Here is a roundup of significant religious developments during 1959, compiled through the combined efforts of editors of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, its correspondents around the world, and news agencies which serve the magazine:
EVANGELISM: Billy Graham’s popularity continued to rise. His crusade in Australia and New Zealand won unparalleled response … An outdoor rally in Munich climaxed the ninth Kirchentag by drawing 400,000 persons.
THEOLOGY: The 171st General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. confirmed appointment of Dr. Theodore A. Gill as president of San Francisco Theological Seminary despite his denial of the Virgin Birth … A United Church of Canada committee published a doctrinal study disavowing hell and Christ’s second coming … The Southern Baptist seminary at Louisville, fearful of losing accreditation in the firing of 13 professors, asked for resignations instead, an action which apparently mollified the accrediting agency (see page 33) … Scholars asserted that Gnostic influences pervade the so-called “Gospel of Thomas,” post-war archaeological recovery.
MORALITY: Signs of U. S. moral bankruptcy were evident in continuing disclosures of payola and fixed quiz shows … The Senate Rackets Committee held 63 days of hearings. The corruption they have turned up prompted passage of a new federal law aimed at labor union irregularities … Preliminary crime figures for 1959 showed increases in the incidence of murder and rape.
ECUMENICITY: Pope John XXIII said he would summon an Ecumenical Council (latest target date: late 1962 or early 1963) … Preliminary talks between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians were shelved indefinitely … Plans were announced for a Pan-Orthodox meeting, first since 1921, next July … Among U. S. church union drives which gained momentum were two within Lutheranism, another between Unitarians and Universalists, and still another which joins Congregational Christian and Evangelical and Reformed churches … The Interchurch Center in New York, a 19-story office building was opened for occupancy.
MISSIONS: The Missionary Research Library released figures showing a total of 25,058 U. S. and Canadian missionaries abroad, 10,000 more than in 1950. Two in three were women … Mrs. Elisabeth Elliot, wife of one of five missionaries slain by Ecuadorian savages in 1956, spent much of the year making friendly contacts with the very tribe which killed her husband. Several other missionaries lent aid in a joint effort to present the Gospel … The Presbyterian Church in Korea, once one of the most productive of foreign missions enterprises, suffered its third schism in eight years.
COMMUNISM: While Nikita Khrushchev was making pious pronouncements in America, the Soviet government was making new attacks on religion. Latest tool is a new magazine which cites scientific data in an attempt to discredit faith … Communists in East Germany promoted their own state rituals to replace Christian baptism and confirmation … Red brutalities in Tibet were climaxed with the flight of the god-king Dalai Lama into India.
CHARITY: As a wave of natural disasters brought suffering to millions, more fortunate Christians responded with clothes, food and relief monies … United charity drives stirred controversy in American cities and some observers wondered whether almsgiving ought not be brought back under the canopy of churches.
PUBLISHING: New translations of the Bible in modern English sold briskly. Nearly a half million of Zondervan’s Amplified New Testament have been printed.
ANNIVERSARIES: John Calvin (450th of his birth and 400th of the university he founded and of the publication of his Institutes) … Organization of U. S. Methodism (175th) … Japanese Protestantism (100th) … Wheaton College (100th) … Evangelical Free Church (75th) … Wycliffe Bible Translators (25th).
CHURCH-STATE: President Eisenhower became the second U. S. chief executive to visit a pope … Federal funds became available to American seminaries via the National Defense Education Act.
Aid for Missionaries
Dr. Albert Holt, chief surgeon of an Evangelical Alliance Mission hospital in India, was turning away patients, not for lack of beds or medicine, but because there was not enough water on the compound. The solution lay in the installation of the right kind of a pump, but what does a medical missionary know about plumbing?
Holt’s problem eventually landed in the lap of a fledgling organization created to lend a hand in such technical crises which confront missionaries.
Only a week before receiving this request for help, the Development and Technical Assistance office in Palo Alto, California, heard that the production manager of a local pump company was willing to file his specialty with DATA’s 75-member “Technical Fellowship,” which includes engineers and scientists who stand ready to help missionaries.
An outline of Holt’s needs was forwarded to the pump company, where selection of the right type was made and installation and operating instructions forwarded. It turned out, moreover, that the company had outlets in India which enabled Holt to pick up his pump in a nearby city with the added assurance that parts would be available there, too.
Since its incorporation a year ago, Data and Technical Assistance has completed more than 150 such transactions with missionaries and mission boards across the globe. A doctor in Colombia wanted to know how to grow drug-producing plants. A missionary in Africa asked about transistor radios. Another in Honduras sought a formula for turning limestone into lime.
DATA got its start when Wil Rose of Moody Institute of Science made a survey tour of 30 missions stations in 18 countries. He found only four missionaries who knew where to get technical help. Others deluged him with questions, only a few of which he could answer. But he knew people back in the States who could!
Establishment of DATA was the outcome, an organization to channel missionaries’ technical questions to U. S. specialists who know the answers.
DATA is one of several U. S. agencies offering such services (another: Technical Assistance to Missions in Tennessee). Their efforts represent attempts to apply great scientific advances of our day to more effective Christian witness. Rose describes DATA as “evangelical in conviction” and invites home and foreign missionaries to make use of its service.
An organization representative of Conservative Judaism in 22 countries was formally established during a biennial convention of the United Synagogue of America last month.
The World Council of Synagogues bring together for the first time Conservative Jews in America and elsewhere.
A World Union of Progressive Judaism, was organized by the Reform Jewish movement several years ago. There is no comparable body among Orthodox Jews.
The United Synagogue is a federation of Conservative congregations representing some 1,000,000 members in North America. Conservatism is a middle-of-the-road branch of Judaism between Orthodoxy and Reform which represent another 2,000,000 Jews.
The 45th General Assembly of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which drew some 3,000 delegates to Miami Beach, Florida, last month, was the largest convention in the history of American Jewry.
People: Words And Events
Deaths: Methodist Bishop Titus Lowe, 81, in Indianapolis … Dr. Andrew R. Bird, 79, minister of the Church of the Pilgrims (“gift of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. to the nation’s capital”), in Washington, D. C. … Dr. Charles E. Perry, 51, an American who taught oriental history at St. Paul’s (Anglican) University in Tokyo (following a beating by two drunken students) … Dr. David R. Gordon, 92, retired United Presbyterian missionary to India and Pakistan, in Duarte, California.
Retirement: As executive secretary of the Southern Baptists’ Christian Life Commission, A. C. Miller.
Appointments: As dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, Dr. John V. Butler … as chairman of the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America, the Rev. Walter E. McAlister … as professor of Old Testament at the Methodist Theological School of Ohio, Dr. C. Everett Tilson … as executive editor of Together, Glenn S. Hensley.
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