The tornados that swooped down from the skies across a five-state area this month, leaving behind a path of death, injury, and destruction, did not spare churches and church families. At least one pastor was killed (see box, this page).

Stricken areas included northern Alabama, central and eastern Tennessee, most of Kentucky and Indiana, and western Ohio. Xenia, Ohio, Brandenburg and Louisville, Kentucky, and Jasper, Alabama, were among the communities hit hardest. The death toll stood at more than 300, with damage amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

At Xenia (population: 27,000), a tornado struck at 4:45 P.M. on Wednesday, April 3. Four churches were completely destroyed: St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church, First Lutheran, Xenia Baptist Temple, and Orange Street Church of God. A black church under construction was destroyed also. Two Presbyterian churches and First Nazarene suffered extensive damage, with several other churches faring only slightly better. At least three parsonages (Orange Street, First Methodist, and First Nazarene) were destroyed, and others were badly damaged. Miraculously, say churchmen in the area, there were no deaths among the parsonage families. (In all, at least twenty-eight died and nearly 600 were injured in the Xenia devastation. Relief officials said that even a week after the storm damage and casualty details were hard to come by.)

Red Cross and Seventh-day Adventists from the Xenia area joined forces to set up a relief distribution center in an elementary school—one of the few left standing. Seventh-day Adventist World Service (the church’s relief arm) reported that more than 36,000 pounds of blankets and clothing were being processed at the center. Adventists at a mid-week prayer service in nearby Kettering halted the service to convoy supplies to Xenia. The Salvation Army and other church groups also set up relief efforts.

Storm damage at neighboring Wilber-force University, an African Methodist Episcopal school, forced a temporary shutdown of classes.

At Louisville, Kentucky, a mission-emphasis week at the 1,500-student Southern Baptist Seminary was interrupted as students pitched in to help relief efforts. Seminary officials said a tornado brushed the seminary grounds, causing some roof damage and destroying most of the trees on campus. The tornado ripped through nearby neighborhoods, and students—many of whom had lost autos and personal be longings themselves—were on the scene minutes after the disaster, clearing rubble, searching for survivors, and assisting the injured. Within a two-mile radius of the campus, more than 500 houses were destroyed, leaving more than 1,000 homeless.

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Thirty-four persons gathered for the regular mid-week prayer service April 3 at the Missionary Baptist Church in Alta, a village in northwestern Alabama. Among them was pastor Johnny Bozeman of the nearby Sulphur Springs Baptist Church, who had been invited as a guest speaker by Alta pastor Houston Brand, 71, a retired Southern Baptist missionary.

Recalled Bozeman in an interview: “I just got up to speak and we heard the thing coming. The lights went out. I yelled that the Lord would take care of us and dropped to the floor. People later told me the roof behind me lifted off and the bricks began falling in. The walls blew out like they’d been dynamited. I had four cuts at the back of my head and one in front, broken ribs, bruises. I don’t really remember much after that. Someone pulled me from the bricks and told me I was bleeding terribly. My two children were hurt, but not badly.”

Most of the others there were also hurt. Found dead in the ruins were Brand and his 65-year-old wife. Of the two-year-old church, only a few foundation bricks remain.

The students worked for more than two hours before Red Cross and government-aid officials reached the scene. Civil Defense authorities told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the students provided “the backbone of the relief efforts in the area.” Although heat, water, power, and telephones were cut off, the seminary was soon turned into a relief operations headquarters. Injured victims were treated at the infirmary, the homeless were fed and sheltered in seminary buildings, and a spot on the littered campus was cleared so National Guard helicopters could land. The helicopters ferried more than a dozen seriously injured to area hospitals.

Most of the campus relief efforts were coordinated by two seminarians: James Lee Doss, a first-year student from North Carolina, and Robert Rain-water, a second-year student from Louisiana. Said seminary vice-president Wesley M. Patillo, “These two were just super-organized and cool as cucumbers.” The pair organized nearly 600 resident students into teams of five to clear debris and help in other relief efforts. In one instance, said Patillo, a team was able to talk an elderly lady into leaving her flattened home after similar efforts by police and firemen failed. “They were able to minister to her emotional needs as well as the physical,” said Patillo.

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The 100 beds originally intended for guests at the missions conference were occupied nightly by different victims for up to a week after the storm. A ham radio operation was set up for contacting relatives. The Ryder truck-rental firm lent twenty-five trucks to the school for the duration of the emergency, even paying bus fares for students to pick up the trucks at Cincinnati and Indianapolis. The trucks were being used to clear fallen trees and help move salvageable furnishings and personal belongings to other locations.

