People usually write growling letters to the editor about policemen.

Conrad S. Jensen, captain of one of New York’s roughest police precincts, the 23rd, switched the procedure. He wrote one to the editor of Life magazine on the unlikely subject of Billy Graham and his critics.

It was in relation to the views in Life of a theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, and a practicing pastor, Dr. John Sutherland Bonnell, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Since the letter isn’t likely to see the light of print, unless it appears here, portions of it are quoted, as follows:

“I am aware that my scholastic background, as compared to Mr. Niebuhr and Mr. Bonnell, leaves me only a rung or two off the ground … because I am a policeman I encounter the danger of being put into the category of a ‘dumb cop.’ Notwithstanding, I have no ulterior motives and God knows my heart.

“Nineteen hundred years ago a centurion (a police captain like myself, if you will allow this parallel) stood by the foot of the cross of Christ and made this statement: ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’

“He had just witnessed the crime of all crimes. No doubt he was reluctant to carry out the order to crucify ‘this just person.’ Whether or not the centurion had time to reflect on the worth of this sacrifice and recognized it as a ‘bargain,’ as Mr. Niebuhr puts it in his closing statement, I don’t know … Perhaps the centurion saw the peace of God in the face of the penitent thief and then looked at the other malefactor who refused a ‘bargain.’ However, both men came to a decision without the benefit of ‘Christian historical scholarship.’

“It has been my experience to witness the ‘gospel’ of some of those taught by Mr. Niebuhr. The message is mostly ‘birth control’ and ‘rent control …’

“When Mr. Niebuhr calls the gospel preached by Billy Graham a bargain, he must realize there will come a time when he will have to justify this remark. Jesus also had his critics—his greatest being the intellectual, religious, self-righteous pharisee, who, no doubt, had a lot of ‘historical scholarship.’

“Throughout Mr. Niebuhr’s views, he refers to the fact that Billy Graham’s approach is ‘too simple,’ ‘less complicated,’ ‘over-simplified’ and ‘uncomplex.’

“If America ever needed something simple and uncomplex, it is now … The vitals of America are being chewed out by plain ordinary sin and lawlessness.

Article continues below

“It is easy to understand how Mr. Niebuhr has difficulty with the simplicity of Christ. Nicodemus, a religious ruler of his time, asked Jesus, ‘How can these things be?’ He tripped over his historical scholarship and fell flat on his face when Jesus said, in simple words, ‘Ye must be born again.’

“God establishes his Word by picturing for us the attitude of some people when they hear the gospel. ‘For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.’ When Mr. Niebuhr puts the gospel of Christ, faithfully proclaimed by Billy Graham, into the basement with other bargains, close-outs and items reduced for clearance, I believe he verifies the verse above.

“Apparently, man will ever labor to put God into a pattern that fits his miserable, finite, inadequate intellect.

“I thank God that Jesus was not ‘marked down’ for my benefit, but was ‘sent down’ to pay the price of my sinfulness. Also, I thank God that I am just foolish enough to believe that salvation comes by faith in the sinless Son of God. As long as Billy Graham preaches the ‘unsearchable riches of Christ’ I shall pray for him and those that labor with him.”

Lots of folks probably will disagree with Captain Jensen. They can tell him so most any day at the 23rd precinct headquarters. It will be easy to spot him. He is the big, tough-looking fellow in charge.

Romance Over

Meeting in Oberlin, Ohio, on the threshold of the World Council’s Faith and Order Conference, an estimated 40 professors of ecumenical theology grappled with the problem of vitalizing ecumenical Christianity on the level of the local church and laity.

“We are in a post-Evanston period,” lamented one spokesman. “The romance of the ecumenical impact is now over.”

The dilemma facing the theologians, chosen from 120 teachers of ecumenical theology (there are none in Canadian seminaries as yet), was confessedly that of making “abstract institutionalism” intelligible to the laity. No effective transition from “ecumenics in general” to “ecumenics in particular” has been achieved; ecumenical concerns seem remote from the normal church program.

