Small numerical gains by religious groups least represented in politics, at the expense of the big denominations, highlight findings of CHRISTIANITY TODAY’s religious census of the new Congress.

Changes in religious complexion of the membership from the Ninetieth to the Ninety-First Congress were slight, since 1968 was a good year for incumbents. Totals of only two groups changed by more than one member.

The Roman Catholics gained two, increasing their plurality to 111. The Methodists, largest Protestant grouping in Congress took the greatest loss (down three to ninety). The third-, fourth-, and fifth-ranking groups on Capitol Hill each lost one: Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Baptists.

Gains of one went to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Jews, Society of Friends (Quakers), Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Lutherans, and Greek Orthodox. The latter three groups are among the most under-represented in the Congress, compared to the size of their church membership. In fact, the Greek Orthodox were not represented in Congress until two years ago. By contrast, the affluent, largely white, British-background denominations are well represented. Comparing church size with the congressional figures, leaders are the Unitarian-Universalists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and United Church of Christ. The Congress statistics indicate something of the prestige and social involvement of America’s religious groups, on a personal basis.

The U. S. Senate has its first member from the Schwenkfelder Church, and the House, its first member from the Christian and Missionary Alliance (see story on facing page).

The most controversial religious figure in the new Congress is Baptist preacher Adam Clayton Powell, re-elected from Harlem even though the last House expelled him for misconduct. The Supreme Court last month agreed to review that House action. In Alabama, two black Baptist ministers, Richard Boone and William Branch, failed in National Democratic Party races for Congress, but Boone outpolled the George Wallace party candidate in the Montgomery area.

‘Firsts’ For Two Denominations

Many U. S. senators will get their first introduction to the Schwenkfelder Church when Richard S. Schweiker of Pennsylvania, first Schwenkfelder to serve in the House, takes his new Senate seat. And on the House side, many members will learn about the Christian and Missionary Alliance from its first congressman, North Carolina’s Wilmer (Vinegar Bend) Mizell.

The Schwenkfelders are a pietist sect with only 2,400 members in five congregations—four in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and one in Philadelphia. Though related to the Plain sects, members use conventional customs and dress. The group, begun in the United States the year the Revolutionary War ended, is named for the Silesian nobleman Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig (1489–1561).

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Before Schweiker moved to Washington he served as a Sunday-school teacher, usher, and vice-chairman of his church’s ministerial committee. The Schweiker family attends a Lutheran church in Washington.

In the House, Republican Schweiker worked on behalf of religious minorities. He was a leader in the fight to exempt the Amish from Social Security payments, which ended in a 1965 compromise law. He worked successfully to take the sting out of harsh provisions for conscientious objectors in the 1967 draft law. Schweiker is not a conscientious objector and doesn’t oppose Social Security, his administrative assistant David Newhall says, “but he felt in these instances the government was impinging on long-held religious beliefs and therefore its actions were repugnant.”

Mizell, also a Republican, was a pitcher for nine years with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is now “much in demand as a lay preacher—one of the finest there is,” says his minister, the Rev. Don Lyerly of Faith Missionary Alliance Church, Winston-Salem. Mizell is also assistant superintendent of the Sunday school and a deacon.

“This man is not a nominal Sunday-morning Christian,” Lyerly continued. “He is a man of convictions, as wholesome and personable as he can be. This, I am convinced, is what won his election for him—his humility, sincerity—he is real.” The Alliance is an evangelical denomination with 70,000 members.

‘I Was Supposed To Die’

“The gun went off. I was supposed to fall over and die—but nothing happened.” As two youths were arrested for the murder attempt, Ross Owens of Compton, California, said he found the spent bullet in his torn chest pocket, stopped by a sheaf of Bible crusade materials. They saved his life.

The murder attempt was “in the providence of God,” he says. News reports of his brush with death served to publicize efforts he has helped lead to get a much-needed YMCA program in Compton, which is more than half black.

Owens, an American Baptist, is president of the California Laymen’s Crusade, Inc., which has distributed 30,000 Bibles and 60,000 tracts in house-to-house campaigns since 1963.

More On Nixon

Evangelist Billy Graham had more praise for his friend President-elect Richard M. Nixon. Speaking on CBS radio’s “World of Religion,” he said Nixon, a Quaker, has a typically Quaker reticence about religion. Graham praised him for his care in avoiding religion “to gain political strength. Nixon’s “great sense of moral integrity” will make him a “respected president,” Graham said.

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Evolution In Arkansas

For the record, the opinion of the U. S. Supreme Court in knocking down Arkansas’s 1928 anti-evolution law was unanimous, but some of the concurring justices let it be known that they thought there might be monkeys in the woodpile the way Justice Abe Fortas handled it.

