With the triennial convention of the Episcopal Church less than four months away, opposing forces are digging in for battle. The two main issues concern acceptance of women into the priesthood and approval of a new Book of Common Prayer. Whatever the outcome on the women’s issue, some congregations are expected to leave the denomination. And a number of congregations vow they will use only the old-version prayer book. Some conservatives are saying that structural machinery has been set up secretly to receive schismatic congregations.

The prayer book issue, primarily of interest only to Episcopalians, is not as volatile as the one on women, but it affects directly more people in the pews. The book, a guide to liturgy and worship dating from the sixteenth century, has been undergoing revision for the last twelve years. Opponents of change contend that the revisions not only damage the beauty and majesty of the old liturgical language and styles but also imperil doctrinal purity. Advocates of change say the updating is necessary to facilitate understanding and to help keep the church abreast of the times. The new book incorporates on an experimental basis all the changes thus far. It must be approved by this year’s convention and the next one in 1979 to be final.

The women’s issue is more complicated and has already brought a degree of upheaval to the denomination. A majority of the church’s bishops favor opening the priesthood to women, and they are expected to vote accordingly as they did in 1973. Their vote, however, was nullified by the other branch of the governing body of the church—the House of Deputies (four clergymen and four laypersons from each of the 113 dioceses). Whether that will happen again this year is the burning question. Secretary Janice Duncan of the National Coalition for the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood and Episcopacy says preliminary surveys indicate that “we are within a dozen votes of having the necessary majority—far ahead of what we had in 1973.”

If women’s ordination is again voted down, some bishops and dioceses say they will proceed on their own to ordain qualified women. And Ohio bishop John Burt, for one, has vowed to resign.

On the other hand, if it is approved, a group of conservatives in the denomination say they will “refuse to recognize the validity” of such action. Ordination rests on scriptural standards, not majority vote, they say. In a written statement they warn that unity will be shattered. They express confidence that God will “in due season open an acceptable way of preserving the Christian heritage we have received.” Signers of the statement include representatives of The Living Church, the American Church Union, The Certain Trumpet, Episcopal Renaissance, The Christian Challenge, Foundation for Christian Theology, the Canterbury Guild, Episcopal Guild for the Blind, Episcopalians United, and The Anglican Digest.

Article continues below

Developments related to the women’s ordination issue have been piling up during the past few months.

A church appeals court in Wisconsin unanimously overturned the conviction of rector L. Peter Beebe, 30, of Christ Church in Oberlin, Ohio, ruling he had been denied due process. Beebe had been found guilty of defying Bishop Burt by a church tribunal in Akron, Ohio, last year. He had permitted two women to celebrate communion over Burt’s objections. The women were among fifteen ordained earlier by retired bishops in rebel action subsequently ruled invalid by the House of Bishops. (Although many of the bishops favor women’s ordination, they want to await official action on it by the convention). Burt fired Beebe before the appellate decision was handed down, and Christ Church split, with 100 members meeting with Beebe for worship elsewhere. Beebe says he will ask for a new trial.

A compromise agreement averted a split at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church in Washington, D.C. When the church hired Alison Cheek, one of the fifteen illegally (or irregularly) ordained women, as a priest contrary to the wishes of Bishop William Creighton, the bishop threatened to suspend or unfrock rector William Wendt. The clergyman had been reprimanded by a church court earlier for defying Creighton in allowing Mrs. Cheek to officiate at communion. The church decided in a stormy session to switch Mrs. Cheek to part-time status and asked her to confine her priestly functions to home gatherings, something agreeable to Creighton.

Bishop Ned Cole of Central New York Diocese announced he will postpone the trials of one of the women along with a priest in connection with a communion celebration. He says he will wait until after the convention because “an ecclesiastical court is no place to decide the resolution of the issue.” The two are Betty Bone Schiess and Walter N. Welsh. Ms. Schiess has asked the U. S. Equal Opportunity Commission to rule that Cole is guilty of sex discrimination in refusing her a license to function as a priest. The church canons (laws), she argues, do not forbid female priests. She also took her case to the New York state human rights commission, which so far has not taken any action.

Article continues below

Two of the fifteen women have left the Episcopal Church because of all the uproar. They are Merrill Bittner, 28, of Rochester, New York, and Marie Moorhead of Topeka, Kansas, who switched to the United Methodist Church. How many of the others may leave if the vote goes against them is uncertain. Altogether, some 120 women who have been legally ordained as deacons are awaiting the convention’s decision. Meanwhile, a Catholic nun, Alice Dale Callaghan, 27, of Pasadena, California, left her order to join the Episcopal Church, where she will seek ordination to the priesthood.