Ministerial enthusiasm is lacking also. Ecumenical journals have attracted unimpressive subscription lists. While many of the 945 Councils of Churches in the United States breed ecumenical enthusiasm, a large number of member ministers and congregations remain unenthusiastic. Ecumenical institutes this year met failure as often as success.

Article continues below

Dr. W. A. Visser ’t Hooft of Geneva, WCC General Secretary, expressed fear, however, that the ecumenical movement may be growing too fast. He noted that the term was not introduced in the U. S. until 1937. He warned that its result might be “the opposite of what we want” unless there is “a deep change in the content of preaching, an orientation to the authority of the Bible and to Christocentric teaching (as Karl Barth would tell us) as the climate in which ecumenical education becomes meaningful.

President John A. Mackay of Princeton Seminary declared: “Despite my commitment to the ecumenical movement, I say it is becoming too impersonal through its concern for group relations and is apt to lose sight of the individual.” He urged “a mission in which people can work together, such as evangelism, that grips the soul-hunger of the people.”

One professor noted that “ecumenical conversion” from an “unconverted ecclesiology” is no easy achievement. Another lamented that although half the seminaries give some scope to ecumenical theology, the remaining half have no particular theological interest.”

Presided over by Dr. Charles L. Taylor, executive director of the American Association of Theological Schools, the theologians outlined plans to ecumenize both the church community and theological curriculum. Seminarians will be discouraged from a final theology before study of a wide range of theologians and ecumenical attitudes. The inner seminary movement is expected to yield a theological preparation for ecumenical leadership.

Ecumenical institutions henceforth will utilize existing schools instead of creating new study situations. More denominational programs of ecumenical study will be sought.

Evangelical observers noted the dominating assumption that ecumenical concern is validly expressed only through participation in the WCC inclusive effort; evangelical interdenominational movements were unmentioned as a valid ecumenical expression. While an occasional voice was lifted for the primacy of Christ and the Bible, there was no emphasis that ecumenicity is genuine only when it is evangelical and evangelistic.

Article continues below
The Day It Began

Evangelical churches of America are being urged by the Spiritual Life Commission of the National Association of Evangelicals to plan special prayer observances on September 23, the centennial anniversary date of the beginning of the great spiritual awakening of 1857.

September 23 was the day the famous Fulton Street noonday prayer meeting began in New York City. Soon prayer meetings had sprung up throughout the country, bringing one of the most powerful revivals of the nation’s history. Within two years, 500,000 people were converted to Christ.

“Revival for America” has been suggested as the general prayer theme. The commission is under the direction of the Rev. Armin Gesswein of Pasadena, Calif.

Evangelical churches also will be asked to observe October 20–27 as “NAE Week.” The theme will be “The Strength of Spiritual Unity,” with emphases on the many services provided evangelicals for the last 15 years by the NAE.

Worth Quoting

“Strength and effective Christian witness do not come from organic union.… Too close organic union, especially under compulsion, may well defeat the good relations and effective cooperation necessary to achieve the common goal.”—Congressman Walter H. Judd, Minnesota.

“Berlin is like an island completely surrounded by the communists. The only answer for these people is to look up.”—Darlene Janzen, Youth for Christ.

“God is using Billy Graham to shake towns, cities and whole countries out of their indifference. Wherever he goes, he preaches Christ! God has changed thousands of lives through this man. He has also changed mine … May I ask a pertinent question? What is your job during this time of awakening? Are you supposed to stand by with your hands in your pockets and complain because Billy Graham has not done all the work single-handed? The situation would be comical if it were not so extremely tragic.”—John Bolten, director of General Tire Co.


Plans for marking the 400th anniversary of the founding of Calvin’s Academy in Geneva and the 400th anniversary of the first synod of the Reformed Church are being made by the executive committee of the World Presbyterian Alliance.

Dr. Ralph Waldo Lloyd, president of Maryville College (Tenn.), who is the alliance’s North American secretary, announced the plans. The Calvin Academy anniversary, he said, would be observed during the first week of June, 1959 and the anniversary of the Reformed Church’s first synod in May of that year.

