Citing “radical opposition,” the shortage of priests and “nearly empty seminaries,” and the “faithful who are no longer afraid to be unfaithful,” Pope Paul VI conceded sadly: “The church is in difficulty. It is more troubled than happy.”

He uttered the words at one of his weekly noon audiences shortly before he convened the month-long fourth Synod of Bishops in Rome on September 28. It didn’t take the 209 delegate bishops, archbishops, and cardinals from seventy-five nations more than a session or two to show the world the Pope was right.

The announced topic of the synod was “Evangelization in the Contemporary World,” but the prelates turned the gathering into a platform for airing a lot of problems and conditions they saw as impeding evangelization or needing attention before evangelization can take place.

Synod ’74 had its origins in Vatican Council II (1962–65), which stressed the concept of collegiality (the bishops with the pope have full power over the church). In response, Pope Paul convoked synods of bishops. The first three met in 1967, 1969, and 1971. But despite the collegiality concept, the Pope determined the agenda (the bishops had selected family life rather than evangelization as the topic for the fourth synod but were overruled), reserved all decisions to himself, and treated the bishops’ recommendations as advice only. He rejected outright some of Synod ’74’s findings.

In his keynote address, the Pope set limits for the ensuing discussions. He admonished that Catholic missionaries must never embrace violence, revolution, or colonialism in their efforts to spread the Gospel (in a few well-publicized cases, priests in Latin America, Asia, and Africa have been identified with revolutionary movements and hassled by government authorities as a result). He cautioned the faithful against reducing their mission “to mere sociological or political activity” based on a temporal message.

The first two weeks were devoted to what amounted to situation reports of the church, some of them gloomy accounts of the effects of secularization.

Instead of evangelism the African bishops called for “indigenization”—in effect, a large measure of self-determination for the local dioceses. (The 37 million African Catholics are expected to multiply to 50 million by 1984, 100 million by 2000.)

Liberation seemed uppermost in the minds of the Latin Americans: because of the need for liberation from social, economic, and political exploitation, the church must deal with the prime issues of justice before it can effectively evangelize, they argued. “It is we Christians who have proven Marx correct,” declared Brazilian archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

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The Asians asked for understanding and recognition of the positive values contained in the great non-Christian religions of the East—a theological flexibility seen by some as leaning dangerously toward syncretism.

Archbishop Joseph L. Bernardin of Cincinnati spoke of a crisis of faith among North American Catholics, even among priests, large numbers of whom are abandoning the ministry. The work of evangelization must be shared by the laity, he said, suggesting that thought be given to a married clergy and to ordaining women to the priesthood. He also suggested recognition of a pluralism in church theology and discipline.

Europeans insisted that the church needed to give less attention to internal matters and more attention to Christ and man. Polish cardinal Stefan Wyszinski described Communist-bloc nations as a fertile field for evangelization. Irish cardinal William Conway said the conflict in Northern Ireland is not religious but political. It is “an accident of history,” he said, that most favoring a united Ireland are Catholics and most favoring union with Britain are Protestants. Only a small number of people engage in violence, he pointed out; the majority of citizens “are utterly sickened of the violence and pray for peace.”

Several European prelates lamented the spiritual condition of the bishops themselves, implying some of them should “undergo personal conversion” before trying to evangelize anybody else.

The last two weeks of the synod were spent on discussions of the theology of evangelism, missionary methods, and the like. Again there was heavy emphasis on the need for a decentralization that would grant greater autonomy to the local dioceses and their congregations. But there was firm opposition to this position, especially by cardinals in the curia (the Vatican government). L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican daily, declared flatly that local churches function only as they are responsible to “the successor of Peter” and carry out his wishes.

Curial cardinal Pericle Felici announced to the church fathers that a new church constitution, Lex Ecclesiae Fundamentalis, is nearly ready. He stated—ominously, to some liberals—that “inasmuch as it is constitutional law, it will be declared to be superior to all other positive laws of the church … and will be valid for the entire Catholic Church, and not just for the Latin church alone.”

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Felici, 63, who is said to have his eye on the papal throne when it becomes vacant, embarrassed many of his colleagues with a cross-examination of guest speaker Philip Potter, secretary general of the World Council of Churches. Potter, in comparing the synod to the 1972 WCC Bangkok conference on salvation and last July’s evangelical-sponsored International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne, suggested that the time is ripe for a more ecumenical approach to evangelism. Felici asked chidingly about the lack of authority and hierarchical structure in WCC churches, then asked point-blank when the WCC was going to accept the primacy of the Pope.

