Things are still simmering in Israel following arson attacks against mission agencies and explosions of Israeli outrage over attempts by Christians to evangelize Jews (see March 16 issue, page 38). Official denials notwithstanding, the Knesset (Parliament) may be forced to pass some sort of anti-missionary legislation as a sop to the noisy religious bloc in the government. Several proposals were to be debated this month. Observers believe that any measure adopted will be one main-line churches and agencies can live with, and that only the small aggressive groups will be affected.
The three religious parties (NRP) and the rightist Gahal party clearly want restrictive legislation, while the Alignment (government party) and the Israel Liberal Party (ILP) oppose it. To underline his concern, the NRP’s Yitzhak Raphael claimed that 130,000 Jews in America had joined the Jews for Jesus movement, the Jerusalem Post reported. But Yitzhak Golan of the ILP dismissed the figure as part of the “baseless and hysterical exaggeration” surrounding the issue. In a democracy like Israel, he insisted, ideology must be combated by ideology and education, not by legislation.
On March 4 a group of church leaders huddled with religious-affairs minister Zerah Warhaftig to discuss the situation. The clergymen voiced concern over “threats and violence directed against some Christian groups” and asked for clarification of the legislative push. Baptist leader Fuad Sakhnini of the Nazareth Baptist Church decried a campaign by the militant Jewish Defense League (JDL) to get the Arabs to emigrate from Israel. (Two facets: purchase of land from Arabs and establishment of an American committee to help Arabs emigrate to the United States.)
Warhaftig countered, said the Post, by citing the “bitterness of the Israeli public toward aggressive missionary activity, and particularly toward missionaries who use fraudulent means by pretending to be Jews.” He said that there would be no change in policy toward the “recognized” churches (technically, only the Anglican Church is officially recognized), and that the government will punish those guilty of violent acts against Christians. (Indeed, police minister Shlomo Hillel announced to law students at Hebrew University that evidence was being assembled against arson suspects, and church leaders reported stepped-up police protection.)
The JDL refuses to back off. Rabbi Meir Kahane of the JDL and three non-Jewish young Americans announced they are setting up a “Christians for Moses” movement to oppose the Jews for Jesus. (Co-founder John Cummings, 20, an American Mormon, says he has become convinced Moses should replace Jesus as Christianity’s leading figure. He and his colleagues will not convert to Judaism but will center their faith in the Old Testament, he explained. There are twenty-five Mosaic Christians in Israel, he added, and there are plans to start a branch in the United States.)
MINIMIZING FUTURE SHOCK
Pastor D. Leroy Sanders of the 2,000-member First Assembly of God in North Hollywood, California, believes in having everything in order in the event of an emergency. Like, the Second Coming. Sanders and his people believe that when that happens they will suddenly disappear (be raptured) from the earth. But what about afterward—what would happen to the $1.5 million church property, and how could the possibly remaining members keep the church operating?
Sanders took his questions to attorneys and denominational officials. Result: the church unanimously agreed to change its by-laws providing for a “temporary chairman” and election of new officers when the event occurs. To finance the work, members have been urged to rewrite their wills and insurance policies, naming the church as beneficiary. And to minimize initial confusion, the mortgage company has been alerted to the expected emergency, and consultations are under way with a major insurance company to determine how claims may be paid without waiting the usual seven-year period for missing persons.
Kahane says methods will match those of the Jews for Jesus. There will be meetings in private homes and information drives outside embassies and consulates. He stated:
We will give the Christian missionaries a dose of their own medicine and act precisely as they do on the Mount of Olives and Jaffa. Maybe then the authorities will reach the conclusion that missionary activity of any sort should not be permitted.
His sentiments were echoed a few days later by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren in a speech to a labor club:
I say we must uproot this affliction called the mission. This can be done through legislation making it illegal to attempt [to persuade] any person to change his religion. The Knesset must display some courage and act, without fear of offending certain Gentile groups. There is nothing anti-democratic about such legislation, and decent people of all faiths would support it.
