The future of the church in Chad hangs in the balance this month as the government takes the next step in its cultural revolution plans.

Twice the size of Texas but with only one-half the population, land-locked Chad is sandwiched between the Sahara desert in the north and jungle rainforests in the south. The southern third, with over half the nation’s five million population, forms the power bloc of President Ngarta Tombalbaye, himself a southerner. It also has been the area of greatest missionary activity and church growth, with over 60,000 members in 1,500 evangelical churches, plus thousands of adherents. A “saturation-evangelism” program in 1972 and 1973 by The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) in southwest Chad netted thousands of converts, and 4,000 prayer cells met regularly during the campaign. Missionaries view the rapid growth as a mixed blessing; it is difficult to provide adequate Christian teaching to so many at once.

Last year, President Tombalbaye launched a cultural revolution to strengthen his support in the “black” south; Muslim rebels controlled the other two-thirds of the nation. All “European” influence was to be removed. Non-Chadian names, including Bible names, had to be dropped. (Muslims, however, have not had to change their Koranic and Arabic names, nor undergo traditional initiation rites.)

Phase Two of the “authenticity program” was launched last November with a presidential decree that all tribesmen must submit to their traditional initiation rites—secret ceremonies often involving sacrifice to ancestral spirits and an animistic “rebirth.” The first area was to be the president’s own Sara tribe, in the southeast. Christians protested, bringing reprisal. Their homes and farms were ransacked, their lives threatened. The children of some were taken forcibly to the initiation camps. Sources say that one pastor who refused to let his sons go was shot, and that an evangelist’s son who helped translate the New Testament into the Sara language was killed.

The government blamed foreign missionaries for encouraging the opposition. The Ohio-based Baptist Mid-Missions, the largest Protestant group working among the Sara tribe, took the brunt of the government’s reaction. In November, six families and six single missionaries were arrested and expelled, thirteen pastors were detained, and all Baptist churches and schools in the area were closed (see January 18, 1974, issue, page 43). The sole remaining Baptist medical missionary, Dr. David Seymour, a friend of Tombalbaye’s for years, left Chad at the end of May, because he felt his presence was an embarrassment to the churches.

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Some observers suspect a personal vendetta on the president’s part. Born into a Baptist Sara family in 1918, young François (his childhood name, now dropped) became a leader and teacher in a Baptist church. (There are a number of Christians in government, drawn from the mission-educated southerners.) Later the church disciplined him for “unchristian behavior,” and the incident reportedly embittered him. The local Baptist missionary, Daniel Hirschy, and his wife were among the first three couples expelled. (More recently one of Tombalbaye’s relatives was disciplined by the church for undergoing the initiation rites.)

The president has also been displeased with the Baptists for using the Sango language among his own Sara tribe. Mid-Missions had developed literature in Sango in its work across the border in Central Africa Republic, and found Sango was used as a trade language in southern Chad. The language was banned in 1961, but Sara believers say they still appreciate having Sango literature to read.

Despite his seeming antagonism toward the mission and church, Tombalbaye still claims to be a Christian. However, on a visit to the Sara tribe he stated that though the blood of Jesus Christ atones for sin, the initiation rites complete the cleansing. He is now also a polygamist.

The rites were to be enforced nationwide last December, but were postponed until this month, say sources, in order not to jeopardize school attendance or the cotton harvest—Chad’s chief cash crop.

In other tribal areas attitudes differ, and evangelicals may not face the same pressures. Converted witch doctors in some instances have denounced pagan practices. Some remaining customs are not seen as unchristian. “If we have to initiate people here,” one priest is reported to have said, “we won’t force any evangelicals to take the rites.”

The feeling among some observers is that although missionaries may not be expelled from the other tribes, pressure may continue until they all leave voluntarily. So far missionary visas are being refused, even to those without specialist qualifications.

The main Protestant missions working among the western tribes are Christian Missions in Many Lands, Lutheran Brethren, Grace Brethren, and TEAM, which recently took over the North American Sudan United Mission work in Chad. These missions are closely watching developments.

The Roman Catholic mission, which has more missionaries than the Protestants but fewer churches and members, generally faces no problem with the government because it permits members to undergo the initiation rites.

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There are signs that the “cultural propaganda” is affecting the churches. Last November, evangelicals were united in disciplining any member who even approved of initiation. But by February, many church councils had agreed that anyone forced to take the rites should not be disciplined, and some pastors advocate that initiation be permitted. Missionaries express grave concern at the developments.

