Sixty-three of the world’s one billion Christians met April 21–27 in Beirut, Lebanon, for closed-door strategy on economic development. This was the first time Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics had met officially for such discussion, and some enthusiasts said it was the biggest cooperative effort since the East-West schism of 1054.
The official report won’t be out until sometime this month, but a conference “statement” revealed the basic position. It urged Christians everywhere “to campaign or lobby for development by all means at their disposal and to give governments, parties, leaders and agencies no peace until the whole human race can live with reasonable ease and hope in its planetary home.”
It also asked the Vatican and the World Council of Churches to set up the Beirut planning committee permanently as an “active agent of Christian education and action.”
The executive of the conference planning committee, Father George H. Dunne, is the first Roman Catholic to have headquarters at the WCC’s Geneva offices and the first person jointly appointed, paid, and directed by the Vatican and the WCC. Summing up Beirut, he said that for the first time the world’s three Christian groupings “are joining forces and pooling resources in a worldwide campaign to awaken mankind to a realization that an increasing chasm divides the rich from the poor, and to quicken the Christian conscience to a sense of responsibiltiy and of moral obligation.”
The impetus of the conference came first from disappointment among church leaders at the failure of United Nations development work and at lack of action by the Church itself (though one speaker noted that the Vatican and WCC churches spend $350 million a year on development, more than all U.N. agencies combined).
Then there was the WCC’s 1966 Geneva meeting on church and society—still a point of controversy among Protestants—and its call for a professional WCC-Vatican study on development. Half a year later Pope Paul VI presented the world with his encyclical On the Development of Peoples, in which he proclaimed that “the new name for peace is development” and urged bold reforms. The joint committee and appointment of Dunne followed in the fall of 1967.
Monsignor Joseph Gremillion, secretary of the increasingly influential Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace, saw Beirut not only as a follow-up to Geneva and the papal encyclical but also as “an excellent preparation for the World Council’s Uppsala Conference in July” and “a continuing fulfillment of Vatican Council II.”
In a message to the conference, the Pope said, “If perfect union between the Christian confessions is not yet achieved on doctrinal grounds—however praiseworthy may be the efforts for rapprochement—there is at least one field in which ecumenism can attain concrete and immediate results: it is the one which is the subject of your meeting.” A similar greeting from WCC headquarters said it was fitting that “a first fruit of the spirit of wider ecumenical cooperation” should be a conference on world development.
Although officials said the meeting was intended to be exploratory, the first sessions went so well that it turned into a working conference.
Most conferees were laymen—social, economic, educational, and political “experts.”Papers were presented by Kenya’s economics minister Tom Mboya (in absentia), British economist Lady Jackson (Barbara Ward), Director Horacio Godoy of the Action Committee for Latin America, and Vice-President Max Kohnstamm of the Action Committee for the United States of Europe. Only six participants were invited from the host nation, Lebanon. All but one of the sessions were closed to the press. Even the initial reception for conferees was so selective that few Protestant clergymen in the area were included.
Many Protestants think Catholic-Orthodox opposition to all but the “rhythm” method of birth control is a severe hindrance to economic development. The 1,300-word conference statement devoted only one sentence to this issue. It advocated that “appropriate policies to slow down accelerated population increases—policies which respect the rights and religious beliefs of each family—be given the priority they need to lessen the prospect of possible famine in the next two decades and to give the hope of better diets, health, education, and responsible family life.”
The conference recommended church “political action” with the following program for the 1970s: Contribution by developed nations of 1 per cent of their gross national product to poor nations, hopefully by 1970, and more later, with a similar amount added from private investment. Easing of credit terms. Expansion of technical-assistance manpower. Stabilizing of prices for primary products. Programs that stress agriculture, “labor-intensive industries,” schools and clinics, and advancement of all the people, rather than military buildup, formation of “industrial giants,” prestige projects, and monopoly by a few.
The developing nations, for their part, are to remove social obstructions to progress (no mention was made of social effects of non-Christian ideologies), stress education toward “modern attitudes and capacities,” establish economies with “adequate taxation and stimulus to local saving,” and form regional common markets.
The conference also urged widespread educational programs to change attitudes in rich nations, and increasing use of international agencies to channel development funds.
In short, the conference advocated the sort of international economic program that has been recommended in previous meetings and papers of the World Council of Churches.
Two Muslims participated in the conference, and the statement stressed that Christians must act “with all men of whatever creed, or none.”
Specifically Christian elements were sparse in the conference statement. Statement of the responsibility of Christians to influence political and economic structures for human dignity will cause some to rejoice. But others may find misleading the summons to change social structures and thereby eliminate “the causes of the evil, whose symptoms alone [we] could treat before.”
