There were no jokes on April Fools’ Day at the headquarters of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) in St. Louis. It was a day that amounted to a high-noon showdown between four district presidents of the LCMS and LCMS president Jacob A. O. “Jack” Preus, along with the denomination’s board of directors. Preus and the board wanted the four to state their willingness to comply with synodical regulations governing the ordination and placement of ministerial candidates. The four men refused to budge and instead countered with proposals that in effect called for the undoing of actions taken at last year’s convention of the 2.8 million-member church in Anaheim, California (see August 8, 1975, issue, page 31).

His patience at an end after months of haggling and pleading, Preus the next day announced the removal of the four district presidents from office. They are: Harold Hecht of the 136,000-member English district, Robert Riedel of the 38,500-member New England district, Rudolph Ressmeyer of the 74,000-member Atlantic district, and Herman R. Frincke of the 72,000-member Eastern district.

Preus was acting under the mandate of a resolution known as 5-02A passed at last year’s convention. It stated that if, after pastoral care and admonition, the district presidents persisted in disobeying Synod regulations, Preus should then declare their offices vacant at least sixty days before the next district convention. The measure was aimed at stopping the unauthorized ordination and placement of graduates from Seminex (Seminary in Exile), a rebel school organized by dissidents in 1974 after the suspension of John Tietjen as president of Concordia Seminary. (Tietjen later became president of Seminex.)

The deadline passed without disciplinary action being taken against four other district presidents aligned with the four ousted ones. They are: Paul Jacobs of the 73,000-member California-Nevada district, Herman Neunaber of the 45,000 Southern Illinois district, Waldemar Meyer of the 59,000-member Colorado district, and Emil Jaech of the 90,500-member Northwest district. (The LCMS has a total of nearly forty district presidents.)

All eight repeatedly vowed after the Anaheim convention that they would keep on accepting qualified Seminex graduates as approved candidates for the ministry in their districts. They branded as unconstitutional the Anaheim resolutions aimed at muzzling the so-called moderate movement in the LCMS.

In attempting to avert upheaval, Preus chose to interpret resolution 5-02A rather broadly and not evict a district president from office unless the official personally authorized or ordained an unqualified candidate. A number of Preus’s conservative backers felt this approach was too charitable and they demanded that he take a tougher position. Nevertheless, Preus declined to move against Jacobs, Neunaber, Meyer, and Jaech on grounds they had not personally approved or ordained anyone since Anaheim. Jaech had participated in an ordination service but was not the principal involved in the actual ordination. Only later, after the deadline, did Preus learn that Jacobs had authorized the ordination of a Seminex graduate.

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In explaining his lenient action at the time, Preus reasoned: “Even though the district presidents involved have not given the stated compliance requested of them, nevertheless I am willing to accept [their not having] authorized such objectionable ordinations as a willingness to comply in fact with the wishes of the Synod.”

The district presidents retorted that no such willingness was intended by them.

Afterward, the eight voiced their solidarity, declaring, “Attempts to divide us or to disrupt our united response by approving some of us and threatening others will not succeed.” They again stated they would not comply with the Anaheim resolutions, and they rejected efforts to achieve only “a superficial conciliation which turns its back on the real issues that are troubling the Synod.”

In a last-ditch attempt to avoid the showdown, Preus late last month offered a proposal to Hecht, Riedel, Ressmeyer, and Frincke, all of whom had ordained unendorsed Seminex graduates. He said he would not vacate their offices if they would agree to a moratorium on further placement of Seminex graduates until the next convention of the LCMS, at which time changes could be considered in ordination regulations.

The offer was turned down, and the ousters ensued.

Reaction came immediately. The four who were evicted said they regard the ouster action invalid “because only the congregations of our districts, who have called us, have a right to remove us,” and they said they would remain on the job pending district meetings despite Preus’s appointment of acting presidents. The other four warned that “such removals from office undoubtedly will result in congregations and ministries in our districts and throughout the Synod being separated from the Synod.” They called on the congregations in their districts to prepare for “new parallel associations” that might be needed soon.

