WRVR Special Report on James Forman Service Interruption
it's been [inaudible] Purdue University Departments of Modern Languages and Speech. <unk> This is [inaudible] speaking. We will return next week and several more weeks at the same time with more continental comment. [music] This is WRVR 106.7 In New York. The [inaudible] [inaudible] early classic period comes true every Saturday [inaudible] [inaudible] Nova Scotia presents his choices with [inaudible] [inaudible] occasional malice and limited charm. [inaudible] and his contemporaries. [inaudible] Renaissance composers as well as [inaudible] [inaudible] and others. We hope you'll join us for [inaudible] choice on this station, Riverside Radio, WRVR New York
every Saturday at 2PM. WRVR is the radio station of The Riverside Church in the city of New York, international, interracial, interdenominational. At this time each Sunday evening WRVR normally invites you to the services of The Riverside Church. At this time, however, WRVR rebroadcasts the events from the Nave of The Riverside Church where the service was to have taken place, a communion service of worship was scheduled for today. However the service did not take place as scheduled. It was disrupted shortly after it began. We will now rebroadcast a part of the service that did take place, including the moment of interruption. Following that, we will also rebroadcast remarks made by Dr. Ernest T. Campbell, preaching minister of The Riverside Church. Those remarks were made to a reassembly of the congregation and the remarks dealt with the disruption and were made at the time the congregation reassembled and recorded at that time. Here now first is a section of today's communion service. The congregation
was singing the processional hymn "When Morning Gilds the Skies." Immediately following that the sequence of service was interrupted. You will briefly hear the voice of Dr. Campbell. before the service ended. [music] [organ music] [singing]
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[inaudible] [inaudible] [Speaker 1][inaudible] must be brought before this congregation. I have [inaudible] to the membership of The Riverside Church which I would like to read [Campbell] I'd like to invite the attention of the congregation [Forman] in [inaudible] 1969, I met with [inaudible] Pastor Ernest Campbell. I gave him a copy of [inaudible] specific demands we were making upon Riverside Church [inaudible] [Speaker-program host] At this point the communion service of The Riverside Church for today was terminated It was impossible for the service to continue. Briefly hear the voice of Dr. Ernest T. Campbell, the preaching minister of Riverside Church. It was at this point that the service ended and the congregation left the Nave of the church. Later the congregation reassembled in the Nave and and heard statements from Dr. Campbell. His remarks include a discussion of the contents and source of the disruption of the service. Here is Dr. Campbell.
[Campbell] I should like my first word this morning to be one of appreciation to you the members of the congregation for responding as intelligently and cooperatively as you did. It has been one of my preaching points for the last 4 or 5 years that most of us who might be regarded as being with the establishment in one way or another, have not yet learned how to cope with ferment and this morning we responded according to the best lights we had. I'm sure there are those who would second guess us and perhaps with the gift of hindsight which is almost infallible, indicate another course that might have been taken. I'd like to believe without becoming overly pious about it, that in a way this could be one of Riverside's greatest mornings. There's a sense in which
a sermon of tremendous power has already been preached. Out in the Narthex as folks wondered whether there would or would not be the resumption of worship, it seemed to me, as I overheard snatches of conversation, that the hearts of so many of us were revealed. Some of us who perhaps have inwardly felt that the black man was pushing too fast and too far surfaced in our reactions. Others of us who might call ourselves liberals regarding this movement are wondering about our solidarity and what one does vis-a-vis a group that recognizes only that structure is decadent and that revolution is the only cure. I think I owe it to you and to our friends who may be sharing these remarks by way of WRVR to indicate just the plain physical sequences
They are not many and this will not take long. I was working in my study last night, confessing publicly now that I had some finishing touches to do on today's meditation and received a phone call from Mr. Forman at 9:15. He said he would like to see me and see me that night. I suggested that I could give him an hour and no more because of the kind of day that awaited me. Even then I suspected I guess that it would be a long day. In the meantime I telephoned a member of our board of deacons who has worked very closely with members of the black and white community and who happens to be an attorney at law trying to get an initial feel from him on what our response should be. I had tried first to reach our minister of urban affairs only to find that he had committed himself to
preaching out of the city this weekend. This attorney offered to come up and visit with my guest but I suggested that since the man had indicated that he was coming more or less by himself but I thought it best that we meet one to one When Mr. Foreman arrived, he was accompanied by another which would indicate that he had an opportunity then to perhaps put a construction on our time together that I would not subscribe to. My impression of last evening was that it was cordial and affirmative. He was kind enough to acknowledge that our record in the ministry has been one that has shown a keen sympathy for justice and several times he mentioned that in a way he wished that the preaching minister here were not of that order because then the assault could be more direct and wholehearted. The substance of what
