When the Palo Alto, California, city council placed Measure B on the November 3 ballot, the city’s homosexuals found support in places they probably hadn’t counted on: the churches.

Measure B sought to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals in housing, employment, union membership, and public services. In what may be considered a rather bold political stance, Mayor Alan Henderson openly supported the measure.

But in a just as bold, and probably more unusual, stance were the city’s religious leaders. More than half the congregational leaders of the city’s 50 churches expressed their support of the proposed ordinance. The most vocal and organized proponents were the 30-member Palo Alto Ministerial Association and the 15-member Ecumenical Outreach Coalition.

“Members of the ministerial association support the measure not because they support homosexuality per se, but because they support fair play and justice for all people,” said Donald Mason of Covenant Presbyterian Church.

“In cases such as civil rights, church leaders need to speak out in one voice,” said Jim Burklo of the First Congregational Church.

“Not to do so would default our responsibility as religious leaders of the community,” added Harold Bjornson, pastor emeritus of the First Baptist Church.

If seemed Measure B would have an easy victory. By election day, supporters had spent more than $25,000, and opponents had spent less than $500.

Also behind the measure was the very nature of the people of Palo Alto. They pride themselves in being liberal: most of the city’s almost 55,000 citizens are white, upper-middle class, and educated. They share their city with the prestigious Stanford University, and they live just 20 miles south of San Francisco, notorious for its gay community.

The people of Palo Alto are also somewhat genteel. And such was the tone of the campaign. “Palo Alto appears to be the first American community to raise the emotional gay rights issue in a political campaign to the thoughtful level of a faculty club debate,” wrote Randy Shilts of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Yes, Measure B had everything going for it. Most people were surprised, then, on election day, when it lost badly—58 to 42 percent. In political terms, it was a landslide.

“It came as a surprise to us,” Henderson said.

“I am very, very disappointed,” Burklo said.

Even with hindsight, church leaders and city officials can only speculate on why the measure was defeated. “Most people thought it wasn’t needed in our community,” said James McLeod of All Saints’ Episcopal Church.

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“Palo Alto likes to believe this is a liberal town, and problems can be solved on a case-by-case basis,” city councilman Gary Fazzino said.

Perhaps, also, the people of Palo Alto were not convinced there really was discrimination against homosexuals in their city. The groundwork for the election was laid by the Palo Alto Human Rights Commission, which presented the city council with the results of their study. It quoted gays who said there was ample discrimination against them. As opponents to the measure were quick to point out, that study was based on only 85 respones to 1,000 questionnaires that had been distributed.

Before the election, both Steve Zeisler, associate pastor at Peninsula Bible Church, and Jack McDaniel, pastor of Palo Alto Baptist Church, had argued that the measure was not needed. “There are few cases I know of of proven discrimination,” McDaniel said. “What they want is the privilege to exhibit or propagate their lifestyle.”

“Someone said they [homosexuals] were tilting at windmills, but there were no windmills,” Ken Allen said after the election. Allen is a member of the Mormon church’s Palo Alto second ward and a Palo Alto attorney.

Burklo was one of many church leaders who strongly disagreed that the measure was not needed. “There needs to be some kind of public policy that people’s rights should be protected, regardless of sexual orientation,” he said.

Others feel the vote against Measure B was more of a reaction to government legislating human rights. Mentioned less often was the possibility that the people of Palo Alto are not quite as liberal as they boast. “I think we have a more realistic picture of our community’s real values,” Mason said.

Many church leaders who supported the measure still believe “one battle is over, but the struggle for justice will go on,” as Mason put it.

“We are challenged to live by the great commandments to love our neighbors, and I think that applies to all our neighbors,” Burklo said. “There will be another time, another opportunity to bring it before the public.”

Burklo was quick to add, however, “That is just a hope. I am not organizing it.”

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There Will Be No Third World War, Un Official Predicts

Calling the current superpower nuclear arms race “nonsense,” Robert Muller, secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, told editors of the religious press that there is not going to be another world war, ever. He was a featured speaker at the Global Issues Seminar at the UN, sponsored by the United Nations Association, the American Jewish Press Association, Associated Church Press, Catholic Press Association, and Evangelical Press Association.

