Baptist church leaders from the free world confronted Soviet officials face to face in late March and demanded explanations for recurring reports of religious persecution.

“I made it perfectly plain,” said Dr. David S. Russell of London, “that many of us in the West are extremely concerned about the treatment being meted out to Christians in the Soviet Union … because of their religious convictions.”

Russell was one of five representatives of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) and the Baptist World Alliance who met for two hours with Victor N. Titov, deputy chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs of the U. S. S. R., in Moscow. The group was attending an EBF executive committee meeting being held for the first time in a Communist country.

Russell later reported in the Baptist Times that there was some straight talk at the meeting “during which I was able to make a strong plea for clemency to be shown to those still in prison.” Particular reference was made to Georgi Vins, currently serving a five-year prison sentence. On a side trip to Kiev, Russell attended the “Reformed Baptist” church where Vins once was pastor. He met Vins’s wife, who speaks good English. She told Russell that she was grateful for the prayers of so many people for her husband. She added that she had been able to visit him in Siberia and had found he was not in very good health.

Russell quoted Titov as saying that the people in question were in prison not because of their religious convictions but because they had broken laws. Titov quoted the criminal code that Vins allegedly violated, and said Vins has the right to appeal to the Soviet Supreme Court, if he is willing to “acknowledge his mistakes.” According to Russell, Titov also said that Soviet law is “in the process of further democratization” but has to be respected.

Russell declared that conditions for Christians in the Soviet Union have improved in the past year. In the crowded Kiev church, he estimated that 75 to 80 per cent of the males in the congregation were under 30. There were three rows of young children in the church. He observed that increasing numbers of young and educated persons are joining Baptist churches in the Soviet Union.

Russell also met with a state official in Kiev and voiced a plea similar to the one he made in Moscow. There are now reportedly seventy-nine persons in Soviet prisons for their religious beliefs.

Titov announced to the visiting church delegation that Janis Smits, a Baptist minister in Latvia whose repeated requests to leave the country with his family had been refused, has now been given the permission he sought.

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Russell witnessed a church baptismal service in the Soviet Union and was interviewed for about an hour by Ukraine Radio. European Baptist Press Service noted that during the interview “he was able to answer questions and explain his purposes in coming to the U. S. S. R. and items from the … discussion with the deputy chairman in Moscow.”

Earlier this year, two Baptist clergymen from the Soviet Union visited the Assembly of God headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, and reported that their All-Union Council had baptized 6,185 new members during 1975. That was an increase of more than 1,100 over the previous year. The council includes more than 5,000 churches in the Soviet Union; among the members are Mennonites, some 50,000 Pentecostals, and others, as well as Baptists. Total membership is about half a million. The Baptist clergy also said that the council had registered forty-four new congregations in 1975 and that “prayer houses” were built or restored in more than eight cities.

The Assemblies of God has given the council a $2,000 gift for enlarging the printing ministry among its churches. A 100,000-copy edition of a Russian Bible is being published in the Soviet Union, according to press reports. The printing is said to be sponsored jointly by the Baptists and the Russian Orthodox to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the first Russian Bible.

A group of representatives of organizations involved in beaming radio programs to the Soviet Union met recently in Britain to compare notes with a researcher from Keston College, a suburban London center specializing in the study of religion and Communism. The meeting came in connection with a study Keston is doing on the impact of Christian broadcasts in Communist countries. There has been some criticism of the programming because of its failure to relate to the more educated classes in the Soviet Union. Anglican clergyman Michael Bordeaux, who directs Keston, says that the research is not far enough along to warrant any conclusions. And, he adds, another $15,000 is needed before the study can be completed.

East Meets West

Two meetings in rural Maryland last month attracted a Who’s Who of American ecumenical leaders and some of their counterparts from Eastern Europe. Leaders of the Prague-based but Moscow-dominated Christian Peace Conference were prominent in both.

The first meeting, at a Roman Catholic retreat center in Marriottsville, was attended by sixteen churchmen from behind the Iron Curtain and twenty-four Americans. It was not publicized in advance, and one of the Americans who took part told the Associated Press that American security officers assigned to protect the visitors had requested the news blackout. Hosting the meeting and issuing the invitations was an ad hoc group of denominational executives: Robert Moss of the United Church of Christ, William P. Thompson of the United Presbyterian Church, and Robert Marshall of the Lutheran Church in America.

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The second meeting, at New Windsor’s Church of the Brethren Service Center, was an official session of the working committee (executive committee) of the Christian Peace Conference. It was the CPC’s first meeting in America, and the invitation came from CAREE (Christians Associated for Relationships with Eastern Europe). CAREE was organized in 1971 by Westerners associated with the CPC who were distressed by the CPC’s failure to condemn the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The New Windsor sessions included, in addition to the Europeans, a number of Third World members who reportedly came at the expense of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Metropolitan Nikodim, the Russian prelate who was elected to the World Council of Churches’ presidium last year, shared the chairman’s responsibilities at Marriottsville with Moss. At New Windsor, the Orthodox leader presided. He is the CPC president.

