“Bolivia is ungovernable,” reported a correspondent for Time magazine shortly after the revolution that thrust Colonel Hugo Banzer, a tough, U. S.-trained anti-Communist, to power in August, 1971. Last month Banzer, 47, hosted the nation’s first Presidential Prayer Breakfast in La Paz, with well-known Argentine-born evangelist Luis Palau as keynote speaker. Declared Palau: “Bolivia—or any nation—is ungovernable without God.”

Palau was specially invited by President Banzer to address the gathering of 125 cabinet members, military chiefs, and other prominent leaders of Bolivian industry, commerce, and government. In a fifteen-minute evangelistic message the evangelist defined the world’s most acute political emergency as a “crisis of the Spirit.” He stressed the need for being “on God’s side” in every moral conflict, and he urged his listeners, “Never give up in the battle for righteous government.”

President Nixon sent a telegram commending Banzer for his “faith in God.” Banzer’s own remarks focused on his personal prayer experiences. He related that as a boy of 13 he had prayed that “God might permit me to help my people.” Thirty years later, he said, he renewed that prayer—just before assuming the presidency. He reiterated his desire to “be in contact with God through prayer,” and he called on each citizen and friend present to uphold him and the country in intercession. (Banzer, described as a devout Catholic, reportedly responded last year to an evangelistic invitation in a meeting conducted by Julio César Ruibal, a young lay Catholic Pentecostal evangelist.)

The breakfast was planned and coordinated by Wycliffe missionary Dave Farah, a long-time friend of Banzer. Last year the president appointed Farah to direct a national “Moralization Campaign” in order to stimulate more integrity in both public and private life. Farah proposed the breakfast and suggested Palau (an Overseas Crusades staffer) as speaker, and Banzer concurred.

With Banzer’s help Palau was also able to conduct five prime-time live television programs the week of the breakfast. During the forty-minute telecast, the evangelist spoke on the importance of Christ in the home and family. Viewers were encouraged to call for free New Testaments; the switchboards handled about 200 calls each night.

In his seven years of international mass evangelistic efforts, Palau has preached to about 30 million people through crusades and mass media in twenty-two countries. He has appeared on approximately 800 television programs and is heard daily on fifty-five radio stations across the Latin continent. In recent years he and his evangelistic team have gained a hearing among highly placed persons in America, including several presidents in Central America. A scheduled twelve-minute conversation with President Carlos Arana Osorio of Guatemala lasted an hour; the president accepted a Bible from Palau, stating he wanted to study it. Although Palau does not disclose the details of private talks with heads of state, he does set forth his objectives: “I go as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. As respectfully as I can I try to present the Gospel clearly and honestly. So far, God has enabled me to do this with each of these men.” (He and missionary Farah chatted privately with Banzer after the prayer breakfast.)

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Clearly Palau’s gospel message came to Bolivia’s leadership at the most critical moment of its rule thus far. Since independence from Spain in 1825 the country has undergone an average of one successive coup every two and one half years. In recent weeks there has again been mounting civilian unrest. In the week preceding the breakfast there were strikes, scattered demonstrations, and blockades of main highways, precipitating a clash between troops and farmers in Cochabamba. At least thirteen peasants, perhaps as many as a hundred, were killed. Observers agreed that it was a miracle—and an act of courage on Banzer’s part—that the prayer breakfast was not canceled.

The unrest is mainly over the economy. Bolivia, largely a mountainous, isolated nation of five million population, is Latin America’s poorest nation (annual per capita income: $234). Three-fifths of the people are Indians, most of whom do not speak Spanish. According to Bruce Handler, writing in the Washington Post, many Indian farmers make less than $15 a month and die before age 40 from malnutrition and disease. This year the regime doubled the price of bread, flour, rice, sugar, and coffee. Banzer claimed it was necessary in order to contend with economic circumstances that threatened to wreck the nation. His critics argued that the prices were increased to cover up bad planning and corruption in the government.

As a result of the army’s get-tough tactics against demonstrators, said Handler, Banzer lost support from two powerful factions: business leaders and the Catholic Church. Several priests and at least one bishop are among his most vocal foes.

“Of course we have no idea whether the government will weather this storm or not,” remarked one missionary in La Paz, where more than one-tenth of the population resides. “But Luis Palau’s ministry in this city this week has made such an impact that it may change the whole spiritual climate.”

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The hope is that Bolivia will be governable after all—under God.

Religion In The Market Place

Religious themes are prominent in eight of the fifty mass-market paperbacks of which more than a million were printed (not all were sold) in 1973. Heading the list was Jonathan Livingston Seagull (6.6 million), which also led the hardcover fiction best sellers. (The hardcover fiction best sellers. (The hardcover nonfiction best seller was I’m O.K.You’re O.K. (3.8 million), which was third among hardcover non-fiction titles.

