At press time early this month Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God appeared to be headed toward catastrophe. An insider predicted the defection of more than half the church’s members. Armstrong says the upheaval involves only 10 per cent. The following two stories were filed by correspondent Russell Chandler and edited by News Editor Edward E. Plowman.
Probably not even in the most fanciful dreams of his youth did Herbert W. Armstrong—who says he was precocious and obsessed with a desire for wealth and prominence when he was young—dare to imagine himself the head of a sprawling empire of publishing, broadcasting, and educational enterprises whose influence would girdle the globe (see following story).
But by the early 1970s, forty years after he founded what has become the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), Herbert Armstrong, 81, and his personable, handsome son, Garner Ted, 44, were flying high in command of the sect and its Ambassador College, a broadcast ministry believed to be the most extensive in the nation, and a mail operation that kept 180 men busy sending out seven million pieces of literature last year alone.
The 1970s, however—a decade that already has brought complex worries and no little embarrassment to more than one expansive administration—has dealt the Armstrong domain a body blow whose damage may take years to determine.
First, in January of 1972, a rift between father Herbert and son Garner Ted came to light. The son, second in command and heir apparent to the 85,000-member Worldwide Church and its outreach, was exiled for four months by the senior Armstrong. Garner Ted, whose dynamic voice is the essence of “The World Tomorrow” broadcasts, was said by his reproving father to be “in the bonds of Satan” (see April 28, 1972, issue, page 42). After due “heartfelt repentance,” Garner Ted was restored to fellowship in the church and returned to his broadcast, TV, and personal appearance chores.
(Informed sources say the break occurred when Herbert and several church officials attempted to counsel Garner Ted about marital difficulties. An argument ensued, the sources say, and Garner Ted ousted his father and friends from the room. Herbert then banished his son from leadership and spokesmanship in the WCG. Later, say the sources, Herbert and others—disturbed by the WCG’s declining revenues—met with Garner Ted in a Colorado exile site and achieved reconciliation.)
Although a letter from Garner Ted to his father conceded that his transgression centered on “the course my own rotten nature so recently took,” his apparent sins were never openly revealed.
Not until this year, that is. One by one, beginning two days after last Thanksgiving, six ministers of the Armstrong churches resigned, were ousted—or both. The defections congealed into the first organized split in the theocratic organization. The last week in February the dissidents signed a twelve-page statement outlining their griefs: alleged sexual misconduct by Garner Ted over a period of years, squandering of money contributed by church members, and disputed doctrines.
Time and the Los Angeles Times, which had been on top of the story for weeks, published the revelations on the last weekend of the month. Herbert Armstrong broke off meetings with educators and business groups in the Philippines and hurried home that Sunday aboard his Grumman G-2 jet.
The following day may be remembered as “Massacre Monday” in WCG history. In a meeting in Texas Garner Ted Armstrong announced the suspension without pay of a number of ministers and leaders whom he felt had been disloyal; several were added to the list the next day, bringing the total dismissed to twenty. Among top leaders affected were David Antion, Garner Ted’s brother-in-law and vice president over WCG church administration, and Al Portune, one of Garner Ted’s top aides and vice president over WCG evangelism. At first WCG legal counsel Stanley Rader denied the pair had been suspended. Later he said their resignations had been requested and accepted.
Two regional directors were suspended: Walter Sharp of Texas and Kenneth Westby of Washington, D. C.
Those suspended “were people who were unimportant to the church,” commented Rader in an interview. With proper penance within fifteen days they could be reinstated, he said. Herbert Armstrong, however, said later they had been fired, not suspended.
In a letter addressed to all WCG members Garner Ted decreed the cancellation of Sabbath services March 2, setting it aside as a day for fasting and prayer at home. He also banned ministerial meetings.
The elder Armstrong wrote a letter too. He suggested that dissidents were out to line their own pockets with members’ money. Further, he warned, they would abolish authority. Their contentions “would lead to voting—‘the democratic way’—the very opposite from God’s way,” said Armstrong, who exercises virtual autocratic rule.
