“Are we to deliberately abandon a small country in the midst of its life and death struggle?” wrote President Ford last month as he appealed to Congress for aid for Cambodia.

Political considerations aside, more than the survival of the nation of some seven million souls is at stake. The crisis comes at a time of responsiveness to the Gospel on a scale unprecedented in the Buddhist country’s history. Last year the Khmer Evangelical Church, associated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) and embracing nearly all the Protestant congregations in the land, experienced a 300 per cent increase in growth, according to CMA spokesmen. In the event of a Communist takeover, growth will be curtailed and Christian activities severely restricted, if the Communists follow their pattern elsewhere.

“I fully expect to be behind bars one day because of my love for Jesus Christ,” commented one young Cambodian believer to reporter Robert Larson of World Vision.

That believer’s pessimism about the future of his land is shared by people in high places in Washington and diplomatic circles elsewhere. It will take more than guns, ammunition, and food to save the government, they say. The fighting has gone on for many years, accompanied by riots, strikes, and looting. Skyrocketing inflation, widespread malnutrition, and disease ravaged the people. Once, food was plentiful and available (with rice a principal export), and just about everybody had a piece of the lush land. Now there are hundreds of thousands of hungry refugees. There aren’t enough doctors, nurses, medical supplies, or hospitals. (World Vision has built a 125-bed hospital and given it to the Khmer church.)

Morale is gone, and so are the lives of many of Cambodia’s defenders. Among the dead, badly wounded, and missing are scores of young men who professed Christ three years ago in the nation’s first public evangelistic meetings.

As President Ford pleaded with Congress the CMA was evacuating its ten missionaries and two short-term doctors from Phnom Penh, whose population has swelled from 600,000 to two million. A handful of World Vision workers from several nations and a half-dozen Seventh-day Adventist student missionaries and relief workers were standing by at month’s end.

Christianity is a relatively recent arrival on the Cambodian scene. The Khmer kingdom was founded about the time of Christ, flourished into an empire that dominated Southeast Asia until the fifteenth century or so, then floundered, becoming a pawn in struggles between its powerful neighbors. In the 1860s Cambodia’s monarchy came under French control. Norodom Sihanouk became king in 1941 at age 19 and ruled until 1955. In 1949 the nation became a state in the French Union, but when fighting between the French and the Viet Minh Communists of North Viet Nam spilled across the border, Sihanouk declared Cambodia an independent country in 1953.

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Sihanouk abdicated in 1955 in favor of his father. Upon his father’s death in 1960 he became chief of state. In 1965 he broke off diplomatic relations with the United States after planes attacked Viet Cong forces fleeing from South Viet Nam into Cambodia. A crisis occurred in the late 1960s when the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese seized chunks of territory. Relations with the U. S. were restored in 1969, and in 1970 Premier Lon Nol, a general, ousted Sihanouk in a coup. The national assembly declared Cambodia a republic (with Lon Nol as president) and changed the country’s name to the Khmer Republic. Sihanouk went into exile in Peking.

The first Protestant missionary, A. L. Hammond of the CMA, arrived in 1923. Other workers joined him, but the going was slow. The Buddhists in 1933 pushed through a ban on missionary expansion. Believers (most of them peasants) were harassed. A Bible was published in 1954, most of it translated by Hammond.

By 1965—when the American missionaries were evicted—fewer than 600 had been baptized, and there were only a dozen or so churches. The churches, accused of being American agencies, were closed, and the pastors were forced to sign pledges not to propagate the “foreign” religion. Four who did not sign were jailed. One of them was Son Sonne, now the nation’s leading evangelist and director of the Cambodian Bible Society.

During this period Tiang Chhirc, a youth who had been sent to a French military academy, was converted through reading a Bible that had been stowed in his suitcase by his Christian peasant parents. Upon his return home, he became a major in the army, and later was named deputy minister of defense. On the side, he began gathering believers together for worship.

Another youth, Minh Voan, was led to Christ by a CMA graduate student while studying at the University of Georgia. He returned home an outspoken witness, was deprived of a government job, and became an executive with Shell Oil. Later he joined the World Vision staff.

Chhirc and Voan discovered each other and agreed that Christians had to meet openly and let their faith be known. A judo club in Phenom Penh was refurbished to serve as a church.

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With the change in government came a freer climate, the release of the pastors, the reopening of the few churches, and the return of missionaries.

