Not long after veteran missionary William Carlsen returned home from Thailand for furlough he received a call from a woman in Pittsburgh. She identified herself as an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency and made an appointment to visit him in Sharon, the western Pennsylvania town where he was staying. The visit lasted eight hours. Carlsen answered questions based on his knowledge of the sometimes troubled tribal areas of northeastern Thailand, and he offered his observations on American policy matters.

Such an interview is called a “debriefing” by the CIA. Until rather recently many missionaries were routinely debriefed, either on the field or—as in Carlsen’s case—after they returned home on leave (Carlsen’s interview lasted longer than most). A spokesman for Overseas Crusades, based in Palo Alto, California, says that at one time virtually all OC personnel were being debriefed, even administrators returning home after short overseas trips. Now the practice has virtually ceased, says the official. (OC has 150 missionaries, the majority of them Americans, serving in Asia and Latin America.)

Spot checks indicate a similar trend among other mission groups: not as many missionaries are being approached by intelligence officers as formerly. An ex-CIA case officer in an interview said that much of the information gleaned from missionaries “is not very valuable.” Thus in light of the current budget crunch, interviews would tend to be more selective. David A Phillips, former head of the CIA’s Latin American operations, confirmed that CIA-missionary contacts have diminished in the past few years but he did not specify why. He noted that such contacts had been going on for twenty-five years in Latin America “to mutual advantage” of both the CIA and missionaries.

Overall, between 10 and 25 per cent of America’s 35,000 Protestant and 7,000 Catholic foreign missionaries have given information to intelligence authorities, observers estimate. The average would be higher among missionaries serving in rural areas—where reliable information is hard to come by—and in places where there is social and political unrest; lower among missionaries in urban areas, where information is readily obtainable.

Some mission boards have specific policies directing their missionaries to refrain from giving information to intelligence personnel. Among these are the Church of the Brethren, the Wycliffe Bible Translators, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA). Compliance by the rank and file is something else. Missionary Carlsen, for example, serves with the CMA. He says he is not aware of the directive from headquarters, and he furthermore “counts it a privilege to share information with responsible agencies of the government when they seek us out.” He points to policy changes effected by his counsel; these include selection of people with higher moral standards to serve in American government posts in Thailand (a number of Southern Baptists are among the new faces).

Many CMA missionaries in southeast Asia were solicited for information by military, State Department, and CIA officials during the 1960s and early 1970s. Most, said the ex-CIA source, cooperated.

CMA missions executive Grady Mangham acknowledges that there has been some missionary entanglement with intelligence officers. But, says he, “where we’ve known about it, we’ve tried to stop it.” At the same time, he adds, the issue is a difficult one to resolve: are there not some occasions and topics on which information can be given without ethical compromise? For instance, a missionary informing officials that the local AID (Agency for International Development) administrator is crooked? And is it wrong merely to describe the kind of literature and radio broadcasts that Communists are producing for a minority group?

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Mission executives Lois Miller of the United Methodist Church and Morris A. Sorenson, Jr., of the American Lutheran Church say they’ve heard of missionaries who have been approached by the CIA but they say they know of no specific individual who has cooperated. And foreign missions chief Baker J. Cauthen of the Southern Baptist Convention told Religious News Service that he has not been “aware of problems along this line.” A United Presbyterian Church spokesman likewise said he knows of no cases involving the CIA.

Clyde Taylor, a World Evangelical Fellowship leader, says he knows of scattered instances of CIA-missionary intelligence links, and he says he’s opposed to such relationships.

William Wipfler, a National Council of Churches missions executive and former Episcopal missionary to Latin America, believes that “a lot of people are willing to cooperate,” and he worries that the global mission cause will be hurt severely as foreign governments increasingly associate missionaries with intelligence gathering activities.

The NCC has held several consultations on the issue. An NCC policy statement was drawn up in 1967 expressing disapproval of staff members involving themselves with the CIA. Although the statement was circulated among member denominations, none adopted it. Maryknoll priest Charles Curry of Washington, D. C., a former missionary to Latin America, is working closely with NCC leaders as the head of a Protestant-Catholic coalition that is drafting a proposed code of ethics for missionaries. The code calls for non-cooperation with intelligence agencies. Mission boards presumably will be called upon to adopt it.