In the slightly earlier statement of the six dissidents there were only veiled references to Garner Ted’s alleged adultery, but several of the ministers elaborated in telephone and personal interviews.
One of the six signers was Al Carrozzo, drafter of the statement. His resignation reportedly rocked Worldwide Church headquarters and Ambassador College in Pasadena, for Carrozzo’s credibility has been high with both laymen and ranking officials in the movement, insiders said. Carrozzo, 41, a plumbing contractor before he converted to Armstrongism, had been pastor of one of two headquarters churches in Pasadena and an Ambassador faculty member. He also had directed some 200 of the ministers in the western half of the nation (there are about 500 WCG ministers, most serving in the WCG’s 350 U. S. churches).
Carrozzo said lack of a forum to discuss doctrine ultimately caused him to quit. He added that he had known about “Ted’s problem” since 1965. Another dissident, John Mitchell—who like the others has formed a separate congregation—was more explicit. In his first newsletter to his new congregation (Church of God) in Shreveport, Louisiana, Mitchell declared that Herbert Armstrong had withheld information that “related namely to the past profoundly immoral activities of Garner Ted.…”
Garner Ted himself decided not to comment on the charges when confronted by a reporter. But he accused the dissenting ministers of using the press to gather congregations. “For them belatedly to use me as a whipping boy is not only unscriptural, but also unethical,” he said. He and Stanley Rader, the church and college’s highly paid legal counsel, countered by challenging Carrozzo’s credibility and character. Rader said Carrozzo started the rebellion after he was passed over for a promotion at headquarters.
Garner Ted, referring to his disfellowshiping and exile in 1972, said he had believed that when he was restored he had been fully forgiven by God and the ministers of the church. His father did not respond to press queries.
According to a statement on “employee frustrations at headquarters” presented to Herbert Armstrong by Carrozzo in August of 1972, there was already “a widespread feeling of discontent toward the ministry and a growing frustration about the work.” In that paper and another entitled “Everything You Always Knew About the Headquarters Ministry But Were Afraid to Mention,” the apparent gap between sacrificial giving on the part of the general membership and “coworkers” and the alleged “playboy” style of life of the headquarters elite was laid bare.
This elite was described: “They received the biggest salaries, shiny new lease cars at very little cost, subsidized housing—some even live in $300,000 homes. Most do very little actual work to earn their inflated wages. Much time is spent on trips or in meetings—very little on the job, doing work.”
“The complaint is that they never sacrifice, but rather they wait for the hunting season in Colorado, golf in Australia, skiing in Squaw Valley, etc. Some have joked about the playboy country club atmosphere of Big Sandy [site of Ambassador College’s 4,000-acre satellite campus in east Texas]. They claim it is a playground for Mr. GTA and his elite,” the Carrozzo statement said. (WCG publications frequently abbreviate the leaders’ names as HWA and GTA.)
Serious as the sexual and financial allegations would appear, the common denominator or complaint for all six ministers—plus several others who quit in recent weeks but didn’t sign the Carrozzo statement—is their contention that the Armstrongs’ stranglehold on doctrine has stifled free discussion.
The former Worldwide Church ministers, including Dr. Ernest Martin, resigned head of Ambassador’s theology department, have now formed a separate Institute For Biblical Studies, a kind of theological reference service.
Ironically, some of the dissidents are casting friendly glances at the little denomination from which HWA split in 1930: the 5,000-member Church of God (Seventh Day) headquartered in Denver (not to be confused with the larger and better known Church of God groups based in Anderson, Indiana, and Cleveland, Tennessee). An official of that body who is in close contact with the dissidents says that Martin, for example, has an orthodox understanding of the new birth in Christ and rejects HWA’s British Israelism concepts and the need to keep Old Testament observances. But most dissidents seem inclined to organize a new organization rather than join an older one. Carrozzo, for instance, has incorporated as “The Twentieth Century Church of God.”
