The increasing international acceptance of East Germany’s independence and socialist way of life does not appear to have jeopardized the spiritual vitality of the various Christian communions in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), which celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary this month.

To be sure, in response to official pressures the East German Lutherans and Baptists have severed all organizational ties with their fellow believers in West Germany. A similar situation is developing among the Roman Catholics, albeit more gradually. Polish diocesan borders now no longer encompass GDR territory, and West German episcopal jurisdiction in the East is rapidly eroding. Perhaps the GDR authorities have moved slowly on this because Roman Catholics make up a mere 8 per cent of the country’s population. More significant, from a political standpoint, is the fact that although the Cardinal of Berlin is a GDR citizen (his handsomely reconstructed cathedral is adjacent to the state opera house), he exercises authority over the West Berlin church as well. Thus his status gives the GDR a toehold in the western half of the divided German capital.

Despite pressures through the years to wean the people away from Christianity, the names of 10 million of the GDR’s 18 million citizens still remain on the rolls of parish churches. Few congregations have been forced to disband, and the religious instruction of children is permitted. Several state universities continue to support theological faculties, while Lutherans, Baptists, and Catholics maintain seminaries to train clergy. And among all denominations the dominant theological orientation today is that of the historic Christian faith based on the Bible.

One indicator of spiritual strength in the GDR is that the 1974 enrollment at the Baptist seminary in Buckow (just outside Berlin) exceeded the school’s capacity of sixteen students. Moreover, substantial numbers of young women have joined the denomination’s corps of deaconesses. The East German Baptists even have a special arrangement that allows them to send some of these deaconesses to other Eastern-bloc countries as “missionary” nurses.

Also, a Lutheran pastor in an industrial town has been holding regular youth services in his church that draw 1,500 to 1,800 young people for a time of singing and a simple evangelistic message. He reports numerous conversions as well as many requests for religious instruction and baptism. (An eyewitness told us that similar evangelistic youth meetings with equally electrifying results were being held in a number of major East German cities recently.)

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He is unfortunately paying a price for his devotion to Christ. He is often subjected to police harassment, and his mail is intercepted. His wife and daughter were recently put through an intensive search while they were traveling on a train, apparently because the teen-ager was wearing a pin that read “Jesus Makes One Free.” His courage is amply reflected in a simple statement he made to us: “I always preach with one foot in jail.”

According to a study just released by the American Bible Society, more copies of the Scriptures are currently being distributed in the GDR than in any other Communist-bloc state. Since 1969 almost one million portions have been disseminated there, including 316,181 in 1973 alone. A printing of 80,000 copies of the German common-language translation of the New Testament, Die Gute Nachricht (Good News for Modern Man), was rapidly exhausted, and more copies have been ordered. A few religious publishers along with the Bible societies and church bookstores in the GDR produce and market Bibles, Testaments, and religious books.

Although East German Christians have repeatedly and wholeheartedly pledged their loyalty to the state and its social premises, tensions continue to be high. The leaders of the GDR still espouse atheism and inculcate these ideas in the schools. Christian young people are subjected to discrimination in employment and education. Church officials frequently are denied travel permits to attend meetings abroad. Religious publications of necessity have to be circumspect in their evaluations of state actions. Even the doctrine that all men are sinners was recently criticized by a Ministry of Culture spokesman as being “a negation of the optimistic basis of socialist society.”

Conscientious objection to military service is not permitted, but Christians opposed to carrying arms are reluctantly allowed to do their time in a militarized labor-service battalion. To do this, however, means one is blacklisted for life—that is, he is denied admission to university studies and relegated to the most menial and low-paying jobs in the country. Some Mennonites who object to the induction oath with its requirement of “unconditional obedience” to superiors (actually a serious problem for all Christian young men in the country) refuse even to accept the route of alternate service. This inevitably means a long prison term, and upon release from jail possible induction.

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Some believers, especially those connected with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a quasi-political party in the GDR, feel that the Christian ethic actually is quite compatible with socialism. Karl Ordnung, a CDU official, was reported by Evangelical Press as saying during a recent visit to North America: “It is easier in some ways to be a Christian in East Germany than in the United States.” Last October he contended in an article in the official CDU organ that a Christian cannot avoid being partisan in the class struggle:

[He must be] for the poor, the persecuted, the oppressed and against the wealthy and oppressors. He champions the cause of the wealthy in that he opposes them and wants to free them from their social position. The class struggle revolves exactly around this issue—not for the destruction of the opponents, but for the transformation of social relationships which such opposition constitutes.

