With seating capacity for 25,000, the long-abuilding “great temple” of Pentecostal evangelist Manoel de Mello is now nearing completion in São Paulo, Brazil.

De Mello, 44, advertises his building as “the largest evangelical temple in the world.” Designed for function rather than elegance, the huge temple has arched girders with a 230-foot span. The main floor will seat 18,000 and a projected balcony another 7,000. Construction has been going on since purchase of the property in the early sixties. Roofing the temple’s giant spans with aluminum and translucent plastic sheeting began in 1972 and is now almost completed. Another few years will probably be required to finish the total project.

In the meantime, completed parts are in use. These include an educational unit and a large foyer running across the front of the temple that is now used as a worship area seating several thousand. Another part of the building beneath the floor of the central auditorium houses a social-service center, including a “Migrant Integration Movement” that helps new arrivals from the Brazilian interior.

The temple serves as the national headquarters of de Mello’s Brazil for Christ Movement as well as the meeting place for the mother church, which de Mello pastors. Construction is financed principally by the local congregation, according to de Mello, although many others contribute.

Manoel de Mello started out as a lay preacher and evangelist with the Assemblies of God in the northern Brazilian state of Pernambuc. Later he worked with the Foursquare Gospel Church. In the 1950s he went independent, founding the Brazil for Christ Movement, which has since become a major Pentecostal denomination. He is perhaps the most controversial of Brazil’s many Pentecostal leaders. He “has a natural feeling for power,” as one acquaintance puts it, and has involved his movement both in politics and in the ecumenical movement. In 1969 he led his denomination into the World Council of Churches (see October 10, 1969, issue, page 40), and he is a board member of the Ecumenical Coordination Service in Brazil, a committee in which the national conference of Catholic bishops also participates.

Interviewed recently at the site of his new temple, de Mello explained his position. “We are departing somewhat from the traditional Pentecostal pattern,” he said. “We emphasize not only the spiritual but the social as well.” An example is his Brazilian Educational Center, which offers general courses at the high school level as well as courses in English and typing. About 260 students are enrolled. De Mello admits these students are “mostly Catholics” but thinks the educational ministry justifies itself. The Educational Center has already applied for authorization to begin college-level courses in law, philosophy, and business administration Pointing to a newly constructed hospital across the street, de Mello mention! the possibility of a medical school as well.

Article continues below

Although de Mello’s movement has branched into such areas as education and social service, his primary concern continues to be evangelism and the growth of his denomination. Radio pro grams carry his message throughout Brazil (three times daily in the São Paulo area). He has held no mass evangelistic campaigns for three years but continues to travel widely, visiting churches scattered throughout the country. His movement counts more than 150 local churches in the São Paulo urban area (population: 8.5 million) alone. Precise membership figures for the movement are hard to come by, but adherents probably number between 500,000 and one million with actual church membership between 100,000 and 200,000 (Read, Monterroso, and Johnson estimated membership at slightly over 100,000 in 1969 in their groundbreaking work, Latin American Church Growth).

De Mello’s system of church planting relies heavily on local lay leaders. Before a new congregation can become an organized local church, it must have 120 members and be able to support a pastor. While local churches are autonomous, it is evident they are nonetheless subject to the powerful guiding influence of the charismatic de Mello, known to his followers simply—and respectfully—as “the Missionary.”

Kenya: Cassettes For Christ

The ubiquitous tape cassette has found its way into Africa, and it promises to enhance gospel ministries across the continent.

“For years we have broadcast the Gospel in eight different languages on the government-owned Voice of Kenya,” says an Africa Inland Mission (AIM) radio staffer at Kijabe, Kenya. “But the tapes were always erased and used for succeeding radio programs. Now we record all these programs on cassettes and send them throughout the country for use in medical dispensaries, hospitals, prisons, schools, and in towns and villages. It gives a much more lasting ministry to the fleeting medium of radio.”