The government has set up a state church under the name “Evangelical Church of Chad”—the same name that TEAM has been using for its churches. Its top officials are two pastors who left the Baptist church because of discipline. Churches in the Sara tribe may reopen only if they sign allegiance to these two men and their group. In other tribal areas, the government has also appointed officers to head up the state church, in some cases appointing evangelical pastors and elders without their consent.

Observers note that Communist Chinese have replaced the Taiwanese agricultural experts, and that there has been an increase of Russians. The name of the sole political party has been changed to the National Cultural and Social Revolutionary Movement. Regional political committees have been formed, with a leading pastor in each district appointed. Membership is obligatory. The committees conduct self-accusation meetings, and have banned the title “Monsieur,” substituting “Comrade.”

Reports coming out of Chad are conflicting. Problems vary among different tribes. But one thing is certain: the evangelical church in Chad is going through its fiercest hour of trial. What happens in the next few weeks may be of significance to missions and young churches throughout the Third World.

Africa: Toward Moratorium

Liberation and African identity remained the two overriding concerns as the All-Africa Conference of Churches concluded its third assembly in Lusaka, Zambia, last month (see June 7 issue, page 45).

In a step seen as essential in achieving authentic Africanness, the assembly adopted a report calling for a “moratorium.” Said the report: “The contribution of the African church cannot be adequately made in our world if the church is not liberated and [does not] become truly national. To achieve this liberation the church will have to bring a halt to the financial and manpower resources—the receiving of money and personnel—from its foreign relationships.”

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Exactly how the churches might go about implementing this recommendation was not made clear. The AACC itself is not in a strong position to lead such a movement, for the financial report revealed that its administrative budget is 97 per cent subsidized, and that even if the best expectations of the projected budget can be realized, still only 20 per cent would be met by the contributions of member churches. How then can the call for a moratorium be reconciled with the budget needs? Anglican canon Burgess Carr, the Liberian-born general secretary of the AACC, perhaps gave the clue in his keynote address, where in contrast to the assembly’s own later proposal he defined moratorium as “a demand to transfer the massive expenditure on expatriate personnel in the church in Africa to program activities manned by Africans themselves.” In other words, he calls for a moratorium on personnel but not on funds.

In his speech Carr also spoke of a crisis of faith in the African church:

[It] is not so much a theological crisis as much as it is a crisis of anthropology. At the very root of the problem is the cultural arrogance of that small minority of mankind, located in the North Atlantic world, who have imposed western man at the top of an imaginary scale of evolutionary development.… The western missionary movement converted this bad anthropology into bad theology, thereby transforming Jesus Christ into the prototype of their race, their values, and their customs.

The assembly, in addressing itself to liberation in South Africa and other countries under minority rule, passed a recommendation requesting member churches of the AACC to organize “national committees on liberation to assist the churches in sponsoring programs to bring about awareness among Christians on the relationship between salvation and liberation, and to find tangible ways of supporting movements struggling for liberation, justice, and reconciliation in Africa.”

A no-strings-attached gift of $5,000 to two liberation movements was voted (since 1963 the AACC has given more than $125,000 to such groups), and the assembly demanded that the concordat and missionary agreement between the Vatican and Portugal (described as making the church “an accomplice … to cultural genocide”) be annulled.

In a concluding “Message to the Churches” the assembly declared that there is a need to be freed from “theological conservatism which leads to stagnation and stops us from understanding, interpreting, applying, and experiencing the message of the Gospel afresh,” as well as to be freed from denominationalism, from fear to announce the new and denounce evil boldly, from hypocrisy, from selfishness, and from easy dependence on foreign money and men.

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Presiding officer Richard Andriamanjato, mayor of Tananarive, capital of the Malagasy Republic (Madagascar), was unanimously elected president, succeeding the Reverend John Kotto of Cameroun. The Reverend John Gatu, general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in East Africa (and a major proponent of a full moratorium), was elected chairman of the AACC’s important General Committee, replacing Andriamanjato.

The AACC, founded ten years ago, includes most of the Anglican, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches of the continent. Lutherans have been somewhat slower to join, though the Lutheran Mekane Yesus Church of Ethiopia joined at this assembly. So far the Baptist churches are not strongly represented. A notable development is the interest of the so-called independent—non-mission-related—churches in the AACC. The Kimbanguist Church of Zaire was especially evident in assembly debates.

Scotland: Unexpected Reprieve

This was to be the year when the Church of Scotland general assembly administered the coup de grâce to the Westminster Confession as “subordinate standard,” with its double predestination, its strict Sabbatarianism, and its identification of the pope as the Man of Sin. A majority of presbyteries had agreed to relegate the mid-seventeenth-century publication to “historic document” status, and the Panel on Doctrine asked last month’s assembly in Edinburgh to ratify the decision.

