Although largely unreported in the press, plenty has been happening this summer on the Christian youth scene, both inside and outside the institutional church. For instance, a record number of young people are engaged in short-term ministries overseas and at home. Prayer and Bible-study groups are proliferating. Also, there have been some notable events. This month, News Editor Edward E. Plowman visited Jesus ’73 on a Pennsylvania farm (he will report from London in a later issue on this month’s SPREE ’73, a British version of Explo ’72), and Editorial Associate Cheryl Forbes traveled to Houston for the pan-Lutheran Discovery ’73 event. Here are their reports.

It was evening and the believers were all together in one place. Suddenly, sizzling lightning streaks lit up the sky in a spectacular display of atmospheric fireworks, thunder cracked overhead, and the sound of a mighty rushing wind swept upon them. Boom, went the thunder. “Praise the Lord!” went the crowd, arms raised and faces uplifted into the rain.

Pentecost? A scene from Cecil B. DeMille? Neither. It was Friday night at the three-day Jesus ’73 get-together on a 240-acre barley and potato farm outside the village of Morgantown, Pennsylvania. The wind tore down the giant 180-foot-long prayer tent and the smaller press tent nearby (giving rise to remarks about rain falling on the just and the unjust), but nobody seemed very upset. And the rain was an answer to the prayers of many who had sweltered through two heat-record days.

As it was, the worst of the storm bypassed the encampment, and the thousands of worshipers joined Godspell star Katie Hanley, 24, a recently turned-on Christian, in singing “Day by Day.” Minutes later, deaf mute Rita Simpkins, 22, of a rehabilitation school in Virginia, in sign language told friends she was hearing music for the first time in her life. The news spread through the crowd, evoking more hugs and praises. (Friends of Miss Simpkins say she still does not hear normally, but confirm that “something has happened” and she is learning to speak.)

In all, Jesus ’73 drew more than 10,000 from thirty states, a group far smaller than the 50,000 initially envisioned, but far more manageable—and knowable. Most were youths in their early twenties. A number were house-church Jesus people, but many came from institutional churches, including a large contingent of Mennonites from the local Lancaster County area. The majority paid $15 each, a bargain in comparison to ticket prices for rock festivals. Unlike the big secular events, Jesus ’73 not only met its $40,000 or so budget but had almost that much left over. The excess was distributed to a number of Jesus-movement ministries and missionary agencies.

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The event was conceived more than a year ago by the Eternal Family, a group of Lancaster County Jesus people, but as preparations became more hectic, management was put into the hands of Mennonite Harold M. Zimmerman, 46, and United Presbyterian John Musser, 46, both members of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship. Charismatic Mennonite Tom Hess, 34, handled programming. They kept the emphasis on Christian teaching and fellowship rather than on evangelistic outreach, a concept endorsed by evangelist Tom Skinner on opening night. “We keep challenging these kids to be reaching other people,” Skinner said. “If we keep that up, we’re going to have the most retarded generation of Christians in the history of the church.”

Skinner, probably the crowd’s favorite in a battery of name speakers and one of the few non-charismatic platform personalities, also cautioned against insincere band-wagoning and Pentecostal pushiness that is divisive. Many in the largely charismatic-oriented audience voiced their agreement. The upshot of it all was that people seemed to accept one another’s varying expressions of worship and faith as valid. Penn State grad student David Martin, 23, expressed a sentiment heard often. He said he was impressed most “by the commonality that we have in Christ. The church is not the Methodist, the Presbyterian, the Catholic; it’s the body of believers.”

The exuberance of youthful styles (black Jesus activist Ted Hayes leading cheers), the sometimes rock-like music (Randy Stonehill), and the roughing-it-of camp life didn’t seem to turn oldsters off. “I don’t know if this is a place for old people or not,” shouted the hand-clapping Sarah Stoltzfus, 66, of Lancaster over the blare of amplified music, “but I just love it.”

“Love,” stated 18-year-old Johanna Forbes of Bowie, Maryland, in summing up the impact of Jesus ’73. She wishes her church could have the same kind of human closeness and God-closeness she found there, another sentiment frequently heard.

State-police troopers, food-concession operators, and neighbors for miles around commented on the orderliness, cleanliness, and friendliness of the Jesus crowd. Area newspapers gave thorough coverage, featuring many testimonies. Mennonite farmer Paul Mast, 34, who hosted the event, said there ought to be more such affairs to show that the solutions to man’s problems are in Christ.