Orthodox and Catholic observers warn that unity talks between the Episcopal Church and their church bodies will be hurt if women’s ordination is approved. A sister communion, the Anglican Church of Canada, has voted to permit ordination of women as priests beginning this October.

Episcopal presiding bishop John Allin says he wants to maintain neutrality on the issue, but earlier this year he told a Mississippi audience that he expects the convention to vote approval of women’s ordination.

On another front, another controversy is simmering. The standing committee of the Newark, New Jersey, diocese unanimously endorsed the election of John Spong as an assistant bishop and urged other church leaders to ignore criticisms of him circulated by conservatives. A group of seventy persons, including editor Carroll Simcox of The Living Church, executive director Robert Morse of the American Church Union, and editor Howard Foland of the Anglican Digest, signed a letter objecting to Spong’s theology. Spong’s selection must be approved by a majority of the 113 diocesan bishops, and their standing committees (diocesan policy making units).

The seventy urged the bishops and committees to withhold their consent if they found Spong “still stands upon an unorthodox view of the nature of our Lord, or other matters of Christian belief.” They quoted from Spong’s book, This Hebrew Lord, and a statement he made in a Christian-Jewish dialog during 1974: “… it would be inaccurate both historically and theologically to portray the Christian position as asserting that Jesus is God.” Passages from the book are quoted in which Spong questions the literalness of the resurrection and ascension of Christ, the account of the resurrection of Lazarus, and the like.

Spong replied that some of what he said was taken out of context, that a difference must be made between the “framework” of the faith and the manner in which it is expressed, and that he still holds to “orthodox” positions on essentials of the faith. The Episcopal Church, he stated, allows freedom of biblical interpretation and does not require “fundamentalism.”

Article continues below
Liberty For Some

A new stand on the remarriage of divorced persons and a new constitution for the denomination’s 1,434 local churches were hammered out by delegates to the General Council of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Norfolk, Virginia, last month.

Beating back repeated efforts from the floor to give elders a larger role in administering the local church, the 1,400 clergy and lay delegates also concluded a six-year process of reorganization of the denomination’s structures. The new constitution does not require baptism for membership (that requirement hindered its adoption a year ago) and continues to give to pastors and local executive committees (rather than to elders or deacons of congregations) the dominant leadership role in the churches.

The council reaffirmed its opposition to divorce on any other than scriptural grounds but failed to spell out its understanding of the nature and extent of those grounds. At one point it adopted a 2,500-word statement of policy on marriage-divorce-remarriage only to vote to refer it back to a study commission in the closing moments of the business session.

Despite that action, the council voted to delete from denominational bylaws two provisions that have proven troublesome in many churches. Persons who have been divorced and remarried may now serve as elders and deacons, and for the first time since 1921 CMA pastors may perform the marriage ceremony for divorced persons.

The council balked at giving its pastors the same liberty it had just granted its lay people: it resoundingly defeated an attempt to grant an exception, under certain circumstances, to its hard line against the remarriage of clergymen after a divorce. A new clause was added that will prohibit any official worker (pastor, missionary, national staff officer) from marrying a divorced person.

The 105,000-member denomination’s growth rate for 1975 was reported to be the second highest among North American church bodies. Seventy-five new churches were begun in 1975. Twenty-three of these were Vietnamese churches established to minister to the 1,800 CMA-related refugees and the 2,500 Vietnamese converted in refugee camps last year.

Article continues below

An impassioned appeal by several former missionaries from Viet Nam that they be permitted to work alongside the Vietnamese pastors in North America was opposed by officials of the denomination who oversee the fledgling Vietnamese work. Fears were voiced that further evangelistic work by missionaries would create a body of converts who could not be adequately discipled by the existing churches.

Featured in public services were four of the five CMA missionaries released last October after six months of imprisonment by the North Vietnamese. Three missionaries captured by the Viet Cong in 1962 and unaccounted for since then were officially taken off missionary allowance.


Message To The Proletariat

Jesus is the only true and exemplary teacher of the proletariat.

An approach built around a statement like that might be one way to take the Gospel to mainland China, said director James Tai of the newly formed Chinese School of World Missions in Pasadena, California. Tai, who formerly directed Campus Crusade for Christ’s work on Taiwan, made his remarks at a recent three-night missions conference attended by more than 150 Chinese-Americans living in southern California. He told of his dream of a task force of 100,000 Chinese young people mobilized to work as missionaries, either full-time or in conjunction with other vocations. The time has come, he said, for the Chinese to establish their own missions to reach Chinese.

Other speakers included Donald McGavran of Fuller Seminary and Mary Wang of the London-based Overseas Christian Mission.

Tai’s school provides both short-and long-term missionary training in English and Chinese. He is assisted by Fuller’s School of World Mission.

