It’s a long jump from Mary Slessor’s canoe to Billy Graham’s chartered aircraft. The white queen of Calabar died in Nigeria after 39 years of saving lives of unwanted twins and their mothers. The far-travelled American evangelist visited five Nigerian cities in little more than a fortnight, then moved on to Rhodesia and Tanganyika. This week he was to conduct meetings in Kenya.
Graham’s talks to missionaries and church leaders always reflect his awareness that he is reaping where others have sowed in blood and tears. One morning, in a hastily-built brush arbor where he had preached to a little church which has resisted Moslem repression at great peril, he murmured aloud: “I tell you, these people will live in mansions in Heaven; we’re getting a lot of our reward down here.”
While Nigeria has no great zeal for pan-Africanism such as is being fostered in neighboring Ghana, nationalism is nevertheless an important factor in religious life, especially in the cities. Materialism beckons talented young people. Natives are moving faster to take the reins in national church life. Many missionary groups are relinquishing control in favor of a fully indigeneous church.
Paradoxically, in parts of Nigeria where the indigeneous church is relatively strong and older missionaries are moving to more needy fields, some American societies are moving in and supporting dissidents. The resultant multiplication of sects adds to the confusion of seekers and semi-pagans.
Much of the religious picture in this most populous (36,000,000) of African countries can be explained in terms of a second century church and a delayed renaissance. African Christians are busy operating schools and organizing national church life and have comparatively little concern for millions of unevangelized people at their doorsteps. The general awakening is marked by a surge for material advance without a general will to pay the price of training competent and resourceful technicians (office jobs and political posts are top status symbols).
Meanwhile the Moslems, who conquered much of Nigeria early in the nineteenth century, now seek to occupy the vacuum created by vanishing paganism. They make at least seven converts to every three claimed by Christians (some say the ratio is ten to one).
The first Anglican and Methodist missionaries entered the “white man’s grave” that was Nigeria in the early 1840s. Baptist beginnings date to 1850. These are still the strongest evangelical groups, with a total community of churchgoers numbering more than a million, only 200,000 of whom are full communicants. All these communions have hundreds of primary schools, strong institutions for training pastors and teachers, and many hospitals and clinics for the relief of suffering Nigerians, millions of whom still live 100 miles from the nearest doctor.
One of the world’s great independent societies, the Sudan Interior Mission, has 590 workers in Nigeria. Among outstanding SIM contributions are its Nigerian eye hospital, its continent-spanning radio station based in Liberia, and its Niger-Challenge Press which has successfully developed a mass-circulation popular magazine with a basic Christian motif. Annals of the mission, with its emphasis on village evangelism, are studded with tales of heroism and sacrifice. It is now trying to overcome its lag in developing strong, indigeneous leadership.
Other sizeable communions include Presbyterians, with 100,000 churchgoers; the Qua Iboe Church (begun by Irish Protestants and named for a river), with another 100,000; the Salvation Army, with 25,000; the Churches of Christ in the Sudan (an indigeneous church developed by the multi-branched Sudan United Mission); and several Pentecostal groups. There is also the 50,000-strong African Church, a breakoff from more orthodox bodies over the polygamy question, a very vexed issue in Nigeria. Rounding out the picture are a plethora of exotic sects which practice angelology and the like, and a strong thrust of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Roman Catholics claim 2,000,000 adherents.
Holy Land Crusade
Billy Graham plans to begin a 10-day evangelistic campaign in the Holy Land March 20.
He is expected to address rallies in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Nazareth.
The Holy Land crusade will be conducted following the evangelist’s nine-country tour of Africa now in progress. The Africa meetings close with rallies in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 8 and 9.
Graham will go to the Holy Land at the invitation of the Israel Baptist Convention.
While most of Nigeria has been evangelized after a fashion, isolated pockets of virgin ground remain along the rivers and in the hill country where small tribes with distinctive tongues remain in dense darkness. The unfinished task also includes conveying the first real Gospel witness to some 5,000,000 villagers, to practically all of the 500,000 nomadic Fulani herdsmen and to multiplied thousands in city slums, many of which are being razed to make way for ultra-modern commercial buildings and apartment centers.
