If certain mission-appeal brochures are correct, somewhere there’s a believer in a Bible-deprived Iron Curtain country hunched over his short-wave set, pencil and notepad in hand—listening to a missionary station in the West broadcast Scripture passages at dictation speed.
That is one of the more glamorously advertised aspects of missionary broadcasting, which for the most part conforms to a time-honored format of sermons, Bible teaching, music, news, and prayers. There have been a few innovations lately, however. One of them is KGEI’s series of programs beamed to Latin America explaining and upholding the civil rights of much-abused South American Indians. The 50,000-watt Far East Broadcast Company station on the San Francisco peninsula is run by Jim Bowman, son of Far East’s co-founder and president Bob Bowman.
Missionary radio broadcasting got its start on Christmas Day forty-two years ago when a tiny transmitter on an Equadorian mountain beamed a gospel message to Latin America. Today, station HCJB (Heralding Christ Jesus’ Blessings) in Quito is one of a select Breed of broadcast facilities that reach into the nooks and crannies of the globe delivering the Gospel in most of the world’s major languages—hurdling the barrier of illiteracy.
The breed has grown since 1931 (previously, in 1924, a Dutch group had begun gospel programming to Holland) to include sixty-five missionary groups and numerous other organizations that produce programming but are not engaged in broadcasting. Chief among the mission groups are World Radio Missionary Fellowship (WRMF) in Miami, which operates HCJB, among others; the California-based Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC), which boasts twenty-two stations around the world; and Trans-World Radio (TWR) in Chatham, New Jersey, operating primarily in Monaco and on the Caribbean island of Bonaire.
The number is likely to increase. After a ten-year freeze on licenses to American companies seeking international broadcasting rights from American territory, the Federal Communications Commission recently began accepting new applications. On deck are requests from Billy Graham for a million-watt station in Hawaii; TWR for a station in Puerto Rico; and the hitherto domestic Family Radio Network for an international license for New York City’s WNYW, which it recently purchased from the Mormon church. Ben Armstrong, a former TWR director of radio and now executive secretary of National Religious Broadcasters, said he expects quick FCC approval of many of the applications.
The move could cause a spurt of activity on the gospel broadcasting front. Organizations that formerly sought locations close to their target areas because of weak signals now find overseas locations and frequencies drying up. Powerful North America-based medium-wave stations beaming programs to large segments of the world’s population are not outside the realm of possibility and are looking more attractive to prospective Christian broadcasters.
“The trend is definitely to the superpower station,” said Armstrong. “Already there are quarter-of-a-million-watt stations in Korea and the Philippines.” (Medium-wave stations provide better signals than short-wave, and with the advent of transistor radios, sets are becoming more accessible to overseas listeners even though the current majority of overseas receivers are short-wave.)
But the tendency to more powerful stations is not necessarily a good thing, says a former FEBC missionary who asked that his name not be used. Unless content is upgraded to suit the cultural venue of the target audience and unless the dependency on American-produced-and-oriented programming is decreased, million-watt transmitters will draw no more listeners than a ten-watt station, he believes.
Paul McClendon, communications professor at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, surveyed Christian broadcasting in the Philippines (FEBC’s major territory) and agreed. Writing in the International Christian Broadcasters’ Bulletin, McClendon found 580 hours being broadcast on secular stations and “programmed largely by evangelicals and, deplorably, largely to evangelicals.” FEBC, he declared, “is a notable example of predominantly Christian-to-Christian programming largely due to antiquated state-side dominated programming policies.” While applauding FEBC’s operations and aims, McClendon called for more media research, professionally trained staff (both missionary and national), and modernized approaches to the task.
Texas attorney Leon Jaworski, the new Watergate special prosecutor, is a ruling elder in Houston’s First Presbyterian Church. He is the son of a Protestant minister and a graduate of Baylor University, a Southern Baptist school. Handling the Bible used in his swearing in, he told reporters in a nationally televised press conference that he was no stranger to the book and that “in the days to come I will probably need it more than ever before.”