Then something unexpected happened. Former moderator Andrew Herron, a prominent clergyman described by one reporter as “not to be classed among the fundamentalists,” persuaded the house to shelve the issue until a fuller statement of faith was forthcoming. The 292-to-238 decision caused a general furor among those who have been chipping away at the confession for many years and who now saw success unaccountably slip away. The reason for the reprieve currently remains a mystery.

Ironically, at an earlier session the assembly had not only welcomed Bishop Colin MacPherson of Argyll and the Isles as official Roman Catholic visitor, but had agreed that next year’s representative of that church should be invited to address the assembly (twenty-one commissioners recorded dissent from the decision). The Reverend John D. Sutherland of Kintyre reminded his colleagues that there was “a strong body of moderate opinion against entering into any kind of official relationship with the Roman Catholic Church,” which view was formed on “carefully considered theological foundations, not on prejudice.” Meanwhile outside the hall the annual group of protesters made clear what John Knox thought of it all.

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Retiring moderator George Reid said that “the only greatness that properly belongs to the Church does not lie in adapting itself to the spirit of the present age, but in the faithful and uncompromising proclamation of the Gospel.” In an odd twist he spoke of the air’s being “polluted with a choking smog of cynicism and disillusionment” during a session at which five people fainted (the hall is notorious for inadequate ventilation).

The assembly proved recalcitrant also when the Inter-Church Relations Committee turned to the subject of episcopal church government. There is no more potentially explosive subject in Scottish Presbyterianism. This time the committee came at the matter obliquely, asking acceptance of an innocent-looking call for a clearer definition of the role of “superintendents.” The latter were promptly denounced as camouflaged bishops, and the assembly was having none of it.

Dr. Ian B. Doyle of the Home Board referred to the alarming rise of non-Christian religions and movements. “You may hear the tinkle of Hare Krishna bells in Princes Street [Edinburgh],” he said. “I have come across a Bahai temple in Campbeltown, and Muslim worship in Stornoway, and I am told there are black magic rites and covens of witches not so far from where we are meeting now.” Seeing the fundamental task as the reclamation of Scottish people for the faith of their fathers, Doyle concluded: “We believe that the work of mission must begin again at the level of the parish. If we fail here, we fail everywhere.”


There was nothing to suggest that the election of a new bishop of Glasgow and Galloway would be anything but routine business for the Episcopal Church in Scotland last month. The clergy and lay representatives of the church’s largest diocese without a dissenting vote duly elected the Very Reverend Frederick Goldie, dean of Glasgow, and presented his name to the six other bishops for formal confirmation. “We waited for one and a half hours,” said a layman, “and when the document was returned without assent you could have heard a pin drop. Then the place just erupted into a kind of fury.”

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None of the bishops is talking, but it is understood that they were evenly divided, and not even the primus has a casting vote. It seems likely that the election will be held again, but Goldie is uncertain about his candidacy. “I am a loyal churchman,” he said, “and I don’t want to cause disharmony.”


The assembly also:

• Heard that the discovery of North Sea oil had increased drunkenness by 600 per cent in Easter Ross, where workers were “almost dehumanized cogs in an ugly piece of machinery”;

• Saw that tireless champion of un-popular causes Lord MacLeod of Fuinary achieve a rare victory by narrowly persuading the house to demand a national referendum on membership in the Common Market;

• Gave a standing ovation to New Testament scholar William Barclay, who retires this summer;

• Welcomed news that the minimum stipend would be increased to $5,280;

• Elected Dr. David Steel of Linlithgow as moderator;

• Accepted a proposal that charismatic gifts should be welcomed provided they are used for the benefit of the whole church;

• Expressed “deep regret” that the secretary of state for Scotland did not recognize the teaching of religious education on a level with other school subjects.

(Membership in the Kirk declined more than 21,000 in 1973, to 1.08 million; Kirk leaders hint more may be dropped from among the 384,405 who did not attend communion last year.)

Another politician came in for a hammering across the street at the general assembly of the Free Kirk. Commenting on the news that a prominent advocate had been selected to succeed Sir Alec Douglas-Home as candidate for a Scots constituency, Donald Jack of Leith accused the candidate of having “shown himself inimical to the Gospel,” and having been a supporter of an Edinburgh theater that had made “its own nefarious contribution to the permissive society.” In his opening address new moderator Alastair Ross, a clergyman of Oban, said that the political crisis in the country is matched by a spiritual crisis in the church. “Instead of stressing the urgency of the Gospel in our day,” said Mr. Ross, “the Church is, by and large, questioning the relevancy of it—even yet.”

