Disciples Heed Minority-Group Needs

After nearly a year in ecclesiastical waters, the restructured Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is still very much afloat, steaming toward ecumenical and social-action harbors. But James Forman’s Black Manifesto will not be among the ports of call, delegates decided in their first biennial General Assembly last month in Seattle.

The Manifesto sparked much action—and reaction. The Disciples’ 250-member General Board asked for approval of its response to the Manifesto, which confessed racial sins but rejected Forman’s “racism, violence, separatism, extortion, revenge, and blanket denunciation of the church.” Board members proposed five-year goals which, if accepted, would “shake every one of our churches and institutions,” according to the Disciples’ chief executive, A. Dale Fiers.

Recommendations included: increasing the Disciples’ own “Reconciliation” urban-crisis fund from $2 million to $4 million; redeploying $30 million of congregational and headquarters budgets to minority-group needs; hiring one-fifth of staff from minorities; investing in minority businesses; creating a Christian Church Urban Affairs Commission.

Leaders of the non-official Disciples for Mission and Renewal bloc moved—but lost 1,603 to 696—to recommit the measure for the addition of denominational recognition of Forman’s Black Economic Development Conference (BEDC). Chicago pastor Charles H. Bayer revealed that some Disciples wanted to give $4,000 to the BEDC in the name of the church. To blunt the opposition he repeated a rumor, later denied by BEDC chief Calvin Marshall III, pastor of an A.M.E. Zion church in New York, that Forman was no longer a BEDC spokesman.

The defeated and rather weak issue of the $4,000 nevertheless became a rallying point for dissident youths and blacks. James Blair, a black minister from Kansas City, Missouri, who is a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, announced the formation of a Black Caucus to press for demands (bearing an initial pricetag of $3 million). “You will hear from us later,” he warned.

Twenty youths, at the suggestion of an eight-year-old, marched with raised fists to the platform to protest the defeat of BEDC recognition. This touched off harsh public exchanges between delegates. Disciples congresswoman Edith Green (D.-Ore.) revised a speech to express both “chagrin” over the demonstration and support of the board’s position.

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In a surprise bid for the last word on the matter, several Mission and Renewal representatives commandeered the podium at one of the concluding services. They presented a $4,000 check to black ministers for delivery to the BEDC. New Moderator James M. Moudy, chancellor of Texas Christian University, named the Mission and Renewal bloc in a complaint about splinter-group practices: “When the majority goes against them, they try to find new ways around the majority.” Earlier, he had rated the Manifesto “an excellent document,” a source of “inspiration.” (Moudy replaces Beverly Hills, California, pastor Myron C. Cole.)

The anti-establishment forces, though vocal, suffered internal divisiveness. Blair readily admitted a power struggle among black clergymen. Weeks before, the National Christian Missionary Convention—a black Disciples body—voted to disband in favor of full denominational participation, and to maintain an advisory “convocation.” The latter, chaired by new Disciples first vicemoderator Raymond E. Brown, a North Carolina minister, rejected power moves by Blair and other militants.

The young people, too, were split in publishing and pressure projects; some even apologized for rash radical acts by their peers.

Action also centered on ecumenical concerns. Lawrence W. Bash, minister of the 3,000-member Country Club Christian Church of Kansas City, fought to recommit a measure on support of church councils. He drew applause in questioning alleged cordial consideration of Forman’s “definitely Marxist” program by the National Council of Churches’ General Board. On strong counter-prodding by Fiers, who is helping to draft the NCC Manifesto response, the delegates voted 1,464 to 963 against Bash.

They also voted down an attempt to postpone “further commitment” toward merger with other churches, including the Consultation on Church Union (COCU). But they did delay further wedding plans with the United Church of Christ in light of COCU progress.

This pleased guest speaker William A. Benfield, Jr., chairman of COCU’s Plan of Union Commission, who was annoyed with mergers that “relegate COCU to a minor position of concern.” He admitted that committee members still differ on organization and government, and he confessed fears that denominations may balk later. But COCU advances and church costs were too great, he boomed, for churches to “allow their operational differences to keep them apart.” (Methodist Bishop Gerald Kennedy, who spoke to a pre-convention evangelism conference, had caustically remarked that COCU was “of the devil.”)