A church union movement involving Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians has been underway since 1928. Negotiations were set back last year when the Lambeth Conference expressed displeasure over the South Indian plan of union and suggested that Anglicans press for the Ceylon pattern, which practically makes Episcopalians of all concerned. Some hope a middle way will emerge through an adaptation of the lesser-known North India plan, which includes presbyters in all of the rites involved in the achievement of a mutually-acceptable ministry.
Nigeria is really three nations in one, so distinct are its regions, each containing a predominant tribe. Because of rivalry and distrust between leaders of the eastern and western regions, where Christianity has made greatest progress, the Moslem north is in the political driver’s seat, but lacks a clear majority so must find common ground with some in another region.
Independent Nigeria may give missionaries more freedom of action than did British officialdom in the northern region where more than half the people live. But some suspect that a “black list” already exists and that veto power will be exercised by Moslems when those who have displeased them apply for re-entry visas after furloughs.
The Moslem region’s premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, told Graham that some missionaries have engaged in political activity which “must stop.” He added that he would not budge an inch in his devotion to the will of Allah as he saw it. However, the premier visited representative missionary groups shortly before the region became independent, thanked them for humanitarian efforts, and said he saw no bar to Moslem-Christian cooperation for the people’s good.
Graham’s most significant meeting, perhaps, was at the University College in Ibadan where practically the whole student body of 1,100 turned out. More than ten per cent stood one by one at the close and testified quietly: “I accept the Lord Jesus Christ.” The evangelist had warned them, in the strongest possible terms, of the cost of true discipleship.
A missionary leader said every thinking African has been struck by the fact that Graham came to Nigeria in her year of independence. The truth that political and social development must be undergirded by spiritual strength, he said, hit home with special force from the mouth of the famous visitor.
Graham quickly adapted himself to his African audiences, preaching with utter simplicity and delighting his audiences with stories about Saturday night baths and children and pigs. He also set forth the crucified Christ in every sermon, describing in detail the Saviour’s suffering, and the spiritual significance of the Cross. Despite his stern portrayal of the cost of following Jesus, people responded to his invitation by the thousands. Many no doubt came with the crowd, but counsellors reported genuine evidences of the work of the Spirit of God.
The crowds smashed all records for events of this kind, giving lonely pastors a sense of belonging to the Lord’s host, and impressing outsiders with the united witness of the church.
At the closing West African meeting in Jos, in the picturesque plateau region where some of Africa’s most primitive tribes live, a train load of tribesmen once known as “tailed head hunters” attended the meeting with their Christian chief, who is a regional leader, and the Scottish missionary who led many of them to Christ.
Although statistics prove nothing, the fact that 300,000 people attended the meetings in Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria is indicative of the widespread interest. Christian leaders were sure that an authentic work of grace was done in the hearts of many of the 15,000 who responded to the invitation to turn from idols and serve the living and true God.
The chairman of the all-Nigerian Graham campaign is an example of national leadership at its best. He is Dr. James T. Ayorinde, Nigerian-born pastor of Lagos’ First Baptist Church and a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance. He and the Rev. John Mills, American missionary and national campaign secretary, travelled with the Graham team to all five cities touched by the campaign. Mills paid this tribute to Ayorinde: “I wouldn’t trade him for 10 missionaries.”
At a conference heralded as the “most significant and important” in the history of Australian churches, Bishop J. Lesslie Newbigin of the Church of South India defended a priority role for the ecumenical movement.
“The division of the churches is making a mockery of their mission,” Newbigin told 430 delegates from 18 denominations. “No task is more urgent than that of patient wrestling with these divisions until Christ himself restores to us the unity that is his will.”
He called Christianity’s divisions “a denial of the sufficiency of Calvary.”
During the 10-day meeting in Melbourne this month, delegates approved a recommendation that religious periodicals employ “competent” radio and television critics “to bring Christian judgment to bear on these important influences.”
