by Robert Cummins


Copyright 1966: Robert Cummins
Department of Publications UUA
25 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass. 02108

FOR SUPPLYING INVALUABLE DATA with which to document this story, and for criticisms and suggestions leading to the presentation of events in chronological order and in terms understandable to non-Unitarian Universalist readers as well as to our own laity, I am in­debted to many persons, but principally to Alan L. Seaburg, Philip R. Giles, Stanley Manning, Ernest Cassara, and Edward Darling.

Alan sought out and sent me Yearbooks covering period. Philip, while in Boston on official matters, took time to prepare copies of pertinent data from Minute Books of both General Assembly and Board of Trustees. Stanley, who, together with Dr. Frederic Wil­liams Perkins and myself, had served as a member of the Special Com­mittee appointed by the Trustees to conduct negotiations with the Federal Council, placed at my disposal his entire file as well as his own recollections. Ernest Cassara took a scholar’s-eye look to keep the history straight. And Ed Darling ripped the whole thing apart and made me do it all over.

However, the story is mine. I am responsible.



UNIVERSALISM cannot be limited either to Protestantism or to Chris­tianity, not without denying its very name. Ours is a world fellow­ship, not just a Christian sect. For so long as Universalism is univer­salism and not partialism, the fellowship bearing its name must succeed in making it unmistakably clear that all are welcome: theist and humanist, unitarian and trinitarian, colored and color-less. A circumscribed Universalism is unthinkable.


General Assembly
New York, October 1943


SEGREGATION can be a nasty word, racial segregation, that is; but what about segregation on the basis of religion? There was a first rate demonstration of it back in the 1940’s, practiced on a broad scale. And, in the midst of it all, were striking examples of what ap­peared to be instances of callous subterfuge,—this at the hands of churchmen, Christian churchmen.

Following several years of negotiations, the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America1 on two occasions, first at its meet­ing in Pittsburgh in November 1944 and again in Seattle in December 1946, voted to bar from its membership The Universalist Church of America. For the sake of the record, the story of this experience de­serves to be told; and I have been urged to believe I am the one to tell it.

The Council was to meet for its biennial session in Atlantic City December 7—13, 1940. Dr. George A. Buttrick, a Presbyterian, was Council President. When in Ohio at the College of Wooster, Dr. Buttrick had been known to and respected by members of my family. He and I had been recipients of honorary degrees from Miami Uni­versity. Whether it was simply this personal friendship, or his own desire to broaden the basis of membership in the Council, I do not know; but, in late October of 1940, I received from him a most cor­dial invitation to be his “personal guest” at the forthcoming sessions of the Council.

Engagements already scheduled made it impossible for me to accept; but the invitation was obviously sincere, as it was important. So, after expressing appreciation and regret in my reply, I asked Dr. Buttrick if I might send a representative. He promptly granted per­mission for me to do so; and I delegated Dr. Frederic Williams Per­kins, who had served as minister of our National Memorial Church in Washington.

While presiding at the 1940 sessions of the Council, and for his own good reasons, Dr. Buttrick saw to it that, while in Atlantic City, Dr. Perkins addressed a plenary session of the Council and gave the prayer at the Council’s concluding session. Following Dr. Perkins’ address, he was given an enthusiastic ovation. Universalists also pres­ent were Mrs. Irving L. Walker of Rochester, New York, who repre­sented the Rochester Council of Church Women, and Dr. Stanley Manning of Hartford, Connecticut, who was active in the Council’s Department of International Justice and Good Will. Later, in their reports of the occasion, both Mrs. Walker and Dr. Manning ex­pressed belief that, had our application for membership been pre­sented at that time, it would have been accepted. The reason they felt as they did was not only the cordial reception accorded Dr. Perkins, but the realization that several applications for membership from ultraconservative churches (the Lutheran among them) were to come up for action at later sessions. However, more mature experi­ence served to give rise to some doubt on this score.

Why, in the first place, did we apply for membership? There are those who, in later years, have been quick to arrive at erroneous assumptions. See, for example, the explanation given in Dr. Clinton Lee Scott’s book, The Universalist Church of America—A Short


…there was an obvious trend in the Church toward an interpreta­tion of Universalism which carried it beyond the historic, exclusive identification with Christianity. In contrast with efforts to secure and to maintain recognition within the Protestant Christian order is the increasing conviction that Universalism to be true to its inherent genius must discover and embrace the values to be found in all re­ligious cultures. . . . [But] Throughout their history Universalists consistently have defended their claim to the name Christian and to a position within the community of Christian bodies. They have insisted upon their status as one of the Protestant denominations having, like other communions, their peculiar doctrinal distinctions. [And] It was upon this basis that application was made.. . for mem­bership in the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America.2

This is understandable rationalization, but it is not factual. True, by the late 1950’s when this particular example of rationaliza­tion took place, Universalist thinking had gone beyond Christian containment. This, in itself, was a major achievement in which I dare hope I may be remembered as having played some part.

After military service in World War I, it was my responsibility for three years on the staff of a state university to direct faculty and student inter-faith activities. Later, I lived and worked in the tropical Orient with people of many nationalities, races and religions — an experience which tended to revolutionize my Scotch Calvinist upbringing. It was then that Universalism “drew a circle that took me in.” The name itself appealed to me as possessing inescapable and ultimate implications for mankind. True Universalism could toler­ate no bounds. Its inclusive character was its genius!

I had been ordained less than a year when, in 1927, Dr. Harold Marshall, then Editor of the LEADER, published in pamphlet form my “The Religion of Humanity,” in which, although then relative­ly a new-corner to the faith, I advocated universal fellowship in re­ligion. I did not sign the Humanist Manifesto3 of 1933, but insisted that those who did sign it had every right, as Humanists, to be re­tained in fellowship—that, with genuine Universalism, any exclusion should be self-exclusion. Years later I took the same stand with re­spect to the Humiliati.4 Of course many of our ministers, Dr. Scott among them, shared with me this hope of a wider fellowship; but that I, then serving as General Superintendent and as such recom­mending membership in the Federal Council, did so is the fact I wish to stress.

As early as 1939 (my first year in office), at a luncheon confer­ence at the Hotel Bellevue in Boston with the then Editor of the LEADER, Dr. John van Schaick, Jr., I was warned by him that my views in this respect were certain to meet with strong opposition. He informed me that, having come into Universalist fellowship from “outside,” I failed to appreciate the Christocentric character of the faith. But it was not failure on my part to understand and appreciate.

I was alert to the traditional, older, Bible-centered, Christocentric emphases; but I was aware also of the new and different day which had dawned, calling for Universalism to grow up to its great name; and I persisted in my insistence that Humanists, Christocentrists, and all others desiring it should be welcomed into fellowship.

In May 1940, THE MAINE UNIVERSALIST carried my State Con­vention address on A Universal Faith for a New World. On Sunday, October 20, in Goddard Chapel of Tufts University, I delivered the Russell Lecture5 on Religious Implications of the Democratic Proc­ess, which Dean Clarence R. Skinner had published. My pamphlet, The Need of a Unifying Faith, was published in that same year. In all these, emphasis was upon “the universals and unities” essential in the building of One World, and that Universalism, potentially at least, which expressed the ideal and offered the type of fellowship.