The divorce and remarriage question, the correct day to celebrate Pentecost, and biblical support for the Armstrong-taught practice of the “second” and “third” tithes (said by disillusioned former Armstrongites to help keep the jets flying, refurbish expensive homes for ministers, and pay headquarters’ staffers) are doctrines that particularly stuck in the craw of the separating six.
Carrozzo said that such doctrines have long been questioned but that the elder Armstrong hasn’t budged because he believes he has absolute authority to dictate doctrine. Especially upsetting to the dissidents is HWA’s teachings on marriage. He teaches, for example, that a divorced person who remarries and then joins the church must put away the second mate because not to do so would be to live in continuing adultery.
Garner Ted, in an interview, sharply disagreed that Worldwide Church doctrine is inflexible, citing a recent change switching the observance of Pentecost from Monday to Sunday. He also intimated there could be more changes as a result of “thorough research” and mounting concern.
On top of other troubles, the Armstrongs have been hit with two multi-million lawsuits. One man claims Armstrong teaching broke up his marriage, another says his sexual past was exposed by HWA in a public sermon.
With reports that a mass ministerial defection was impending, Armstrong watchers were wondering if the empire would survive.
Inside Armstrong’s Empire
Sales and advertising were the fields that attracted Herbert W. Armstrong when, as a boy of 18, he chose self-learning rather than a college education. His line of work apparently prepared him well for the public relations and promotion he later perfected after he left the Church of God (Seventh Day) in the early thirties to launch an independent ministry known then as the Radio Church of God. From humble beginnings in Oregon, where Armstrong had failed in business, the work grew and was shifted to Pasadena, California.
Now, some 1,700 students attend the three branches of unaccredited Ambassador College (Pasadena; Big Sandy, Texas; and Bricket Wood, England). Over the last three years the Worldwide Church of God and the college reported incomes of approximately $35 million, $41 million, and $53 million respectively.
Sources say at least 75 per cent of WCG income comes from a tithing base of about 30,000 of the group’s 85,000 members (70,000 in the United States). Members are required to give a tenth of their gross income as a first tithe, to set aside a second tithe for expenses and offerings in attending the church’s seven Old Testament festivals, and to come up with a third tithe every third year for the church’s so-called “widows” fund. In addition, donations are expected for emergency and building funds and other projects. The other 25 per cent comes from other sources, such as the non-members among the nearly 3 million persons who receive The Plain Truth, a slick monthly.
It is no secret that the budgets of many WCG families are strained severely in order to keep the WCG not only afloat but flying high.
Ambassador leases three jet aircraft and a prop jet at a reported cost of more than $4 million a year. (Operating expenses for the world-hopping Herbert Armstrong’s Grumman G-2 are about $1,100 per hour, not counting crew salaries and expenses. At that rate his recent round-trip flight to the Philippines [see preceding story] cost more than $15,000 in operating costs alone. Round-trip fare to Manila by commercial jet is less than $1,100.)
On his numerous trips abroad Armstrong arranges for visits with dignitaries, giving them Steuben crystal gifts costing thousands of dollars each.
The church’s modern printing plant occupies a city block. Since 1947, the year the Pasadena college was opened, nearly 200 prime properties have been acquired in a thirty-acre section of the city once known as “Millionaires’ Row.” The campus—with assets of at least $60 million—has a $10 million concert hall nearing completion. The Viennese Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to be flown in (at a cost reportedly in excess of $500,000) to inaugurate the hall.
This building promises to outclass even the other resplendent campus edifices in plush adornments. Armstrong has repeatedly said that “a little riches never hurt anyone. The right use of material wealth and of the qualities which help produce it is not wrong. Remember, God is no pauper.” (Armstrong’s suite of offices at Ambassador is said to have $35,000 worth of carpeting and gold-plated fixtures in the bathroom.)