Plans for New Delhi
The World Council of Churches plans to hold its third assembly in New Delhi November 18-December 5, 1961.
“Jesus Christ—the Light of the World” will be the theme of the assembly.
The plans were disclosed by the 12-member WCC Executive Committee at its semi-annual meeting in Buenos Aires this month.
Originally projected for Ceylon, the assembly site was changed last summer by the 90-member WCC Central Committee, which must still ratify details.
Up to 1,000 participants are expected to be on hand in New Delhi. Of these, about two-thirds will be voting delegates.
The assembly will be held in the Vigynan Bhavan Conference Hall, originally built by the Indian government for a UNESCO conference.
WCC assemblies are the most significant of all gatherings of the ecumenical movement. Previous assemblies were held in Amsterdam in 1948 and in Evanston, Illinois, in 1954.
Dr. Sherwood Eliot Wirt, Presbyterian minister and former newspaperman, is joining the staff of CHRISTIANITY TODAY as Editorial Associate.
Wirt holds the A.B. from the University of California, the B.D. from Pacific School of Religion, and the Ph.D. from Edinburgh University.
He is author of The Cross on the Mountain and Crusade at the Golden Gate, an account of Billy Graham’s 1958 evangelistic campaign in San Francisco.
Dr. Clifford E. Barbour says he has accepted a call to be vice president and acting president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the school being formed out of the merger of Western and Pittsburgh-Xenia seminaries.
Barbour is president of Western, whose campus on the North Side of Pittsburgh will be abandoned soon after joint classes begin in the fall at the East End facilities of Pittsburgh-Xenia.
Pittsburgh-Xenia was the only seminary of the old United Presbyterian Church. Western was Presbyterian, U. S. A.
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover won a Freedoms Foundation award this month for an essay which he wrote for CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
The essay, “Communism: The Bitter Enemy of Religion,” appeared in the June 22, 1959, issue.
Hoover received an encased George Washington Honor Medal.
The foundation awarded a similar medal and $1,000 to the Rev. Paul W. Johnston for a sermon delivered in the Worthington (Ohio) Presbyterian Church.
Still another top award went to the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown, Pennsylvania, and WRCV-TV of Philadelphia for a jointly produced television show, “Land Where Our Fathers Died.”
Russians are learning about modern U. S. church architecture.
The current issue of Ameryka, Russion-language picture magazine which the United States is permitted to distribute in the Soviet Union under an exchange agreement, carries an article about modern U. S. churches. Several were cited.
Edifices selected by a panel of architects include the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, Connecticut, built in a stylized fish-shape reminiscent of the early Christian symbol for a house of worship; the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection, St. Louis, erected on a parabolic design; the Wayfarer’s Chapel (Swedenborgian) of Palos Verdes, California, open to ocean and sky by means of glass walls; the Catholic Chapel of the Holy Cross, standing atop two spurs of rugged red rock in Arizona’s Verde River Valley; a Lutheran church in Eugene, Oregon, featuring an unusual design of exposed, laminated wood arches to create a cathedral-like interior; St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Columbus, Ohio, which has a glass front; and the Catholic Church of St. Philip the Apostle in Clifton, New Jersey, which has sharp-peaked redwood arches to give a new version of Gothic style.
Hearings this month conducted by a House subcommittee were labelled as “the most constructive relative to public morals in the entertainment and communications industry in many years” by the Rev. Donald H. Gill, assistant secretary of public affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals. Leading officials of the movie industry testified.
Buried in a remote New Guinea mountainside is the body of Albert J. Lewis, former RCAF pilot who gave up a lucrative construction business to fly supplies for pioneering New Guinea missionaries.
A search party reached the body several weeks ago, nearly five years after his twin-engine amphibian crashed into a 10,000-foot peak while en route to the forbidding Baliem Valley, where Christian and Missionary Alliance missionaries have sought to reach the Stone Age Dani tribe with the Gospel. He was buried at the scene.
Lewis was a native of Hamilton, Ontario, where he headed a building firm before going to New Guinea.
