Authoritative accounts of Soviet repression of Baptists continue to reach the West. One of the latest reports was released last month by the London-based Center for the Study of Religion and Communism, a scholarly research organization. The report is based on information provided by a leader of the Soviet human-rights movement headed by physicist Andrei Sakharov. The informant told of reprisals against Baptists in the town of Taldy-Kurgan in Kazakhstan (Soviet Central Asia). He also read the text of an appeal signed by more than 1,800 Baptists in Central Asia. It was addressed to the Soviet government and the United Nations.

The Taldy-Kurgan incident involves an “unregistered”In most cases “unregistered” denotes that a congregation has chosen, usually for separatist reasons, not to be affiliated with the main Soviet Protestant body, the 500,000-plus-member All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. The council operates under state recognition—and quasi-supervision. In some cases, however, authorities have simply refused to register congregations, thereby evading the necessity of reporting their existence. The unregistered congregations are improperly called “underground” churches by some Western mission agencies; many of them meet openly, attempting to practice—and demanding—the religious freedom set forth in the Soviet constitution. congregation of Baptists. In February six members of the church were tried and sentenced to prison terms of three to five years. Four of the persons were also deprived of parental rights to their children, but at last word the children had been hidden to prevent authorities from taking them away from their mothers. (The Soviets for years have removed children from families where religious instruction has taken place. “This inhuman practice seems to be on the increase,” observes Michael Bordeaux, who heads the London center.)

The court sentence at Taldy-Kurgan included a description of the church’s life: “The defendants used various forms of propaganda: the reading of sermons, listening to tape-recordings [including recordings of religious broadcasts from the West], the performance of choral and solo religious verses and songs, of literary-musical compositions accompanied by musical instruments.” Children’s meetings were held also.

Technician-designer Yakov Pavlov, one of the defendants (he was sentenced to five years and deprived of four of his eight children), in a final speech to the court stated:

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We do not call on people to disobey the authorities, as we are accused of doing. We fulfill everything the law demands from every citizen of the U.S.S.R., as long as it does not touch on our religious convictions. Our meetings are conducted openly. All who want to attend have the chance to do so. You cannot call our meetings illegal, because the authorities know us, they have frequently been at our meetings and written down the believers’ names.…

Charged with distributing slanderous information about the persecution of believers, Pavlov replied:

These are not deliberately false reports, as we are charged, but the truth, the bitter truth. And if the authorities were interested in establishing the facts, then they could get much more detailed information from the places where these things happened.… Do you really think someone would sit down and write a deliberate lie to the [Communist] Central Committee, to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, to the General Procurator? Of course not. Can you accuse us if, after this trial, all believers in the Soviet Union learn the truth about your charges against us, how many people you tried, what sentences you gave them, and how many children you thereby left as orphans? After all, believers throughout the world may also get to know about this. Would that make it false tales? Of course not. In this case we could say: There’s no point getting offended at the mirror; it reflects your true face.

The accused were charged with violating Lenin’s Decree on the Separation of Church and State, a violation spelled out in the Kazakh penal code. In a statement to the Kazakh supreme court in March, a Soviet human-rights advocate pointed out that this section of the Kazakh code violates the United Nations Pacts on Human Rights, ratified by the Soviet Union last fall.

Comments Bordeaux: “[The spokesman] is clearly trying to test the Soviet government on a specific case of human rights in the light of that ratification.” He sees “a growing connection between the human-rights circles and religious groups struggling for the right to practice their faith.”

The appeal from the believers in Central Asia cites other cases of repression against unregistered Baptist congregations with the familiar pattern of arrests, fines, confiscation of literature, and other harassment. At Frunze, capital of Kirgizia, for example, a Christian wedding in the home of a church member was reportedly broken up by sixteen carloads of police. A fight broke out when the police tried to seize the pastor who was performing the ceremony. The police hauled several members off to the police station and confiscated Christian literature, evoking “indignation and outrage not only from the believers present but also from the unbelievers.”

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There are references in the appeal to the organized work of the unregistered Baptists:

Our spiritual center, the Council of Churches, elected by the church, is still unable to carry on its ministry in freedom. Because of persecution, the majority of its members cannot live at home with their families. In spite of numerous petitions to you by believers, [our] publishing agency is forced to do its work in conditions of continual persecution. And we have such a huge need of Christian literature. We cannot be silent about the fact that the number of believers in prison is growing, as is the number or orphans left without the breadwinner, while all petitions from the Council of Prisoners’ Relatives remain unanswered. And the CPR itself is subject to repressions.