Roman Catholic economist Barbara Ward stated fervently that the missionary movement will not function as it should in the next decade unless the missionary is “a dedicated servant of national and international development.” The implication of this and other statements was that calling the world to repentance and faith in Christ will soon be out of date in a developing world in which the Church, hand in hand with all the world’s religions and ideologies, will eventually bring in the millennium. In reply to a question along this line, one WCC official—a Protestant—referred to the old Protestant overemphasis on faith and regeneration, then added, “Remember, we will be judged by our works, not by our faith!”
Beirut raises again the question whether accelerated political and economic activism will replace the Church’s original calling. The movement could also woo the Church to think that, after all, the only real panacea for man’s sin, the world’s crises, and church divisions is “the great moral imperative” of world cooperation for the fully human development of man by man.
Yet smug criticism of the Beirut conference by evangelicals in comfortable America will be an inadequate response in a time when one-fifth of the world’s people (mostly in the “Christian” West) are living off four-fifths of the world’s resources and millions remain victims of poverty, injustice, ill health and war—and when more than half the world has not yet heard the Gospel.
MALIK: SOCIAL-ACTION DANGERS
Charles Malik is one of the best-known residents of Lebanon, where the Vatican and the World Council of Churches held last month’s economic conference (story above). Perhaps no other avowed Christian now living has had as distinguished a career in international affairs. The Lebanese diplomat has served as president of the United National General Assembly, the U. N. Security Council, and the Human Rights Commission.
In an interview at his home in Rabiya, Lebanon, the 61-year-old Malik said he was “gratified” that the conference was held in his nation and called WCC-Vatican cooperation “a great augury to the future.”
Malik believes the Church must speak “authoritatively” on all kinds of issues “as occasion arises and demands,” and says that “at the present moment the social and economic question, in its widest sense, is most acute and urgent.” But the Church must always speak for Christ’s glory, “not in the name of any idea or ideal” unless it clearly flows from Christ.
All Christian action, he said, “should be motivated by our love for and our closeness to Jesus of Nazareth.” He recalled the Scripture that in the Last Judgment men will claim they have done wonders in Christ’s name and he will reply, “I never knew you.”
“Socializing of the Gospel is a tremendous danger today,” Malik said. “This does not mean there are no objective social truths and problems which need to be dealt with. But it is very easy for modern man to crucify Christ again on the cross of social betterment and regeneration of society.”
Malik advocates a “hierarchy”: First, Jesus Christ himself. Second, confrontation of the human soul with Christ, resulting in an acute sense of personal sin and unworthiness, and then in repentance and faith. Third, amelioration of society and introduction of justice and economic development.
“Christ is not for the sake of society and social betterment, but all these things are for the sake of Christ and to his glory,” he said. With all the local, national and international problems, compassion and love of neighbor is a “major demand today. It is just for this reason it could be a terrible snare, deflecting our mind from the one thing needful.”
“I can lose myself in social service and I will do lots of good. But if I thereby lose Jesus Christ himself my social activity will do me no good, even in the Last Judgment.” The Bible must be taken “as a whole,” he said, but “contemporary bias” tends to remove the Last-Judgment aspect from Matthew 25.
Malik, a Greek Orthodox layman, believes “the greatest danger today is to substitute justification by works for justification by faith. There can be no real faith without works, as the Bible affirms. On the other hand, there could be magnificent works without faith. If I give all my money to the poor, if I sacrifice myself for social causes, if I have all knowledge and if I can predict the future prophetically and perfectly—in other words if I am a perfect social worker but without love, which of course is impossible without faith in Jesus Christ who himself bestows upon me his love—then, as Paul said, ‘I am nothing.’ ”
JOHN E. FERWERDA
THE CROSS OVER SYDNEY
Australia gave evangelist Billy Graham a memorable sendoff last month. A crowd estimated at 100,000 turned out for the closing service of a nine-day crusade in Sydney, largest city in the nation. They packed out the sprawling Sydney Showground and spilled over into an adjacent cricket field.
“The cross is the strongest evidence of God’s hatred of sin,” Graham said. “But it is also a glorious exhibition of God’s love.” He stressed that the cross is man’s only way of salvation and the only possible basis for brotherhood.
From the stadium, Graham and his team sped directly to the airport to board a Pan Am jet for the United States. Preparations were already well under way for Graham’s next major effort, the ten-day Pacific Northwest Crusade scheduled to begin in Portland, Oregon, May 17. Three of the Portland meetings are being videotaped in color to be shown throughout the United States and Canada in June. The crusade is due to close two days before the crucial Oregon primary.
In Sydney, a metropolitan area of well over two million people, the crusade made church history. The seven nightly services and two Sunday-afternoon meetings attracted a total of 417,000. Of this number, 22,420 responded to Graham’s appeal to make commitments to Christ, and 70 per cent of these were described as first-time decisions. Landline relays carried the audio part into 127 towns and cities. A television network decided to show a film of the closing service throughout Australia that night.