At a Southern Baptist conference in New York two years ago he called on the church to take a leading role in reestablishing a national dedication to the acceptance of law while firmly denouncing the concept that the individual has a right to choose which law to obey and which to defy. He said he felt the church had not discharged its responsibility to the rule of law (the remark was made at a time when some church leaders were endorsing acts of civil disobedience). “I want it to fulfill its mission to God and country so that every Christian can point to it with justifiable pride,” he concluded.
Understandably, the article raised hackles at FEBC’s Whittier, California, home office. “Not fair,” said Far East’s executive head Eugene R. Bertermann, who pointed out that seven of FEBC’s sixteen Philippine stations are provincial in nature, providing news, drama, and music to local surrounding areas and in the regional languages. “Not one,” Bertermann said, “has back-to-back religious programming.” Indeed, he added, many of the Philippine stations have a “heavy cultural” emphasis. In all, said Bertermann, FEBC broadcasts 342 hours daily in sixty-one languages and reaches into Latin America, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Russia, Korea, Japan, China, and elsewhere.
Nevertheless, insisted the ex-FEBC missionary, mission stations around the world are too dependent upon American program supply. “Many of them are totally out of the cultural context for these stations. Talking about the North American evangelical scene is irrelevant to a half-naked Mohammedan on a Philippine island.” And, he charged, many of the programs are taped by large American churches on “an ego trip.” By buying time on an overseas Christian station they can claim their services are heard around the world, he said.
Furthermore, domestically dependent station administrators are wary of innovative communication techniques. “Anything with more of a beat than Mantovani or Guy Lombardo is out”—stations are fearful lest word of new programming get back to supporters in the States and cause a dry-up of funds.
The fear is all too real for most stations. They are totally dependent on North American financing. Every penny of FEBC’s $2.5 million annual budget must be raised at home, said Bertermann.
At a recent convention of the Chinese Christian Broadcasters group in Hong Kong, a converted former Red Guard from mainland China told the group he’d listened to foreign radio, found the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) to be the most reliable, and considered religious programming “unreal and dull.”
Mainland Chinese listen to Christian stations, FEBC research has found, though few letters get out. HCJB and TWR say they get response across the Iron and Bamboo Curtains. HCJB reports 948 letters from the Soviet Union and 973 from East Germany alone, in 1972.
Recruiting professionally trained communications experts and creative programming personnel and then allowing them to use that creativity may be one answer to the lag of content behind the broadcast power emphasis, said the former FEBC missionary. Secondly, mission stations should increase the amount of media training they’re giving to nationals.
FEBC holds media seminars for personnel and provides on-the-job training. Of the 400 staff, 300 are nationals, said Bertermann. Trans World and WRMF provide similar training. In Kenya, the African Inland Mission, working with nationals, provides as much programming as it wants for the government-operated Voice of Kenya (and was recently invited to do the same for VOK television). Afro-Media, formed by interested national and missionary broadcasting groups, plans to set up film and television production units and to cash in on the radio opportunities on the continent as well.
Missionary radio is at a crossroads. With many of its pioneers still alive and providing much the same programming as in earlier days, there is conflict with a younger group of media-oriented missionaries who grew up with modern techniques and want to use them, said the former FEBC staffer.
Radio is still the most successful way of getting the Gospel across sealed borders or into those countries that are purging foreign missionaries. For Christian broadcasters, crossroads or no, it’s a heady time.
How Now, Fow
Taking its cue from the evangelical movement in the Anglican Church in England, the three-year-old Fellowship of Witness is an intellectually oriented group advocating spiritual renewal along biblical lines in the Episcopal Church in America. This month more than 200 persons attended a regional FOW conference in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, to take a closer look at the renewal goal. The emphasis was on lay involvement in ministry. Especially lamented was the “phenomenon” in many parishes where the clergyman is a teacher, fund-raiser, social activist, administrator, counselor, pastor, preacher, and celebrant all rolled into one while the layman is seen as little more than a source of funds to keep things going.
