Should the churches take a direct interests in the politics of liberation by giving money to radical groups? The question is sparking a lively debate following the withdrawal of the Salvation Army from the World Council of Churches (WCC) for helping black nationalists in Africa, and a $:500 donation by the British Council of Churches (BCC) to a black citizens rights group in the racially tense city of Liverpool.
The Salvation Army's move was in protest against the use of a WCC "special fund" to pay $:43,000 to guerrilla groups based in Mozambique, Botswana, and Zambia. The money was intended for social relief and education, but Gen. Arnold Brown of the Salvation Army described the grant as political.
The WCC was too often motivated by politics rather than the gospel, the general said, and most of the Salvation Army's international leaders were against paying money to guerrillas.
The argument whipped up in Liverpool by a grant of $:500 to a group called the Liverpool Eight Defense Committee is, if anything, more intense. The group operates in a part of the city hard hit by race rioting earlier in the summer, and it helped to stage a march protesting against handling of the disturbances.
The leader of Liverpool's city council and representatives of police units in the area accused the BCC of financing "urban terrorism." But Liverpool church leaders reminded the critics that the gospel enjoined Christians to help the poor and disadvantaged.
The money, they said, was for use by black and other residents in helping people involved in court proceedings in the wake of the riots.
Underlying the argument is profound disagreement on what the churches stance on racial issues should be. The director of the BCC fund said financial grants in Liverpool were intended as an expression of Christian love.
But that is not the view of those who attack the grant, and it is certainly not the attitude of the Salvation Army over supplying money to guerrilla movements in africa.