Last month thirty-eight Protestant and Catholic leaders in the charismatic movement met behind closed doors in Oklahoma City in an attempt to settle their differences. The disagreements led to a rupture in the movement last year, troubling many Christians around the world. At issue were concepts of shepherding, discipling, and submission as applied by teachers associated with Christian Growth Ministries (CGM) of Fort Lauderdale, Florida (see October 10, 1975, issue, page 52). Critics of CGM included Pentecostal envoy David du Plessis, Ralph Wilkerson of Melodyland church in Anaheim, California, Pat Robertson of Christian Broadcasting Network, Episcopal clergyman Dennis Bennett, Demos Shakarian of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, Charles Farah of Oral Roberts University, and the late Kathryn Kuhlman.
Efforts at reconciliation were attempted at a meeting of fourteen leaders in Ann Arbor, Michigan, last December. After studying the issues they concluded that there were indeed differences of opinion but that these were within the bounds of “allowable variety” in the Body of Christ. The group blamed much of the controversy on “misunderstanding and poor communication.” Logos and New Wine magazines then published responses of CGM ministers to their critics. They denied intentions of organizing a new charismatic denomination, they denied charges that tithes were being pyramided to them from far-flung groups identifying with them, and they drew a line at how much authority a “shepherd” could exercise over a disciple. Neither the Ann Arbor meeting nor the disavowals, however, stopped the criticism and controversy.
At the outset of the five-day meeting in Oklahoma City, held in the Catholic-owned Center for Christian Renewal, Lutheran pastor Larry Christenson suggested that a “wild boar was loose in the vineyard of the Lord.” The vivid description stuck, and after some discussion the conferees concluded that indeed the “wild boar of rugged Protestant individualism” was the real problem behind the controversy.
In an emotional address, CGM leader Bob Mumford charged that he had been “betrayed” by some of his former friends and backers. Echoing the feeling of his Fort Lauderdale colleague, Charles Simpson declared his inability to join in communion with those who had broken confidence with him.
For two days, host coordinator Brick Bradford of the Presbyterian Charismatic Communion and others labored to reconcile the two sides. When a mild compromise was suggested, du Plessis shocked the gathering with a call for the CGM group to retract some of their teachings, to acknowledge their mistakes, and to repair the damage that had been done to many charismatic groups around the world. Amid apprehension, the participants adjourned for the night.
The next morning the log-jam was broken when CGM’s Derek Prince read a carefully worded “Statement of Concern and Regret” on behalf of the CGM ministers. Their statement acknowledged that problems had arisen as a result of their teachings on authority and discipleship. It expressed regret for the problems and stated that “insofar as they are due to fault on our part, we ask forgiveness from our fellow believers whom we have offended.” The statement continued:
We realize that our teachings, though we believe them to be essentially sound, have in various places been misapplied or handled in an immature way; and that this has caused problems for our brothers in the ministry. We deeply regret this and ask for forgiveness. Insofar as it lies in our power, we will do our best to correct these situations and to restore any broken relationships.
It was signed by all six CGM ministers (Mumford, Prince, Simpson, Ern Baxter, Don Basham, and John Poole).
The other conferees responded by receiving the statement “with gratitude,” and they joined in calling for an end to public attacks on the CGM teachers and to “the multitude of rumors and stories of alleged or actual abuses … that are doing serious harm to [Christ’s] kingdom.” An appeal was made for Christians to settle their grievances privately in accord with Scripture, and related ethical guidelines drawn up in 1971 were reaffirmed.
A consensus statement specified that “allegations of heresy were unfounded [and] that there was no reason to question the integrity of the teachers involved.” The group also voiced conclusions similar to those expressed at Ann Arbor.
A “Charismatic Concerns Committee” was appointed to handle differences that might arise in the future. Its members: Catholic layman Kevin Ranaghan, Dominican priest Francis MacNutt, Presbyterian Bob Whitaker of Melodyland, Episcopalian Everett Fullam of Houston’s Church of the Redeemer, Larry Christenson, Derek Prince, and Assembly of God pastor James Hamann.
The thirty-eight participants included pastors, mission leaders, educators, and editors from a variety of church and para-church backgrounds. (Two Catholic lay leaders, Steve Clark and Ralph Martin, were among the participants. They say they will move to Brussels for “the indefinite future” to work more closely with Belgian cardinal Leon Joseph Suenens, a strong backer of the Catholic charismatic movement. Clark handed his chairmanship of the vital Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service Committee to President Michael Scanlon of Steubenville [Ohio] College, a Franciscan. Clark will, however, retain leadership of the Word of God Community in Ann Arbor; Martin hopes to help establish a Belgian counterpart to Word of God.)
