The plot thickened in the Lutheran love triangle last month.

The American Lutheran Church (ALC) met in Omaha and floated a fellowship bid down the Missouri River to St. Louis. Come July the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod will decide on its reply. The more conservative Missouri Synod’s vote on fellowship with the ALC is rated a toss-up by insiders.

The ALC also approved the same “pulpit and altar fellowship” (meaning legalized intercommunion and pulpit exchanges) with the Lutheran Church in America, third and largest of the major U. S. Lutheran groups. One wag said this just legitimized a common-law marriage.

The big three in Lutheranism have a total baptized membership of 8.7 million and with the Baptists form the major blocs outside the current talks toward a giant united Protestant church.

In a third action, the ALC expressed readiness to talk three-way organic union with Missouri and the LCA as soon as both are interested. By a close standing vote the 1,000 delegates (half clergy, half lay, nearly four-fifths Midwestern) rejected a motion to talk union with any interested Lutheran group. The motion’s meaning was clear: if Missouri wasn’t interested, the ALC would talk merger with the LCA. And if Missouri votes no in July, that could be just what happens.

Also involved in all this is the 21,500-member Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, a Slovak-background group that is a satellite of Missouri Synod. The four groups compose the Lutheran Council in the United States.

Technically, ALC fellowship policies need approval of two-thirds of the delegates to next year’s district conventions. But passage—a foregone conclusion—will not be announced until Missouri votes.

The LCA meets in 1970 in Minneapolis, ALC headquarters town. While it has previously proclaimed open fellowship with other Lutherans, the ALC merger invitation will be new on the agenda.

New LCA President Robert Marshall told the Omaha convention, “We err when we allow differences of origin, geographical concentration, polity, or discipline to separate us indefinitely.… Either cooperation or union must join us as saints who rejoice in the same Triune God, the same revelation, and the same confession of faith. Either cooperation or union must serve to increase our unity; for while unity must exist before union, we know that unity also increases after union.”

The three denominations have engaged in exploratory talks for four years. A key breakthrough was Missouri’s entry into cooperative work through the Lutheran Council, despite its theological reservations about the other two groups.

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The ALC convention postponed for two years a decision on whether to join the National Council of Churches. The NCC could use the boost, since the ALC is the only major non-member likely to join in the foreseeable future. But a motion for immediate NCC affiliation was withdrawn without even a floor test after President Fredrik Schiotz said the ALC is sharply divided on the issue. A delegate added that non-NCC member Missouri might also be offended. NCC opponents were spared embarrassment when a layman failed to introduce a motion against the NCC that rummaged through the Communism files of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

The ALC approved guidelines stating that relations with non-Lutherans and church councils must not violate “its confessional position regarding the primacy of the Gospel according to the Scriptures in all matters of faith and life,” and that the other bodies must “confess their faith in the Triune God.” The convention also expressed preference for the word “Christian” instead of “Catholic” in the Apostles’ Creed.

If Omaha will symbolize Lutheran unity in the future, it symbolizes Lutheran racial anxiety in the present. This was the city where the Rev. L. William Youngdahl tried two years ago to start a modest exchange series between his LCA parish and a Negro Presbyterian church. The idea met a wall of lay opposition, and Youngdahl left. But not before hand-held cameras had recorded the embarrassing saga for the award-winning film, A Time for Burning.

Youngdahl is now running the new urban-action program at the ALC’s Augustana College, Minneapolis. And the ALC used the Omaha meeting not only for rhetoric and resolutions but also for allocation of $511,552 for “national crisis” spending next year, plus $1,250,000 in reserves to be invested in black housing, banks, and business—all this despite a 5 per cent cutback in operating expenses this year because income isn’t matching the budget.

The delegates also:

• Deferred as too liberal a resolution supporting conscientious objection to particular wars.

• Deferred as too conservative a statement asking pastors to distinguish their church role from political stands.

• Joined “Project Equality” despite claims it constitutes a boycott.

• Declared opposition to interracial marriage has no Christian basis.

• Chose Dr. Kent Knutson, 44, as president of Wartburg Seminary in Iowa; the last seminary president to be elected in convention. Knutson has edited dialog, which reflects the ALC’s theological left.

