Michigan’s Ward United Church Joins the UPCUSA Defectors
The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. is leaking congregations—not in small drips, but in big globs. In the process of withdrawing last month was pastor Bartlett Hess’s 3,600-member Ward United Presbyterian Church in Livonia, Michigan. Also in suburban Detroit, pastor Calvin Gray’s 750-member Trenton First Presbyterian Church moved toward secession.
Denominational leaders had expected only small churches would leave, but “we’re talking about churches with thousands of members,” said pastor David Williams of Pitcairn, Pennsylvania. Williams, whose church had not pulled out, is chairman of Concerned United Presbyterians—a group of about 250 UPCUSA pastors who on biblical grounds oppose women elders and theological liberalism in the denomination.
Nearly half of CUP’s 11-member steering committee had left the denomination as of last month, and for that reason its leaders last month considered phasing out the nine-month-old organization. Departed CUP leaders included well-known radio pastor Bruce Dunn of 2,000-member Grace Church in Peoria, Illinois, and pastor James Boice of Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian. Those in the process of leaving included Ralph McAuley and Thomas Graham, pastors of UPCUSA congregations in East Liverpool, Ohio, and Baltimore, Maryland, respectively.
There was a strong possibility last month that departing churches would form their own association, Williams said. However, those plans were very tentative, and being kept out of earshot of denominational leaders for fear of interference. (Williams, Hess, and several other pastors knew of other churches considering withdrawal, but wouldn’t name them out of fear of the same interference by UPCUSA leaders, who were naturally concerned about the drainage of members and churches.)
Boice doesn’t favor the association idea: “We shouldn’t perpetuate splits by forming another denomination.” However, he planned to attend a small gathering of some of the “key leaders” of departed churches later this month to discuss the various options. In a telephone interview, Boice indicated he would argue the value of joining an existing conservative Presbyterian body (see following article).
The exodus of congregations from the UPCUSA still was relatively small last month—but speeding up, mostly in reaction to the denomination’s recently completed general assembly (June 27, p. 56). Some churches and pastors, such as those in the CUP group, had vowed to leave unless the assembly (1) lifted the constitutional requirement that all congregations have women elders; (2) reaffirmed Christ’s full deity—to refute one presbytery’s much-publicized approval of a pastor who rejected that belief; and (3) left control of local church property with the congregation. None of that happened, so a number of the disenchanted apparently were making good on their promise.
Hess’s departure seemed particularly startling. He was one of four theological conservatives recently appointed to the committee studying union between the UPCUSA and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., and had been a leader of those seeking an evangelical renewal within his denomination.
But the assembly’s inaction on the deity of Christ issue, and its continued order to have women elders, proved too much. Hess believes women elders are “biblically valid,” and his church has women elders. “But it’s the principle of freedom we’re greatly concerned about,” he said in a telephone interview. “If the church takes away our freedom on one issue, they might take it away on another.”
His 33-member church board had voted unanimously for withdrawal, and the congregation was expected to agree in a vote late last month, taking with it a $2 million annual budget (reportedly the largest in the UPCUSA).
Like Hess, pastor Gray of the Trenton church sees the problem as a “cumulation of things”—including theological liberalism and authoritarian controls such that “we’re fast becoming constitutional fundamentalists.” He professed no hard feelings toward his presbytery or denomination, but said the idea of departing churches forming an association interests him as the possible “beginning of something very exciting.”
Philadelphia’s Tenth Church Shops for a New Denomination
The issue of ordination of women to church offices continues to pester Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.
In March the 105-year-old congregation left the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S. A., partly in opposition to the denomination’s demand that member churches have women elders (April 18, p. 44). Last month Tenth faced the ironic situation of joining a denomination that would not allow it to keep its ordained women deacons.
Tenth officials had narrowed their choice of affiliation to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES). However, there was “concern” among the church members regarding the status of Tenth’s women deacons, said A. Clive Stockdale, clerk of the church’s session (board), in an interim report to the congregation. Neither the PCA nor the RPCES allow ordained women deacons.