Recent disclosures show that hundreds of hymnals and thousands of pieces of Christian literature, including Scripture portions, are produced monthly by the clandestine presses. Until the Soviet Union implements its constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and the U. N. decree it has ratified, the believers must carry on their publishing ministry behind closed doors. But worse, they must go on living out their lives in circumstances that are sometimes brutally harsh.

Holland: Liberation And Deliberation

The Synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Gereformeerde Kerk, the smaller of the two big Reformed bodies in the Netherlands) voted 56 to 25 to support the World Council of Churches’ controversial Program to Combat Racism. Debate in the 450,000-member denomination has sometimes been heated; critics of the program say WCC grants are being used to fund terrorist groups in Africa. The synod’s action reversed a 1972 policy of no endorsement for the program. A leader of the church’s sister denomination in South Africa said the move may result in severed ties between the two bodies.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of South African churchmen opposed to apartheid, including Anglican bishop A. A. Zulu, one of the WCC’s six presidents, are speaking out against the program grants. The most recent WCC grant to black liberation groups amounted to $322,000.

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Religion In Transit

President and Mrs. Nixon and their friend C. G. (Bebe) Rebozo attended the Key Biscayne (Florida) Community Church on Easter Sunday and heard Pastor J. A. Geschwind preach a traditional Easter message. Churchgoers outside greeted Nixon warmly. On Easter a year ago the Nixons attended the Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church where then pastor John A. Huffman, Jr., preached a sermon on a passage that included Acts 26:26; to make a clean break with the past might involve shedding friends, he said. A week later Nixon announced the resignations of aides Ehrlichman and Haldeman.

About two dozen government leaders attended the tenth annual National Prayer Breakfast of Canada. It was sponsored by the Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast Group, which meets weekly. Jean Beliveau, retired hockey star of the Montreal Canadiens, was guest speaker.

U. S. Catholics gave $6.5 million last year to their church’s emergency relief fund, the bulk of it for overseas aid in more than sixty countries.

Louisiana voters approved a new state constitution that removes bans on state aid to parochial and private schools.

The 12-year-old Missionary Orientation Center at Stoney Point, New York, is closing. It was operated jointly by the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Reformed Church in America, and the United Presbyterian Church. Officials cited the declining number of missionary appointees, blaming the decline in part on increased indigenous leadership overseas, inflation, and reduced contributions from local churches.

Radio preacher Carl McIntire recently told a Senate subcommittee he intends to broadcast from offshore ships registered abroad and thus evade the Federal Communication Commission’s licensing powers and the need to observe its so-called Fairness Doctrine. The way is open for a court test; a federal court rejected an FCC request to broaden an earlier restraining order barring McIntire from broadcasting from an American ship.


JAMES CHARLES MCGUIGAN, 79, appointed in 1945 as the first English-speaking Canadian Catholic cardinal; served for thirty-six years as archbishop of Toronto; in Toronto.

W. ANGIE SMITH, 79, retired United Methodist bishop of Oklahoma who “ordained” evangelist Oral Roberts, and an early advocate for rights of American Indians; in Dallas.

HENRY J. SOLTAU, 85, United Methodist minister who became a leading anti-vice crusader, heading the Anti-Saloon League and the Minnesota Good Government League for many years and fighting to the end (just before his death he failed to get the Minneapolis city council to defeat an ordinance that bars discrimination against homosexuals); in Minneapolis.

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D. P. THOMSON, 77, retired Church of Scotland evangelist and author of many books and tracts on evangelism and Scottish church history; in Crieff, Scotland.

Call it the Jesus movement or whatever, there’s still plenty of Christian activity among young people. To assess the scene and to better report it editors of the so-called Jesus newspapers have planned a weekend conference in Akron, Ohio, in June, headed up by Jesus Loves You publisher Craig Yoe. There are numerous papers but they are somewhat isolated from each other.

The William Carey Institute for Evangelism and Church Growth has been organized in Pasadena, California, “to implement projects relevant to the evangelistic and missionary task of the church.” Dr. Arthur F. Glasser of the Fuller Seminary School of World Mission is president and Donald A. Hamilton, a systems engineering expert, is executive director.