Concurrent publication in Look magazine of a Catholic priest’s charge that Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State “stir up antagonisms and create tensions between citizens on matters of faith” heightened interest in the organization’s 12th National Conference in Boston, February 8–9.
The Rev. John A. O’Brien’s declaration that the fear of some Americans that the separation between church and state will break down if a Catholic is elected president is “the result of a 12-year propaganda campaign” by POAU brought this rebuttal from its executive director, Dr. Glenn L. Archer: “Father O’Brien has borne false witness against his Christian brethren in POAU and distorted the Roman Catholic true position on many great issues of our times … The article was a Jesuitical whitewash of Roman Catholic power in American political life.”
The conference drew nearly 600 registrants from 28 states. Crowds of more than 1,100 packed John Hancock Hall for evening rallies.
Methodist Bishop Richard C. Raines called upon Catholic, Protestant and Jewish clergy and laymen to undertake an honest appraisal of the American principle of church and state to discover “in what we can agree and admit frankly where we differ and why.”
A religious liberty citation was presented by POAU President Louie D. Newton to Dr. E. S. James, editor of the Baptist Standard. James was described as an “eloquent minister, courageous editor, militant advocate of church-state separation.”
POAU reports a membership of more than 100,000 drawn from all over the United States whose primary object is the maintenance of separation of church and state as promulgated in the Constitution and interpreted by the U. S. Supreme Court.
First in 500 Years
A meeting of the Synod of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rome, the first in more than 500 years, drew some 800 clergymen who turned out virtually that many different recommendations.
Although the recommendations apply only to the Rome diocese, it is expected that other dioceses throughout the world will follow suit.
All the recommendations must first be accepted by Pope John XXIII in his capacity as the Bishop of Rome. They had been prepared for discussion at the week-long session by a special ecclesiastical committee which had been at work for a year.
According to the Ecumenical Press Service, a section of articles specifically addressed to laymen warns that they are:
—Forbidden to read publications inspired by Protestants, illuminism, existentialism, atheism, or materialism.
—Barred from taking part in services, sermons, or discussions of non-Catholic cults.
—Subject to excommunication if they join or vote for political parties or persons that promote heretical principles or doctrines.
—Obliged on pain of excommunication to enact no laws harmful to the church.
Investment in Romanism
Teamster President James R. Hoffa announced this month that his union’s pension fund loaned $1,000,000 to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Miami.
A union spokesman said the money was made available at six per cent interest “for whatever use they want to make of it.” The loan was covered by a mortgage on the diocese’s property.
Doctor of Letters
Loyola University, Roman Catholic school in Chicago, presented this month an honorary doctor of letters degree to Dr. William F. Albright, noted biblical archaeologist and Old Testament scholar.
Albright was cited for his work as chairman of Johns Hopkins University’s Oriental Seminary, his years of research in Jerusalem, and his past presidency of the International Organization of Old Testament Scholars.
Albright is a member of a Methodist church, but usually attends Presbyterian services. His wife and their seven children are Roman Catholics.
Reports from Berlin say that district offices of the East German “People’s Police” have been ordered to set up special indexes and dossiers on all clergymen in East Germany.
The records are to include detailed accounts of the clergymen’s daily activities and all utterances, according to the reports.
It is said that Communist party organizations as well have been instructed to report all church events to party headquarters.
Airing Ethical Concerns
Members of the American Society of Christian Social Ethics met for a two-day conference at New York’s Union Seminary last month.
Highlight of the meeting was an address by Professor Reinhold Niebuhr who enumerated biblical incentives for social concern and then, by steady reference to the inherent ambiguities of social existence, elaborated his well-known demand for the translation of love into a real but precarious justice oriented to the necessary limitations of socio-economic life and responsive to its ever-changing conditions. Reflected in the speech was Niebuhr’s continuing high regard for the social theology of Walter Rauschenbusch and his devaluation of personal Christian ethics as well as his dissatisfaction with Karl Barth for refusing, in the name of a God who lays all our institutions and programs under judgment, to make a choice between East and West. Comments following the speech generally moved on the periphery of Niebuhr’s remarks and did little to advance or amend his argument.