This thesis, presented over and over, was really the heart of my message as a preacher and responsible official. It came to me as a re­sult of my life in the Far East, where I worked with young men of various and sundry origins and habitats, discovering that although the accident of birth had placed us inside skins of differing color and that we had learned to call God by different names, we shared much the same joys and sorrows, hopes and ideals. What I was saying was personal conviction. This would have had to be my contention no matter what my role in life might be.

Now I was in a position to influence thought and action. When I came into office, the church was at low ebb in members, in finances, in program and morale. In parishes, in State Conventions, in de­nominational auxiliaries, and in the denominational organization many of the leaders were elderly, had been reared in “the old school” of thought, and had remained too long in office. I was young, per­haps too young,6 and I wanted my contemporaries as co-workers. Our people needed to be reminded of their history as a body of re­ligionists; they should be made to understand how Universalist thought had evolved and that it was born for this day; they needed the sense of purpose this wider concept might supply. So I made it a “must” to visit all our churches, State Conventions, and denomina­tional auxiliaries, urging this newer conception of Universalism. It was really a struggle for a time between those who for years had been in authority and their ideas, and those of us newer and younger and our ideas. And I believe we must have prevailed, for in 1940—41 upon my recommendation the General Assembly amended the denomina­tional Constitution and By-Laws, under “Purposes and Objects,” so as to make Section 2, Article 4, read: “To promote harmony among adherents of all religious faiths, whether Christian or otherwise.”

In 1948–49, our Massachusetts Convention acquired the old Charles Street Meeting House property in Boston, and engaged the services of the Rev. Kenneth L. Patton to start a new church. Patton devoted himself to religious symbolism and to turning out publica­tions. He wanted “a church-in-the-round.” It was all a bit unusual and, to some, upsetting. And, furthermore, Patton was said by some to be a Humanist. On the State Fellowship Committee were those who delayed action admitting the new group to fellowship. In some circles feelings ran high. Finally, a mass meeting was held in the church for those who wished to do so to discuss the situation. This was early in 1949. Mr. Frank Dewick, a prominent layman, asked that I express to the people my judgment. This I did, insisting upon the right of the Charles Street Church to claim the name Universalist and to be admitted to full fellowship. This action was taken in 1952.

The General Assembly met in the fall of 1947 on the campus of St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York. There, upon my rec­ommendation, important actions were taken. The name of our de­nominational journal, the Christian LEADER, was changed to the Uni­versalist LEADER. And the Liberty Clause, “Neither this nor any other statement shall be imposed as a creedal test,” was made part of our Bond of Fellowship. It was there, too, that I voiced my regret that the World’s Congress of Religions, with which we would find an at-homeness, had been discontinued.

Although I seem to speak in personal terms, history was being written in these events: there is no escaping the personal involvement. My eyewitness account will have to be assayed by later writers; but it was an eyewitness who wrote these notes—a first source. We might as well admit it and the weaknesses known to accompany all first­hand reports. We are trying to establish a sound understanding of Universalist purpose in applying for membership in the Council. From the evidence just cited, one would surely conclude that my concern for Universalism, as the result of conviction based upon ex­perience, was to make the fellowship of the church open to all. My hope had become reality.

Although ultimately it was our broader and unorthodox con­cept of Christianity which prompted the Council’s votes against us, this idea of a more universal Universalism and our purpose in apply­ing for Council membership had no connection whatever. The judg­ment expressed by Dr. Scott was not correct.

The recommendation I made in September of 1941 to our As­sembly meeting at Tufts University, as well as the response of our people to it, was certainly not the result of a desire that our church should be “just another Protestant denomination.” From 1939 to 1945 the world was at war! Everywhere were suffering and priva­tion. Was the church to be inattentive and unconcerned? Ministers and laity from our churches over the country were in military ser­vice. Pressures were intense and whole-hearted response to the needs was imperative. And, were the church to act, should she endeavor with limited resources to act on her own and alone? The answer seemed obvious.

The Federal Council of Churches already possessed the organi­zation and means to function; and these qualifications were recog­nized by the Government. Theology—that of the Council members or our own—did not enter my mind. It was simply that we should join hands with others,— join hands in good works! This, and this alone, was exactly what prompted me; and it was this alone, I am sure, that prompted our people to respond so enthusiastically and with such unanimity.

Prior to taking any formal action, the matter was discussed re­peatedly and at length by colleagues on the headquarters’ staff and by persons comprising our Central Planning Council. Dr. Frederick May Eliot was President of the American Unitarian Association; and, being close friends and holding similar positions in sister denomina­tions, we shared with each other our plans and experiences. He looked with strong disfavor upon any possible relationship we might achieve with the Council. It is often said Unitarians once applied for Coun­cil membership and were turned down. This is not so. No applica­tion was ever made. It is a fact that Unitarian leaders had urged for­mation of the Council; and Charles W. Eliot, Governor John D. Long, and Edward Everett Hale were in New York, ready to attend the meeting to form the Council in 1908, under the impression that they had been invited. But they were not seated.

Dr. Frank Jennings (a Baptist), Secretary of the Massachusetts Council of Churches and member of the Federal Council’s Advisory Committee, at a meeting May 26, 1939, and again the following year, encouraged us to consider making application. Bishop Lewis Oliver Hartman of the Methodist Church and Dr. Emory S. Bucke, Editor of Methodism’s ZION’S HERALD, did likewise. And, perhaps chief among those encouraging action on our part, were Dr. Douglas Hor­ton and Dr. Frederick Lewis Fagley, both Congregationalists. All advised that I meet and confer with Dr. Samuel McCrea Cavert (a Presbyterian), Executive Secretary of the Federal Council.

This I did early in 1940. Dr. Cavert was most gracious, but im­pressed me as being ill at ease. He said he had been expecting me. Perhaps he had been prepared by advanced word from one or more of those with whom I had conferred. Dr. Cavert introduced me to Dr. Roswell Parkhurst Barnes (a Presbyterian), Associate General Secretary of the Council. In any event, Dr. Cavert’s advice was that we apply for some status such as “associate” or “affiliate.” Even then he must have known his constituency and was suggesting the only course pointing to possible status for us. However, the suggested status displeased me and I said so. I cited to him the Council’s own Constitutional provision “preserving liberty and diversity in theol­ogy, polity and worship of the constituent denominations.” I made clear to him the fact that we would be interested only in full member­ship. But it was at this time in New York that Dr. Cavert suggested this peripheral relationship, and that I first suspected any application made by us would be dealt with solely on the basis of our theology. If any Universalists continued to regard their faith as being Christocentric in nature, all but a few denominations within the Council did not so regard it.