But in a 1973 sermon, the patriarch noted that some of his followers had been buying watches, jewelry, Bibles, and even an extra suit of clothing for the Passover festival, conceivably with part of their second tithe. “That is going too far,” he rebuked them. “You are going to wear that suit for the rest of the year, and I … tell you that God is looking in great disfavor on those of you who do that.”
In a period when he was asking his members to dig a little deeper—even to borrow—to help the WCG through financial crises, Armstrong’s salary for serving half-time as president of Ambassador went from $25,206 in 1970 to $35,726 in 1972 (housing provided free). Garner Ted Armstrong’s halftime salary as executive vice president was $25,983 in 1972.
Beneath the Armstrongs on the organizational chart are fifteen “evangelists,” some of whom are executive vice presidents over certain spheres of “the Work” (HWA insists on a capital W in referring to his church as “God’s Work”). Under them are department heads and directors of regions (nine in North America), who in turn oversee the pastors and associate pastors.
Widows—whether literal ones or those separated from their mates over religion—are eligible for monthly allotments from the WCG. (Although she could ill afford to, a divorcee in Dallas last month returned her $337 to the church, saying she could no longer in good conscience accept money from such an allegedly tainted organization.)
The WCG is non-trinitarian. Old Testament Sabbath and dietary laws are followed. There is only one true church—the WCG, says Armstrong. The “new birth” is something that happens after the resurrection. Works are a necessary ingredient in attaining salvation.
An original Herbert Armstrong prediction was for a cataclysm in the 1930s; when this didn’t happen, an update for January, 1972, was set, but references to this have been removed from a new edition of his book The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy.
Viet Nam is a bad memory for the relatives of the tens of thousands who died there. But there is a surprising lack of bitterness among the family members of eleven martyred Viet Nam missionaries.
All five of the widows who lost missionary husbands continue in active service, two in South Viet Nam, two in the Philippines, and one at the United States headquarters of her mission. A sixth wife, whose husband was captured in 1962 and is still unaccounted for, remains in Viet Nam. A fatherless missionary daughter is also there, and a doctor who lost his parents in a Communist attack is preparing for missionary work in Cambodia.
The young medic is Dr. David Thompson, now finishing his internship in California. His parents, Edward and Ruth Thompson, were killed along with four Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) colleagues at the bloody 1968 Tet massacre in Ban Me Thuot. Dr. Thompson, who attended medical school at the University of Pittsburgh and is the eldest of five Thompson children, said at a memorial service for his parents six years ago, “Mom and Dad … left all five of their children with a vision for missionary work and a love for the souls of men. We will be stamped with a missionary outlook on life until the day we die. They have left us with greater faith by their lives and by their death. They left us with courage by their courage.” He hopes to serve in Cambodia, where his parents worked before transferring to South Viet Nam.
Dr. Thompson is married to Rebecca Mitchell, whose father Archie was one of three missionaries abducted from a CMA jungle leprosarium in May, 1962. Mitchell’s wife Betty recently arrived home on furlough. She continues to hold out hope that her husband and the two others, Dr. Ardel Vietti, and Mennonite Dan Gerber, are alive and will be released.
A year after the Viet Cong captured Mrs. Mitchell’s husband, two families with the Wycliffe Bible translators met tragedy in a Communist roadblock on the Saigon-Dalat highway. In the shooting Elwood Jacobson, Gaspar Makil (a Filipino Wycliffe member), and one of Makil’s children were killed. Jacobson’s widow, Vurnell, has since married fellow translator Maxwell Cobbey. They are translating the New Testament for the Roglai people. Makil’s widow, a black American who met her Filipino husband while he was attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, is now a Wycliffe teacher in the Philippines.
Simone Haywood, a Swiss nurse with World Evangelization Crusade (WEC), was widowed in 1966. She and her English husband John had met at the Bermondsey Medical Mission in London and married after beginning service in South Viet Nam. He was cut down in an ambush on the Danang-Hue highway and buried three days before their daughter was born. Simone and her six-year-old daughter Jacqueline now live in Danang, where she is on loan from WEC to the United World Mission for leprosy work.
