What may be the nation’s biggest Protestant denomination was born April 23 in the heart of Texas—a land fabled for bigness in everything. It was the union of the 10.3-million-member Methodist Church and the 750,000-member Evangelical United Brethren Church into the United Methodist Church.

(There is some question whether the Southern Baptist Convention is larger, because of wide variance in the way memberships are reported.)

Dr. Albert C. Outler, noted Methodist theologian, forecast that the merger, dramatically portrayed in color on national TV, is only the beginning of what eventually may become one all-encompassing Christian Church. “No part of our venture in unity is really finished as yet,” the 1,200 official delegates and 8,000 Dallas onlookers were told.

Both the Methodists and EUBs were among the ten denominations in the Consultation on Church Union, aimed at bringing a single Protestant church with 25.5 million members. Their merger was the first within the group. Some skeptical observers predicted it will also be the last within COCU.

Nevertheless, the leaders of the new United Methodist Church indicated they will push union with all the others, particularly the three Negro Methodist denominations in COCU. For some southern laymen in the Methodist Church, however, even full integration of Negro conferences from the old Methodist Church was a big enough task for the foreseeable future.

The creation of the new denomination was not without some birth pangs. One incident occurred the night before the union ritual when fifty-six churchmen—most of them Negroes—walked out of a joint communion service for the uniting denominations to express concern for the racial question in the new church.

“We do not believe that within the United Methodist Church we are truly in love and charity with each other—black and white,” according to a statement circulated by the Rev. A. Cecil Williams of San Francisco. “We are deeply concerned over the intentions, purposes, and structures of the new United Methodist Church. We find no indication that the uniting conference intends to take immediate steps to deal with racism in its structural life.”

A bitter condemnation of President Lyndon B. Johnson by a delegate from Malaysia on April 24 further pointed up the way the question of race was beginning to dominate this first UMC General Conference.

“Asians will not be used as cannon fodder for the white man any longer,” shouted Dr. Chee Khoon Tan, a member of the Malaysian Parliament. Bishop Paul C. Hardin, Jr., of South Carolina had to cut off the tirade because time had run out and the delegates refused to extend it.

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Tan had been speaking on a proposal of the social-concerns committee to both commend the President for his peace efforts and remind him of his offer to go “anywhere, anytime,” to talk. After a motion to delete that critical portion, Tan rose to say that “we have commended the President who has brought death and destruction to Viet Nam, the man who is killing both the innocent and the guilty.” The matter was left hanging.

Race dominated most of the opening session, in the report from a commission trying to set up guidelines for the ending of Negro conferences within the church.

The militant Black Methodists for Church Renewal, with the backing of a more numerous white group, Methodists for Church Renewal, lost by a close vote an effort to get the matter referred to the social-concerns committee, where their greatest strength lies. Instead, the report went to the conference committee.

However, it was evident from the applause given such black Methodist speakers as the Rev. Roy Nichols of New York that delegates generally wanted quick integration of the Negro conferences into previously white conferences, with Negroes represented at leadership levels.

“This is not an effort for a power play for selfish reasons,” Nichols said of his proposals to spell out definite numbers of Negroes at policy-making levels and other provisions for Negroes. He reminded the delegates that “many things have happened since February when this report was made—the leader of moderation has been struck down,” an obvious reference to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The biggest test of the racial climate was to come with the presentation of the proposed quadrennial emphasis for the church. Two main points were the raising of a $20 million fund for use in meeting the city crisis—particularly in Negro ghettos—and the forming of United Methodist Voluntary Service, something like the Peace Corps, for young people to work in “reconciliation and reconstruction.”

The principle had general approval, but considerable opposition was building to the $20 million sum and to proposals that the money go directly to black-power groups for use as they see fit.

That much money seemed staggering to some delegates, who pointed out that other budget requests are up more than one-third and additional expenses are expected in bringing financial arrangements in Negro and EUB churches into line with those in the old Methodist Church.

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One of the key men in the race question is the Rev. Woodie W. White, an urban missioner in Detroit. He is one of the first Negro delegates to a Methodist General Conference elected from a predominantly white district. Dedicated to the work in the Negro ghettos, the young churchman is one of the founders of the Black Methodists group, which published a race-conscious daily paper, Behold, at the conference.

He listed two concerns: how do black Methodists organize to address the Church on racism, and how do they speak as black Methodists to the black revolution?

Behold said the opening communion service which sparked the walkout had an all-white choir and a massive all-white usher corps. The paper added that the preacher of the evening, Georgia’s Bishop Nolan Harmon, was remembered by few of the thousands as one of the eight white critics to whom Dr. King had addressed his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Behold also criticized the episcopal address by Bishop Lloyd Wicke of New York because it made no mention of King’s cause or murder. Wicke, however, issued a strong attack on war in general—without mentioning Viet Nam—and gave firm backing to dissenters, even those who break the law. In the repressing of big-city riots, he said, “the employment of troops, however reluctant, may be the symbol of creeping totalitarianism.”


With attention riveted on the grand alliance of 11 million Wesleyans formed in Dallas (previous page), little notice went to a significant stride toward cooperation among the nation’s 1.5 million conservative Wesleyans, at the Cleveland centennial convention of the National Holiness Association, April 16–19.

There was sparse reaction in Cleveland to the Methodist-Evangelical United Brethren merger, though a few private expressions of sympathy for the EUBs were voiced.

The conservatives have been talking about cooperation for a long time, but action has failed to match rhetoric. Almost everyone agreed that something should be done; no one seemed to know just what. As the economic and organizational value of cooperation became increasingly apparent, church leaders began meeting in earnest two years ago under the convenient NHA umbrella.

