The following account of a significant Christian youth gathering in Europe is based on reports filed by correspondents Robert P. Evans and Dale G. Vought, and on a dispatch by the Ecumenical Press Service.
At first glance, Mission ‘76 seemed like a replay of the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization. The site, the spacious Palais de Beaulieu in Lausanne, Switzerland, was the same. Both events were attended by several thousand participants concerned about reaching the world for Christ. But contrasts with the 1974 congress soon became apparent, too.
Most of the roughly 3,000 persons who gathered at Lausanne during the last week of 1975 were young people, many were students, and they came from twenty countries on one continent. (The world congress in 1974 attracted 4,000 persons, the vast majority of them seasoned Christian leaders, from 150 lands on five continents and in Oceana.)
Northern Europeans dominated the registration list. There were large groups from England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries. Forty came from Finland. Most were housed in university dormitories, army barracks, and private homes. English and French were the main platform languages, with simultaneous translation into eight other tongues.
The event was sponsored by the European Student Missionary Association which maintains chapters at fifteen Bible institutes and colleges. Lending important support were Campus Crusade for Christ, Operation Mobilization, Youth for Christ, and Youth With a Mission.
While the plight of the millions in the Third World was a major concern to both the world congress in 1974 and the Mission ‘76 body, secularized Western society as a needy and strategic mission field got more attention at Mission ‘76 than at the 1974 gathering. France’s Yves Perrier and Germany’s Anton Schulte and Werner Burtlin, leading evangelicals in their countries, hammered home this theme.
Some leaders representing the Third World differed from certain views expressed by key speakers at the 1974 meeting. Opening speaker Luis Palau, an Argentine-born evangelist operating out of Mexico City (see December 19, 1975, issue, page 31), said that evangelism is more important than even food for the hungry, if the choice had to be made. In an interview, Palau told correspondent Robert P. Evans that much of what had been called in 1974 “the cultural imperialism of missionaries,” especially of missionaries in Latin America, was exaggeration.
News of the accidental death of African evangelical leader Byang Kato of Nigeria (see January 16 issue, page 30) reached Lausanne just before he was scheduled to arrive there as a speaker. Pastor Kassoum Keita of Mali at the last minute took his topic, “the lostness of man.” (Another scheduled speaker replaced earlier was Paul Little of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, who was killed in an auto accident in Canada last summer. Little had been one of Mission ‘76’s key advisors.)
India’s Akbar Abdul Haqq was among a group of speakers who presented a series of talks on the world’s great religions. Important regions of the world were examined by Britain’s Michael Griffiths of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, Hector Espinoza of Mexico, Fouad Accad of Lebanon, and others.
One night the participants took to the streets in a witness march. Bearing banners and signs, they proceeded through the downtown area to the 700-year-old Lausanne Cathedral (see photo). Here they joined townspeople for a program of contemporary music and a message by evangelist Perrier. On the next night hundreds of the young people filled the aisles back at the meeting hall as Perrier called for dedication to service wherever the Lord might lead.
An international panel moderated by Paul Feuter of the United Bible Societies confronted young people with the realities of modern missionary work. Only 5 per cent of the missionary force is at work in non-Christian areas, the panelists pointed out. The majority, they said, are concentrated in regions where Christianity is already known. The sending of missionaries is still necessary, they affirmed, provided that those sent are familiar with the culture and socio-political climate in which they will work, that they are well trained, and that their coming has the approval of churches and local groups.
More than 100 missions and other outreach agencies sponsored display booths where the young people could get free literature and chat with missionaries and mission leaders. A book store did brisk business; thousands of volumes in a variety of languages were snatched up.
Correspondent Evans says that the Mission ‘76 youth missionary conference was the first such gathering held in Europe. It had its roots in the annual conferences organized by chapters of the Evangelical Student Missionary Association (ESMA), formed twenty years ago at the Greater Europe Mission’s European Bible Institute near Paris. Attendance at the ESMA conferences never numbered more than several hundred, and the programs were limited in scope.