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Preus’s action, said John Tietjen, “has set in motion an unstoppable, irretrievable series of events that will lead to the eventual breakup of the synod.”

Preus said he was “very anguished” over the situation but added, “I don’t anticipate there will be as much furor over this as some would have expected or hoped.”

The moderates already have a number of “alternate” structures set up. More than 200 participants met in suburban Chicago in February to organize a “Coordinating Council for the Moderate Movement.” They represented Evangelical Lutherans in Mission (ELIM), the main moderate group whose primary purpose originally was to back Seminex but whose activities now are considerably broader; small “cluster” groups of dissidents throughout the districts; and the fledgling Lutheran Church in Mission (LCM), an “interim” body not yet “activated” for congregations and individuals wishing to leave the Synod.

The group at the Chicago meeting commended the English district for its stated opposition to some of the conservative policies of the Missouri Synod and for opening the way earlier this year to reestablish itself as a separate synod “if this seems necessary” by the time of the district convention in June. (The Detroit-based English district is a non-geographical entity of the LCMS with congregations in many states.)

In their consultation, the moderates encouraged dissident congregations to consider transfer to the English district or to apply for membership in the LCM rather than to break away from the Synod on their own. A spokesman at the meeting said implementation of resolution 5-02A might lead to the activation of the LCM.

That move was under discussion early this month, and battle lines were being drawn in the districts affected by the ousters.


God is the new pastor of Congaree Baptist Church in Gadsden, South Carolina. James R. God, that is. Another recent arrival in the area is the Reverend John Wesley, who has joined the staff of Trinity Episcopal Church in nearby Columbia (the famous eighteenth-century Methodist for whom he was named served for a time as pastor of an Anglican church 150 miles away in Savannah, Georgia). At about the same time, the Ridge Hill Baptist Church in Ridge Spring, South Carolina, was celebrating its 106th anniversary. In sermons, it’s a winner: its pastor is J. E. Preacher, Jr.

Catholic Decline: Vatican Induced?

Serious erosion in belief and practice is occurring among American Catholics, according to a study released by noted priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley, 48, and his colleagues at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. In the study, nearly 1,000 Catholics were surveyed in 1963 and again in 1974. The percentage of those who attend weekly mass declined from 71 to 50; those who go to confession monthly dropped from 38 to 17 per cent; and those who agree that the Pope holds his authority “in direct line from Jesus” fell from 70 to 42 per cent.

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On other topics, the percentage of those who approve of artificial birth control rose from 45 to 83, while 43 per cent approve of sexual relations between engaged persons, up from 12 per cent, and 36 per cent feel abortion should be legal (although only 8 per cent say they themselves would abort an unwanted pregnancy). Seventy-three per cent approve of remarriage after divorce.

Greeley attributed the downward shift largely to Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical condemning artificial birth control.

Archbishop Joseph L. Bernardin of Cincinnati, leader of America’s Catholic bishops, responded cooly to the conclusion, noting that “Catholic truth is not determined by sociological data” and reaffirming the encyclical as “the authentic teaching of the church.”

Sentence Suspended

Wendell Nance, former financial officer of the 2,000-member bankrupt Calvary Temple in Denver, was fined $5,500, given a suspended eighteen-month prison sentence, and placed on probation for five years. He had been convicted last year in a felony case involving illegal sales of securities. Some 3,400 investors purchased $11 million worth of securities; many have not had their money returned. Calvary’s pastor Charles Blair, indicted with Nance in 1974, has had his trial continued five times. He has vowed to repay “every cent,” and observers say they believe the court is giving him time to attempt to fulfill his pledge.

Church Growth In Ethiopia

Church-growth specialists are taking a long look at something that is happening among the Darassa people of southern Ethiopia. In a four-month period beginning last September, the 240 Darassa churches related to the Sudan Interior Mission gained more than 24,000 converts, and the action is continuing, according to a report in the SIM publication Africa Now.

