Christianity in the World Today

A crusade that may be destined to shape the pattern of American Protestantism in the latter half of the twentieth century opened in San Francisco’s Cow Palace on Sunday afternoon, April 27, before an overflow crowd of more than 18,000.

With nearly 300,000 advance reservations received a week before opening date, the Billy Graham team reported that statistically San Francisco was surpassing every other campaign, including New York. Participating churches, counsellors, buses … all are breaking records: only New Yorks total budget figure remains unchallenged.

It was not the size of opening throngs that marked off this Billy Graham crusade from previous campaigns, however. What makes San Francisco significant is the definite theological shifting and realignment that is taking place. Discussions in past weeks at student and faculty meetings in the numerous seminaries and Bible schools of the bay area, at pastoral conferences, at denominational and ecumenical gatherings and ministerial breakfasts, have moved inevitably toward the burning issue: Is the San Francisco Bay Cities Crusade authentic Christianity or is it not?

By opening day the opinion had crystallized and the lines were being drawn. The division was not the one so familiar to America of “liberal” and “evangelical.” The great central segment of Protestantism was committed to a mass evangelistic effort as never before. Twelve hundred churches had responded, 300 more than on opening day in New York, and a number of them showing a drive and zeal—not to say hospitality—that astonished the Graham team. Endorsements came in from councils of churches and denominational offices, though not from all. An attitude worthy of note was expressed by the Episcopal Diocese of California in a letter urging its clergy and churches to make their own decisions regarding crusade participation:

“We wish Dr. Graham well, feel a sincere friendship, have a sympathetic attitude toward his Gospel message, and pray God’s richest blessing upon his endeavor.… We urge the prayers of each member of our Communion for him and his forthcoming mission in San Francisco.”

The Presbytery of, San Francisco voted its official approval of the crusade. Many Methodist churches are working enthusiastically and some are conducting all-night prayer meetings with a zeal reminiscent of the days of Wesley. Lutherans also are in this crusade far more strongly than they were in New York City, according to crusade director Walter H. Smyth. American Baptists and Southern Baptists are participating almost to a man. Pentecostals, Mission Covenanters, Salvation Army and independents are working side by side. A surprise endorsement came from Oakland’s Lakeside Unity Temple. The numerous minority group churches—Negro, Spanish-speaking, Oriental, are in most cases entering vigorously into the campaign.

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No official invitation from bay area inter-church bodies was ever received by Dr. Graham, but friendly resolutions have been forthcoming from the San Francisco, Oakland and other Councils of Churches. Evangelical associations have avoided the endorsement issue, but have provided much of the effective local leadership of the crusade. Thus the executive committee has brought together such men as the Rev. George Bostrom of San Francisco Mission Covenant and the Rev. Ernest Hastings of Oakland’s Melrose Baptist Church, to work with Dr. Carl Howie of San Francisco Calvary Presbyterian and Dr. Earle Smith of the Bay Cities Baptist Union, the latter two being the co-chairmen.

Concurrently there has been a process of polarization. Denominations and local churches which have been considered on the liberal side have moved even farther left in an effort to avoid contact with Billy Graham. Unitarians, Universalists, Congregationalists, Christians (Disciples) and Friends, with some notable exceptions, are staying away from the Cow Palace. Within the “old line” denominations there is some strong opposition as pastors decry the techniques of mass evangelism in Templetonian fashion.

Similarly those churches which have been considered on the far right have in some cases moved even farther right. Dr. G. Archer Weniger of Foothill Boulevard Baptist Church (Oakland) has provided vigorous leadership for the opposition among the Conservative Baptists. His charges against the crusade have been directed mainly at (1) “extravagance,” (2) “cooperation with modernists” and (3) so-called “referrals to Roman Catholic churches” (consistently denied at Graham headquarters). He has been joined by other fundamentalist groups across the country who have been increasingly disturbed by Dr. Graham’s policy of cooperative evangelism.

No statement has been issued from the Roman Catholic diocesan office, and it is presumed that the Roman church has chosen to ignore the crusade.

Will this be simply a jumbo-sized series of “church meetings?” With San Francisco reporting a Protestant population of only five per cent, this hardly seems likely. On the other hand, it is expected that large numbers of church folk will be experiencing renewal. Says committeeman Hastings, “If Billy Graham chooses to evangelize our church members, it may just prove that he is more perspicacious than we are.”

