integrity.”

This creed has led to “risky” programs generously spiced with sex, profanity, even racism. But there have been no legal troubles in spite of frequent police inspections.

“By the way,” commented the bearded cleric, “I have found that psychedelics have no fear of death.”

He and others at Intersection view this as a blessing rather than a curse.


Ecumenism On Campus

The major organizations of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic college students merged into a new “University Christian Movement” this month, on the eve of the new school year.

The groups that united at the Chicago convention are:

• National Student Christian Federation—a group of Protestant campus ministries affiliated with the National Council of Churches;

• Orthodox Bishops’ Campus Commission, a relatively new group that serves ten nationality denominations within Eastern Orthodoxy;

• National Federation of Catholic College Students, founded in 1937, which represents the total enrollment of 100 Roman Catholic colleges through their student governments;

• National Newman Student Federation, the Catholic movement on secular campuses.

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Although the NSCF was dissolved, its various Protestant denominational members will continue, as will the national Catholic and Orthodox agencies, and it may be some time before the top-level ecumenical union results in local mergers. The Rev. Leonard Clough of the NCC staff, general secretary of the former NSCF, said some mainline Protestant campus groups are now “ready to go out of business” and become fully ecumenical. NSCF groups have been declining in membership while the campus population has grown. The former NSCF constituency is estimated at 200,000; the UCM’s is probably twice that.

A likely result is that social activists in each major wing of Christianity will give more moral support to one another. Comparing the NSCF with Catholic student movements, Newman’s national president Charles Badrick said the Protestants are “more issue-oriented” and “better financed,” although the Catholics will have a contribution to make in such areas as “leadership development.”

In a similar tone, James Couchell, executive secretary of the Orthodox commission, said his constituents, mainly sons and daughters of immigrants, so far have not been “identified enough with the American scene to be concerned about the great issues of civil rights and peace.”

The vast, pan-Christian student union developed rather suddenly, Clough said. The two Catholic agencies voted to seek membership at their national congresses in late August and sent a handful of representatives to the Chicago meeting, made up mainly of 125 Protestant delegates and observers.

The NSCF was so involved in merger that it didn’t have time to send out the usual raft of political resolutions. But several study committees were established to probe campus concerns, particularly the military draft. An “ad hoc” committee will do research on Selective Service, conscientious objection, alternative service, and draft resistance, before the present draft law expires next June. It will coordinate its activities not only with the NCC and religious pacifists, but also with the mostly agnostic Students for a Democratic Society, a radical campus club on the “New Left.”

In a new leaf stemming from the reorganization, a “Committee on Theological Reflection” will ponder “what all this activism is about” and “restate the basic truths of the faith,” Clough said.

Unlike the NSCF, the UCM will be open to local or regional groups not affiliated with a particular denomination. It is expected that the UCM will be “related” to the NCC and hold membership in both the World Student Christian Federation, with which the NSCF was affiliated, and Pax Romana, the giant worldwide body of Catholic college students.

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The NSCF will continue its Washington, D. C., operation at NCC headquarters (see October 22, 1965, issue, page 41). The UCM’s first president, Miss Charlotte Bunch, will live in that city this year and work with an inner-city project of the local council of churches. A Methodist, she was a student delegate to the World Council of Churches’ Conference on Church and Society this summer.

The Protestant members of NSCF and now UCM are:

Baptist Student Movement (ABC); Lutheran Student Association (mainly LCA and ALC); Methodist Student Movement; National Canterbury Committee (Episcopal); National Student Council of the YWCA; and United Campus Christian Fellowship. The latter is a recent merger of the campus ministries of United Presbyterians, the United Church of Christ, Disciples, Evangelical United Brethren, and Moravians. The Westminster Fellowship of the “Southern” Presbyterian Church, another UCM member, is now seeking authorization from its Christian education board to join the UCCF. The Young Friends of North America, which was “related” to the NSCF, will be a full member of the UCM. The National Student Council of the YMCA and the Student Interracial Ministry will continue as related organizations.

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