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Exploration of the role of churches in foreign policy debates is shot through with complexities. As a prerequisite for discussion of the role of churches in any secular matter, or even in many moral or religions discussions, precision is demanded in the meaning of the word “Church.” Yves Congar suggests that perhaps nine times out of ten the word “Church” signifies the hierarchy of bishops. In an effort to eliminate one complicating factor from an already bewildering array of difficulties it might be well to attempt a definition of the episcopacy. While acknowledging that the definition may compound the complexities, it is offered as a point of reference for later discussion of the major topic.
Both the long, unending war in Vietnam and the sudden, brief Arab-Israeli conflict continue to provoke strong — and diverse ethical assessments. In the blizzard of righteousness which is piling up around us we are told by many that the Johnson Administration is immoral, by others that it did or is doing the only thing ethical realism finds conceivable. Sometimes the judgment is made within-the framework of what is usually called “situation ethics.” sometimes it proceeds instead from an “ethic of principles.” From the evidence of the articles themselves the method does not evidently ordain the conclusion; or if it does, then there are some verv clever knaves at work twisting each method to yield the wrong answers.
When churches speak to their own people and to the nations on matters of international affairs, how much do their pronouncements reflect the political policies of various countries and power blocs? Is the voice of a national or regional church body likely to be very different from that of an international ecclesiastical organization? A single example will, admittedly, yield onlv partial answers, but they may suggest what a fuller studv would disclose.
Consider the ways in which churches have dealt with the question of disarmament and arms control. Statements have been made by three representative groups: (1) The Christian Peace Conference centered in Prague. Czechoslovakia: (2) the National Council of Churches in the U.S.A. and one of its member churches, the United Church of Christ: and (3) the World Council of Churches. These are representative church bodies from both sides of the iron curtain and an international body which has member churches in virtually all parts of the world.
Moral Earnestness, Political Prudence and the Church