The church, in a letter to both denominations, asked whether it would be accepted if it continued ordaining women deacons. “We don’t believe [that office] is excluded [for women] by God’s Word,” Stockdale told the congregation. At press time, no answer had been received. But, a church official said privately, if both denominations refuse to budge on women deacons, the church would probably join one or the other anyway.
Tenth has had women deacons since the middle 1970s, when the issue of ordained women elders grew in the UPCUSA. A board of elders study of Scripture showed that women elders were “clearly not allowed,” but that women deacons were, said pastoral administrator Glenn N. McDowell. “Ordination to an office of service was not excluded, as opposed to an office of rule, like elder,” he said.
Tenth’s influential pastor, James Boice, has publicly endorsed a proposed merger of three evangelical Presbyterian bodies: the PCA, RPCES, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. (A fourth, the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, also has been considered.) The church planned to send representatives to the RPCES general synod in July and to the PCA general assembly in June; the matter of union would be discussed at each. Tenth officials would follow the action closely. But McDowell indicated his belief that union among the three “isn’t going to happen right away.”
(In his church’s June newsletter, Boice suggested four guidelines for choosing a denomination. He said the denomination must be committed to “the highest possible standard of biblical authority,” to the Westminster standards, to “biblical practice in areas where the Scripture speaks”—while allowing “liberty in areas nonbiblical or biblically doubtful areas,” and to a Presbyterian form of government. He also hoped to find a denomination that is “evangelistically aggressive,” particularly in urban areas, and one that has a national distribution of churches “to give evidence of the unity of the church of God.”)
Tenth’s choice of denominational tie was not expected to be made until the end of the summer. Also in limbo was resolution of the lawsuit filed against the church by the Philadelphia presbytery. In May the presbytery sued for control of Tenth’s property, records, and name—contending the church had left the denomination illegally. Tenth’s lawyers challenged the presbytery to show where the denomination’s constitution forbids a church from leaving, and legal wranglings were expected to last several months.
Canadians Take Radical Middle Ground’ Stand on Women’s Issue
Scripture won’t change during the next 10 years. But a pastor’s interpretation of Scripture must change during that time period—that is, if he presently opposes ordination of women ministers and elders and wants to keep his job in the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC).
The denomination’s general assembly last month decreed that any minister refusing to ordain women ministers and elders by 1990 would have to quit the church. This year’s graduating seminarians, who oppose ordaining women, could still be ordained themselves, but they would be the last class allowed that option. Even then, these ministers would have to change their stand on women elders by 1990, or leave the church.
The assembly action stemmed from a case involving 25-year-old Westminster Seminary graduate Daniel McDougall. He was refused ordination a year ago after he told a committee of the Presbytery of East Toronto that his conscience forbade his participation in the ordination of women ministers and elders. (He said he would be willing to work with ordained women, however.) The presbytery ruled him in violation of a 1966 church ruling allowing women ministers and elders. His appeal was denied by the synod, and an unhappy senior minister took the case to the ruling general assembly.
In the meantime, McDougall accepted a job as assistant to the minister (not an ordained post) at 600-member Bethel Presbyterian Church in Sydney, Nova Scotia. He planned to take advantage of an assembly provision allowing his ordination, along with the “conscientious objectors” in the class of 1980, but he had no plans regarding his long-range status within the denomination. “The assembly’s action could be overturned, of course [at a later assembly],” he said.
Controversy over ordained women has not been exclusive to United Presbyterians south of the border. Charges of discrimination against women as ministers and elders were brought to the PCC’s 1979 general assembly in a resolution from the Presbytery of Montreal and in a report to the senate of The Presbyterian College in that city. The senate report alleged that some congregations were ignoring pastoral applications from women, while “one-quarter to one-third of our graduating classes are women.” The 1979 assembly appointed a task force to find ways to end discrimination against women.