Later—to the further embarrassment of many in the assembly—Felici singled out prostitutes as special subjects to be evangelized, either by women skilled in sociology and psychology or by older men with the necessary understanding and spiritual maturity. Some interpreted his call as a belated, indirect defense of the late Cardinal Danielou of Paris. The aged cardinal was found dead of a heart attack some months ago in the flat of a Paris prostitute, creating a front-page scandal. Church sources explained Danielou had gone there out of pastoral concern.

A Canadian bishop disturbed by Felici’s remarks told a reporter: “Both actions are incredible. One thing is certain—Felici has not done much to help his papal ambitions.”

One synod action will affect the way the next pontiff is elected. Pope Paul last year called for the formation of a commission of fifteen bishops who will serve with the cardinals at the next conclave. Twelve were elected by the synod, three were appointed by the Pope. Only Archbishop Bernardin received the more than 50 per cent of the votes necessary for election on the first ballot.

Bernardin was one of eight members of a special commission assigned to draft a report on the synod to the Pope. The task of writing it was given to an Italian theologian and an Indian priest, but they could not agree on approach, and Cardinal Joseph Cordeiro of Pakistan and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland ended up preparing the report. Halfway through the final week the forty-page document was presented to the synod. The bishops approved the first section, which was devoted to a doctrinal definition of evangelization. They rejected, however, the remaining three sections (on evangelization and human development, target groups, and personal responsibility), not because they disagreed necessarily but because the content was too bland.

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The majority of bishops wanted to present the Pope with candidly stated proposals aimed at treating church ailments, initiating reform where necessary. Time was running out, though, and they agreed to a compromise: two working groups drew up a brief general statement and a list of the main concerns expressed at the synod.

The conservative curia reacted predictably. L’Osservatore pointed out that the synod is not a democratic parliament and that the pontiff is himself the supreme and final authority in the church.

At the final session, Pope Paul announced Synod ’74 had been “positive.” Then he jolted the bishops by rejecting on the spot many of the proposals in their list of concerns. Insisting on his primacy as Peter’s successor over the church “in her unity and entirety,” he turned down the request for greater autonomy for dioceses. While admitting that the faith needed to have some cultural relevance, he said it “would be dangerous to speak of diversified theologies according to continents and cultures.” The content of the faith is universal, he argued; Peter and Paul did not change it in adapting it to the cultures of their day. He warned that “the totality of salvation is not to be confused with one or another aspect of liberation,” and that social action is not to be stressed “to the detriment of the essential meaning that evangelization has for the Church of Christ.”

The pontiff noted “with satisfaction” the faith and work of renewal communities, including the charismatic movement, but he cautioned against allowing them “to be exempted from legitimate ecclesiastical authority or be left to the arbitrary impulse of individuals.”

What will come of the synod’s deliberations remains to be seen. Its twofold message seems to be: The church is indeed in trouble, but the Pope is still in charge.

The reins of power, however, are obviously wearing thin.


Forbidden Celebration

To the triumphant words and tune of Martin Luther’s Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” Allison Cheek of Annandale, Virginia, Carter Heyward of New York City, and Jeanette Piccard of Minneapolis entered New York’s prestigious Riverside Church on Reformation Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist—an act of defiance against the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops.

The three were among eleven women deacons ordained in a service last July that the bishops declared invalid three weeks later. At that time Presiding Bishop John M. Allin asked the women to refrain from performing any priestly functions. As deacons the women were forbidden to absolve and bless a congregation or to consecrate communion bread and wine, though they were permitted to dispense the elements. At the two-and-a-half-hour ecumenical “Service in Celebration of Women in Ministry,” attended by nearly 1,200 people, the women did all three.

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Although the service was ecumenical—sponsors included the Commission on Women in Ministry of the National Council of Churches, the Riverside Church’s Women’s Center, and the United Methodist Church’s women’s division—the official Episcopal service book was used.

The women wore bright yellow chasubles with orange-red crosses (donning them was a violation of church regulations, since deacons are not permitted to wear the robes). Cheers and applause punctuated the service, giving it indeed an atmosphere of celebration.

Ms. Heywood served as principal celebrant. Charles V. Willie of Harvard, who resigned the denomination’s top lay executive position in protest over the bishops’ invalidation decision, declared, “Tonight we take another giant step in cleansing the church of the sin of sexism.” In her brief sermon, Deacon Carol Anderson, assistant minister of St. James Episcopal Church in New York City, borrowed from Luther in pronouncing, “Here we stand. We can do no other.” The congregation sang approvingly in closing: “Servants, well done.”

Reacting to the bishops’ vote last month approving “in principle” the ordination of women but delaying its possible implementation (see November 8 issue, page 42), the women said, “While we rejoice in this action, we must note that women do not exist merely ‘in principle.’ We are people and we are priests—not an hypothesis, but a reality.”