Article continues below

Dr. Lloyd said the committee was issuing a call to all churches affiliated with the alliance to observe Sunday, May 31, 1959, as a day of special remembrance for the Reformed faith.

The preceding day, May 30, he said, will mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin at Noyon, France. An International Day will be observed under the auspices of the Reformed Church of France in Noyon on that day.

Racial Freedoms

Rep. Brooks Hays, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, urged that ministers “be freed from economic, political and social pressures” in dealing with the race issue.

The Arkansas Democrat spoke to 2500 Baptist laymen and women in Atlanta, Ga. He outlined a three-point program that he feels could help churchmen in facing racial problems:

  • The sentiment of the churches, even those completely dedicated to segregation, must be pointed towards a nonviolent settlement.
  • The rights of ministers to raise their voice on all current issues must be protected.
  • Efforts must be made to seek justice for all people in all specific situations growing out of racial tensions.
Twin Sessions

The 12th annual National Sunday School convention of the National Sunday School Association will be held October 9–11 in Los Angeles and October 30-November 1 in Grand Rapids.

Each city is expected to register an estimated 5,000 people for the assemblies. There will be 134 different sessions in the two places.

The eight major sessions in each city will feature Dr. Edward Simpson, president of NSSA; Dr. Bob Cook; the Rev. Burt Webb, vice president of NSGA; Dr. W. A. Criswell of Dallas, Texas; the Rev. Norman Townsend of Providence, R. I.; Dr. Henrietta C. Mears of Los Angeles and the Rev. Arthur Gaglardi of Kamloops, B. C.

Youths Unite

Seven hundred delegates from Young Calvinist Societies of the Christian Reformed Churches of the United States and Canada met for their first combined convention in Chicago recently.

The convention completed the merger of the Federation of Young Women’s Societies and the Federation of Young Men’s Societies which until this year had been separate organizations holding separate conventions.

The newly organized group, called The Young Calvinist Federation of North America, includes 432 societies, according to its director, Richard Postma.

New Science Film

Moody Institute of Science has announced four premiere showings of “Red River of Life,” a movie more than four years in the making and reportedly the first attempt to depict on film the spiritual significance of the blood.

Article continues below

The premieres will be the first week of October in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia.


Appeal In Ghana

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has called on the Christian Council of Ghana “to support the Government in all moves they may make to preserve the independence of the judiciary.”

The Prime Minister was replying to an appeal sent to him by the Christian Council asking him to withdraw the special Deportation Bill under which two Moslem leaders were recently deported from Ghana. The bill violated the principle of justice, “whereby every citizen possesses the right to defend himself against any charge preferred against him,” the council claimed.

In his reply, addressed to Dr. Richard Roseveare, Anglican Bishop of Accra, Dr. Nkrumah explained that the special bill, which gives power to deport “without appeal to or review in any court,” was needed to protect the judiciary from attack. “The reason why the bill was necessary was, first, that those supporting the case of the two men were engaged in a systematic campaign to provoke with the object of coercing the government and bringing pressure to bear on the court,” he added.

Christian leaders have been concerned since the two Moslems and a leading nationalist editor were deported because of criticism of the government. They see in it a dangerous precedent that would be used as a weapon against missionary activity in the future.


Journal Folds

New Nation, monthly journal supported by missions in Ghana (Gold Coast), will go into voluntary liquidation this month, Director David C. B. Smithers announced.

London journalist Smithers left his job on Reuter’s Africa desk two years ago to start New Nation in an effort to encourage indigenous Christian writing. The Christian Council of Ghana officially backed the publication, but chief support came from the Methodists.

With a staff of three missionaries and three Africans, the 20-page paper reached a monthly circulation of 17,000, selling at 6d. Because of lack of adequate commercial printing facilities in Ghana, editorial copy was sent to England to be printed. Rising costs, dropping sales, (down to 7,000) and lack of financial support forced Editor Smithers and his colleagues to decide to stop publication.