Other fiction million-plus printings were of The Word (2.1 million), The Exorcist (1.2 million in 1973 plus 4 million earlier and that many more already in 1974), and My Name Is Asher Lev (over 1 million).

The three other leaders are classified as non-fiction. Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods? (3 million) and Gods From Outer Space (1.5 million) look at the beginning of the world and say that “God” was probably only mortals from other planets in the universe. Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth (1.6 million in the Bantam edition) looks at the end of the world and warns that we had better be ready to meet the true, eternal God (more than 5 million in all editions have been sold to date).

Among paperbacks, The New Merriam-Webster Pocket Dictionary is the all-time best seller (1 million last year, 25 million over the years). Not counted is the even bigger-selling Good News For Modern Man, the New Testament in Today’s English Version from the American Bible Society, which has passed 45 million.


Canadian Confrontation

Theological conservatives in the United Church of Canada have served Canada’s largest Protestant denomination with a document calling for “a more serious commitment to its theological foundations and to a more positive affirmation of Christian faith.” The declaration, “Fifteen Affirmations For Lent 1974,” released early this month, asked for the reaffirmation of a biblically based message and criticized the tendency that has “uncritically identified novelty with truth.”

Spearheading the move was Dr. Graham A. D. Scott, minister of Noranda-Rouyn United Church in northwest Quebec. He was chairman of “The Ad Hoc Committee For Reaffirmation of the Faith,” which came into being last fall after two years of informal discussions. The long list of signatories included Professor Kenneth Hamilton, well-known writer on contemporary theology who teaches at the University of Winnipeg. Also: Dr. Ralph Chalmers, Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax; Dr. H. Martin Runscheidt, University of Windsor; Dr. Allan McLachlin, St. Paul’s College, Waterloo.

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The ad hoc committee, pleased with the response, is disbanding on June 1. It is to be replaced by a permanent organization called “Church Alive,” intended to give continuing expression to the concerns behind the affirmation.

Among other things, the document called for recognition of: the reality of sin; the historicity of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return; the death of Christ as “God’s unique remedy for our sin”; the Bible as “the God-given basis by which the Church’s life, teaching, and worship are nourished and renewed.”

Dealing with some thorny social issues, the affirmations asserted “the sanctity of life-long marriage” and opposed “abortion on demand” (in the process suggesting that “our Church’s official position to remove abortion from the criminal code effectively puts the Church in the abortion-on-demand-camp”).

Scott and his supporters stated that the document would assure Christians in other denominations “that we share with them the one faith of the Church Universal.” Asked if there might be some doubt on that point in the minds of other Christians, he answered affirmatively, citing radical public utterances of prominent United churchmen. The Fifteen Affirmations might surprise and hearten Canadian evangelicals who have despaired of spiritual stirrings from that quarter.



The Free For All Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, a black church that features nightclub singers and musicians in services, runs a bar, and some time ago purchased a top-floor skyscraper restaurant, is in trouble.

Federal agents recently ransacked the church’s offices, confiscating church records and even sermons, according to Pastor Willie J. Stafford. A federal official, denying that sermons were taken, said the raid was made to investigate claims of false reporting in connection with administration of a day-care program at four Free For All church locations. Reimbursement vouchers filed with the U. S. Department of Agriculture indicate that 2,000 children have been fed daily under a federal program. Some local officials, however, charge that as few as seventy-five children are really being fed.

Stafford dismisses the charges as an act of harassment for his church’s support of new mayor Maynard Jackson, a fellow black.

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Sewing The Seams

Bishop Sidney M. Metzger of the Diocese of El Paso (Texas) in late February notified the nation’s Catholic bishops of the settlement of the Farah labor dispute (see January 18 issue, page 45), suggesting they can now recommend buying Farah products. His earlier support of the strikers and boycott against the pants manufacturer helped draw nationwide attention to the Farah situation. Metzger said he cherished “no personal elation of victory in a struggle which has caused so much suffering.”

Last year the Texas Conference of Churches passed a resolution supporting his stand, and the conference’s recent meeting did not rescind that resolution, as suggested by some reports, but passed another calling for a settlement in the matter.

The settlement, announced in New York City February 24, involves company recognition of Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Observers initially theorized that factories in San Antonio may be reopened as a result of the settlement but that those in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Victoria, Texas, may not be. Only the five El Paso Farah plants remained in operation during the crippling nationwide boycott.

Retired Presbyterian clergyman Paul Newton Poling, who last year published a widely circulated booklet supporting the company’s views on the strike, said he was concerned that the settlement be “just and fair.” He added that he thought the ecclesiastical support of the boycott amounted to intervention, and that the labor problem “should have been left to the National Labor Relations Board and courts of law.”