Mission ‘76’s chief organizer was Eric Gay of Switzerland, a 1973 graduate of the European Bible Institute and a former ESMA president. Several years ago he recruited six other recent EBI alumni from three countries to help plan a continental conference patterned after Inter-Varsity’s triennial student missionary conventions at Urbana. One of the seven, Jane Balcomb of England, was sent to Urbana to pick up tips on planning, and the group studied the program and logistics of the 1974 Lausanne congress.
Although Gay and his friends acted in the name of ESMA, the student organization had no financial resources. Nevertheless, the organizers raised enough money to meet Mission ‘76’s $250,000 budget and to give an offering of more than $50,000 for missionary work throughout the world.
Gay—who hopes to become the first full-time ESMA representative in Europe—and his co-workers foresee the possibility of annual regional conferences in different parts of Europe, building up to an Urbana-like one every four years or so.
Farewell Again, Father Dimitri
The Soviets won’t leave Father Dimitri Dudko alone. Under pressure from the government, church officials transferred him in May, 1974, from the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow to the small rural parish of Kabanovo fifty miles away. Now he’s been removed from that church, too.
As pastor of St. Nicholas in Moscow, Dudko had attracted a large hearing for his sermons. In them he frequently called for spiritual renewal, and he often showed that Soviet life failed to measure up to biblical and moral norms. He also conducted packed-out question-and-answer sessions at the church. These were attended by many young people and intellectuals, including Alexander Solzhenitsyn on occasion (see June 7, 1974, issue, page 47).
After he was transferred under protest to Kabanovo, many young people traveled weekly from Moscow to hear him preach.
Dudko, 54, who spent eight years in labor camps under Stalin, told newsmen that his superiors gave no reason for his latest ouster. He said his sermons at Kabanovo dealt with religious themes and generally called on people to return to “a Christian way of life.”
The priest has asked Metropolitan Serafim of Moscow for a new parish, but he’s not holding his breath. There have been hints, says he, that his preaching days are over as far as the Soviet authorities are concerned.
A lot of churches will catch on fire this year—literally. An average of one church, synagogue, or other religious building in the United States is destroyed by fire every five hours, and another is damaged, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Nearly half the fires occur at night and in cities of more than 50,000 population. Arson, defective heating equipment, and defective wiring are the chief causes. Most fires begin in storage areas and furnace rooms. Frequent safety checks, sprinklers, and alarm systems are key defense items, says Chicago clergyman David A. Works, who heads the religious-affairs division of the National Safety Council. Losses in church fires amount to some $30 million annually, he says.
The Hare Krishna Temple of Toronto recently purchased a historic downtown evangelical church building for $400,000. Known as Avenue Road Church, it was packed in the 1940s by crowds thronging to hear the preaching of evangelist Charles Templeton. The Christian and Missionary Alliance acquired the building in 1948, but the congregation decided last year to relocate in suburbia. The Krishna people plunked down $150,000 and arranged for first and second mortgages with the CMA and a bank.
Krishna leaders also announced the return to the fold of Linda Epstein, who had been “deprogrammed” amid much publicity last year by cult foe Ted Patrick of San Diego. Miss Epstein told reporters that she had left Krishna Consciousness “under duress,” and that her parents had paid Patrick a fee of $2,000.
Meanwhile, the Krishna group has been winning important court battles, enabling followers to keep on soliciting donations in public buildings, notably airport terminals.
LESLIE K. TARR
Stopping The Siege
Churchmen played an important role in bringing to an end last month’s well-publicized twelve-day siege of a train in the Netherlands and sixteen-day siege of the Indonesian consulate in Amsterdam by South Moluccan terrorists. They persuaded the bands of young rebels to release their hostages and to surrender without further bloodshed (three hostages were killed aboard the train and one died when he leaped from the consulate).
The two key mediators between the terrorists and the authorities were Johannes Manusama, 62, a Rotterdam mathematics teacher, and Samuel Metiari, 58, pastor of a South Moluccan congregation in northern Holland.