Meanwhile, the policy-making unit of the Missouri diocese adopted a resolution asserting the diocese’s right to set ordination qualifications rather than leaving the matter to the denomination’s General Convention, which is not scheduled to convene again until 1976. Missouri bishop George L. Cadigan endorsed the measure but said he would abide by a House of Bishops’ resolution requesting bishops to refrain from ordaining any more women until after the 1976 meeting.


Muslim Death Threats

A Pentecostal minister and his family fled Philadelphia after he and five other black leaders in the city received death threats from the Black Mafia because of their anti-drug fight.

Dwight I. Campbell, a Church of God in Christ clergyman, said, “I am not concerned about myself, but my leaving town will take some of the pressure off my family.” Law officials confirmed that murder contracts had been issued for the six: Campbell; Muhammad Kenyatta, a Baptist minister who is also a leader in anti-drug efforts and chairman of the Black Economic Development Corporation (BEDC); Wycliffe Jangdharrie, former BEDC official; Leotis Jones, of the Community Assistance for Prisoners organization; Reggie Schell, leader of the Black United Liberation Front; and Claude Ross, another BEDC officer.

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The death contracts were reportedly issued by the underground syndicate after the arrest of one of the leading crime bosses in the Black Mafia, Kenyatta said. Federal officials said the syndicate blames the ministers and other leaders for putting the spotlight on them. In the last six months, agents have arrested twenty-two men identified as members of the Philadelphia Black Mafia. Most of them were released on bail shortly after arrest.

Schell and Jones reportedly have since criticized Campbell for leaving the city and have said they were dissociating themselves from the other leaders because they believed the anti-drug campaign was being used to further the reelection of Mayor Frank Rizzo.

Religion In Transit

The U. S. Supreme Court let stand a decision upholding the right of public schools to include prayers in their commencement programs. It also ruled that employees with religious objections to war cannot reduce federal income-tax withholding payments as a method of non-support of the national defense budget.

More than 1,200 Episcopalians from forty-one states and four countries attend the first National Episcopal Renewal Conference in Atlanta. Sponsored by a coalition of renewal fellowships, the conference focused on the various styles of renewal going on in the Episcopal Church, including the rapidly growing charismatic movement.

Muslim nations are engaged in global export of anti-Semitism, alleged the national policy-making body of the American Jewish Committee at its annual meeting. Islamic tradition holds Judaism to be a religion of revelation and the Bible to be a holy book, said the AJC group, but Muslim scholars have recently “misrepresented and slandered the Hebrew Scriptures, and attributed all manner of crimes to the innate depravity of the Jews and their religion.”

Delegates to the Annual Council of the 449,000-member Seventh-day Adventist Church approved a record $76.5 million budget (more than half of it for overseas work), voted against ordaining women to the ministry for “reasons of unity” (the matter will remain under study), and urged that the moral standards of print media and the entertainment industry be upgraded.

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Princeton Seminary and several United Presbyterian churches are sponsoring an anthem-writing competition for the American Bicentennial. The winning anthem will be published by the Carl Fisher firm. (Information: Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010.)

Well-known conservative Catholic journalist Dale Francis says he was fired from his post as editor and publisher of the National Catholic Register. Not true, says Schick millionaire Patrick J. Frawley, Jr., editor-publisher of Twin Circle, which purchased the Register in 1970. Francis could have stayed on had he been willing to relocate when the Register was moved to Los Angeles for economic reasons, said Frawley, who has now assumed Francis’s job.

The 234-congregation Dallas (Southern) Baptist Association in a resolution on the charismatic movement urged voluntary withdrawal from the association by any church that “cannot work in harmony with our historic views.” Pastor Howard Conatser of the 3,500-member Beverly Hills Baptist, a charismatic, says his church—which had the twelfth-highest number of baptisms in the SBC last year—has no intention of leaving.

For the fourth year, Good News Mission will offer an accredited graduate-level one-week course in correctional ministry at its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, January 7–12. The independent mission sponsors chaplains in jails in three states.

Dean J. Robert Nelson of Boston University’s United Methodist-related school of theology, says he resigned by “mutual agreement” with university president John R. Silber following a clash over how to cut costs yet upgrade quality, as the university had ordered. The university is reportedly on shaky financial ground, and some observers feel the school may become a victim of the budget crunch, leaving the United Methodists with Duke (North Carolina), Wesley (Washington, D. C.), and Drew (New Jersey) on the East Coast.

The Campus Crusade for Christ-affiliated Athletes in Action West basketball team, coached by Jim King, former player-coach of the professional Chicago Bulls, will have eleven of its games this year televised on more than thirty stations. Opponents include UCLA, North Carolina, SMU, Maryland, and Notre Dame. Half-time programs will feature interviews with Christian athletes.