In the closing prayer, the “wild boar” of independence was pronounced dead and the controversy healed—at least for those at the conference. Conciliatory moves were planned to reach those who were not present. They include antagonists Bennett, Shakarian, and Robertson, plus about twenty others.
Death And Dyeing
Groups of environmentalists associated with the Greenpeace Foundation of Vancouver, Canada, failed in their efforts to halt the clubbing to death of tens of thousands of baby harp seals off the Newfoundland coast. The pups are killed for their snowy white pelts. Hunters bash their heads with spike-tipped clubs. Last year an estimated 150,000 were killed by Canadian and Norwegian hunters to supply a $12 million fur industry (the furs are banned in the United States).
The environmentalists had planned to spray green dye in the shape of a cross on the animals, rendering their pelts useless. A spokesman said many of the hunters “are very much fundamentalists when it comes to religion,” and the crosses would help instill the fear of God in them. Townspeople at St. Anthony, Newfoundland, persuaded the Greenpeace people not to spray the seals, however, and Canadian authorities thwarted their efforts to protect the seals with their bodies.
By the time the quadrennial General Conference of the United Methodist Church opens later this month in Portland, Oregon, participants will have had plenty of information from various sides on how they should vote on important issues. And there will be plenty of last-minute corridor lobbying by special-interest groups and caucuses.
One data source is an informal survey taken recently by Interpreter, the UMC’s program journal. Questionnaires returned by some 13,000 persons from across the country indicate that United Methodists are more conservative—both theologically and sociologically—than the church’s programs, according to a special news report in the journal’s April issue. The editors say the responses show that members care very much about their church and faith and that “many are bitterly frustrated because they feel the church doesn’t listen to them when policies and programs are being shaped.”
Respondents showed remarkable agreement on the need to strengthen the Sunday church school in the years ahead (88.8 per cent of the clergy and 90 per cent of the laity). Strong agreement was also expressed on providing special funds for alleviation of world hunger. The majority voted for more emphasis on evangelism and salvation in the coming quadrennium, but only 36.9 per cent of the clergy and 23.3 per cent of the laity indicated an interest in the establishment of new churches. About 58 per cent of the clergy and 41 per cent of the laity showed support for the National Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches got slightly less backing. Only 38 per cent of the clergy and 30 per cent of the laity thought the UMC should continue to support the Consultation on Church Union.
On social issues, only 36 per cent of the clergy and 20 per cent of the laity favored a proposed quadrennial study of human sexuality. Nearly 75 per cent of the clergy and 78 per cent of the laity said the ordained ministry should not be opened to people regardless of their sexual orientation, an issue that may be debated at the conference. However, 55 per cent of the clergy and 47 per cent of the laity thought membership and fellowship in the church should be open to all people without such regard.
Roving Editor: How James Helped Jimmy
Both Jimmy Carter and James M. Wall are native Georgians and Democrats. The similarities pretty much end there, except that Carter is trying to get to the White House and Wall gave him a big push in that direction last month.
Wall, a United Methodist clergyman and a McGovern-type liberal, is the editor of the Christian Century. Between deadlines Wall served as the campaign chairman for Carter in the Illinois Democratic primary. He did it as an unpaid volunteer, and he performed well enough that Carter emerged on top. Wall has also worked on Carter’s behalf in other states.
Carter is more conservative than Wall, theologically as well as politically. Wall concedes that, but feels that Carter’s ability to govern and his character are overriding considerations. Wall, who also is a Democratic state committeeman, did not meet Carter until last May. Until then he had been leaning toward Morris Udall.
Prior to coming to the Chicago-based Century, Wall ran unsuccessfully for Congress. He says he has no current aspirations except to see Carter elected. He has talked to Carter about theology, he states, but does not regard himself as a religious adviser.
Mandates For Ministry
What qualities are American and Canadian church people looking for in their young ministers and priests?
To find the answers, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada sponsored a three-year research project costing more than $500,000 (financed mostly by Lilly Endowment and carried out by the Youth Research Center of Minneapolis). More than 5,000 persons in forty-seven denominations were surveyed after research among 3,200 others established criteria and categories.
The results show that humility (willingness to serve without regard for acclaim), honesty (personal integrity, the ability to honor commitments by carrying out promises despite pressures to compromise), and Christian example are the most sought-after qualities. Particular pastoral skills rank fourth.