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Obedience and discipleship were stressed in teaching sessions, one of the reasons why about 500 gathered for a mass baptism in a stream on Mast’s property (photo, opposite page).

Jesus ’73 closed Saturday night with a galaxy of speakers and musicians on stage. Perhaps the most sacred moment of all was as Andrae Crouch sang softly a chorus, “Jesus, Jesus,” while thousands in small circles held hands and prayed for one another.

A reporter from nearby Reading had gone throughout the camp asking questions. “Why are you here?” “Because we love Jesus,” replied a Virginia couple, adding, “Do you know him?” The reporter said he came away from Jesus ’73 with a feeling of peace and serenity, wondering what it was the Jesus people had found.

“Here is our dome away from home, our Astrochurch,” leaders Herb Brokering and Gerry Glaser declared to more than 19,000 young people in Houston’s Astrodome. From the three major Lutheran bodies (approximately 12,000 from the American Lutheran Church, 4,000 from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and 3,000 from the Lutheran Church in America), the young people gathered in Houston for five days early his month to celebrate the unity—and diversity—of believers and to proclaim that their eyes were “wide open to the mercies of God” (Romans 12:1 from the Phillips translation, the convention’s theme verse).

“Discovery ’73,” the first All-Lutheran Youth Gathering (ALYG)—a major Key 73 event for the three denominations—was a smorgasbord-style event intended to play down denominational differences and emphasize personal similarities. Young people came from across the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean to praise God in fellowship, study, and involvement. There were shirts with such slogans as “hysterical hoosiers for him” and “St. Louis, the home of Budweiser Beer.” Hundreds of kids sporting Jesus buttons and carrying “One Way” Living Bibles met under the slogan, “Expect more from the Bible and you’ll get it.” Other young people simply loafed around hotel swimming pools.

Each evening, the dome events began with rock groups, prayer, and the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed. Clowns and a mime group acted out what speakers were saying. Such choruses as “We Are One in the Spirit” and “For All the Saints” set the spirit of unity on the night that Catholic archbishop Fulton J. Sheen spoke about “our blessed Lord.” “We should not see a superstar,” he told the young people, but “the superscar, the sweet love of Jesus.” He compared Christ to the hub of a wheel with believers as the spokes. “The closer we get to the hub, the closer we get to each other,” shouted the archbishop amid applause and whistles.

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Dedicated to the memory of the late ALC president Kent Knutson, Discovery ’73 also heard Mrs. Knutson praise God with alleluias as she and Sheen joined in liturgical prayer.

On another night, amid cheers, applause, and music from his film The Gospel Road, Johnny Cash strode onto the platform “to tell you about Jesus Christ only.” “He’ll take hold of you” if you’ll take hold of him, proclaimed the singer to the largest crowd of the week (nearly 22,000).

Seven theme “tracks”—or sessions on adult evangelism, youth evangelism, creative expression, environmental awareness, justice, women’s/men’s concerns, and war/peace/conscience—at three hotel clusters scattered around the city kept the kids busy in seminars, jam sessions, and small discussion groups. Evangelism sessions, such as one conducted by Jews for Jesus leader Moishe Rosen, recognized the social aspects of witnessing for Christ. After suggesting that street cleaning and house painting provided chances to talk about Jesus, Rosen divided his group into smaller sections of six each to discuss innovative ways to confront communities for Christ. Liberation theme tracks met before small-group sessions to worship in an evangelistic-style “liberation liturgy.”

In the creative expression track young people expressed and developed new ways to worship Jesus. Some wrote new songs, and some even learned to dance “to the glory of God” (professional dancer Marge Champion, leader of the dance workshop, also led an open-air worship service and danced “The Lord’s Prayer” in an evening dome event).

The electronic media in the dome, hall, and hotels created a sense of closeness in the midst of space. The dome’s elaborate scoreboard became a hymnal, a picture screen, a celebration of the resurrection. And the ALYG purchased air time on Houston’s educational television station, KUHT Channel 8, to pipe information, morning Bible studies, and late-night entertainment (11 P.M. to 1 A.M.) into the hotel rooms.