Hunger At Home

World hunger is a major topic on the agendas of many church groups these days, and a number of church bodies are allocating funds to help the hungry. When these funds are voted in denominational conventions, the average delegate assumes the money will be used to purchase and distribute food overseas. Sometimes, however, the money is also used for purposes the delegate has not envisioned as part of the battle against world hunger.

For example, the National Task Force on World Hunger for the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. (Southern) recently gave Faith Presbyterian Church of Dunedin, Florida, $10,000 to support boycott projects of the United Farm Workers.

Faith’s reasoning goes something like this: Migrant farm workers receive substandard pay and benefits for their work, income is undependable, work and living conditions are bad, and many families are poor and hungry—as a result. The UFW is working to improve the lot of the workers and to help them achieve self-determination. Therefore, by helping the UFW, the church ultimately is helping to cure the causes of hunger among the workers’ families.

Article continues below

Coordinator Colleen Huss of the Atlanta-based Southern Presbyterian task force says the grant is a first for her denomination. The church, she states, has not taken a stand endorsing the UFW, but the grant shows “we will provide support for a local church that sees working with farm workers as a part of its ministry.” The program is a model for local-church involvement in UFW organizing efforts, says Wayne C. Hartmire, director of the National Farm Worker Ministry in California.

Hartmire, Ms. Huss, several other migrant-ministry specialists, and UFW organizers helped pastor Fred Webb and the people at Faith draw up the proposal. Included is a seven-page statement, “Theological and Ethical Reasons for Supporting the United Farm Workers’ Union,” attempting to justify biblically the church’s involvement.

Religious Book Awards

Winners of the national religious book awards were announced last month at the joint convention of the Catholic Press Association and the Associated Church Press, held in Washington, D. C. In previous years the Catholic periodicals had presented awards, but this was the first time that the major Protestant periodicals had joined with them in sponsorship.

The books, which had to be published in North America in 1975, were divided into ten categories, and in three of them the judges declared co-winners. The results: (1) Scripture: The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament by John McHugh (Doubleday); (2) History/Biography: Jesus: The Man Who Lives by Malcolm Muggeridge (Harper & Row); (3) Theology: Thinking About God by John MacQuarrie (Harper & Row) and The Priesthood of Christ and His Ministers by Andre Feuillet (Doubleday); (4) Personal/Family: Partnership: Marriage and the Committed Life by Edward DuFresne (Paulist); (5) Community Life: The New Demons by Jacques Ellul (Seabury) and A New Pentecost? by Cardinal Leon Suenens (Seabury); (6) Religion/Society: Bread For the World by Arthur Simon (Paulist and Eerdmans); (7) Youth: The Secret Country of C. S. Lewis by Anne Arnott (Eerdmans); (8) Illustrated: Landscape and Inscape by Peter Milward (Eerdmans) and Jesus, Son of God by Eugen Weiler (Franciscan Herald); (9) Fiction: A Nun in the Closet by Dorothy Gilman (Doubleday); (10) Special: The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, five volumes, edited by Merrill Tenney (Zondervan).

Article continues below

A majority of the winning authors are Europeans.

Bad News For Editors

It was not the happiest convention on record for either the Associated Church Press or the Catholic Press Association. The two associations held joint sessions in Washington, D. C., last month. The ACP, composed mostly of Protestant journals but including some Orthodox and Catholic magazines, is declining in membership and digging into reserves to meet its payroll. The CPA members came to the meeting after several months of internal struggle over the question of whether to support anti-censorship efforts.

At the closing banquet there was more bad news. The speaker took on a favorite organization of many of the editors, the National Council of Churches. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., administrator of the Energy Research and Development Administration, lashed out at the NCC governing board’s call for a moratorium on commercial development of plutonium as an energy source. It is an ethical question, the former space-program official told the editors, and the NCC has come out on the wrong side of the issue.

Seamans, an Episcopalian, reminded his audience of President Roosevelt’s “four freedoms” objectives of World War II.

“As representatives of the religious press in a free country, you exercise daily the first two of those freedoms,” said Seamans, referring to speech and religion. “The other two freedoms, from want and from fear, are not so solidly established, either here or abroad.”

The government official said that if the NCC and the editors are as interested in helping the poor and the unemployed as they profess to be, they should be the leaders in looking for new energy sources. Nuclear energy not only will mean jobs but also will be better for the environment, he declared.

“It’s pretty tough to be a nuclear engineer and find that millions of Christians are against you,” Seamans said. “I believe there is too much emotion and too little understanding of the issues. The benefits to mankind are rated too low, the risks too high, and the motivations of those involved should be more carefully evaluated and understood.”

