CT asked Mr. kelley a number of additional questions, which the editions felt were not addressed in his article. Those questions and his answers follow.

1. Many evangelicals think of the NCC as a monolith with enormous power to control religious activity right down to the grassroots level of pulpit, Sunday school, and church board. How much clout does the NCC really have at this level?

The NCC is anything but monolithic. Its 32 member denominations often have very divergent views—on abortion, for instance. The NCC does not have direct access to local congregations unless they choose to respond to some NCC program, but must work through denominations, which also do not have very good communications with their own congregations. The NCC’s clout is thus often overestimated by both friends and critics.

2. How does the NCC avoid the charge of one-sidedness in opposing a select list of oppressive regimes (South Africa, Chile), while being far less urgent in criticizing other equally oppressive governments (Albania, or especially Stalinist Russia, where it now appears that more died than even in Hitler’s well-publicized purges)?

The NCC probably will never avoid charges of being “one-sided,” whatever it does. It seems a bit superfluous to denounce the Soviet Union or other “oppressive governments on the left” when others (including the U.S.) are denouncing them so regularly. (Nevertheless, the NCC has adopted a number of resolutions criticizing the Soviet Union for its restrictions on religious liberty, but these seem to gain less coverage in the news media. Among them are resolutions on the violation of human rights in Chile and the USSR in October 1973; resolutions on human rights and religious and political suppression in the USSR in November 1977; expression of concern for prisoners of conscience in the USSR and Czechoslovakia, November 1979; actions for supporting seven Soviet citizens granted sanctuary in the U.S. embassy in Moscow in May 1981.)

It often seems more needful to address the shortcomings of nations (like South Africa) that are uncritically accepted by some as members of what is rather overgenerously referred to as “the free world.”

3. The NCC has been sharply critical of American military involvement in other countries. Why has it often been silent (or even supportive) of similar Soviet involvement?

The NCC bears no responsibility for the actions of the Soviet Union and could probably affect them very little, whatever it did. As part of the citizenry of the United States, the NCC has a greater responsibility to offer moral guidance to the U.S. to the best of its ability. (Nevertheless, it did issue a statement excoriating the Soviet Union’s action in Afghanistan in January 1980, one of its divisions issued a statement on Poland in January 1981, and the governing board adopted a resolution condemning the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia in November 1978, and one condemning secret trials in the USSR in October 1975.)

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4. What biblical passages does the NCC call upon when it supports military violence as a Christian means of correcting social justice?

The NCC has not “supported military violence as a means of correcting justice.” Perhaps the reference is to grants to African liberation movements, which were made by the World Council of Churches. The National Council of Churches is not a branch office of the WCC. Though the two are composed of some of the same denominations, each makes its own decisions, and raises and spends all funds independently of the other.

5. The NCC has appealed to the Bible to point out flaws in capitalism. Does it hold other economic theories, such as socialism, up to the light of Scripture for equal scrutiny?

In policy statements over the years, and in a recently developed Economic Justice Curriculum, the NCC has done precisely that—discerned scriptural criteria for what economic systems should accomplish for human beings and then examined various economic systems against those criteria. And none of the existing systems shows up very well.

6. Who decides what the NCC doctrinal statement means—475 Riverside Drive? Union Theological Seminary? Churches that contribute money? No one?

Presumably, the question refers to the Preamble to the NCC Constitution, which reads: “The National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America is a community of Christian Communions which, in response to the gospel as revealed in the Scriptures, confess Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, as Savior and Lord. These Communions covenant with one another to manifest ever more fully the unity of the Church. Relying upon the transforming power of the Holy Spirit the Council brings these Communions into common mission serving in all creation to the glory of God.” In any given instance, the governing board of the NCC, composed of the representatives of the member communions, decides what that statement means and how it applies.

7. The NCC wishes to present itself as a family of the different churches in Christendom. Because it accepts groups that tolerate doctrinal innovation, it might seem impossible for it to deny membership to groups that tolerate lifestyle innovation. If almost any group calling itself a Christian church can join the NCC, its distinctiveness is in doubt. How then does the NCC define the “Christian church” so as to justify its existence as a distinctive organization?

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The preceding statement eliminates some religious bodies’ eligibility for membership in the NCC. The Unitarian-Universalist Association is generally acknowledged—by themselves and by the NCC—not to fit the description in the Preamble. The Unification Church was characterized by the NCC’s Faith and Order Commission as not being an orthodox Christian church, so it would not qualify. There are, in addition to the 32 member communions, 37 others that are deemed by the governing board to be eligible to join if they should wish to do so—including the Roman Catholic church and the Southern Baptist Convention.

