The Rev. M. William Howard, president of the National Council of Churches, said here that the solution to the disparity between rich and poor in the United States is redistribution of wealth.
His comments were made during a meal of fruit and nuts at the annual Governor's Prayer Breakfast sponsored by Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown.
Howard, at 32 the youngest president the ecumenical agency has ever had, said that not only are the rich getting richer, but also they are "gaining tighter and tighter control over the destiny of the poor and the increasingly hard-pressed middle class."
"If a lasting soultion is to be found," Howard said, "it seems possible only when the flow of wealth into the hands of a few can be eventually brought to a standstill, and when that wealth is one day systematically redistributed."
The two themes of the breakfast were world hunger and the United Nations-proclaimed International Year of the Child. To reflect the observances, the menu was sparse and the diners were serenaded by a 325-voice children's choir.
Howard said later he was not necessarily offering a Marxist solution. "I don't think we can apply strictly to our context any formula that presently exists," he told reporters.
He declared that greater discusions about possible soultions by ordinary citizens, in some cases stimulated by church forums, offter the best hope for change.
"Without this kind of forum, I'm afraid legislators, individuals, politicians... will be at the mercy of panicky, ill-informed electorates," he said.
Asked later about Howard's points on redistribution of wealth, Gov. Brown said, "I think government is in the business of redistribution of wealth. The only question is how much."