Chhirc and Voan were joined by another new convert, artist Chea Thay Seng, director of the National Museum, probably Cambodia’s best-educated person (he later became Inspector of the Ministry of Culture). At Christmas time in 1971, having decided Jesus should be proclaimed publicly, they rented a 700-seat auditorium. This was followed up with a national church conference in April, 1972, attended by 300 Christians. Mass evangelistic rallies were held at a 1,200-seat facility immediately after the conference and again in November. World Vision’s Stanley Mooneyham was the main speaker. In all, more than 3,000 persons made professions of faith, many of them young men (see January 5, 1973, issue, page 45).

At a Buddhist rally of 1,200 students in January, 1973, about half indicated they had become followers of Jesus. The leader announced he too had become one.

Lay leaders meanwhile organized home Bible-study groups and encouraged fellow believers to share their faith person to person. Doctors, professors, and Buddhist priests were in the ranks of those who accepted Christ.

Among the converts were music professor Mau Vanna, writer of the Khmer national anthem; Pech Bun Nil, commissioner of the National Civilian Police; and Men Ny Boun, president of the Supreme Court. Boun attended a church service at the invitation of CMA chairman Merle Graven. At the conclusion of the service he professed faith in Christ. The following Sunday he gave a testimony, saying he had been searching for truth for twenty-one years and had found it in the Bible in 1966. “Last week I made the truth my own,” he said. “The light of the world lit my candle.”

Under the leadership of such men the church has grown. As of last month there were thirty-eight congregations in Cambodia, twenty-seven of them in Phnom Penh. More than 3,000 people were attending services, with 1,300 in Sunday schools. In one period last year, reports CMA missionary Eugene Hall, the person-to-person sharing was accounting for nearly 100 professions of faith per week. More than 100 were attending daily Bible studies in a youth center in the capital.

A new convert from a refugee area last year asked Son Sonne to come and preach outside his house. Large crowds gathered, and within five weeks there were 500 new believers. Today there are 1,800, divided into four congregations, says a CMA executive.

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When the missionaries were ejected in 1965, some went to the Mekong Delta region of South Viet Nam to work among the one million Khmers who live there. For years there was little response, but in the last fifteen months there has been a spiritual explosion, with hundreds of conversions. The Cambodian Christians have sent a missionary to help out there, as have the South Vietnamese churches.

Overshadowing the joy of revival, however, are the tragedies of war: the bloodshed, the scorched-earth policies of the Communist-led Khmer Rouge insurgents (an estimated 50,000), the children who die almost daily of malnutrition in World Vision’s clinic because it is too late to help them.

And now they say it is too late to help Cambodia.

Out Of The Huddle, Onto The Field

Peace, it’s wonderful—now that a higher level of compatibility has been attained by two of the nation’s top sports-outreach ministries. In the last several years a few shins have been bruised and noses bloodied—figuratively speaking—in the combat for the attention of the glamour guy, the professional athlete. As a result, the believers, especially in football and baseball, have often been mystified by divisions or cracks in the message of love.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) has national offices in Kansas City, Missouri, and came on the scene first. It has chapters at more than 1,600 high schools and nearly 250 colleges. Professionals are recruited to help out with special FCA programs and summer activities. Athletes in Action (AIA) is part of Campus Crusade for Christ and is based in southern California.

In general, FCA is sometimes presented by AIA critics as “too wishy-washy” in presenting the life-changing claims of Jesus Christ and too inclusive in its purpose and whom it embraces. Flip the coin and you get the idea that AIA men are “button-holers” who will never take no for an answer—or even: “An unbeliever will pray with an AIA man just to get rid of him.”

Early this year AIA director Dave Hannah stopped off in Kansas City for a long visit with John Erickson, FCA president. Dallas became the next negotiation center during an AIA-arranged conference last month of Christian professional athletes and their spouses. This time Hannah was host to Erickson, and the talks included a top FCA executive, football coach Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys. Later, Bill Krisher, director of the FCA summer conference program, sat in on many AIA sessions.

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“We’ve never been as far apart as some people think,” commented Hannah afterward. But it was obvious they were closer at achieving understanding and at setting up ground rules for coexistence, and the dialogue will continue. Staff men assigned to Erickson and Hannah will huddle soon to talk out their problems at the local level, where competing programs in the past have bid for the involvement of the same athletes, especially on college campuses. Banned would be the practice of one group’s raiding another one that is well established. Friction over such tactics has led some coaches to expell both groups from campus.

The five-day Dallas conference brought together eighty couples, representing mostly football and baseball, for Bible study, rap sessions, and witnessing experiences at schools and hospitals. A players’ committee, headed by guard Norm Evans of the Miami Dolphins football team, assisted AIA staffers in arranging the conference, held at an airport motel.

Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary exhorted the players to “learn how to pray out on the field; be men of God wherever you are.” Evangelist Tom Skinner, chaplain of the Washington Redskins, said, “People are looking to Christians for alternatives. You can become live models in sports of what’s happening in heaven.”

