Fifty-eight ministers of the United Church of Christ in North Carolina issued a statement here asking their denomination to stop spending money from the general coffers for defense costs for the so-called Wilmington 10.
The ministers called instead for creation of an interdenominational fund so churches could choose to designate money for the North Carolina group.
The Wilmington 10 are nine black men and one white women convicted of burning a grocery store in Wilmington, N.C., during racial disturbances seven years ago. They received sentences ranging from 7 to 29 years. The woman, convicted as an accessory, was paroled last year after serving years in prison.
Last month, North Carolina Gov. James B. HUnt reduced the sentences of the nine men, making all but the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis eligible for parole later this year.
Chavis, on assigment by a United Church, of Christ agency when arrested, received the most severe sentence and will not be eligible for parole in two years.
The call from the 58 ministers here came after a similar statement from five UCC congregations in nearby Rockingham County. They said funds used to defend the group were given by churches for other purposes.
They said the national church already has spent several thousand dollars. UCC Southern Conference ministers James H. Lightbourne Jr., said, "According to the figures I have, the UCC has spent $425,000 in legal fees, bail costs and organization onthe case."
In New York, the Rev. Everett C. Parker, director of the UCC Office of Communication, stressed the autonomy of the United Church of Christ saying," Our churches are independent. They have a right to do as they please."