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On issues relating to war, the draft, and the anti-ballistic-missile system, the Disciples adopted dovish positions. The Disciples Peace Fellowship placed forty-three white crosses on empty seats to dramatize the 43,000 American deaths in Viet Nam. The Peace Fellowship also picketed while Disciples layman Maxwell Taylor, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ambassador to South Viet Nam, addressed Disciples chaplains on the “morality” of U. S. involvement in Viet Nam.

As for statistics, when restructure last year changed the 120-year-old brotherhood of Disciples into a denomination, some 3,500 churches with about 450,000 members formally elected to jump ship. Apparently many of them were never really aboard, though, since the financial losses for the year were less than seventy-five cents per disgruntled Disciple, mostly in designated giving. Next year’s operating budget for the 1.5-million-member denomination is $11.5 million.

Defending Shelton

Arch-fundamentalist Carl McIntire’s latest war is against a move by the New Jersey higher-education department to close his small Shelton College in Cape May. Since 1964, its accreditation (without it the school could not operate) has been cautiously renewed.

The controversy revolves around a public hearing on charges by New Jersey chancellor of higher education Ralph A. Dungan. He claims the school fails to meet state requirements in nineteen areas. These include failure to “effect the orderly execution of educational policy,” insufficient faculty preparation, listing of courses not actually taught, insufficient income to attract quality teaching, and inadequate library and laboratory facilities.

McIntire, Shelton’s president, denies all charges. The radio preacher (who recently has lost considerable conservative support over internal problems in his movement) has taken to the air to raise 1,000 gifts of $1,000 to defend Shelton. By the end of last month, McIntire sources said about $250,000 had been netted.Another current McIntire project is a “Christian Manifesto” demanding $3 billion reparations from ecumenical churches and the keys to Princeton Theological Seminary be turned over to his International Council of Christian Churches.

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July 30 McIntire staged a “Great March on Trenton” attended by a crowd of Shelton supporters variously estimated from 1,500 to 5,000. He promises greater things for October 25:25,000 marchers in New Jersey’s capital and George C. Wallace by his side.

Vows the feisty Cape May warrior: “Under no circumstances will we relocate.… We will never die.”

Tragedy At Pass Christian

It all started as a cozy “hurricane party.” About a dozen revelers were gathered in the posh Richelieu apartments in the town of Pass Christian, Mississippi, 200 yards from the beach.

Along came police chief Jerry Peralta at nightfall, when the winds were whipping at sixty miles an hour and the ocean was creeping over the sea wall. He urged them to flee; they refused. He dutifully took the names of the next of kin; they laughed.

At about 10:15 P.M., in a single stroke, all the lights and power in Pass Christian went out, and then a three-story-high wave smashed over the sea wall. The Richelieu apartments were slashed to bits by the rushing waters and ferocious winds of Hurricane Camille. Twenty-three bodies were found in the rubble, including those of persons who had holed up a few hours before to party away the storm. Only a five-year-old boy survived, floating to safety on a mattress.

Later, as church leaders attempted to assess the damage, sketchy reports began to filter in. Damage to the church and church-owned installations was estimated at $15 million in an interim survey, with Catholic losses accounting for $12 million of the figure.

Meanwhile, Church World Service, the Salvation Army, the National Catholic Disaster Relief Committee, and other agencies swung into action to do the best they could to help the numbed survivors.

Putting The Screws On Church Tax Privileges

California set a precedent for church-state relationships last month that could soon be followed by more sweeping legislation on a national scale virtually abolishing special tax privileges to churches.

Beginning next January, California churches must pay state corporation taxes on income from unrelated businesses. The bill—which Governor Ronald Reagan is expected to sign into law—also requires, for the first time, that all churches and religious organizations file an annual form with the state regarding their income.

The principle that churches should pay income taxes on hotels, manufacturing companies, and other unrelated businesses has been broadly endorsed by major church bodies, including the National Council of Churches and the U. S. Roman Catholic hierarchy (see May 23 issue, pages 23 and 31).