Earlier, a panel composed of Professors Waldo Beach of Duke Divinity School, Edmund Smits of Northwest Lutheran Theological Seminary, and Henry Stob of Calvin Seminary discussed the teaching of Christian ethics. Skirting the question of method in the sense of technique, Beach and Stob considered the place, function, and content of seminary courses in ethics, while Smits, a native of Latvia, undertook to contrast American and European approaches to the study and teaching of ethics. While not neglecting the socio-ethical problem, the panelists concentrated their attention upon basic ethics and upon the theologico-metaphysical foundations of the discipline. There was general agreement that Christian ethics could rest only upon the presuppositions of faith and could be elaborated only within a theological framework. It appeared in a general discussion, however, that the presuppositions were differently conceived and the framework variously constructed. It became evident that there was nothing like unanimity about the role the Bible plays in the construction of Christian ethics.
The Society for Christian Social Ethics is only two years old, but the membership is growing, and it appears well on its way to becoming a significant forum for the interchange of ethical opinion and judgment. Conservatives in the group hope that more qualified evangelicals will join.
The Rhode Island Council of Churches adopted a new constitutional preamble last month which incorporates a strong Trinitarian statement of faith.
It replaces a nine-year-old statement which has been criticized repeatedly for its theological shallowness.
The new preamble was approved at the council’s 23rd annual meeting—without debate—by a vote of 161 to 7. As ballots were being counted, the assembly broke out in song with “Blest Be the Tie that Binds.”
Evangelical observers viewed the development as indicative of a marked trend toward a more conservative theological climate in the state.
Belief in the statement is not a prerequisite for membership in the council, but it does indicate “where the majority of members stand,” according to President Frank H. Snell. The council rejected last year a move which would have barred Unitarians and Universalists from membership.
The new preamble states: “The Rhode Island Council of Churches is a fellowship of Christian churches which profess belief in One God: the creating Father, the redeeming Son, and the strengthening Holy Spirit. It is established to bear a common witness to this profession through cooperative work.”
The earlier controversial statement read: “Believing that it is in the providence of God that followers of Christ do cooperate more effectively for the progress of the Gospel, we unite in allegiance to Jesus Christ, and seek to express His spirit through a cooperative endeavor.”
The notion that religious beliefs are merely a reflex of a man’s socio-economic circumstances got a strong boost this month from a Ford Foundation project.
The project is a two-year study now nearing completion on religious thought and practice in the seven-state Southern Appalachian region commonly referred to as “the Bible Belt.”
The survey strongly suggests that where a person stands on the socio-economic scale has a lot more to do with his religious beliefs than the church he attends, Religious News Service reported.
Some of the findings of the survey, financed by a $250,000 Ford Foundation grant, were disclosed at a pastors’ conference of the Kentucky Council of Churches by Dr. Thomas R. Ford, University of Kentucky sociologist and general research director for the project.
U. N. and Bias
A United Nations representative from India is advocating a set of basic rules to deal with religious discrimination [see editorial on page 26].
Arcot Krishnaswami, a member of the U. N. Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, listed the rules with a report based on a two-year study which found religious bias declining. [The study was completed before the current outbreak of anti-Semitic incidents. The subcommission immediately launched another study into recent church and synagogue desecrations at the urging of Dr. Maurice L. Perlzweig, permanent representative of the World Jewish Congress at the U. N., and Max Beer, vice president of the International League for the Rights of Man, a U. N. consultant agency.]
Krishnaswami’s proposed rules included the following:
—Everyone should be free to adhere, or not to adhere, to a religion.
—Parents should have a prior right to decide upon the religion in which their children should be brought up.
—Everyone should be free to manifest his religion in acts compatible to it.
—There should be a freedom to disseminate a religion or belief, provided it does not impair the rights of others.
—No one should be compelled to take an oath contrary to the prescriptions of his religion or belief.
—No cleric who receives information in confidence, in accordance with the prescriptions of his religion, should be compelled by public authorities to divulge such information.