But for soft-spoken, easy-going Mrs. Jon Epperson, 27-year-old former tenth-grade biology teacher at Little Rock’s Central High, the court’s action removed “an outdated source of embarrassment to the state and to the teaching profession.” However, she will not benefit directly from her feat. In February, she and her Air Force captain husband moved to Oxon Hill, Maryland, a Washington suburb, when he was assigned to the Air Staff at the Pentagon. Her only pupil now is her six-month-old son Mark. She recently joined Washington’s historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Mrs. Epperson, a winsome, urbane young woman who holds a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Illinois, said she had no overpowering desire to teach Darwinian theory (which for her presents “no strong conflict of understanding of what Genesis is trying to say”). What prompted her to be the stand-in for the Arkansas Education Association in the case was her feeling that “a very important responsibility a teacher has is to set an example for students. It can’t be done if a teacher is going to break the laws. To teach a theory of evolution about the origin of man was breaking the law in Arkansas.”

Before the Supreme Court, the state’s advocate, in presenting an argument described by Justice Hugo Black as a “pallid, unenthusiastic, even apologetic defense” of the Arkansas law, admitted that no one had even been arrested in the forty years of its existence. In compliance with the law, Mrs. Epperson never taught the theory, though many of her colleagues joined state education officials in disregarding the statute.

Mrs. Epperson holds evolutionary theory to be “quite valid” and not in essential conflict with her understanding of the Christian faith. She feels that with the clearing of the air, eventually more high-school students in Arkansas and Mississippi will get to study biology. “In some areas it is not taught at all, and I feel this law, in part at least, is responsible.” Mississippi is the only other state to have an enforceable “monkey law.” Tennessee invalidated the original of the fundamentalist-inspired laws last year.

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Justice Black was highly critical of the main opinion written by Fortas for the court, contending, as did others, that in his search for missing links that would justify the court’s even rendering a decision, Fortas might have put some of the wrong bones together. Federal intervention was proper, Fortas held, because religious freedom was being impeded. Fundamentalists had no right to hold back learning merely because it might undermine one of their tenets, he said.

Black could see only one justification for intervening—the law’s vagueness. In deciding the case on the basis of the establishment-of-religion clause, he said, the court may have stretched the “long-arm” of the government farther than it should.

“Unless this court is prepared simply to write off as pure nonsense the views of those who consider evolution an anti-religious doctrine, then this issue presents problems under the establishment clause far more troublesome than are discussed in the court’s opinion,” he wrote.

Possibly so. But in the meantime, Mrs. Epperson has gotten a kink out of Arkansas’s educational conscience. And in Arkansas, that is evolution.


Kansas City Happening

Twelfth Street and Vine is where it’s happening; at least that’s how the song “Kansas City Here I Come” has it. Two blocks away, however, something else is happening. There the nation’s first ecumenical, Catholic Protestant church opened its doors for services this month.

Costing $400,000, St. Mark’s Church is an imposing concrete structure reached by climbing two dozen steps, and is topped by a lofty spire. Its practically windowless sanctuary will hide 275 worshipers from the sights outside: a high-rise project housing 8,000 of the city’s poor Negroes, an assortment of bars, street missions, and made-over offices of the Methodist Inner-City Parish.

In the fashion of a “happening,” St. Mark’s is decorated with multi-colored hardboard panels suspended from the ceiling and pop-art banners bearing religious themes. And for the sake of ecumenism, it is furnished with both a crucifix and a baptistry for immersions.

Two services are held each Sunday morning: an early Catholic mass celebrated by Benedictine priest Robert Ready, and a later service with United Presbyterian minister David O. Shipley officiating. Director of the building—which houses a sanctuary, pre-school, offices for United Inner City Services, and activity rooms—is the Rev. William A. Hayes, a United Church of Christ clergyman.

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Hayes said that although there will be separate worship services, programs and activities will be unified, and members will function as one united congregation. “We know that we must earn the right to the real estate we occupy by the service we render to the community,” he added.

In addition to the present staff, an Episcopal priest and several social workers will soon join the venture. Support and staff appointments for St. Mark’s are the responsibility of local jurisdictions of the participating church bodies: Episcopal, United Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Roman Catholic.


In the last two years the Post Office sold four billion Christmas stamps with a Memling Madonna and Child. This year’s design (above) is changed to a Van Eyck Annunciation depicting the angel Gabriel. But Americans United, still upset about Memling, claims the stamp was sectarian because Mary was shown as Queen of Heaven. The church-state separationists’ relentless stamp war got a lease on life last month. The U. S. Court of Appeals ordered a new district court hearing because a June Supreme Court ruling established AU’s standing to sue.

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