Music blares as folk and gospel songs are performed in concert by a swinging mod-style band of ten. The audience claps along and finally breaks into signing.

It’s not a misprint: the deaf audience is feeling the rhythm and mood of the music through two young ministers who are interpreting it into the language of signs. As the deaf catch the “words,” they begin signing along on songs such as “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” or “I’m in Love with My God.”

For the young deaf students it is the first time they have ever attended a youth concert and had the kind of emotional, musical experience that a hearing person can have. Responsible for this breakthrough in communication are the Reverend Daniel Pokorney and Father Rudolf Gawlik, Lutheran and Roman Catholic chaplains at the world’s only liberal-arts college for the deaf, Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C.

Athough the deaf can read words of songs or hymns and together rhythmically sign the words, they never in that way approach the feeling and impact possible in a concert designed for them. Pokorney and Gawlik composed verses to songs that preserve the original rhythm and feeling by using a combination of sign language, pantomime, and gestures. The result is expressive, gentle lyrics that somewhat resemble those used by Hawaiian hula dancers.

The concert, first performed last December at Gallaudet, was enthusiastically received, and the troupe is still on a series of tours. A new show, “Sacred and Secular Music,” is in the works.

The rock-gospel concert has made unique progress, but its popularity reflects the huge problems still facing the deaf today. In many respects these persons form a subculture isolated from the mainstream of American life; this often excludes them from church activities and from hearing the Gospel.

Deaf persons in the United States number more than 250,000 according to estimates, yet the numbers of ministers to them is markedly small. Groups with comparatively large ministries include the Assemblies of God, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Episcopal Church, and the Roman Catholic Church. There are perhaps 200 part- and full-time ministers and lay missionaries to the deaf—or one for every 1300 (a ratio that doesn’t do the job in the hearing world, much less in the deaf). Many denominations leave the problem of the deaf to local or regional levels, where it may be met haphazardly or even ignored.

“So then faith comes by hearing,” wrote the Apostle Paul, and to this day the presentation of the Gospel is largely dependent on verbal communication. This creates a real barrier for those who cannot hear.

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“It was working with the deaf that made me aware of how tied to language our religion is,” recalls Gawlik. “First you translate the words into more real words, but then you’re still stuck with words.”

Ministers to the deaf now use many means of communication besides language: slides and pictures, gestures and facial expressions, pantomime, and dramatization of the gospel stories. “To me this is ideal. The Gospel shouldn’t be simply verbal but should speak to the whole person,” declares Gawlik, noting that many innovations developed for the deaf have come to be used in teaching hearing people also.

Pokorney, Gawlik, and the other five Gallaudet chaplains stress that communicating the Christian faith to the deaf involves more than translating the spoken language into signs or written material. The common idea, “If they cannot hear, let them read,” is much like Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake.” Much of the syntax and shading of meaning is conveyed by voice cues, outside the range of the quickest hands. The sentence structure of written language retains much of the complexity of spoken language—entirely unknown in the simple sentences of signing. Thus learning to read is like learning a foreign language. For similar reasons, this language deficiency is often coupled with a very limited vocabulary, though not among Gallaudet students.

The average deaf person of 20 has achievement scores at or below the eighth-grade level, and less than a fourth-grade reading comprehension, according to Dr. Ray L. Jones, specialist in education for the deaf. This means that effective outreach to the deaf involves more than translating sermons or providing reading material. The message must be tailored to their special needs.

If educational handicaps present an obstacle to the missionary to the deaf, social handicaps add problems just as great, in the view of the Gallaudet chaplains. Unlike a person with other handicaps, a deaf person can handle the functional aspects of life well: he can use public transportation, go shopping, and hold a job. But the riches of friendship and family life, the sharing of joys and sorrows, are only for those who can speak and hear—or for those few deaf surrounded by others who know sign language. The church as a community for fellowship is denied to the deaf; church-centered activities are all for hearing people.

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In some urban areas across the country, this is solved by accepting the necessity of a subculture and forming a deaf congregation with sermons, hymns, and activities in signing. Other churches make an effort to recognize and provide acceptance for the deaf in their community, even though communication remains at a low level.

Most of the ministry to the deaf is carried on by ministers or laymen trained in the language of signs who devote all or part of their time to this work, covering a large metropolitan area or several states. Thus the deaf become minister-oriented instead of church-oriented. Ministries dependent on this kind of a one-to-one relationship cannot be effective with deaf persons scattered throughout sparsely populated rural or small-town areas. The mass media, revolutionizing many forms of communication, are virtually useless in carrying the Gospel to the deaf.