Over a thousand persons were in attendance at our Biennial Session held on the campus of Tufts University September 8—14, 1941. On Wednesday morning, the 10th, I made my report, recom­mending application for full membership in the Council. The Rec­ommendations Committee, in its report, included my recommenda­tion, which was adopted as follows:

We recommend that the Board of Trustees be authorized to make application for membership in the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America if, after careful exploration, it deems such action advisable.7

At its meeting October 28 following, the Trustees implemented the Assembly’s instructions as indicated in the following minute:

Dr. Cummins reported briefly on his meeting with Drs. Cavert and Barnes. Upon motion duly made and seconded it was voted to ap­point Dr. Perkins, Dr. Manning and Dr. Cummins a committee to proceed to make careful exploration of the possibilities of making application for membership in the Federal Council solely on the basis of our Avowal, this committee to have full power to complete negotiations if they deem it wise to do so.8

I had related to the Trustees Dr. Cavert’s suggestion of possible peripheral status being granted us, which seemed to indicate antici­pated opposition based upon our theology, and it was because of this that the vote was made to include applying only on “the basis of our Avowal,” which read:

The bond of fellowship in this church shall be a common purpose to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it and to co-operate in establish­ing the Kingdom for which he lived and died. To that end we avow our faith in God as Eternal and All-Conquering Love, in the spiritual leadership of Jesus, in the supreme worth of every human personali­ty, in the authority of truth known or to be known, and in the power of men of good will and sacrificial spirit to overcome all evil and progressively establish the kingdom of God. Neither this nor any other statement shall be imposed as a creedal test.

We were bound by a common purpose to do something, and to that end we avowed our faith. The faith, to us, was a power to work with, not merely a series of propositions to accept. Unity of spirit and purpose, not uniformity of creed, was the genius of Univer­salism; and our declaration emphasized this fact by putting it first.

Shortly thereafter Dr. Perkins, Dr. Manning and I set to work to plan procedure. We assumed it might be well to ascertain from our churches the extent to which our people were already cooperat­ing in interchurch programs. Dr. Manning agreed to conduct this survey and, as we wished to meet again as early as mid-January 1942, he entered upon his task promptly. Results showed fifty-two of our churches were federated. We were recognized as full members in eight state councils, in some instances Universalists having been re­sponsible for the initial organizations. Our people were members of, and active participants in, the Foreign Missions Conference, the Mis­sionary Education Movement, the Women’s Interdenominational Committee for the Northfield Missionary Conference, the National Council of Church Women, and the Federal Council’s Social Service Department and Department of International Justice and Good Will. The full salary of James Myers (Universalist) as Secretary of the Federal Council had been paid for years from the Golden Rule World Service Fund administered by our denominational Trustees.

In addition, our willingness to invest our powers and our dedi­cation was shown by the fact that Universalists served as faculty members and committeemen of the Northern New England Summer School of Religious Education held at the University of New Hamp­shire; and our denominational budget provided financial support of interdenominational work at that university. The Association of Uni­versalist Women cooperated in building and equipping interdenomi­national colleges in the Far East and in maintaining children’s maga­zines in foreign languages. In Worcester and Springfield, Massa­chusetts, in Stamford, New Haven, and Hartford, Connecticut, in Rochester, Syracuse, and Lockport, New York, in Washington, D.C., and in many other cities and towns across the country, our churches held membership in councils and federations; and the same was true of county councils.

More than that, from 1925 through 1932, Dr. Manning served on the faculty of the Eastern Maine Summer School of Religious Education housed in the State Normal School at Machias; and for two of these years he was Dean. Mrs. Manning also served on the faculty. Miss Marion Ulmer, staunch Universalist, for many years was Executive Secretary of the Maine Council of Churches. While minister of our church in West Hartford (1933 —47), Dr. Manning was a member of the Executive Committee of the Connecticut Coun­cil of Churches and for a number of years was its President.

Continuing the cooperative tradition: During the 1930’s our Dr. Herbert E. Benton was Chairman of the Federal Council’s Com­mission on International Relations. Dr. Frank Oliver Hall and Dr. Manning were both members of the same Commission and, when Dr. Benton ultimately withdrew, Dr. Manning took his place as Chairman. Both Dr. Benton and Dr. Manning served in the Council’s Department of International Justice and Good Will; and it was as a member that Dr. Manning was official delegate to the Department’s “Dumbarton Oaks” Conference in Cleveland and a later conference at Ohio Wesleyan College in Delaware, Ohio. To the latter, Uni­versalist churches sent ten representatives, financed in part from the denominational budget. These conferences were on “A Just and Permanent Peace.”9

All this we felt was evidence of our readiness to cooperate in good works; and at that juncture in our negotiations we assumed that cooperation in good works was the primary purpose of the Council, whose very by-laws forbade requiring conformity to any prescribed theological formula.

Dr. Perkins, as his part on the committee, was to draw up drafts of possible application forms. And it fell my duty to confer with heads of the various denominations.

At a dinner late in December of 1941, at the Hotel Bellevue in Boston, I entertained Drs. Horton and Fagley (Congregationalists), Bishops Hartman and G. Bromley Oxnam and Dr. Bucke (Meth­odists), Dr. Jennings (Baptist), and Bishop Henry Knox Sherril (Episcopalian). Dr. Perkins assisted me as host. To these gentlemen we explained our plan to apply for membership in the Council. We sought their counsel and asked their support; and were given to be­lieve there would be little opposition, if any. Each guest (including Bishop Oxnam, who was to be the incoming Council President) pledged his support.

The next month, Dr. Cavert suggested the wisdom of widening the scope of this personal contact. Such opportunity we welcomed, of course. Dr. Perkins, Dr. Manning and I were invited to dinner at the National Arts Club, in Gramercy Park, New York, on the eve­ning of Tuesday, January 20, 1942, the dinner to be preceded by a meeting with “representatives” of the churches having membership in the Council. Drs. Cavert, Barnes, and J. Quinter Miller10 were present, as were about a dozen other gentlemen. Among these were Dr. Luther A. Weigle, Council President, and Bishop Frank William Sterrett of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Dr. Perkins, Dr. Mann­ing and I were each given opportunity to speak; and each of us, as was our plan, spoke on some particular phase of our Church and its work. The entire evening was a joyous surprise; and, when all but a few had departed, we revealed to Dr. Cavert our amazement over the apparent lack of opposition we had been warned existed. Then it was, for the first time, we were informed that the “representatives” present on that occasion were all either friendly or undecided. We were told that a vote on our application would not be unanimous, but this we expected.

Perhaps the evening had been worthwhile; but we felt strongly that, if mutual benefits were to follow, there should be opportunity for us to meet with those disposed to question our qualifications. This feeling we expressed to Dr. Cavert, whereupon he agreed to arrange a second meeting.

So it was that, on May 7, 1942, we met with this second group. The setting was the same, as were the number of those present. On this occasion our experience was a totally different one. Present were representatives of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, the Re­formed Church in America, Presbyterians, and others. Dr. John Alexander Mackay of Princeton, then President of the Presbyterian Church North, had been invited but did not appear. Chief spokes­man was Dr. Lewis Seymour Mudge (Presbyterian), member of the Council’s Executive Committee, Vice President of the Board of Trustees of Princeton Theological Seminary and lecturer there on ecclesiastical theology.