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San Francisco’s gay front, as is well known, conceals a host of serious moral problems. Along Market Street as the crusade opened could be found wide diversity of recreation: the casual who looked upon it as a vast joke, the indifferent, the civic-minded who saw it as an “influence for good,” the fugitive from God who looked upon it as something to be avoided like his conscience, the curious and the spectacle-conscious, the alcoholic who paused between bars to express a wild hope, and the man whose lips were moving in prayer for Graham.

Will the crusade bring real revival? Hard-working pastors, cranking out handbills and arranging bus rides, gathered to pray at their weekly meetings and admitted that the divine fire had not yet fallen; something was missing. Mass evangelism is new to the bay area, and many pastors and people who are willing enough simply don’t know what to do, and are leaning heavily on the team. There are others, however, who are reporting conviction and tears at their cottage prayer meetings, and are calling for more prayer.

Perhaps a typical pastoral attitude was expressed by the Rev. Hugh David Burcham, of the First Presbyterian Church, Oakland: “I have been concerned with the staid aspect of my congregation. I hope this Crusade will bring a new warmth to my people. Even if we get no new additions—and I am confidently expecting that we will—it would be worth our participating if only some of our members can get recharged by the Spirit.”

Covering the crusade for CHRISTIANITY TODAY is Dr. Sherwood E. Wirt, Presbyterian minister and former newspaper correspondent. Dr. Wirt, editor of a book titled Spiritual Awakening, holds a Ph. D. from the University of Edinburgh.

Crusade Results

An estimated 18,000 persons crowded into San Francisco’s Cow Palace for the opening of the Billy Graham crusade, Sunday, April 27.

Another 5,000 persons were turned away at the doors. For these Graham delivered a special open-air message.

Traffic tieups were reported as far as six miles from the auditorium.

The following morning, the evangelist addressed a gathering of 700 bay area ministers.

By Tuesday night, the aggregate attendance figure pushed over the 50,000-mark.

More than a thousand decisions for Christ were counted in the first three days of the crusade.

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Policy Shifts

Harvard University gave added recognition to non-Protestants in two distinct departures from tradition last month.

First, the Harvard Divinity School announced the establishment of a professorship in Roman Catholic studies. Subsequently, the university’s Memorial Church was opened for use by other than Christians.

Christopher Dawson, British Catholic historian and author, was named to be the first guest professor of Roman Catholic theological studies in the Divinity School’s 139-year history. The new chair was made possible through a gift from Chauncey Stillman, a 1929 graduate of Harvard. Its purpose is to attract to the school scholars and students who can contribute a wider understanding of the Roman Catholic church.

The university agreed to permit use of the church “on certain occasions” for private ceremonies by non-Christian clergy.

The decision ended a controversy which started when a graduate student charged that marriage of a Jewish couple in the edifice had been refused. At that time, a university spokesman said that the marriage had been performed in the church by a Protestant minister with a rabbi present.

The church was dedicated in 1932 as a memorial to Harvard’s World War I dead. Since then it was the policy to have a Protestant clergyman present for marriages or funerals of non-Christians in the church.

Following the student’s protest, The Harvard Crimson, undergraduate daily, fed the controversy with stories, editorials and letters dealing with the subject.

The student newspaper pointed out that the church was built with funds solicited from persons of all faiths and should be used also for services other than Christian.

The final step came when a group of Harvard faculty members entered the dispute with a petition to Dr. Nathan M. Pusey, Harvard president.

Although the text of the petition was never released, a spokesman for the group said it contained a request for a “tempered revision” of the standing tradition.

The resulting decision statement explained that in view of the “complex society of contemporary Harvard,” private services may be conducted in the edifice by an official of an individual’s own religion providing he is willing to do so notwithstanding the church’s essentially Christian character.

People: Words And Events

Deaths: Dr. J. Howard Williams, 63, president of Southwestern Baptist Seminary, in Fort Worth … Dr. John Taylor Tucker, 74, Protestant missionary leader, in Lisbon … Dr. Nyles Huffman, director of Air Mail from God Mission, in a Mexican plane crash … Dr. Peter MacFarlane, 73, rescue mission leader, in St. Paul.