Such efforts to reconcile Marxism with Christianity probably go too far for most East German Christians, but many concede that the regime’s official policy of complete separation of church and state has been beneficial. As Klaus Fuhrmann, director of the Baptist seminary, perceptively observed, “the old territorial churches have been made into free churches like us.” This has opened the way for cooperation among the various denominations in studying the Word and proclaiming the Gospel. Fuhrmann mentioned that in several towns vigorous interdenominational evangelistic Bible studies are taking place with the enthusiastic support of the local Baptist, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic leaders.

Another interesting trend is the new eastward orientation of the churches. Now that there has been a severing of the traditional ties with the West (and along with it a tapering off of the flow of Western funds to assist the churches), Christians in the GDR are seeking to form new relationships with other brethren in the Soviet-bloc lands. However, the ancient suspicions and animosities in eastern Europe toward Germans are making this transformation difficult, and many GDR believers feel they are isolated.

Dominating the skyline of East Berlin is a thousand-foot-high television tower built five years ago to be a showpiece of the new Communist state. But because of a design fluke, whenever the sun shines on the spherical rotating restaurant atop the modernistic structure, a glittering cross appears. East German officials even ordered the exterior painted over in a recent attempt to blot out the cross, but to no avail.

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Nothing better symbolizes the current situation than this. Despite the official atheism of a quarter century of Communist rule, the cross still shines over East Germany.


Help For Honduras

Relief and clean-up operations were underway in Honduras this month amid the devastation wrought by Hurricane Fifi.

Reports indicate the death toll among evangelical families is under twenty-five. Six persons, mostly children, who attended the Iglesia Evangelica Reformada (Evangelical and Reformed Church) in Choloma were swept to their deaths in the wall of water, mud, and debris that destroyed 60 per cent of the town. The pastor and his family escaped by clinging to the rafters of their home and then climbing onto the roof of a nearby building.

No pastors or missionaries were reported hurt, but the Mennonite pastor and his wife in the port of La Ceiba lost their two-year-old son and a grandmother who Was caring for the boy while the parents were away on an evangelistic trip.

Nazarene missionary Stanley Storey watched his newly built house near San Pedra Sula wash away while he and his family clung to the steel posts supporting the carport, which collapsed soon after they managed to make their way to a safer house nearby.

Seventy believers met in an Assembly of God church near Progreso to pray as the waters mounted. The houses on all sides were swept away, but the church withstood the storm’s fury. Not so fortunate were the residents of Ocotillo, a village five miles up the valley from Choloma, who took refuge in a Catholic church. The raging river smashed the building and carried away everyone inside. (Ninety-five per cent of the nation’s population is nominally Catholic.)

The Mennonites and Moravians reported damaged and lost buildings; many church members lost their homes.

Within hours of the disaster, CEDEN—the Evangelical Committee for National Emergency, set up originally at the time of the war with El Salvador—was reorganized and became the channel for aid from Christian groups in other countries, including Church World Service (the relief arm of the National Council of Churches), the Mennonite Central Committee, the Christian Reformed Relief Committee, the Baptist World Alliance, the Southern Baptist Convention, World Vision International, Medical Assistance Programs (Wheaton, Illinois), and the World Council of Churches.

Evangelicals were among the first to arrive with help as the waters began to recede. In some cases they were on the scene days before government teams arrived. Pastor Julio Marriaga of the Central American Mission church in San Pedra Sula drove the first vehicle to enter Progreso—cut off for four days by flooded roads—after helping to build one of the temporary bridges that replaced washed-out spans.

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Aid began arriving in San Pedra from Christians in other parts of Honduras as soon as the highway was opened. Help also poured in from other parts of Central America. CAM’s radio station TGNA in Guatemala City launched a drive that brought in more than twenty-five tons of food, clothing, and medicines, and over $3,000, much of it from fellow believers also ravaged by the storm. The Evangelical Alliance of Guatemala, Good Will Caravans of Costa Rica, and CEP AD, the evangelical relief committee set up in Nicaragua after the big earthquake in 1972, all sent aid.

Missionary Aviation Fellowship pilots flew many missions, dropping supplies to isolated victims, many on roofs and treetops. One interior tribe floated a raft of relief supplies down a river to an MAF air strip, from which they airlifted to the stricken coastal area.