Marie Ziemer saw her translator husband Robert killed at Ban Me Thuot during the 1968 Tet offensive. Of the eightFour of the Alliance missionaries at Ban Me Thuot were single: Betty Olsen, Ruth Wilting, Caroline Griswold, and Miss Griswold’s widower father, Leon. Another missionary couple based there was visiting elsewhere—and lived. missionaries living at the Alliance Ban Me Thuot compound, only Mrs. Ziemer and Betty Olsen, a nurse, survived. Mrs. Ziemer is now almost fully recovered from shrapnel wounds and serves on the mission staff at Alliance headquarters in New York. (Her oldest daughter, Beth [Mrs. Rick Drummond], is a CMA missionary in Viet Nam.) Robert Ziemer’s Raday translation work was taken up by colleague Kenneth Swain, who is now putting the finishing touches on the tribal translation.
Evangeline Blood’s husband Henry, a Wycliffe translator, was captured with Betty Olsen at Ban Me Thuot. (The Bloods lived in a nearby tribal village.) Blood and Miss Olsen subsequently died in Communist captivity. Mrs. Blood moved with her four children to the Philippines, where she continues to work on the Mnong Rolom translation that her husband began.
Another Christian worker killed in Viet Nam was Ted Studebaker, a Church of the Brethren member working as an agriculturalist with an ecumenical group. He married a Chinese girl a week before his death in 1971. She lives with his parents near Dayton, Ohio, and works in a day care center.
JAMES C. HEFLEY
William Barclay: Making It Interesting
Professor William Barclay, an author noted for popular-style Bible commentaries and other books on the New Testament, has announced he will retire from Glasgow’s Trinity College in September to devote his full time to writing a multi-volume study of the Old Testament (more than half a million sets of his notes on the New Testament have been sold). On the side there will be speaking tours, television lectures, and seminars, including the celebrated American Summer Institute, conducted each year in St. Andrews, Scotland, by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Barclay does not expect the Old Testament series to come easily. “In many ways it will be like starting again,” he says, “digging into the language and the background material of the times. I am fundamentally a teacher. If you’re going to teach, you must awaken interest first of all. So, the first big step is to make it interesting.”
Making it interesting is a practice that has made William Barclay one of the leading religious authors of all times, from the standpoint of both sales and reader devotion. More often than not even the man on the street in Britain knows his name. He’s one of the few churchmen on British television, and probably the best liked. The masses understand him. “Whenever I am speaking on television, I try to imagine that there’s a man sitting in his home reading the paper and my first task is to stop him.”
Students nickname him “the lovable heretic” because of the professional jabs that seem to come naturally to a common man’s theologian. Barclay says that there is no point in writing his books for the theologians. He prefers to teach “the people” rather than theorize with “the elite.” This practice has brought him a considerable amount of ostracism from colleagues, who say he has watered down the faith for public consumption.
Admitting he is somewhat anticlerical, Barclay takes the criticism in stride and continues to put in a full day at his typewriter. He has written more than fifty best sellers in the religious market. He says he has never written a book that he personally decided to write; rather each one has been in response to requests from publishers or the public. “It’s not as though I had to get something out of my system.”
Barclay’s style results from a lifetime of cultivating communication skills among the common folk of Glasgow. He emerged a first-class graduate in the classics from Trinity College in 1932 and was called to a church in Renfrew, a shipbuilding town just outside Glasgow. Of the 1,400 persons in the congregation, there was one professional man—a doctor. Everyone else worked in the industries and shipyards along the River Clyde. It was a simple proposition, Barclay says with a smile: either he had to “be intelligible” or the people just never came back.