Peppery third-base coach Tom Lasorda of the pennant-winning Los Angeles Dodgers summed up the conference’s value for most: “My wife and I leave here closer to God.” Said the wife of a Baltimore infielder: “Wives in pro sports are so much in the shadow. It’s nice to know you’ve got sisters in the Lord there with you.” Baseball participants liked it so well they are planning a spiritual conference of their own next November, possibly in Chicago.


Changing The Guard

The Southern Baptist Sunday School Board, with more than 1,400 employees and a 1975 budget of $60 million, is the world’s largest religious publishing house. Last month Grady C. Cothen, former president of New Orleans Baptist Seminary, was installed as the agency’s top executive, succeeding James L. Sullivan, who retired after twenty-two years.

Both men are theological conservatives, and they say that because most Southern Baptists are, too, they don’t worry about a liberal takeover of the denomination. Cothen, in an inaugural ceremony, told board members and employees that his study of the various forms of biblical criticism convinced him that the view of the Bible he got as a boy from his parents is still valid.

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Continuing The Courtship

Merger talks between the 2.8 million-member United Presbyterian Church and the 900,000-member Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (Southern) have been going on since 1969. That’s okay, says patient moderator Robert Lamar, co-chairman of the union committee. “The courtship has to include enough time to make it a strong marriage.”

A revised draft plan for union is currently under study among local congregations in both denominations. It will be revised further, incorporating changes suggested by the study. A final plan of union could be presented to the general assemblies of both churches next year, provided the PCUS this year approves new confessional standards, also under study. If the plan is approved by the assemblies and by two-thirds of the 152 UPC presbyteries and three-fourths of the sixty PCUS presbyteries, the two bodies could merge by the action of the 1977 assemblies. This would end a division that has lasted 113 years.

Too Much To Give Up

Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC), troubled about the possible loss of their traditional authority, last month seriously damaged plans to create a new 3.2-million-member denomination in their country.

Since 1943, the one-million-member ACC and the 2.16-million-constituent United Church of Canada (UCC) have been talking merger. In 1965, a guidelines statement setting forth basic principles was adopted. Four years later the 7,000-member Canadian section of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) joined the merger talks. Prounion leaders forged ahead with negotiations, and a plan of union was generally agreed upon in 1972. The plan called for the new church to have a president as overall head, two vice-presidents, and bishops (a concession by the United Church), but not with the powers Anglican bishops now possess.

Even with revisions, said the thirty Anglican bishops in rejecting the plan of union, “most of us doubt that there is serious hope for a successful outcome.” Opposition to the ordination of women figured in their decision (the United Church has ordained women ministers). The bishops’ statement was only an expression of opinion, but it carries great weight in the church.

The bishops’ action spurred prounion forces in the ACC to act. Meeting in what some called a “crisis situation,” the National Executive Council of the ACC ordered a poll to determine the views of the grass roots on whether union talks should continue. The council also committed itself to continuing negotiation, stating that the search for “true and lasting union” is a “primary” goal even though the present plan of union might be unacceptable.

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Disappointed UCC and Disciples officials, on the verge of ending the talks because of the bleak prospects, found encouragement in the council’s action and decided to keep negotiating.


For years, the views of prominent Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Küng have embarrassed—and angered—the Vatican. He has all but dismissed the doctrine of papal infallibility, and he believes that the laity, not just the clergy, can consecrate the Eucharist (transform the elements into the Body of Christ).

Last month, after supposedly years of investigation of Küng’s views, the Vatican’s high tribunal on matters of faith announced that his beliefs are in conflict with the church. The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith admonished him “in the future” not to use his position as a theology professor or other platforms to promulgate his “mistaken views.” But he was not asked to renounce his views, and no disciplinary action was announced or threatened—reportedly the first time in history the tribunal did not take disciplinary steps against a church member judged to be in error. The German bishops, divided on Küng, requested that he not be punished.

Küng, 46, who teaches at the University of Tübingen, a state school in West Germany, said afterward that he will “not tolerate being prevented from pursuing my theological service to my fellow man.”

Much of the dispute centers on two of Küng’s books, The Church (1967) and Infallible?—An Inquiry (1971). Citing an analysis of Scripture and historical examples wherein Popes have erred, Küng concludes that the doctrine of papal infallibility is virtually meaningless and theologically weak. On the other hand, he says, God’s saving truth will be preserved through the Church despite errors by its leaders.

In July, 1973, the Sacred Congregation—at the behest of the Pope—issued a 4,000-word declaration condemning theologians who question papal infallibility and other doctrines. No names were mentioned, but everybody knew it was directed at Küng.