TOUGH ON SIN
It’s getting worse all the time for sinners in Libya. The government has resurrected a 1,400-year-old Islamic religious law that prescribes public flogging and possible imprisonment for adulterers and fornicators. The law specifies how many lashes, where they will be applied, and when (“a pregnant woman shall be flogged two months after she has given birth”). Prime Minister Muammer el-Gaddafi, a devout Muslim intent on making Libya a truly Islamic state (97 per cent of its people are Sunni Muslims), upon seizing power in 1969 banned alcoholic beverages and closed down bars, belly-dance night clubs, and gambling centers. He also recently shut down women’s hairdressing salons.
Speakers included English Anglican theologian J. I. Packer, Anglo-Catholic theologian J. V. Langmead Casserly, renewal-minded author Elisabeth Elliot Leitch, and FOW vice-president Peter Moore. Moore, who heads an independent ministry to private schools in New England, co-founded FOW in 1970 with theologian Philip E. Hughes, a teacher at Westminster Seminary and assistant rector at a suburban Philadelphia Episcopal church. FOW is now the American branch of the Evangelical Fellowship within the world-wide Anglican Communion. The international fellowship was begun in 1961 by London pastor John R. W. Stott, a leading evangelical scholar, and now has branches on all the continents.
FOW promoted its concerns from a booth in the display area at the recent Episcopal convention, and it participated in the denomination’s first national evangelism conference last fall in Memphis. The impact of the latter event was extensive, says Moore, explaining that it sharpened the focus on what evangelism is and served notice that the church must face up to its responsibility to evangelize. “Within the church we long to see again a bold affirmation of the power of God to redeem and change lives and institutions,” comments FOW president John Guest, rector of a suburban Pittsburgh church.
The FOW group has no formal membership, only a mailing list of about 1,000 and a few friends who chip in to meet expenses. Adherents tend to be well educated, including a number of laymen in the professions. Among them are persons who are also involved in the growing lay-witness and charismatic movements in the church (see November 9 issue, page 64). Some are associated with the Episcopal Charismatic Fellowship, which is less than a year old, has a mailing list of 2,000, and expects 10,000 at a national conference in Denver next May. FOW leaders, however, feel that the charismatics are in danger of placing too much emphasis on experience and not enough on theological content. On a different front, FOW backs church involvement in special action but insists that it must be Christian, with biblical underpinnings, and not be disguised humanism.
One thing is clear: there are unmistakable signs of spiritual renewal in the Episcopal Church. FOW is one of them.
The Ax Falleth
Leon Modeste, director of the Episcopal Church’s controversial anti-poverty program, received a termination notice last month in an unexpected move by Bishop Roger Blanchard, the church’s executive vice-president who plans to retire next spring along with Presiding Bishop John E. Hines. Prior to the denomination’s convention in September in Louisville, Kentucky, Modeste and his staff discussed their possible replacement because of an expected move to restructure all social-action programs under a single mission-strategy committee, a move subsequently adopted at the convention. However, Modeste says, he thought his staff of six-years’ experience would help with the phasing-in of the new program.
“In recognition of … devotion and leadership, and of the worldwide ministries of all chaplains,” the chief of chaplains from each of the three service branches received the 1973 “Upper Room Citation.” The twenty-five-year-old award, sponsored by the daily devotional guidebook, was presented to chaplains Gerhardt Hyatt (Army, and a Missouri Synod Lutheran), Francis L. Garrett (Navy, a Methodist), and Roy M. Terry (Air Force, also a Methodist) last month at a banquet in Washington, D. C. Hyatt told the 550 people present that he could gladly accept the award as a “symbol” of the fine job done by all military chaplains.
