Watts is a ten-block-square area in south central Los Angeles. But to most whites, it’s any place in the city where most of the Negroes live. Watts skyrocketed to fame during riots there in 1965.
South central Los Angeles is predominantly black—93 per cent—with a scattering of Mexican-Americans. Within this area there are 600,000 people and more than 500 churches—everything from the traditional denominations to a group called House of Prayers.
Whatever their architecture or style, to Edward V. Hill, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Watts and one of the nation’s foremost Negro clergymen, these churches have great significance. Last January Hill helped found the World Christian Training Center, a unique organization created to renovate the spiritual atmosphere of ghettos.
“The Negro is a church-oriented person,” Hill explains. “Only 20 per cent of the people here do not attend church. The problem, therefore, is very dissimilar to the white community’s dilemma. There, getting people into the churches in the first place is difficult. Here, the problem is … what they should be doing—and aren’t—once they get there.”
The CTC, as the training center is called, evolved to train Negroes to be more evangelistic, more capable of teaching Bible studies and leading others to Christ, and more aware of both the demands and the abundance of the Christian life.
The commission of the CTC is threefold: Set your church on fire, win your block to Christ, and win your family. Its strategy is to recruit nuclei of persons out of local churches and neighborhoods and train them in witnessing, biblical fundamentals, and evangelism. Since Hill believes most people don’t really know Jesus, participants are given an in-depth course on the Person of Christ and a biblical analysis of salvation.
Next is a more personal step: helping individuals return to their churches and influence the people there to become soul winners. Hill puts it this way: “We are trying to teach one little spark to ignite a fire!”
The final section provides a program for personal evangelism on the trainee’s own block and within his family.
The center is presently staffed by four full-time members and twelve teachers—many of whom donate their time and efforts to the ghetto. Not all staff members are black, and they represent various denominations. Many white churches and other groups help support the center and its work.
Some in the Los Angeles area feel, however, that Hill is spreading himself too thin and that the ghetto revival may not get off the ground. “The potential … is there,” comments one Christian leader and editor of Los Angeles’ only Christian newspaper. “What Hill does … remains to be seen. You can’t be involved in thirty projects at one time and expect all of them to soar.” Helping to take up the leadership slack is Joe Ryan, a white minister of World Vision on special assignment to the CTC as its executive director.
“The only way black people are going to be won to Christ or turned on for him is through other black people,” remarks Hal Lindsey, a founder of a Christian group, the Light and Power Company. His organization, in Westwood near the UCLA campus, aids the CTC. “That’s why the CTC is so important,” Lindsey adds. “It gives blacks the training they need to reach other blacks.”
Hill, a close friend of Billy Graham and a renowned speaker and preacher himself, believes the CTC can lessen racial tension. “In Watts,” he notes, “we have white store owners, white policemen, white prostitutes, white insurance collectors. But there are no white Christians for the blacks to identify with.” Hill sees the CTC as a means of uniting black and white Christians and bridging that gap.
The CTC network, less than a year old, already is influencing Watts. When a person accepts Christ, the Christian who initially prayed with him gives the new Christian’s name and address to CTC headquarters, where a mature, well-trained Christian on the same block is located. He then begins Bible study and prayer with the new Christian. Hill explains the hoped-for chain reaction: “Where there was only one Christian on a block, there are now two. Those two immediately set up their own block ministry. Soon there will be three, four, five, until the entire block has been reached for Christ.”
As the ghettos go, so goes the world, Hill believes. The CTC is making significant strides toward bringing the ghettos up from their spiritual slump, turning them on to the Gospel, and working for harmony and peace among blacks and whites.
“We want people to know that there are rational, peace-loving blacks working among themselves to better their own lives and the national situation. And we want people to know that those blacks are Christians—God’s people,” stresses Hill. “When I get to heaven, I’d like to take all the people of the Los Angeles ghetto area with me.”