The infighting was forgotten momentarily as Jews, Christians, and Muslims gathered for an interfaith service for those killed in the Libyan jetliner shot down by Israeli jets.
Portugal is planning strict controls of missionary activities in its rebellious African colony, Angola, according to a purported secret document obtained by church missionary councils in Holland last month and examined by CHRISTIANITY TODAY correspondent Jan Van Capelleveen. The document, prepared by Portuguese colonial authorities, calls for closer supervision of missionaries and the “secret but always vigilant presence” of the government in mission affairs.
The report directs that Roman Catholic missionaries be politically attuned to Portuguese aims, in effect making the church an instrument of Portuguese colonial policy. (Angola has been wracked by rebellion among black Africans for several years, and economic pressure by American churches has been directed at firms doing business there.) Missionaries—Portuguese and foreign, Roman Catholic and Protestant—must also be forced to “join our work of Portugalizing the native masses,” says the report.
The Dutch councils passed the report—they did not say how they got it—along to their own government with demands that something be done to safeguard Dutch missionary work. In official protests, council leaders alleged that Portugal violates civil rights and religious liberty in Angola and misuses the church.
About 300 priests and one bishop attended last month’s meeting of the Episcopal Charismatic Conference in Dallas. St. Matthew’s Cathedral rang with cries of “Praise the Lord” as the clergymen worshiped and—most for the first time—publicly shared their Pentecostal witness. Prayer and praise meetings in hotel rooms went on until the wee hours.
Bishop William C. Frey of Colorado emphasized a need to concentrate on the “fruits” of the Christian life rather than the charismatic “gifts” of prophecy, healing, exorcism, and glossolalia. But, said he, “Thank God we’re losing our stiffness and dignity.” The charismatic experience, he testified, “made experiential many things which I had known theoretically.”
The meeting was co-chaired by Seattle rector Dennis Bennett and Dallas clergyman Ted Nelson. A statement was approved, stating, “We do not wish to be a cause of division within the Body of Christ.” It asked for counsel from the bishops “so this new experience and awareness of God’s love and power may be better used … for the renewing and strengthening of the Church.”
Humbard’S Cathedral: The Cracks Widen
With his empire tottering around him and two courts breathing down his neck, television evangelist Rex Humbard of suburban Akron, Ohio, reorganized his Cathedral of Tomorrow management and severely curtailed two of the Cathedral’s enterprises. The faculty and staff of Humbard’s winterbound Mackinac College in northern Michigan were “temporarily” laid off in early February. (CHRISTIANITY TODAY had earlier reported the Cathedral’s worsening financial situation. See February 2 issue, page 39.) The college’s spring reopening was delayed by a state court order while further financing was sought. (Some sources close to the scene predict it will close permanently.)
In Akron, Cathedral Teleproductions—a production facility that Humbard claimed was the finest between New York and Chicago—closed down its secular operations (mostly commercials). It will still produce and distribute the weekly Cathedral service.
However, Judge Paul Riley said the closure was in violation of the injunction and warned the Cathedral against making similar moves in future without court permission. In all, more than 100 employees were laid off.
Humbard also accepted a court’s appointment of a watchdog to oversee Cathedral finances and ensure that there are no violations of a court-imposed injunction that froze assets and limited spending (see March 2 issue, page 52). The overseer is Lawrence Manning, a retired Cleveland business executive who will be paid at an hourly rate by the Cathedral.
A college staff member said the Cathedral needs $300,000 to keep the college operating for the rest of this year. He predicted that if kept open the college would enroll 350 students next fall. Currently only 136 attend. However, the staffer admitted “we are in limbo, right now.”
A federal court hearing will reconvene in April to hear charges brought by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. The court, meanwhile, has given the Cathedral forty-five days to improve its financial condition and present a viable financial plan for backing millions of dollars’ worth of unregistered securities it sold. The court has also ordered the Cathedral to hand over all financial data to both the Ohio commerce department and the SEC before April 10.