The Marriottsville gathering was designated “Karlovy Vary III” since it was the third in a series that started at Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia, in 1962. The second was held in 1974 in Prague. Spokesmen for the session emphasized that it was an “informal” meeting of leaders. Among those invited was Claire Randall, National Council of Churches general secretary. The NCC provided some staffing for the conference.

Thompson, who is the NCC president, gave one of the major papers. The other came from Pastor Rolf-Dieter Guenther of the Church of Berlin-Brandenburg, East Germany. Their theme was “The Serving Church: How the Churches Represented in the Consultation Relate to Government and Society.”

After the papers, “open and frank discussion” was conducted on “the roles of the churches in these diverse societies,” according to a communique issued at the meeting’s end. The document also expressed regret that the U. S. State Department had denied a visa to a Cuban who had been invited. While the communique did not mention the CPC, that organization’s Prague headquarters put out a news release identifying the Eastern Europeans at Marriottsville as representatives of the CPC. An American spokesman for the meeting denied, however, that all those from behind the Iron Curtain were members of the CPC.

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The New Windsor CPC conferees issued a “Letter to American Churches.” It called world disarmament a key factor in working for peace, along with the search for an international economic order. The document said nothing about how to enforce disarmament treaties.

Ms. Randall was a guest speaker at the CPC meeting. She emphasized the “interdependence” of nations instead of U. S. independence. While CAREE membership is held only by individuals, a number of NCC member communions support its work. A spokesman for the New Windsor meeting said support comes from the Mennonite Central Committee and agencies of these six denominations: American Baptist Churches, Church of the Brethren, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, and the United Presbyterian Church. Some of CAREE’s members were active in the defunct U. S. Association for the CPC.

New Life In New Orleans

Members of 329 congregations representing twenty-six denominations took part in a “Christian Spirit of ’76” campaign sponsored by the Greater New Orleans Federation of Churches. The coordinated project was conceived by Southern Baptist clergyman David E. Mason, the federation’s executive director. Catholic archbishop Philip J. Hannan was among the endorsers. The idea was for each congregation to design its own form of involvement in a program of community outreach and church renewal. Events ranged from coffee parties (700 on a single day) to census taking, Scripture distribution, and special preaching services. Many congregations reported record attendance at worship services on the first two Sundays of April.

Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor Edgar Homrighausen summed up the comments of numerous church leaders. The program, he said, has brought unity, joy, and spiritual oneness to the congregation and a feeling of responsibility to the entire Christian community.

Mobilized In Mexico

Some 12,000 people filled the bullring in Merida, the capital of Yucatan, Mexico, to hear Latin American evangelist Luis Palau preach on Christ’s second coming. The meeting last month capped a three-week, eight-city Yucatan crusade by Palau and his associates. There were more than 5,300 recorded professions of faith. In Ticul, nearly a third of the city’s 22,000 population turned out to hear the evangelist in a one-day visit to close a campaign begun by one of his associates. He made similar preaching visits to six other cities but concentrated on the eight-day crusade at Merida.

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After each nightly rally Palau counseled callers live on a TV program. One night in Merida a husband and wife shared their telephone as Palau led them to receive Christ together in prayer. Several Bible study groups for middle-class and upper-class people were organized as a result of the telephone-TV ministry, say crusade leaders.

Crusade committee head Ricardo Magana, a businessman, said the outreach campaign was successful because “it was a crusade of the people and the first time the local churches were truly mobilized for such an event.”

Japanese Students: Better Prepared

Of Japan’s 933 universities and colleges, fewer than 200 have an active, organized Christian witness, states a staffer with Kirisutosha Gakusei Kai (KGK), a thirty-year-old indigenous Japanese counterpart to Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. Recently, KGK—a member of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students—held its largest-ever student conference, attended by 350. The six days were filled with major addresses, Bible teaching, special-interest workshops, and reports on Christian student work in various parts of the country. An offering of $1,200 was received for overseas student missionary work (outside of Japan). Many of the delegates indicated that as a result of the conference they were returning to their campuses fired with new zeal and better preparation for Christian witness.

The Army In Japan

Eighty years after its beginning in Japan in 1895, the Salvation Army boasts 240 preachers and workers, fifty-eight churches, and forty-four evangelistic centers there. The Army runs twenty different social institutions, including two hospitals which accommodate five hundred patients, four children’s homes caring for 170 children, five day-care nurseries for the children of working mothers, three homes for the rehabilitation of young women, an alcoholic rehabilitation center and home for men, and other residences for working men and young working girls and students. The name of the group in Japanese, Kyu-Sei-Gun, literally means “Save-the-World Army.” (The Army has work in about eighty countries.)