New Nation has turned its unexpired subscriptions over to the Sudan Interior Mission’s African Challenge, which has a current monthly sales of 28,000 within Ghana (160,000 throughout Africa.)

Article continues below
Training Center

Plans to set up an industrial training center for young Africans were announced in Nairobi, Kenya, by the Church Missionary Society. The proposed project was hailed by Kenya civic and government leaders as a “true example of practical Christianity.”

The center is intended to train youths who complete school at 13 but must wait until they are 16 before they can work. Such boys often join street corner groups of “loafers” and drift into undesirable company, Anglican officials said. They said the training center will seek to meet this problem.

Far East

Riot In India

A mob of 5,000 Hindus burned down a four-story American Protestant missions community center in Raipur, India, after its superintendent, an Indian clergyman, protested against the use of a Hindu idol during a meeting in the center’s hall.

Eyewitnesses said the mob sought to kill the superintendent, the Rev.Gurbachan Singh, who went into hiding. Missionaries and many Indian Christians also fled this central Indian rail junction and district seat.

Police fired on the demonstrators in an effort to restore order, killing a 14-year-old Hindu youth. They later arrested nearly 50 persons for arson, attempted murder or looting.

Damage to the center was estimated at $200,000. It was operated by the Evangelical and Reformed Mission Board in Philadelphia working through the United Church of Northern India. The building included about 50 hostel rooms, a dining room, auditorium, clubrooms, library and bookshop.

The center’s auditorium had been rented by a committee of Hindus for a program commemorating the centenary of the first Indian uprising against British colonial rule. When an idol was set up on the stage for a dramatic number Mr. Singh objected. He said organizers of the program had not informed him that such a dramatic performance would be staged.

Hindu elements resented the clergyman’s stand. This resentment was fanned by inflammatory articles in the local paper and the activities of what a Madhya Pradesh government communique called “anti-social trouble-seeking elements.”

The stone-throwing, shouting demonstrators, including many students, marched on the building and thwarted the efforts of 170 policemen and scores of firemen to protect the mission property.

Demonstrators stoned Mr. Singh’s house and burned effigies of him.

Article continues below

The demonstrations spread to other areas. At Jabalpur, 70 miles away, students abandoned classes and 5,000 of them held a rally at which they condemned American missionary activities.

They also demanded that the Madhya Pradesh government implement a report by a state committee in July, 1956, recommending that all foreign missionaries engaged primarily in proselytizing be withdrawn from the country. The government has not yet acted upon the report which was denounced by Christian leaders.

Protest In India

Meetings are being held by Christians of South India against the Education Bill sponsored by the communist government of Kerala State.

The proposed law would put all schools in the state under government control.

Protest rallies were launched after 26 archbishops and bishops of various Christian communions issued a joint statement condemning the measure. Signers included prelates of the Roman Catholic, Mar Thoma and Jacobite churches, the Church of South India and the Church Mission Society.

They charged that the bill is “clearly aimed at the liquidation of private agencies” and seeks to “regiment the educational system on a communistic pattern.”

The China Visit

It is obvious from a number of sources that some of the Japanese Christians who recently visited China saw only that which it was planned they should see.

As a result, they came away with glowing reports of the church in China, reports often at considerable variance with authentic stories coming out of China from uninspired sources.

Commenting on this trip, the Asahi Evening News, Japan’s largest newspaper, carried the following:

“A Japanese Christian church leader has urged that Japan oust foreign missionaries to gain the same kind of freedom of religion now prevailing in Communist China.

“Kaneyo Oda, a Free Methodist who returned from a recent visit to Red China as a member of a 15-man Christian mission, made his statement during a ‘welcome home’ rally … at the Tokyo YMCA.

“Mr. Oda, who was a pastor in Peking 12 years ago, said before he made the trip to Communist China, ‘I received many letters and warnings from missionaries and others telling me not to go … for they said I would become brainwashed, Communist and pink: but I had to go in spite of their protests.’

“He said he found no more robbers or prostitutes; no tipping was demanded and no more discounts were asked.

“Mr. Oda added that the Red Chinese offer people freedom of faith.