Evaluating the ACP’s financial situation was the preoccupation of many of its leaders. Dues have been doubled over a three-year period, but the income has not been enough to pay the bills. A few members were added this year, but others were lost. The current roster is 139. Ray Dobbins, president, expects to be able to pay the bills through next June, but reserves may be depleted to do so. At that time the contract of the current executive secretary ends, and the ACP will be faced with the question of whether it can afford the services of a full-time executive.

Article continues below

Catholic editors who had challenged the leadership of their association for alleged failure to speak out against censorship lost their bid to replace that leadership. The two top officers of the CPA, president Jeremy Harrington of Cincinnati and vice-president Robert L. Fenton of New York, were reelected. The challenge to their leadership grew out of the CPA board’s refusal to make a firm judgment in the case of Edward Byington, who was dismissed as editor of the Anchor, the Fall River, Massachusetts, diocesan paper, by Bishop Daniel Cronin. The board had expressed “deep concern over instances of editor-publisher conflict.”

Evangelical Press: Pay Day Someday

Why don’t evangelical magazine editors (or preachers) get as much pay as the Christians who are professional athletes?

That question was not the theme of the annual convention of the Evangelical Press Association but it did come up during the meeting. At the Philadelphia sessions the editors came back again and again to an examination of “the evangelicals”—those “40 million” people who are being scrutinized so closely this election year by the secular media.

Asking about the pay of their peers was more of a joke than anything else. The more serious inquiry was about that mysterious voting bloc that some politicians are courting. The more than 200 editors and their guest speakers had little more than tentative answers.

A leading evangelical educator, President Edmund Clowney of Westminster Seminary, told the convention, “I don’t know where the figure of 40 million [evangelicals] comes from.”

Jeb Stuart Magruder, who went to jail for his part in Watergate expressed his doubt about the magnitude of such a bloc. Magruder, now an executive with Young Life, told a banquet audience that although a degree of Christian commitment is evident he considers the country largely “secular.”

Dean Kelley, the sociologist-minister on the staff of the National Council of Churches and author of Why Conservative Churches Are Growing, acknowledged that leaders of major denominations are becoming aware of the existence of evangelicals—but are not doing much about it.

Famed pediatric surgeon C. Everett Koop, a Presbyterian elder, suggested that if there has been evangelical influence in national life it is declining fast. His prime illustration was the changing views on sanctity of life.

Article continues below

The current era is very unstable, cautioned Time religion writer Richard Ostling, and even though evangelicals “somehow managed to survive the Nixon fiasco,” they may be “on the slide” soon. He suggested, during a luncheon address, that evangelicals take advantage of the leadership vacuum by taking hold of new issues.

The query about editors’ pay had its serious side. It came during an appearance at the convention by Pat Williams, general manager of the professional basketball team, the Philadelphia ’76ers. Sports stars get big money simply because popular demand for sports as entertainment leads the owners to bid competitively for the services of the top athletes, he explained. On another topic, he told how Sports Illustrated recently published a series of articles on religion in the sports world in response to widespread interest. The magazine rarely runs a series on anything, he said, and the volume of mail received about these articles was unprecedented in the publication’s history. The publicity for Christians contained in the series “couldn’t be bought for eight million dollars,” he commented.

Escalating costs of fielding professional teams are beginning to “cut the average fan out of the market,” the Philadelphia manager acknowledged. He raised a question about the values of Americans and what they are willing to pay for what they want.

Evangelicals may pay $5 or $10 for a seat at a ball game, but they are still not paying much for the publications they receive regularly. Many of the convention participants spoke of escalating costs, and they sought to learn how other publications are increasing revenue from non-subscription sources.

Reflecting the type of shoestring budget on which many of its members live, EPA itself has no full-time staff members. For the first time next fiscal year (starting July 1) its budget will exceed $50,000. The association continues to grow, however, with 250 publications enrolled. Its weekly news service has over 450 subscribers, an all-time high.



Awards are handed out at the annual meetings of the religious press associations, and this year Moody Monthly won top honors from the Evangelical Press Association as “Periodical of the Year.” Edited in Chicago by Jerry Jenkins, the 76-year-old magazine published by Moody Bible Institute also took first place for excellence in the general-magazine category. Other first-place excellence awards were won by The Church Herald (Reformed Church in America), World Vision (World Vision International), Worldwide Challenge (Campus Crusade for Christ), Freeway (Scripture Press), and Insight (Young Calvinist Federation).

Article continues below

The winner of the largest number of first places for individual features in the EPA competition was The Wittenburg Door (Youth Specialties). Especially cited was Door’s cover photo by Paul Lewis of a frazzled middle-age woman in curlers reading the best-seller The Total Woman. Discarded at the side of her easy chair is a copy of Moody Monthly, and emblazoned across the bottom of the Door’s cover is the issue theme: “The Totaled Woman.”