Korea: Still Speaking Out

After winning from the South Korean electorate a vote of confidence in his policies, President Park Chung Hee last month suggested he would seek reconciliation with the churches and universities. Then he released 168 of the 202 prisoners being held on political charges. These included Catholic bishop Daniel Tji (or Chi) Hak Soun, well-known Presbyterian pastor Park Hyong Kyu, and all the other clergy, religious educators, and officers of Christian students groups jailed over the past year in connection with political unrest (see January 31 issue, page 24).

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If the president expected things to settle down and everybody to return gratefully to quiet pursuits, he was mistaken. Thousands gathered in Seoul’s Myongdong Cathedral as Tji celebrated a mass. Afterwards they greeted him with wave after wave of applause, and they also cheered and applauded a resolution of the National Council of Catholic Priests calling for a continued struggle “for the restoration of human rights” in South Korea.

Some 500 persons, including a dozen foreign missionaries, jammed into a prayer meeting at the headquarters of the Korea National Council of Churches (KNCC) to welcome some of the prisoners. They met beneath a banner proclaiming: “O Lord, please abolish the Yushin constitution” (the basis of the president’s unrestricted authority). Pastor Park called on the government to repent or face “the certain judgment of the Lord.” He said he’d be willing to compromise with the government if it showed “sincerity.” But, said he, “this is the age of falsehood.”

KNCC general secretary Kim Kwan Suk said the effort by the churches since last summer has brought a new aspect to the political life of Korea. “The churches are now involved, and that is a good thing,” he said. “We are hoping for a method leading to a peaceful change of government, in which the people have a voice.… This government is not a dictatorship as such, but there is misuse of power. The government is not being used for the welfare of the people.”

Prior to their release the prisoners were required to sign a paper pledging to be silent about their incarceration. A number of them, however, charged publicly that they had been tortured. Government authorities, pointing out that the release was on the basis of suspended sentences rather than amnesty, warned against any further speaking out.

Good News

Portions of the Bible were published in twenty-four new languages in 1974, according to the American Bible Society. So far, Scriptures have been printed in 1,549 tongues.

Olympic Outreach

Aide Olympic Chrétienne, established last September to coordinate evangelical outreach at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, has secured a wide base of support. Dr. Peter Foggin, a bilingual Quebec university professor and a Plymouth Brethren leader, has been appointed full-time executive director.

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Already seven functioning commissions are at work to facilitate reaching the anticipated six million international visitors, Montreal’s three million residents, and the 10,000 athletes. Commissions are: literature, athletes, social services, youth, crusade evangelism, discipleship, and linguistic-cultural cooperation.


Prospects In Portugal

The collapse last year of Portugal’s 48-year-old conservative dictatorship opened the floodgates to change. For one thing, it has resulted in unprecedented freedom for the 35,000 Protestants in the predominantly Catholic country. “We have more liberty than ever before,” commented a Greater Europe Mission worker.

Open-air services, previously banned, are now freely allowed. The late dictator Antonio Salazar was suspicious of all such gatherings, fearing that they might be turned to political ends. All religious meetings therefore had to be held in approved chapels. Also, Protestants are now able to incorporate. This gives them a legal existence and freedom before the law. When a case of suspected discrimination arises, they have a legal right to protest.

Freedom in Portugal has a disruptive side, however. The Catholic Church has seen a serious erosion of its favored position. Currently a law to legalize divorce is pending in the legislature. Clandestine abortions are quite readily available, and contraceptives can be purchased. Soon a new concordat with Rome will be negotiated, and it will further curtail Catholic privilege.

The church has other troubles. Catholics are increasingly unfaithful to their church. Attendance at Mass is declining. Monasteries and convents are closing. There are fewer candidates for the priesthood.

The new iconoclastic spirit among the people also finds expression in political realms. A serious anti-American attitude is emerging. Some have circulated the rumor that the CIA caused a recent cholera epidemic by bombing Portgual with germ-laden bombs. Such rumors are usually introduced and fostered by Marxist and Maoist elements in the population. Some church leaders fear that these radically socialistic propagandists could jeopardize the Billy Graham crusade planned for Lisbon next September, his first-ever campaign in Portugal.

Fifty-five political parties have popped up in Portugal since the revolution, the vast majority of them leftist. The present military-installed provisional leaders, Premier Vasco Gonçalves and President Francisco Gomes, are described as moderately left, and they have strong Communist party support. Portugese Protestants are eyeing the upcoming elections with prayerful concern. An assembly is to be elected in April to draw up a new constitution, with elections for a legislative body and president scheduled six months later. A triumph by Marxist or Maoist contenders could signal the end of religious liberty.


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