To discontinue publication:Trends, a United Presbyterian bi-monthly devoted mainly to exploring social-action issues (circulation slid from 27,500 to 8,500 during its six-year life), and Colloquy, an education monthly published by the United Church of Christ in conjunction with the two major Presbyterian denominations (circulation plummeted from 76,000 to 30,000 in the last two years of its five-year existence).

The Church of Scientology has filed a $2.5 million suit against the St. Louis Post-Dispatch over a series of five articles on the group’s activities.


Dr. Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University, was named to the advisory council of a relief project of the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation, based in Washington, D. C., according to a BJU alumni publication. The foundation is reportedly a front group for the Unification Church, headed by Korean prophet Sun Myung Moon.

Dr. Harold A. Bosley, 67, a prominent liberal United Methodist clergyman and author, will retire in June from the pastorate of New York’s Christ Church, where he succeeded Dr. Ralph W. Sockman in 1962. At one time he was dean of Duke University’s divinity school.

World Scene

East African evangelists Festo Kivengere and Zeb Kabaza are conducting a month-long crusade in Hokkaido, Japan (the island has a population of five million). Sponsored by the twenty-four Anglican churches of the Hokkaido diocese, the crusade marks the first time black Africans have conducted an evangelistic campaign in Japan, say mission sources.

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Cairo Radio reported that Muslim religious leaders in Egypt reacted “with horror” to a proposal that would, in effect, end the Muslim male’s prerogative of ` Under Muslim law a man may have four wives. Mrs. Aisha Rateb, minister of social affairs and the only woman in the Egyptian government, recently said she will sponsor a bill allowing a woman to divorce her husband if he marries a second wife. Islamic law allows only the husband to obtain a divorce.

The recent triennial South American conference of Mennonites in Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay (there are thirteen German-speaking congregations with about 4,600 members) met in economically depressed Uruguay and took note of a decision to move the Mennonite seminary in Montevideo, Uruguay, to Asuncion, Paraguay. Economics and declining enrollment were cited for the move. On the bright side, 226 young people in the conference were baptized last year.

Dismissed: a libel suit filed in London by the Process Church of the Final Judgment, a group that teaches “the unity of Christ and Satan,” against the British publisher of a book about Charles Manson (convicted killer of actress Sharon Tate). The British court ordered the group to pay costs of the hearing, estimated at $40,000.


Another grim times-have-changed tale: A Scottish highland minister recently announced to members of his congregation that they must revive the ancient and “pious custom” of mourners digging graves for their relatives because no one will accept the job of gravedigger. Young people, says Episcopal rector James Duffy of Ballachulish, are “just not interested.”

Vatican officials are disturbed at the noise tourists make in the Sistine Chapel, showplace of Michelangelo’s frescoes. They will now pipe “very weak” music into the chapel, instruct tour guides to be silent, and call for quiet over loudspeakers if the noise gets too loud.

India’s Kerala State high court upheld the death death penalty for a 33-year-old Hindu priest who beheaded a six-year-old son of a neighbor in an act of sacrifice to a Hindu goddess last June. Said the court: “There can be no justification whatever for sacrificing the life of a human being to please a god or goddess.…”

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Membership in the Portuguese Baptist Convention has almost doubled and mission offerings almost tripled since 1967, according to a European Baptist press report. Now there are forty-one churches with about 2,500 members, and total mission giving last year topped $25,000. A small but thriving seminary is in its fifth year (eleven enrolled), a lay training school is operating, a bookstore in Lisbon serves hundreds of customers weekly, and two weekly broad casts are aired over the land’s leading radio network.

The first Papua New Guinea national to become a “foreign” missionary is Ela Amini, 39, of the United Church of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. He will work at an Australian Presbyterian mission among aborigines on an island off the north coast of Australia.

Archbishop Damian, elderly primate of the suppressed Orthodox Church of Albania, died last November, according to an Orthodox Church source. Religion was banned in the Communist nation in 1967.

Four evangelistic question-and-answer films taped by evangelist Luis Palau were aired during prime time four consecutive nights on Paraguay’s national television channel.

In what is hailed as a significant ecumenical gesture Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus has made available the monastery at Agia Napa for use as a conference center “for the aims of the World Council of Churches and other churches.” The project, including expansion of facilities, will cost about $250,000, according to official estimates.

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