In response to Modeste’s query about the termination notice Bishop Blanchard said that was his interpretation of what the church wanted. Modeste says he mentioned the situation to presiding bishop-elect, John M. Allin, and he quotes Allin as saying he “was frustrated” because he was not consulted on the decision. “It’s hard to believe that such a major decision was made without consulting the new man,” says Modeste of Allin’s disclaimer.
No other programs are being handled in such a manner, Modeste claims. “Our program has always been treated differently. There’s a double standard here,” he alleged, claiming that only black staffers received termination notice while “the white guys were transferred out, with the reason given that they were needed elsewhere.”
Back To Basics
Against a backdrop of concern over a crisis of authority in modern Protestantism, a top-level conference on the inspiration and authority of Scripture convened last month at the Ligonier Valley study center near Pittsburgh. It featured seven theologians (John H. Frame, John H. Gerstner, John Warwick Montgomery. Clark H. Pinnock, and Robert C. Sproul from the United States; J. I. Packer from England; and Peter R. Jones from France) in an intensive week of lectures, debate, and discussion. About 150 pastors, theological professors, students, and lay leaders attended.
The speakers presented a variety of papers demonstrating the contemporary need of the Reformation principle sola Scriptura, and found wanting the proposals by some for “limited inerrancy.” Affirming that God is the Lord of language, they also rejected the argument against inspiration that human language is inadequate to convey God’s words.
At the conference’s conclusion the seven leaders signed a declaration setting forth the inerrancy of Scripture “as originally given through human agents of revelation,” an article of faith seen as “crucial” for all Christians.
K. ERIC PERRIN
Within These Walls …
There’s a house in New Windsor, Maryland, that United Methodists esteem as very special. Built around 1760, it was the home of Robert Strawbridge, the reputed father of Methodism in North America. In it the first Methodist convert was won (Mrs. Strawbridge led neighbor John Evans to Christ when he came to do the spring plowing) and the first Methodist class was held (Evans later became its leader).
Strawbridge, an itinerant Irish lay preacher brought into the Methodist movement by John Wesley himself, administered the first Methodist baptisms shortly after his arrival in America about 1760, and by 1773 half of all Methodists on the continent were in Maryland.
Last month the denomination acquired the house and adjoining land. A shrine association, acting for the church, paid $56,000 for it and now seeks $100,000 to pay off the mortgage and restore and develop the property as a public shrine. The structure was originally an 18 by 20 foot log cabin (the area between the chimney and TV antenna in photo) but has been covered with clapboard and enlarged over the years.
The Disciples: Middle Americana
If a denomination described by its leaders as largely “middle American”—the class that reputedly provided President Nixon with much of his grassroots support—officially assumes a somewhat anti-Nixon position, the President must really be in trouble. That’s how it looked at the week-long, biennial general assembly of the 1.3 million memberOf the 1.3 million, 884,000 are listed as “participating” members. Many of the remainder belong to churches that do not cooperate with the denomination but are nevertheless counted because of traditional relationships. Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), held in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“I’m very disappointed with his leadership,” said newly elected church president Kenneth Teegarden in an interview. “I hope, though, that we can avoid the necessity of impeachment.” He apparently expressed the feelings of many of the convention delegates, feelings backed by resolutions. Among their actions on a busy final day (they passed nearly thirty resolutions in five hours—almost as many as they had passed during the previous four days), the delegates designated November 18 as a day of prayer for the nation and called on Nixon and all other parties to cooperate fully with courts and investigators. However, they pulled back from supporting a resolution calling for impeachment should he fail to cooperate, primarily because they felt the resolution was “pre-judgmental.” The nearly 8,000 delegates (half voting but all allowed to debate) also approved a statement issued in July by the church’s general board that called Watergate and related incidents “symbols” of the current “moral bewilderment.” (Earlier, a request by the 122-member board that it be allowed to make further statements in its own name was rejected. Delegates wanted such authority vested in the biennial assembly only.) A somewhat related measure was approved calling for legislation to protect newsmen and their sources from prosecution threats.