Dr. Cavert was gracious, as at our earlier meeting, in his wel­coming remarks, to which Dr. Perkins, as chairman of our committee expressed appreciation. But there was a tenseness in the air. The spirit was altogether different. And we were taken by surprise, for, following introductions, we had expected Dr. Manning would report the results of the survey he had made and that I might tell of conferences with other denominational leaders; but no opportunity was afforded. With prepared notes before him, Dr. Mudge read from the Council’s Preamble to its Constitution, where it is stated that the member denominations band together in order that they may more fully manifest the essential oneness of the Christian churches of America in Jesus Christ as their divine Lord and Savior, and to promote the spirit of fellowship, service and cooperation among them.

No consideration whatever was given “the spirit of fellowship, ser­vice and cooperation.” On these subjects we were prepared to sub­mit substantial evidence. But his emphasis, to the exclusion of any­thing else, was upon the necessity of belief “in Jesus Christ as … divine Lord and Savior.” This was the condition precedent to all else.

From that moment on throughout the evening, it was as though we were on trial. Question after question was put to us on the sub­ject of Christology. Dr. Perkins, our expert in such matters, rehearsed again the Universalist Bond of Fellowship and Declaration of Faith, but it was obvious at an early hour that this failed to suffice. We suggested that, doubtless, each member denomination interpret­ed the words in accordance with its own understanding and perhaps we might be permitted to do the same. We expressed our hope that the Council’s by-law forbidding the requirement of uniformity of belief (about which by-law Dr. Cavert and others had informed us) meant what it said. We endeavored to make clear our simple desire, namely, to join hands in good works. Following an embarrassingly long period of silence, Dr. Mudge suggested adjournment. In such fashion our deliberations of May 7, 1942, were terminated.

It was obvious to Dr. Perkins, Dr. Manning and to me that something of a struggle was taking place within the Council between persons in positions of leadership, those desiring to broaden the basis of membership and those who persisted on uniformity of belief.  If this were the case, it might be well to allow time to pass and for us to say little. At a meeting of denominational Trustees in New York May 18, 1942, I simply reported for our committee “that considera­ble progress had been made toward mutual understanding,” and the Board voted “to express the confidence of the Board in the ability of the Committee to handle the situation.”11

The Trustees met in New York again on September 21—23, 7942; and at this meeting Dr. Perkins reported:

The committee... recommends that application for... membership be made, and submits herewith a proposed form of application for your approval. Although the committee was given “full power to complete negotiations if they deem it wise to do so,” we feel that the application should be made directly by the Board of Trustees as the official representatives of the church.


The committee has had several conferences with officials of the Council and with groups of representatives of various shades of opinion in its make-up.... We were led to believe that probably our application would be granted, with some dissenting votes, and that the dissent would be caused... by fear that our admission would re-awaken slumbering divisions between the liberal and conservative elements in some of the traditionally conservative churches.


On the other hand, not a few in the Council would welcome an op­portunity to face the issue frankly. That is especially the attitude of leaders in the Congregationalist body. They believe that an issue of principle is involved, viz., whether the Council shall be true to its professed Christian inclusiveness or yield to sectarian prejudice. On that issue they welcome the opportunity to stand up and be counted. They hope we will apply for membership. As a result of a full dis­cussion of the whole matter at a meeting of the Advisory Committee of the Federal Council,. . . they believe that the vote would be over­whelmingly in favor of admitting our church.

For those who knew him well, both the above report and the “proposed form of application” accompanying the report are easily recognized as having come from the hand of Dr. Perkins, who de­lighted in this opportunity to argue in behalf of Universalist theol­ogy. The proposed form, as may be seen, embodies findings made in Dr. Manning’s survey and mention of conferences the three of us had had with various Council officials and representatives of the member churches. In any event, the Trustees acted as follows:

VOTED that The Universalist Church of America make application for membership in the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America and that the special committee which has had this matter in charge be continued to present that application and take all action with relation to it, and that in authorizing this action the Board of Trustees indicates its position in the matter of the application by adoption of the following statement, with such variations in form as the committee may see fit to make:


The primary motive that prompts this action is genuine sympathy with the avowed purpose of the Council “more fully to manifest the essential oneness of the Christian churches of America in Jesus Christ as their divine Lord and Savior, and to promote the spirit of fellow­ship, service and cooperation among them.” That sense of oneness in Christ as the basis of Christian fellowship is thrown to the fore in the official declaration of the Universalist Church, as follows:


The bond of fellowship in this Convention shall be a common purpose to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it and to coop­erate in establishing the Kingdom for which he lived and died.


As we interpret the avowed purpose of the Federal Council, it sets up the ideal of unity in permitted and respected diversity. It disa­vows “authority to draw up a common creed or form of govern­ment or of worship.” It would unite Christians in fellowship and service on the basis of their common loyalty to our common Master. We think of the Universalist Church as a branch of the Church Uni­versal, whose catholic unity is centered in Jesus Christ. Our Uni­versalist faith we regard as a means to the end of serving God whom he revealed and the kingdom he came to establish. To the degree that it does that it is of value to us and can be entitled to the respect of others.


We recognize of course that the phrase “divine Lord and Savior” means different things to different Christians. The differences how­ever are as great among the members of churches now in the Fed­eral Council as between them and Universalists generally. If our primary loyalty is to Christ, differences of theory concerning his personality need not separate but may enrich our common faith and experience.


The interest of Universalists in the ideal of the Federal Council is not one of theory only, or of present date. For a number of years they have been active in local and state councils and federations and in various branches of the Federal Council’s work. Often they have been and are officials and leaders in such cooperative undertakings. A list of such participations is available if desired.


Another indication of desire to cooperate whenever the cause of Christian Unity can thus be furthered appears in the number of federated churches in which Universalists participate—52 in all. Of these, 22 are Congregationalist-Universalist; 17 Unitarian-Univer­salist; and the others of various combinations, Methodist, Baptist, etc. Especially significant in this connection is the fact that the Uni­versalist Church officially cooperated in inaugurating the Larger Parish movement in Maine, which was the first interdenominational enterprise of this sort in the United States.


If the Universalist Church should become a constituent member of the Federal Council, it would involve the forming of no new and un­familiar attitudes. It would be but carrying to logical conclusion of habits already established.


It is in this spirit that we are moved to apply for membership in the Federal Council. We should regard it as a privilege to add our testi­mony to the essential oneness of Christ of the Christian Church of America which the Council seeks to manifest and to cooperate more fully in the united Christian service carried on under the Council’s auspices, at a time when such expressions of unity are so sorely needed.

