Indonesians are turning to Christianity on a scale unprecedented in modern times anywhere in the world. The Indonesian Bible Society counts 400,000 converts since 1965. It’s a “revival that seems to add another Asian chapter to the Acts of the Apostles,” said W. Stanley Mooneyham after a tour of the archipelago.

The conversions are particularly significant in view of Indonesia’s pagan past and its current place as the world’s fifth largest in population. Islam has been the dominant religious influence for centuries. There are more Muslims in Indonesia than in any other country.

Recently, Muslims have taken serious note of the Christian surge. One Muslim leader addressed an open letter to the Indonesian president, General Suharto, threatening “holy war” if the mass movement to Christianity in Central and East Java continues. On October 1, anti-Christian riots in East Indonesia resulted in the sacking of at least twenty-five Christian churches in and around the city of Makassar, Sulawesi. Smaller incidents had occurred a few weeks earlier in North Sumatra and even in Djakarta, the capital.

But Suharto has rejected demands of Muslims that Indonesian Christians be cut off from foreign help. For at least the time being, Indonesia will keep its doors open to missionaries. “Every faith is universal,” said Suharto, “and should be able to have international contacts.” He conceded a major point to the Muslims, however, in asking that the major faiths not proselyte from each other but instead turn their attention to the conversion of the heathen tribes.

Suharto spoke to Muslim, Hindu, Roman Catholic, and Protestant leaders who had been called together November 30 to discuss how growing tensions might be relieved. He said he came to the meeting himself because he fears a national disaster (for earlier reports, see story following).

On the huge island of Borneo there was violence of a different sort. Rampaging Dyak tribesmen descended upon resident Chinese, some of whom were Communists and Communist sympathizers, and drove about 40,000 from their homes. There has been an anti-Chinese campaign in Indonesia ever since 1965, when a Communist coup was averted at the last minute. The Chinese are often accused of economic exploitation. And dedicated Muslims resent their fondness for pork.

Despite the turbulence, the conversions to Christianity continue, with no material or social gain attached. The Indonesian constitution refers to “belief in One Supreme God” and the “freedom to every resident to adhere to his respective religion and to perform his religious duties in conformity with that religion and faith.” A Muslim daily said the storming of the churches was provoked by a Christian teacher who said Muhammad was an adulterer.

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Mooneyham, an associate of evangelist Billy Graham, writes in the December issue of Decision that the revival “has reached flood-tide proportions.” He says the Indonesian Bible Society traces the start of it to a little boy who in 1964 returned from school for the holidays with a New Testament.

“Religious faith seemed moribund in his Communist village,” Mooneyham said, “but every evening the boy would read the stories about Jesus to his brothers and sisters. Soon some adults joined the group. Friends and neighbors dropped in.”

A preacher was brought from another town, and people were baptized. Before long twelve adjacent villages were asking for a preacher, and many more people were turning to Christianity.

Then came the failure of the Communist plot, which created an ideological vacuum that Christianity began to fill. Bible shortages developed. Churchmen trying to compile statistics could not keep pace with developments.

Evangelicals in other countries have watched the revival closely, but so far there have been no major crash programs to capitalize fully on the fresh Christian interest. Dutch Christians increased their missionary giving by 20 per cent, but Indonesian churches said more was needed. A 1968 drive will seek to double the budget to $5.5 million.

Billy Graham is weighing an invitation to travel to Indonesia between meetings of his projected Australia-New Zealand crusade to address an Easter Sunday rally.

As a direct effect of the revival, the Indonesian Missionary Fellowship has been formed, and before very long the country may be sending out its first Christian missionaries. Observers note that missionaries from Indonesia might have much greater success in other Muslim lands than white missionaries. Another possibility is Communist China, which is said to be taking in scores of Chinese from Indonesia every week. If Indonesia’s Chinese Christians volunteer, the Gospel may gain a major means of access.


A Muslim backlash is sweeping across Indonesia after a wave of conversions to Christianity in that land of 160,000,000 people.

Contrary to the hopes of some, no relief of tension accompanied approval of plans by General Suharto, acting president, for the Indonesian Council of Churches to hold its triennial conference in Makassar October 29-November 7. Prior to that, Muslims had damaged a number of church buildings and schools in the Makassar area. Bibles, hymnals, and other Christian literature were burned.