Planning for Discovery ’73 began in November, 1971, after the LCMS and the LCA accepted the ALC’s invitation to participate. Transportation, meals, housing, and other logistical matters went smoothly. The young people (they paid $55 each) had breakfast and lunch at their thirty-seven hotels and motels and ate supper together at the Astro-hall. Yet by the very nature and scope of the program confusion and exhaustion were virtually built-in hazards, so Discovery ’73 was not without complaint.

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Many kids came for fun or just to get away from it all, but others came to learn more about what it means to be a Christian in a post-Christian society. To some observers, the fact that much of the audience talked through the performance of Mary Travers (who said during a taping session for television that she didn’t know whether God existed, but that she supposed it didn’t hurt to believe in him) and that three-fourths of the audience walked out on Kris Kristofferson (who followed Travers on the program and who doesn’t claim to be a Christian) underscored the concern for Jesus.

At one point in the concert—held under the banner “Christ Festival”—a disgusted teen-ager yelled, “We want Jesus.” And for the most part, kids got him. Houston’s Astrodome became God’s “Kingdome,” a five-day “Christendome” of love and joy in Jesus. As one girl put it, “every day my Christian life gets higher and higher here. By the time I get back to Minnesota I’ll be so psyched up about Jesus that the results will spill over into my work in the church.” Another girl from Iowa, 17-year-old Peggy Abens, said, “We’ve got to keep it simple. It’s all just Christ.”

The Lutheran Pentecostals

The charismatic movement is a growing, viable force in American Lutheranism. That was the message delivered at the second International Lutheran Conference on the Holy Spirit, held earlier this month at Minneapolis.

The conference wasn’t limited to Lutherans. Methodists, Catholics, Presbyterians, and old-line Pentecostals—all joined by their interest and participation in the charismatic movement—listened as Catholic, Lutheran, and Assemblies of God speakers urged the charismatics to seek a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit. They also heard David Wilkerson, Teen Challenge founder and author of The Cross and the Switchblade, warn of impending persecution for all charismatics—particularly those in the Catholic Church. Wilkerson, 41, an Assemblies of God minister, told the first-night audience of nearly 8,000 that he’d received a vision from God prophesying worldwide economic recession, natural catastrophies, youth rebellion, and persecution. “Watch for the [Catholic] church to pull in the welcome mat,” he warned the Catholic Pentecostals, who so far have had the tacit approval of the American hierarchy.

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Two received the Medal of Honor. One was killed by his own country’s bombers in an accidental air strike. Several perished in helicopter crashes. Another was gunned down as he ministered to a dying man. And one died as he was offering a Mass in a bunker. In all, sixteen U. S. military chaplains lost their lives in the Viet Nam war. Seven were Catholic priests, seven Protestant ministers, and two Jewish rabbis.
The Protestants included Army captain James J. L. Johnson, 33, a National Baptist, the only black U. S. chaplain to die in the war. Also: Army captain Phillip A. Nichols, 29, Assemblies of God; Army captain William Newcomer Feaster, 28, United Church of Christ; Army captain Merle D. Brown, 32, Evangelical Lutheran; Army major Don L. Bartley, 36, Southern Presbyterian; Army major Roger W. Heinz, 33, Missouri Synod Lutheran; Army major Ambrosio S. Grandea, 34, Methodist.

But another conference speaker, Pentecostal leader David DuPlessis, told the audience he saw no indication of imminent persecution. If any pope persecutes the charismatics, he said, it will have to be someone other than Pope Paul VI.

For the most part, however, speakers and delegates concentrated on spiritual renewal, both personal and congregational. The most popular workshop topics at the five-day conference included an “introduction to baptism of the Holy Spirit,” healing, prayer, the occult, and prophecy.

The conference was convened by an inter-Lutheran group of laymen and pastors but had no official Lutheran sponsorship. Registration exceeded 12,000 Conference officials estimated that 25 per cent were non-Lutheran charismatics, with the rest coming mostly from the three major Lutheran bodies—the American Lutheran Church (ALC), the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).

The conference was the product of a 1970 prayer meeting of charismatics of all three churches, said former ALC pastor and organizing committee chairman Norris L. Wogen of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The first international conference (held last year in Minneapolis) drew nearly 8,000 charismatics, many of whom were not aware of the extent of the movement within the Lutheran church, he said. Wogen, who speaks in tongues, left his church to take control of the conference steering committee. He described the 1972 conference as “a first kiss … an experience never to be repeated.” Contrasting with the ecstasy of last year’s meeting, he said, the 1973 conference projected concern, serious study, and preparation for church renewal.