The professions of faith came during a concentrated evangelistic outreach known as New Life for All. Under the program, which SIM has used elsewhere in Africa also, the churches set aside one Sunday a month for evangelism. Members meet for prayer, but instead of having morning worship services on that day they fan out in teams throughout the countryside. The day’s converts are brought back to the church, introduced to other members, and enrolled in a follow-up plan that emphasizes spiritual growth and Christian fellowship.

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By the end of the year the churches had an average of nearly 100 converts each, and some congregations had doubled or tripled in size. All are busy with new converts’ classes and home Bible-study groups, says SIM’s Albert Brant, who introduced the New Life idea to the area.

Reversal In Denmark

Last year the Danish Film Institute, an independent but publicly financed organization, voted to authorize a $170,000 “production guarantee” to producer Jen Jorgen Thorsen for a film entitled The Many Faces of Jesus. Thorsen billed it as a porn film that would depict Jesus in nude and love-making scenes. The five board members quit after awarding the grant on a 3-2 vote, two to protest the guarantee, three to protest “political pressures” against it. Thorsen had trouble finding a country that would permit him a location to make the film, and production lagged. Criticism of the project meanwhile poured into Copenhagen from around the world.

The new institute members last month unanimously decided to withdraw the appropriation after government lawyers concluded that the manuscript (on which the film was to be based) violates moral provisions of law. Thorsen will have to get his money elsewhere.


Evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman has bequeathed $267,500 of her estate to three family members and twenty employees, according to court records. (Miss Kuhlman died February 20 in a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma.)

The largest bequest, $50,000, went to Myrtle Parrott, Miss Kuhlman’s sister. Marguerite “Maggie” Hartner, the evangelist’s longtime secretary and administrative aide, was bequeathed $40,000. Nineteen other employees, another sister, and a sister-in-law received smaller amounts.

The dollar value of Miss Kuhlman’s estate—including stocks, antiques, art objects, her suburban Pittsburgh home, and other property—will not be known until an inventory is completed. Former Kuhlman employees say the total exceeds $1 million, but some of this may represent property actually owned by the Kuhlman Foundation (cars, some clothing, and the like).

Miss Kuhlman named Tulsa auto dealer Dana Barton “Tank” Wilkerson, Jr., and his wife Sue as residuary legatees—the ones who are to receive all property not already bequeathed. Miss Kuhlman and the Wilkersons had been acquaintances for some years, but within the last year their friendship deepened, and the Wilkersons helped out as her health deteriorated.

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Sources inside the Kuhlman organization say they were dismayed that Miss Kuhlman did not bequeath more of her estate to the foundation. In the final months of her life, they say, there were bitter feelings toward Wilkerson on the part of Miss Kuhlman’s headquarters staff. “We felt he stole her from us,” says one of those persons. The will, dated last December 17, supersedes one drawn up in 1974 that left the bulk of the estate to the foundation.

Foundation representatives initially filed the 1974 will for probate, and a legal hassle ensued. The foundation decided against contesting the later document. It was drawn up in Los Angeles by Irvine Ungerman, Wilkerson’s Tulsa attorney, who had earlier achieved an out-of-court settlement between Miss Kuhlman and her former business manager Paul Bartholomew and pianist Dino Kartsonakis in a financial dispute.

Wilkerson, 44, denies suggestions by foundation forces that he was out to win Miss Kuhlman’s favor for financial gain. “I have given, not taken,” he asserts. He says he spent more than $20,000 in posting security guards at Miss Kuhlman’s West Coast and Pittsburgh area residences following her death. In the last year, he states, he furnished the evangelist with a Mercedes 450SL for her California use free of charge, and he acquired a $750,000 private jet mainly to transport her to her various engagements. Miss Kuhlman spent $20,000 customizing the interior but put no other money into the plane, he says, adding that the foundation has refused to pay the expenses he billed for her trips. He also says rumors that the evangelist entered into private business dealings with him simply are not true.

Claiming he is already a successful businessman, Wilkerson says he “could have made more out of business in the year we spent helping Miss Kuhlman than we will get out of her estate.” He added a challenge: “If all the beneficiaries except the blood relatives will make a contribution to Oral Roberts University, I will donate the entire residue of the estate to ORU.” Wilkerson is an ORU board member.