At the Associated Church Press meeting, four magazines and a newspaper received general-excellence awards: U.S. Catholic (Claretian Publications), Cathedral Age (Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation), Youth (United Church Press), These Times (Seventh-day Adventist Church), and The Mennonite Reporter (biweekly newspaper, Mennonite Publishing Service).

Baltimore: Bane And Blessing

Baltimore had been having a bad time. Just the month before, a councilman had been shot dead in City Hall. The governor of the state and leader of the party in power was facing trial on corruption charges. The party itself was being torn apart by a bitter presidential primary. Nevertheless the local politicians turned out en masse for the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. More than a thousand persons were on hand for the event, held appropriately enough on May 14, the date set aside by President Ford for the 1976 National Day of Prayer (see also editorial, page 30).

Speakers at the breakfast and at a luncheon gathering of similar size also spoke of blessings the city was enjoying. Mayor William Schaefer and finance director Charles Benton, both publicly acknowledging new commitments to Christ, were most thankful for the “answered prayers” enacted very narrowly by the state legislature, namely appropriations for a subway and convention center. Another reason noted for gratitude was the city’s rising credit rating.

For one reason or another the breakfast is traditionally held the day before the running of the Preakness, known as “the second jewel of horse racing’s triple crown.” Presumably, even non-betting Christians welcome the extra revenue brought into town by the sports classic. For whatever the fact may portend, however, the horse that came in last this year was named Life’s Hope.

Article continues below


Moon Mission

Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church has been attracting headline attention again. Last month it announced the purchase of the 41-floor, 2,000-room New Yorker Hotel to use as its “world mission center,” according to church president Neil A. Salonen. Funds for the purchase price—“in excess of five million dollars”—were raised around the world, he said. The church claims 30,000 members in the United States. They will be expected to raise the “million dollars or so a year” it will cost to maintain the center.

Moon has been advertising heavily his appearance at a church festival on June 1 at Yankee Stadium, at which time he will address a message to the nation.

Opposition to his movement continues to mount, however. A court is challenging its tax-exempt status in New York, where it has large property holdings. And a Jericho, Vermont, couple has filed a $1.8 million lawsuit against the church, charging it with holding their 19-year-old daughter, Tamara Schuppin, in involuntary servitude, with alienating her from them, and with violating federal labor laws as “a commercial enterprise” that has not paid the girl for work done. She left the University of Vermont last year to join the group.

A Unification Church spokesman dismissed the Schuppin charges as “totally ridiculous” and said the church attracts members “because of love.” He also accused Vermont of mounting a persecution campaign against the church.

Tommorow, The World

Garner Ted Armstrong, the golden-throated voice of “The World Tomorrow” broadcast of the Worldwide Church of God, has announced a goal of 2,000 radio stations for the program by 1980. Currently the program is being aired on 237 radio and 131 TV stations in the United States and Canada, plus an additional twenty-three international radio outlets. He told The Worldwide News, WCG internal information organ, that he wants to make it “impossible for Americans to disregard the program. The WCG “ought to be Number One” in religious broadcasting in America, he said. Stanley R. Rader, the WCG’s financial vice president, indicated that there will be changes in format as well and that the religious appeal will be intensified.

Armstrong made his announcement after an appearance before the National Association of Broadcasters in Chicago where he made off-the-cuff remarks and offered the invocation at a luncheon attended by 2,500 media personnel. (That night in Dallas he met Henry Kissinger and delivered to him a three-word message from Anwar Sadat: “I trust Henry.” Armstrong had recently returned from Cairo where he had interviewed Sadat for his television program.)

Article continues below

In another development, it was announced that the WCG’s staple publication The Plain Truth would revert to being a slick-paper monthly magazine after experiments as a biweekly and monthly tabloid. Circulation, which had peaked at 3.8 million with the November 22, 1975, issue, subsided to slightly over three million in March. The WCG is aiming for ten million circulation by 1980. The Plain Truth has been offered to the public free of charge throughout its forty-two-year history but in a March 11 letter to subscribers, Herbert W. Armstrong, founder and “pastor general” of the WCG (and Garner Ted’s father), solicited $5 payments toward the expense of sending the magazine to others (it will remain free to those requesting it, however).

Most notable of recent WCG innovations is the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation (AICF), “dedicated to the expansion of mankind’s collective knowledge and appreciation of itself, to the realization of the individual man’s full human potential, and to the building of bridges among all peoples everywhere.” Sparked by the administrative skill of Rader and the creative genius of Robert Kuhn, AICF’s executive vice presidents, the fledgling organization already has gained considerable notice on the Southern California cultural scene with its inaugural 1975–76 series of sixty-four concerts. The AICF picks up the tab for all the programs, ticket money being allocated to designated charities—or, if undesignated, to AICF philanthropies (such as archeological work in Jerusalem and Babylon). Visiting artists have hailed the lavish new $11 million Ambassador Auditorium as one of the finest concert halls in the world. Cultural programs in other American cities are projected, beginning with Milwaukee next year.