Out of these meetings grew a well-studied proposal that amounts to a step toward unity among the thirteen NHA denominations.NHA affiliates: the Brethren in Christ Church, Churches of Christ in Christian Union, Evangelical Methodist Church, Free Methodist Church of North America, Holiness Christian Church, Ohio Yearly meeting of Friends, Pacific Northwest Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren Church, Pilgrim Holiness Church, Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting of the Friends, Salvation Army, Canadian Salvation Army, United Missionary Church, and Wesleyan Methodist Church of America. Auxiliary members: eightysix associations and camp meetings, three missionary societies, fourteen educational institutions. The 625 delegates at Cleveland approved “cooperative ministries” in publishing, missions, evangelism, higher education, and other areas as need arises. An executive director will work with those member denominations using the services.

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All this came after frequent revisions by cautious leaders. The idea has had three names, each a substitute to soften ecumenical overtones: First, “federation,” later, “federated services,” and—just before the proposal was submitted—a shift to “cooperative ministries.” Regardless of name, delegates liked the intent and approved it without floor debate. Now each denomination will decide which ministries to cooperate with, and whether to support the expanded annual budget of around $30,000.

Technically, this is the first ecumenical move made by the NHA since its beginning at Vineland, New Jersey, in July, 1867. However, the organization has been handy in helping to bring about various holiness church mergers. The largest and most recent will be completed June 26, that of the Pilgrim Holiness and Wesleyan Methodist Churches.

The NHA started as an organization of annual camp meetings in the East and South, and later supported a missionary organization. But in the past twenty years, with leadership largely from denominations, it has dropped the missionary ties, though three independent missionary groups are still members.

The Cleveland action provides the historically individualistic churches a chance to find out, through a trial relationship, what real possibilities lie in further mergers. The test will come when leaders from denominations varying greatly in size join in a working relationship. The 450,000-member Church of the Nazarene is considering applying for NHA membership. It would be a sibling to half a dozen denominations with fewer than 10,000 members each. The NHA board has equal representation among denominations, but budget allocations will be based on denominational size. How all this will work out is still undecided.

These problems and others have already been faced to some extent by the ten-year-old Holiness Denominational Publishers Association, which will be part of the NHA’s cooperative ministries. Seven of the eleven denominations in the HDPA (including the Church of the Nazarene) are now planning a united curriculum. Although conflict over Sunday-school teaching methods has arisen frequently, nevertheless progress toward the new curriculum is apparent, according to Chairman A. F. Harper.

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Centennial speakers emphasized again and again the immutables of Wesleyan theology, to the hearty chimes of delegate amens. The authority of the Scriptures, free grace to all men, God’s holiness, the sinfulness of unregenerate man, and two distinct works of grace—these were well covered. There was also a long look backward across the hundred years, aided at one point by a telephone conversation with past NHA officer John L. Brasher, who celebrated his personal centennial during the year.

A touch of contemporaneity came through the social action committee, which presented the most definitive statement on social issues in the 100 years. It upheld educational programs in human rights and family planning, and condemned drugs and homosexuality. “We call upon the NHA,” the statement also said, “to consider a program of coordinated and cooperative efforts to meet the physical needs of urban men, women and youth. Further, we ask that the NHA develop biblical concepts of life and death that may serve as guides for a position and for participation in the decisions on such moral issues as birth and genetic controls, abortion, and organ transplants.”

The statement expressed concern “about totalitarian force as an alternative to violence when the government acts illegally against the freedom and the privacy of the individual.”

On separation of church and state, the committee recognized “that the redemptive function of the church can only be carried out when the government assumes its protective function for the freedom of religion.” It also held that “the teaching of the Bible as literature is a legitimate function of the public schools.” It made allowance for “wars of defense,” and added that “while peace-making is a priority for Christians, we do not accept ‘peace at any cost.’ ”

Opposition to permissiveness in television programming and to divorce was restated, but the committee suggested that holiness churches should minister to a “growing number of divorced and remarried people and … forgive and accept them within God’s redemptive context.”

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Dr. Paul S. Rees, member-at-large of the NHA board, chided holiness churches for lack of interest in social issues. “Evangelicals are social reactionaries,” he said. “We need not be. We can be theologically conservative and socially progressive.… You don’t know what it means to be a Negro in America if you are a white man.” Speaking to Wesleyan adherents, he added, “If we are going to follow Wesley, let’s follow him all the way. The final part of his admonition was ‘… and to reform a nation.’ ”

The Rev. Wingrove Taylor, a Pilgrim Holiness minister from Barbados, also touched on the racial problem. “You brought holiness to me,” he said, “but you did not take it next door.”

Succeeding Dr. Paul Kindschi as president of NHA is Bishop Myron F. Boyd, a Free Methodist.

The cooperation move, the social-action statement, and the spiritual and social sensitivity of the speakers added up to more than the sum of their parts. There is a force in the background somewhere pressing for needed change. How united that force becomes may well determine the future effectiveness of the holiness churches.



“We not only have to say what we believe but show it,” the Rev. Dr. Samuel H. Moffett told 400 persons at a Pittsburgh conference of Presbyterians United for Biblical Confession. The Presbyterian seminary dean from Seoul, Korea, said Communists also stress good deeds. “We must not show only concern but also the reason we have it, which is Jesus Christ.”

Moffett said there is no evidence that Jesus’ “being a carpenter, simply being there, affected anyone significantly. Only after he started to preach did things begin to happen.”

PUBC, concerned with the loss of 39,000 members of the United Presbyterian Church in two years, held three regional conferences last month to “update evangelism,” including seminars on special types of ministry.

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