This report is compiled from dispatches by William T. Bray of the Christian Information Service in Thailand, and the Rev. G. Edward Roffe, pioneer Alliance missionary in Laos for forty years.
When future historians record the end of the West’s great missionary movements, they will doubtless stress the developing countries’ nationalism and the casting off of colonial chains. Less noticed may be major international meetings like the Berlin and Singapore evangelism congresses, which help make missionary withdrawal possible.
Another key meeting was held recently in Bangkok, Thailand, the fifth in a series of Asian conferences of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The CMA’s Asian flock has tripled to 150,000 members since the first conference, in 1955.
That first conference heralded the start of the painful, long-overdue “indigenous policy” later adopted by the CMA. Indian pastor R. P. Chavan, who started the indigenous ball rolling, went home from that meeting and within a year had cut all financial ties between the Marathi churches and the mission in India. Without such independence today, church outreach would be in deep trouble, since non-Indians are under increasing pressure.
So the Alliance conferences have come to be synonymous with sweeping reforms and a loosening of foreign missionaries’ grip on the national churches.
Chavan was back in 1969, playing a key role in the most promising development at Bangkok: an interfield national mission board for Asia. The new agency will send out Asian missionaries, with Asian funds, selected by Asians, under Asian standards. Already CMA national churches have sent out some twenty-nine missionaries.
Cambodia—now virtually closed to Western missionaries—is likely to be the first target field of the new board.
Despite the Asian locale and emphasis, the Bangkok meeting was in truth a worldwide conference—the first time in the CMA’s eighty-two years that almost all members of its world family were represented at a single gathering. Of the CMA’s thirty-one fields, only Brazil, Israel, Syria, and isolated Cambodia were not represented. The non-Asian lands sent their field chairman and church president. Asian countries sent the field chairman and several church representatives apportioned by church membership.
Closed nations like Cambodia, mainland China, and North Viet Nam got considerable attention. Indonesia’s Rev. J. La’lang theorized that God has closed such doors to Westerners “to awaken the Asian churches to our responsibilities.” Yet even Asians, he acknowledged, can’t get into North Viet Nam.
So how to proceed? Pray for the closed nation. Set up a missions office in each national church to plot strategy. Collect as much information as possible on the country to be entered, including any data on an already existing evangelical church. Explore other means of spreading the Gospel, such as through the travel of Christian businessmen, teachers, or government officials.
Like its predecessors, the Bangkok meeting was not a legislative body. Nonetheless, an articulate position on world ecumenism emerged. The little-publicized midday sessions on the topic were generally played down by the CMA’s “gentleman general” L. L. King, New York-based foreign secretary. Yet both major papers were carefully prepared attacks on recent ecumenical developments.
Chavan, prominent in this area as well, delivered one of the papers, and a conference statement said his position “received the full support” of the eighty delegates. The gist of it was that evangelicals should have no relationship with the World Council of Churches.
Chavan readily admitted that much good had come from the movement. But he cited its doctrinal vagueness, emphasis on radical social involvement, and friendliness toward Roman Catholics. He warned nationals that world ecumenism seeks to infiltrate the Church and win over its people.
“The best answer we can give is to keep busy in the work which God has given us to do, filled with the love of Christ for a lost world, on our knees in prayer and intercession and our lives fully surrendered to Christ and at his disposal. When we are in this position we will not be tempted by their material aid, nor will we be blind to their false doctrines and methods.”
The Philippines’ V. R. Pada applauded new Catholic freedom to read the Bible and other post-Vatican II changes. But he warned that much “aggiornamento” is not really modernization, renovation, and adaptation but doctrinal reformulation. He opposed joint discussions, debates, prayer meetings, or other formal sessions with Catholics.
Along with such heady topics came the grueling business of reports on all sorts of matters, and much discussion of evangelism modeled after Latin America’s “Evangelism in Depth” and Africa’s “New Life for All.” Late into the night, knots of men lingered on the rich tropical lawns of the CMA’s new Bangkok guest house, sharing evangelistic strategies.
At one of the evening rallies in Bangkok’s fashionable AUA Auditorium, President Doan Van Mieng of the Evangelical Church of Viet Nam hit hard with a series of rabbit-punch statements about the determination of Christians there to cling to their faith amid adversity.
He recalled that from the end of World War II to the 1954 Geneva Accord there was widespread war, during which some preachers and many believers were killed, tortured, or imprisoned. Possessions were confiscated, and churches were destroyed. Yet the pressure brought believers closer together, and their zeal in giving money and evangelistic outreach was unprecedented.
After the nation was divided in 1954, most of the believers fled the North (about 1,000 members and eleven pastors stayed behind). During a period of relative peace in the South through 1960, the church established work in refugee relief, scholarships, radio, literature, student work, military chaplaincy, and medicine, as well as continuing evangelism and church growth.