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On the same day the California bill was approved, the U. S. House of Representatives passed a similar measure taxing church business income. The bill, passed 394 to 30, is the most inclusive tax-reform bill in House history and will be considered by the Senate and the President this fall. Here is how the House treated churches and taxation:

  • Deductions for contributions to religious groups are retained as presently provided.
  • Foundations operated by religious groups are exempted from the 7½ per cent tax levied on other non-profit foundations.
  • Businesses bought by churches and leased back to the managers (resulting in a competitive advantage over other businesses) are taken off tax-free status.
  • Donors of appreciated securities and property to churches and their agencies may continue to claim the full value of their contribution without paying capital-gains taxes on the appreciated value.

Under the California action, churches will be subject to the 7 per cent tax levied on net business incomes. Income from church-related activities will go untaxed. California churches and synagogues already pay property taxes on all property except buildings used strictly for religious purposes, the land they occupy, and nearby parking lots.

Los Angeles Times religion writer John Dart reported that the biggest disappointment in the income-reporting provision of the proposed law is among laymen who had hoped that church income, holdings, and spending would be made public. The bill asks only that churches without taxable business income identify the kinds of income they have—not the amounts. And it does not touch the “lease-back” set-up.

Senator Anthony C. Beilenson, the Beverly Hills Democrat who wrote the California tax bill (he also was the author of the state’s bill liberalizing abortion practices in 1967), guessed the tax measure would bring several million dollars into the state treasury. But Glen Holman, a Sacramento-based advocate for the California Councils of Churches, lowered the estimate to less than $1 million. “The number of churches that actually operate businesses is probably small,” he said.

The extent of the congressional action—if it becomes law—is not known exactly, either, because there never has been a thorough tabulation of church-owned, profit-making enterprises.

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The most sweeping reform, however, could result from an unusual case now pending in the U. S. Supreme Court. It involves Frederick Walz’s 22-by-29-foot plot of land on Staten Island (see July 18 issue, page 38), and hinges on Walz’s argument that tax exemption for churches increases his property taxes, puts money into the hands of churches, and thereby establishes religion. If the high court agrees with him, tax exemptions to churches and income-tax deductions on gifts to churches could be eliminated.

Such action would profoundly affect church financial structure. Educated estimates place the worth of real estate alone owned by congregations in the United States at $102 billion.

Meanwhile, in New York, a State Supreme Court justice ruled last month that a religious institution loses part of its tax-exempt status if it leases part of its property for commercial use.

The Mineola, Long Island, case centered around a summer day camp that has used the grounds and rooms, except the sanctuary, of Temple Beth Sholom. The judge ruled that the camp was run for financial gain rather than religious purposes. The case was considered historic; it reportedly was the first lawsuit in the state brought by a taxpayer to force a religious organization to pay taxes on a commercial sideline.

A record total of forty-one religious-freedom and church-state cases await decision in federal and state courts, according to a survey made by the American Jewish Congress. Many are expected to reach the U. S. Supreme Court—already facing a heavy fall agenda of lawsuits concerning the “establishment of religion” and “free exercise” clauses of the First Amendment.

As churches and governments examine St. Matthew’s taxation text, there seems to be some slow movement toward consensus on what is Caesar’s and what is God’s. It’s unlikely Caesar will get short-changed.

Graham’s Vienna Visit

“You are a triumphant Church, and the whole world is watching you,” Billy Graham told some 600 Czechoslovak Christians last month in a small Austrian church on Vienna’s Lindenstrasse. The evangelist was in Europe to address two climactic meetings of the once-in-five-years conference of the European Baptist Confederation. East European delegates (more than a thousand) made up almost half the registration.

Vienna was chosen because most East European Baptists could attend, and because of the obvious boost it would give the tiny Baptist minority in the host country. Austrian Baptists number less than those in either of the neighboring Communist countries of Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia.