The Trustees then concluded the subject under discussion by voting “to extend the appreciation of the Board to members of the Committee . . . for their excellent devotion in our behalf in this field.”12

Certain of our Trustees were consulted later. They agreed that the application should be brief; then, if necessary, additional infor­mation might be used as “grist for the mill.” So the communication addressed to the Council and signed by Louis Annin Ames, Presi­dent, and Esther A. Richardson, Secretary, and dated November 2, 1942, read:

The Universalist Church of America, through its Board of Trustees, as authorized by vote of the General Assembly at its session in Sep­tember 1941, hereby applies for membership in the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America.


The motive that prompts this action is genuine sympathy with the objects of the Council as set forth in the Constitution. We should regard it as a privilege to add our testimony to the essential oneness in Christ of the Christian churches of America which the Council seeks to manifest and to cooperate more fully in united Christian service at a time when such expressions of unity are so sorely needed.

Dr. Manning conferred with Dr. Cavert in New York Novem­ber to, 1942, and I met with him November 23. We sought his coun­sel as to how we might best word our application and also what pro­cedure we should follow. Dr. Barnes joined us during our confer­ence; and later that same day I conferred with Drs. Horton and Fag­ley.

Dr. Cavert told us we should know that the conservative Presby­terians, represented by Dr. Mudge, would probably try to defeat our application. Drs. Horton and Fagley said a decision on the gen­eral subject was long overdue and, seemingly, were prepared to lead any possible conflict of views on the Council floor. All agreed that Dr. Perkins, as Chairman of our committee, and I, as General Super­intendent, should be present and available to answer any questions at the meeting of the Council in Cleveland in December 1942. But principally we discussed the form in which our application should be drafted. The initial action taken by our Trustees was deemed too lengthy, but was regarded as a clarifying “statement” made by the Board. Yet there was also the opinion that our application of Novem­ber 2 might be too brief in form and content to satisfy the opposition.

Writing to Dr. Manning November 24, 1942, Dr. Perkins said:

Dr. Cummins had a conference yesterday in New York with Cavert and Barnes, and later with Fagley and Horton, in regard to pro­cedure at the Council meeting in December. The conference was held at Cavert’s suggestion. He thought we ought to know that the conservative Presbyterian group. . . would probably try to defeat our application, which was no news.


Fagley and Horton are aware of this but are very hopeful of a favor­able outcome and determined to meet the issue in the Council ses­sion if necessary. They feel that the time has come when a long-slumbering and over-due issue must be faced, as much for the Coun­cil’s own sake as for ours.


Both groups strongly desired that Dr. Cummins. . . and I. . . should be present in order to answer any questions that might be raised. If you are planning to be there for any of the departmental meet­ings, so much the better.

Writing again to Dr. Manning December 9, Dr. Perkins said:

We discovered (at the meeting May 7) that a reactionary group, the conservative Presbyterians chief among them, had begun to or­ganize a campaign to defeat our membership in the Council, alleg­ing our rejection of the divinity of Christ, which they interpret as belief in his deity. Of course that is irrelevant.

The Council met in Cleveland December 10–11, 1942. Ad­vanced notices had been carried by the various news media, espe­cially by the religious press; and of course we were well aware of the place and date of the occasion, for we had pressed to submit our application in order that it might be acted upon at the Cleveland meeting. Drs. Horton and Fagley, in our conference November 23, had stressed the importance of our presence there. We assumed, therefore, that we would receive an invitation to attend; but none was extended. This I considered both highly discourteous and sus­picious. I waited until the last minute, believing there just might be some explanation, then was on my way. I could not, with conscience, have done otherwise.

I was the only Universalist present. Dr. Cavert and others knew I was there. I sat through the sessions, witnessing other denomina­tions being welcomed into membership. My presence was acknowl­edged in no way; and, to my amazement, no mention was made of our application. At the conclusion of the closing session, therefore, I made my way to the rostrum and inquired of Dr. Cavert if the omission had been intended. This, he said, was the case. I was irate, stating with what must have appeared obvious disgust that I con­sidered such treatment both unethical and unChristian, in which judgment Dr. Cavert said frankly he agreed. My feeling was that I wanted mightily to get away—far away—and wash my hands of the whole miserable experience. Breakfasting next morning with Califor­nia Episcopalian Bishop Bertrand Stevens, in the Coffee Shop of the Cleveland Hotel, he inquired of me, “Bob, why do you people wish to be a part of such an organization?” And I, too, wondered why!

We were informed later that the Council’s Executive Commit­tee had met on the very eve of the Cleveland meeting. The Council’s Advisory Committee, having considered our application, had recom­mended to the Executive Committee that conferences with us be continued. This desire for more “conferences,” we were told, was due to the “brevity” of our application. For a long time, we were told it said too much; now it failed to say enough! Dr. Manning re­ported to me he felt the brief form in which our application was drafted really did constitute the basis for the fact of its existence be­ing withheld from the delegates present at the Cleveland session. In this opinion I did not then and do not now concur. Both Advisory and Executive Committees of the Council had in their possession or available to them copies of the statement issued by our Trustees at their September meeting and the lengthy application we ultimately, and upon advice, decided not to use. Assuredly other factors were brought into play. Furthermore, no notice had been given us of the actions of these Committees.

There had been a full year of “negotiations,” as reported by the LEADER of January 2, 1943, “in which our representatives made every effort to proceed only in keeping with the best advice obtain­able from the Council members and with the interests of the Council always in mind.”

Our Trustees, meeting in New York City April 26-27, 1943, re­ceived from Dr. Perkins and me a detailed report of our experience up to that time; and the Board, deeming any further action unneces­sary on its part, simply accepted the report.

The General Assembly met in New York in October of 1943; and, on October 2 1, No. of the Official Recommendations was adopted:

We recommend that the General Assembly once again express de­sire for admission to full standing as a member of the Federal Coun­cil of Churches of Christ in America; and that the application for such standing, as made by the Board of Trustees and its duly consti­tuted committees on November 2, 1942, be given unqualified en­dorsement.13

Dr. Clinton Lee Scott had moved to have the recommendation laid on the table, but his motion was defeated.

The Council was to hold its sessions in Pittsburgh during No­vember of 1944. This fact I reported to our Trustees when they met June 20—22, 1944. We were to present our application for consider­ation at that time. What form should it take? Dr. Manning resolved the dilemma with the following motion and comments:

MOVED: that the formal application of the Universalist Church of America for membership in the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America be made in the form of the first three and the last paragraphs of the original application dated September 21, 1942. and that we request the officers of the Federal Council to regard this as superseding all subsequent communications.

Then, in explanation, Dr. Manning said:

The controversy over our membership in the Federal Council seems to have arisen over a misunderstanding which cannot now be settled because of the death of Dr. Perkins who conducted the earliest ne­gotiations. Our files contain a copy of the formal application for membership referred to in the motion, but officials of the Federal Council do not have it in their files and say they have no recollection of ever receiving it. That application contained a direct quotation from the Constitution of the Council, expressing our “genuine sym­pathy” therewith.


Because that letter was entirely too long and contained much that was unnecessary if not extraneous, our Committee was advised to put the application in shorter form, which was done under date of November 2, 1942, but this shorter application did not directly re­fer to or quote the section of the Federal Council’s Constitution deal­ing with membership. This has been made an excuse by those who are opposing our membership, who have not seen the earlier letter.