Traits criticized most: catering to self-serving motives while avoiding intimacy and repelling people with a critical, demeaning, and insensitive attitude; indulging in illicit sex and other actions that irritate, shock, or offend; and evidencing emotional immaturity, insecurity, and insensitivity when buffeted by the demands and pressures of the job.
The analysis will help in preparing seminarians for the ministry, says project director David Schuller.
A preacher widely known as John 3:16 Cook ran into some trouble in St. Petersburg, Florida, one afternoon last month. Cook, 43, who bills himself as the reformist model for drunken derelicts and drug addicts, was charged with drunken driving after his silver 1975 El Dorado Cadillac plowed through two service stations, mowed down five gas pumps, and smashed two other cars. The roof of one station caved in, and a fire broke out.
One witness who barely missed being hit exclaimed: “He was coming like the devil.” A police spokesman said it took three officers to wrestle the uninjured Cook to the floor of an emergency room so that blood samples could be taken. The ruckus reverberated throughout the hospital halls.
Cook has been featured in television and newspaper profiles since his up-from-the-gutter conversion in 1969, and he has headed up a number of rescue missions. Asked how the charges will affect his skid-row ministry, he replied: “I’ll always be in God’s business.”
Eunice Diment, 37, of Dorset, England, a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators, was still being held by Muslim insurgents in the southern Philippines late last month. She was kidnapped on February 28 while making a boat trip with her Filipino landlord. The Muslims were demanding $26,000 and the release of two political prisoners for her safe return. Sources said she had been seen since her capture and was well. She and her partner, Jo Ann Gault of San Diego, had been working among islanders who speak the Bangingi Samal language.
In a separate incident, a Filipino woman teacher with the Christian and Missionary Alliance was held for $1,800 ransom. And near Zamboanga City, Josue Laviña, the national youth director of the CMA churches in the Philippines, was killed in a bus ambush.
Atheism promoter Madalyn Murray O’Hair told reporters that a rumor that her son Bill, 29, had converted to Christianity was unthinkable. In announcing his candidacy for Congress, the youth had issued a statement widely interpreted as a disavowal of his mother’s atheistic movement, in which he had been a leader. Mrs. O’Hair shrugged it off as a matter of “political expediency.” (Months ago, CHRISTIANITY TODAY learned that one of William Murray’s close friends was active in Campus Crusade for Christ student work and that Murray was attending Christian meetings, ostensibly to do research for his mother’s organization.)
Mrs. O’Hair also has had to contend with other woes on the home front. Her estranged husband Richard was given temporary possession of the couple’s property. Everything, she lamented, is in Richard’s name. The society’s property, she said, is worth at least $250,000, and she values a rare book collection on atheist literature at $1.5 million. But what upsets her more is that Richard is reportedly attending a Methodist Church.
For The Record
The Seattle Pacific College basketball team closed its season with a not-so-impressive 14–12 won-lost record (the schedule included such tough opponents as Arizona State, Oregon State, and the University of Washington). Although they strive hard to excel in their NCAA division, coach Keith Swagerty and his varsity team members also strive to accomplish some other things besides winning games. Since all of them are Christians, they feel outreach should have a place in their schedule. This concern has taken them to churches, youth meetings, schools, service organizations, camps, neighborhood centers, and convalescent homes—proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed.
Sometimes they testify and preach in formal meetings. On other occasions they converse informally (during basketball clinics for youngsters, visits to hospitals, work sessions at buildings in need of repair). They serenaded elderly people with carols at a nursing home during Christmas, and through a Salvation Army contact they provided Christmas dinner and gifts for a needy family.
“Being able to combine basketball with my faith is one of the reasons why I came to a Christian college,” says junior guard Mike Downs, the past season’s speciality captain, who coordinates the outreach program. The program was voted a team goal two years ago. The team members attend an annual retreat before the season begins to discuss objectives and lay plans. During the season they meet for weekly Bible studies. They say that before they can be effective with others they need to have a right relationship with one another and with God.
Swagerty’s insistence on excellence on and off the court doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Lutheran youth worker Richard Fleming of Seattle says that many young people see the college athlete as someone who indulges in immoral activities on the side. “But these fellows,” said he, “showed our group the falsity of this image.”
Not everything that’s important about a basketball team is written down in the record books.
Religion In Transit
Boys Town, a private Catholic institution in Nebraska, reported income of $20.9 million in 1975 and assets of more than $242 million at year’s end.
Evangelist Arthur Blessitt snagged 8,171 votes as seventh-place winner in the Florida primary election last month, finishing ahead of anti-abortion candidate Ellen McCormack (7,481) and four other Democratic presidential hopefuls (Sargent Shriver, Robert C. Byrd, Fred Harris, and Frank Church).
