Despite near-blizzard conditions and the fuel shortage, more than 14,000 young people, mostly college students, gathered on the University of Illinois campus at Urbana December 27–31 for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship’s tenth triennial student missions convention. The record crowd at IVCF’s “Urbana ’73” was augmented by more than 500 missionaries representing 115 denominational and independent agencies. Also on hand were hundreds of Inter-Varsity campus workers and scores of recruiters from Christian colleges, Bible institutes, and seminaries. The delegates included 2,000 Canadians and 500 overseas students.Other statistics: California led in delegate strength with 1,288, just ahead of Illinois’s 1,283. Missouri and Pennsylvania were next with 860 and 831 respectively. Baptists numbered 2,941, Presbyterians 2,175, and Methodists 975. Women led men 7,409 to 6,749. About 4,500 delegates said they were converted in 1970 or later.

For IVCF, Urbana ’73 was in a sense like a return to the good old days. Except for an after-hours black protest that went unnoticed by the vast majority of the registrants (some blacks felt there should have been more emphasis on urban America and on racism in missions), a “sweet spirit”—as a California coed put it—pervaded the convention. A quest for spiritual truth and concern for the missionary challenge seemed to upstage all other pursuits. Said a bearded University of Michigan student: “I used to be heavy into the political thing, but it didn’t go anywhere. Now I’m into Christ, and I find he’s leading me someplace.”

There were plenty of places to go on the Urbana campus itself, beginning with early-morning and late-night Bible-study groups in dorm areas. Mornings and evenings were given over to plenary sessions in the 17,000-seat circular Assembly Hall. During the afternoons participants could choose from a smorgasbord of thirty-five electives, 200 small-group discussions, 175 “unofficial” meetings (from “Wheaton College alumni” and “Anyone interested in Afghanistan” to “Arabic speaking delegates” and “Bear Trap Ranch Work Crew, 1972”), and conversation periods with convention speakers. Or they could simply browse among the scores of missionary and school booths in the huge armory building. (Intercristo, a computer service, matched most delegates to one or more mission agencies according to interests and skills. Some agencies were swamped with inquiries from youths interested in elementary education.)

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Sixty-eight buses shuttled delegates between buildings on the sprawling campus. Walking in the snow and ice had its perils: there were several reports of falls and broken bones.

The convention began on a somewhat sad note. Urbana ’73 director David Howard, an IVCF executive, announced that two Inter-Varsity staffers had been killed and eight injured when the charter bus taking them from O’Hare airport in Chicago to Urbana was involved in an accident. The dead: Susan McClure, 23, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and William Scadding, 25, of Barrie, Ontario.

Third World and minority-group spokesmen outnumbered whites on the Assembly Hall platform. Philip Teng, a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor and educator in Hong Kong, presented four messages on the biblical basis of missions. Gregorio Landero, a self-help social-reform leader in Colombia who lacks formal training, spoke on evangelism and social reform. Others included Samuel Escobar, a Latin American who heads IVCF work in Canada; Rhodesian writer-editor Pius Wakatama; black student Russell Weather-spoon of New York; Bill Thomas, a black staffer serving with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) in Belgium; and Chua Wee Hian, the Singapore-born IFES general secretary whose headquarters is in London.

There were several firsts. Elisabeth Elliot Leitch became the first woman to give a major address at Urbana. She spoke on the place of women in world missions, taking a rather traditional viewpoint—and getting a standing ovation. It was also the first time students gave major talks (Wakatama, Weather-spoon, and Canadian Donald Curry of the University of Calgary).

Answers by the blacks and Third World people during question periods and press conferences were along conservative lines. Landero rejected the idea of Christian participation in the violent overthrow of government as a means of changing the system. Escobar said he sympathizes with the hopes of liberation theologians in Latin America, but he said they were wrong in embracing Marxism as the way to a better life. Wakatama stated flatly that liberationists are obstructionists to church growth. And Thomas vehemently opposed the notion that segregation—including black separatism—might be a good thing in Christian circles.

Many students expressed appreciation for what they had learned in addresses by Anglican rector John R. W. Stott on the authority of the Bible and by Edmund Clowney, president of Westminster Seminary, on the lostness of mankind. One of the most warmly received talks was missionary J. Christy Wilson’s. He told of witness opportunities through overseas study, employment, and summer travel.

