As the world population clock ticked to four billion inhabitants (see editorial, page 36), some eighty evangelical leaders from thirty-four mission organizations and fifteen theological schools gathered last month in suburban Chicago to discuss worldwide Christian witness and biblical guidelines to undergird it. The occasion was a four-day Consultation on Theology and Mission sponsored by the School of World Missions and Evangelism at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.
Overall, the consultation projected as ideal a church-related evangelism focusing on discipleship and growth. It saw two internal perils for the Church: theology without evangelism, and evangelism without theology. It did not settle for mere criticism of the World Council of Churches (WCC); it pressed for the formulation of constructive alternatives. A new openness toward dialogue with Catholics in the post-Vatican II age was acknowledged, though caution was urged because, as one spokesman put it, “the fact that the nature of the Roman Catholic Church in our time is not wholly clear implies long-term risks in over-identification.”
Caution was also expressed in evaluation of the charismatic movement. While the conferees did not voice doubt of the New Testament validity of tongues, many questioned the permanence of the gift, and most resisted prizing glossolalia above all other gifts. Yet all confessed the need of a deep moving work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.
There were three major evening addresses, and Trinity faculty members presented twelve papers. The papers dealt with Catholicism, the charismatic movement, contextualization (the relation of church to culture), inter-religious dialogue, and changing political situations. Panels of mission leaders and theologians responded to each topic.
Speaking on issues concerning Israel, President Arnold T. Olson of the Evangelical Free Church of America in the event’s keynote address declared that the only friends Israel has left are evangelicals. He recognized the legitimacy of Jewish evangelism but protested any singling out of Jewry as a special evangelistic target. He said many reports of a moratorium in Israel on Jewish evangelism have been exaggerated.
In an analysis of the WCC’s 1975 assembly in Nairobi, mission professor Arthur P. Johnston of Trinity said that the political impact of the ecumenical movement tends to stigmatize Western missionaries unfairly as aligned with the forces of racism and economic injustice. Panelist Robert Thompson, for twelve years a member of the Canadian parliament and now associated with several Christian organizations, asked how ecumenical churchmen can in good conscience appeal to their own capitalist constituency for funds for revolutionary activities aimed not simply at economic betterment but at the destruction of the capitalistic system, especially when the WCC receives the major portion of its funds from American and West German churches.
The liveliest debate centered on how to preach the Gospel in light of the political changes going on around the world. Papers were presented by theologian Carl F. H. Henry and J. Herbert Kane, chairman of Trinity’s Division of World Mission and Evangelism.
Kane called on American mission leaders to remember that “the American missionary is an ambassador for Jesus Christ, not for Uncle Sam.” He emphasized that the missionary must not equate the kingdom of God with any political, economic, or social system. He contended that a missionary serving where the ruling system is dictatorial has two choices, either to stick to his work or to speak out against the regime and be expelled.
Henry insisted that there are other options. “The missionary is a member of a church on the field he serves, and he or she can encourage the church as the new society to elaborate a conscious social alternative to an objectionable national milieu and thus exemplify to the world what the justice of God requires,” he asserted. “And the missionary can go to jail, which is not the worst of all pulpits in the twentieth-century mass-media world.” He urged Christians to learn to press for truth and right publicly, “rather than let Christian prisoners like Georgi Vins suffer in Russian silence.” (Vins is a Soviet Baptist minister serving time in a Siberian prison for alleged “crimes” related to the practice of his faith.)
Participants had little sympathy for the ecumenical funding of revolutionary movements aimed at the overthrow of unjust regimes by violence. “There’s not a hint in the Gospels that Jesus secretly instructed Judas to use the money-bag to fund the Zealots,” said Henry. The regenerate church, he pointed out, “is herself the new society called to proclaim and exemplify to the world the standards of the coming King.” The missionary, he added, should support not the status quo but “the divine status to come.”
In another evening address. President Ingulf Diesen of the Mission Covenant Church of Norway expressed appreciation on behalf of European Christians for Anglo-Saxon missionary effort, but he also mentioned some problems. In Europe there are currently 2,450 British and North American missionaries, 750 from Britain and 1,700 from North America, from eighty agencies or organizations. He spoke of inter-agency rivalry, of competition with local evangelical agencies, and of some cases of inflated success statistics.