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A.L.C. Man To Watch

Don’t be surprised if 46-year-old activist David W. Preus is elected president of The American Lutheran Church two years from now.

At the ALC’s Omaha convention last month (see story above), Minneapolis pastor Preus upset by 476–458 incumbent William Larsen for the denominational vice-presidency. Larsen, 59-year-old executive secretary of the theological education board, was president of the former United Evangelical Lutheran Church and was elected secretary of the merged ALC when it formed in 1960.

ALC President Fredrik A. Schiotz, 67, must retire at the next convention because of statutory age requirements.

Preus, only parish clergyman in the seven-man Omaha runoff, has served a decade at a large church near the University of Minnesota, where he was a campus pastor for a year. The congregation has several black and Oriental families, and has managed to hold its own despite a neighborhood shift from residential to apartment-commercial, and a parish that mixes campus types with working-class residents.

Concerned to maintain school quality in the urban shift, a neighborhood council Preus headed decided to work to get him on the Minneapolis school board. He was appointed to a seat in January, 1965, and has been board chairman for a year and a half. In the post he has established a citywide reputation as a champion of racial justice.

Preus graduated from the ALC’s Luther Seminary and also studied a year at the University of Edinburgh and a summer at Union Seminary, New York. In addition he did a stint at the University of Minnesota Law School.

He has been chairman of the denomination’s youth board since the ALC formed in 1960, and once defended its staff when a publication was attacked as being too humanistic.

“Theologically, I like to think of myself as a confessional Lutheran,” says the suave, handsomely graying pastor, “and part of that confessionalism is a passionate social concern. It is an unfortunate notion that either you are confessional or you are a social activist.”

He thinks the three major U. S. Lutheran groups have the same theological “mix, in somewhat different degrees,” and would like to see them in a working unity, if not organic union. “With the kind of issues facing the Church today, it is tragic to knock heads over something like lodge membership,” he believes.

With the pressing “intra-Lutheran requirements,” he foresees no Lutheran role in the Consultation on Church Union. Preus says that “ ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ does not require organic joining of machinery” but should mean acknowledgement of “my Christian brethren.”

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Personally, Preus would like to see the ALC join the National Council of Churches, but he knows many disagree and thinks “it’s not an issue on which we should split the church.”

Preus, cousin of two well-known Missouri Synod theologians and nephew of a former Minnesota governor, is optimistic that the Missouri Synod Lutherans will approve fellowship with the ALC next July.

He also believes black and white Americans “will learn to live together” in the “long haul,” but in the short run, “I can’t imagine it being less tense.” With social change “causing all kinds of illness, anger, and frustration,” he believes “Christians must involve themselves in the gluing mechanism.”

From Caribbean To Arctic

Anglican churches from the “Caribbean to the Arctic Circle” moved toward deeper involvement with one another but shunned actual merger like a hot potato, as bishops of the United States and Canada met last month in Augusta, Georgia, for their first joint session.

The bishops supported formation of an “Anglican Council of North America,” to encompass churches in the United States, Canada, and the West Indies. The council, already approved by the U.S. and Canadian denominations, is on the agenda for the 1969 West Indies meeting.

The bishops hope the council will open channels for dialogue and sharing of common problems, and help the churches avoid costly duplication of services. Each member church and province will be represented on the council by seven persons.

The council is not hemisphere-wide, since Latin American nations are not included. Vice-President Stephen Bayne of the U.S. Episcopal Executive Council said cultural differences were partly to blame. Also, he said, the Latin Americans had not indicated a desire to join the council, as has the West Indies church, and the North Americans did not want to be “imperialistic.”

Many bishops felt that in light of Lambeth, talk of “merger” was redundant. There, the emphasis was on an Anglican Church already in union, though not organically. In fact, one purpose of the council, according to its constitution, is to give “expression to the existing unity of the church.”

“We don’t want to start merging among ourselves,” said Bishop Ned Cole of central New York. He feared these moves might endanger union across denominational lines. The Anglican Church in Canada is talking merger with the United Church of Canada. “We will no longer be just Anglican,” said Canadian Primate Howard Clark. And that, he added, might complicate mergers with other western hemisphere Anglican bodies. The Episcopal Church is involved in merger negotiations with eight U.S.-only denominations.