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Among the groups preparing for this renewal is the Seattle-based Lutheran Charisciples (charismatic disciples). Less than a year old, the group—led by twelve volunteers—seeks to “nurture” Lutheran charismatics and also to explain the charismatic movement to the rather neutral and somewhat cold-to-charismatics leadership of the three churches. Also the product of a joint lay-cleric prayer meeting, the Charisciples estimate that there are 4,300 charismatic families and 650 charismatic pastors within the three Lutheran branches. Charisciple speakers have appeared in Lutheran churches in thirty-one states so far, and the group plans to reach all Lutheran churches—either in person or by mail—by the end of 1973.

The purpose of the massive effort, explained Charisciple coordinator Hans Schnabel, is “to get into the Lutheran Church with the message of the charismatic Christ.” Primarily, the Charisciples want to head off charges that the movement is a threat to traditional Lutheranism. Said Schnabel, a former research director in the Pacific Northwest for the LCMS: “We’re not trying to superimpose our beliefs on others. We merely want to give guidance to the movement.”

Clarence Finsaas, a former Lutheran Brethren pastor who lost his Seattle-area church over the charismatic controversy, estimated that every mainline Protestant congregation in the Seattle area “has at least one charismatic in it, so far as I can tell.” Finsaas, now working with the Charisciples, said weekly prayer meetings draw Episcopalians, Baptists, Catholics, and Methodists as well as Lutherans. One such group, Trinity Fellowship in Seattle, attracts 150–200 to its twice-a-month meetings. It is interdenominational but has a strong Lutheran orientation.

Prayer fellowships are a mainstay in the Lutheran charismatic movement, which to date has been relatively unorganized with little contact between groups. Lutheran Charismatic Renewal, a mimeographed newsletter published in Valparaiso, Indiana, prepared what it called “the first attempt at listing prayer groups with a Lutheran flavor” for the Minneapolis meeting. It lists twenty-two groups from Wisconsin to New York.

Many participants pointed to the ALC as the strongest breeding ground for charismatics. Second in line, they said, was the LCMS, with the LCA far behind in charismatic participation. (Figures quoted at the conference claimed 300 ALC pastors, 300 LCMS, and fewer than 200 LCA. Because of the unstructured nature of the Lutheran movement, however, conference leaders said no exact figures could be given.)

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Plans are being laid for a national leadership conference for Lutheran charismatics, probably to be held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, this winter, according to ALC pastor-author Larry Christenson of San Pedro, California, a veteran charismatic leader.

In the meantime, however, Lutherans are discovering that the increasing Pentecostalism in their traditional midst cannot be easily explained away. And they’re discovering that the upraised arms, the speaking in tongues, the singing in the spirit, and the hearty amens are not just external show but rather—to quote those in the movement—the manifestation of a deep desire to see renewal in the church.


Prologue And Protest

More than fifty faculty members and staffers at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis issued a strong protest against action taken concerning them at the recent Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod biennial convention in New Orleans (see August 10 issue, page 40). Their statement makes it clear that they reject as binding President J. A. O. Preus’s theologically conservative doctrinal and interpretational guidelines which were elevated to officially binding status by the New Orleans convention. They vowed to stand together in the face of conservative pressures, and they called on others in the LCMS to join them in the protest movement.

In response, executive secretary Ralph Bohlmann of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations said the professors continue to misrepresent and defy the Synod and to stage publicity-seeking events that only further divide.

The doctrinally divided Council of Presidents met earlier with Preus to review the New Orleans actions and to quiz Preus on the future. Preus assured the synodical presidents that any doctrinal discipline will be carried out according to constitutional procedures.

Meanwhile, about 1,200 “moderate-liberals” (the losing side in New Orleans) met in St. Louis to lick one another’s wounds. Missions executive William Kohn said he thinks that some key doctrinal resolutions adopted at New Orleans are unconstitutional. Former LCMS president Oliver Harms expressed confidence in the Concordia faculty and said he could find no denial of scriptural or confessional doctrine on their part. Liberal leader Sam Roth revealed that steps were being taken to set up a legal injunction against dismissal of faculty members.

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