Diesen indicated, however, that 18 per cent of all Norwegians now consider themselves “born-again Christians” (the figure for young people is 27 per cent), and he spoke glowingly of spiritual renewal in his land. On the other hand, he described the dire spiritual need of other European countries, notably Albania in the east and France in the west. He conceded that even in Norway in some sections there is less evangelistic fruit than in some African countries. Europe has been recognized as a bona fide mission field only since World War II, it was noted, and then only hesitantly so by mainline denominations. Conferees were also reminded that despite sixty years of unrelenting persecution, Communist authorities have been unable to stamp out Christianity in the Soviet Union.
The conference papers will be published later this year in book form by Baker Book House, according to Trinity professor David Hesselgrave.
HANDLED WITH CARE
Country Church at George Air Force Base in California “is a unique and satisfying experience for all those who attend,” says a release issued by the base’s office of information. Captain John Ward, the Assemblies of God chaplain who started the church last fall, often preaches in bib-overalls. One Sunday night a month is designated “country night”; everyone comes in his cleanest Levis or bib-overalls and newest shirt. Nearly 150 attend services.
In the church’s short history, says the release, “a number of persons have accepted Christ into their lives and have desired to be baptized in water by immersion.” None of the post chapels, however, is equipped with a baptistry. So the Thirty-Fifth Munitions Maintenance Squadron donated a lightweight bomb shipping-and-storage container known affectionately as “the coffin.” And mem bers of the Field Maintenance Squadron did some cutting and welding. The result: a portable baptistry, complete with handles. Teen-ager Kim Raines, a master sergeant’s daughter, was the first of seven persons baptized in it last month by Chaplain Ward.
The Wcc: Slim Figures
With more than one-third of its income generated in the United States, the World Council of Churches is resisting the temptation to give up that generator. Its New York office, which maintains liaison with North American member denominations and other supporters, was given a new lease on life at the first meeting of the WCC Executive Committee since the Nairobi assembly.
Like most other WCC agencies, the New York office will be working on a reduced budget during 1976. At a Geneva meeting late last month the nineteen members of the Executive Committee learned that the council closed 1975 in the black only by dipping into reserves. While the audited figures are not yet available, insiders estimate that $320,000 came from reserves.
The Executive Committee authorized the secretariat to operate through the rest of this year on a budget of $2.5 million, about $700,000 less than planned at the time of the assembly last year. One of the possibilities that had been considered prior to the Nairobi meeting was reducing the appropriation for the New York office. The action of the Geneva meeting, in effect, ratified a new formula for support of the North American operation. Instead of getting half of its budget from the general funds of the council, it will hereafter get only one-fourth. The remaining three-fourths is expected to be raised from private American sources. The whole question of function and financing of the New York office will be reviewed again in August when the WCC Central Committee meets.
A separate office in New York City, that of the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (a United Nations liaison), was also authorized by the hard-pressed executive committee to stay in business but with less financial help. There is no money in the budget for its operation, and the executive who ran it has retired. The commission was authorized to solicit special funds to keep it going, however, and a part-time secretary has continued on the payroll. If a suitable executive can be found, funds to support the U. N. operation are expected to be available.
Member denominations and other World Council friends in Europe have come forward with extra money to keep another agency going during the budget squeeze. The Ecumenical Institute near Geneva, a conference center and a graduate school offering short-term courses, has received enough designated funds from Germany, France, and Switzerland to cover its anticipated 1976 deficit, the Executive Committee heard. Like the New York office, it will be getting less of its budget this year from general funds of the council (its 1976 budget is $390,000).
The new general budget (one of seven in the WCC) was adopted with the understanding that it will mean reductions in travel and meetings for all agencies, as well as forgoing of salary increases by staff members. Several staff positions in Geneva are being left unfilled.
In another action the executive group took a first cautious step toward following up the Nairobi assembly’s directive on the status of Eastern European Christians. A consultation was scheduled for July to consider responses from the member churches to letters sent by the general secretary. The denominations in countries that signed last year’s Helsinki Declaration on European security were asked four questions: How were they studying the declaration? How could they help to implement it? What could international ecumenical organizations do to help the process? What practices in their country contradicted the “spirit or letter” of the statement? A report on the initial fundings is to be presented to the Central Committee in August.