Governor George Wallace of Alabama donated a mobile hospital to the Salvation Army, which sent it to Honduras along with twenty-four officers and volunteers to staff it.

A DC-3 operated jointly by Food for the Hungry (FFH), World Gospel Crusades of southern California and King’s Garden of Seattle flew dozens of missions, ferrying more than 200,000 pounds of supplies. FFH said it was sending an additional 200,000 pounds by sea, and other agencies were appealing for funds to provide urgently needed long-term assistance (factories, businesses, and farms need to be restored).

Catholic Relief Services sent three helicopters to help distribute supplies to thousands of refugees in isolated villages. Food consumption by 80,000 refugees in thirty-five camps was estimated at more than fifty tons a day.

At mid-month, a relief spokesman said airports and docks were jammed with goods pending distribution.



President Ford has received a memorable gift—a giant, 150-pound pumpkin with his name and a Scripture reference inscribed on it. It was sent by farmer-clergyman Wallace W. Jones, 70, who grew it on his farm near Philadelphia. When it was a mite smaller and still on the vine, Jones’s wife used a darning needle to scratch on it, “1974—President Ford—Congratulations—Matthew 6:33.” (The verse reads, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God: and all these things shall be added unto you.”)

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“People forget pumpkins,” says Jones, pastor of the Furlong Union Chapel in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, “but they don’t forget the word of God.”

Last year he donated twenty-five of the mammoth pumpkins to Philadelphia College of Bible, where they were made into 1,000 pies. This year he’s sending forty-five.

Theology’S Effect

The effectiveness of most prison chaplains has been challenged in a study made by the Arlington, Virginia-based Good News Mission. The study measures effectiveness by the numerical involvement of prisoners in chaplaincy-sponsored programs.

A GNM chaplain, Dale K. Pace, says that responses to a mailed survey obtained from 40 per cent of all prison chaplains, both Catholic and Protestant, show: The more liberal a chaplain is theologically, the less effective he is; government-paid chaplains are less effective than privately employed ones; the average chaplain spends only eight hours per week in personal prayer and study, including message preparation; fewer than 60 per cent hold regular Bible studies or religious-education classes in prisons; and more than 20 per cent refused to define themselves theologically.

The mission says that Pace’s study—prepared for a doctoral thesis at Luther Rice Seminary in Jacksonville, Florida—is the first such one made of the chaplaincy. It balanced chaplain representation by denomination, geographical location, and type of institution (jails, juvenile facilities, state prisons, and federal prisons). To increase the prison chaplains’ effectiveness meanwhile, the independent evangelical mission is planning the fourth in its annual graduate-level chaplaincy courses for next January. More than sixty officials have taken the courses.


Shedd Sheds Pounds, Gains Readers

The gray-haired minister and his wife, Martha—childhood sweethearts—were dressed in matching blue-denim outfits with a colorful apple-core design. “The secret of a great marriage?” Dr. Charlie W. Shedd asked a convention of youth workers and their wives recently. “Great prayer.”

Shedd, whose numerous books are probably as well known as those of any Christian writer, has another secret: a dialogue formula of candor and humor to give practical answers to problems in family relationships, sexuality, and personal honesty. The Shedds are widely sought as speakers, and he also has a booming syndicated newspaper column and a radio show.

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Shedd’s rise to fame (his Letters to Karen has sold more than a million copies) wasn’t exactly meteoric. His first magazine article took five years to sell, and another manuscript was rejected twenty-nine times before a publisher took pity and accepted it.

Shedd, a minister under whose leadership Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston went from fifty to four thousand members in thirteen years, began his writing career with several small books on practical things like Pastoral Ministry of Church Officers and How to Develop a Tithing Church.

As the Shedds’ four girls and a boy grew up, Charlie used the family as a living laboratory for books and articles. The success of Letters to Karen created an eager audience for Letters to Philip (on how to treat a woman) and Promises to Peter (building a bridge from parent to child).

Soon Shedd had a regular column on sex and dating in Teen Magazine, and when 25,000 letters poured in, he used them as grist for his most controversial book, The Stork Is Dead, a frank look at youthful sex problems. Some conservative religious-bookstore managers kept The Stork from landing on their shelves, mostly because Shedd calls masturbation “God’s gift” to help Christian young people refrain from premarital intercourse. (The Stork soared nonetheless to sales of more than a quarter of a million copies.)