Barclay still arranges to spend large portions of time with people from every social stratum. “The most fatal thing I can think of for any writer,” he says, “would be to have to write in a locked room.” To avoid the locked-room literary style, he seeks out scientists and doctors and old friends from the Glasgow dockside (“the scientist is much more consumed today with the desire to communicate than the theologian is”).
While they may not agree with all of Barclay’s views, especially those associated with certain higher-critical conclusions, many evangelical pastors nevertheless rely on him for help in understanding—and in getting the message across to others. For his part, Barclay doesn’t make an issue of doctrinal matters. Says he: “I’m mostly language, background, and history—the external things needed to understand the New Testament. For instance, I have never written about the problem of the Trinity for the simple reason that I don’t think my readers are particularly interested in the problem of the Trinity. I’ve probably oversimplified all my life, but if the people start with me they can then move to something better and more astute.”
JOHN CHARLES WALTON
Churches Of Christ: Holding The Line
Gasoline shortages apparently did not seriously affect attendance at last month’s annual Abilene (Texas) Christian College Bible Lectures. Approximately 10,000 members of the Churches of Christ (non-instrumental), right-wing descendants of the nineteenth-century “Restoration Movement” (a smaller ecumenical wing is the Disciples of Christ), returned to the theme “Discipleship” at their largest annual gathering.
Speakers largely interpreted the theme along evangelical lines, stressing evangelism and personal piety as priorities and calling for a reaffirmation of biblical authority and individual morality. Black minister James D. Stephens of Chicago departed from the norm by calling for Christians to use the revolutionary elements in society, saying that “a piety and a ceremonialism that neglect justice are an offense to the Lord.”
State legislator and minister Jim Caldwell of Rogers, Arkansas, called for greater political concern among members of the “brotherhood” (composed of from 2.5 to 3 million persons in about 19,000 congregations). He denied the premise held by David Lipscomb and other early leaders of the movement that Christians could not participate in politics. In an interview, however, Caldwell admitted that his brethren are so divided on major social and ethical issues that they would present no united voting power even if they became more politically involved. Such division is an echo of the Disciples—Church of Christ split formalized at the turn of the century, a schism that was itself partly a reflection of division over Civil War political and social issues.
Theological concerns such as tongues speaking, the nature of biblical authority, and the role of women—all of which have exercised many of the movement’s journals lately—were conspicuously absent from the lectureship agenda. The omission was deliberate, according to lectureship director Carl Brecheen, who said that “this is no place to fight our battles.” A Preachers and Elders Workshop, conducted in January, attends to such issues, but primarily only ministers within driving distance of Abilene are present. The more prosaic content of the lectures drew criticism from several, among them Editor Victor L. Hunter of Mission magazine, who described the event as a “public relations type of affair which was theologically bankrupt.” Hunter’s small but theologically aware journal has become a rallying point for critics of mainstream traditionalism.
Abilene Christian College itself, one of the largest colleges supported by members of Churches of Christ, mourned the death a month earlier of President Emeritus Don Morris. The current president, Dr. John C. Stevens, continues to walk a tightrope. On one hand, the school attempts to remain educationally competent and somewhat open to two other church-related schools in Abilene, Hardin Simmons (Southern Baptist) and McMurry (United Methodist). On the other hand, conservative constituents want their college students to maintain the faith that the movement is uniquely the “church of Christ” and to remain distinct from denominationalism.
The latter emphasis meets with increasing disinterest among the students themselves. Many of them tire quickly of such ecclesiological distinctions and of a biblical hermeneutic that stresses such matters as a ban on instrumental music in worship.
Nevertheless, the conservative point was made forcefully in the opening lecture by Parker Henderson, a missionary to Thailand. In a get-tough speech he told preachers “who preach no distinctive Gospel of the New Testament, who compromise and sell the Lord, his Gospel, and his church down the road to apostasy” that “we don’t want your garbled, uncertain sound preached here.”
Fifty, Going On Forward
The past decade has been one of declining enrollments and generally depressing conditions among theological seminaries, especially main-line ones. But that has not been the case at Dallas Seminary.