Among the other resolutions tackled was one approving amnesty for those in “legal jeopardy” for non-violent resistance to the Viet Nam war. Provisions extending possible coverage to persons charged with more serious offenses were removed after delegates bogged down in prolonged debate. Teegarden said privately before the vote that amnesty provided the nation an opportunity to forgive and forget. “Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of the war, or the blame to be shared, the war is past. It should now be a healing time,” he said.
Two other amnesty resolutions—one opposed and one calling for no vote on the divisive issue—were defeated. (The latter resolution was presented by the 1,900-member Speedway Christian Church of Indianapolis, largest congregation in the denomination.)
Other touchy topics included abortion and capital punishment. A resolution was approved calling for “disciplined” study of the abortion issue among congregations, and urging support for those facing an abortion decision. The resolution fell short of endorsing abortion itself, despite seeming strong support for such a stand in the assembly hall. Abortion, said one delegate during the debate, is “one of the most loving acts possible” in some circumstances. On the same day they passed the abortion resolution, delegates also reaffirmed their opposition to taking life through capital punishment.
As for housekeeping, the delegates, with only one dissenter, chose Teegarden, 51, to succeed A. Dale Fiers as general minister and president. Fiers, an ecumenical leader who represented the Disciples at COCU and the National Council of Churches, retired at the Cincinnati convention, making Teegarden the second man to hold the six-year presidency since the church was restructured in 1968.
In a first, a woman was elected moderator, the denomination’s top non-salaried post. She is Jean Woolfolk, a Little Rock, Arkansas, lawyer and insurance executive. (The first vice-moderator is Seattle judge James A. Noe, who was featured in a Key 73 television special, “Faith in Action.”)
With a woman as moderator for the next two years, discussion on women’s role in the church was a natural. The issue was not—as it was in the recent Episcopal convention—whether to admit women to the ministry but what to do with them once they’re there. “We’ve had ordained women from the beginning,” said Teegarden, “although there aren’t many local women pastors.” For the women, that was the crux of the matter. (The Disciples have 189 women in the ministry, 144 of them ordained. Fourteen serve in local pastorates although only two hold the job full-time. About two-thirds of the women are Christian-education ministers. Currently, fifty women are studying at Disciples seminaries.) Many women delegates complained that pay and opportunities are unequal for ordained women.
In response, delegates: suggested that congregations call more women as their pastors; proposed that congregations wipe out job and title distinctions between deacons and deaconesses; urged more women to enter the ministry; and recommended equal pay for women staffers. To top it all, delegates called for full ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.
Evangelism, while not a top priority, got some attention at Cincinnati. After electing an Ames, Iowa, minister, Roy C. Key, as president of the church’s National Evangelistic Association, the delegates adopted a program of evangelism and church growth proposed by the church’s domestic-affairs staff. The plan calls on congregations to organize evangelism-training programs for lay people and set a goal of increasing baptisms and membership by at least 10 per cent.
Teegarden indicated that highest on his priority list is the continuation of ecumenical moves (delegates reaffirmed support of COCU and the National, Canadian, and World councils of churches, and they approved a draft plan of procedures should the Disciples ever unite with another group). Acknowledging that “we’re not as successful in evangelism as we might be,” he said he believes a unified church can do more to reach a “broken” world than could a “broken” church. While the Disciples did not approve Key 73 participation on a denominational basis (they did provide some funds), “the department of evangelism and many local congregations participated vigorously,” Teegarden said.
In other actions, the assembly meekly reconsidered and approved a feasibility study for a four-year multi-million dollar special-projects campaign, possibly to start in 1975. They had shocked confident church staffers by rejecting the proposal earlier in the week. Delegates accepted the plan only after being assured that the final decision would rest in their hands at the 1975 San Antonio, Texas, convention.
Restoring The Faith
Religion in American Life (RIAL), a 24-year-old interfaith organization dedicated to promoting religion in the mass media, is focusing this year’s campaign on the problems of violence, continuing a trend of recent years toward treatment of social issues. Last year’s brotherhood campaign attracted free media time and space worth $12 million.