If the managers of the bankrupt Dick Ross and Associates corporation and the Ross Productions partnership have their way, the remaining assets will be sold to a Los Angeles combine known as “C.L.Ltd.” The assets: copies and distribution rights of two films, The Cross and the Switchblade and The Late Liz. C.L. has offered $400,000. This, combined with $200,000 income from the films since the financial failure in late 1971 (see January 7, 1972, issue, page 44), will pay off creditors and investors at the rate of about forty cents to a dollar, according to a plan submitted in court recently. Another $150,000 has already been paid. At the time of the collapse, debts totaled more than $1 million.
Several dozen contracts—mostly rental leases—and claims were rejected in the plan; disputes over several of these may cause hearings (the next are scheduled in April) to drag on without a quick decision. Among those rejected are claims by shipping magnates Daniel and Plato Skouras of New York, California film-maker Tom Harris, and Ross’s secretary, Mariann Free of Hollywood. The Internal Revenue Service seized much leased equipment from Ross’s offices in seven states; claims from these rental firms are also rejected in the plan.
An American Baptist-related agency has been handling affairs for the stricken enterprise.
President, Still Archbishop
When Archbishop Makarios, newly reacclaimed President of Cyprus, rejected fresh demands by Cypriot Orthodox Church bishops that he step down (see March 16 issue, page 41), the bishops—all of whom rank below Makarios in the church’s hierarchy—voted to defrock him. Unperturbed, Makarios declared that any decisions reached by them were “null and void from the beginning.” Support for Makarios’s stand came from unexpected quarters including the military government of Greece, the Greek Orthodox Church, political foes of the Athens regime, and almost all newspapers and media in Greece.
Tanenbaum: Response And Rejoinder
A statement by evangelist Billy Graham clarifying his position on evangelism and the Jews (see March 16 issue, page 29) met with the approval of Jewish leaders this month, defusing somewhat the tension that has been building up in Jewish circles over Key 73. Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, interreligious-affairs director for the American Jewish Committee and an outspoken opponent of evangelism of Jews, called the statement “a constructive contribution to interreligious understanding.” The statement was prepared after three days of intensive talks between Graham and Tanenbaum. It rejects coercion and intimidation in evangelism, and says Key 73 seeks “to call all men to Christ without singling out any specific religious or ethnic group.”
Tanenbaum’s comments were made at a press conference in which he described Graham as “one of the great and good friends of the Jewish people … destined by God to play a crucial role in clarifying the relationship between Judaism and Christianity.”
On the other hand, Tanenbaum charged, some Jews are still being subjected to “coercion and psychological harassment.” Groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and Campus Crusade for Christ are putting undue pressure on Jewish students, he claimed. He accused Crusade members of “breaking into” a University of Michigan dormitory and refusing to leave Jewish students’ rooms without decisions for Christ. (A Crusade staffer contacted at the university said the charge was false. He said a religious survey was conducted on campus through letters sent to dorms; interested students were invited to meet in a public area.
Also, Tanenbaum asserted, an FCA group in a Columbus, Ohio, high school won’t permit students to play on varsity squads unless they join FCA, though the student body is 30 per cent Jewish. (An FCA spokesman later denied the charge.)
Because of the furor, several Key 73 leaders at the local level have disclaimed attempts to evangelize Jews. United Methodist Ralph Johnson, chairman of the Church’s Key 73 task force in the Southern California-Arizona Conference, warned that the assumption that “those of other religious traditions are without meaningful faith is arrogant and presumptuous.”