Among those who attended an NCC meeting last fall was John Marks, a former State Department intelligence analyst who co-authored The CIA and The Cult of Intelligence with Vincent Marchetti, an ex-CIA agent. Reports at the meeting centered on contacts between missionaries and CIA agents. Marks decided to investigate further. His findings were published by the National Catholic News Service in July and in subsequent news stories. Some of the allegations had been made earlier by others but had been largely ignored by the press. Examples of intelligence-missionary links cited by Marks:

• A Catholic bishop in South Viet Nam was on the CIA payroll until at least 1971.

• A Protestant missionary in Bolivia fed intelligence reports regularly to the CIA regarding Communist activities, labor unions, and farmers’ organizations.

• Another Protestant missionary in Bolivia until recently tipped the CIA about Communists.

• CIA money helped to stake Catholic radio broadcasts beamed at combatting illiteracy in Colombia; the programs included anti-Communist propaganda.

• Catholic nuns in Bolivia unwittingly were used to collect important census information for the CIA in connection with an anti-illiteracy program supported partly by the CIA.

• Priests in Cuba were part of the CIA’s anti-Castro network.

• A Catholic Relief Services worker in South Viet Nam was really a military intelligence officer.

• CIA agents posed as missionaries (Marks has given no details about this allegation).

• Jesuit priest Roger Vekemans of Belgium was a conduit for CIA funding of anti-Communist social-reform efforts in Latin America.

The Vekemans charge came originally from one of the priest’s American Jesuit friends, James Vizzard of Washington, D. C. Vizzard says Vekemans got $5 million from AID and $5 million from the CIA after a 1963 meeting with President John F. Kennedy and other top administration officials, including CIA director John McCone. The money was to be used in connection with a $25 million Vatican-directed program to establish an anti-Communist network of labor, cultural, and social reform efforts in Latin America. The story was detailed in a 1971 book on political involvement of the Catholic Church in Latin America, written by Jesuit scholastic David E. Mutchler. Vekemans denied the charges but Marks says he has new evidence to support them.

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Vizzard told a Washington Star reporter that Vekemans used some of the CIA money to help defeat the election of Marxist Salvadore Allende in Chile in 1964. But, insisted Vizzard, the CIA didn’t ask Vekemans to do anything he would not have done anyway in carrying out orders from the Vatican; it was a case of the CIA helping to finance a program that coincided with the agency’s objectives. (Vekemans moved to Colombia after Allende came to power.)

A story in the October 7 issue of the National Courier, the new Christian tabloid, says that an internal directive within the CIA issued during the Eisenhower administration prohibits the agency from using missionaries to gather intelligence. The paper quotes a former CIA officer who describes CIA director William Colby as a devout Catholic who has no intention of “harnessing” missionaries. But the source goes on to show how the directive was circumvented by a less-than-strict interpretation of it.

The source says that 95 per cent of intelligence is information about people—how they think, what they are doing, their grievances. But most of the information gleaned from missionaries “is useless,” the paper quotes him as saying, “because they don’t know what to look for.” He tells how he coached several missionaries, telling them what to look for upon their return to South Viet Nam. Claiming they had “urgent” information that could alter the course of events, they had been flown to Washington—where the CIA determined they had “nothing.” Even after coaching, they were unable to come up with anything “valuable” after their return to the field, laments the source.

Some missionaries in southeast Asia refused to cooperate with intelligence authorities, says the ex-CIA officer, but most did cooperate, and some offered helpful information. (Missionaries recalled in interviews that some of their colleagues spent much time with military intelligence officers.) An example cited by the source involves Montagnard ministers in South Viet Nam who worked in Communist-controlled areas. Missionaries gleaned information from these workers and relayed it to intelligence authorities.

In such situations, says one mission official, missionaries are not motivated by patriotism but by concern over what a Communist victory would mean: the end of their work, possibly the deaths of close friends among national workers, the curtailment of Gospel outreach. These zealous missionaries don’t see themselves as spying for America but as defending the Lord’s work, says the official.

Nevertheless, complain critics, these actions by a minority serve only to buttress the suspicions of many foreign authorities that all American missionaries are spies.

William Carlsen has a so-what attitude toward this objection. “We already have a stigma,” he says. “We’re white and from America, and the Communists think we’re spies anyway, so we might as well cooperate if our help is needed.”

Probably the most explosive charge in the Courier story is an allegation by the former CIA agent that the Vatican has one of the world’s best intelligence operations—and that nearly two dozen American intelligence agents are assigned to the Vatican operation, frequently exchanging information with their Vatican counterparts.

