The Methodist Board of Missions, holding its annual meeting at Buck Hills Falls, Pennsylvania, heard its general secretary for national missions, Dr. W. Vernon Middleton, emphasize that a new church must be built every day for the next five years if the Methodist Church wishes to provide churches for new communities springing up in all our urban areas. The denomination has been spending more than $100 million a year since 1954 for new church buildings, but Dr. Bonneau P. Murphy, executive in charge of church construction, said this does not begin to meet requirements. Some 1,200 new congregations, he said, still are worshiping in temporary quarters.
The Methodist Women’s Division of Christian Service also held its annual meeting at Buck Hills Falls. They adopted a program for world peace and American foreign policy in a nuclear space age. As part of the policy, they urged renunciation of war, exploration of areas of negotiation with Russia, and placing of outer space control in the United Nations.
Nobody is more sympathetic to any policy that will produce or approach nearer to peace than this reporter. However, it is a bit discouraging to relate fairly regularly such pious and well-meaning pronouncements, without any evidence in the news dispatches that the organizations making them are looking at the problem and machinery realistically. (And parenthetically, this reporter feels free to comment on this particular one because he too is a Methodist.)
Many of us can remember and probably more of us have read that back in 1927 virtually all the nations of the world signed the Briand-Kellogg Peace Pact, a short paragraph in which the signatory nations solemnly avowed to renounce war as an instrument of national policy. Naive as we were, and namby-pamby as politicians were – and are – there was great rejoicing in all the houses of Israel. Listening to and reading statements about the virtues of this pact, one would have thought that the millennium had been miraculously, with signatures of the pens of the nations, brought into existence, and the nations themselves would talk, think, and act about war no more. Four years later Japan attacked Manchuria, and we know the succession of tragic aftermaths.
As to exploration of areas of negotiation with Russia, that the WSCS advocates, well, there does not seem to be anything else we can do but think only of the next war, Mr. Dulles to the contrary notwithstanding. Whether there can be disengagement, constructive negotiations, or what have you, only patience, forbearance, and persistence will tell, but all these are much better than accepting as inevitable the current made race to attain superiority in death-dealing weapons, a race that can end only in catastrophe for everybody. For a next war will certainly not determine who is right, only who is left, if anyone.
The proposal that the nations place control of outer space in the United Nations is wonderful as a sentiment, but that is about as far as realism goes in the matter. It is time this organization, and all others interested in peace, in this country and everywhere else, begin insisting that the U.N. be strengthened to the point where it can effectively control anything. This of course means, bluntly, that the nations will have to relinquish some of that thing called sovereignty. But that is the price that ultimately will have to be paid if effective international control of national ambitions run riot is to be accomplished. It will do no good, as our national politicians, along with those of other countries, go about saying “We are not ready for this.” We shall never be ready for it until and unless we begin to seek ways and means of accomplishing it instead of making excuses for doing nothing about it. Again, bluntly, to do so would mean probably less prestige for national officials, the elimination of many diplomatic posts, the reduction of national armies and cutting some generals and admirals back to colonels and captains. This, of course, is heresy to them. No American, interested in and proud of his country, wishes to see an international Frankenstein monster created that would destroy nations, but we already have such in the monstrous death-dealing machines that man’s ingenuity has created. When will we (or will we ever?) turn that ingenuity to development of political controls at the world level that will make it impossible for war to occur? Methodist women organizations, as well as others, could well ponder this question. Our answer to it may determine the course of history, or indeed, whether there will be much more history made on this planet.
Dr. James Wagner, president of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, returned to Philadelphia this week from a month’s visit to Africa. Dr. Wagner predicted the downfall of the present government in South Africa because of its racial segregation policy. He said a change in government will come through peaceful political action of the dominant white minority, rather than by a violent uprising of the natives. In South Africa, he said, white Christian leaders meet secretly with native Africans and East Asians. As pointed out here a number of times, a relatively small minority of whites has altered the Union’s constitution and enacted laws thereunder to impose segregation by law. The most elementary rights of the colored peoples there, the natives, have been violated, and in some places they have been removed from their homes much as we moved the five Indian tribes west of the Mississippi in the 1830’s.
While it is recognized that the British Commonwealth is a community of self-governing nations, and that the crown is largely a symbol of unity, but many of us have wondered why the queen has not spoken out against this flagrant violation not only of the basic rights of human beings in the Union but also of the most elementary principles of human decency. Perhaps her critics were right, that she is surrounded by stuffy advisers who are still living in the era of her predecessor, Victoria. We Americans are all too familiar with such Star Chamber advisers at various times in our own government. Certainly, in the case of the South Africans, not only civil rights, but questions of morality also, enter into the dreadful thing that has been happening there. And people of social consciousness everywhere will hope that Dr. Wagner is correct in his prophecy that the current regime will be replaced with one that has not only a more decent respect for the opinion of mankind, but a more decent respect for fellow men.
In Rome, Vatican circles predicted that little, if anything, would come from a Russian suggestion that contacts be established between the Kremlin and the Vatican. The suggestion was made by Foreign Minister Gromyko in a talk to a group of so-called Italian peace partisans visiting Moscow. Vatican sources indicated the idea was not taken seriously in Rome. Church spokesmen noted that the situation of the church remains very serious in all communist countries.
In Acapulco, Mexico, a statue neared completion that is destined never to be seen – except under water. It is a 12-foot bronze reproduction of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is being made in the studios of Mexican sculptor Armando Quezada and will be sunk just inside the breakwater in Acapulco Bay under the title “Protectress of Skin Divers and of all who Work Beneath the Seas.” It is certainly not intended as irreverence to wonder if this applies also to crews of submarines, atomic and otherwise. But to go on, Archbishop Miquel Dario Miranda of Mexico City will proclaim Our Lady of Guadalupe to be queen of the seas that wash Mexico’s shores. And the statue will be blessed under water by a priest who is an expert skin diver.
A very quotable quote came to me this week which I should like to pass on. It is by Dr. George Fallon, and comes from the Lamplighter. It says that “A great church is no easy thing to build. In fact, a great church cannot be built; it must be created by great people – people great in vision, in courage, in loyalty, in faithfulness, and in their determination to hold high the banner of faith.