In Brandenburg, Kentucky, an Ohio River town of 1,600 that was almost completely destroyed, Phillips Memorial Baptist Church was damaged and the homes of the pastor and the minister of music were leveled. At Frankfort, Kentucky, Evergreen Baptist Church and its parsonage were destroyed and two members of the church were killed. In the historic village of Stamping Ground, Kentucky, a small Baptist church built in 1795 was leveled. Interim pastor Dan Crawley ducked under the desk in the church study moments before the 200 m.p.h. winds struck. Seconds later, only the study was left standing. The church of the Nazarene in Stringtown, Indiana, was left in ruin. United Methodist officials said they knew of more than a dozen Methodist churches and parsonages throughout the storm region destroyed or severely damaged, apparently without death or injury to any of the pastors.

Church-related relief organizations, meanwhile, began tunneling funds, food, medicine, and clothing into the stricken areas. Church World Service, relief wing of the National Council of Churches, sent blankets, clothing, and cots to Birmingham, Alabama, and designated denominational personnel to act as relief coordinators in other areas.

Salvation Army teams were working in many of the devastated communities, providing shelter, clothing, and food. In Kentucky, they fielded forty-five mobile canteens and set up emergency telephone units for out-of-state relatives trying to contact those in the disaster areas. Long Run Baptist Association, a group of 100 churches in the Louisville area, announced it would concentrate on raising cash for relief because food and other supplies would arrive through other relief channels. At the same time, Alabama Baptists promised $26,000 to aid victims in northern Alabama and called on churches to take special Easter Sunday offerings for relief. The state Baptist convention’s disaster-relief committee, which raised $82,000 for tornado victims last year, was reactivated.

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By mid-month, the stricken congregations had buried their dead, and members were cleaning up their homes and churches while taking time to comfort the grieved, the injured, and the dispossessed. Services were being held in makeshift quarters. Ahead lie months of rebuilding. For many, Easter’s message of resurrection meant something extra special this year.

Missouri Synod: Hardened Lines

The battle lines in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) are getting firmer. In recent weeks:

• The Commission on Constitutional Matters—the LCMS supreme court—ruled that fourth-year students at “Seminex” (the school set up by the dissident majority formerly at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis) cannot be declared eligible for placement as LCMS ministers unless course credits are obtained from recognized LCMS seminaries. The commission noted that churches are free to call uncertified pastors but warned it could lead to their own forfeiture of LCMS membership. (Seminex plans to grant degrees through a consortium of St. Louis divinity schools.)

• The LCMS Board for Higher Education adopted a “statement on the limitations of academic freedom” which says that faculty members at LCMS schools must “honor, uphold, and teach in accordance with synodically-adopted statements,” including the controversial “Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles” drafted by LCMS president Jacob A. O. Preus and adopted at last year’s LCMS convention in New Orleans. The statement sets forth biblical inerrancy and authority. Teachers must refrain from dissenting with synodically approved statements except through channels, the board ordered. LCMS college boards were also instructed to take steps to prevent students from becoming involved with Seminex, a directive apparently aimed at banning Seminex recruiters from LCMS college campuses.

Death Of A Journalist

Claudia Ross, 27, an attractive Florida journalist working for the English-language Bangkok Post, last month published a major story in the Thailand paper on a newly established colony of the Children of God sect. The report, thorough and well informed, was highly critical of the Children and their secluded leader “Moses” David Berg. Four nights later she was stabbed to death in her room by a man who threw her typewriter on the ground outside. Authorities did not immediately link the story to her death, according to news accounts. COG leaders said they were shocked by the murder and feared a setback to their work.

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Mission To Orthodoxy: The ‘Full’ Gospel

Counting all the language and ethnic groups Eastern Orthodoxy has about 200 million communicants worldwide, some six million of them in the United States. Of the three major branches of Christendom it is the most untouched by the charismatic movement. In an effort to help change this circumstance an Orthodox priest, Eusebius A. Stephanou, 49, of Fort Wayne, Indiana traveled this month to Athens, Greece to plant seeds of the so-called charismatic renewal among churchmen willing to listen. His book, The New Breath of the Spirit, is scheduled for publication this summer in Greece.

Stephanou, a celibate whose father and grandfather were Orthodox priests, grew up in Wisconsin, got his B.A. from the University of Michigan, took his Orthodox ministerial training at Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, and was the first Greek Orthodox to earn S.T.M. and Th.D degrees at General Seminary, the Episcopal School in New York. He was also the first Orthodox to teach theology at Notre Dame, and he represented Orthodoxy at World Council of Churches meetings.