How can the deaf be reached? Should every clergyman know signs and care for the deaf in his community? Should the ministry be left to traveling ministers responsible for large areas?

The Gallaudet chaplains see traveling teams of missionaries as a partial answer. The rock-gospel troupe will continue to present concerts. In another type of team work, experts in deaf ministry would travel around training lay groups to establish the personal contacts necessary for outreach to the deaf. Another group with specialized skills would gather isolated deaf persons for the cursillo, a short, high-powered retreat that provides an experience in Christian Community through art, signing, and body expressions. An experimental cursillo for deaf last summer proved unusually effective.

Can the Gospel break the sound barrier? To find the answer, Christians must first become painfully aware of the need—instead of turning a deaf ear.

Through The Loophole

For the first time West Germany churches, both Protestant and Catholic, are losing members—fast. Until recently, members withdrew from church life but not from the church roll; congregations could still claim a huge membership though services were poorly attended. And all “paper” members were taxed through government channels, making the German church one of the wealthiest on the Continent.

A Tiger For Christ

The man who led the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, plans to use a new motion picture about it as a means of witnessing for Jesus Christ. Mitsuo Fuchida, the lieutenant commander who flew the lead plane in the 384-craft raid, is now a Presbyterian lay preacher. He will hold evangelistic services in Japanese cities where the film Tora! Tora! Tora! is shown, the onetime rice farmer said in New York last month when the film was premiered.

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After World War II, Fuchida was called to consult with occupation authorities in Toyko. There he received a Christian tract from a member of the Pocket Testament League; he later secured a Bible and was converted to Christianity.

Fuchida (his son, a Baptist, lives in New Jersey, and his daughter is an Assemblies of God member in San Francisco) said he is counting on natural curiosity about a historical figure to draw people so he can witness to the Gospel. He praised the movie as historically accurate. The title (in English: Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!) comes from the code message Fuchida radioed after the surprise attack.

But last year the new German government added to the income tax a new, temporary tax of 10 per cent. Some enterprising person discovered he could save himself the new tax by officially breaking with the church—which asked the same amount—and resignations, especially from industrial centers, began to pour in to church officials.

In Aachen, for example, about fifteen people quit the church daily during the last few months; in the heart of the Ruhr area, the exodus was twice that of last year.


Mrs. Birch’S $200 Million: Getting It All Together

After three years of bitter court fights, Mrs. Pearl Choate Birch, a 200-pound ex-convict, won out over a number of religious organizations last month in a battle for control of her late husband’s $200 million estate.

Temple Baptist Church of Los Angeles, the American Bible Society, the American Tract Society, the American Baptist Home Mission Society, and the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board were among groups claiming that 95-year-old California oilman A. Otis Birch was mentally incompetent when he changed his will to name her sole beneficiary.

Civil District Judge J. Roll Fair dismissed the case and paved the way for Mrs. Birch to gain access to the estate within thirty days, thus finally ruling out any claim to the fortune by the charities under Birch’s earlier will. A probate judge upheld the second will after hearing a California psychiatrist testify Birch was mentally competent when he wrote it.

“It was a long fight, but I knew I would win someday,” Mrs. Birch declared at the hearing in Dallas, Texas. “I’m thinking now that I might give those Baptists some of what they’ve been giving me for the last three years.”

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The controversy dates back to 1966, when Mrs. Birch was accused of kidnapping the elderly oilman and forcing him to marry her. Then Birch’s private nurse, she left California with him in October of that year and announced they had married in Altus, Oklahoma, a short time later.

A Texas grand jury refused to indict Mrs. Birch after her deaf and crippled husband testified on her behalf before them. The couple then moved to Dallas and lived in a seventy-foot trailer until Birch died in March, 1967. The court fight began when Mrs. Birch attempted to gain approval of a new, hand-written will prepared by her late husband.

As the original benefactors, five religious organizations brought forth lengthy testimony on Mrs. Birch’s prior six marriages, her conviction for murder in 1947, and the events that led to her becoming Birch’s private nurse. They claimed she coerced Birch and his former wife, who died in 1966, to hire her, fully intending to get control of the Californian’s fortune.