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Renewal rather than new structure is more important to some. Said California Bishop C. Kilmer Myers: “I get turned off when we begin talking about union of WASP churches. I get turned on when we talk about renewal.”


Baptists Talk Evangelism

Neither the new United States president nor more police power can solve world and domestic problems. Their solution requires Christ, declared black and white Baptist leaders as they rallied North American Baptists to their part in a mammoth evangelistic effort, the Crusade of the Americas.

“Christ—the Only Hope,” the crusade theme, dominated the Continental Congress on Evangelism, held in October to fire up 1,250 representatives of thirteen U.S. Baptist conventions for the movement. It aims to mobilize the 24 million Baptists in the western hemisphere for Christ.

“It doesn’t really matter who is elected President of the United States, for the problems of our world will not be solved by political process. We talk about more police authority and soldiers, but there is enough of that. Something is profoundly wrong in the hearts of the people,” Gardner C. Taylor of Brooklyn, immediate past president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., told 4,000 persons attending the congress’s main rally.

“Our only hope lies in [changing hearts by] preaching the Gospel,” said W. A. Criswell, president of the 11-million member Southern Baptist Convention.

Crusade President Rubens Lopez of Sao Paulo, Brazil, called it an “integration” as well as an evangelistic movement, uniting individuals, churches, races, nationalities, and Baptist conventions in Christ.

However, racial integration of the four-day congress in Washington, D.C. was noticeably scant. Wayne Dehoney, North American coordinator, said he was “plainly disappointed” that “extensive efforts” to gain black participation had brought at the most 100 delegates from the three major black Baptist conventions. The three groups had strongly endorsed the crusade, he said, but their loosely organized structures made it difficult for promotion from the top down to the local churches. Lack of travel funds was also a problem, he said.

Dehoney, of Louisville, Kentucky, said one of the largest black contingents came, surprisingly enough, from Mississippi, where white Baptists helped finance the trip for about forty Negro delegates.

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The congress’s hard-sell on evangelism was, however, mottled with continual references to the church’s role in social causes. The first night C. E. Autrey, evangelism director of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, gave a rip-snorting blast at the Baptist press, accusing it of dividing the denomination through a socialistic emphasis.

“As the secular press is building socialism, so the Baptist press is trying to build a socialistic emphasis into the denomination.… Redemption comes first, all else is secondary.” Autrey said later that by “Baptist press” he meant “many of our publications, state papers, and magazines.”

But American Baptist Carl Tiller, a U.S. Budget Bureau official, took issue the same evening with those who label social involvement “Communist influence.” “Those who would stop the church from seeking to be relevant, are themselves taking a Communist path.… It is the policy of Communist governments everywhere to see that the churches … are irrelevant to the society in which they find themselves.”

The American Baptist Convention was the only major Baptist group whose national board did not endorse the Crusade, although many local ABC groups did. Tiller, former ABC president, urged ABC members to participate in the crusade.

Tiller and many other speakers, however, said the only solid base for social action is Christian conversion and conviction. They said the conflict between evangelism and social action is artificial.

All speakers appeared to agree that one “social action” imperative for all Baptists is to take their witness out of the pews and into the marketplace.

British Bible scholar George Beasley-Murray challenged Baptists to “be adventurous” and substitute traditional revivals with meetings in church members’ homes. Revivals are “fine for people with a religious background,” he said, but other methods are needed for those with “absolutely nothing-to revive.”

Taking the Gospel to urban ghettos and alienated young people received special attention in panel discussions.

“The question of the inner city ministry must be, ‘Are we going to get personally involved?’ We’ve got to bleed with them,” said Robert Tremain, a Worcester, Massachusetts, inner city pastor. “The people have been so exploited in the inner city and they are so suspicious that they do not trust anyone they do not know.”

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Thirty per cent of this discussion’s participants indicated they thought the work of a professional social worker employed by a church was part of evangelism.