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One miscalculation in an otherwise well-organized and smooth-running conference was the drawing power of the main speaker. Although the name of Billy Graham is known and guaranteed to rouse interest in almost any other part of Europe, Austria’s evangelical isolation was emphasized by large areas of empty seats expected to be filled by “outsiders” for the final public meeting. But this did not deter scores of people of all ages from responding to the invitation for commitment to Christ.

For Graham, the smaller meeting on Lindenstrasse was “one of my most memorable experiences.” And many Czechs who attended described it as “a highlight of the entire conference.” Although the evangelist planned to pay only a brief visit to the prearranged meeting of Czechoslovaks and other East Europeans, his “three-minute greeting” extended much longer. “We’re used to three-hour services,” one pastor assured him.

Graham was to have visited Czechoslovak church leaders in Prague the day after his Vienna engagement, but even though the government had agreed, the evangelist canceled the trip at the last moment. According to the European Baptist Press Service, he feared it could be considered a provocation by Communist rulers there, who showed anxiety over the then-forthcoming anniversary of the Russian-led invasion one year before.

That press service said Graham was concerned that his visit, intended to help and strengthen the churches, might harm them instead. The Associated Press in Vienna said Prague church leaders were “shocked” by Graham’s cancellation.

After receiving a huge, hand-cut Czech crystal vase at the Lindenstrasse meeting (it was to have been presented in Prague the next day), Graham sparked a standing ovation when he said: “This will remind us to continue to pray for you, and of our promise to come to you.” The evangelist indicated he might make the trip to Czechoslovakia later this year, but set no date.



A ray of decency may be breaking through the smut glut in the fiction world.

Eugenia Price’s new novel, New Moon Rising, had made the best-seller list for six weeks running by the end of last month. It was ninth on the New York Times Book Review list (the top ten are picked from reports from more than 125 bookstores in sixty-four communities across the nation), after holding down the number-ten spot for several weeks.

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New Moon, published by Lippincott (281 pp., $5.95), hasn’t received rave notices from reviewers (see August 22 issue, page 28). Despite the stereotyped plot about a romance—without bedroom scenes—the public is taking the novel seriously enough to put the book up there with such lurid fare as Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, and Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada or Ardor.

Meanwhile, a slim little volume on as unlikely a best-selling topic as prayer was leading all Doubleday hardcover book sales throughout the country—and it had become the rage in Belgium. I’ve Got to Talk to Somebody, God ($3.95), by Washington Evening Star columnist Marjorie Holmes, is a housewife’s On Practicing the Presence of God written in the down-to-earth, chatty style of contemporary prayer-conversation.

Religion In Transit

Lutheran church bodies in North America had a combined membership of 9,239,274 at the close of 1968, according to an annual summary.

Racial segregation, armed defense of the “principles of democracy, freedom and Christianity,” and law and order were supported in resolutions adopted last month by the Florida State Baptist Association, affiliated with the American Baptist Association.

John Cardinal Dearden of Detroit has approved guidelines for Roman Catholic funerals that permit a service by a parish priest for every Catholic family requesting one. In the past, non-Catholic members of the family sometimes were refused such funerals.

Christians on the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, and Minnesota Twins baseball teams conduct Sunday-morning services in their hotels during road trips in order to beat difficult time schedules.

The National Council of Churches has terminated its bi-weekly Information Service on current issues because of a budget squeeze.

A court ruling last month held that property of the Evangelical Congregational Church of Sawyer in Bradford, Pennsylvania, should become part of the United Methodist Church. The action came after the Sawyer church (formerly Evangelical United Brethren) protested the EUB-Methodist merger.

A recent decision by the State Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in Pennsylvania says that a person who quits a job because an employer makes derogatory remarks about his religion can collect unemployment compensation.

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More than $1.2 million is spent each week on air time and production of religious TV programming in the nation, according to a recent survey by the Television Information Office. Typical stations carry about two hours of religious programs a week.… The general director of the Lutheran World Federation’s Broadcasting Service told a Lutheran Laymen’s League meeting that “the mass media play a major role, perhaps a decisive one, in shaping thought patterns, especially of the younger generation.”

A nationwide poll of Roman Catholics indicates most lay members oppose any changes in present rules for attending mass on five annual holy days.