At the National Council of Churches meeting in Pittsburgh this month, evangelism of Jews was debated (see story, page 44). Delegates accepted a resolution calling for increased Christian-Jewish dialogue but rejected one that called for an end to proselytism in the Jewish community. The American Jewish Congress, meanwhile turned down a Navy explanation that support for Key 73 doesn’t constitute an infringement of Jewish rights. The Navy Chief of Chaplains told the upset AJC that since many sailors were members of Key 73-supporting churches, it was proper for him to urge support from the chaplains (see February 16 issue, page 54). The AJC, however, holds to its original charge that the Navy is supporting proselytism efforts.
With Graham’s statement made public, Tanenbaum said he hopes Key 73 will follow suit, but he does not insist on it.
Renewal In Latin America
Some 2,000 delegates gathered in Porto Alegre, Brazil’s southernmost metropolis, for the simultaneous eighth annual conference of the Brazilian charismatic renewal movement and the Second Latin American Renewal Congress. Smaller delegations were on hand from Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile, and from as far away as Costa Rica. Audiences of up to 5,000 heard messages and testimonies by renewal leaders from all over the continent.
The Brazilian renewal movement differs considerably from the much younger movement in neighboring Argentina. It began almost nine years ago when leaders in a number of mainline denominations began to experience the so-called baptism of the Holy Spirit, with a consequent outpouring of charismatic gifts and of evangelistic zeal. This eventually led to a number of divisions and restructuring along traditional denominational lines. Churches that at first grew rapidly are beginning to stagnate, say observers. Some are turning for help to outside movements such as the Morris Cerullo Evangelistic Association, Overseas Crusades, the Institute of In-Depth Evangelism, and the Argentine renewal movement.
The emphasis of the four-year-old Argentine movement is upon structural renewal rather than “charismatic” renewal. Charismata are considered merely a first step, with radical implications for the entire life-style of the Church, says In-Depth Evangelism’s A. William Cook, Jr. Christian unity is implemented primarily at the level of local-church leadership in each city. (The local church in the movement is comprised of every believer in a given city, although this church may meet in a number of localities throughout the city. Local pastors are looked upon as elders of the city church; they are a tightly knit fellowship. Each pastor or elder works with a small band of disciples or key men in his neighborhood fellowship, who in turn are responsible for disciples right on down to the level of each home.)
Whereas the Brazilian movement has tended to institutionalize along denominational and strong individual leadership lines, the Argentine movement seems flexible and open. It seeks to permeate traditional denominations with its concepts, and has thus made a decisive impact, not only in its own country but throughout Spanish America. Although it is too early to gauge the extent of the influence of the Argentine movement upon its Brazilian counterpart—each became aware of the other’s existence less than two years ago—there are signs that the renewal churches in Brazil may adopt the Argentine model. The new hymnology of the Argentine movement, for example, is now much in evidence in Brazil.
Meanwhile, the fires of renewal continue to spread throughout Spanish America, as is evidenced by renewal congresses recently held in Mexico and Costa Rica. This last event was attended by delegates and speakers from almost every Central American country and from Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and the United States.
Stiftelsen Biblicum, Sweden’s evangelical institute for Bible study and research at Uppsala (see April 28, 1972, issue, page 38), has lost three members of its Board of Directors, including the figurehead president, well-known Old Testament scholar Dr. G. A. Danell.
The crisis began when board member Per Jonsson resigned from the (state) Church of Sweden and from its ministry. Jonsson said he wanted to be free to defend the biblical faith and Lutheran confessions without being compromised by his official position in the state church. Thereupon three directors of the Biblicum, Danell, Ingvar Kector, and Ingemar Franck, sought to have him excluded from Biblicum on the grounds that only Church of Sweden members should be allowed to belong. When the majority of the board refused to expel Jonsson, the three resigned.
Biblicum’s chief administrative officer, Dr. Seth Erlandsson, issued a statement last month expressing his appreciation to the three, especially to Danell, an outstanding defender of biblical infallibility in Sweden, and voicing regrets that Danell and the others feel so strongly that unless a person remains within the state church he cannot be trusted to fight for the biblical faith. Biblicum’s official position is non-denominational, but until now all its board members have belonged to the state church.
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