A Catholic source denies knowledge of a Vatican version of the CIA, and State Department spokesman Harlan Moen is quoted by the Courier as saying he doesn’t know what the source is talking about. The United States has no diplomatic relations with the Vatican, he points out, adding that only Henry Cabot Lodge and an aide have any official government connection at all. The only other Americans there would be, students and priests, he says.

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An observer, however, remarks that the Vatican is within walking distance of the U. S. embassy in Rome, to which a large contingent of Americans are assigned.

The special U. S. Senate committee studying the CIA was expected to look into the CIA-missionary connection sometime this month, and Senator Mark Hatfield was planning to make public what his staff has found in an investigation of the matter.

Vatican officials say they presently have no plans to conduct an official inquiry into charges involving CIA connections with Catholic missionaries.

Catholic and Protestant mission leaders meanwhile agree: the whole question of CIA-missionary cooperation deserves a lot more thought than has been given to it in the past.

World’S Newest: Widely Evangelized

Papua New Guinea, the world’s newest independent nation, may be between 80 and 90 per cent Christian. The territory has been governed by Australia under international mandates since World War I. One of the stated aims of the Australian administration was “to replace paganism by the acceptance of the Christian faith, and the ritual of primitive life by the practice of religion.” Most of the church growth has taken place since World War II, when these South Pacific islands were a battleground. But Christian missions date back more than 100 years.

While statisticians of government, churches, and missions produce widely divergent figures, there is general agreement that about 30 percent of the population is Roman Catholic (among the Catholics is Michael Somare, 39, the first prime minister) and about 30 per cent is Lutheran. The other Christians are related to a variety of groups, including Anglican and Methodist. The “cargo cults” are the area’s best-known non-Christians.

Missions have worked to develop indigenous leadership of the Papuan churches, and most major groups are now independent and have native-born chief executives. However, since a large proportion of government leaders are Christians, there is no expectation that missionary work will be curtailed.

The American Lutheran Church, which has about fifty workers in Papua New Guinea, has named an international team to advise it on disposition of a variety of enterprises. The ALC set up such agencies as a coastal shipping and aircraft charter operation, cocoa and coconut plantations, a publishing firm, and a self-insurance plan when it needed such services but found them unavailable.

According to a report on the territory prepared for the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization, there were 3,388 foreign missionaries at work in 1971. This was approximately one per 800 residents. The report, drawn up by the Missions Advanced Research and Communication Center, went on to say: “There are very few other areas of the world where the Christian Church has made such a great effort to bring the people to Christ.”

The population at independence was reported to be 2.6 milion.

Christian Politics

Must one be a professing Christian to participate in a political party known as a Christian party?

That was the question at The Hague when 1,700 delegates and observers from three Dutch parties met in the first congress of the Christian Democratic Appeal. The CDA is a two-year-old federation of the Anti-Revolutionary party (ARP, founded by Reformed theologian-statesman Abraham Kuyper in 1879), the Christian Historical Union (founded by parliamentarian A. F. de Savorin Lohman in 1908 after a split from the ARP), and the Catholic People’s party (with roots in the late nineteenth century also).

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After long debate the congress rejected, 597 to 336, an attempt to base the party on “Christian principles.” The decision, in effect, meant that membership was open to all who accept the party platform even though they might not be professing Christians.

The CDA coalition now has forty-eight seats in the Second Chamber (House of Representatives) of the Netherlands. It is the largest bloc in the Dutch legislative branch, topping the forty-three seats held by the Labor party.

ARP forces fought the open-party policy. While they reportedly do not consider the question finally settled, they are expected to go along with the others in the coalition and agree on one slate of CDA candidates in the 1977 national elections.

Plea For Prisoners

General Secretary B. Edgar Johnson of the Church of the Nazarene last month urged U. S. intercession for the release of two Nazarene missionaries imprisoned in Mozambique (see September 26 issue, page 48). They are Armand Doll, 59, of Waltham, Massachusetts, and Hugh Friberg, 32, of Sumner, Washington.

Also in jail last month were Don Milam an independent youth worker of Schwenksville, Pennsylvania; Saluh Daka, a Rhodesian associated with Youth With a Mission; and Classius Potigeur, a Bible college graduate from Brazil. The three worked together in youth evangelism in Lourenco Marques, the capital of Mozambique. Milam’s success with an anti-drug program had led the government to provide a rentfree facility for his work.

After the Marxist-oriented FRELIMO liberation party took over the government in June, many restrictions were placed on religious activities. It is believed that charges related to some of these restrictions led to the arrests.

Many missionaries have left, but a handful of United Methodists were still in the African nation.

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