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Unity Asked In Prayers

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Unity Asked In Prayers

By Louis Cassels

(By United Press International)

At hand (Jan. 18-25) is the

annual observance known as 

“A Week of Prayer for Christ-

ian Unity.”

It’s a time when Protestants

and Catholics hold joint

worship services, when Protestants

speak before Catholic groups

and vice versa.

It’s also an appropriate time

to take a reading on the

progress of the drive toward

reunion called the ecumenical



It is hard to comprehend the

magnitude of historical events

when one is in the midst of

them. Within the past 10 years,

the ecumenical movement has

completely altered the climate

of relationships between the

different branches of the

Christian family. It is, without

much doubt, the most signifi-

cant religious development

since the Protestant Reforma-

tion  450 years ago.


A decade ago, it was news

when Protestants and Catholics

were nice to each other. Today,

it’s news if they’re not.

Attitudes and behavior have

changed, on both sides, to a

degree that continually amazes

even those who have been most

actively involved in the transi-



This does not mean that

reunion of Christians in one big

church is just around the



Despite the fears of some

traditionalists, the Roman Cath-

olic Church is not “turning

Protestant.” It is engaged in a

far-reaching reformation, initi-

ated by Pope John XXIII and

the Vatican Council, which is

affecting many features of

Catholicism which Protestants

used to find particularly baf-

fling or objectionable. But it

remains distinctively Catholic in 

worship, theology, and organiza-



On the other side, Protestants

are beginning—but just begin-

ning—to reclaim some of the

Catholic portions of the total

Christian heritage which were

thrown out, along with the bath

water, during the 16th century

breakway from Rome.


In the words of the late Fr.

Gustave Weigel, a great Jesuit

priest who was one of the

pioneers of the ecumenical

movement, Catholics and Prote-

stants now seem to be on

“converging courses.” But the

angle of convergence is such

that it could take a very long

time to come together. And no

one now has even the glimmer

of an idea what the reunited

church might be like.


The key issue to be resolved

is papal authority, which

Catholics hold essential to the

unity of the church, and

Protestants regard as an

intolerable weight on spiritual



It is absurd even to talk

about a compromise of such highly

polarized views. But events of

recent years have demonstrated

that it is possible for even the

most hardened attitudes and the

most stable institutions to

undergo gradual evolutionary


The greatest obstacle to

reunion is the fact that vast

numbers of Christians are

content to remain as they are,

divided into a multitude of

separate denominations. They

like to be Catholics, or

Episcopalians, or Methodists, or

Baptists, or Lutherans, or what

have you, and they see no

reason why they should have to

get mixed up with “those


There is, ultimately, only one

good reason. It was the express

will of Jesus Christ that His

followers be one flock, united in

brotherly love. Christ’s views on

the matter were set forth at His

Last Supper with the disciples,

and are recorded in the 14th

through the 17th chapters of

John’s gospel, most explicitly in

John 18:21.

Many sincere Christians say

that Christ was talking about

spiritual unity, not necessarily

organizational unity. That may

be. But from the 16th century

until very recently, there was

no semblance of spiritual unity

or organizational unity in the

Christian family.

If the ecumenical movement

has changed that situation, its

supporters would appear to

have grounds for believing that

it was called into being and is

being led by the Holy Spirit.

And it would surely be sound

Biblical strategy to entrust its

future to His guidance.


‘Passing  The Peace'

Pastors William Baker, Richard Single-

ton, and Richard Crusius (from left to right)

demonstrate “passing the peace,” a hand-

shake given special significance during 

observances of the annual Week of Prayer

for Christian Unity.

Forum Planned

On Ecumenism

Four local clergymen will dis-

cuss “Where Is the Ecumenical

Movement Going" at 8 pm

Wednesday, Jan. 24.

The four participants are the

Rev. Richard Crusius, Church

of the Good Shepherd (United

Church of Christ); the Rev

Theodore Zerwin, St. Francis of

Asissi Roman Catholic Church;

the Rev. Arthur Spomer, Divine

Shepherd Lutheran Church

(Missouri Synod); and the Rev.

John Kamelakis, St. Nicholas

Greek Orthodox Church.

The discussion will be held at

the church building at 1679

Broadway which is shared by

two denominations, St. Aidan’s

Episcopal and Northside Pres-

byterian. Host pastors will be

the Rev. Richard Singleton of

St. Aidan’s and the Rev. Wil-

liam Baker of Northside Presby-


Moderator will be the Rev.

Merrill Lenox, recently named

executive director of the Ann

Arbor - Washtenaw Council of


At the close of the discussion,

those present so desiring will

“pass the peace,” or join hands

in a fashion originally devised

for the liturgy of the Church of

South India. The handshake is

intending to symbolize under-

standing gained by a free ex-

change of views.

New ‘Preachers’ Heard 

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A Chris-

tian Disciples of Christ minis-

ter, Dr. Dennis Savage, told a

church meeting here that the

real mass evangelists today

preach one-minute sermons

called television commercials

and their message is the “gos-,

pel of materialism.”