In addition to its concerts, the AICF will soon publish a lavish bimonthly journal. Human Potential. A pilot issue has been mailed to 30,000 charter subscribers. The first regular edition, to appear next fall, calls for an initial run of at least 100,000 copies with thousands to be placed on newsstands across the English-speaking world. Founding editor Kuhn hails it as the “flagship” of a series of quality publications to be produced by the AICF. Another project in the planning stage is a mobile archeological exhibit, to include a massive model of Jerusalem, which is being prepared for display by the AICF in major cities within the next few years.

Article continues below

Unaccredited since its founding in 1947, the WCG’s 800-student Ambassador College at Pasadena, California, was awarded “candidate” status by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges last year, and may win accreditation by next spring.

Despite adverse publicity and continuing defections following a major schism in 1974 (see March 15, 1974, issue, page 49; October 25, 1974, issue, page 48; and February 13, 1976, issue, page 62), the WCG reports net gains in membership over the past two years. Growth from 1973 to 1974 (when thirty-five ministers and 2,000 members bolted the church) was negligible, but baptized membership increased from 60,735 to 64,935 during 1975, and attendance averaged 95,188 last year, say WCG spokesmen. The membership figure includes 49,642 Americans, an increase of 2,400 since 1974. Income, which had climbed from $56 million in 1973 to $62 million in 1974, fell off to $60.7 million in 1975, but is on the increase again, say officials.

Former WCG executive Al Carrozzo says he knows of eighty ministers who have left the church in the past two years, but Rader insists the figure is highly inflated. The church acknowledges, however, that 2,988 members were “disfellowshipped” in 1974 and 1,808 in 1975, most of them U. S. members.

Disenchanted ex-members continue to charge WCG leadership with heresy, immorality, and mismanagement. Donald Prunkard, former pastor of three Minneapolis-area congregations who was dismissed last October because he pressed for doctrinal reform, was officially “disfellowshipped and marked” in March. “Marking,” similar to the Amish practice of “shunning,” imposes complete ostracism upon the offending individual.

Probably the most influential of the WCG detractors is Ernest L. Martin, former dean of the now-defunct Ambassador College in England and later chairman of the theology department at Pasadena. Although a universalist, Martin has adopted many points of evangelical doctrine. In two years of operation his Foundation for Biblical Research has distributed 230,000 pieces of literature and 25,000 cassette tapes, and it maintains a growing active mailing list of 5,200. Extensive lecture tours by staff members are being conducted throughout the United States and England.

The Associated Churches of God, headed by former WCG regional directors Ken Westby and George Kemnitz, reaches a more limited circle of former Armstrong adherents from offices in Columbia, Maryland. A newly formed organization of dissidents, some of them still members of the WCG, are airing their grievances through a publication entitled The Ambassador Review. Still further opposition emanates from Nashville, where William Hinson, former “local elder” (lay minister), slapped a $5 million lawsuit against Garner Ted Armstrong and the WCG last fall. The case involves Hinson’s loss of job and income after he decided to follow Armstrong. Hinson and interested friends are publishing anti-Armstrong literature through an organization called Religion in the News. The outcome of the legal battle is pending but Rader states confidently, “We haven’t lost a suit yet.”

Article continues below

Relentless efforts by the opposition notwithstanding, the WCG is seemingly undeterred in its bid to achieve its worldwide goals. The global tours of “ambassador for world peace without portfolio” Herbert W. Armstrong, who will celebrate his 84th birthday on July 31, continue apace. Letters (more than two million in 1975) and dollars flow unceasingly to Pasadena headquarters. Expansion is scheduled for all fronts.

“The Work,” the elder Armstrong told constituents in a recent letter, “is going forward with renewed vigor and power.” Yet he described his March 15 communication as a “special emergency letter” written under duress of “financial crisis,” and he appealed to his “Co-Workers and Brethren in Christ” to respond with “a very special financial sacrifice for God’s Work—a special and generous offering above regular tithes and offerings.” He further besought them to “go to your knees and take this very special need to Christ in special fervent and prevailing prayer. Even fasting and prayer.”



A “tribute” to William Shakespeare was included in the King James Version of the Bible, claims retired Anglican bishop Mark A. Hodson. The tribute appears as a “cryptogram” embedded in Psalm 46, says the bishop in a recent London Times article. The forty-sixth word from the beginning of the Psalm is “shake” and the forty-sixth word from the end of it (not counting “Selah”) is “spear,” he explains. Some of the translators placed the cryptic tribute in Psalm 46 to honor Shakespeare on his forty-sixth birthday in 1610, when the Bible was being prepared for publication, says Hodson.