The settlement calls for withdrawal of the boycott on Farah products and contract negotiations between Farah and Amalgamated.


Seminary In Exile

The situation in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) remains tense. Last month the Concordia Seminary (St. Louis) board of control fired the faculty majority for failing to return to work. In all, forty-six were dismissed. The faculty majority and the majority of the students—about 400—had been on strike since January 22, following the suspension of John Tietjen as president of the school in the continuing doctrinal dispute in the Missouri Synod.

The board also appointed seven new faculty members and a number of part-time instructors to fill the gap.

The striking faculty members and students were settled in a “Seminary in Exile”—“seminex” for short—on the campuses of Eden Seminary (United Church of Christ) and St. Louis Divinity School (Jesuit). Arrangements were being made to grant credits to seminex students.

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Meanwhile, the spring term was scheduled to get underway this month at Concordia. Major developments in the LCMS doctrinal controversy were expected about the same time.


The New Covenant, the Catholic charismatic journal, in a recent issue rebuked evangelist David Wilkerson for his widely publicized “vision” in which he predicts the Pope will soon launch persecution of Catholic Pentecostals. Saying the prediction was “not of God,” editor Ralph Martin expressed concern at Wilkerson’s “sensationalism and independent spirit.” In an accompanying article, Pentecostal “statesman” David du Plessis also disagreed with Wilkerson. Meanwhile, a Catholic committee studying the spiritual renewal of the American priesthood recommended that priests become active in charismatic renewal groups.

Religion In Transit

Homosexuality should “not be a bar to the ministry,” declared the thirty-two-member United Methodist Council on Youth Ministry at a recent meeting. The council also invited two members of an unofficial “Gay Caucus” to help draft proposals on homosexual concerns for denominational consideration in 1976.

Latest statistics of the Anglican Church of Canada: total membership shows further decline, to 1.06 million (confirmed members are down to 605,000), with baptisms and marriages also fewer than in the preceding year. Income, however, is up by almost $2.5 million, with a total of $37.9 million received in the 1,700 parishes.

Church of Scientology attempts to secure recognition by the Ontario government have failed. Officials of the Canadian province said the group doesn’t meet government requirements to gain recognition of its clergymen’s right to perform marriages.

Twenty-eight members of the New Bethel Fire-Baptized Holiness Church of Atlantic City, New Jersey, were turned back at the Canadian border. They said they were fleeing a predicted tidal wave that would wipe out even Philadelphia. The prediction was made by a 14-year-old girl in the group who said God told her of the impending disaster.

The well-known Knox Presbyterian Church in Toronto issued a call to J. Glyn Owen of Westminster Chapel in London to become pastor.

Sotirios Athanassoulas, 37, is the new Greek Orthodox Bishop of Canada. He was elected by the Holy Synod of Constantinople and is the first Canadian to hold the position.

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More than 800 students who attended the recent Urbana missionary convention indicated they have definite plans to become overseas missionaries.

Two upcoming moves by well-known evangelical professors of theology: Bernard Ramm from American Baptist Seminary of the West in Covina, California, to Eastern Baptist Seminary in suburban Philadelphia, and Clark Pinnock from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago to Regent College in Vancouver.

A Californian formerly associated with the Christian World Liberation Front, Larry M. Hoyt, is the new executive secretary of the Pittsburgh-based Presbyterians United for Biblical Concerns, an evangelical action group within the United Presbyterian Church.

Episcopal priest Harold Louis Wright was recently elevated to the rank of bishop, the first black in the Diocese of New York to attain that status. There are now six blacks among the nation’s 140 active Episcopal bishops.

Retired: veteran rescue mission leader Francis V. Crumley, from a Washington, D. C., rescue mission; Erik Wickberg, a Swede, from his post as international administrative head of the Salvation Army; and W. E. Klawitter, director of the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement.


Motel owners Mr. and Mrs. Ted Allen of Newport, Oregon, went beachcombing recently and found a nearly full fifty-gallon drum of gasoline. “God is taking care of us,” commented Mrs. Allen. “He knows how I hate to wait in line.”

In a “Latinization” move, Dr. E. Antonio Nunez will head the Central American Seminary in Guatemala. He replaces Albert T. Platt, who has been named general secretary of the Dallas-based Central American Mission, to which the school is related.

Another it-all-began-with-a-tract story: miles from home, villager Jose Huancas of Succha, Peru, was handed a tract by a passing missionary, prayed to receive Christ as the tract suggested, and obtained a New Testament. Over the next two years he led twenty-two relatives and friends to Christ. Contact was made with a missionary and a pastor whose address, 120 miles away, was on the tract, and today there is a Baptist church in Succha.

Bible portions were published for the first time last year in twenty-six more languages and dialects, bringing the Scripture language count to 1,526, according to Bible society statistics.

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