The U. S. Defense Department is studying a proposal to merge the Army, Navy, and Air Force chaplain schools, according to a government spokesman. About 150 chaplains a year attend the training centers.
Captain Jack Williamson, formerly associate pastor of First Friends Church in Salem, Ohio, is the first Quaker to enter the U. S. Air Force chaplaincy. His first assignment is at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
Tran Minh Hai, a former student in a seminary extension program directed by Southern Baptist missionaries in South Viet Nam, was ordained to the ministry at the First Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where he has organized a congregation of Vietnamese refugees. He is believed to be the first Vietnamese to be ordained to the ministry in this country. (Meanwhile, resettlement agencies report that many of the Viet refugees originally sponsored in the northern part of the country have migrated southward—to a warmer climate.)
Vermont’s senate voted 20 to 7 to establish a joint legislative committee to investigate Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.
Complaints by church people were credited in part for the removal of ads for King James whiskey from newspapers in St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Charlotte. The ads showed a bottle of scotch identified as “The King James Version.” A case of bad taste, said critics. An American Distilling Company spokesman dismissed it as a cute idea that didn’t catch on.
Traditional church structures, styles, language, and teaching are failing to meet the spiritual needs of Canadians, according to a survey commissioned by Canada’s Catholic bishops. But many of the 750 respondents spoke positively of their own faith in God and pointed with enthusiasm to the growth of house churches, home Bible-study groups, the charismatic movement, and the like. Everywhere, both inside and outside the churches, there are “heart yearnings” for greater spiritual awareness, says the report. It recommends a “collective examination of conscience” and a rapid move toward renewal by the churches.
E. Eugene Poston has resigned as president (since 1961) of Gardner-Webb College, a Southern Baptist school in North Carolina, to run for Congress against fellow Baptist James Broyhill, Republican incumbent. Poston said he made his decision after hearing evangelist Billy Graham’s New Year’s message calling on Christians to get involved in politics.
Pastors and members of sixteen churches near Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, home of the Baltimore Colts, are fighting proposed legislation that would allow the scheduling of football games one hour earlier on Sundays (1 P.M). Under the plan, no parking would be allowed on the main streets leading to the stadium after 11 A M.; this would interfere with parking for church services. The football people say the Colts are losing national TV exposure because of the late starting time; the church leaders fear they will lose members—and part of their right to worship freely.
Nearly ten million tons of grain and other foodstuffs are consumed annually by the alcoholic beverage industry, according to government figures.
About 58 per cent of Catholics responding to a National Opinion Research poll said they believe in life after death—fewer than the 69 per cent. of Americans expressing no religious preference and 72 per cent of Protestants who affirmed such belief.
Health officials in West Virginia were investigating a Hare Krishna commune following the hepatitis death of Professor Kenneth M. Plummer of West Virginia Weslevan College. Plummer and seven of his students visited the commune on a field trip. The students described the commune as unsanitary and dirty (no toilet facilities, hands and dishes were unwashed, a dead cow lay outside the living quarters until sanitation officials ordered it buried).
Four church-related hospitals in Brooklyn are among twenty-seven recommended for closing by a New York state health council. The council said New York City has more than enough hospital beds, and it advised closing “facilities which in general are not appropriate for meeting the hospital needs” of the city. The hospitals are run by Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and American Baptists. The Baptists will fight to keep their Samaritan Hospital open. Samaritan’s director Thomas Bryan charged the council wants to close church-related hospitals “so that some larger hospitals will not have to claim bankruptcy.”
Nearly three-fourths of the 13,500 persons responding to a poll conducted by the National Observer, a weekly newspaper, said they favored the controversial 1973 Supreme Court decision liberalizing abortion. About 24 per cent said they wanted a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion.
Monitors of the Federal Communications Commission finally pinpointed the illegal station that was broadcasting gospel rock for months in the Charlottesville, Virginia, area. The programs came from the Holy Temple Church of God and Christ where John Brown, the pastor’s 20-year-old son, was operating a station (WHGC) he had built. The signal carried for 100 miles. FCC agents have closed down the operation, and Brown faces a fine of up to $10,000 and a year in jail.
Amid waves of controversy, Georgetown University, a Jesuit school in Washington, D. C., temporarily shut down its radio station WGTB-FM for “reorganization and technical renovation.” University officials and many listeners had complained about objectionable language, program content that was counter to the station’s stated policy, and lack of university control over staffers and programming. There was also a threat of intervention by the Federal Communications Commission.