8. Recently the Metropolitan Community Churches (a gay group) applied for membership in theNCC. Why did theNCCtable the motion, instead of, on the one hand, sympathizing with the problems of homosexuals, and on the other hand, taking a formal stand against the immorality of the practice of homosexuality?

The NCC did not “table” the application of the Metropolitan Community Churches; it referred it for study in the Faith and Order Commission precisely to determine the theological questions of whether it meets the criteria of the constitution (especially with respect to its organizing principle, not just its creed). A press release issued by the NCC following that meeting stated: “Although many of the member Communions support Civil Rights for homosexuals, none affirms homosexuality as a Christian lifestyle and many believe its practice to be a sin and contrary to the will of God.”

Zaccheus’s encounter with Jesus didn’t cause him to change professions, but he did his job differently.

For most of the quarter century I have been a wire service newsman I have approached my job the same way most reporters do: committed to the traditional journalistic values of accuracy, objectivity, fairness, and aggressiveness.

Frankly, it did not occur to me that the Holy Spirit might have something to say about these values. Being a Christian who was a reporter essentially meant being on the lookout for stories with a “religious” angle and being alert to opportunities to witness to my colleagues.

Some of the ways I handled stories during those early years probably were better than I realized. As a beginning reporter in the Dakotas, for example, I knew instinctively it was wrong to identify racially Indian traffic victims but not white ones, and stopped the practice. I knew it was important to point out that the state legislature appropriated matching funds to get every available federal dollar for highways but would not do so to get small federal grants for high school science laboratories.

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In Chicago, I reported in stark detail every twitch of the deaths of Vincent Ciucci and James Duke, the last two men to die in the Cook County electric chair, not necessarily to sensationalize but so that the reader would realize the horror of seeing a person’s life purposely snuffed out. I knew it was important to put theologian Paul Tillich’s life into perspective when he died at the University of Chicago in 1965, and a call to a Wheaton College theologian accomplished that.

I knew as the editor in charge of United Press International’s Washington newsfile for afternoon newspapers that it was important to get into the same story the point of view of both opponents and proponents of a new weapons system. I knew it was crucial to have frequent stories describing the plight of the long-suffering minorities in this country and about the upheaval that consciousness raising was causing.

But what was lacking in my approach was a unifying theme—a light that would guide me in handling every story. In other words, what did the Christian faith and Scripture have to say to me about the essence of my job?

Then I read that Hudson Taylor Armerding, president of Wheaton College, had urged his faculty and staff “to have a more comprehensive knowledge of the Scriptures and to address themselves to the difficult and rigorous task of relating the teaching of Scripture to their particular discipline or area of work.” The realization came to me almost abruptly: my commodity was truth. My job was to pursue and publish truth, to the best of my ability to communicate in the story what was the core, the nub, of what I was covering.

I tracked truth through the Bible and found it on almost every page. Anyone can do this, using Young’s or Strong’s Concordance, even without knowing Hebrew and Greek. As the concordance shows, the Hebrew word for truth is emet; the Greek word, alethea. Emet implies certainty, dependability, faithfulness. Indeed, “faithfulness” is the term often used for it in English translations. You can count on truth. A news story ought to be trustworthy and reliable—it ought to be true. But truth is far more than a static notion of mere accuracy. When the White House issued a statement saying Clarence Pendleton was being nominated chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, that was accurate—as far as it went. But I believe I was capturing the larger, more significant truth in reporting that President Reagan was firing Arthur Flemming, who was then chairman, for his outspoken advocacy of busing and certain other civil-rights views.

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I learned that truth is dynamic and energizing. Time and again the Bible links truth with other traits or principles. From the very beginning, the writer of Genesis tied together the mercy and truth of God (Gen. 32:10). It was as if one implied the other. David spoke of the mercy and truth of the Lord (see 2 Sam. 2:6; 15:20), and did so repeatedly throughout his psalms. So did Solomon in Proverbs. Isaiah intertwined justice and truth. Zechariah 8 speaks of peace and truth. King Hezekiah asked for peace and truth (2 Kings 20:19).

What does this mean to me? Truth ought not to be separated from mercy, justice, peace, righteousness. A reporter who is a Christian should seek and write truth that promotes justice and mercy. This discovery has had an indelible daily impact on me in my current assignment—covering social legislation (welfare, education, and health, as well as abortion, busing, and prayer measures) on Capitol Hill.