Article continues below

“Mr. Oda added that if it had not been for the concerted efforts of the Chinese Christian church, the nation would not have been able to win its independence from foreign missionaries.”

Evangelical observers wonder if Mr. Oda understands the “kind of freedom of religion now prevailing in Communist China.” Freedom bought at the price of collaboration with an anti-Christian regime is a high price for “religious liberty.” China is not the only place where a communist government has endeavored to make the church an agent for its own ends.

People: Words And Events

Defends ‘Do-Gooders’—Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, president of the National Council of Churches, calls upon Christian “do-gooders” to be unconcerned with derisive cynical criticism. He said: “Too often for complacency the sober man is called a killjoy, the moral man a prude, the honest man a Milquetoast, and the idealist a simpleton. A wastrel is now often called a good fellow. A loose woman is ‘emancipated.’ A cheat is ‘clever’ and ‘smart.’ ”

Christian AthletesClarence (Biggie) Munn, athletic director at Michigan State University, elected president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Succeeds Dr. Louis H. Evans, minister-at-large for the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Others elected: Don McClannan, executive secretary; O. C. Glenn, treasurer; directors, Branch Rickey, George Kell, G. Herbert McCracken and Tad Wieman.

Modernistic Chapel—The House of Representatives has approved a $3,000,000 appropriation for construction of an ultra-modern chapel at the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs. Previously the lawmakers voted tentatively to withhold funds after critics had called it a “monstrosity” and “garish monument.” One legislator said the 19-spired design looked like “a rectangular accordion stretched out on the floor.”

Children’s Mite—The Southern Baptist Convention received a $2 check recently for use in the Cooperative Program. The money came from children who attended a Vacation Bible School in Korea. They wanted to help other people.

Clergy Fares—Northeast Airlines, effective September 15, will grant a 50 per cent discount on passenger fares to clergymen traveling in the U. S. Other companies now offering lower rates to clergymen include Central Airlines of Washington, Bonanza Air Lines of Las Vegas, Nev., and Cordova Air Lines of Anchorage, Alaska.

Article continues below

Another View—Citing incidents in which at least 23 airliners in the last two years were seriously endangered by drunken passengers, pilots and stewardesses asked a Congressional ban on liquor service aboard aircraft.

They described instances of drunken passengers forcing their way into the cockpit, creating disturbances in the cabins and creating fire hazards in flight.

Spiritual ValuesSir Edward Appleton, Nobel prize-winning scientist and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, urges fellow scientists not to forget “the sustaining values of the spirit” in research. He said: “At the opposite pole from our scientific endeavor there are many ways of thought which don’t change, whose concern is with what is not now, with things not to be superseded.”

Christian StatesmanDr. Austin Crouch, executive secretary emeritus of the Southern Baptist Convention executive committee, was hit and killed by a car in Nashville August 28 as he crossed a busy thoroughfare about a half block from his home. On the day before his death Dr. Crouch had returned from a visit to McKinney, Texas, where he was ordained to the Baptist Ministry 64 years ago.

Upper Room Award—Warner Sallman, Chicago artist who is internationally known for his paintings of religious subjects, will be presented the 1957 Upper Room Award for World Christian Fellowship at a dinner in the National Press Club, Washington, D. C., on October 3. Millions of copies of Sallman’s “Head of Christ” have been purchased by people of many countries. Toastmaster at the award dinner will be Maj. Gen. Charles I. Carpenter, chief of the Air Force Chaplains.

Digest—Christian Life Commission of Southern Baptist Convention elects A. J. Moncrief, pastor of First Baptist Church, St. Joseph, Mo., as its new chairman. Succeeds Rep. Brooks Hays (D.-Ark.) who was serving second term as chairman when elected president of Southern Baptist Convention … Dr. Frank Woods, Bishop of Middleton, England and chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II, elected Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne. Succeeds Archbishop Joseph John Booth, who retired last year.… Gordon W. Ward Jr., 21, student at Philadelphia Theological Seminary, elected president of the Lutheran Student Association of America.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.