Consulting In Jerusalem
A dialogue has been going on for several years between representatives of the World Council of Churches and of the International Jewish Committee. Their latest consultation was held recently in Jerusalem. Present were six members of the WCC’s Liaison Committee and members representing the World Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, the Synagogue Council of America, and the Jewish Council in Israel for Interreligious Consultations.
Part of their discussion focused on two topics for possible future study: “Relations between churches and the Jewish people in the wider context of the human community” and “Christian and Jewish traditions about creation, in relation to science and technology.”
The conferees agreed that encounter should proceed on several levels. These include exchanging information regularly on political and social issues, with special emphasis on human rights (including religious liberty), and interpreting to each other the religious views of each community on fundamental issues, according to a WCC report on the meeting.
The report says the Liaison Committee may set up task forces to deal with specific long-term issues, and it may develop procedures “for common action in times of crisis.” Specific proposals will be presented for approval by the appropriate WCC committees later this year.
Jesus ’76: Love In A Pasture
More than 20,000 persons, many of them in family groups, gathered in a pasture two miles from Disney World near Orlando, Florida, last month for the first of four three-day rallies billed as Jesus ’76. On hand were such top gospel recording artists as Andrae Crouch and The Disciples, the Rambos, Pat Boone, and Phil Keaggy and Ted Sandquist. Food for mind and soul was served up by founder-president Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, prophecy author Hal Lindsey, charismatic teacher Bob Mumford, Arizona congressman John Conlan, and others.
Participants could choose from a variety of seminars, and there were special sessions for children and for pastors (150 met in a nearby hotel). A 200-foot-long striped tent housed display booths for Christian colleges and mission organizations as well as shops selling records, Bibles, books, and other Christian literature.
Bright seemed to sum up the prevailing attitude when he said: “We are all here because we love the most important person in the whole world.” He called for Christians to unite in prayer and fasting and to show love, compassion, and concern.
The event was organized by youth minister Alex Clattenburg, Jr., of Calvary Assembly of God Church in Winter Park, Florida, in conjunction with Jesus Ministries of Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Three other Jesus ’76 rallies are scheduled this year: Brantford, Ontario, June 17–19; Carlotte, North Carolina, July 1–3; and Mercer, Pennsylvania, August 19–21.
Jesus Ministries announced last month that it has purchased a large tract of land in central Pennsylvania for a permanent camp site.
Religion In Transit
Plagued by a pending divorce, by desertion from the cause by her son William, and by infiltration of Methodists and Catholics in state chapters, atheism promoter Madalyn Murray O’Hair last month threatened to give up her leadership role in the movement to keep God out of government. But, said she, many atheists “came out of the closet” and rallied to her support, lending a hand with secretarial chores and other work. Thus encouraged, she went off to a convention of atheists in New York this month to seek money to keep going another year.
A number of leaders of the National Council of Churches have registered their opposition to proposed changes that will close loopholes and limit eligibility for food-stamp purchases. They called for an “improved” program that would be even more liberal (elimination of the cash purchase requirement, for example).
Under pressure from residents and government jurisdictions, the Hare (pronounced hah-ree) Krishna movement has moved its school for its members’ children age 8 and older from Dallas, Texas, to Vrindabin, India. Spokesmen said it would be better spiritually for the children to be brought up “in the place where our supreme Lord Krishna walked” than in an environment of supermarkets, pornography, and “other mundane things.” The school, nearly five years old, had about 125 pupils.
Thomas Eugene Creech, 25, was sentenced to be hanged May 21 at the Idaho State Penitentiary. On the witness stand he claimed he took part in slaying forty-two persons in thirteen states. Some were slain as human sacrifices during Satan worship rites, he said. Police discounted most of his claims, but bodies were found in Wyoming and Nevada on the basis of his directions. Ironically, he was convicted for two murders he insisted he did not commit. Some Idaho farmers meanwhile charge that Satan worshipers have been slaying their animals for sacrificial rites.