What can happen in a nation where truth is not reported? Isaiah said, “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has fallen in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking …” (59:14–15). On the other hand, mercy and truth can preserve our nation’s leaders (Prov. 20:28). Thus, the clarion call to the Christian reporter ought to be: “In your majesty ride forth victoriously for the cause of truth and to defend the right” (Psalm 45:4).

I learned also that as a reporter I cannot be arrogant or adamant about the stories I write. Even though I try to get at the nub or essence of a story, I realize my conclusions must be tested. Joseph tested his brothers’ words to see “whether there is truth in you” (Gen. 42:16).

One aspect of truth I found especially challenging: it emancipates, it sets free. God sends forth his mercy and truth to “put to shame those who trample upon me” (Psalm 57:3) and to “rescue me from sinking in mire; let me be delivered from my enemies” (Psalm 69:13). Jesus said the truth sets free (John 8:32). It is clear that truth comes from God. The Old Testament speaks frequently of God’s truth. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of thy throne; mercy and truth go before thee,” the psalmist Ethan said (89:14). Jesus is truth (John 14:6) and the agent of truth (John 1:17; 8:40; 18:37–38).

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Ultimate emancipation is found in Jesus Christ. But if all truth comes from God, then even the truth of a simple news story can help free the world from doubts and fears and bondage. I saw that television cameras and news stories about our treatment of blacks in the 1960s had helped awaken our nation to the hard fact that we still needed to deal with racism, and that helped lead to the passage of the body of laws setting minorities free—at least in a legal sense. The TV cameras trained on the Vietnam war helped awaken our consciousness and started us toward an eventual emancipation from that terrible ordeal.

I came to understand that the paramount task I have as a reporter to pursue and publish truth is a divine calling with tremendous spiritual implications. Thus, every time I communicate the truth, to the best of my ability—whether that story be about Poland, the President, congressional action on the budget, or merely a “barn burner” or a “fender bender”—I have made a theological statement. If it is true that the taste of some truth in the mind of the newspaper reader or TV viewer creates a hunger for more truth and nudges that person toward the ultimate truth in Jesus Christ, it might not be an exaggeration to say the story, even about the most blatantly secular subject, has become an agent of evangelism.

One particular area of the truth caught my attention: the moral dimension in a news event that often went unreported. While covering the 1972 McGovern presidential campaign, I made the same observation that Michael McIntyre discussed in the Christian Century. It was that when McGovern began talking about morality, as he frequently did, the reporters closed their notebooks, glanced at each other indulgently, or looked at their watches as if they were trapped in a Sunday school class on I Chronicles. The result was that the McGovern campaign was not truly reported. While dealing with Watergate in 1973–75, I saw that we covered the break-ins, the White House tapes, and the Nixon impeachment inquiry in excruciating detail, but we were incompetent and uneasy in writing about what was perhaps the central truth of that scandal. What is there about power that leads those who have it to be so vulnerable to the temptation to abuse it? We in the White House press corps reported Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school lessons and his action in the Oval Office, but we seldom examined the relationship between the two.

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The Christian who is a reporter does not necessarily bring more intelligence or skill to the story, but he or she may have a certain sensitivity to this kind of truth that other reporters do not.

The Bible Basis

Jesus made an important theological statement by being a carpenter the first part of his adult life. I am sure he was a careful, creative one.

Yet his calling of the disciples may have contributed to our tendency to segregate our secular work from the spiritual. In Mark 1, Jesus called Simon and Andrew to be his first disciples. “Follow me,” he said, and they dropped their nets and followed him. We often have inferred from this that they left their trade. As a matter of fact, Simon continued to be a fisherman, because Luke 3 states he was back at the nets. When Jesus told Levi in Mark 2 to “follow me,” Levi left his tax office. This may have helped plant the notion that when we follow Jesus it means we abandon our trade and follow him quite literally.

Luke offers a different conclusion altogether. In Luke 3, John the Baptist was preaching repentance and forgiveness. The multitudes gathered around him and asked for baptism. John the Baptist answered, “Bear fruits that befit repentance.” He said this meant that if they were tax assessors they should stop overassessing, and that if they were soldiers they should stop plundering and looting. The first fruit of their baptism was the impact it had on their jobs.

In Ephesians 4, Paul speaks of putting off the old nature and putting on the new. He remarks, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work.” Again, a sign of one’s new nature in Christ had to do with his or her job.

In Luke 19, the first thing Zaccheus, another tax collector, did after his encounter with Jesus was say he would restore to anyone four-fold what he had defrauded. To him, meeting Jesus led immediately to corrections in the way he performed his job.