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The council meeting at Makassar drew 250 representatives from thirty-eight denominations, who agreed efforts must be redoubled to accommodate the needs of new converts and the requests of many others who wish to join churches. The former youth secretary of the East Asia Christian Conference, 34-year-old Soritua Nababan, was elected new general secretary of the national council. He is a member of Sumatra’s Huris Kristeen Batak denomination, and has studied theology in Germany.

Christian leaders are confident that the goal of the Muslim zealots, namely an Islamic state, will not be realized, but they do fear that a comity system might be forced upon Christians. This might mean that in certain areas no more Christian churches could be started.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Protestants are eager to evangelize while doors remain open and the Holy Spirit leads men to salvation as never before in the history of the country. Evangelist John Haggai of Atlanta returned this month from a two-week fact-finding mission to Indonesia, encouraged to conduct campaigns there in 1968. All the pastors, missionaries, and church officials he contacted urged him to come.

Muslim power is nowhere near its reported numerical strength (90 per cent of the population, according to the Rev. Alex Rotti of the Djakarta Regional Council of Churches). “They say that Christians number maybe ten million and the rest are Muslims, but this is not true,” said Rotti, who is also a leader in the Dutch Reformed Church. “Fifty per cent of the people of Timor, for example, are animists.”

A Christian government official said, “The Muslim group is now afraid because they see the tremendous increase of Christianity. They are looking for things that will put Christians in a bad light. For example, they are accusing the Christians of using all the gifts from Christians abroad to Christianize the country according to a set plan, a certain strategy made by the Christians.”

“Now they are trying to accuse us that we are on the side of Israel,” he added. “Since our country has no diplomatic relations with Israel, this would put public opinion against the Christians.”

The government official acknowledged that the greatest danger is that the Muslims might stop Christian evangelism entirely. He said, however, that “we have those on our side who are in the Nationalist Party, and they are fighting to keep our five basic principles, the first of which is belief in God. The definite act of President Suharto in stating that the council meeting had to proceed—the Muslims wanted it postponed or canceled—causes Muslims to feel that they lost.”

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Now that Muslims know the attitude of the government, the official continued, they are looking for a way around it. They are suggesting that an assembly be established in which all religious groups will come together to discuss the situation. “We are guessing,” he said, “that in that body they will make a demarcation line to point out what areas are Muslim and which are Christian.”



“You are here to do a solemn thing—to assert the claim of conscience above the claim of government, the claim of justice over the claim of order. In asserting these priorities you are in harmony with the biblical tradition.”

With these words, the Rev. Richard J. Neuhaus, pastor of a Missouri Synod Lutheran church in Brooklyn, New York, opened an interfaith draft-resistance service. Eighty-six men marched up the center aisle to deposit their draft cards in a brass alms basin.

Other “peace services” were held this month in churches throughout the nation. But simultaneous rumblings of a shift in war criticism were heard from churchmen in the nation’s capital and in San Francisco.

A service scheduled for St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Washington, D. C.—which was to have included draft-card surrenders—was banned after official church pressure. Five men later turned in their cards at a religious service at Georgetown University’s Hall of Nations after six other churches turned down the anti-draft group, The Resistance.

And in San Francisco, Episcopal Bishop Kilmer Myers refused the use of Grace Cathedral for a “turn in or burn in” draft card service. The sponsoring Northern California Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Viet Nam later held the service on the steps of the Federal Building (in violation of the attorney general’s orders) as fifty-six clergymen stood by. Eighty-nine men plunked their cards into an offering plate belonging to the Howard Presbyterian Church and a chalice made by Vietnamese out of an army shell case.

Said Father Peter Riga of St. Mary’s College regarding the resisters: “They stand afoul of the law, but we appeal to a higher law.…”

Stanford’s Robert McAfee Brown said the cards were “symbols of coercion and force, suffering and killing … but in here [the chalice] the card becomes a message of peace.”

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Other “services of conscience” were held in Los Angeles, where military opponents dropped their draft cards into a chalice of human blood on the altar of the First Unitarian Church, and in New Haven, Connecticut, where 1,000 demonstrators marched from Yale’s Battell Chapel to the courthouse to surrender draft documents.