The launching of AIM’s cassette ministry can be attributed largely to one man, well-known U. S. evangelist Merv Rosell. During a conference speaking stint Rosell visited AIM’s radio recording studios at Kijabe, which reportedly produce more Christian programs for government facilities than any other studios in the world, and pushed the cassette idea. Persuaded—and financed—by Rosell (and his California-based Global Concern organization), AIM built an annex studio complete with high-speed duplicating equipment, packaging room, offices, workshops, and warehouse.

Article continues below

Some of Rosell’s own Bible-teaching and sermon materials—interspersed with pauses for a translator to stop his cassette player and give an off-the-cuff translation—were among the first cassettes produced. Cassettes of the many radio programs produced in various African languages by the Kijabe studios came next as the new ministry gained momentum.

“I don’t have time to make a personal Christian witness to all the many patients who come to my medical dispensary,” says Ann Ellis, nurse at AIM’s Syapei Station among Kenya’s Maasai tribe. “But now with the cassettes the people hear the Word of God and Christian singing in their own language—while I treat their bodies.”

Cassettes at Ngurunit, an AIM desert station where Rosell is financing the construction of a missionary residence (he has also constructed a children’s home and a church in Kenya’s northern desert area), have caused a sensation. “How amazing to hear words—the words of God—come out of such a little box in our own language!” say the people there who come for medical treatment or to ask for food as famine moves into the area. “And we play the message over and over again.”

The radio missionaries and staff at the Kijabe studios have drawn up a long list of the possibilities for using these “cassettes for Christ.” The Bible in various versions is now available on cassettes. These could be used to advantage at the blind schools throughout Africa. Cassettes to reach the millions of illiterates and semi-literates in Africa have limitless possibilities for getting out the Gospel to those who cannot be reached with the printed page or who are too far from radio stations. And missionaries, Bible-school, and seminary teachers can in effect avail themselves of extension education by using the materials being assembled and duplicated by the Kijabe studios.

Africa south of the Sahara is said by many to be one of the world’s most receptive areas for the Gospel. The tape cassette promises to become a mighty tool in outreach there.


Black Evangelicals: Surviving The Scene

Under the theme “Survival?… Certainly!” more than 300 delegates, most of them ministers and leaders of black ministries, gathered this month in Dallas for the eleventh annual convention of the National Black Evangelical Association (NBEA). They spent much of their time discussing and pondering their identity as black evangelicals.

Article continues below

There seemed to be discomfort on the part of some with the very word “evangelical,” apparently because of the image it conjures up of a person conservative not only in theology (which many blacks are) but also in socio-political matters (which many blacks are not). The NBEA, says board chairman Tom Skinner, a prominent black evangelist, is more evangelical than ever, but “that word must be defined by us and not by white evangelicals.”

At the same time it was clear that social action and the quest for justice were not the prime topics they had been several years ago. A workshop session on inner-city ministries was dwarfed in attendance by a seminar the same hour on theological trends. Heavy emphasis was given to the “survival” of the black family. The young delegates expressed strong concern that biblical solutions be applied to needs.

Yet, cautioned speaker John Perkins of Mendenhall, Mississippi, newly elected NBEA vice-president, “biblical” does not mean “white theology.” Blacks must speak of God and the Bible as they themselves have learned, not as white theologians have taught them, he exhorted. Further, he stated, black evangelicals ought to respond to the recent trends in so-called black theology not with “evangelical answers” but with the answers of “black evangelicalism” and “black evangelical theology.”

Part of the identity problem may relate to the diversity within the NBEA family. William Bentley, the pastor of a small Chicago church, who was reelected to his sixth term as president, views the NBEA as an umbrella of black evangelicalism under which many views and goals can coexist. Members range from the strongly conservative to the social-activist type, explains Bentley’s wife Ruth, a Ph.D. who teaches at Trinity seminary near Chicago. But, she asserts, they’re all evangelical.

