In the second of two on-scene reports, News Editor David E. Kucharsky surveys the state of Protestantism in the Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe:

Aboard a train traveling from Bucharest to Budapest a young Rumanian worker hummed merrily the theme of American TV’s “Bonanza.” “It’s my favorite program,” he said.

A few days before, President Johnson had announced steps toward a major expansion of trade with the Communist countries of Eastern Europe. Prospects for friendlier relations brightened, despite continuing differences over Viet Nam.

All of this raised the possibility of lowering barriers that have isolated these countries from outside Christian influence for more than a generation. In Bucharest you can now buy Kodak film and Winston cigarettes. Why not Rumanian-language Bibles, Protestant literature, and records of sacred music?

Rumania might even be a good place to start urging authorities for such outlets. There seems to be an openness to the West not evident in the Soviet Union, nor even in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, or Poland. Rumania may quietly be looking for a big new friend, since the Soviet Union enjoys something less than peak popularity there and Communist boss Nicolae Ceaucescu avoids taking sides in the split between Moscow and Peking.

“Stay here a year and visit a new church every day,” a tourist guide trumpets in Bucharest. Sure enough—there are 365 churches in the city. The absence of a Soviet-style campaign to turn them into museums may be a solid indication of residual religious interest. Another symptom—the sight of an attractively dressed young woman wearing a dainty cross necklace.

The handful of Protestant churches in Bucharest are all small, plain buildings, in contrast to the many cathedral-like Orthodox and Roman Catholic structures. But for the years ahead, Rumanian Protestants have something more important going for them—their concept of church-state separation and, in many cases, congregational polity. The state-church orientation of Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism spells all sorts of complications under a Communist system. Communist authorities fear the potential competitive power inherent in state church and connectional systems.

The problem is well illustrated in Bucharest, where the parliament shares a picturesque hilltop overlooking the city with the Orthodox Patriarch’s home and the city’s most prestigious church. Any appreciable increase in Orthodox strength or vitality will surely be viewed with misgivings.

Protestants have little more than a foothold in Czechoslovakia, despite the great heritage of Jan Hus, fifteenth-century Reformer whose Bethlehem Chapel has been restored in the Old City of Prague. Most of Prague’s 120 churches are Roman Catholic or Orthodox. But Dr. Arnold T. Olson, president of the Evangelical Free Church of America, says Protestant congregations there are healthy. After a visit to Czechoslovakia several weeks ago, Olson said that “while working under some restrictions, the congregations enjoy more freedom now than at any time since the socialist state was founded.”

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Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria—even East Germany and the Soviet Union—have been readily granting visas to American churchmen and newsmen. Poland and Hungary are a bit more reluctant, and Albania is out of bounds for all U.S. citizens.

The attitude of Hungarian and Polish authorities toward churchmen and newsmen is probably attributable in part to continuing problems with their respective Roman Catholic cardinals. Church-state tensions in Poland have been at a high level all year because of Christian millennium celebrations and periodic pokes at the Communist authorities by Cardinal Wyszynski.

Hungarian officials are embarrassed by the continuing presence of Cardinal Mindzenty, who took the anti-Communist side during the 1956 revolution and has been holed up in the American legation in Budapest ever since. Protestants, however, may be gaining a freer hand. The Hungarian Evangelical Lutheran Church announced recently it is planning its first synod meeting since World War II.

Protestants interested in gaining influence in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union will have to decide between “underground evangelism” and quiet negotiations with authorities. The surreptitious method lends itself to a more dramatic appeal, martyrdom, and some phony exploitation.

Official concessions from face-to-face confrontation with Communist officials require much harder work, infinite patience, and a profound sense of diplomacy and strategy. Brinkmanship may also play a part in such negotiations, and some persons may get hurt. But there is growing evidence that under the non-Chinese brand of Communism today, the open-appeal method will be more effective over the long haul.

Not An Echo

An organization increasingly critical of “new evangelicals” assembled in Charleston, South Carolina, the same night that the “new” breed’s World Congress on Evangelism opened in Berlin (story above).

The first night of the twenty-fifth anniversary meeting of the fundamentalist, anti-Communist American Council of Christian Churches drew only ninety-seven persons. But attendance was expected to pick up considerably for the closing rally featuring Dr. Carl McIntire, predominant personality of the ACCC.