Behind Muller’s optimistic logic was the conviction that nuclear weapons are “instruments of power, not war,” for the U.S. and the Soviet Union. He predicted that within the next five or six years there will be an “uproar all over the world” against the costs of nuclear weapons. “The people who have to pay the taxes will say, ‘This is enough.’ ”

Muller was also encouraged by the fact that since the UN’s founding in 1945 “this has been a rather peaceful planet on the whole.” Wars have been “extremely limited.”

Muller also based his prediction of peace on what he called the “elevating of ourselves from a material-scientific outlook to one that is moral and spiritual.” Taking a long look, he commented, “We are in the kindergarten of global living.”

Editors learned that in the meantime, the world is a tough school. Brian Urquhart, undersecretary general for special political affairs, has the touchy job of managing UN peacekeeping forces in such explosive places as Lebanon and Cyprus. He said the UN works “when everybody is scared stiff. We need the UN to avoid a nyclear confrontation.”

Critics maintain that the UN is helpless because the Security Council can’t take forthright action. Urquhart admitted this, but said it does give time for “face-saving devices to be worked out.” Truces are the practical way to stop fighting and the UN’s “great achievement” has been to put the international forces in place between opposing sides.

Refugees are also a prime concern for the UN. Poul Hartling, UN high commissioner for refugees, estimated that 25 million people have become refugees in the last 30 years. Not counting Palestinians, there are 10 million refugees today, half of them in Africa. On the positive side, he noted that 700,00 refugees from Indochina have been resettled in the last four years.

The most critical refugee problem is in Pakistan, where 2.5 million Afghans have fled the Russian occupation. Another critical situation is in Honduras because of the influx of 40,000 refugees from El Salvador.

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Another problem involving the UN is world hunger. Editors heard reports that 40 countries are not meeting the food needs of their people. In 10 years, the needs of these people will equal two-and-a-half times the total U.S. food output.

Is there any hope for conquering hunger? Yes, but national policies must change. What is missing is political will. In the end, hunger, like the nuclear arms race, will go on until it is good politics for legislators to end it. Editors of religious periodicals saw various segments of the UN manfully striving to bring about change, but quite aware of the obstacles.


World Scene

Women will be ordained as deacons in the Church of England beginning in 1983. That was the decision of the church’s general synod in November. Deacons in the Anglican church are members of the clergy who are called “reverend” and may officiate at weddings and certain liturgical celebrations. Anglo-Catholics denounced the move as a step on the road to ordaining women to the priesthood and therefore a barrier to union with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

A plan to arrange vacations for American tourists in Anglican parishes of England has created a furor. The London travel agency working out the details for the Church of England’s development officer implied that a Sunderland working-class parish would be unsuitable for the tourists. They would be, the agency said in a letter to the parish church, “well-established, middle-class Americans, with standards considerably higher than those of our own middle class.”

Czechoslovakian Christians accuse security forces of murdering a lay activist. Paul Svanda, 22, who was active in the Roman Catholic “underground church,” was found dead at the bottom of Mococha Gorge in Moldavia in October. According to an unofficial group of Moravian Catholics, he was found “in a place where no one could have fallen.” Relatives were not allowed a the post mortem, no inquest statement was issued, and the coffin containing his remains was not permitted to be opened. A secretly ordained priest was also killed in unexplained circumstances last February. Also in October, the security forces carried out massive raids on parish houses and homes for retired priests and nuns throughout the country, confiscating literature, typewriters, and duplicators in an effort to suppress the network of surreptitious church information broadsheets (samizdat).

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The headquarters of Ethiopia’s largest Protestant denomination was confiscated by government officials in November. The eight-story Addis Ababa building was the administrative center for the 500,000-member Mekane Yesus (Lutheran) Church, and will be converted into courtrooms. The headquarters of a Baptist group, Emmanuel, was also seized. Ethiopia’s Marxist rulers belong to the Amhara tribe, while Mekane Yesus membership is almost exclusively from the largest tribe, the Oromo. Gudina Tunsa, Mekane Yesus executive secretary, disappeared two years ago, and many believe he is in prison. Tunsa is the brother of an Oromo Liberation Front leader.

The U.S. government has denied Mennonites a license to send school supplies to Kampuchea (Cambodia). In a preliminary decision in November, the Commerce Department objected to the planned shipment of 86,000 kits of pencils, notebooks, erasers, and rulers because these items do “not fall into the category of emergency relief.” Mennonite Central Committee Asia secretary Bert Lobe responded that “UNICEF has for years taken the position that primary school aid is an integral part of emergency assistance.” If the decision stood, the Mennonites planned to operate under another group’s license or from Canada.