For now Bentley’s vision for the NBEA can be summed up in the theme word: survival. “When you’re fighting to survive today,” he declared, “you don’t have time to look five years down the road to what lies ahead.” (Bentley scolded the delegates after only a dozen or so showed up to hear his presidential address. At the Urbana missionary convention in December he mounted a protest against Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship’s leaders and policies. The protest, which did not clearly specify complaints and correctives, smacked of racial separatism and split the ranks of blacks who were there. Similar differences exist among the NBEA rank and file.)

Article continues below

Melvin Banks, president of Urban Ministries, which publishes black Sunday-school literature in the Chicago area, declared in the keynote address that many black Americans have become disillusioned with Christianity because they have not been given the total Gospel for the total man. Black evangelicals, he affirmed, cannot look to any other group of evangelicals but only to themselves to reach the black population for Christ.

His assessment was echoed throughout the convention, and although it was mixed with an appeal for love and unity among all Christians, the note of black unity and independence was loudly sounded. Many of the delegates left Dallas feeling that whatever they do in the future they will do alone, not by choice or out of separation but because of the failure of evangelicals in general to reach the black community adequately.

Next year’s convention will be held in New York, and the welcome mat will be extended to blacks in the Caribbean. Within five years, said Bentley at the final business session, perhaps the NBEA can hold an international convention in Africa.


Dismembering The Body?

Students in Christian schools and missionaries in active service increasingly are found to identify weakly with the local church, and this trend is detrimental to the cause of world evangelization, according to a consultation of forty evangelical pastors, educators, and missions executives held in Columbia, South Carolina, late last month. The gathering, sponsored by the Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions (a branch of Columbia Bible College), was called to study growing problems in the three-way relationship between churches that send missionaries, schools that train those missionaries, and mission boards.

Describing the local church as “God’s primary agency in world evangelization,” participants in the consultation said many of those now involved or potentially involved in world evangelization are rather individualistic and independent and do not seem to operate from the perspective of a local church.

“Schools and missions have experienced a “de-churching,” said keynote speaker J. Robertson McQuilkin, Columbia’s president. “A less elegant term for the problem would be dismemberment,” he added, pointing out that Christian schools and missions should function as arms of the church body.

Article continues below

A number of pastors in the group agreed with McQuilkin’s remarks. They said that Christians schools and missions have tended to take over many New Testament functions of a church, leaving the local church with the responsibility largely of supplying candidates and money.

The problem starts in the schools, educator McQuilkin said. “If one’s training is not in the church, one’s ministry will tend to be non-church or at least not the New Testament kind of interdependent relationship in the church. One will not know how to live and work productively under the discipline of the church.”

Under the modern North American individualistic approach to education and missions, the consultation was told, “an immature Christian gets his call directly from the Lord,” not in conjunction with the church’s corporate wisdom and guidance. “He chooses his school. About the third or fourth year a mission representative recruits him. He then adopts himself out to as many churches as necessary to provide for him financially. He writes an occasional promotional report to individuals who have indicated an interest. He visits each of the churches for a week every fifth year. In this way he is thoroughly de-churched.”

The forty consultation participants expressed in their concluding statements a concern for reaffirmation of the doctrine of the Church “and its centrality in the outworking of God’s purposes through the local congregation, school, and mission.” There was also a strong call for reassessment of the way in which missionary personnel are chosen, trained, and assigned, strategic processes in which the local church presently often has only a very minor role.

Along lines similar to a statement issued by the recent Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association convention in Wheaton calling for churches to offer less fragmented support to individual missionary candidates, the Columbia consultation asked for reexamination of current methods of raising financial support that reinforce the missionary’s weak identification with the local church. Instead of giving small amounts of support to many missionaries, churches ought to concentrate significant amounts of money, prayer, and time on a few men and women, thus tieing those missionaries closely to the local church.

The eleven pastors who participated in the consultation represented eleven local congregations that give a combined total of more than $1.25 million to church overseas missions each year. The twelve mission executives participating represented organizations that sponsor more than 5,000 missionaries now active in overseas work.