Last month’s assembly action, despite its seeming hard-line stance, actually was a compromise characteristic of the PCC’s “radical middle ground approach,” designed to prevent polarization, but one that still would anger those at both ends of the issue, observed information officer James Dickey. The estimated 15 percent of the denomination’s 993 pastors who oppose women’s ordination, and their sympathizers, would be upset that the issue was being made “a touchstone of orthodoxy,” while women’s rights advocates would consider the 10-year grace period “wishy-washy,” he commented.
Denominational officials hope the issue won’t cause an exodus. The 160,000-member body already has suffered a 12 percent membership loss since 1969. Mindful of that, the 1980 assembly adopted a $1 million, 10-year plan aimed at doubling church membership in the 1980s.
The Salvation Army
Those Gentle Soldiers Are Veterans Now
Salvation Army founder William Booth had given young commissioner George Scott Railton the task of establishing the work in the United States. Upon his departure from London, where Booth founded the movement among the working class poor, Railton told the general, “Filled with God, we’ll shake America.”
Railton and seven women Salvationists landed in New York City on the steamer Australia in March 1880, marched down the gangplank singing hymns, and immediately began preaching to curious onlookers. Now, 100 years later, the army’s efforts seemingly continue with the same vigor.
Nearly 11,000 Salvationists attended a national centennial congress last month in Kansas City. They heard speeches by dignitaries, including international leader General Arnold Brown. Some led the familiar open-air evangelistic meetings around the city.
Presently, the organization has about 5,000 commissioned officers (full-time ordained men and women), more than 78,000 senior soldiers (members), plus other recruits and followers—a total membership in the U.S. of about 400,000.
The army serves in all 50 states. Its 9,000 centers include 1,074 corps (congregational centers), more than 100 alcoholic rehabilitation centers, and numerous hospitals, medical centers, and homes for the elderly, orphans, and young mothers.
During a goal-setting session near the end of the Kansas City conference, Salvationists avoided specific objectives. “We’ll retain our balanced ministry to the whole person in the name of Jesus Christ,” said an army spokesman in New York City headquarters.
White House Conference on Families
Conservatives Knocked Out in the First Round
Round one of the White House Conference on Families (WHCF) ended with the liberal-moderate coalition clearly on top. At last month’s meeting in Baltimore—the first of three regional WHCF sessions—the 671 delegates adopted 57 proposals described by the Washingtion Post as “a laundry list of liberalism.”
The assembly approved by a 383-to-202 vote the right to abortion (preceded by the most heated debate of the conference). It also voted for national health insurance, the Equal Rights Amendment, and a guaranteed annual income of $13,000 for a family of four. The group’s proposals, which focused mostly on the economic and social needs of low- and middle-class families, would cost billions annually to put into effect, the Post observed.
Conservative delegates formed a vocal but tiny minority, and were unable to gain adoption of their positions. In frustration, spokesperson Connie Marshner of the National Profamily Coalition and Virginia Republican Congressman Lawrence D. Pratt charged that conference chairman Jim Guy Tucker had rigged the WHCF membership to assure a liberal majority.
As a protest, and a stated attempt to weaken WHCF credibility, the two led a walkout of some 30 to 50 conservatives on the second day of the three-day meeting. Their leaving probably didn’t affect the workings of the conference; however, a narrowly adopted proposal (292-to-291 vote) favoring nondiscrimination against homosexuals probably would not have passed had the conservatives stayed, observers noted.
Some conservative delegates, such as Campus Crusade staff member Jerry Regier, elected to stay. “Although the proposals were of the liberal line, and I probably disagreed with 90 percent of the results, I felt it was important to hang in there and present the evangelical perspective,” he said.
Regier didn’t think the WHCF had been purposely stacked or rigged to favor the liberals, but said the group “certainly represented a lot of liberal political thinking.” He indicated the conservatives had grounds to complain. Regier is based in Washington, D.C., with Campus Crusade’s Christian Embassy—an outreach ministry to U.S. and foreign government personnel based in the nation’s capital. He says he has been in contact with WHCF planners for nearly two years; “I’d periodically check in with them to encourage them to have Christian leaders in conference planning.”