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The ACCC was organized in September, 1941, with McIntire as first president. It was formed as a conservative counterpart to the Federal (now National) Council of Churches, which had great leverage in such areas as publicity, appointment of military chaplains, and distribution of visas for foreign missionaries.

In later years, conservative Protestants who generally agreed with the ACCC in theology but were less separatist in strategy formed the National Association of Evangelicals, Billy Graham’s organization, and other groups. Today the ACCC claims a constituency of two million; but perhaps more important than the formal membership list is the amorphous congregation that hears McIntire’s “Twentieth Century Reformation Hour” every day on a reported 630 radio stations.

The ACCC just opened a Southern office in Atlanta and plans field offices in the Midwest and West. Although few persons below middle age were evident in Charleston, the ACCC youth arm last month fielded the first issue of a sixteen-page monthly, Reformation, aimed at college conservatives.

McIntire also drew an impressive turnout at the state capitol in Harrisburg recently to protest a Pennsylvania House resolution that criticized McIntire’s attacks on the National Council of Churches. McIntire said twelve to sixteen thousand persons attended the “Second Convocation for Religious Freedom”; Religious News Service estimated 5,500.

Although sounds of segregation crackle when McIntire’s Southern supporters congregate, McIntire says the ACCC is open to anyone who believes. General Secretary John Millheim is trying to enlist Negro churches in Philadelphia and Chicago.

After hearing Dr. David Otis Fuller—businessman and fellow board member with Graham at Wheaton (Illinois) College—blast the “new evangelicals,” and making his own speech, McIntire planned to fly to Berlin to watch the new evangelicals firsthand. When McIntire’s weekly Christian Beacon last month carried the headline, “World Congress on Evangelism will exclude anti-Communists,” World Congress Chairman Carl F. H. Henry suggested McIntire pass up the overcrowded Kongresshalle and march in protest to the Berlin Wall.

A Plea For Separation

The opening address at Britain’s National Assembly of Evangelicals last month caused quite a stir. Martyn Lloyd Jones, famous preacher of London’s Westminster Chapel, said evangelicals should now leave the major denominations and form a new united church.

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After the impassioned plea, Chairman John R. W. Stott, noted Anglican evangelical leader, replied that both Scripture and history were against Lloyd Jones. Earlier, Stott’s brief talk on unity had stressed biblical faith, mutual recognition of ordination and sacraments, and openness to various beliefs and practices in matters of secondary importance.

‘Black Power’ In Church

With low but audible murmurs of “Amen, Amen, Amen,” forty-eight United Church of Christ ministers called on their denomination to “renew itself as a community committed to a kingdom without caste.”

The resolution came after a two-day consultation on racial problems in the predominantly white denomination, concluded October 20 in Washington, D. C. The meeting also formed a “watchdog group” to press for the end of racial discrimination in the UCC, which has two million members.

Most of the UCC’s Negro pastors attended and said they would mobilize the potential “black power” in their congregations to help achieve a multiracial, multi-class society within the church.

Earlier, the clergymen heard C. Shelby Brooks, executive secretary of the Rockefeller Fund for Theological Education, say that both Negro clergymen and the “white power structure” of the churches were to blame for keeping Negroes from the centers of denominational power and decision-making.


… Like An Adventist Should

After a five-year comparison of Seventh-day Adventists in California with the rest of the Smog State’s population, the U. S. Public Health Service and American Cancer Society report SDA members have one-sixth as many deaths from lung cancer and one-third as many from respiratory disease.

The American Medical Association Journal says SDA’s no-smoking rule appears to be the only reason for the difference. Adventists also abstain from alcohol and caffeine, hold other dietary strictures, and stress health in general, but the study said their death rate from other diseases is about the same as that for other Californians.

An upcoming report on a study of 42,000 families by the National Center for Health Statistics reportedly will provide important new evidence against smoking and reveal a jump in all cigarette-linked diseases since 1950.

Ecumenism In Education

The Christian education board of the Presbyterian Church U. S. (Southern) voted to merge its campus ministries into the five-denomination United Campus Christian Fellowship. Plans are complete for a “Uniform Lesson Series” with the United Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ. The board will also ask the next General Assembly to liberalize the requirement that John Knox Press authors be in the “evangelical Christian tradition” so that Roman Catholics and Jews can be added.

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United Presbyterian and United Church laymen “will soon be studying the same lessons about the meaning of the Christian faith and how Christianity functions in the world” under a unified national program. National staffers will also help local churches set up their adult education programs.

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