The family of the late Bertram E. Williams, a retired naval officer, had his cremated remains shipped from Florida to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia for burial. The box arrived damaged and minus the urn containing the ashes. After a fruitless search, the U. S. Postal Service listed the remains as lost in the mails. It will pay $15 to Williams’s family, the minimum amount of insurance placed on the package by the crematorium.
Two southern Maine school boards okayed daily “silent” periods for students in public schools. Their actions followed an opinion from state attorney general Joseph E. Brennan. It stated that a silent period doesn’t violate the U. S. Constitution if it is “not intended and not identified in any way as a religious exercise.” At the same time, he said there is no constitutional objection to prayer before legislative sessions, cabinet meetings, and other government functions. The state of Virginia meanwhile has authorized “one minute of silence” for prayer or meditation in its schools.
Bible Presbyterian leader Carl McIntire has fallen out with many of his separatist-fundamentalist colleagues. Leaders of Bob Jones University and other fundamentalist camps have scheduled a big World Congress of Fundamentalists for Edinburgh later this year. But McIntire feels such a gathering should have been under the sponsorship of his International Council of Christian Churches. He also objects to the participation of certain persons because of their friendliness toward Billy Graham-type evangelicals, and to a lack of militancy in the program. He describes it all as “New Fundamentalism.”
The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs staff will look into Transcendental Meditation and Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. The committee’s members, representatives of nine Baptist bodies cooperating in the agency, want to know whether the TM movement “is a religion within the meaning of the First Amendment.” They also want to know if church-state issues are involved in allegations that parents of some Unification Church members have harassed and kidnapped their children.
Pollster Louis Harris asked a cross-section of adults what institutions they have “a great deal of confidence” in. “Organized religion” ranked fourth (24 per cent) in a list of eleven, behind medicine, higher education, and television news. All lost ground since a similar poll last year (religion fell eight percentage points), and they are much below the 1966 level (when religion ranked eighth with 41 per cent). Medicine, in first place, fell from 73 per cent in 1966 to 42 per cent this year. Congress is in last place with 9 per cent.
Paul L. Logsdon, a student at Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri, was named national president of Intercollegiate Religious Broadcasters. He succeeds the recently elected Bruce Sago of Anderson (Indiana) College, who withdrew for personal reasons. The IRB is the campus division of the National Religious Broadcasters.
Anglican clergyman Donald Anderson, a missionary educator, was named general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches. He replaces T. B. Floyd Honey, a United Church of Canada minister, who quit because he felt that support of the council by member churches was diminishing.
Twenty-seven religious leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds issued an appeal urging Congress to pass a resolution declaring the “right of food” to be a basic element of U. S. policy. The measure was introduced last fall by Republican senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon and Democratic representative Donald M. Fraser of Minnesota. The signers include evangelist Billy Graham, Catholic archbishop Joseph L. Bernardin, Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, President Robert P Dugan, Jr., of the Conservative Baptist Association of America, General Secretary Claire Randall of the National Council of Churches, President Jaroy Weber of the Southern Baptist Convention, Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York, and Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Leaders of the United Presbyterian Church have sounded the alarm: the budget of $31.6 million may be in trouble. Of this amount, $23.3 million was expected from congregations, but current figures indicate that total may reach only $20.8 million unless giving is increased.
Bible colleges have gained an average of 7 per cent in total enrollment during the past year, according to researcher Garland G. Parker of the University of Cincinnati. (The fifty-three schools surveyed averaged about 350 students each; some have more, others less.) Theological schools also showed growth—5.5 per cent, said Parker.
More than 40 per cent of all Catholic children in America—6.6 million of them—are not receiving any formal religious instruction, according to a study released by the nation’s Catholic bishops. The number has more than doubled in the last ten years. Secularization, the breakup of Catholic neighborhoods, and parochial-school closing are among the causes cited.
Baptist evangelist Hans Mullikin, 37, of Marshall, Texas, is en route to Washington, D. C., more than 1,000 miles away—on his knees. The idea, he explains, is to challenge Americans to get on their knees and turn to God. Equipped with knee pads and traveling at about one-half mile per hour, he hopes to reach Lynchburg, Virginia, by July 4. Pastor Jerry Falwell of the Thomas Road Baptist Church and his Liberty Baptist College people are planning a big Bicentennial celebration in Lynchburg on that day. They’re expecting a crowd of 100,000.
