The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCC) is regularly criticized for making bold pronouncements in support of liberal causes. But at a meeting last month in Hartford, Connecticut, the NCC governing board debated for nearly two hours before deciding not to make a decision on one of the most controversial issues it has ever considered.

The divisive proposal involved the eligibility for NCC membership of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC). Formed in 1968, the 27,000-member church is made up primarily of homosexuals.

The nine Orthodox demoninations that belong to the council threatened to leave the NCC if the homosexual denomination were voted eligible for membership. The evangelical National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc., also strenuously opposed the idea. (If voted eligible, an actual decision on whether to admit the church would have been held next year.)

National Baptist and Greek Orthodox delegates pushed for a vote to settle the question of eligibility. But the governing board instead debated a resolution introduced by United Methodist Bishop Leroy Hodapp that recommended not taking a vote on the matter. “Our reluctance to take action on the eligibility for consideration for membership of the UFMCC results from unresolved differences regarding ecclesiology, interpretations of the Word of God, human sexuality and Christian unity within the NCCC,” the resolution stated. An amended version of that resolution—passed by a 116-to-94 vote—postponed the eligibility decision indefinitely. The action was interpreted to mean the UFMCC will have to resubmit its application for membership if it decides to pursue the matter, which is likely. However, the resolution provided for continued study and dialogue between the UFMCC and the NCC.

Archbishop Iakovos, head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, welcomed the decision, calling it a “victory for prudence and responsible Christian reasoning.” He praised NCC president James Armstrong and the governing board for “the successful manner in which the unity of the council was preserved.”

If the UFMCC submits a new membership application, the NCC is not obligated to act. Even without qualifying for council membership, the UFMCC is represented unofficially on some NCC program units, including the Commission on Faith and Order, the Commission on Women and Ministry, and the Commission on Family Ministries and Human Sexuality.

Representatives of the controversial church downplayed the significance of the vote for indefinite postponement. “What happened is that the National Council was unwilling to say yes or no, and confessed that they are unable at this point in time to make that kind of determination about our application,” said R. Adam DeBaugh, codirector of the UFMCC’S Department of Ecumenical Relations.

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Asked if his denomination thought NCC membership was worth the departure of the nine Orthodox denominations, he said the UFMCC cannot be responsible for the way other churches respond. “We are called … to seek membership in the National Council. We can’t go back on that at this point.”

The eligibility question has been an issue for two years. The UFMCC’s 1981 application for membership was referred to the NCC’s Constituent Membership Committee. That committee decided the denomination met the council’s guidelines, and forwarded the application to the governing board. But instead of acting, the governing board referred the matter to the Commission on Faith and Order to try to resolve questions regarding the denomination’s church structure. That commission concluded that each of the NCC’s 31 member communions would have to decide the matter based on its own understanding of what constitutes a church. The matter was returned to the governing board for a vote last month.

Armstrong told reporters the vote to postpone a decision on eligibility indicated that a majority of the governing board members rejected a homosexual lifestyle.

RON LEEin Hartford

The widespread report that Thomas Harris, author of the book I’m Okay—You’re Okay, is $150,000 richer is misleading. Evangelist Larry Tomczak was taken to court for saying that the book’s author had committed suicide. Harris charged slander and sued for $19 million. In an out-of-court settlement he was awarded $150,000. But that amount was not enough to pay all of his legal fees. Tomczak has apologized for spreading misinformation and has sought Harris’s forgiveness.

Evangelists Billy Graham and Leighton Ford drew record crowds at their most recent crusades. An events coordinator for Oklahoma City’s Myriad Convention Center said the overflow crowds attending the Graham crusade in October were the Myriad’s largest. Meanwhile, Ford’s Montreal, Canada, crusade last month brought capacity crowds to the newly opened Le Palais des Congres. Christian leaders in Montreal say the crusade’s success might indicate a turning point for the area’s beleaguered English-speaking churches.

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The General Court of Appeals of the Church of the Nazarene has upheld a district board of discipline ruling against Danny Brady (CT, Nov. 11, 1983, p. 77). Brady was defrocked and expelled from the denomination after he was found guilty of teaching doctrine that is “out of harmony” with Nazarene beliefs. He had told his Ohio congregation that he spoke in tongues. Brady is the only Nazarene minister who has appealed a tongues-related conviction.

The National Coalition on Television Violence (NCTV) has called for a boycott of all Mattel toys. The reason is a cartoon produced by Mattel called “HeMan and Masters of the Universe.” It averages 78 violent acts per hour, the highest number the coalition has recorded. However, NCTV reports there are more nonviolent cartoon shows this year than in any other year since monitoring began in 1980. “Peanuts,” “The Littles,” “Benji,” “The Jetsons,” and “Fat Albert” were called “excellent programs with very low levels of violence.”

To make Christians look foolish, atheists continue to spread a rumor that Madalyn Murray O’Hair is working to have religious broadcasting banned. That assessment comes from Dallas minister William Murray, O’Hair’s son. Murray alleges that fake petitions are printed by atheists, then circulated by O’Hair’s American Atheist Center primarily among Baptist and Assembly of God churches.

“Here’s Life Inner City,” a Campus Crusade for Christ ministry to urban America, has made its debut in New York City. The program’s national director, Paul Moore, says its goal is to help urban congregations meet the needs of their local communities. The program was introduced last month during an all-day worship workshop, attended by more than 200 pastors and church leaders. “Our research shows that worship is one of the greatest concerns of urban pastors,” Moore said. The inner-city program grew out of a two-year study of urban needs commissioned by Campus Crusade president Bill Bright.

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