—Public authorities should refrain from making any adverse distinction against, or giving undue preference to individuals with regard to the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
A noted champion of Lutheran cooperation attaches “immense importance” to a recent decision by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod home mission board to seek membership in a National Council of Churches counterpart.
Dr. Paul C. Empie, executive director of the National Lutheran Council, said in a report to the NLC’s 42nd annual meeting this month that the board’s action “seems to herald an advance in inter-church relationships.”
The 2,315,000-member Missouri Synod, largest of U. S. Lutheran bodies, has had few ecumenical ties. Even working relationships with the NLC, whose eight member bodies make it the most inclusive of Lutheran organizations in America, have been limited.
Has the Missouri Synod altered its principles in allowing its home missions board to apply for membership in the NCC Division of Home Missions?
“No,” said Empie, rather “after careful study it has come to the conclusion that this particular type of cooperation does not compromise its principles.” The Missouri Synod’s Board for Missions in North and South America says it will try to participate in the NCC home missions program “to the extent our principles permit.”
Beginning July 1 the NCC’s Division of Home Missions will have as associate executive secretary Dr. H. Conrad Hoyer, for nearly 18 years the executive secretary of the NLC’s Division of American Missions.
Still more encouragement for ecumenically-minded Lutherans lies in a projected meeting between Missouri Synod and NLC representatives to explore issues involved in cooperative activities. In preparation for the meeting, scheduled in Chicago July 7–9, the NLC named four theologians to prepare a doctrinal study on the doctrinal basis of Lutheran cooperation.
“The changing climate has brought about the conditions for a further progress in inter-Lutheran relationships,” concluded Empie, but “the progress itself must still be achieved.”
People: Words And Events
Deaths:Aloysius Cardinal Stepinac, 61, Roman Catholic archbishop who for years was a victim of Communist persecution, in his native village of Krasic, Yugoslavia … Dr. William Shaw Kerr, 86, former Church of Ireland (Anglican) Bishop of Down and Dromore, in Belfast … Bishop Otto Zaenker, 83, last Protestant bishop of the pre-war Evangelical Church of Silesia, in Bielefield, Germany … Dr. John Deane, principal of the New Zealand Bible Training Institute … Mrs. Wilmer S. Lehman, 85, retired Presbyterian missionary to Cameroun, in Duarte, California … Charles Claus, 59, former advertising manager of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, in Chicago.
Appointment: As minister of the First Presbyterian Church of Glendale, California, the Rev. Edwin Houck, formerly associate pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.
Election: As president of the Baptist Public Relations Association, Badgett Dillard.
Recommendation: For the post of honorary president of The American Lutheran Church (to be formed in a three-way merger in April) Dr. Henry F. Schuh.
Quotes: “The case for planned parenthood is unanswerable. It is the birthright of every child to be a wanted child.”—Dr. Alan Walker, Australian Methodist evangelist … “The most effectual channel for Christian propaganda in the sixties will continue to be television. In this field commercial television, however suspect its motives may have been in its early days, has demonstrated an integrity in its approach to Christian matters which deserves praise.”—The Rev. Maurice A. P. Wood, president of the Islington Clerical Conference of the Church of England.
Other action at the NLC’s four-day session in Atlantic City:
—A study document was approved which gives strong backing to U. S. foreign aid but calls for greater stress on non-military programs of economic and technical assistance to underdeveloped areas.
—A resolution was adopted which advocates appointment by the President or Congress of a “national commission on U. S. immigration policy” to study how current immigration laws might be revised. Also endorsed was a statement which points up moral issues involved and suggests possible objectives of an improved immigration policy.
—In another resolution, the government was asked to utilize in full $10 million authorized for U. S. participation in the current World Refugee Year.
Eyeing the Lutherans
Representatives of 11 Presbyterian and Reformed bodies voted this month to investigate the possibility of holding theological discussions with Lutheran groups. The action was taken by delegates to the annual meeting of the World Presbyterian Alliance’s North American Area Council. The goal cited was an increase of understanding between the two confessions.
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