Last month some 4,000 students, alumni, and friends participated in a week-long celebration of the Texas school’s fiftieth anniversary. A new $2 million academic center, part of it still under construction, was dedicated. The facility is the latest in a series of pay-as-you-go projects that has enabled the independent evangelical seminary to become one of the biggest and best equipped in the world.
Enrollment stands at 636, with a faculty of 36. Most students are pursuing a four-year Master of Theology program. About 200 of some 500 freshman applicants will be admitted this fall, pushing enrollment over the 700 mark.
Among the 2,600 alumni are presidents of eighteen seminaries, colleges, and Bible institutes, along with a number of heads of mission boards and para-church organizations. The seminary presidents include Sang Kun Lee of Young-Nam Seminary in Taegu, South Korea, and Emilio Antonio Nuñez of the Central American Seminary in Guatemala. Six former students are organizing a theological faculty (seminary) in Sweden.
Founded in 1924 as Evangelical Theological College by Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871–1952), its first president, Dallas over the years has adhered to a strong position on biblical authority. Exegesis is emphasized; every student gets a solid dose of Greek and Hebrew. In theological circles the school is perhaps best known for its dispensational and premillennial views; in churches, for its graduates who have a flair for Bible teaching.
President John F. Walvoord, who succeeded Chafer in 1952, sees a marked difference in today’s students: they seem more serious, more spiritual minded, better motivated (nearly half of last year’s entering students were converted as college students). More students are interested in overseas missionary work.
Despite all the conservatism there is a forward look on campus (the dress code isn’t stringent, new teaching styles are being tried out). Perhaps one of the clearest evidences: a pop Bible teacher and author—alumnus Hal Lindsey (The Late Great Planet Earth)—as main speaker for the jubilee meetings rather than, say, a European theologian. And, says Walvoord, the faculty has recommended for the first time that women students be admitted to the seminary under a new Master of Arts program.
Methodists And Missions
Over the past few years there has been a steady crescendo of rumblings among evangelicals in the United Methodist Church over their denomination’s missions policies and trends. Last month the shock waves hit Methodist headquarters in New York in the form of an ultimatum of sorts from the newly organized Evangelical Missions Council. Summarized, the message was this: Make room for and support evangelicals and evangelical emphases in the denomination’s World Missions Division.
The new council was organized last month at an evangelical missions consortium in northeast Texas. On hand were seventy-two pastoral and lay delegates from twenty-three states—and United Methodist missions executive John Schaeffer. The consortium was convened by Good News, an evangelical lobby within United Methodism.
Without dissent the delegates empowered the council to negotiate for the establishment of a “trustworthy and guaranteed channel for evangelical missions” inside the denomination’s World Missions Division. Their statement spoke of a “tragic crisis” as evidenced by the growing number of United Methodists signing up with non-United Methodist mission sending agencies. Also, it pointed out, a number of locally organized United Methodist sending agencies are springing up. It went on to warn that if the proposed evangelical emphases “are ultimately frustrated, we have highly viable alternate channels for the implementation of our evangelical concern.”
Of the priorities adopted by the group, top place was given to assuring the on-going support of existing evangelical missionaries and projects whose futures may otherwise be jeopardized by the denomination’s alleged mission policy of retrenchment (there are 900 overseas missionaries, down from 1,575 in 1960).
Heard often in both platform and corridor talk was the complaint that denominational policies and publications dwell heavily on social concern with comparatively little or no emphasis on man’s spiritual needs. Commented keynote speaker David Seamands, a pastor in Wilmore, Kentucky, who is chairman of the new council: “For all practical purposes the [World Missions Division] has become another board of social concern.” Pastor Kenneth Callis of Flint, Michigan, accused headquarters officials of violating the pluralism of the denomination by their “insensitivity” and unresponsiveness to evangelicals.
Mission officials of the 10.5-million-member denomination replied that they are willing to talk it over.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more