his group was trying to convey is found in a manifesto that I had never seen before until last night. Being a faithful reader of the New York Times, I wondered why, if a document is of this scope and magnitude, it was not printed up in full. And so this was fanned through rather carefully a manifesto to the white Christian churches and the Jewish synagogues in the United States of America and all other racist institutions. It was presented by James Forman and delivered and then adopted by the National Black Economic Development Conference in Detroit on April 26, 1969. It was the desire of Mr. Forman to read this manifesto in the service in lieu of a meditation or a sermon. Feeling somewhat that worship has a little more integrity to it than this
and that ten o'clock at night is hardly the time to propose this kind of a change, I assured him that we would be careful to give this manifesto the input that he wanted it to have at Riverside Church. My impression was that he would then agree to distribute copies of the manifesto outside this morning, leave the service uninterrupted so that we could go on together in good faith and search out the best way in which to get the substance of this manifesto before the officers and members of the Riverside Church. There was never any intention on my part to keep Riverside Church from hearing and responding to this manifesto. I guess where we differed was on the question of how and not so much on the question of whether. This manifesto is too lengthy for me to read to you just now but the
basic plank is that reparations are in order to the black community because of the suppression of the black man in this country for hundreds of years. The figure of $500 million is the figure and over and beyond that there are specific requests that are to be made of particular local churches and those churches in responding will not be making up the $500 million. So that actually the $500 million is a base figure and the ultimate figure, if all of the churches who are overtured respond the way they are asked to respond, will be well beyond that figure. When I got here this morning I found that I must have been at a different meeting from the one that Mr. Foreman and I and his friend were at last night. There were several accusations made that I will not pick up here because I think they are self-evidently both absurd and impossible. But the insistence was that something be read
this morning. Overnight there had been a change of strategy. Perhaps Mr. Foreman felt that he had conceded too much and that being anational leader of this movement, in order to save face, you must make a renewed effort to be heard in this service. Feeling that this was a response in bad faith because of arrangements that we had made, I refused to allow this to happen in so far as it was in my power to make the refusal. And we agreed among ourselves rightly or wrongly that they would not see the worship service here desecrated by shouts and counter shouts and make a travesty of the Lord's body and blood here today. And so when the move was made shortly after eleven o'clock, as agreed upon, we decided then and there that the the service would terminate. I'd like to read to you a statement
that I wrote early this morning as a preliminary response to this manifesto. And I want very much to have us not to become so concerned about tactics, that we lose our eye for what is really of substance here. There are abrasive aspects I'm sure to any manifesto that comes with the kind of steam and thrust that this one has. But we would be less than faithful to our Lord if we got sidetracked on a matter of tactics and turned off people simply because the style of their approach was not congenial to our temper. This is a brief statement I'd like to read it, then go on to say one or two more words then we'll have a hymn and the benediction. What I fear most about the manifesto issued by the National Black Economic Development Conference
is that it will be counterproductive and retard the cause of freedom and equality toward which many have been working. The principal of reparation has sound theological underpinnings. Most Christian churches in the United States feel penitent about what the white man has done to the black man in this society. As every [inaudible] priest and pastor knows restitution is an integral part of penitence. The manifesto has weaknesses. It oversimplifies the problem by resorting to a good guy/bad guy motif. It is arbitrary in its determination of a fixed amount due. It fails to distinguish within the Christian community those churches that have worked to end segregation and all of its hideous symptoms. Insofar as the manifesto has a basic commitment to revolution, it can hardly expect those who believe in radical
reform to climb onboard. By further dividing the friends of brotherhood, it plays into the hands of the right wing reactionary element in this country. The Christian churches in this country have too long been concerned with private religious experience to the neglect of basic justice. Payday has come. What the price should be and how and to whom it should be paid are questions properly before the house. Let me write just a brief postscript to this. When we say that the Christian churches in this country have so long concerned themselves with private religious experience to the neglect of basic justice, I think we are on very solid ground. It is a matter of record according to William Warren Sweet
in his book, The Story of Religion in America, that at the time of the revolution all the churches in the colonies were opposed to slavery. But when cotton became big business suddenly there was a shift in the church's concern from one of opposition to one of tolerance and eventually to one of support. I believe with all my heart that the emphasis in most of our churches has not centered on matters of basic justice. We have been largely otherworldly in our orientation. We think of the saving of a soul, the preparation of a man's life for the life to come, all of which I suppose befits us who are comfortable. We don't have to scramble for the bare necessities, which if we don't have, would make any soul talk totally irrelevant. This is what I mean when I say that we ought to be penitent. For the white