Delegates at the annual synod of the Free Presbyterian Church in Glasgow criticized the Catholic Church for its alleged role in the unrest in Northern Ireland, and they voiced disapproval of Sunday sports.

In Edinburgh, the Episcopal Church at its annual synod heard rector Gordon Reid claim that money given to the World Council of Churches was “money given to the devil.” Accusing the WCC of subsidizing terrorism with its policy of murder, rape, and torture for political ends, Reid asked, “Will you stifle your conscience because it is not happening in Edinburgh?” Qualified support for the WCC was nonetheless approved when it was pointed out that no contributions had been made to the WCC’s Special Fund to Combat Racism. Episcopal Church communicants have dropped by one-sixth in the last ten years, it was reported; their number now stands at 46,045.

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Chautauqua: A Century Of Culture

For many years in the small towns of rural America, when a large, brown-topped canvas tent went up in the public square, it meant that the annual Chautauqua series had come.

The forthcoming centennial of the founding of the Chautauqua Institution will be honored by the U. S. Postal Service with a ten-cent commemorative stamp depicting the familiar tent (see photo). To be issued in August, it is another in a series of stamps honoring the history of “Rural America.” It was designed by Philadelphia artist John Falter, who attended one of the Chautauqua sessions in his home town, Falls City, Nebraska.

The Chautauqua series brought religious inspiration along with education and entertainment to people in rural areas who otherwise would never have had an opportunity to hear the great preachers and educators of their day.

A Methodist minister and a Methodist layman founded the Chautauqua Institution at the Methodist camp meeting ground on the shore of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state on August 6, 1874. The clergyman, John H. Vincent, later a bishop, was editor of Sunday-school literature for the Methodist Episcopal Church at the time, and Lewis Miller, a wealthy manufacturer of farm machinery in Akron, Ohio, was a Sunday-school teacher interested in Vincent’s plan to improve the dry content of curricula and the often dull classroom sessions. They launched their improvement movement in 1873Many groups celebrated Chautauqua’s “centennial” last year. The summer school, however, did not open until the summer of 1874. and the following summer opened a fourteen-day teacher-training institute at Chautauqua. Miller suggested the site and the expansion of the program beyond Sunday-school needs. The first session featured serious lectures, but there were fireworks and music, too. Miller next suggested that a series of programs like it be offered in communities throughout the nation.

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Within a few years Chautauqua was offering both credit and non-credit courses in a wide variety of subjects, and it was being copied by other groups throughout the nation. (To this day there are events billed as “Chautauqua” ones, but they have no affiliation with the Chautauqua Institution, where thousands will visit this summer.)


Revival works. About halfway through a nine-day Dayton, Ohio, evangelistic crusade conducted by Texas evangelist James Robison, a man came to the home of a local housewife and said: “Lady, you don’t know me, but last summer I stole your lawn furniture. I was saved the other night at the Robison crusade and I have brought back your furniture. I want you to know I’m sorry for what I did.”

“I believe in revivals that do things like that to people,” the housewife commented later to a reporter.

At the height of its popularity and influence, more than one million persons (of the total U. S. population of fewer than 100 million) were enrolled in the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, the forerunner of today’s book clubs. Commented Vincent at its founding in 1878: “Education, once the peculiar privilege of the few, must in our best earthly estate become the valued possession of the many.” By 1900, there were 10,000 literary groups reading and discussing the Chautauqua selections in science, history, religion, and literature.

The silver-tongued William Jennings Bryan was perhaps the most popular orator on its platforms but scores of other famous men and women (Susan B. Anthony, for one) “toured the circuit” every summer, speaking in a different community each evening. The correspondence courses offered by Chautauqua became the model for many imitators and of today’s organized adult education programs.

Increasing mobility and the advent of radio, motion pictures, and television brought an end to the Chautauqua circuit, but the lecture programs continue at the original site. Chautauqua has a 6,000-seat theater and its own symphony orchestra, opera company, drama troupe, library, art association, and a wide range of recreational facilities. Lecturers include Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, and name personalities in secular entertainment are frequently featured. Despite the broad cultural and educational emphasis, Chautauqua retains its central purpose of spiritual enrichment, say its leaders.

Dr. Oscar E. Remick, a Baptist who has ties with the United Church of Christ and once taught at a Catholic college, is its president.


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