The Rev. Arthur Blessitt, flamboyant evangelist to youths on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, told the convention to stop quibbling over evangelism and social action and get concerned about youth in trouble.

Blessitt, wearing a white clerical collar, black shirt, and “love” beads, said misuse of sex and drugs by young people today is really a misguided search for God. “Young people are searching for the truth, a deep spiritual experience, not a new Mustang or a bigger bank account. But they don’t know where to go.”

Blessitt said one of his biggest problems was getting churches to take in new converts from the Strip. “They are afraid the converts will contaminate their kids.”

He recommended twenty-four-hour ministries with pastors working in shifts. “Young people need to know where they can go for help.… We ought to at least have a place that stays open as long as the bars. Churches are made more for the convenience of church members these days.”

Baptist unease over their relation to secular life surfaced several months before the congress in controversy over a gospel march planned from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. The march was replaced with a rally when problems arose over obtaining a permit.

At the congress itself, six manifestos relating the Gospel to world problems also reflected this disquietude.

After giving distressed descriptions of such ills as racial strife, the population explosion, poverty, alcoholism, wars, and highway deaths, the manifestos hurriedly concluded that Christ is, indeed, the “Only Hope.” Only one statement said “the Gospel has deep social implications and … at times the church has failed to realize its obligation in this direction.”

One congress official said he was “disappointed” that the manifestos “didn’t really say much.” No votes were taken on the statements. They are not binding on the participating conventions.


Business Men In Boston

It was a time of prayer and feasting as the Christian Business Men’s Committee International invaded a plush Boston hotel last month for its thirty-first annual convention.

The 930 delegates, representing a wide variety of vocations, rejoiced in their largest convention to date and stressed that they were meeting not for debating or for formulating resolutions but for fellowship and for reaching unsaved businessmen for Christ.

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Plenary meetings and discussion groups explored aspects of the businessman’s life and of evangelism. International Chairman Ted DeMoss, a Chattanooga insurance executive, proposed that ashtrays be set out at CBMC banquets, known as “outreach meetings,” to help establish “conditions when men can listen to the Gospel with ears unstopped.”

Harvard University psychiatrist Armand Nicholi, leading one session, stressed that Christianity is not a crutch but strengthens a person in four areas necessary to emotional maturity: (1) the capacity to love another person and become aware of his or her needs; (2) a sound, consistent conscience with well-formed moral precepts; (3) a sense of personal identity and of how others feel; and (4) the realization that one will die, and a way of coping with this prospect.

The central concern of the gathering, however, was outreach. After an all-night prayer meeting at the beginning of the convention, delegates fanned out day by day to tell how they “found profit in more than just their business.”

About 3,000 men in forty-one civic clubs in the greater Boston area listened to CBMCers tell of finding new life in Christ and assurance of eternal life. Seventy-five area pulpits were occupied on Sunday by delegates who urged fellow laymen to witness.

Four or five outdoor meetings, led by Australia’s Open Air Campaigners, were held on working days at the Prudential Center and on Boston Common. Crowds of varying size and composition heard testimonies of businessmen and sermons whose points were driven home with practical illustrations of the triumphs of faith, such as D. L. Moody’s refutation of the atheism of Robert Ingersoll.

DeMoss was elected to a second term as chairman of the 15,000-member organization. The CBMCI has 700 chapters in forty countries and is strongest in the United States and Canada. International headquarters is at Glen Ellyn, Illinois, where the monthly magazine, Contact, consisting mainly of members’ testimonies, is published.

Definite results of the convention outreach were not made known. A spokesman would comment only that “we had a tremendous impact in many lives in Boston from businessmen to bellhops and waitresses, who will never be the same as the result of this convention.”


Adventist Optimism

All the statistics were optimistic at last month’s biennial council of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Toronto, the first ever held outside the United States.

The record 1969 budget will be $47 million; world membership is 1,780,000; per-capita giving in North America is a remarkable $340.42 a year. The figures represented an increase of $2.2 million in budget, of 90,000 members in two years, and $12.60 in per-capita giving. Last year the SDA sent out 421 new overseas workers.