But while serving as pastor of the 100-family Holy Trinity Church in Fort Wayne he became increasingly concerned “about bringing the Orthodox Church into line with the Gospel of Christ, of letting Jesus Christ lead the Church.” To implement that concern he launched in 1968 The Logos, a bimonthly journal airing the issues of spiritual renewal within Orthodoxy (not to be confused with a similarly named Protestant charismatic magazine published in New Jersey). It was aimed at “re-evangelizing our people,” says Stephanou.

His re-evangelizing and his complaints about creeping legalism, “colonialism,” and dormancy in Orthodoxy promptly landed Stephanou in hot water at headquarters. Charged with undermining church authority, he was summoned later in 1968 to a church tribunal in New York. He was suspended for six months after refusing to recant.

After his suspension was over Stephanou chose to carry on an itinerant ministry along with editing The Logos rather than return to the pastorate. In 1972, says Stephanou, a visiting pastoral friend from West Virginia “explained to me the charismatic renewal and led me into the baptism of the Spirit.” A descriptive soon appeared on the cover of The Logos indicating a shift in emphasis: “Serving the Charismatic Renewal in the Orthodox Church.” There were few losses among subscribers because of it, says Stephanou. Circulation stands at about 5,000. A foundation associated with the magazine fields young lay evangelists to speak before the church groups. (Stephanou, president of the Logos Foundation for Orthodox Awakening, declines to discuss finances and staff size. Most workers are volunteers. Several clergymen and Ph.D.s are among those on the masthead.)

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The number of known charismatics in American Orthodoxy is small, probably between 500 and 1,000, with two dozen or so groups meeting across the country. Stephanou, however, predicts rapid growth. The first national Orthodox charismatic conference was held last summer at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Registration was under 100, but, reminds Stephanou, “the Catholics started with only five.” (There may be as many as 300,000 Catholic charismatics in North America, with burgeoning growth overseas. The movement began in 1967.)

One of those at the Ann Arbor meeting was correspondent Emmanuel A. D. Deligiannis, a leader of Protestant Romanian and Greek Pentecostals in North America who has worked among Orthodox charismatics in southern California. Ascribing historical import to the meeting, he says “it was the first time in the history of the Orthodox Church that both priests and laymen worshiped freely together ‘as the spirit moved them’ [see photo], praising the Lord with uplifted hands, speaking and singing in tongues, prophesying, and laying hands on others to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and healing.” At least two priests and thirty laymen spoke in tongues there for the first time, he says.

Stephanou sides with Catholic charismatics in opposition to the classic Pentecostal doctrine that tongues is the universal sign or evidence of Spirit baptism. Tongues is but one of the spiritual gifts, he says, explaining that it may be a norm—but not a mandate—for those who have the baptism. As with Catholics, the main effect of the charismatic experience among Orthodox believers, says Stephanou, has been to establish a personal relationship with Christ.

Most Orthodox clergy seem skeptical or apathetic toward charismatic renewal so far, concedes Stephanou, but he believes it can spread quickly. “Our theology is intact; we don’t have the crisis of creed that exists in the Catholic Church,” he asserts. Also, he adds, “the Greek fathers were really more charismatic than we are,” suggesting that rediscovery of a lost spiritual heritage may be just around the corner. He subscribes to Eastern Orthodoxy’s traditional belief that the Orthodox Church is the unique continuation of the apostolic church, but with some modification: “I now think God may be doing through the charismatic movement something we’ve failed to do: preach the full Gospel.”

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Pilgrimage Or Proselytism?

The recent World Conference on the Holy Spirit held in Jerusalem (see March 29 issue, page 39) touched off an argument in Israeli government circles last month. National Religious party member Yehuda Ben-Meir in a speech before the Knesset accused the conference of promoting activity hostile to both Judaism and the state of Israel. Ben-Meir said he based his claim on tape-recorded evidence of missionary activity.

Tourism minister Moshe Kol dismissed the charge and said Ben-Meir was “disseminating poison and hatred.” He described the conference, sponsored by the New Jersey-based Logos International Fellowship, as mainly a Holy Land pilgrimage for the 4,000 who attended. (Conference leaders had cautioned participants against engaging in aggressive witness activities.)

In urging tolerance on the part of Israelis, Kol said, “The time has come for us to treat foreign clerics with respect, and not incite against them.”

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