The Minnesota Baptist Convention, most conservative of half a dozen Baptist bodies in the state, has opposed the U. S. Congress on Evangelism being held in Minneapolis this month, contending it is “an ungodly mixture of saved and lost persons.”

Dubuque Seminary (United Presbyterian) and Aquinas Institute (Roman Catholic) now share courses, conferences, and facilities in Dubuque, Iowa, and plan a joint 200,000-volume library.

The General Conference of the Mennonite Church, meeting in Turner, Oregon, last month, voted to raise some $565,000 for projects in racially tense urban areas and approved a resolution providing for “non-cooperation” with the military for draft-opposed Mennonite youths. Two-hundred delegates of the 110,000-member historic peace church attended.

The United Methodist Board of Education has announced a $2 million fund-raising drive to meet emergency needs of its eleven black colleges and a seminary.


Dr. Robert S. Denny, senior associate secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, has been named to a five-year term succeeding Dr. Josef Nordenhaug as the alliance’s general secretary next July. The organization includes 30 million Baptists in 120 countries.

Dr. Robert Boyd Munger, pastor of University Presbyterian Church, Seattle, since 1962 and for seventeen years pastor of Berkeley (California) First Presbyterian Church, has been appointed professor of evangelism at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.

Texas real-estate developer and banker Frank Wesley Sharpe, a Methodist, was designated honorary founder of the Jesuit Province of New Orleans, the first Protestant to be so honored by the 400-year-old Catholic Society of Jesus.

The former director of the China office of the Lutheran World Federation, the Rev. Arthur S. Olson, his wife, and a married daughter were among seven persons killed when tornadoes destroyed a Christian camp near Minneapolis last month.

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Ex-chief “Boo Hoo” Judith Kuch of the Neo-American Church, which advocates the use of drugs, pleaded guilty to four counts of marijuana possession.… Father Richard Ginder, an unassigned Catholic priest and former editor and syndicated columnist for conservative Catholicism, waived a hearing in Pittsburgh City Court on morals, drug, and liquor charges.

Predictably, Mrs. Madalyn Murray O’Hair has asked federal courts to stop United States astronauts from reading the Bible in space.

Dr. C. E. Autrey, 65, the top evangelism executive for the Southern Baptist Convention, retired this month to become professor of evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dr. Joseph M. Stowell, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Hackensack, New Jersey, will become national representative for the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches at its Des Plaines, Illinois, headquarters.

The new president for the 1968–70 term of the Seventh-day Baptist General Conference is the Rev. Edgar Wheeler, pastor of the Ashaway, Rhode Island, church.


MILFORD F. HENKEL, 44, former professor of history and philosophy at Malone College and Baptist clergyman; in a traffic accident at Elkhart, Indiana.

BOYD LEEDOM, 62, former National Labor Relations Board chairman, president of International Christian Leadership; in Arlington, Virginia.

GEORGE A. LONG, 84, president emeritus of Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary, former trustee of Westminster College, and moderator of the United Presbyterian Church of North America in 1955; in Akron, Ohio.

C. HOYT WATSON, 81, former president of Seattle Pacific College, onetime general Educational secretary for the Free Methodist Church; in Seattle.

World Scene

Religious leaders in West Germany are concerned over changes approved in the 100-year-old German penal code, including removal of legal punishment for homosexuality between consenting adults, adultery, and spouse-swapping (with consent).

The worldwide membership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses has jumped 370 per cent over the past twenty years, according to figures released at a Witness international assembly in Paris. Total membership was given as 1,221,504.

A person can get six lessons for $3.60 at a school for witchcraft to be opened in Ulting, England, sponsored by the county-council education adviser.

A national congress on evangelism drew leaders from twenty-five denominations and representatives from seven African states and foreign lands last month at Kinshasa, Congo. National Negro Evangelical Association leaders from the United States said it was the first time Afro-American evangelicals had attended such a gathering.

The Rev. William Rodda has opened the Church of England’s first licensed bar alongside his Wiltshire church near Bemerton, England.

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