Representatives of 5 million Lutherans in North America heard a number of addresses and made some explanations at Atlantic City, New Jersey, this week. The National Lutheran Council, a grouping of eight Lutheran denominations, urged a stop to the swing toward schools. The council stated such a movement is weakening the public school system, which it termed the chief instrument of general education for children. No cases were mentioned in the declaration, but in earlier debate some delegates charged Roman Catholics and some Protestants are boosting church-run schools, and opposing adequate financing for public schools. Among Protestant churches maintaining parochial schools in some communities is the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, which operates in some council projects. The council has urged too that the government make clear that long-term responsibility for refugees rests on the nation as a whole. It disclosed a lawsuit is threatened in California about two church-sponsored, Iron Curtain refugees. The group also has called for quickened efforts to rid America of what it terms this “sin of racial discrimination.” It went on to voice concern about a watering down of identities in the U.S Armed Forces and about cancellation of a showing of the film “Martin Luther” by a Chicago television station, WGN-TV (which was mentioned last Sunday on this program).
Detailed plans were given this week to 500 officials of the Congregational Christian Church about their denomination’s coming merger with the Evangelical and Reformed Church. The new group, to be called the “United Church of Christ,” will be formed in Cleveland. The information was related at Buck Hill Falls, Pennsylvania, by the Rev. Dr. Fred Hoskins, of New York. He has stated to the church’s Mission Council that the Uniting General Synod will find the United Church of Christ exhibiting four marks of the true church: preaching of the word; right administration of the sacraments; essential oneness; and missions.
The opening address at the Uniting Session will be by a world church leader, Bishop Leslie Newborn of the United Church of South India. This new denomination has spearheaded the worldwide Christian movement through merger of Congregational, Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, and Baptist churches in South India. The Congregational Christians heard one of their prominent laymen declare too many men come to church dinners to a get a $1.50 dinner for 50¢. But Arthur Snell of Nashville, Tennessee, who is president of his church’s Southeastern Laymen’s Convention, has declared, “Live-wire men with a program can literally make over the churches of America.”
In Hungary, the restored communist government has withdrawn a decree that permitted all Hungarian children to have religious teaching in schools. The regulation had been issued by the present education minister, after the anti-Soviet rebellion was crushed. In Poland, a drive is underway to foster non-religious schools and organizations. This aims to counter the increase in church influence which results from a recent agreement that restored religious teachings in communist-dominated Poland.
Vatican City: Pope Pius will state the Catholic Church’s stand on the latest methods of anesthesia at an international gathering of doctors later this month. He will give his views in an audience on February 24 to participants in a world symposium of surgeons and anesthetists. The pontiff is expected to pay special attention to the problem of whether it is permissible to deprive incurable patients of consciousness for long periods.
San Jose, Costa Rica: The archbishop of San Jose has ordered the excommunication of any Roman Catholic family heads who send their children to Protestant or other non-Catholic schools. The order, by Monsignor Ruben Odio [Herrera], warned that excommunication would be automatic. It came as a surprise to many since Costa Rica has always been noted for religious tolerance and complete absence of any anti-Protestant laws or discrimination.
Washington: A British agnostic questions whether Americans are worshiping God or an idol called “The American Way of Life.” Professor D.W. Brogan of Cambridge University, who made a nine-month tour of the U.S. last year, writes in a magazine article that a great deal of what passes for religion in America is essentially political rather than spiritual in character. He says there is a marked identification of religion with Americanism.
New York: The National Council of Churches has issued a 12-point program by which local church groups can rid their congregations and communities of racial segregation. The federation of 30 American churches declares that Christians must not rest until segregation is banished from every area of American life.
Again Atlantic City, New Jersey: An official of the National Lutheran Council predicts that racial tensions will heighten during 1957 and bring a showdown between federal and state authorities over segregation in public schools. Dr. Robert Van Deusen told the council at its annual meeting that this year may prove to be the high-water mark in bitterness and violence on the one hand, and the establishment of the supremacy of federal authority over state control on the other. He also forecast progress toward racial integration in church life will be made during this year.
The Church World Service has announced a goal of $11.5 million in 1957 to aid homeless, hungry, and destitute persons abroad. Harper Sibley, chairman of Church World Service, in announcing the goal, says it’s the highest in the history of the churches, and that the major areas of need overseas include Hungary, Austria, India, Pakistan, and the Near East.
Minneapolis, Minnesota: A synodical committee of the United Lutheran Church has reinstated a young minister who was unfrocked a year ago. The committee says it is convinced that the Rev. Victor K. Wrigley, pastor of the Gethsemane Lutheran Church of Brookfield, Wisconsin, is no longer a heretic. He was unfrocked on charges that he denied the virgin birth and other basic church doctrines. In appealing for reinstatement, the Rev. Wrigley told the committee that, in his words, “The birth of Christ is miraculous and my faith must include the virgin birth….”
Boston: Methodist Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam of Washington is reported recovering satisfactorily at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston. Bishop Oxnam underwent surgery for removal of gallstone last Wednesday.