Particularly obvious and heartening in Sydney was the interest and response of uncommitted young people and the energetic participation by the believing youth in the churches. Even though orthodox theology still ranks number one in Sydney church life, agnosticism is common among the rank and file, particularly among youth. But for one reason or another, teens turned up at the Showground in droves. Munching apples and puffing on cigarettes, even during the sermon, they served notice that they would not melt easily. At each invitation, however, hundreds did make the break, and left the stadium committed exponents of the cause of Christ’s Gospel. The measure of eager involvement ran counter to widespread adolescent indifference toward the modern church.
The 49-year-old Graham was impressed. He has noted a similar tendency among youth in the American and British crusades, though perhaps on a smaller scale. “Young people are searching for something to believe in,” the evangelist told Sydney newsmen. “I’ve given up on the older generation.”
Graham’s most effective sermon with the youth was based, remarkably enough, on David’s encounter with Goliath. Graham drew parallels with such modern “giants” as nuclear weapons, the population problem, and obsession with sex. But basically the sermon was a vivid portrayal of the young Hebrew shepherd’s felling of the fearsome Philistine. That night, 4,510 decisions were recorded.
Appeal to young people was enhanced by team musicians Cliff Barrows, BevShea, Tedd Smith, and John Innes, and by a 2,500-voice choir and a swinging foursome known as the Kinsfolk. Three sons and a daughter of Canon A. E. Begbie, chaplain general of the Australian Army, make up the folk group. Still in their twenties, the Kinsfolk are first-rate musicians who vary their fare from Bach to rock.
The Australian autumn treated the crusade kindly. Sydney’s location on the shores of the warm South Pacific gives the city a semi-tropical climate with little or no real winter. The area is known for an abundance of rainfall, but not a drop marred the meetings. Daytime temperatures were in the seventies. Only on one or two evenings did the thermometer dip into the fifties. Each night was clear, and all who looked could see the Southern Cross constellation in the sky. It aptly symbolized access to the other Cross being proclaimed by the gospel messenger.
No one in Sydney backed the crusade more enthusiastically than the distinguished archbishop of the local Anglican diocese, the Most Reverend Marcus L. Loane, whose refreshingly biblical outlook sets the ecclesiastical pace in what has been called the most evangelical city in the world. The 56-year-old Loane is the first native Australian to hold the post; all his predecessors came from Great Britain. He oversees 506 churches with a membership that constitutes one-third of the area’s total population.
“Americans trace their spiritual heritage to the Pilgrim fathers, and we Australians to the prodigal son,” says Loane. The jest is an allusion to the convicts who were Australia’s first white settlers. The archbishop, for whom church history has been a specialty, notes that through the intervention of English philanthropist William Wilberforce, evangelical chaplains accompanied the first ships that brought the convicts to Australia in 1788. Loane traces the evangelical orientation of his diocese back to this fact. He also credits Moore Theological College with perpetuating evangelical influence. Still another factor, he says, is the constitution of the diocesan synod, in which there are two laymen for each clergyman.
Throughout the history of Australia, there has been a battle between Puritanism and paganism. According to Loane, Graham’s 1959 crusade came at the crest of a spiritual tide. “But the tide has been running the other way lately,” he says, “as a result of the affluent, permissive way of life.”
Loane seeks to arrest the drift not only by preachment but also by personal example. When he was named archbishop in 1966, he ordered his annual salary cut from 13,500 to 8,000 Australian dollars (about $1 to $1.12 U. S.). He also replaced the big foreign-made limousine that went with the job with an Australian-assembled compact car. Loane works in an austere office on the ground floor of the Diocesan Church House. His windows look out upon busy George Street, a symbol of Sydney’s dominant role in South Pacific trade.
Another supporter of the Graham crusades was high-church Archbishop P. N. W. Strong of Brisbane, who is Anglican primate of Australia. Strong lent his backing to Graham’s weekend series in Brisbane, then traveled south to attend the crusade in Sydney.
It was while Graham was preaching in Sydney that word came of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Graham called his team together and gave serious consideration to returning to the United States for the funeral, but decided against it because of the complex travel problem involved. The evangelist did send flowers and a letter of condolence to the widowed Mrs. King.
Graham plans to return to Australasia to speak in cities where he had planned to go this year, before a lingering lung ailment forced a schedule curtailment. He is now planning 1969 crusades for Melbourne, Australia, and for Auckland and Dunedin, New Zealand.
Israeli Protestant Status
Six Protestant denominations in Israel are seeking government recognition of their community. If it is granted, under Israeli law they will gain full jurisdiction over marriage, divorce, wills, adoption, and other matters of their members’ personal status. The law, a carry-over from Turkish and British rule in Palestine, was retained when Israel became independent twenty years ago.
The churches took on the complex application procedure (it requires six years to complete) to end discrimination. They feel the law withholds rights and services from their members and hinders evangelism because potential converts hesitate to join an unrecognized community.
Baptists, Lutherans, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, Mennonites, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance—together less than half of Israel’s Protestants—comprise the community seeking recognition
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