Eleven young men left their cards in a collection plate at the Germantown Community United Presbyterian Church after giving anti-war speeches.

Conservatives regarded Myers’s refusal as a concession to heavy contributors who have been inflamed over recurring controversies. Grace Cathedral reportedly is $100,000 in debt.

In a curious twist, Neuhaus, speaking at a two-day symposium on “Who Speaks for the church?” in Washington, D. C.—not at the peace service in his church—said religious opposition to the war is frequently self-defeating because it focuses on policy decisions rather than moral principles.

And at the same meeting, Paul Ramsey, who recently slapped the World Council of Churches for venturing beyond its competence on social issues, declared church endorsement of specific policies was wrong both in strategy and in principle.

Some observers think remarks by Neuhaus at the symposium, and the barring of services in San Francisco and Washington that would have espoused breaking the law, are a sign that responsible liberals are now shifting from a particularist stance on policy decisions to a middle way.

Myers, explaining his position, said the Church, as an institution, should not lend itself to a polarization of extremes of the right and left. It should instead encourage a “rhetoric of the center,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Coordinating Council of the Methodist Church set February 1, 1968, as the suspension date for Concern, a denominational social-action magazine. The Board of Christian Social Concerns contends the controversial organ is devoted to a “secular mission” rather than promotion, as originally intended.

In another clergy-draft conflict, the National Council of Churches and the American Civil Liberties Union are seeking a court test of the re-classification of Cornell University chaplains Father David Connor and the Rev. Paul Gibbons and of University Christian Movement field director Henry Bucher. All three were reclassified from 4-D to 1-A delinquent after they turned in their draft cards.

An ACLU official said it entered the scene because of the “intimidating nature” of General Lewis Hershey’s draft-review directive. Hershey, incidentally, said nearly three-fourths of recently surrendered draft cards actually were business calling cards, drivers’ licenses or membership cards. “Many are protesters,” noted the draft director, “until it comes to the moment of truth.”

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Twelve churchmenGeorge A. Fallon, Leighton Ford, John F. Havlik, Carl F. H. Henry, Rufus Jones, David E. Kucharsky, Harold Lindsey, John A. Mackay, T. A. Raedeke, J. Sherrard Rice, Edward H. Rockey, Carl W. Tiller. met December 2 and 3 to carry forward the “Key Bridge” dialogue on possibilities of more tangible evangelical witness and unity in American life. They agreed on the general feasibility of a multi-faceted continental evangelistic drive cresting in 1973, subject to favorable conditions.

The meeting, following up a September session that was a first for cooperative-minded evangelicals, was again held at a motel adjacent to Key Bridge in Arlington, Virginia.

The latest conference produced the concept of a non-organizational “evangelical Christian coalition” to advance cooperative efforts. It also will seek to present a full understanding of what it means to be evangelical and relevant in the contemporary situation.

No decisions were arrived at, but significant progress was reported in discussions, and an enlarged meeting was projected for March 9 and 10. No significant differences were encountered in the discussions.

Participants, clergy and lay, came from nine major denominations, but as individuals and not as official representatives of their communions. They constituted a transdenominational dialogue that reached far beyond existing patterns of cooperation.


Albert C. Outler, internationally respected Methodist theologian of Dallas, Texas, surprised Methodist Christian—education specialists last month when he declared that Methodism is in a state of malaise.

Although he is noted for his exhortations for Christian unity, Outler revealed at a Dallas education meeting that the pending merger with the Evangelical United Brethren to form the United Methodist Church upset him.

The outspoken theologian, who has been personally acquainted with ecumenical meetings since Edinburgh in 1937, told the group that only Eastern Orthodox churches are less inclined toward basic reforms than Methodists.

“Meanwhile, there is in the Methodist Church visible disaffection and mutiny swelling to epidemic proportions, a crisis in vocational identity and professional commitment that has already shattered the esprit de corps of our once proud itinerant system,” he said.