RIAL is backed by forty-three Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, and Jewish bodies; its president is Lutheran Church in America executive George F. Harkins, and the current budget is $300,000. A number of agencies and business firms donate services and funds.
RIAL’s stated purpose is to underscore the message of religious institutions by encouraging persons to put their faith to work in daily life. But, reports New York Times religion writer Edward B. Fiske, an increasing number of RIAL’s backers feel that the faith part has not been stressed enough in recent campaigns. (What is “religious,” they ask, for example, about a picture of a revolver with the caption, “20,000 die of gunfire annually”?) A proposed program for next year’s campaign that would have continued the social-action trend was sent back to committee by RIAL’s board of religious leaders with instructions to look for balance.
“A New Beginning” was more than a theme; it was a description of what happened when black evangelist Tom Skinner and his team visited St. Petersburg, Florida, for an eight-day crusade, his first after more than a year’s absence from the crusade platform and his first campaign in a Southern city. Eighty churches cooperated, bringing together many persons of differing backgrounds.
The effort had been eighteen months in the making and at several points had almost faltered. In a city where Christians are isolated as well as polarized it was not easy for people to trust each other, explained Richard Parker, Skinner’s crusade coordinator. “It was the first time many had ever worked under black leadership, and we found out a lot about each other.”
Skinner himself saw the venture as a sign of the new direction his work is taking. “Our goal is to build ‘community’—groups of people who are committed to each other and living out the life-style of heaven,” he said, adding that the purpose would have been achieved in St. Petersburg even if the crusade had never happened.
Total attendance reached more than 13,500—considered good for an area where 40 per cent of the population is past sixty, crusade officials pointed out. Disappointingly, however, the black turnout did not reflect the city’s one-third black population. Skinner, a mainline evangelical, is not well known in the black community, and the latter is not “crusade” oriented.
Some 450 persons decided to “acknowledge Jesus Christ as owner of my life” at the meetings in Dayfront Center Arena. A follow-up program directs them into small groups for Bible study and sharing, another effort to foster “community.”
Instead of pronouncing a benediction at the end of each session, Skinner asked everyone to form small groups to get acquainted (“part of the new beginning is reaching out to someone”). His strongly biblical messages had few references to social or political issues, but it was these social-political comments that drew applause from the largely conservative audience. At the final rally the evangelist invited city officials to discuss the Christian and politics (“we want to show that the Gospel involves social justice”). Vicemayor J. W. Cate urged those in the audience to “talk to the people in your city government. We never hear a great outcry from the Christian community.” Skinner himself met with a number of the city’s black leaders and groups to discuss community building.
The community theme Skinner preached in Florida is the same concept he has successfully promoted among members of the Washington Redskins football team, where he is official team chaplain. He is confident that “the model we are producing will spread to the other teams.” Skinner says he usually spends Friday nights rapping with a dozen or so of the players in Bible study and discussion of the Christian community idea (“they’re committed to it”). After Saturday morning practice the group is expanded to include wives and friends, and the discussions continue. Thirty-five or so team members gather at Sunday pre-game services to hear Skinner preach.
Building a community of Christians committed to Christ and to each other is also the goal of Skinner’s ministry on black college campuses. His organization—Tom Skinner Associates (TSA)—is concentrating on fielding workers at ten leading black schools (Grambling, Florida A & M, Atlanta University, Morgan State, Howard, Hampton, Fisk, Tuskegee, Jackson State in Mississippi, and Louisiana State). Declares Skinner: “Until TSA began a strategy to evangelize and disciple this vital segment of society, there was no systematic evangelistic outreach among the future black leadership in the United States.”
Support for TSA’s various ministries is coming more and more from the black community, says Skinner, with an estimated 60 per cent of TSA’s $467,000 budget still coming from white sources. The work is expanding, and Stanley Long, former American Tract Society executive, recently signed on as TSA’s executive vice-president.
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