Bangladesh Update

Under the firm reins of a martial-law regime following three violent changes of government, Bangladesh is making a rapid movement toward political normalcy. Some observers also cautiously predict a significant improvement in areas of economics and commerce. Last November’s rice crop was perhaps the best in Bangladesh history. Internal turbulence has not proved detrimental to Christian ministry in the land of 75 million Bengalis, and some veteran missionaries are regarding 1975 as the most fruitful year for evangelism thus far.

Article continues below

Thirty-two new churches were organized last year in co-operation with the British Baptist Missionary Society, twelve hundred Garo tribespeople were baptized under the leadership of Subhas Sangma, and forty-five Muslims came to faith in Christ through the influence of a national Bengali evangelist. Every Home Crusade in an accelerated literature-distribution campaign fielded one hundred workers in an effort to reach each family in Bangladesh with the Gospel in the shortest possible time.

The Association of Baptists for World Evangelism in cooperation with the United Bible Societies has produced a simplified Bengali New Testament that will soon be sent to the press. A similar translation of the Old Testament is under way.

The College of Christian Theology of Bangladesh, sponsored by eleven mission and church bodies, has experienced significant recent growth. Some 150 students are enrolled in this extension form of education.

Two hundred and seventy missionaries are in Bangladesh serving with twenty-three Protestant missionary societies The largest rise in ranks has been registered by the International Christian Fellowship which last September had only nine missionaries. In May their staff had increased to twenty-seven.


Rhodesia: Too Late?

In an atmosphere charged with a sense of eleventh-hour dread, some 400 black and 100 white Christian leaders of troubled Rhodesia (see May 1 issue, page 41) gathered last month on a college campus in Bulawayo for the Rhodesian Congress on Evangelism in Context. The seven-day meeting was marked by frank debate, expressions of frustration and hurt, and—in the closing moments—a measure of reconciliation.

Most of the blacks were pastors; the whites included pastors, missionaries, and lay leaders. More than 100 other invited white delegates declined to attend, saying they did not want to mix discussion of social and political issues with evangelism.

On the final night of the congress, choir members from a Dutch Reformed church interspersed their musical numbers with prayers. Some choristers prayed for the destruction of guerrilla forces, for the safe perpetuation of the government, and the like.

Article continues below

“We were shocked,” says evangelist Ralph Bell of Colorado, a black who gave several major addresses at the congress.

With feelings running high, Gary Strong of New Life for All (he was the prime mover behind the conference) dismissed the choir and called the delegates into a special session to air their feelings and thoughts. After things settled down, the blacks concluded that such whites “were not bad people but only blind.” The session ended in prayer, with everyone aware that some sons of black delegates were serving in the guerrilla movement and some sons of whites and blacks alike were serving in the government’s armed forces.

Mornings were spent in Bible study (Michael Cassidy of African Enterprise spoke on John 17) and seminars, with regional units meeting together across racial and denominational lines to plan strategy for evangelizing their areas. Evenings were devoted to inspirational addresses. A lot of healing took place in Bell’s room after the evening sessions ended, according to participants. “I can’t love whites,” was said repeatedly. “You must,” Bell replied. “That’s the way of the cross.”

At the conclusion of the congress, the delegates issued a “Call to the Churches and Nations of Southern Africa.” In it they adopted a neutral or “alternative” stance, condemning both violence and racial-political injustice. The statement calls for an end to racial bigotry by both whites and blacks. It asks white “Christian” governments to rule scripturally, to make legislative reforms, and to make more room at the top for “the numerical majority.” It calls on black governments “professing to be Christian” to exert influence on other black governments hostile to Christianity so that “freedom of worship, assembly, and witness should not be curtailed in those countries embracing Marxist ideology.”

The paper also sees “an inconsistency” on the part of the “World Church,” in that it gives “implicit support to violence and bloodshed” without “due regard to a real search for alternatives.” The World Church, it says, should help seek reconciliation and not cause further polarization.

As the participants departed for their homes, there were mixed feelings. On the one hand there was appreciation for new ties of solidarity in Christ, while on the other there was a nagging feeling that the congress was a matter of too little too late.

Welcome Withdrawn

No longer is the welcome mat out for Wycliffe Bible Translators in some countries. The mission agency has been ordered out of Nigeria and Peru.