Since 1961, the accelerating war has brought new difficulties, danger, and death; yet the work continues to grow. By last year the church had begun its “Evangelism Deep and Wide,” with the aim of bringing ten million persons to accept Christ. “Today in Viet Nam there is a wide open door,” he said.
United Presbyterian Moderator John Coventry Smith is co-chairman of a committee to discuss Catholic membership in the National Council of Churches (a step he predicted in CHRISTIANITY TODAY, News, February 3, 1967, issue). This was one major anticipated topic in the first full-dress visit of top NCC leaders to the Vatican March 26–28.… The NCC joined Catholics on two fronts last month: in presenting their joint film award to Rachel, Rachel and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter; and in a California suit against the Selective Service Act, which does not recognize religious objections to particular wars.… And Richard Cardinal Cushing granted his imprimatur to the American Bible Society’s Today’s English Version of the the New Testament.
The Southern Baptist home-mission board raised interest on church loans from 6½ to 7½ per cent, and finds it now must pay 8¼ per cent on its own borrowings.
Since U. S. Catholic bishops removed the Friday abstinence obligation, fish prices have dropped nearly 20 per cent and produced economic peril for many small U. S. coastal towns, says the American Economic Review.
The underwriter’s handbook of Great American Insurance Companies cautions that clergymen as a group are bad car insurance risks.
A new Indiana law permits voluntary public-school religious observances on Christmas and Easter (with provisions for non-participants) and silent prayer and meditation at the opening of school days.
Six priests and a nun, along with the wife of one of the clerics, were held in a Washington, D. C., jail after ransacking local offices of the Dow Chemical Company (makers of napalm). Most had received reprimands from the Catholic Church for previous disturbances.
LEANDER H. PEREZ, SR., 76, political boss of Plaquemines Parish (county), Louisiana, and arch-segregationist who was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1962 for opposing parochial-school integration; of a heart attack, on his plantation near New Orleans.
JOHN HOWARD MELISH, 94, removed as rector of Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn Heights, New York, by his vestry and bishop because of leftist activities of his son, who served as assistant rector, an action upheld by the state Supreme Court; in Brooklyn.
Episcopal priest William Starr charges he was fired as an ecumenical Columbia University chaplain by an affiliate of United Ministries in Higher Education after pressures from college administrators and trustees over his backing of last year’s student protest.
Australian Methodist Colin Williams, 48, who heads the University of Chicago’s lagging doctor of ministry program, will be nominated this month as new dean of Yale Divinity School.… Dr. James T. Laney, 41, Vanderbilt Divinity School ethicist, was named dean of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology (Methodist).… With a swipe at his “ultra-conservative” constituency, Ralph A. Phelps resigned as president of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas.… Dr. Gordon R. Werkema, principal of a Christian Reformed high school, was named president of Trinity Christian College, Illinois.
Universal Life Church minister-maker Kirby Hensley (March 14 issue, page 34) held a mass ordain-in at Sonoma State College, California, but got only 200 takers—mostly hippie types—for the 2,000 ordination certificates he brought along.
Phyllis Edwards, first woman to be ordained an Episcopal deacon, performed her first marriage last month in California despite canonical questions.
Dr. M. L. Wilson, chairman of the National Committee of Black Churchmen, will succeed Dr. Norman Vincent Peale as president of New York City’s Council of Churches.
The second and third White House worship services were conducted by: the Rev. Richard Halverson of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C., and the Rev. Louis Evans Jr., of La Jolla (California) Presbyterian Church. Both clergymen are well-known evangelicals.
The Rev. C. Edward Brubaker, Presbyterian pastor in Englewood, New Jersey, was elected chairman of the armed services’ General Commission on Chaplains.
Ronald Webster, independence leader in the Caribbean island of Anguilla occupied last month by British troops, is not a Seventh-day Adventist minister, the denomination reports, and not even a layman in good standing at the moment.
The Rev. Thomas Lee Hayes, Episcopal Peace Fellowship director, was sent by Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam as a minister to U. S. military deserters in Sweden.… United Church of Christ minister Emerson G. Hangen is new minister of the American Church in Paris.
Monsignor Giovanni Musante, 50, a Vatican staffer, received Pope Paul’s permission to leave the priesthood and marry.… Father Eugene Bianchi of Emory University, Georgia, former assistant editor of the Jesuit weekly America, plans to marry with or without Vatican approval.
Muhammed Ali (Cassius Clay) won a bout by default when the U. S. Supreme Court remanded his case, along with several others involving wiretapping, to lower courts. Black Muslim Clay resisted Army induction, claiming he is a minister who boxes part-time.
Uganda’s President Milton Obote expressed “delight” at Pope Paul’s plan to visit his country in July—first African trip by a reigning pontiff.
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