Caught in the Middle: Navigating the Clergy-Laity Gap During the Vietnam War

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Executives within many mainline denominations, such as the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, were frustrated by their inability to inspire widespread debate and action at the congregational level about the Vietnam War Using the UPCUSA as a case study, this article argues that parish clergy functioned as the primary bottlenecks between the denominations and the congregations, constricting the flow of information largely because of their uncomfortable, precarious, middle position between liberal leadership and more conservative laity. By ming clergy journals and citing pastors in their own words, this essay illustrates the ambivalence local ministers felt toward both laity and church executives, as well as their concerns and confusion, as they struggled to navigate the clergy-laity divide during a highly polarized time.

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