Friday, June 13, 2008

Kurtis Naylor

Our thanks to Frank Ramirez for sharing the following account as his Tercentennial Minutes for June 15.

In 1959 Kurtis Friend Naylor was called to be the director of the Brethren Service Commission in Europe and also to be a representative to the World Council of Churches. He had already succeeded in establishing a relationship with Christians in the Soviet Union. In 1961 he was present at the All-Christian Peace Assembly in Prague, and worked to reach out to another enemy of the United States. At midnight before the assembly opened he was visited by Bishop K.J. Ting of China who was cordial but delivered a stinging attack on the U.S. At 2:30 in the morning another visitor gave him a copy of the speech Ting would deliver the next day in the assembly, which was even more fierce than their conversation. Naylor would speak after Ting.

Times being what they were, with the Cold War in full swing, Naylor knew that Ting would have to deliver the official position of the Communist Chinese government. Ting himself had said to him privately in their midnight meeting, "We're political people - you and me." showing he assumed that Naylor would be delivering the official position of his government as well. Only one of them was right.

The speech by the Chinese representative was given on June 13, 1961. A report later noted that the assembly was "thunderstruck" at Ting's address which labeled the United States as the leading obstacle to peace in the world. Naylor then rose. In the midst of a "ghastly dead silence" he commended Ting for quoting Matthew 18, a favorite of the Brethren, and assuring him that everyone would listen carefully to his address and where they were wrong they would ask for forgiveness. But he also listed several ways that both the churches of the United States, as well as the government, had worked for peace. He ended by commending the Bishop from Russia for quoting from Ephesians 2:14 (For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.).

Naylor finished to sustained and thunderous applause.

No one else but Naylor saw Bishop Ting wink as the two shook hands.