If the earlier form of application is presented at the coming meeting of the Council late in November, the issue will be clearcut, and those who are working in our behalf will have a much stronger case, and their opponents a much weaker one. The question will then be squarely: Will the Federal Council adhere to its avowed position not “to draw up a common creed,” but to accept into membership other Christian bodies like ours that take their stand on the same basis as those already in the Council, without interpreting or defining the phrase, “Their essential oneness … in Jesus Christ as their divine Lord and Savior?”


I make this motion after a conference with Dr. J. Quinter Miller, Associate General Secretary of the Federal Council, who is doing all in his power to bring us into full membership. He tells me that we will probably receive an invitation to send fraternal delegates to the coming biennial meeting in Pittsburgh.

So, in this fashion, our application was filed with the Federal Council, looking to action being taken during its Pittsburgh session.

Dr. Frank Jennings, of the Council’s Executive Committee, re­ported to me that our application was read at a meeting of the Com­mittee, that it was not discussed, but was simply referred for action to the Council at its meeting November 28–30 in Pittsburgh.

On November 14, I wrote Dr. Horton:

A letter has just come from Stanley Manning indicating by en­closures from Quinter Miller and Dr. Cavert that our presence at the meeting of the Federal Council in Pittsburgh, when our applica­tion is to receive consideration, would not be in accordance with “customary practice.” We are, therefore, to stay away.


I was at the meeting of the Council in Cleveland. I know that a full delegation from the Church of the Nazarene was present. And it was at that session that the Church of the Nazarene was voted into membership. . . . You and other friends have urged us to stand by, and we are trying to. But it does seem a shame that, when there is the strong possibility of questions being asked about us, we will not be in a position to answer for ourselves.

I received no reply from Dr. Horton; but I did receive word of the action taken in Pittsburgh.

Under date of November 30, 1944, I sent the following com­munication:

To all Clergy and Laity of

The Universalist Church of America


Dear Friends:


On Wednesday, November 29, 1944, by vote of twelve to six, the Federal Council of Churches, meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, refused membership to The Universalist Church of America.

Churches voting for our admission were: Congregational-Christian; Disciples of Christ; Friends; Seventh Day Baptist; Colored Methodist Episcopal in America; and the African Methodist Episcopal.


Churches voting provisionally, that is, against admission unless we accept “Jesus Christ as Divine Lord and Savior,” were: Northern Baptist and Protestant Episcopal.


Churches voting against our admission were: National Baptist Con­vention; Church of the Brethren; Evangelical and Reformed in America; Reformed Episcopal; Lutheran; Methodist; United Breth­ren; United Presbyterian; Presbyterian USA; and the United Church of Canada.


Dr. Douglas Horton, Minister of the Congregational-Christian Council, moved the acceptance of our application and spoke in our behalf. Dr. Theodore F. Herman of the Evangelical and Reformed Seminary, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, spoke in our behalf. Representa­tives of the Presbyterian Church USA and of the Lutheran Church read official statements of their respective bodies opposing our ad­mission.


I urge that the above rehearsal of facts be read from every Universa­list pulpit in the land, and, further, that it be printed in every parish bulletin.

Speaking in support of his motion, and with the best of inten­tions I am sure, Dr. Horton quoted Dr. George DeBenneville and the Rev. John Murray, eighteenth-century Universalists. This was done, of course, in his effort to substantiate our qualifications theo­logically; but he discovered, I suspect, that others relied upon more recent authors. According to the CHRISTIAN CENTURY, one of the factors moving the Council to reject us was a statement in the YEAR­BOOK OF AMERICAN CHURCHES: “Universalists as a body are now practically Unitarians so far as the person, nature, and work of Christ are concerned.” And the same journal continues: “This disclosure threw the fat into the fire. Unitarianism has been historically regard­ed as one of the antitheses of evangelicalism. . . . The Universalists, as applicants for membership, were put in a bad light.”

But yearbook definitions were not the sole cause inspiring the opposition. Methodist Bishop Hartman informed me that in Pitts­burgh during a caucus of Methodist delegates, Bishop Oxnam had appealed for a vote against accepting our application, thus to avoid “splitting the Council” during Bishop Oxnam’s administration as Council President. This being the case, it would seem there were also political factors involved.

Dr. Bucke, at the time Editor of Methodism’s ZION’S HERALD14 asked that I submit for publication in the first issue in December of the HERALD a statement giving my reaction. This I did, and Dr. Bucke ran it as a feature. A reprint appeared in the March 1945 issue of the OHIO UNIVERSALIST:

A veritable wave of good will toward the Universalist Church has been rolling up since our application ... was rejected by the Fed­eral Council.... Expressions of appreciation have poured in to us from friends of long standing, but that there should be such wide­spread evidence of righteous indignation on the part of persons we have not known is revealing. And of greatest significance is the reac­tion of the laity over the country....


We are keenly desirous of having our position understood. We feel the Council, through its member churches, was entirely within its legal rights when it decided not to admit our Church to member­ship. But that which happened in Pittsburgh was the imposition of a creedal definition of Christianity; and it is against such definition that Universalists protest. We cannot imagine Jesus of Nazareth barring the door to any church which accepts his name and leadership. On the first page of the November issue of the FEDERAL COUNCIL BUL­LETIN is a poem by John Oxenham, entitled “A Prayer.” It sounds the note we had once thought characterized the Council:


O God, within whose sight

All men have equal right

To worship thee,

Break every bar that holds

Thy flock in diverse folds;

Thy will from none withholds

Full liberty.


The action of the Council at Pittsburgh raises questions. What is it that makes a man or a church Christian? Is a Christian one who tries to follow the teaching of Jesus, or one who holds certain beliefs about him? The implication of the Pittsburgh decision would seem to indicate quite clearly the answer of the majority of the churches of the Council, namely, that unless a church accepts “Jesus Christ as Divine Lord and Savior” it cannot be counted Christian.


One wonders if this is the best test of true religion. In a time of world upheaval, bloodshed, sorrow and suffering, it would seem to be close to sacrilege for self—appraised Christian groups to sit in judg­ment on what constitutes Christian fellowship.


That churches should desire to join hands so as to cooperate in good works is as understandable as it is commendable. But that some churches, so joined and for such purpose, should presume to make admission to their company thereafter conditional upon the appli­cant’s willingness to conform to some prescribed theological tenet is a thing difficult to comprehend and not very commendable.


As we interpret the avowed purpose of the Council, it sets up the ideal of unity in permitted and respected diversity. It disavows “authority to draw up a common creed.” It would unite Christians in fellowship and service on the basis of their common loyalty to our common Master... We recognize, of course, that the phrase “Di­vine Lord and Savior” means different things to different Christians. The difference, however, is as great among member churches now in the Council as between them and Universalists generally.