He says he helped arrange a private meeting in April between WHCF chairman Tucker and a group of evangelical family experts. Later, Regier submitted a list of 15 evangelical Christians—some of whom had been in the meeting with Tucker—for consideration as at-large delegates by the WHCF advisory committee. From that list, nine were chosen: Regier, Michigan State University professor Ted Ward, child psychologist James Dobson, singer Pat Boone, family counselor and author J. Allen Petersen, black leader John Perkins, Campus Crusade’s Vonette Bright, National Association of Evangelicals staff member Bob Dugan, and Raymond Moore of the Hewitt Research Foundation.
These, along with the 250 to 300 other at-large delegates, were assigned to attend the regional conferences in their areas. Later WHCF conferences were in Minneapolis (June 19–21) and Los Angeles (July 10–12). A national task force will draft and present a final list of recommendations to President Carter, probably sometime in September.
Will the proposals be taken seriously? Since the WHCF was Carter’s idea, observers believe he at least will give the WHCF recommendations serious consideration during his second term, if reelected. But because this is an election year, observers also expect that Carter won’t let the WHCF become an embarrassment, which slaps at traditional, Judeo-Christian views on the family and costs him votes in the Christian and religious community.
Regier believed evangelicals shouldn’t give up—and should continue to state their side in the subsequent WHCF regional meetings—despite the apparent setback in Baltimore. Still, he hoped the Minneapolis and Los Angeles gatherings “wouldn’t as much reflect the views of Eastern liberalism.”
North American Scene
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) was scheduled to speak at an ecumenical worship service prior to the opening of the Republican National Convention in Detroit (July 14–18). A local 15-pastor steering committee invited Lugar, a United Methodist lay preacher, as part of full slate of religious events and services for conventioneers, including church tours, a church information telephone hot line, and even a special chaplaincy detail for any visitors who wind up in jail. Senator John Danforth (R-Mo.), an ordained Episcopal priest, planned to speak at the local Cathedral Church of Saint Paul.
Nearly 40 percent of American Protestants belong to a denomination different from the one in which they were raised, according to a study in the new edition of Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. Theologically conservative churches with strong evangelization programs have benefited most by denominational switching, indicated Southern Baptist official C. Kirk Hadaway, author of the study. The trends indicated that persons most often switch for theological reasons—in order to meet personal religious needs—contrary to the most widely accepted past explanation linking church changes to economic or social mobility. The fastest growing churches in 1978, according to the yearbook, were the Presbyterian Church in America (11.09 percent) and the Free Methodist Church (6.2 percent), while the United Presbyterian Church suffered the highest rate of loss (1.6 percent).
Baptized children will be allowed to participate in Communion services in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. The PCUS general assembly last month voted down a standing committee’s recommendation to retain the former system, limiting participation to those who have gone through a confirmation ceremony. The PCUS assembly supported a committee decision that PCUS action to reaffirm Christ’s full deity was unnecessary since the church constitution covers the issue adequately. The reaffirmation had been proposed in light of the recent National Capital Union Presbytery (a merged PCUS-United Presbyterian unit) approval of Mansfield Kaseman to a Maryland pastorate, despite his refusal, during his examination by the presbytery, to affirm that Jesus is God. Elected as new PCUS moderator was former Austin (Tex.) Seminary president David L. Stitt—a strong supporter of the proposed PCUS-UPCUSA union.
Hare Krishna groups in California are under intense police scrutiny following disclosures that they have been stockpiling weapons and ammunition. Members also have been accused of offenses ranging from murder and drug dealing to credit card fraud and overzealous solicitation of donations. (They deny anything sinister in gathering weapons, and say it is necessary for self-defense.) Brought to the U.S. in 1965 as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness by Indian businessman Bhaktivendanta Prabhupada, the group teaches a non-materialistic lifestyle, achievement of enlightenment through study of ancient Hindu scriptures, and daily chanting of the mantra.
Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God faces a continuing probe of its finances by the California state attorney-general’s office. Last month the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the investigation, despite protests by the WCG and a number of major religious groups that the probe violates First Amendment freedom of religion guarantees. The state began investigating 18 months ago—placing the church in receivership for four months—after accusations by former WCG members that Armstrong and chief adviser Stanley Rader had pilfered millions in church funds for their own use. The WCG reportedly has spent $2.5 million in legal fees so far, and last month doled out thousands more in order to present its case to the public in full-page newspaper ads.
Debts of the Pauline Fathers finally have been cleared up, Gannett News Service reported. Representatives of the order—Saint Paul the First Hermit—Philadelphia’s Cardinal John Krol, and the Knights of Columbus, handed over $2.9 million in checks, bank drafts, and securities to First Bank of Minneapolis, which had acted as trustee for some 1,500 Catholics who held worthless bonds bought from the Pennsylvania-based order. Many had lost money when the Pauline Fathers defaulted on the bonds in 1974. Gannett reporters won a Pulitzer prize for their investigation of the Pauline Fathers, in which they chrononicled a number of alleged financial abuses and cover-ups.
Senator Mark Hatfield (R.-Oreg.) led an unsuccessful fight against the bill to revive draft registration. Hatfield spoke strongly in opposition during nearly a week of Senate debate, including an all-night, 32-hour filibuster, before the Senate’s eventual 58–34 approval of the $13.3 million needed to register 19- and 20-year-old men this summer. Hatfield, an evangelical layman, along with peace church spokesmen, had criticized the measure (expected to win final House approval and the President’s signature last month) as the first step toward reinstituting the draft, and as unnecessary in peacetime. A Hatfield amendment directing that the registration card contain a line for declaring one’s conscientious objector status was defeated.
Kefa Sempangi has been reappointed to his earlier post on the 24-man ruling council of Uganda, the Presbyterian Journal reported. Sempangi, a Westminster Seminary graduate, had been ousted from his position as deputy minister of rehabilitation by the new military government—apparently in its attempt to start with a clean slate. For a time, he and his family were under house arrest. Presbyterian missionaries expressed optimism that the new government will be tolerant of Christian witness within the country.
Fortunately for Campus Crusade for Christ, billionaire businessman Nelson Bunker Hunt has better results in evangelism fund raising than in his much-publicized speculations on the silver markets. Hunt was recently host to more than 500 millionaires for a weekend retreat in a luxury Houston hotel, where the group heard well-known evangelical politicians and entertainers and Campus Crusade staff members discuss the world’s need for the gospel. As a result, attenders pledged more than $20 million to Campus Crusade’s $1 billion Here’s Life world evangelization program, according to Here’s Life official Robert Pittenger. He reported that so far $170 million has been committed to the project—intended to present a gospel message to everyone on earth by 1982—giving chief fund raiser Hunt plenty of work ahead.
Paul Reeves, 47, has been appointed archbishop of the Anglican Church in New Zealand. The Auckland bishop is the first Maori (native islander) to become primate, as well as the youngest priest to hold the office.
World Vision has separated organizationally its United States operations from its international entity, although headquarters for both will remain in Monrovia, California. W. Stanley Mooneyham becomes international president of WV International, while Ted W. Engstrom becomes executive director of the U.S. body.
Oliver R. Harms, 78, president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod from 1962 until his 1969 reelection defeat by current president Jacob A.O. Preus—the latter beginning the move toward more explicit theological conservatism in the 2.7-million-member denomination: described as a pastoral leader, Harms helped establish the Lutheran Council in the U.S. A.; June 3 in Houston, Texas, of cancer.
Daniel Vestal, 61, Fort Worth, Texas, preacher sometimes called the “dean of Southern Baptist evangelists”; he preached in 40 states and more than 1,500 revival campaigns, while reporting an annual average of 1,000 conversion decisions under his ministry; May 24 in Mesquite, Texas, of a heart attack.
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