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Elections: As president of Religious Newswriters Association, Richard Wager, religion editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer; as vice presidents, Miami Herald’s Adon C. Taft, Chicago Tribune’s Richard Philbrick, Minneapolis Star’s Willmar L. Thorkelson; as secretary, Erik Modean of the National Lutheran Council; as treasurer, Dolores McCahill of the Chicago Sun-Times … The Rev. Morton W. Dorsey as president of the National Holiness Association.

Appointments: Lillian R. Block as managing editor of Religious News Service … Lorin Whitney as organist for the Billy Graham evangelistic team … Dr. J. Glenn Gould as professor of religion at Eastern Nazarene College.

Awards: To Roy B. Covington Jr., religion editor of the Charlotte, North Carolina, Observer, for “excellence in religious news reporting in the secular press,” the Religious Newswriters Association’s James O. Supple Memorial Award … To United Press, the Detroit Free Press, and the Medford, Oregon, Mail Tribune, the National Religious Publicity Council’s “Awards of Merits” for distinguished coverage of local, national and international religious activities.

Statistics: There are nearly 71,000,000 Lutherans in the world, representing 32 per cent of Protestantism, according to the Lutheran World Federation. Lutherans in Europe total 59,000,000; in the United States, 8,400,000.

Rally: To commemorate completion of 18 years of broadcasting, planned for Madison Square Garden June 7 by Jack Wyrtzen, director of “Word of Life.”

Congress: Planned for Madras, by Youth for Christ, Jan. 4–10, 1959.

Groundbreaking: For a $600,000 Presbyterian ecumenical training center at Stony Point, Long Island, held April 19.

Resignation: Dr. William McCarrell, after 45 years as pastor of the Cicero, Illinois, Bible Church.

Jubilee: Dr. Oswald J. Smith celebrates 50 years in the ministry May 18. He has been pastor of Toronto’s Peoples Church for 30 years.

Ecumenism: A Review

“Where have we come?”

The question was addressed to a panel of four ecumenical leaders at the tenth anniversary meeting of the United States Conference for the World Council of Churches.

A long way? Perhaps so, according to Methodist panelist Charles C. Parlin, lay member of the WCC’s Central Committee and chairman of public relations at the council’s 1954 world assembly.

The other members of the panel were Dr. Franklin Carl Fry, Dr. Henry Smith Leiper, and Mrs. Leslie E. Sivain.

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“People no longer feel confined to their denomination,” said Parlin. “They have come to feel that through their denomination they are a part of the great ecumenical movement involving all the great Christian communities.”

On the other hand, the three-day meeting at Buck Hill Falls, Pennsylvania, later heard a plea for conversations on Christian unity “at the much advertised and much neglected level of the grass roots.”

The plea was made by Washington Episcopal Bishop Angus Dun, who was not on the earlier panel.

He suggested that laymen should share experiences of top ecclesiastical leaders in interdenominational understanding.

The bishop was chairman of the North American Conference on “The Nature of the Unity We Seek” last year.

As a preliminary step, he asked denominations to work together “to bring small laymen groups” into local conversation with other denominational groups.

Halt Obscenity!

The Military Chaplains Association asked for a halt to the sale of “morally offensive” literature at military bases.

In a resolution passed at the chaplains 33rd annual meeting in New York, they said such literature is “a serious menace to the minds and souls of our military personnel” and urged support of a joint program of armed force chiefs of chaplains to eliminate it.

The “military ministers” from all three major faiths heard addresses by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Republican Representative Walter H. Judd of Minnesota, atomic energy chief Admiral Lewis L. Strauss, and RCA chairman David Sarnoff. Dr. Edward L. R. Elson, minister of National Presbyterian Church and an Army reserve chaplain, also was on the speakers’ platform, along with Francis Cardinal Spellman, Catholic archbishop of New York.

(Colonel) Elson was re-elected president of the association. Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) William Golder was reelected executive secretary and treasurer.

Chain Of Prayer

Some 262 Disciples of Christ churches completed a chain of prayer which began on New Year’s Day.

Most of the congregations throughout the United States, Canada, and Hawaii held prayer services consecutively for 24 hours until Easter.

The final service was held in the chapel of the Disciples Missions Building in Indianapolis when prayers were offered for the activities and personnel of the denomination’s work around the world.

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