churches by preaching this kind of gospel which centers largely in solitary ethical action and ignores the structures more or less baptized the arrangements in this land political social and economic that have worked to the detriment of the black man. We gave these structures sanction. We ought to be ashamed and penitent. There's also a sense in which if we believe in the solidarity of the generations we have a certain complicity in any of the evils that have been worked in earlier times. I confess that I'm not sure how far we can extend this. Somewhere along the line the statute of limitations perhaps ought to set in or else we'll find that we are all interlopers going back to the Garden of Eden. No one
in a sense has clear title to what he owns. And if the black man can speak with concern about having been taken, then the Indian no less can make his case as well. there's a sense in which there is an implied complicity when we buy an automobile tire for $25.00 We are in a sense in cahoots with a system in Africa, perhaps in Liberia where the rubber trees are tapped, where the men who tapped them might make 30¢ or 40¢ a day. So that by implication, when I purchase a tire at that price, in a sense I am the beneficiary of a system that I cannot control but which nevertheless is serving me. Chocolate beans are picked I suppose for substandard wages wherever chocolate beans grow. Maybe to be honest about those workers who pick those chocolate beans we should pay $1.00 for the kind of chocolate bar that we now pay 10¢ for.
I'm not being facetious here. I'm suggesting that by virtue of the complexity and the interrelatedness of our life especially in economics here, none of us, including the black community, is free from complicity in working some kind of hardship on another person somewhere. All of this leads me to feel that the posture of the church toward any overture should be one of attentiveness and sympathy and openness. And I suggest that the place where any kind of confrontation or dialogue is most likely to feel the strain will be at the point of how we can work with a group whose basic judgment as to the potential health of the system differs from ours.
I have been in debates with ministers regarding the renewal of the church and there are ministers of great stature who believe that the church has had it. They are working out now the epitaph for the tombstone. And if one believes that the church is really that dead, that unresponsive, that apostate, then of course, certain consequential actions and programs derive from that conviction. If on the other hand one believes that the church is suffering from compromise with its culture, that its hands are not clean, but that God can cleanse the church and renew the church then he moves from that base to other kinds of goals and programs. And so my suspicion is that at the heart of this request for dialogue comes a fundamental difference as to whether we do or do not believe in
the system that we have inherited. It may be that we can in a sense table that issue. In the interest of pressing needs that speak to us all, needs regarding education, housing, business opportunities and the like. And so what we need is the guidance of God. We need to be delivered from as much subjectivity as God can work in us to the end that at this point in the nation's seething unrest we might be faithful not only to our brothers but also to our Lord. I should like us now before we sing our closing hymn to bow our heads in a moment of prayer.
Eternal God our Father, we have come within these walls that we might gain perspective on our lives and on our world. We have come that we might know ourselves in better knowing Thee. We have come that we might find new ways in which to faithfully represent Thee in the life of the world about us. We pray earnestly that Thou wilt deliver us from every trace of prejudice, that the fact that we are in Christ may be the transcendent and dominant fact of our life, that all petty local suspicions all misimpressions might give way
before this One whom we call Lord. Keep us open to each other and to Thee and grant that when we tremble for the Ark of God we may have eyes to know that Thou art from everlasting to everlasting and that Thy Kingdom is sure and that our security is in the risk we run as we bear Thy name. All of this we pray in the strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord whose is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen Let us stand for the hymn and then remain standing for the benediction. The hymn is #423.
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- Producing Organization
- WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
- Contributing Organization
- The Riverside Church (New York, New York)
- AAPB ID
Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
Publisher: WRVR (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Speaker: Campbell, Ernest T.
Speaker: Forman, James. 1928-2009
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Riverside Church
Identifier: cpb-aacip-fd31e7616c5 (Filename)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “WRVR Special Report on James Forman Service Interruption,” 1969-05-04, The Riverside Church , American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 30, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-528-xd0qr4q333.
- MLA: “WRVR Special Report on James Forman Service Interruption.” 1969-05-04. The Riverside Church , American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 30, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-528-xd0qr4q333>.
- APA: WRVR Special Report on James Forman Service Interruption. Boston, MA: The Riverside Church , American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-528-xd0qr4q333