American Lutheran Church executive George S. Schultz, 59, was elected president of the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A., a pan-Lutheran program agency. Because of reduced cooperation by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in LCUSA’s programs and funding, the budget has been cut to $2.6 million for next year, down $130,000, and there have been further staff and project cutbacks.
Union conversations have been reopened between the 1.8 million-member United Church of Christ and the 1.3 million-member Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Negotiations had been broken off upon the establishment of the Consultation on Church Union (COCU) in the expectancy that COCU would bring about wider Protestant union, according to leaders. COCU, however, has become bogged down.
United Methodist publishing executive Roger L. Burgess was elected part-time executive secretary of the Protestant Church-Owned Publishers Association, and publisher Lloyd H. Knox of the Free Methodist Church was elected president. The PCPA has twenty-four members, including publishing houses of most major Protestant denominations. It reports combined sales of $160 million a year.
In the future, when United Methodist-related colleges and universities seek to disaffiliate with the denomination, it will be considered a “normal process of response to take whatever steps are necessary to determine whether any endowment or capital funds are recoverable” for the church, according to a denominational directive. Some schools have severed church ties in order to qualify for greater federal aid.
Parochial and other religiously operated schools are affected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, but only if the schools receive federal funds administered through the U. S. Commissioner of Education’s office. The law gives parents access to children’s school records and certain control over their use.
Senator Richard S. Schweiker of Pennsylvania introduced legislation in Congress that would exempt the Amish and members of several other small groups from paying Social Security taxes. The groups consider Social Security a form of insurance, and they object to insurance on religious grounds. They feel it compromises their dependence on God (and each other) to care for their future needs.
The Israeli Supreme Court upheld the authority of police to ban Jews from praying on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a site sacred also to Muslims (according to Islamic legend, Muhammad ascended into heaven from here). The Jewish religious establishment forbids Jews from setting foot on the former temple ground, but some Jews have held prayer meetings in adjacent areas, infuriating devout Arabs. Police last year arrested eight young Jewish prayer demonstrators.
Some 130 Christians from ten countries engaged in cooperative evangelistic outreach at the recent Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. Nearly 1,000 persons visited the coffeehouse run by the Christian group, more than 30,000 Scripture portions in twenty-two languages were handed out, and there were films, concerts, and other activities.
Operation Mobilization’s missionary ship Logos has in its five-year tour visited 117 ports in thirty-eight countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia. More than two million visitors have been hosted aboard the vessel. Books are displayed and sold, Christian literature is distributed, and conferences are held for pastors and other Christian leaders. Its crew has had opportunities to minister in many places closed to traditional missionary work. A sister ship may soon be added.
The Islamic religious leadership in Egypt is backing a move to give more rights to women. A new draft law protects wives from quick automatic divorces by their spouses, and it grants them the right to sue for divorce if their husbands take other wives (Islamic law permits a man to have four wives, but only 2 per cent of Egyptian husbands have more than one, and many Egyptians would like to see polygamy vanish completely).
The foreign-relations unit of the Church of Norway has objected publicly to the dismissal of two Russian Orthodox clergymen from their church jobs. The priests, Gleb Jakunin and Dimitri Dudko, wrote a letter to the World Council of Churches assembly in Nairobi last fall asking for WCC support for the exercise of human rights in the Soviet Union. Dutch church leaders too are following the case closely.
A Common Market survey of nearly 10,000 persons in nine countries concludes that the happiest people in western Europe are those living together without being married (23 per cent of unmarried couples described themselves as very happy but only 17 per cent of the married people and 13 per cent of the singles). Of more significance to church leaders, say observers, is the fact that so many Europeans are unhappy.
Eleven Auca Indians were baptized in the initial phase of a missionary effort by neighboring Quechua Indians in the Ecuadorian jungle.
Sudan Interior Mission linguists have started work on the Gurage language. The Gurages, who number around 750,000, are located about 110 miles southwest of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The first congregation was started in 1971 with about twenty believers. Early last year there were 100. Presently there are more than 200 in three congregations. Two Ethiopian evangelists are working among them.
An English clergyman has complained that the cremated remains of an elderly woman, due for burial in the local churchyard, arrived at his vicarage—by mail.
Writing in his parish magazine, vicar Peter Spivey of the Yorkshire parish of Meltham said that he found this increasingly common practice on the part of morticians “degrading and distasteful.” The woman had been cremated in London; the undertaker paid $3.70 in mailing fees to ship the small metal box containing the ashes.
Vicar Spivey is now advising parishioners to add a provision to their wills specifying that they “not be sent by registered post for burial.”
J. D. DOUGLAS
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