As to why Miss Kuhlman decided to change her will, Wilkerson says he is baffled too but explains that it was in accord with the evangelist’s unpredictable nature.

Part of the dismay can be traced to an apparent sense of betrayal. It is an open secret that Miss Kuhlman, who served as president, chairman, and chief executive officer of her organization, paid her longtime key employees relatively low salaries (well under $10,000 a year). Some had to moonlight to make ends meet. The evangelist did present occasional gifts to her people, but many of them stayed on out of sheer dedication.

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For the time being, Miss Kuhlman’s voice will continue to be heard on radio programs sponsored by the foundation, but TV programs have been withdrawn. Certain overseas mission programs will still receive support. Sunday morning services will be maintained at the Youngstown, Ohio, municipal auditorium. Attended by more than 2,000 each week, these are conducted by David Verzilli, 44, who has been Miss Kuhlman’s preaching mainstay for twenty-two years. He also presides at weekly prayer meetings and Bible-study sessions in Youngstown, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. Miss Kuhlman is gone, says Verzilli, “but the same sense of anointing still exists here among the congregation.”


The Politics Of Abortion

Anti-abortion lobbyists in Washington, disappointed over the failure of the presidential candidates to come clean on the issue, still are hoping to get it to the floor of the U. S. Senate prior to the political conventions this summer.

There is far less chance of debating abortion in the House, where all seats are up for grabs this year and incumbents are trying to avoid taking a stand on highly divisive questions.

The specific issue is a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision that in the eyes of many anti-abortionists is tantamount to a legalization of abortion on demand. Some are pressing for a constitutional provision granting legal protection for the unborn. Others, following the lead of President Ford, would be satisfied for the time being with an amendment that would leave the matter up to the states.

Alabama governor George Wallace is the only major candidate pressing for an amendment banning abortions. Ellen McCormack, the Long Island housewife whose candidacy was based almost entirely on promoting such an amendment, has faltered in the primaries.

Senator Henry Jackson agrees with Ford’s proposal of a states’ rights amendment. All the other Democratic candidates state some personal moral reservations about abortions but oppose any kind of constitutional amendment. Former California governor Ronald Reagan, who has been moving toward a less permissive view, is reported now to favor an amendment as a last resort.

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Earlier this year, the issue was joined in a debate between the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR) and a group known as American Citizens Concerned for Life (ACCL). United Methodist bishop James Armstrong, an RCAR spokesman, attacked Roman Catholic bishops for sponsoring a drive to overturn the Supreme Court decision. Armstrong said the efforts “threaten First Amendment guarantees of the freedom of religion” and jeopardize “ecumenical accords that have been achieved after many years.”

ACCL and another anti-abortion group, Baptists for Life, criticized the RCAR for making the issue appear as though it pitted Catholics against Protestants.

An official of the National Conference of Christians and Jews subsequently warned that it would be a major “social tragedy” if the abortion debate is allowed to deteriorate into an “inter-religious conflict.” Donald W. McEvoy, national program director and a vice president of the NCCJ, called for reasoned debate by pro-abortion and anti-abortion advocates. He stressed his conviction that “persons of good will and deep conviction” stand on both sides of the question. He acknowledged that Catholic bishops are working for anti-abortion legislation but said they are joined by “significant numbers” of Protestants and Jews. McEvoy said the NCCJ takes no institutional stand on the matter but simply urged “that the debate be conducted within the confines of civilized dialogue.”

McEvoy’s contention that Catholics are split on the issue was corroborated some days later when thousands of women marched through the streets of Rome denouncing the Pope and calling for an end to legal sanctions against abortion.

Revised Version

Bible paraphraser Kenneth Taylor says a “thorough revision” of The Living Bible will be published next year. At a recent Methodist men’s dinner in Cincinnati he outlined three problem areas that have led to the revision: literary style, possible inaccuracies, and the “frankness [of] the original” Hebrew that he tried to reflect in his work (in First Samuel 20:30 and First Kings 18:27, for example).