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In part, the illness is due to the “peculiar and cherished Methodist constitution and policy—a policy which used to work so well but that now is no longer working as advertised,” he maintained. “There is a self-stultifying sullenness among the clergy, generated by the feeling that being ‘pastor in charge’ no longer means being ‘in Charge’ but rather being a high-class flunky of the hierarchy on the one hand and the official board on the other—a sort of residential chaplain.”

Outler charged that the Methodist system of appointment of pastors degrades pastors to a status of employes and robs them of initiative.



America’s 330,000 churches currently show a facility-utilization rate of about .006, and the figure is declining. This means the average church makes full use of its property and equipment about one hour for every 168 in the week. No other architectural structure is used so sparingly.

Evangelicals are responding to the fact of this waste by trying to make church buildings more functional, and liberals by seeking to reduce their number. The fewer-buildings bloc, which is also ecumenically inclined, finds its Exhibit A in the planned city of Columbia, Maryland, now under construction in the rolling countryside midway between Baltimore and Washington, D. C.

“We seem to agree that by investing less in bricks and mortar we will be able to spend more time and energy on mission and ministry,” says the Rev. Clarence Sinclair, who heads the Columbia Cooperative Ministry.

With the help of the National and Maryland Councils of Churches, Sinclair’s group is working out plans for sharing ministers and facilities. Thirteen denominations have thus far entered into a “covenant” to work together in Columbia rather than establishing competing churches. The first church building won’t be ready before Easter, 1970, but a congregation has been meeting in a town hall since September.

The Lutheran Church in America, Methodists, and United Presbyterians will share responsibility for ministerial leadership in the first village church. Village two will be American Baptist, Episcopal, and United Church of Christ; and village three, Church of the Brethren, Missouri Synod Lutheran, and Presbyterian, U. S. Roman Catholics will join the venture soon.

The cooperative venture was initiated by developer James Rouse, an elder in Brown Memorial United Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, who has more recently been attending the innovative ecumenical Church of the Savior in Washington. Rouse asked the National Council to arrange for the planning. Spokesmen for Rouse say he will also provide for churches that do not subscribe to the ecumenical compact.

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“Jesus Christ ordered his Church to proclaim the great acts of God without fear of men. It is a mistake to think that the task of the Church is to turn the local congregations into experimental laboratories for conflicting theological ideas.” With these words the German Confessional (“No Other Gospel”) Movement closed a new protest against the “false teachings of a theology governed by the spirit of the present age.”

This protest document was released at a mass meeting of 8,000 persons late last month in Düsseldorf, where the movement was christened nearly two years ago at a meeting attended by 20,000.

In seven theses, the movement draws attention to biblical truths that it says are being impaired. The basis of evangelical teaching is being undermined, asserts the document prepared by forty theologians, pastors, and laymen, including Professor Walter Künneth of Erlangen University.

These men acknowledge faith in the work of the Holy Spirit through the testimony of the Bible, the deity of Christ, his substitutionary and atoning death, his bodily resurrection, his return to become universal Head and Judge, forgiveness of sins with the enabling gift of the Holy Spirit to obey God’s commandments, and the Church’s task of saving lost men by fearlessly testifying to God’s great acts.

The theses also dispute: that scientific study alone enables men to understand the Bible as God’s word, without the grace of the Holy Spirit; that the New Testament apostles dressed up their message in mythical language; that praying to Christ is wrong; and that following the Crucified One is possible without a tie to the Resurrected One.

The last protest reads: “Ecclesiastical preaching becomes unbelieving when the leading organs of the Church allow pastors to be ordained who haven’t accepted the Gospel in the sense of acknowledged confession, and who will say the Credo with the congregation but have at the same time inner reservations against it.”



Leaders of the Philippine Bible Society and the Roman Catholic Commission on Christian Unity are planning a common Bible translation. Joint efforts are now under way for a Bible in the Ilocano dialect, the language of the northern region of Luzon—largest Philippine island. Next May, a Bible translation institute will be held at the country’s summer capital of Baguio to prepare a Protestant-Catholic Bible for residents of the Tagalog area in central Luzon. A joint Scripture—distribution program through the PBS is also in the works.

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The Third Evangelical Congress of Latin America, until recently slated to convene in São Paulo, Brazil, this month, has become “the congress that almost was.” It has been again postponed, now ostensibly for another year, while the ecumenically oriented workshops that were to precede it were scheduled for December 11–17 in Uruguay.