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Southern Asia regional president Roscoe Lowry said nationals are taking over leadership of missions in India, since the country is tightening rules on entry permits. Three of the major SDA fields are now administered by nationals.

South American President Roger Wilcox said a new congregation is established every twenty-four hours in his region, and be hopes 1,000 new churches will start by December of 1969.

The Adventists voted a special November 30 offering for relief to Biafra, with an advance grant of $50,000 to be sent immediately. Returning Adventist medical missionary Sherman Nagel told Toronto reporters that he thinks Nigerian soldiers are deliberately slaughtering civilians in secessionist Biafra and have bombed clearly marked hospitals and churches.

Besides discussing foreign needs, the council passed a five-point program for inner-city domestic needs. Each major city is supposed to get a model health-and-welfare center with an integrated staff. Each of sixty conferences is asked to maintain emergency disaster vehicles and to hold education classes for preschool, school-age, and adult city residents. Last year the church spent more than $4.5 million in aid to disaster victims and other needy persons.

A Peea For Recognition

A group of autonomous churches that have their roots in the teachings of Alexander Campbell are seeking corporate (collective) recognition distinct from the Disciples of Christ, which reorganized into a full-fledged “church” last month (October 25 issue, page 41).

A twelve-man committee headed by the Rev. James DeForest Murch met in Cincinnati last month in behalf of what is termed “The Undenominational Fellowship of Christian Churches and the Churches of Christ.” Out of that meeting a letter took shape that was sent to the National Council of Churches’ Yearbook of American Churches, commonly regarded as the standard reference listing. The letter asked for a listing of 4,600 Christian congregations with a membership of 1,018,912 and a “located ministry” of 4,038. This compilation is based upon data compiled and published in the Directory of the Ministry, an annual published in Springfield, Illinois. All churches listed are said to have submitted written requests at one time or another to be included; this is an important point, because the Disciples of Christ with headquarters in Indianapolis has published a directory over which there has been much dispute.

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It is understood that a few of the 4,600 churches in the Springfield directory are also being counted among the congregations claimed in Indianapolis. Neither group has made any inroads among the predominantly southern Churches of Christ, which have similar perspectives in doctrine and policy.

The Undenominational Fellowship in actuality represents the wing of the Campbellite movement served by the annual North American Christian Convention. There is no direct link, however, because the churches involved recognize no extra-congregational authority.

Out of the September 16 meeting came also a decision to seek membership in the Commission on Chaplains of the National Association of Evangelicals. The application will be considered by NAE directors next April.

East German Split Near

After twenty years of holding on to an illusion, an East-West split in the Evangelical Church in Germany seems inevitable.

For the first time last month, Western delegates held their synod in West Berlin without a simultaneous synod of delegates in East Berlin. During early years of this superorganization of independent Lutheran, Reformed, and United churches, delegates met together. Since the Berlin wall went up this has been made impossible by East Germany’s Ulbricht regime, so two meetings have been held at the same time with couriers going from one to the other to integrate decisions.

Last year the synods restated their wish to stay in one organization, but both got the right to make decisions for their own areas. Now it seems the East Germans have finally decided it will be better to form their own church. Ulbricht, who has forced the split, doesn’t like that solution either, because he would rather deal separately with weaker independent churches than with one strong organization. East German churchmen are still deliberating over the best course.

The West Germans have finally agreed to permit separation. Bishop Dietfelbinger of Munich, the moderator, opened the synod by saying “it is completely understandable that the East German churches want to decide for themselves what will be best for them.”

On other issues, the Western synod proved again that European church meetings can expect to be in for aggressive youth observers. As at Uppsala, and the Reformed Ecumenical Synod in Holland, so in Berlin young pastors and seminarians formed a “critical synod.”

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They wanted a decision not to build any new churches for two years in order to give 5 per cent of income to aid young nations. Instead, the synod asked member churches to devote 2 per cent to world poverty, with an increase to 5 per cent by 1975. “Critical synod” members started to yell and unrolled placards with words like “hypocrites,” “mercenaries,” and “blind.”

On the same day a German judge ordered student rebel Fritz Teufel, 25, to prison for seven months for disrupting services last year in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.


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