Negro Churchmen Set Evangelism Congress
Black Baptist churchmen have been invited to attend a Congress on Evangelism in Kansas City, Missouri, September 15–17. Dr. Edward V. Hill, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Los Angeles and congress director, announced the gathering last month. The congress will involve primarily churchmen from the National Baptist Convention of America, the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
Pastors of other black churches in a six-state area, and some white ministers, also have been invited. Sessions will be held in St. Stephen’s Baptist Church where Dr. John Williams is pastor.
Scheduled speakers include Dr. Billy Graham and Graham team members Howard Jones and Walter Smyth, Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, M. L. Scott, and C. A. W. Clark. The congress theme is “Training Men to Lead Men to Christ.”
All three of these black Baptist denominations were holding national conventions earlier this month; the Progressive National Baptists met in Kansas City.
Black Ministry Institute Rises From Conwell Center
An “Institute for Black Ministry” will replace the faltering urban center at the Philadelphia campus of Gordon-Conwell Seminary this fall. Increasing financial problems and stiffening requirements by the American Association of Theological Schools forced Gordon-Conwell officials to consider the shutdown of the Philadelphia facility last spring (see May 22 issue, page 36; also June 20, 1969, issue, page 32).
The new institute is due to open late this month with about eighty students; it will be black-run but open to non-blacks. The new school’s announced purpose is to “train men and women for Christian service from the perspective of the black experience.” The institute was formed by the 300-member Council of Black Clergy, headed by the Reverend Vaughn Eason, pastor of an African Methodist Episcopal Zion church in the city.
The new institute, to be headed by the Reverend Ronald Peters, a 1970 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, is said to be the first black religious school to surface in the current emphasis on distinctive contributions of black theology to the Church.
Gordon-Conwell is contributing $70,000 to the first year’s expenses of the new institute, according to president Harold Ockenga, who has been instrumental in the shift. The Gordon-Conwell board will continue to own the Philadelphia property, but it will be rented for $1 a year to a subsidiary board, according to seminary sources. The latter board will probably be composed of eight blacks and four whites. Eason said some faculty members for the Philadelphia school will be recruited from local black clergy.
Lyons Goes Full Circle
Catholic conservatives, badly bruised by recent developments within the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, scored a major victory last month by gaining full control of American Catholicism’s most influential newspaper, the National Register (circulation 112,000). The new owner is the Twin Circle Publishing Company of Culver City, California, producer of Twin Circle (circulation 105,000).
Sale of the 57-year-old weekly Register, which through the years gained a reputation for a moderately liberal editorial stance and a national readership far beyond its original diocese, was announced by Archbishop James V. Casey of Denver (at a reported price of $500,000). The sale was said not to affect the Register’s Denver and twenty-four other diocesan editions printed by the firm, but these editions have traditionally used columns and other editorial content originated by the national edition.
Twin Circle has been edited since its founding in 1967 by Father Daniel J. Lyons, known for his acid pen. Bankrolled by industrialist Patrick J. Frawley, who recently resigned executive positions with Schick-Eversharp and Technicolor, Twin Circle has been publishing the books and articles of Catholic conservatives who resent the church’s theological and sociological liberalism.
Twin Circle Publishing Company immediately announced it was moving its headquarters to Denver, renamed the paper the National Catholic Register, and put Dale Francis, former Twin Circle publisher, in charge as the Register’s editor-publisher. No sooner had Jesuit Lyons been named editor-publisher of Twin Circle, however, than Archbishop Robert Dwyer of Portland, Oregon, board president for both papers, asked for—and got—Lyons’s resignation.
The fuss stemmed from Lyons’s coverage of, and polemic editorials about, the California grape dispute for Twin Circle.In particular, Dwyer cited the refusal of Lyons to print Los Angeles archbishop Timothy Manning’s position on unionization of farm workers. Lyons charged that a committee of bishops negotiating with grape growers and pickers was fostering “compulsory unionism” and intended to organize all the farm workers in America. At month’s end it was still unclear whether Lyons would continue to have editorial duties beyond writing his weekly column for Twin Circle.
Meanwhile, Francis declared of the Register: “This is going to be a Catholic paper, and we might as well make that clear.… It will faithfully record what is happening but it will never consider the pronouncement of some obscure theologian as equal to what is said by the successor of Peter.”
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