Anglicanizing The Canonization Breach

A potentially explosive situation over the canonizing of forty English and Welsh martyrs by Pope Paul October 25 has been defused. Anglican leaders in Britain had expressed fear that the ceremony would create ill will and wound Catholic-Anglican dialogue. And the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsey, had spoken against the saint-making.

Dr. Harry Smythe of the Anglican center in Rome and representatives of other Britain-based churches were to attend the ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica, however. And Ramsey, with the two other British archbishops, had later said that “we Christians should not look back too much on the conflicts of the sixteenth century.”

All Other Ground …

Stress on anything other than soul-winning seems to be sinking sand for Sunday-school programming in Michigan, according to a survey made by the religion editor of the Detroit News. Churches catering to social action, the survey showed, are losing both members and youngsters. But conservative denominations featuring “traditional” curricula report soaring enrollments.

“Our job is to preach the Bible,” declares Clate Raymond, head of the Michigan Sunday School Association (MSSA). The conservative organization reports an average enrollment growth of 3.2 per cent annually. Raymond claims the MSSA is the fastest-growing association of its type in the world. “I’m interested in poverty and social reform—but not in the church,” he said. “The vacuum that must be filled is spiritual.”

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Temple Baptist Church, on Detroit’s far west side, has one of the nation’s ten largest Sunday schools. The pastor, the Reverend G. Beauchamp Vick, teaches the week’s Bible lesson (no other literature is used) to his teachers during a weekday session, and they present it to the 3,400 students on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan reported a drop of almost one-third in church-school pupils.

The Catholics to be canonized were executed during persecutions from 1535 to 1681. Nearly all could have been spared had they accepted the Anglican Communion service in place of the Roman Mass. A British flavor will be evident during the canonization: music by the English composer Byrd, and Anglican hymns.

Symbolic gifts of two loaves of bread, two candles weighing sixty pounds each, a small barrel of water and one of wine will be offered to the Pope after the proclamation of sainthood as a sign of thanks.


Dollars For Disasters

Canadian evangelicals are launching a new, international ministry of compassion in the form of a special fund to be known as Share, Canada!

The fund, which took two years to organize formally, recently got its official charter from the Canadian government. It will work through existing missions and specialize in quick assistance for disaster victims.

A spokesman said Share, Canada! will make it possible for food, clothing, medical supplies, emergency equipment, tools, and temporary shelters to be moved within hours to wherever they are needed.

The founding committee was initiated by the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, which is currently providing administrative facilities and staff. The overseers of the fund say they will seek to keep organization and red tape to a minimum.


Dr. James W. Angell, pastor of Claremont Presbyterian Church in California, is the $10,000 grand-prize winner in Fleming Revell’s Centennial Contest for the “most significant … work of inspirational nonfiction.” Angell’s book, published this month, is Put Your Arms Around the City.

Jim Nabors, star of the “Jim Nabors Hour” TV variety show, has been named national Christmas chairman for the Salvation Army this year.

The white pastor of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in St. Louis tied up a religious service in conjunction with the city’s first Fall Festival last month when he chained himself to the pulpit of Christ Church Cathedral to protest racism. The Reverend William L. Matheus, a member of the militant civil-rights group called Action, said he was protesting “the hypocrisy of Christian reconciliation.”

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About 4,600 persons attended the final rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, last month of a ten-day series led by evangelist Leighton Ford; 774 went forward as inquirers during the meetings.

Scottish Baptist Union general secretary Andrew D. MacRae has been named president of the European Baptist Federation Council for the next two years.

Mrs. Rosa Page Welch of Chicago, a noted Negro gospel singer and member of the Christian Church (Disciples), is now serving on the General Board of the 190,000-member Church of the Brethren—the first non-Brother (or is it non-Sister) to serve on the board.

Grady C. Cothen, president of Oklahoma Baptist University for the past four years, is now president of New Orleans Baptist Seminary.

President Richard Nixon is honorary chairman of National Bible Week, November 22–29.

New York Mayor John V. Lindsay will receive the 1970 Family of Man Gold Medallion Award of the New York City Council of Churches October 26 for his work to solve inner-city problems.

Dr. Eugene R. Bertermann has resigned, effective January 1, as executive director of the Lutheran Laymen’s League to seek “a position less demanding administratively.”

Consultation on Church Union chairman George Beazley, Jr., on ultimate Church union: “It won’t happen in our lifetime. But the goal is to have all Christians in one church—Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostals—all Christians.”