In defense, he noted that some of the more traditional Bible translations also used what was considered strong language for their time, and that biblical curses were intended to sound crude.

Taylor for years has had an open-door policy toward Bible scholars and others, inviting them to offer constructive criticism and to suggest changes. The revision will incorporate many of these suggestions.

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A lot of the criticism, he said, has come from people who do not understand what a paraphrase is. He explained that it is a translation “thought for thought, not word for word.”

Taylor revealed that The Living Bible has sold some 18 million copies and returned more than $15 million in royalties in the past five years to the Tyndale House Foundation for use in mission work. Part of the money has been used to produce counterparts of The Living Bible in 100 languages.

Tyndale House, a firm founded in 1963 primarily to publish The Living Bible, now has 150 employees, 250 titles in its catalogue, and a production schedule of fifty books a year, says Taylor.

Tax Reform

Many churches, long spared the headache of preparing income-tax returns, had better become acquaintec with Internal Revenue Service Form 990-T. The IRS issued a reminder that the five-year grace period provided by Congress under the Tax Reform Act of 1969, which greatly broadened the scope of the unrelated-business income tax to be paid by the churches, has now expired. Beginning this year churches must keep records and pay taxes on income from any enterprise not directly related to their religious or educational mission.

The IRS doesn’t feel that sponsorship of bingo games is part of the religious mission of a church, so proceeds from weekly bingo games and other such programs will be taxable. Likewise, taxes must be paid on income from the operation of bakeries, restaurants, wineries, gift and craft shops, and the like, and from such sources as the sale of herbs from cathedral gardens. Sales of religious books and pictures, however, will be exempt. Single events like annual church bazaars will not be taxed, but any such fund-raising ventures conducted on a regular or frequent basis will come under the law.

Income from rental of church-owned property (houses, space in office buildings, parking areas) will be considered “unrelated income.”

The IRS says it will be happy to provide the necessary forms and instructions.


Presbyterians: A Call To Persevere

Advocates of union of the nation’s two largest Presbyterian bodies are asking for another vote of confidence from the denominations’ general assemblies. When the top governing body of the 890,000-member Presbyterian Church in the U. S. (Southern) meets in June, it will be urged to approve an invitation to the assembly of the 2.7 million-member United Presbyterian Church “to enter into a covenant of union.” A joint committee representing both bodies has been at work since 1969 to forge a merger, but it is not expected to present its formal proposals before next year.

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Meanwhile, the PCUS General Executive Board wants the general assembly of the church to reaffirm its desire for union and to throw its resources behind the union drive. The proposed covenant would commit both assemblies to “persevere in devising acceptable means” to achieve union. Numerous assemblies have gone on record in favor of merger, but no plan has yet been submitted to the PCUS presbyteries (regional units) for the required approval.

Last Words

Pity poor Sally Lord. She had the misfortune to have her early American tombstone carved by a hard-put poet:

Underneath this pile of stones,

Lies all that’s left of Sally Jones.

Her name was Lord, it was not Jones.

But Jones was used to rhyme with stones.

The stone is located in Skaneateles, New York. The poem is one of the whimsical epitaphs in a photographic exhibit of “American Grave Stone Art, 1647–1903” put together by Francis Duval and Ivan Rigby of Brooklyn. An Associated Press story took note of the Sally Lord epitaph along with others. It quoted from a stone in Kittery, Maine, that offered a glimpse of family relationships:

We can but mourn his loss,

Though wretched was his life.

Death took him from the cross

Erected by his wife.

Social comment appeared on a New Haven, Connecticut, stone:

God works a wonder

Now and then.

He, though a lawyer,

Was an honest man.

A certain assurance was reflected on an Ithaca, New York, marker:

While on earth, my knee was lame,

I had to nurse and heed it.

But now I’m at a better place

Where I don’t even need it.

And a philosophical question was posed on another Connecticut gravestone:

Since I so very soon

Was done for,

I wonder why

I was begun for.

By the turn of the century the light, folksy touch on American tombstones had all but disappeared in favor of sobriety and simplicity.

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