Article continues below


Graham Decision: Religion In Public Places

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled 5–0 that the use of the 50,000-seat Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State University campus at Tempe by evangelist Billy Graham does not violate the Arizona constitution. “We do not believe leasing Sun Devil Stadium for an occasional religious service at a fair rental value is an appropriation or application of public property for religious purposes,” said Vice Chief Justice James Duke Cameron, who wrote the decision.

In a flap earlier this year over use of the stadium by Graham, the Arizona Board of Regents agreed to rent it for $39,995 for nightly services May 5–12. Martin S. Pratt, a Phoenix resident who disagrees with Graham’s Christian doctrine, then petitioned the high court to intervene. The court heard arguments and agreed that the issue was important enough to render a decision.

Pratt contended that the use of the stadium for a religious event would violate the Arizona constitution’s provision for separation of church and state. The justices, however, decided that leasing the stadium to Dr. Graham was “a straight commercial transaction” that did not place the state or university in the position of giving approval, prestige, or power to Graham’s religious beliefs. The ruling went on to point out that the state must be impartial when “it comes to the question of religious preference, and public money or property may not be used to promote or favor any particular religious sect, denomination, or religion generally.”

The ruling was significant because numerous churches in Arizona rent public school facilities until they can erect buildings of their own. Public auditoriums are also leased for religious musical groups.


The Graham Memo

Among the reams of confidential White House memos released to the press this month by Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, a member of the Senate Watergate committee, was a memorandum about evangelist Billy Graham. The national news media for the most part gave the impression it was sensational fresh material. In reality it was the same memo that surfaced in the press months ago, and Graham is giving reporters the same answers he gave then (see July 20, 1973, issue, page 41).

The memo, dated September 30, 1971, was written by former White House undercover agent Jack Caulfield and addressed to John W. Dean III, former presidential counsel. In it, Caulfield noted that Graham was under IRS audit for four of the six preceding years in an effort to determine “whether gifts made to Graham are in fact taxable income.”

Article continues below

Caulfield said a case report out of Atlanta indicated an anonymous phone call had initiated the audit; however, he added, a report in the Washington IRS office suggested that normal audit procedures caused the inquiry. Because “a number of Graham donors” had been contacted by IRS investigators, said Caulfield, he thought the case might “surface in the media.” In that event, he advised Dean, “judgments should be made accordingly.” He listed several items of relatively minor significance the IRS intended to question: clothing gifts, work performed free of charge, tuition gifts for the Graham children.

The memo was routed the next day from Dean to presidential aide Robert Haldeman, who scribbled a note asking “whether we can do anything to help.” Replied Dean: “No, it’s already covered.”

Graham says he is mystified by the matter, stating that he neither had asked for nor was aware of intervention with the IRS at any time, that he had no knowledge of the Caulfield memo until it surfaced last year, and that he wants the IRS to audit his return every year. He says a bank handles his assets and prepares his income-tax returns. Further, he says, he shares Weicker’s opinion that the White House should never intervene in IRS matters.

But how did the Caulfield memo arise? A source close to the Watergate investigation said Caulfield testified that former Nixon aide John Ehrlichman knew of the IRS inquiry and asked him to look into it. Caulfield then contacted an IRS inspector who flew to Atlanta, picked up the Graham case report, and returned to Washington to review it with Caulfield. (The inspector has since switched to a customs job.)

Graham says he does not know how Ehrlichman (only a handshaking acquaintance) found out about the audit; but a number of the evangelist’s friends knew about it, and it’s possible that word drifted into Washington innocently enough through a series of persons.

What is more curious is the meaning of Dean’s “it’s covered” remark. The Watergate source says local IRS agents were intimidated by the White House. But Graham says the Asheville, North Carolina, IRS agent who handled the case denies getting any pressure from above. Also, there was no abrupt halt to the audit; it dragged out until several months ago. And, like thousands of other Americans, Graham accepted the decisions of the IRS without contesting the few items charged or disallowed on his tax returns.