Anglican archbishop Marcus Loane of Sydney, and E. H. Watson, president of the Baptist Union of New South Wales, announced they will boycott the ecumenical service for Christian unity planned during Pope Paul’s visit to Australia in December. The decision, based on theological differences with Catholicism, stirred immediate controversy.

Religion In Transit

Higher Education—a Christian Perspective, a new journal that will appear this fall, will be edited by Biola College dean of students Craig E. Seaton in La Mirada, California.

Two U. S. bishops and 3,000 Roman Catholic parish priests (about one in thirteen in the nation) signed a statement opposing the Viet Nam war during a three-month campaign ended last month. The results were announced at a Capitol Hill press conference in Washington, D. C.

To Russia With Love, a film produced by Underground Evangelism to show its work distributing Bibles in Iron Curtain countries, will be premiered across the nation this fall.

A major research project—aimed at helping parish pastors improve their ministry—is under way to determine the attitudes and life styles of Lutherans in the United States.

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Salvation Army crews were on twenty-four-hour duty in southern California last month serving refreshments to firemen, evacuees, and police during the state’s worst series of fire disasters.

Oregon officials, saying that Portland had the “highest risk of violence in the nation” last summer during the American Legion convention (violent youth protests were feared), credited a coalition of young clergymen for keeping the lid on.

Lutheran Church in America parishes will take a trip into the occult world this month when a new parish-education course, dealing with such phenomena as black masses, fortune-telling, demonology, and tarots, will be released.

A $150,000 “media learning center,” combining into one service the facilities of traditional library and audiovisual programs, was completed on the campus of Azusa Pacific College in California last month.

About half of the forty-man Miami Dolphins football squad now take part in interdenominational chapel services arranged by tackle Norman Evans, a Baptist. Members say their “personal relationships with God” are in some measure responsible for the team’s new hustle that has made the National Football League take notice.

The president of the Greek Orthodox Clergy Association of Detroit wants an interreligious Miss America of Religion Pageant based on spiritual values. “It’s about time we paid attention to … internal beauty,” declared Father Demetrios Kavadas.

The fate of controversy-pocked First Presbyterian Church of Iowa City appeared uncertain again as the congregation of the 1,000-member church voted 143 to 94 to sell the church building last month. Bitterness flared in 1966 when the congregation voted to raze the 112-year-old structure and Iowa University English professor Joseph Baker led a movement to spare it because of its architectural heritage. He was briefly excommunicated for his trouble (see March 1, 1968, issue, page 50).

There were 3,900 church fires throughout the United States last year, an increase of 100 from 1968; the average loss was $4,900, and the value of church property damaged or destroyed reached $19 million.

Boston’s new Roman Catholic archbishop, Humberto S. Medeiros, transferred ten acres of land in Texas this month to the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee to build a Rio Grande Valley union center.

World Scene

Senator Frank Church (D.-Idaho) says his Senate Inter-American Affairs Subcommittee will “thoroughly investigate” charges of political repression and torture in Brazil; hearings are expected early next year.

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Scottish Roman Catholics may now attend services of other denominations for “reasonable causes” (examples are blood relationships or friendships with persons of non-Catholic churches). But inter-Communion is forbidden.

More than 1,000 “house Mass groups” are operating among Roman Catholics in England, according to several reports. The home groups are said to be particularly welcomed by young married women “living lives of sheer boredom imprisoned within the walls of their own homes.”

The 84-year-old British Weekly has been bought by the company that owns the Church of England Newspaper, whose chairman is industrialist Sir Alfred Owen.

Hundreds of architecturally notable Anglican churches in Britain are apt to be closed, demolished, or sold to secular agencies because they are “redundant,” the Victorian Society said in its annual report.

Boasting a record enrollment this year, Philippine Bible College (Churches of Christ) in Baguio City includes this provision in an honor code signed by all students: “I will not permit a circumstance to arise that causes me to be alone with a member of the opposite sex, unless given specific permission by my parents.… A violation of this regulation will result in immediate dismissal.”

Men who enroll in the Ontario, Canada, (Anglican) Diocese of Huron as worker-deacons can serve in a parish and still retain their secular employment. The special order is described as a “supplementary ministry.”

Three of the four Lutheran churches in Germany that have split from the national Lutheran church have decided to become one. The Old Lutheran Church, the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church together have 65,000 members. Nominally, there are 27 million in the national church. The newly formed denomination will call itself the Lutheran Church in Germany.

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