Shedd used a personal problem—obesity—as food for The Fat Is in Your Head, a slim trim-yourself guide telling how Shedd shed 120 pounds from his 320-pound frame—and kept them off.

Other books: Is Your Family Turned On? (on the drug problem), and a three-part series in progress, The Exciting Church, “Where the People Really Pray,” “… Really Study the Bible,” and “… Really Give Their Money Away.” Titles in the works include one on the Christian version of Transcendental Meditation (Shedd says he’s been doing it for twenty years) and Talk to Me: How to Get Your Husband to Communicate and Turn Your Marriage Into a Great Friendship.

Praying together, the Shedds told couples at the low-key youth workers’ conference, helps husbands and wives to “set each other free,” brings “way out sex—sex at its best is spiritual,” and enables partners “to know the will of God.”

In the latter connection, Shedd cited a decision several years ago to leave the flourishing Houston church for a tiny Presbyterian church on Jekyll Island, off the Georgia coast (another noted Christian writer, Eugenia Price, lives there also). The small flock (100) allows the Shedds ample time off; Shedd is in the pulpit three Sundays out of four in the winter, away most of the summer.

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His column, “Strictly for Dads,” is carried in seventy newspapers, forty with circulations topping 100,000. And his ninety-second “Parent Talk” is aired five times a week. Shedd is also making a tape series called “Fun Family Cassettes Library,” to be out in the fall.

The Shedds are optimistic about the religious future of America, and they see a rising interest in the Christian home and a de-emphasis upon open marriage and alternative life-styles among young people turned on to the Lord.

Charlie, who says “I am 100 per cent Christocentric and that’s all I care about,” thinks the feminist movement is an indictment of the way many men treat women. “Many husbands are clods who won’t relate,” he said in an interview. “The problem with women is not women, but men.”

“My theology is very simple,” Shedd elaborated. “I very much believe the secret to the Christian life is Christ deep in the heart with a fresh commitment to him every day.” Affirming his belief that the Bible is the Word of God, he said he also believes that “the Word of the Living Christ inside is important in places where the Bible is silent.”

He and his wife Martha say their five children are “all spiritually atuned with the Lord, though they are not all actively involved with the church, as we are.”

Philip, 30, a deacon in a church in Houston, is a senior at the University of Houston. Married and the father of one daughter, Philip dropped out of high school when he was a senior for a short Navy career. This was something of a crisis at the time, Shedd recalls, but he notes that “we never had one bit of a problem with our kids” in matters of morals, drugs, or liquor during their growing-up years.

Karen, 28, and her husband also live in Houston and have two daughters. Peter, 20, and his wife graduated this June from the University of Georgia and have been asked to spend a year as Southern Presbyterian missionaries in Africa. Paul, a 24-year-old “mystic,” according to his dad—himself now 58—holds a responsible medical position in San Francisco and says he won’t marry until he’s 30. Timothy, 16, is a senior in high school and, like the others, a top student.

Shedd still emphasizes family devotions and says most Christians “dodge the tough half of the Cross”—the cost of discipleship. He also defends “social justice” as an imperative of the ministry, pointing out that his Georgia congregation is integrated.

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Royalties from recent Shedd ventures pad their Abundance Foundation, set up to aid agricultural missions: a job-training farm in Virginia for the mentally retarded, a dairy herd in Zaire, Africa, and a large rabbitry that eventually will support 10,000 families in Nigeria.



Dan Neidermyer’s novel Jonathan, the story of a 19-year-old Amish boy who is torn between the ways of the Old Order Amish and the ways of the world, is a sell-out success. It is also out of print.

After a Canadian critic alleged the book “maligns the Amish by its tone, its emphasis, its theme,” Amish leaders in Pennsylvania raised about $4,000 to buy and destroy all available copies of the $5.95 hardcover book, and Herald Press of Scottsdale, Pennsylvania, promised not to print any more. (A second printing of 5,000 copies had been ordered after the initial 5,000 copies were sold.)

Neidermyer claims a group of church elders told him the book was “too truthful.” A Herald executive explains it is not the publishing firm’s intention to “hurt anyone in a real or imaginary way,” and so it will respect Amish wishes.

Neidermyer, 27, an honors graduate of Philadelphia College of Bible, is a senior at Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia and directs Maranatha Productions. Not Amish himself, he is running for the state legislature as a Democrat in his home district in the heart of Amish country around Ephrata in Lancaster County, where a Democrat has never been elected.

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