Other Professions

Christian laymen spend almost half their weekday working hours on the job. If they don’t allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate their work they are omitting from godly influence a large part of their existence. It has to do with wholeness. If Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives, he ought to be Lord of all our lives and that ought to include the way we perform our job or profession. I’m not talking merely about honesty or diligence, for we hope all Christians approach their work in that fashion. What I am speaking about is how the Holy Spirit can shed great light on the nature of our work so that we see it and understand it and perform it in an entirely new way.

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Yet the doctrine that faith can rewrite our job description has been largely ignored by Christians. Ministers rarely preach about it. Bible studies rarely are directed toward it. What are the dangers if we don’t let the Holy Spirit illuminate our jobs? We simply forfeit the huge area of decision making, information dissemination, research, the assembly line, the secretarial pool to other forces. We must seek to build the kingdom in these fields, too.

“What we ought to be helping people to feel is that whatever they do, whether in law or medicine or homemaking or construction, they’re accountable to Christ and to the glory of God,” Senate Chaplain Richard C. Halverson has said. “That’s their mission. That doesn’t mean they don’t verbalize the gospel when they have an opportunity, or that they don’t pray, or don’t get in prayer groups. What they do 8 to 10 to 12 hours a day on the job between Sundays, that’s their ministry.” What about other professions? How can the people in them discover ways in which the Holy Spirit can reshape their jobs?

I suggest that ministers or leaders of parachurch organizations should pay more attention to this aspect of spiritual wholeness. Mel Lorentzen’s Bedford Center has wrestled with union/management and mass-media questions from a biblical perspective. New College in Berkeley, California, has sponsored a conference for Christians in business. Recently, at First Presbyterian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a steel mill superintendent, who has 2,000 workers under him, joined with the former mayor, a bank executive, the owner of two companies, and others to discover what the Christian faith had to say about handling discipline problems and responsibilities in the face of community demands. I cannot imagine a better place for such discussions to take place.

Campus Crusade and Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship ought occasionally to divide their conferences into small groups or “caucuses” arranged by major. Then conferees could participate in an appropriate Bible study and discuss purposefully how Scripture enlightens their specific areas, and discover how to deal with the ways those areas may threaten their faith. There already are numerous groups of Christian faculty members that ought to be enlarged to include laymen. Faculty Ministries of Inter-Varsity (17 Worcester St., Grafton, Miss.) has a list of these societies.

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A convenient way to start is to distill your profession into a single word definition, and then trace that word or concept through Scripture. For me, in journalism, the word was “truth.” For the politician, it might be “power.” Contrast, for example, the biblical view of power as servanthood with the worldly notion of power as raw force or manipulation. For the lawyer or law enforcement officer, it might be “justice.” In Scripture, justice is mercy and fairness more often than it is punishment. Frances Ullmer Picket, a young architect, did her senior paper at Tulane University on the relationship of Scripture and architecture. For the teacher or parent, Jesus himself is the model, the Word.

The person in business or sales ought to seek to serve the customer’s needs, not merely to make a profit. Serving is one way of loving—and it is good business. Fred Vann, a retired California businessman, once told me, “I must bring the same moral standards to my job that I bring to my personal life.” The Christian ad writer who is under tremendous pressure to overstate something can overcome this temptation by writing especially novel or creative ads.

But what about tasks on the assembly line or in the secretarial pool, or jobs that are tedious—even boring? Paul calls all of us to excellence (Phil. 1:10), even in menial tasks. One minister, Edward W. Bauman, says that if a job seems singularly unrewarding, then it is all the more important that the worker find gratification and creativity outside the workplace. If we find ourselves in such a job, we ought to strive to work for a business that helps people (remember the linking of mercy and truth for the reporter?). It would be a far different thing to work for a plant making slot machines. If our work is tedious, we can pay special attention to our interpersonal relationships. The check-out person in a supermarket can make an effort to see each customer as a human being; the person on the assembly line can seek a meaningful friendship with his or her coworker.

A few years ago I was dispatched temporarily to the UPI bureau in Bismarck, North Dakota, to fill in during an emergency. Our bureau was in the 20-story North Dakota State Capitol, a skyscraper quite unlike other capitol buildings. Its architects, Joseph Bell DeRamer and William F. Kurke, made it of modern design in the early 1930s, and it looms like the Washington Monument above the Dakota prairie and the typically western one- and two-story buildings of Bismarck.

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That Sunday I sat in the sanctuary of the new McCabe United Methodist Church, located close to the capitol. Its architects, Ritterbush Brothers of Bismarck, must have been inspired. They made the chancel of glass and hung a cross in it, so the people in the congregation saw the cross superimposed on the capitol in the background.

The cross, yes; but the cross superimposed on the world.

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