Manusama is the Bible-reading president of the self-styled government-inexile of the Republic of the South Moluccas. There are an estimated 35,000 South Moluccans in the Netherlands. Many came as refugees after an abortive uprising to gain independence in 1950, when the Dutch ended their rule in the Indonesian archipelago. At that time the South Molucca islands—known also as Spice Islands—became part of Indonesia. Many South Moluccans are devout adherents of the Reformed faith, while the predominant religion of Indonesia is Islam.
The thirteen young men involved in the siege (six on the train and seven at the consulate) demanded help in getting an independent homeland for their people in exchange for release of the hostages (twenty-three on the train, twenty-five at the consulate).
The older generation for years has been praying for independence, commented an observer, and the young people have become impatient. Now, says he, they feel they must fight for their freedom.
Manusama and Metiari appealed frequently to the religious heritage of the youths over the days of negotiation. Toward the end, Bible reading, singing of psalms, prayers, and tears marked some of the sessions, with several of the hostages joining in.
The terrorists face long prison terms, some possibly for life.
What item would you select for a Bicentennial time capsule to represent what Americans have become in 200 years?
That was the question asked of scores of “opinion moulders” by TWA Ambassador, the in-flight magazine of Trans World Airlines. The answers ranged from Bibles and credit cards to Watergate tapes and a “Peanuts” cartoon.
Evangelist Billy Graham chose an open Bible because, he wrote, “this reminds us first of all that our nation has deep spiritual roots in the soil of the Scripture. This nation was founded by God-fearing men and women who sought to build a nation on the foundation of God’s unchanging moral truths. Second, the open Bible is a challenge to us as we enter our third century—to rediscover the spiritual commitment and moral fiber that have helped build our nation.”
Singer Pat Boone also chose the Bible, but he specified a copy of the Living Bible paraphrase because “the printing and distribution of this book, in which America has taken the lead, is the single most important contribution America has made to the world.”
Well-known rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum chose the concept of democratic pluralism.
THE LONGEST SERMON
A few months ago Pastor Robert Marshall of the Birmingham Unitarian Church in suburban Detroit read in a church publication that a new record had been set in non-stop preaching. The previous record had been established in 1955 by independent preacher Clinton Locy, then in his sixties, in a West Richland, Washington, church basement. Locy’s sermon, blared to townspeople on loud speakers, lasted 48 hours and 18 minutes, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The paper Marshall was reading reported that Unitarian minister Robin Williamson of County Antrim in Northern Ireland had set a new Guinness record last July with a sermon lasting 60 hours and 25 minutes.
To Marshall, 55, a former bookseller, it was all a challenge. So, at 12:01 A.M. on New Year’s Day, a Thursday, he stepped to the pulpit and began preaching. He did not stop until 12:32 PM. on Saturday—60 hours and 31 minutes later, besting Williamson by six minutes. Or so it seemed. Marshall learned much later from a news service that he had been sort of victimized by a typographical error: Williamson’s sermon had lasted only 50 hours and 25 minutes, not 60.
Marshall’s 1,120-page (double-spaced) sermon was entitled “From Abraham to Augustine.” But he managed to complete only 850 pages, stopping somewhere in Acts. On hand when he stopped was a standing-room-only crowd of some 400 members of the 700-family congregation that he has served for fourteen years. They gave him a standing ovation. For more than an hour afterward they milled about, shaking hands and congratulating him. Many had manned an attendance-shift plan that provided Marshall with round-the-clock audiences—and with the necessary witnesses required by Guinness. His church board had debated the proposal for three months before granting him cautious approval.
The cleric in an interview described the post-sermon celebration as “almost a revival experience, as if the Holy Spirit had visited us.” It was, he added hastily, “a heart-warming affirmation of the human spirit.”
The last ten hours were the toughest, he stated. He said he experienced spatial disorientation (stationary objects appeared to move), and he had to keep asking his hearers if he was making sense (they said he was). “I kept dreaming while I was preaching,” he explained.