Many, perhaps most, colleges have adopted the practice in recent years of having annually what is called “Religious Emphasis Week,” at which time a week of services, student/faculty/clergymen so-called panel discussions are held, the idea being to stimulate students to take a greater interest in religion as a part of their educational development. The materials that follow are taken from an article entitled “What Do You Mean ‘Religious Emphasis Week’?” that appeared in the winter bulletin of the American Association of University Professors. Program time will permit only excerpts, but these indicate an approach to religion that is rarely, if ever, found on a college campus during a week of so-called religious emphasis. The article itself is by Leland Miles of Hanover College. He says:
“To begin with, any fair definition of ‘religious’ must certainly take account of many noble religions in addition to Christianity. Yet how many church related colleges will feature … as part of Religious Emphasis Week, a symposium on the world’s major religions? How many denominational institutions are planning to invite a Moslem, a Hindu, a Buddhist, and a Jew to their campus on this occasion? Indeed, how many such colleges are even planning to invite a Roman Catholic, a Unitarian, or a Humanist? …. It may be objected … that Humanism is not a religion. (But) what more exhilarating way to spend a real Religious Emphasis Week than to have representatives of the world’s major religions, including Humanism, state their cases before a student body jury? …
“But, alas! It would be difficult to arrange such a program. For one thing, there are not too many Christian clergymen who are eager to debate with the ‘enemy’….
“The intellectual timidity of many clergymen is not, however, the only reason that true Religious Emphasis Weeks are difficult to organize. Another factor is the attitude of college administrations and religious departments, especially in some of the church-related colleges. This attitude seems to be that the best way of producing young Christians is to have a faculty which is 100 percent Christian in viewpoint, and a Religious Emphasis Week dogmatically presents Christianity as the only true way. Now, Christianity may indeed be the true way. But if it is, surely it can stand on its own feet against all competition, without the fearful protection given it on most denominational campuses.
“Where did we acquire the mischievous notion that young people can be molded into zealous believers only if all others on the campus, students and faculty alike, are also true believers? Actually, the reverse may be true. Two of the shrewdest modern defenders of Christianity, T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis, were bred in an atmosphere of pagan pessimism. Conversely, some of the least effective defenders of the faith will be found among students (some of them pre-ministerial students) who have been gently saturated for four years with a saccharine, provincial type of teaching which sticks its head in the sand and pretends that only one religion exists.”
Or looking at it another way, the author goes on:
“For example, suppose, this winter, that American college students were suddenly to put genuine religious emphasis into effect in the classroom. The result would necessarily be a new and revolutionary demonstration of earnestness in the performance of classwork – a new and startling display of that industry, energy, and thoroughness characteristic of Christ, and therefore characteristic of all those who, loving him, seek to imitate his personality. Is it not incongruous that Christian students – even leaders in student Christian organizations – are guilty of careless work in the classroom…. As a professor I have seen … the spectacle of Christian students, including pre-ministerial students, coming to class day after day and performing indifferent, nonchalant work. What can we say but that they betray a total ignorance of Christ’s personality and their obligation to imitate it?
“As for faculty members, what would a genuine Christian emphasis in the classroom mean for them? Surely it would mean that every professor would henceforth ponder deeply the relation of his secular field to Christian thought. Indeed, the development of such relationship would seem to be the principal reason for the existence of the small church-related college as a distinctive education. The biologist at a secular institution has no obligation except to teach biology, including organic evolution; but the biologist of a church-related college, if he is doing his job fully, cannot escape his responsibility for taking account not only of Darwin, but also of Genesis. The Mosaic account of creation, somehow rejected or somehow inferred, must permit the acceptance of an account of man’s rise out of a finny, furry past.
“Many professors … have perverted the concept of Christian … emphasis almost beyond repair. They assume that it means trapping students in a classroom and lambasting the helpless victims with thinly-disguised sermons. Other instructors have decided that Christian emphasis means diligently searching for all poems which contain biblical morals, then proclaiming such poems ‘great literature.’ On that basis, Eddie Guest would be the world’s greatest poet. Yet how adventurous a real Christian teaching of literature can be! …
“… What would happen this winter if college students suddenly put Christian emphasis into effect in their fraternities and sororities? The first result would surely be a new and revolutionary emphasis on brotherhoods of the spirit, and the wholesale abolition of those entrance requirements which in many fraternities hold at arm’s length anyone whose skin chemicals exist in different proportions than in the white race….
“To these suggestions the reaction of both staff and students will, I suspect, be one of despair and alarm. ‘Oh heavens, we couldn’t do that!’, they will cry. ‘Why, it would mean a complete overthrow of the existing order of things. It would mean – well, revolution.’
“Well, what’s wrong with revolutions, anyway? They’re quite in style these days. The last few years have seen the communist coup d’ état in Czechoslovakia, the revolt in Algeria, and the overthrow of Argentina’s Peron. A campus revolution would certainly be appropriate to the revolutionary atmosphere of the times. In fact, it would even be appropriate to Christianity. The Nazarene’s teachings have always been dynamite.”