Article continues below

By the end of this month all forty-five Wycliffe workers in Nigeria were to be gone, and Wycliffe’s headquarters and activities were to be taken over by the new University of Jos on orders from the military government. Known in Nigeria as the Institute of Linguistics, Wycliffe leaves behind a core of Nigerian Christians trained in translation work, along with a one-year-old national organization to promote it. (Wycliffe has worked in Nigeria for twelve years.) The Wycliffe translators and their Nigerian co-workers had projects in more than twenty languages. About 100 other Nigerian languages are still without Scripture translations.

Peru has given Wycliffe until the end of December to leave after thirty years of linguistic work among Indians in about forty languages. The government canceled Wycliffe’s radio license earlier this year (Wycliffe’s pilots and tribal linguists depend heavily on the radio link). The mission’s main jungle base, complete with landing strip, reportedly will be taken over by the Peruvian air force. There are about 200 Wycliffe workers in Peru.

Wycliffe is under increasing attack by anthropologists, university students, and others overseas who allege that its workers are interfering with the culture of tribal people. Wycliffe officials deny that they are “westernizing” the cultures, but they concede that some changes in life-style may occur when people accept Christ.

In many countries (Nigeria and Peru among them) Wycliffe works under contract to the government in basic linguistic work, including the production of educational materials. The mission is therefore vulnerable to changing sentiment and political conditions within the country.

There are about 3,500 Wycliffe workers serving in twenty-six countries, with translation under way in 663 languages. Sixty-four aircraft, including several helicopters, are maintained to service this task force. Total income last year was about $16 million.

Religion In Transit

Americans gave $11.68 billion to religious causes in 1975, an increase of 7.6 per cent over the $10.85 billion given in 1974, according to a report on philanthropy by the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel. The total given to all charitable causes last year was $26.88 billion, a 6.5 per cent increase over 1974.

For the fourth year in a row, the women’s ordination cause was defeated in the Reformed Church in America. At least two-thirds of the church’s forty-five districts must vote approval. The proposal fell only one vote short this time.

Article continues below

More than $300,000 in public funds, the bulk of it federal money, has been used in the last four years to teach or promote Transcendental Meditation, according to a study by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. TM is a variation of Hinduism containing many religious elements, and public tax support should thus not be given, contend officials of the watchdog group.

The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada and the Toronto West Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in Canada have joined the Catholic Church in withdrawing from the United Way 1977 fund-raising drive in the Toronto area. The church bodies object to the recent admission of Planned Parenthood to membership in the United Way, mainly because PP makes abortion referrals.

Evangelist Rex Humbard’s Cathedral of Tomorrow sold its defunct Mackinac College and adjoining estate to a Michigan developer who will turn the island campus into a vacation resort. The purchase price was $3.3 million, about half of what the Cathedral paid Moral Re-Armament for it in 1971.

As expected, Lane Petri, 26, told a Burbank, California, judge that she does not want to return to the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation community in nearby Saugus. Police had removed her from the group and placed her in the custody of her parents under a temporary court order earlier, and she underwent “deprogramming” (see May 7 issue, page 38). Other parents are now turning to legal conservatorship proceedings to remove their children from offbeat religious groups rather than resorting to physical force and what amounts to kidnapping.

Campus Crusade for Christ’s “Athletes in Action” team captured the 1976 Amateur Athletic Union Men’s National Basketball Championship. Its 37–8 record was the best in nine years. Players give Christian testimonies during halftime.

America’s Roman Catholics number 48.8 million, an increase of 180,000, according to the latest Catholic yearbook. Catholics now make up 22.8 per cent of the population.

World Scene

Global Scripture distribution by the United Bible Societies soared last year to a new high of 303.4 million Bibles, New Testaments, and Scripture portions, 49.3 million copies higher than in 1974, according to UBS reports. Of this amount, American Bible Society donors underwrote the distribution of 191.2 million copies (109.4 million copies were distributed in the United States). The UBS is made up of fifty-seven national Bible societies.

Article continues below

That porno film on Christ is still earmarked for production, beginning perhaps next month. After being turned down for funds by the Danish and Swedish governments, Danish writer-producer Jens Joergen and a Swedish colleague have reportedly received $458,400 in backing from atheist groups in Sweden, where the film is to be made.

The New Zealand Anglican Synod approved the ordination of women to the priesthood, becoming the third Anglican body to give official sanction to women priests (Hong Kong and Canada are the others). The New Zealanders also voted not to accept the 1971 Plan for Union of five New Zealand denominations, but provisions were made for deeper cooperation with others. (Methodists and Presbyterians endorsed the full plan two years ago.)


This is the time of year that many denominations hold their business meetings and conventions. Recent major meetings include the quadrennial conference of the United Methodist Church and the annual General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church. Significant actions were taken at both meetings, and the United Methodist Church turned sharply to the right. Full reports will appear in the June 18 issue.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.