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A documentary sponsored by World Vision International will be shown on 150 TV stations in December. Narrated by WVI head W. Stanley Mooneyham and TV personality Art Linkletter, the hour-long special entitled They Search For Survival centers on the plight of refugees in West Africa, Bangladesh, and Cambodia.

Ever since a 1972 Supreme Court decision, cadets at the U. S. military academies have not been required to attend chapel services. Attendance still ranges from 30 to 80 per cent at West Point, depending on the occasion, says senior West Point chaplain James Ford. But, he adds, attendance is now greater than ever at daily morning devotional services, group Bible studies, and retreats and conferences.

Mainline denominations are among the five most influential groups in the campaign to make corporations more “socially responsible,” according to an Opinion Research survey. In an aside, Timothy H. Smith, project director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, suggested that “a social audit is as necessary as a financial audit when churches invest money.” The center is a coordinating agency of the National Council of Churches.


VICTOR BUKSBAZEN, 71, Polish-born Presbyterian minister and retired general secretary of the Friends of Israel Hebrew-Christian mission agency; in Orange, Texas, of a heart attack.

LEO C. BYRNE, 66, Catholic coadjutor archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, outspoken social-action advocate, high-ranking leader in national Catholic affairs; in St. Paul, Minnesota, of a heart attack.

MALDWYN EDWARDS, 71, British Methodist leader and historian; in Bristol, England, of a heart attack.


Evangelist Tom Skinner’s evangelistic association has appointed a woman, Lorraine Winbush of East Orange, New Jersey, as crusade director. She will oversee the planning and arrangements for Skinner’s crusades world-wide.

When Clyde W. Taylor retires at the end of the year as general director of the National Association of Evangelicals and head of the NAE public affairs office, NAE executive Billy Melvin will assume the NAE’s chief executive position and NAE chaplaincy head Floyd Robertson will take over the public affairs post.

Charles E. Cobb, director of the United Church of Christ’s racial justice unit, was elected president of the National Conference of Black Churchmen.

Mrs. Margaret L. Sonnenday, a United Methodist delegate to the Consultation on Church Union (COCU), was elected national president of Church Women United at the organization’s triennial assembly in Memphis last month.

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Baptist clergyman Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was released without bond on a federal misdemeanor charge of trying to board an airliner with a pistol. Williams, blaming political recrimination for the federal preemption from Atlanta police of the months-old charge, said he had taken the weapon from a “wino” at a soup kitchen, then forgot he left it in his attache case when he went to the airport next day.

Southern Baptist home-mission executive Arthur B. Rutledge is the new chairman of the thirty-five-year-old Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs based in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Sam Wolgemuth was elected president of the Geneva-based World Council of Youth for Christ, a full-time position. Forty-seven of the fifty-one countries represented on the council have executive YFC directors who are nationals.

A United Methodist minister, Vivian McFadden of Kingstree, South Carolina, was commissioned as the first black woman chaplain in the U. S. Navy. She is a graduate of the Interdenominational seminary in Atlanta. In July, clergy-woman Alice M. Henderson of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Georgia became the first black woman chaplain when she was commissioned by the Army. Two other women are serving as chaplains, one in the Navy, the other in the Air Force.

David L. Hofer, a California broadcaster, was recently elected president of The Gideons International, an evangelistic association of business and professional men in 100 countries, with 43,000 members.

World Scene

The Reformed Church in the Netherlands has launched a $200,000 newspaper-ad evangelism campaign. The ads are designed to help Christians initiate witness conversations with friends.

The 120,000-member integrated United Congregational Church of Southern Africa became the first major denomination to endorse a controversial South African Council of Churches’ resolution asking Christians to consider conscientious objection as a means of opposing apartheid (racial separation). Delegates also backed South Africa’s Catholic bishops in denouncing a government bill that would make it a crime to encourage conscientious objection. Meanwhile, a number of pastors in the 200,000-member predominantly-black Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Transvaal region “strongly identified” themselves with the c.o. movement.

Well-known Chinese evangelical leader and scholar Philip Teng is the first president of the China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong.

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The new Hungarian Protestant Bible translation, begun in 1947, is complete and ready for the first-edition press run of 40,000. The first translation of the Bible into Hungarian was published in 1590 and revised several times, the latest in 1908. Reprinted more than 300 times, the latter is the version still used most commonly.

Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad is the new overseer of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe, replacing Archbishop Anthony Bloom. The controversial Nikodim, 45, known for his close cooperation with the Kremlin, will retain his Leningrad bishopric.

Turkish invaders reportedly have closed scores of churches on Cyprus and arrested a number of Greek clergy.

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