Greenbelt Interfaith News
    U.S. Feature

    September 14, 1997

    Summer Conventions '97
    Other Denominations
    By Heather Elizabeth Peterson


    At its June 14-20 meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Reformed Church in America (RCA) adopted the ecumenical proposal, A Formula of Agreement. The denomination also adopted a vision statement aimed at promoting missions to Americans.

    Much of the denomination's missionary work needs to be done at home, General secretary Wes Granberg-Michaelson said. He told about a group of RCA congregations in South Dakota that planned a joint celebration on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, "only to discover that the regional YMCA had planned a basketball tournament for those evenings and Easter weekend. The majority of kids in their churches from fifth to twelfth grade were involved." Mr. Granberg-Michaelson quoted the president of the Classis of Dakota, the Rev. Arlin Vande Zande, who said:

      When the people of Judah were in captivity in Babylon, their question became, "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?" Increasingly that seems to be the question facing Christians in American society . . . Malls and stores are open on Sunday morning. Hockey, dance, and gymnastics clubs and the like schedule events with no regard to the church calendar.

    Mr. Granberg-Michaelson concluded, "Our task, like those before us, is to recover a vision for mission that can convey the grace and love of Jesus Christ to the culture around us: in our case, a widely diverse, secularized society that believes in the myth of self-sufficiency. It is not, it will not be, an easy task."


    The American Baptist Churches in the USA met June 21-27 in Indianapolis, Indiana, amidst debate in many denominations over interpretation of the Bible. General secretary Daniel E. Weiss referred to this problem in speech at the biennial meeting.

    He spoke to delegates and visitors about the value of diverse opinions in the denomination. "If biblical interpretation was . . . simple, we could feed the text into a computer and get the correct interpretation,"he said, according to the American Baptist News Service. "Now it may be true that ultimately there is only one correct way to interpret the Bible, but how do we find it? I get uncomfortable with suggestions that somehow a vote by a body of Baptists will determine the correct interpretation of the Bible for all the rest. I am, however, very willing to struggle to read the written Word through the eyes of the living Word.

    "Now, more than ever," he concluded, "we need to know the Word, be saturated in it, be possessed by it, be guided by it . . ."


    At its July 1-6 meeting in Long Beach, California, the Church of the Brethren was unable to come to an agreement on the acceptability of using fetal tissue for medical therapy. The Church of the Brethren Newsline reported, "Some felt strongly that such a statement would promote abortion, while others believed that the issue was not abortion itself but that ‘fetal tissue therapy represents the last, best or only current medical hope for relief or avoidance of suffering,' as written in the proposed statement. So much interest on the issue was raised that lines at the microphones stood six deep at times."

    After the statement "Fetal Tissue Use" was rejected, Moderator David Wine said, "God has not spoken to us in uniformity on this issue, but has spoken to us as a body." The statement will be returned to committee for reconsideration.


    Evangelism was the theme of the August 5-9 meeting of the Assemblies of God in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Spiritual Life Committee presented a report that discussed ways in which the denomination could retain its members. Among the actions it advised was greater emphasis on the need for members to be baptized and to speak in tongues.

    "It is a shame that fewer of our people are entering into the fullness of the Spirit as it is revealed in the New Testament and demonstrated in Pentecostal history,"said the report.

      We also recognize that there is increasing confusion over what it means to be Pentecostal. Many now see it only as a worship style or a certain kind of emotional attitude in church. Growing numbers of our people, including leaders, have become doctrinally committed, but nonpracticing Pentecostals--people with a history of the power of God, but little current expression. Post-Pentecostals are a mere shadow of their heritage, retaining a form, but without the power. . . . We must not relegate the miraculous and supernatural to a few missionary outposts where we think the power of God is more urgently needed. Let us bring it down front and center where the sinner can be saved, the sick can be healed, the bound can be set free, the oppressed can be liberated, and where weak Christians can be endued with power.


    The Church of the Nazarenes, at its June 18-27 meeting in San Antonio, Texas, joined the Southern Baptists in expressing concern about the effects of certain dramatic works upon society. The denomination asked its members to avoid all media that glamorize "sensualism, secularism, and materialism."

    The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), at its June 19-24 meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, passed a resolution calling on congregations to work for a more just economic community. In his report, President John A. Buehrens emphasized the importance of the UUA cooperating with other faiths on matters of justice. "We need not think alike to love alike," he said, quoting the sixteenth-century Unitarian, Francis David.

    The Disciples of Christ rushed somewhat breathlessly through a number of important business items during the denomination's June 25-29 meeting in Denver, Colorado. Among the debated issues were whether to adopt a sex education curriculum published by the United Church of Christ, with whom the Disciples have recently renewed ties; how to oppose police brutality in a manner that does justice to law-abiding police officers; and whether promoting a multilingual society would lower educational standards in schools.

    The National Baptist Convention USA confirmed at its September 1-5 meeting in Denver, Colorado, that it wishes the Rev. Henry J. Lyons to continue as its president. The denomination's ethics commission has been exploring reports that Dr. Lyons used church money to buy personal items for Bernice Edwards, the denomination's corporate relations director, with whom he reportedly had an affair. Florida and federal authorities are investigating the matter. Dr. Lyons denied having an affair or taking part in any criminal wrongdoing, but in an emotional appeal he asked the church members to forgive him for his mistakes in loosely handling the denomination's money. Despite efforts by a coalition of ministers to force Dr. Lyon's resignation, the denomination voted to retain him, following a report by the ethics commission that Dr. Lyons had not broken any laws.

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    ©1997 Heather Elizabeth Peterson