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The blessings ran in both directions. Missionaries said they were heartened by the spiritual interest and maturity of the students. “I have a less pessimistic view of American Christianity as a result,” commented veteran Presbyterian missionary Samuel Moffett, a seminary educator in Seoul, Korea.

Even outsiders and the disenchanted were affected. Friends persuaded Wellington Aeaujo, a Brazilian studying art in a suburban San Francisco college, to come along to Urbana. He told correspondent Cindy Schaible he was only an observer, not a believer, “I don’t like so much talk; I like to see action. How can ray people believe in Jesus if they don’t have food?” Yet, he added, “I have appreciated the unity and love here.” Barbara Wooten, a student at Laney College in Oakland, California, felt that because Urbana was “too silent concerning injustices in race and sex” she couldn’t get behind it. Nevertheless, said she, “I really believe the Holy Spirit is working here, and I don’t want to undo his work.”

There wasn’t much hand-wringing or doomsday talk at Urbana. Multi-media presentations accurately portrayed the world’s vast spiritual poverty, but these were balanced by accounts of remarkable evangelistic advances throughout the world.

“We are entering the greatest period of evangelistic outreach in history,” declared Far Eastern Gospel Crusade’s Philip E. Armstrong in an elective, adding that even now God is at work “in an unprecedented manner.” Then he spoke of the challenge facing missions in the future, and the figures came rolling forth. Within the next thirty years Tokyo will have more than 50 million people. India will have twenty cities of 20 million or more. Already, 75 per cent of the world’s people live in urban centers, half the population of Asia is under 20, and half the population of the West Indies is under 15. Important strategic opportunities lie in total-mobilization evangelism, mass communications, and church leadership development, he told his young listeners.

A number of mission representatives reported increased interest in short-term service. So many have applied to the Sudan Interior Mission for summer service, for example, that the agency is no longer accepting anyone with less than two years of college, according to a spokesman. (A few missionaries expressed displeasure at the emphasis on short-term missionaries in the convention program. Yet a number of missions are finding that the short-termers can make a valuable contribution to the work—and that they are a prime source for career candidates.)

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It is impossible to predict how many will get involved in Christian work because of Urbana ’73. Some will. (Chua Wee Hian says one-third of Britain’s Anglicans studying for the ministry are Inter-Varsity alumni.) For countless persons like Colorado coed Nita Newram, Urbana has laid the foundation for solid commitment to Christ in daily life back home. And perhaps many can identify with Toronto pre-med student Pete Jervis’s assessment of Urbana’s impact: “Now I see there is a way I can help.”

Chad: Banning The Baptists

After nearly fifty years of work in the African nation of Chad, the independent American-based Baptist Mid-Missions agency was ordered by the Chad government to cease its church-related operations. All of the Baptist churches in south-central Chad (about 100 in all) and their outlying preaching stations were closed in mid-November, and the national Baptist pastors—about a dozen—were jailed. Following a brief detention, six missionary families and six single missionaries were ousted unharmed. Only a small medical force remained. Sources early this month said the pastors were still in jail.

The sources say the uproar was caused by the mission’s stand against certain practices, especially one involving secret initiation rites in which young men are allegedly indoctrinated against the past and become culturally “reborn.” The government interpreted the stand as opposition to the nation’s cultural revolution, according to the sources.

Missionaries working elsewhere in the land were apparently unaffected by the action. The area where Baptist Mid-Missions works is the home district of Chad president Ngarga Pombaleaye.

Greece: Priming For The Primacy

As expected, Archbishop Ieronymos, 67, primate of the Orthodox Church of Greece since 1967, resigned last month. Four prelates were being discussed as prime candidates for the job: Metropolitans Iakovos, 66, of Mytilene; Seraphim, 60, of Ioannian; Barnabas, 54, of Kitrous; and Dionyssios, 61, of Kozani.

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Iakovos was given the best chance if election is by the full hierarchy, but Seraphim was given the edge in the event a special synod is held. Seraphim was selected over Ieronymos to swear in President Phaidon Gizikis, the leader of the new military government that seized power in late November.