North American Scene

Jack Chick has resigned from the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA). A delegation from CBA visited Chick to talk about the multitude of complaints the association is receiving from its members, who are Christian bookstore owners (CT, Oct. 23, p. 62). Chick publishes virulently anti-Catholic comic books and tracts, some of which contain false information. In a letter to bookstores that buy his material, Chick said he is resigning because “the whore of Revelation 17 and 18 has quietly moved into the CBA and will quietly seduce you, and your power will be gone.” Chick interprets the whore of Revelation as the Catholic church. By dropping out of CBA, Chick will no longer be able to display his material to booksellers at the association’s conventions.

A dissident United Presbyterian Church (UPCUSA) congregation has been awarded title to church property it was locked out of last spring. A reported majority of members of the Babcock Memorial United Presbyterian Church, Towson, Maryland, voted in March to leave the UPCUSA. The presbytery said the group could not take church property with it. A harrowing string of events—including lockouts and armed guards—followed, and the case landed in court (CT, April 24, 1981, p. 37). Recently a judge ruled the dissidents had legally transferred the title to church property and the denomination no longer owned it.

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U.S. denominations are showing an increasing concern with the nuclear arms race. United Methodist bishops recently issued “A Call to Nuclear Disarmament and Peace with Justice.” It described the arms race as an issue of “ultimate” significance. Robert Davidson, moderator of the United Presbyterian General Assembly, looked forward to coming Geneva negotiations and hoped they would represent the first steps on the road to world peace. The American Friends Service Committee (Quaker) applauded President Reagan’s new emphasis on reduction of arms. And a Southern Baptist official promised to watch the Geneva talks closely to see if the superpowers “mean business” about peace.

Assemblies of God (AG) Sunday schools are the fastest growing in 20 of the 50 states, according to a contest sponsored by Moody Monthly magazine. The magazine contest judges Sunday school growth from voluntary reports submitted by the schools. The biggest jump in the AG schools was reported by a Phoenix church that saw its Sunday school attendance leap from 1,059 in 1980 to 3,773 in 1981.

Catholic Bishops Strongly Denounce Nuclear Weapons

American Roman Catholic bishops spoke out strongly against nuclear weapons when they gathered in Washington recently for their annual National Conference of Catholic Bishops. But there were enough dissenters on the nuclear issue to underscore the fact that the Catholic church is not yet the “peace” church that some liberal Catholic commentators would like to see it become.

Archbishop Joseph Bernardin of Cincinnati chairs an ad hoc bishops’ committee on war and peace, and he stirred the simmering nuclear issue with strong words against the country’s possession of nuclear arms. Bernardin said that a “significant school of Catholic pacifism” has emerged since the Second Vatican Council. He said the moral doctrine presented by nuclear weaponry constitutes a central issue that the Catholic church must face. He and other bishops urged their colleagues to speak out strongly against nuclear force when they return to their dioceses.

The feeling, however, was not unanimous by far. New Orleans Archbishop Philip Hannan, formerly a chaplain of the 82nd Airborne Division, suggested that the antinuclear speeches were missing the issue. If the nation lost its military power, he asked, what would guarantee freedom to worship God, and the freedom for man to keep his dignity?

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The bishops divided on another matter central to the Catholic church—that of abortion. The issue produced sharp debate during the meeting. New York’s Terrence Cardinal Cooke, who had endorsed the Hatch constitutional amendment, squared off in a Senate hearing against Boston’s Cardinal Humberto Medeiros. Medeiros and other bishops objected that by supporting the Hatch amendment, the bishops were merely acquiescing in finding an easy way out of the abortion debate, turning the whole issue over to individual states as the Hatch amendment would do.

In a statement to the press, Bishop Mark Hurley of Santa Rosa, California, tried to predict what the news media would make of the abortion and nuclear armament debates. “On right to life you called us right-wing, and I am sure on this [nuclear arms] you will call us left-wing. We like to see ourselves as thoroughly consistent in both instances.”

For the secular press, fond of compartmentalizing people and issues into tidy political cubbyholes, it was a valid point to ponder.

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