Religion: The Perils of Uniting

The nation's two major Presbyterian bodies were separated last week by only six blocks—and more than a century of history. As in other denominations, Northern and Southern Presbyterians split on the slavery issue in 1861. Efforts to heal the rift brought the churches' two general assemblies to tandem meetings in Louisville last week, with a joint session for the formal unveiling of a plan for reunion. But the encounter was still as tentative as the mating dance of sand crabs.

Issues quite apart from race now divide the two denominations. The Northern church, the 2.8-million-member United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., is...

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