Ieronymos announced his resignation in a sermon that was broadcast live over the state-operated radio network, which went off the air at one point during the prelate’s explanation of his action. “Sinister forces” were to blame, he charged, and cited ecclesiastical and political attacks against him that were damaging to the entire church.

Correspondent Thomas Cosmades reports that the mother of President Gizikis was a devout believer who held membership in one of the main evangelical churches in Athens. Upon her death three years ago she bequeathed her Bible to him. But, says Cosmades, Gizikis is cool toward his mother’s faith.

The new military regime probably faces difficulties no less severe than those encountered by the deposed Papadopoulos. One source of trouble concerns the weekly newspaper Christianiki, which persistently criticized both the military regime and the political role played by the church. The Gizikis regime halted publication of the 100,000-circulation paper, and the government is now busy banning books and films, among them a film about Jesus Christ.

Japan’S Kyodan: Unfinished Business

An observer at the recent general assembly of the 723,000-member United Church of Christ of Japan (Kyodan) commented afterward that his reaction was similar to that of English author Samuel Johnson who reported on a dog he’d seen dancing: “It wasn’t skillfully done, or beautifully done, but by God, sir, the astonishing thing is that it was done at all.”

The assembly—the seventeenth for the Kyodan, Japan’s largest church—had originally been scheduled for 1970, but several controversies resulted in bitter division within the denomination. In 1969 the Kyodan sponsored the Expo ’70 Christian exhibit in cooperation with Catholic and other groups. Dissidents had wanted the church instead to join in criticism of Expo, mainly along political lines. When students at the Tokyo Union Seminary protested the church’s sponsorship of the exhibit, seminary officials called in riot police, and the school was closed for three months.

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At times it appeared the fragilely convened assembly might break apart amid the continuing debate and confusion over the same old issues. But the delegates managed to elect several key officers, table a motion that said Kyodan participation in Expo was a mistake, and ask the seminary to withdraw legal complaints against two leaders of the student protest. But time ran out on the 250 voting delegates and 150 observers before an executive committee could be selected, and the hotel where the meetings were held refused to grant the churchmen additional time (there had been threats of disturbances by outsiders upset with the Kyodan’s opposition to the nationalizing of a Shinto shrine).

Clergyman Isuke Toda, chairman of the assembly’s preparatory committee, was elected moderator (president). He said he will soon call another session of the assembly to deal with the unfinished business.

Evangelical Theologians: Shedding Inferiority

What was the largest convention in its history was a fitting tribute to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). More than 200 scholars gathered at Wheaton College late last month to focus on a variety of topics related to the New Testament.

Plenary addresses at the three-day conference were delivered by F. F. Bruce, perhaps the world’s most widely heralded biblical scholar of evangelical persuasion; by Bruce’s fellow Britisher, I. Howard Marshall; and by outgoing ETS president Arthur Lewis of Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota. In other sessions the conferees discussed detailed papers on such topics as “The Significance of the Date of Our Lord’s Crucifixion” (a convincing case for A.D. 33 was made by Harold Hoerner of Dallas Seminary) and “Paul’s View of Death in Second Corinthians 5” (by Trinity Seminary’s Murray Harris). One paper contended that not only Aramaic but also Hebrew and Greek were widely spoken in first-century Palestine.

A series of brief presentations challenged evangelicals to shed any inferiority complexes regarding their potential contribution to academic study of the Bible and to recognize that God leads some Christians to serve him by the hard work that first-class scholarship entails.

The society now has more than 800 members. Richard Longenecker of Wycliffe College, an Anglican Church of Canada seminary, is the president for 1974. Most of the papers read at the convention are to be published in book form by Zondervan.

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Leonard Bernstein a convert to the Baptist brand of Christianity? At a worship service at Dallas’s First Baptist Church a man identified himself as Leonard Bernstein, Jr., and tearfully handed pastor W. A. Criswell a $20,000 check to cover travel expenses to New York City for the 410-member church choir. The benefactor, amid a standing ovation, said he wanted the choir to sing with his father and the New York Philharmonic. He said he and his father were Christian Jews attending New York City’s Calvary Baptist Church. After some investigation the church’s director of communications learned that Bernstein’s son is named Alexander, that the check was counterfeit, and that the conductor still was a Jew.

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