JOHN COGLEY, 60, major proponent for reform in the Catholic Church, former editor of the influential independent Catholic weekly Commonweal, and former religion editor of the New York Times; in Santa Barbara, California, of a heart attack.
FERN G. OLSON, 60, Assemblies of God evangelist and pastor known to many thousands as “Sister Fern”; in Minneapolis.
William Carey Moore, for more than three years director of Wycliffe Bible Translators’ editorial department, has been appointed managing editor of Logos Journal.
Wycliffe Bible translator Eunice Diment, 37, of Dorset, England, was released in good health last month after being held captive for three weeks by Muslim dissidents in the southern Philippines. Conditions of her release were not immediately known. The captors had wanted $26,000 ransom and the release of two Muslim political prisoners.
Catholic archbishop Alexandre Jose Maria dos Santos of Mozambique denied reports that his country’s Marxist-oriented government has prohibited infant baptism or eliminated freedom of worship. Of the country’s 9.2 million population, an estimated 1.5 million are Catholics.
Poland’s premier Piotr Jaroszewicz gave formal assurances in parliament that his government intends to “continue its policy” of supporting “freedom of conscience and religion.” Last December the government proposed constitutional changes curtailing religious practices and making civil rights dependent on compliance with duties to the state. The proposals were scrapped after protests by church leaders and intellectuals.
Project CLAIM (Christian Literature for Asians in Ministry) has been launched in the Philippines. Its goal is to provide suitable theological textbooks and Bible-study aids to pastors and Bible-school and seminary students at prices they can afford. A New Testament survey and a concordance are among the first offerings. The project is a joint venture of the Philippine Association of Bible and Theological Schools and Overseas Missionary Fellowship Publishers.
Under construction in the ancient Islamic city of Kano, Nigeria, is a 2,000-seat church building for Evangelical Churches of West Africa, a denomination related to the Sudan Interior Mission. SIM opened the widely heralded Kano Eye Hospital in the city in 1943. There are now seven ECWA congregations in Kano.
Jehovah’s Witnesses report that 5,000 of their members are still in prison labor camps in the African country of Malawi despite an international campaign aimed at pressuring the government to stop the persecution. The sect was banned in 1967 because of its aloofness toward involvement in affairs of state (politics, patriotic rites, military service, and the like). The Witnesses also claim that thousands who fled Malawi are now being harassed in Mozambique.
The Christian Pentecostal Church of Cuba has asked for establishment of fraternal relationships with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The church split with its parent body, the Assemblies of God, in 1956 over differences of viewpoint concerning ecumenism and other topics. Overseas mission executive William J. Nottingham of the Disciples described the Cuban church as a group of “Christians who are standing by their faith and at the same time are fully committed to the revolution in Cuba.” The Disciples and other church groups are lobbying for an end to the U. S. trade embargo on the Caribbean nation.
Britain’s free churches collectively lost more than 53,000 members last year. The thirteen denominations have a total membership of 1.28 million members, according to the latest statistics. Methodists led the loss list with a decline of 44,000.
Approximately fifty Protestant clergymen moved from East Germany to West Germany last year, and others want to follow. The exodus prompted Lutheran bishop Albrecht Schonherr of East Germany to urge the pastors to stay at their posts despite the painful experiences they sometimes have. The church, he said, lacks trained personnel in many key social ministries, and although there are 860 pastors, seventy parishes are without ministers.
The French Evangelical Alliance and the Evangelical Federation of France have agreed to call for a nationwide evangelistic program in the fall of 1977 (rather than this spring, as reported earlier). Leaders hope to involve most of the estimated 40,000 evangelicals among France’s 52 million population. A theological congress is scheduled earlier in 1977 for French lay leaders, pastors, and teachers. An outgrowth of the 1974 Lausanne congress on evangelization, it will center on the theology of evangelism.
A contemporary Arabic translation of the New Testament will soon be published, according to an American Bible Society announcement. Known as Today’s Arabic Version, it was begun in 1969. Work on the Old Testament is under way. The Arabic translation most widely used today was completed by American missionary Cornelius Van Dyck and published by the ABS in the 1860s. An estimated 100 million people speak Arabic.
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