In accordance with the Guinness guidelines, Marshall took a five-minute break each hour. During some of the breaks his wife Doris and several friends led him around the church courtyard in subfreezing temperatures to help keep him awake. At the pulpit he consumed vitamin pills, raisins, throat lozenges, vegetable soup, and lots of orange juice and coffee. Part of the time he preached while perched on a stool.
When it was all over, he went to bed and slept from 3:00 P.M. Saturday until 8:00 A M. Sunday. Then he began packing for a sabbatical study leave at the University of Haifa in Israel.
EDWARD E. PLOWMAN
Religion In Transit
Evangelist Billy Graham’s bookAngels (Doubleday) for several weeks last month and this month ranked near the top on the non-fiction bestsellers’ lists published by Time and the New York Times (more than a million copies of the book are in print). Observers say it is rare for evangelical books to make such lists. Graham recently returned from a three-months tour around the world during which time he met with a number of heads of state and discussed world conditions. On New Year’s Eve he made a major television address on more than 300 stations, calling the nation to a year of prayer, humiliation, and fasting.
President Ford this month signed into law the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act, enabling an estimated 33,000 American missionaries and hundreds of thousands of other citizens working abroad to vote in federal elections. It provides that absentee ballots can be filed in the state of last residence, at the same time nullifying the past requirement of filing a declaration of intent to resume residence in a given state upon one’s return. The new law, which was before Congress for ten years, also prohibits income taxes from being levied on the basis of absentee voting.
If a minister’s congregation gives him rent-free housing as part of his pay, he doesn’t have to pay income tax on the rental value of the housing. If he dies, however, and his widow is allowed to stay in the rent-free house, she must declare its value as income and pay tax on it. Republican congressman John J. Duncan of Tennessee has introduced a bill that would enable such a widow to retain her church-provided housing tax-free. The U. S. Treasury department opposes it—and some tax officials are pressing for removal of housing exemptions from ministers.
Some overseas missionaries report they are victims of harassment and suspicion as a result of recent publicity of alleged links between the Central Intelligence Agency and certain mission personnel. They insist that most missionaries have never had such ties, and they would like to see the matter disappear from press notice. The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries meanwhile issued a stern warning, threatening to fire any missionary “knowingly engaged in intelligence activities.”
When the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver purchased the six-story Bankers Union Life Building in the city, church members discovered that one of the tenants was the Central Intelligence Agency, whose lease does not expire until next year. Protesters picketed the building and complained to archdiocesan leaders. A spokesman said existing leases would be honored but ruled out any working relationship between the church and the federal agency.
The clergy-deployment office of the Episcopal Church has contracted with Snelling and Snelling, a worldwide employment agency, to help clergymen find jobs outside the church. The move may be a first among denominations. Of seventy-eight applicants so far, fifty-one have obtained job offers. The Episcopal Church presently has a clergy surplus,and some priests simply feel they can be happier or more effective in a secular position. The number of ministers seeking work elsewhere is a growing problem for many denominations, says a Snelling and Snelling spokesman.
President M. G. “Pat” Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) announced plans to build a $23 million international headquarters and communications school to teach broadcasting to students from around the world. To be located at Virginia Beach, Virginia, it will include two large television studios, a satellite-transmitting facility, a 2,400-seat conference center, and a school of theology. CBN recently received a Distinguished Merit Citation from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Sign of the times: Evangelist Duane Pederson of Hollywood, California, changed the name of his organization from Jesus People International to International Christian Ministries “to create a wider base of operation.” Part of his time currently is spent in prison ministry.
Catholic Bishop Raymond A. Lucker, the newly appointed head of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, has declared himself: he’s part of the charismatic renewal. Spiritual renewal is the single most important need of the church, he told a newsman. “The Lord calls us to a deep conversion and to a faith in his word and response to his revelation,” he said.
A Pennsylvania superior court ruling last month left the state with no law governing or controlling smut. In overturning a 1973 conviction, it held that the state’s laws—based on a “community standards” provision—were unconstitutional and unenforceable. Earlier, a higher court okayed X-rated movies and a commercial photo studio featuring nude models.