Writing to me December 8, 1944, Dr. Manning said I had issued this statement “before taking time to count ten” and that, in his judg­ment, it “was a mistake.” He said he had been in New York the day before and had talked with Dr. Cavert and Dr. Walter Van Kirk. “I am more and more impressed,” he wrote, “by the multitude of things [the Council] is doing, and the very fact of its size, and the large membership of its constituent bodies, makes that work possible. [They] were talking of practical means of influencing legislation in Washington, of the resettlement of Japanese Americans, of educa­tion for venereal disease control, . . . as well as matters connected with Dumbarton Oaks and peace-time conscription.... It seems to me that this is a supreme test of our sincerity.... Many of the Coun­cil leaders and many of the rank and file are deeply troubled by the action taken at Pittsburgh.... We can strengthen the hands of those who are truly liberal and who now want us in by going along as far and as fast as we can with those who have learned that we are really Christian.... Let’s be Universalists and believe that every last mem­ber of the Federal Council can finally be saved, and work to bring that about, drawing a circle that takes them all in.”

Dr. Ellsworth C. Reamon, then President of the Universalist Church of America, seemed to concur. Writing on December 11, 1944, to Dr. Manning, Dr. Reamon said: “I endorse your attitude as to our reaction to the vote.... That decision is to be deplored but it would be futile for us to bear any resentment.”

Our Trustees met April 25—27, 1945, in Williamstown, Mass. Following my report on the rejection of our application, the Board voted “to discharge the special committee charged with responsibili­ty for negotiations and to thank them for their painstaking efforts.”

But that which apparently should have ended the matter did not do so. Newspapers, magazines, and radio spread the word to such an extent that one news-clipping service was prompted to estimate that, had we purchased the space and time, it would have cost a mil­lion dollars. That be as it may, prominent churchmen pressed us to keep our “hat in the ring, if only for the sake of the Council.” Word to this effect came from Bishop W. Bertrand Stevens and Dr. Francis Penn Foote of the Protestant Episcopal Church in California, from Dr. Robert Leonard Tucker of the Wesley Foundation at Yale, from numerous Congregationalists, Methodists, and others. In a letter from Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, written from his summer home in Maine, he said, “My blood boils at this nonsensical obscurantism. My heart goes out to you and your Universalist brethren. I’ll do anything within my power to break the deadlock.” But our principal advocate, editorially, was Methodism’s ZION’S HERALD.

It will be recalled that, in late December of 1941 when I enter­tained at dinner a number of denominational leaders, Bishop Oxnam, along with others of the company, indicated approval of our appli­cation for membership in the Council. It will be recalled also that Methodist delegates at the sessions of the Council held in Pittsburgh were said to have been urged by the Bishop to vote against our ad­mission. Now, seemingly embarrassed or irritated by the HERALD’S editorials, he sought to bring pressure upon the journal. Dr. Bucke in Boston received a longdistance call from Bishop Oxnam in New York, a call which I was told lasted twenty minutes. Bishop Hartman chanced to be in Dr. Bucke’s office at the time, overheard Dr. Bucke’s portion of what was being said, and, when he sensed the char­acter of Bishop Oxnam’s call, informed Bishop Oxnam that Dr. Bucke and the HERALD happened to be in his (Bishop Hartman’s) jurisdiction, and, thereupon, terminated the conversation.

Our General Assembly met late in April, 1946 in Akron, Ohio. The official record of that meeting reads, in part, as follows:

Sat., April 27. In the evening a public meeting was held in the church at which Dr. Carl H. Olson presided. The Rev. Emory Stevens Bucke... challenged the General Assembly to re-submit its applica­tion for membership.15


Tues., April 30. Rev. Warren B. Lovejoy presented a recommenda­tion calling for the resubmission of the ... application.... Rev. Wm. E. Gardner moved that the recommendation be laid on the table, but the motion lost on a rising vote. The recommendation was then passed… 16


RECOMMENDATION XVI (Adopted). “In view of the fact that Uni­versalists generally are in accord with the purpose and work of the Federal Council. . . as stated in its Constitution and as evidenced by its program,


“And in view of widespread Universalist conviction that concerted Protestant action is urgently needed,


“We recommend that the Universalist Church of America through its Board of Trustees re-apply under the same terms as previously for full membership . . . at a time which this Board shall deem ap­propriate.”17

The Trustees, at their meeting June 12—13, 1946, deferred ac­tion until their October meeting, ordering “that in the meantime Dr. Manning and Dr. Cummins... prepare a tentative form of applica­tion.”

Dr. Manning reported to the Trustees, meeting in Philadelphia October 2 3—24, 1946 “that he had conferred with officials of the... Council, specifically Rev. Quinter Miller and Dr. Cavert, and the general opinion seems to be that our application will receive the same treatment as it did before, although there is a fair chance that the number of denominations voting in our favor will be somewhat larger than two years ago. The Committee had considered a sugges­tion that our application be not presented until after the Federal Council meeting this December so that it would not come before the Council for action until the 1948 session by which time there is a chance that the theological tensions now existing as evidenced by the trend to fundamentalism and neo-orthodoxy will have moderat­ed. The Committee does not recommend this procedure however.” A lengthy discussion followed, and the Board voted “that the officers of the church be instructed to present the application... at once.”

Dr. Manning had met with Dr. Miller on October 21, just prior to the Trustees’ meeting; and I had met with Dr. Horton and Bishop Hartman. Out of these conferences a new draft was worked out, dated October 24, 1946. We had received from a leader of the Council (whose identity I am not at liberty to disclose) certain sug­gestions with respect to the wording of our application; they were that we

a.         Re-define the official Universalist doctrinal position from the evangelical point of view (to offset statements appearing in the U. S. Government Census, in dictionaries and encyclopedias);

b.         Omit any reference to the Bond of Fellowship, since this is inter­preted by Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc., as being essentially Unitari­an in its doctrinal impact; and

c.         Write a brief letter of application containing the vote of the Gen­eral Assembly.

However, we were not in a mood to dilute our position in the hope of pacifying the opposition parties. Our desire had been that we might join hands in good works. It was as simple as that. We had testified factually of the extent to which our people and our churches were cooperating in inter-faith activities. We had attempted to make clear the meaning and significance of Universalism. This would have to suffice.

Experience by this time had not made optimists of us. Yet two factors caused us to carry on. Of course we had our instructions to make application, these from both the General Assembly and the Board of Trustees. But, too, there were our friends who were beg­ging us “for the sake of the Council itself” to keep the issue alive. And, furthermore, the Council had a new President, the first layman ever to be elected to that office, the Hon. Charles P. Taft of Cincin­nati, Ohio.

Mr. Taft, son of former President William Howard Taft, al­though he became an Episcopalian, had had a Unitarian father. When I had our Cincinnati church, I worked with him in civic af­fairs. We were fraternity brothers. He and I, at the same time, had been given honorary degrees at Miami University.