Article continues below


Czech Crackdown

For the last year or so there has been mounting evidence that a state campaign of church harassment is under way in Czechoslovakia. An eye-witness report published recently by the London-based Center for the Study of Religion and Communism indicates that the government is trying to isolate churches from one another and to confine Christian activity to individual congregations and families. Permission is required before ministers can address other congregations than their own, special events (concerts, lectures, and the like) must be authorized by the state, and three months’ notice must be given of any foreign visitor who wishes to speak to a congregation, the report says.

Some sixteen Catholic priests, twelve pastors of the Czechoslovak Church, and twelve pastors of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren have had their licenses taken away, the report notes. (The state pays clergy salaries, and no clergyman can hold an appointment without a state license.)

The report tells of a movement among Czech pastors and theologians known as the New Orientation, a renewal group within the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren “pledged among other things to work for socialism with a human face.” Two leaders of the group were among the latest pastors to be dismissed.

Religion In Transit

An annual pastors’ conference sponsored by First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, last month attracted 2,357 registrants from 45 states and several foreign countries, said Pastor Jack Hyles. The conferees studied his principles and methods of church work. Sunday-school attendance at First Baptist averaged over 13,000 last year, said Hyles, and a special day-long effort brought out a total of 23,024 on December 16—“a world record.”

The University of Delaware at Newark won a court order barring the celebration of Catholic mass in the common rooms of a campus residence facility. Two priests say they will appeal. The university earlier banned all worship services on its property.

Mrs. Janice Patterson, a Raleigh, North Carolina, elementary teacher resigned after being instructed by school officials to stop observing a daily minute of silent prayer with her first graders. The children were free to pray or not pray, she said; those who did pray were asked to pray for God’s help “to be more loving to one another.”

Article continues below

At least one rabbi is listening to California evangelist Moishe Rosen and his Jews for Jesus. Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, a prominent Jewish leader, shared with readers of his Jewish Press column a letter Rosen had sent him. Rosen warned that many Jewish youth are indifferent about God and need spiritual training but that rabbis are doling out sociology lessons instead. Agreeing somewhat, Stolper suggested that God be included in the curriculum of every Jewish school. “Without him life is hardly life,” he commented.

“Freedom is Everybody’s Business,” proclaimed the banner below the platform near the Washington Monument, but radio preacher Carl McIntire could muster only 600 or so supporters (the park police estimated 1,500) to Washington for a “First Amendment” march and rally to get their point across. The point: there should be far fewer federal restrictions on broadcasting.

The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate, based in Turkey, last month directed all prelates under its jurisdiction (including Archbishop Iakovos of America) to avoid pronouncements on, or involvement in, general or specific political issues. Also, they were in effect muzzled from commenting on ecclesiastical issues. Such pronouncements, the directive said, are often harmful to the interests of the “Mother Church.”

A press release purporting to be from New York Seminary and announcing cooperative programs with Union Seminary turned out to be a hoax. Both Christian Century and CHRISTIANITY TODAY published stories based on the release.

Nearly 100 delegates from eleven Central American and Caribbean countries met last month in Mexico City for in-depth study of theology and strategy for evangelization of Latin America and the world. They also formulated a regional perspective for this summer’s International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Two young New York women, members of the militant Jewish Defense League, pleaded guilty to setting fire to a Baptist community center in Jerusalem and were sentenced to thirteen months in prison. Additionally, two Israeli youths were found guilty of burning two other Christian centers in the city.

Czechoslovakia’s only Catholic cardinal, Stepan Trochta, 69, imprisoned for years by both the Nazis and Communists, suffered a fatal stroke in Litomerice. After his release in 1963 he had to work as a plumber until he took a loyalty oath in 1968.

Missionaries have been ordered out of Yemen, according to a French report.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.