Bishop Demetrius of Olympus, 65, the spiritual leader of Greek Orthodox churches in the Midwest, has retired.
The William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Christian College Consortium, of Washington, D. C., an alliance of evangelical colleges, have jointly established the Christian University Press to publish books dealing with Christian thought.
Nearly half of the 10,000 persons who contacted Intercristo in 1975 were put in touch with Christian organizations having specific work opportunities, says an Intercristo spokesman. Based in Seattle, Intercristo serves as sort of a computerized bulletin board of Christian job opportunities for job seekers. Its toll-free number is 800-426-0507.
The twelve-member Board of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church voted to increase the denomination’s four-year budget from $1.5 million to $3 million. Approval must be given at the church’s quadrennial conference in Chicago in May.
C. EWBANK TUCKER, 80, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, attorney, and civil rights activist who backed President Nixon; in Louisville, Kentucky.
LESLIE D. WEATHERHEAD, 82, well-known British Methodist minister, pastor of London’s City Temple from 1936 to 1960, and author of more than thirty books, many of them on the relationship between religion and psychology; in London.
New Testament professor Simon J. Kistemaker of Reformed Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, was elected president of the Evangelical Theological Society at the ETS annual meeting in Jackson. Edmund P. Clowney of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia was elected vice-president and thus will probably succeed Kistemaker next year. More than 130 attended the meeting.
New bishop: Episcopal clergyman Martin Tilson, 53, was named to head the Diocese of Louisiana, succeeding the late Bishop Iveson Noland, killed in a plane crash last year.
Resigned: Larry Kehler, as editor of The Mennonite, the weekly periodical of the General Conference Mennonite Church published in Newton, Kansas. Effective August 31.
Evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman had a mitral valve replaced in open-heart surgery at the Tulsa General Hospital last month. Before operating, the surgical team held hands while Evangelist Oral Roberts prayed for them and touched them, according to a witness. Miss Kuhlman has had heart trouble since she was a child, says her secretary.
A church version of the World Bank, the Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society, has been established in the Netherlands to provide capital for loans to churches in developing nations. The venture is headed by Cyril Bennett, financial secretary of the British Methodist Missionary Society.
Hans W. Florin, 47, an ecumenical media specialist of Hamburg, Germany, is the new general secretary of the World Association for Christian Communication.
A number of missionaries who formerly served in Cambodia and South Viet Nam are working in France among the many Indochina refugees there, and the French Evangelical Alliance has set up a fund to aid the displaced persons.
A record 64.8 million people visited famous shrines and Buddhist temples throughout Japan during the first three days of the new year to pray for good luck, according to Japanese police officials. They cite as reasons good weather and the national recession, which apparently caused many to turn to Shintoist and Buddhist deities for help.
The leading religious periodicals in Britain have suffered a loss of 500,000 in circulation in the past decade, according to a recent study. Only the Salvation Army’s War Cry showed an increase. Higher prices because of rising costs were blamed.
The world’s Jewish population is estimated at 14.2 million, according to the 1976 American Jewish Yearbook. Of these, 5.7 million live in the United States, 2.9 million are in Israel, and 2.7 million are Soviet citizens.
Church attendance last year, according to a national Gallup Poll, remained at the same level as in the four previous years: 40 per cent of America’s adults and about 30 per cent of its young adults (age 18–29 years) attended church or synagogue services in a typical week. Young adult attendance declined from 40 per cent in the late 1960s. The 1975 figures reveal that 54 per cent of the nation’s Catholics and 38 per cent of its Protestants attended church during the test week, while 21 per cent of the Jews attended synagogue. Of the 71 per cent holding membership in a church or synagogue, only a little over half attended that week.
Twenty per cent of those polled said they had participated during that week in religious activities other than church services,” such as prayer group meetings, Bible reading classes, and the like.”
On another topic, a Scholastic magazine survey of teen-agers found that 86 per cent believe a religious ceremony is important to a marriage.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more