So, I rejoiced in the fact of his election and wrote him to extend congratulations. I referred, of course, to the experience we had un­dergone and stated my confidence that, now an able layman was at the helm, these theological quibblings might be put aside. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when, after a time, word came in reply. Mr. Taft said he had conferred with Mr. John Foster Dulles, the Council’s legal counsel and later U.S. Secretary of State under President Eisenhower. This was the first time any reference to Mr. Dulles (a Presbyterian) had been made in our negotiations. It is un­derstandable that Mr. Taft had conferred also with other Council officers. Perhaps he had been present at meetings of the Council in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

The substance of Mr. Taft’s reply, in which he said Mr. Dulles concurred, was that our chances were poor, that were we to be ad­mitted the Lutherans and perhaps others would withdraw, that their numbers and influence were large and ours were small, and that “it is as simple as that.” I replied, stating simply that we had proceeded on the assumption the Federal Council was organized to serve reli­gious purposes, not on the basis of numbers and financial worth, and that perhaps we had been wrong in this assumption. His acknowl­edgement reflected indignation.

The Board minutes for the meeting April 14-15, 1947 read:

The Secretary reported that our application for membership in the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America had been rejected at Seattle in December both in the vote of the Council as a whole,— sixty in favor of acceptance and seventy opposed,— and in the sep­arate votes of the denominations: four in favor of acceptance, eight opposed, three wishing to defer judgment pending further informa­tion, one not voting. Moreover the Council took the following ac­tion: “VOTED that the President of the Federal Council appoint a committee of seven to confer with the responsible officials of the Universalist denomination, if they so desire, and report to this body two years hence; and that the Secretary of this body send to the Uni­versalist body the affectionate Christian greetings of this group.” Dr. Cummins reported that the word from the President of the Fed­eral Council indicates that the Federal Council committee is to be appointed soon. Upon motion made and duly seconded it was voted that the President be instructed to appoint a committee of three, including himself, to consult with this proposed committee from the Federal Council if and when they approach us. The President appointed Dr. Reamon, Dr. Lalone, and Dr. Cummins.

Our General Assembly in 1947 (September 9–14) was con­vened on the campus of St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. RESOLUTION VI, adopted at that time, reads:

Whereas the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America is the only existing agency of united Protestantism, and the Univer­salist Church of America finds itself not at variance with the broader aims and principles of this body, be it resolved that the UCA lend its support to the program of the Federal Council of Churches in such matters as are compatible with the liberal tradition and out­look of the Universalist Church.18

This Resolution, in its original form, contained the additional phrase: “and that no further application for membership in the Coun­cil be made until warranted by circumstances of a favorable nature.” Rev. William E. Gardner had moved to have these words stricken from the resolution. Hence, all reference to any “application” was omitted.19

At the Council’s suggestion, then, our committee was appointed— a committee of three. The Council President had been instructed to appoint a committee of seven. If he did so, we were not informed. And there the matter rested.

Under the leadership of Vatican II the air is full of migrating calls of ecumenical winged creatures, signaling the spirit of a new universal Christian hope. However, as this account goes to the print­er nothing to date has happened to change the record.

Traditional ideas concerning the Bible and the church, of God and of Jesus—indeed the traditional ideas underlying the whole of Christianity—were stabilized in essentially their present form in the Hellenistic Age, an age which ended about 1700 years ago when Western civilization was confined to lands of southern Europe bor­dering on the Mediterranean. These traditional ideas represent the garnered heritage of a highly complex past which goes back actually to the gropings of prehistoric man. And the Christianity which emerged was an amalgam of imperfectly fused elements that ever since have tended to crystallize into a variety of diverse forms. He­brew myth, legend, history, law, prophecy, and piety; Greek mys­ticism and scarcely less mystical science and philosophy; Roman government and genius for administration, combined with stern in­sistence on preserving unchanged the inherited forms of ritual and dogma—these principally, together with the medieval cult of other­worldliness, have been the formative influences. And with all its superficial changes, the church has held fast to them. Wars and revolu­tions, discoveries and secular changes have had practically no impact upon Christian precept and practice. The great bulk of the Christian church finds itself in this second half of the 20th Century with a 4th Century theology. Rarely is it in search of truth; more often it claims to possess the truth and goes in search of converts. The Christian church must rearrange its cargo of dogma if it is to avoid hard sailing ahead, relieve itself of whole mounds of Christian bric-a-brac. It can­not afford in these days to be merely the repository of the saved.

We are witnessing in our lifetime an effective worldwide inte­gration of mankind— an integration brought about by a revolution in science, in the economy, in society, and in culture; and this integration of mankind is being superimposed on our traditional crazy-quilt pat­tern of religious beliefs and practices. Critical judgment is rare, and human credulity is still unbounded. There are whole worlds of dif­ference between a religion about Jesus and the religion of Jesus. This, I am convinced, is the crux of the matter. The difference is that of reading the Golden Rule: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” and “Thou shalt love only those neighbors who live within ten miles of thee and are blonde.”


1.            Incorporated April 12, 1924, by act of the New York State legis­lature. Predecessor of the present National Council of Churches of Christ in America.

2.         pp. 43—45.

3.         A declaration emphasizing the values of this life rather than the search for them in some other world and interpreting the will of God in human affairs in terms of the interests of man.

4.         A group of young ministers, their friendship and idealism stemming from student days. Objective: “to develop the religious and intellectual powers of its members.” Their publication: “Theologically Speaking.” Their ideas they termed “emergent Universalism.” The name was borrowed from a 12th Century order of laymen who combined “the prosecution of Christian principles to economic practices. Although liv­ing in normal family relationships, they gathered in common assembly for mutual edification, social and spiritual.”

5.            Established in accordance with the bequest of the late Hon. James Russell of Arlington and delivered annually at Tufts College by either a clergyman or a layman on one of the following subjects: “The impor­tance of Christian faith and belief in the formation of the character of the good citizen and the good citizen and the good man,” or “The promises of the Gospel to meet the reasonable ends of man both in time and in eterni­ty.” The lecturer is nominated each year by the Dean of Crane Theologi­cal School and is elected by the Trustees of Tufts College. Established in 1867.

6.         Forty.

7.            Recommendation No. I. 1941 General Assembly.

8.            Minutes, Board of Trustees, Oct. 27—29, 1941, pp. 11, 13.

9.         Dr. Charles H. Pennoyer served for years in various capacities on the Council. Universalists, as a denomination, were charter members and instrumental in founding the Association of Religious Liberals. At the Columbian Congress of Religions in Chicago, in connection with the 1893 World’s Fair, 27 Universalists were among the principal speakers.

10.       Dr. Miller had gone from the Connecticut Council office to that of the Federal Council, where he served as an Associate General Secre­tary.

11.            Minutes, Board of Trustees, May 18, 1942.

12.            Minutes, Board of Trustees, Sept. 21—23, 1942.

13.       pp. 38,41.

14.       An independent Methodist weekly magazine of Boston, Mass.

15.       Minute Book, General Assembly, p. 51.

16.       Minute Book, General Assembly, p. 56.

17.       Minute Book, General Assembly, p. 65.

18.       Minute Book, General Assembly, p. 92.

19.       Minute Book, General Assembly, p. 80.


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