From the beginning, the congress has been beset with problems. At the second congress (Lima, Peru, 1961) the conservative domination was overwhelming, and ecumenical organizers decided the time was not ripe for realizing a dream of long standing—the unification of the various national church councils and federations in a single Latin American Evangelical Confederation. So this objective was postponed until the next continental assembly.

Responsibility for coordination and for promotion of unity, meanwhile, was assigned successively each year to a different national council. In 1966, convening the third continent-wide congress was to be the responsibility of the Evangelical Confederation of Brazil. But this plan for passing on the torch never got off the ground.

At the same time that the Committee on Cooperation in Latin America (CCLA) was dissolved in favor of the Latin American Department of the U. S. National Council of Churches, ecumenical leaders brought into existence several specialized agencies. They were ISAL (church and society), CELADEC (Christian education), and finally UNELAM (“Provisional Committee for Evangelical Unity in Latin America”). Chaired by leaders of weight and vision, these agencies (along with the older ones for university and youth work) have become the focal point of the ecumenical thrust in Latin America. UNELAM and its director, Dr. Emilio Castro, have been particularly active in the effort to promote the third congress.

But this became, for some Latin Americans, precisely the problem. Hardline conservatives began to fear an “ecumenical” takeover, and the anticipated São Paulo congress was at first treated with great distrust. Then it was discovered that the Brazilian confederation had no intention of being manipulated by ecumenists, and in the congress planning committee the Brazilians teamed up with conservatives from other parts of South America to write the program and call the shots in terms satisfactory to any evangelical.

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The counter move was to schedule a series of consultations just prior to the congress under the sponsorship of UNELAM, ISAL, ULAJE, and CELADEC. There was good precedent for this—the program had been similarly structured six years ago in Peru. But because the alphabet of organizations now is longer and more impressive, the consultations may have seemed too risky for the conservatives to tolerate.


CHARLES J. WATTERS, 40, Roman Catholic chaplin on a voluntary six-month extension of Viet Nam duty; hit by a bomb as he prayed with wounded men at Dak To.

J. KENNETH PFOHL, 93, veteran leader of the Southern Province, Moravian Church in America; in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

KARL GRAESSER, 64, president of the northeast district of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; in Bronxville, New York.

DALTON F. MCCLELLAND, 77, YMCA representative at the United Nations and a longtime worker in India; while attending a meeting in New York’s Interchurch Center.

Consequently, the congress was postponed once again. The ecumenically oriented groups then withdrew their financial backing, which reportedly came from the NCC, and scheduled this month’s Uruguay workshops on such topics as church and society, social action, social service, community organization and development, migrant problems, youth strategy, and the role of women in church and society.

On the other side of the fence, the hard-line conservatives met October 25 at Rancagua, Chile, to issue a declaration to Latin American evangelicals everywhere, deploring the fact that “many groups supported by diverse agencies which are not identified with the church … are trying to lead the people of God,” and stating that “we do not agree with their actions or their political-religious publications.” They called for the formation of a committee with “firm evangelical convictions” to study the possible structure of a “South American Evangelical Confederation.”

What will come from the Rancagua manifesto remains to be seen. The suggestion was a planning committee meeting in March, 1968, followed by a South American Evangelical Conference in June of the same year. Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean were considered to be outside the pale of the self-appointed committee’s responsibility. The declaration was signed by eight conservative church leaders, several of them foreign missionaries.

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Writes Castro, “If we take advantage of [the postponement] to study the preparatory documents, the delegations can approach the dialogue better informed, and we shall demonstrate to our surprise that our positions are not so different the one from the other. I am convinced of what our Latin American Evangelical Church needs is direct communication—personal conversations, common Bible studies. We must not grow weary in our common calling to testify to the people of Latin America concerning the integral salvation which Christ offers and the unity which he creates among those who accept him as Lord and Saviour.”

No one can be sure what will happen next as dedicated and sincere Christian men on both sides of the organizational fence seek to impose their own designs upon the Latin American evangelical community. And it is anybody’s guess as to when evangelicals may again meet in a continental congress.


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