More than 9,000 Japanese are Salvation Army members, adherents, or members-in-training, according to Commissioner Shinichi Yoshida, Japanese leader. At present eight non-Japanese officers are assisting in the work. Due to the uniforms and special terminology, the Salvation Army was considered a “foreign army” during World War II and was forced to disband by government decree until the war was over. In Army jargon, a member is called a “soldier,” and ordained ministers are “officers.” Churches are known as “corps” and a student in training for various ministries is a “cadet.” The Army’s members are those persons who have accepted Christ as Saviour, and have chosen the Salvation Army as their “church home.” Lay members may wear the uniform; it is not limited to “officers.”

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A Training College for Officers (seminary) in Tokyo provides two years of classroom work. Then come two years of on-the-job training during which the cadet continues to do lessons by correspondence and to do practical work that is observed and graded. Lay leaders enroll in specific study courses in order to become Sunday-school teachers or instructors in the five-year Bible course for Salvation Army Youth.



The American Tract Society did some digging and came up with a number of interesting tract stories. Among them:

• Benjamin Franklin ghost-wrote and printed tracts of several early American evangelists, including those by George Whitefield.

• John Wesley organized 160 tract distributors in 1757 who “reformed the Lord’s Day habits” of the entire city of London.

• Whistler’s mother was called a “preacher in skirts” because she distributed tracts to the workers on the railroad between Moscow and St. Petersburg (Leningrad).

• Among the precious items of cargo on the Mayflower on its first trip to America were Pastor John Robinson’s tracts.

• A son of one of the chiefs of Burwain, India, was converted through a single tract and was instrumental in winning 1,500 others to Christ.


Reporters were invited to attend chapel at 1,180-student Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, one day last month. The occasion: a response by Fuller president David A. Hubbard to charges in the book The Battle For the Bible, written by CHRISTIANITY TODAY editor Harold Lindsell, one of the founding faculty members. The book alleges that Fuller has veered from the historical evangelical position on biblical inerrancy. This inerrancy includes not only the intent of biblical authors but also their very words as originally written, according to the book. Only those churches, institutions, and individuals that adhere to this view of biblical inspiration, the book contends, are truly evangelical.

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In his address, Hubbard said the book’s “narrow definitions” of evangelical threaten unity among evangelicals. “My deepest concern about [the] book,” he said, “is not that it criticizes Fuller, but that its inadequate and unbiblical view of Scripture will divide our evangelical fellowship worldwide.”

Priorities for the evangelical camp are “jeopardized by [such] distraction,” warned Hubbard. He went on to imply that the book is an outdated rehash of nineteenth-century issues.

Fuller, he said, is committed to the “uniqueness and full inspiration of the Bible,” with the realization that it is the Word of God “given to us in the context of human language, human culture, and human history.” It is “the only infallible standard by which our Christian thinking and Christian living must be judged,” he affirmed. “The purpose of our scholarship is not to destroy but to build up. It is not to lay bare the humanity of the Bible but to expose the way in which the Spirit of God used the humanity of the Scripture in order to bring us his truth.”

As for the future, he said, Fuller must “affirm more consistently and effectively what we believe,” learn from “responsible critics,” and be open “to review and renewal.” It is not enough “to brand ourselves evangelical,” he asserted. “We must be about our evangelical tasks.”

Hubbard indicated he had discussed the book with other evangelical leaders. They “have sensed the pending gale and assured us of their stout convoy as we sail ahead,” he said.

Religion In Transit

There is a movement afoot among some Southern Baptists to get denominational officials to withdraw the invitation to President Ford to address next month’s annual meeting of the 12.7-million-member Southern Baptist Convention. Editor Robert J. Hastings of the Illinois SBC newspaper doesn’t want any candidate to have a platform for free advertising during an election year. Besides, said he, one of the SBC’s finest laymen—Jimmy Carter—may be Ford’s opponent in the election.

Citing a recent survey, pollster Louis Harris concludes that it is not “politically dangerous” for presidential candidates to support abortion, as widely supposed. The poll indicates that 54 per cent of Americans support the U. S. Supreme Court’s decision liberalizing abortion while 38 percent oppose it. Last year the figures were 54 and 38 per cent.

The American Bible Society last month gave President Ford a “Good News for Modern Man” New Testament, symbolic of the two-billionth copy of the Scriptures distributed by the ABS since its founding in 1816. The society reached a distribution of one million copies in 1829 and one billion in 1969. These include Bibles, Testaments, and smaller portions. Circulation of the “Good News” modern-English translation, introduced in 1966, has reached fifty million, according to the ABS.

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Twelve U. S. senators last month introduced a resolution designating July 2 a “National Bicentennial Day of Prayer of Thanksgiving and Guidance.” It would ask the President to issue a proclamation designating the day “in remembrance of the time 200 years beforehand” when the nation’s founders sought assistance “from their Creator for the momentous decisions they were about to make.” Republican senator Dewey F. Bartlett of Oklahoma is chief sponsor.

Republican congressman John H. Buchanan, a Southern Baptist minister from Alabama, and twenty-four co-sponsors have introduced a resolution asking Congress to go on record calling for the release of Ukrainian Baptist leader Georgi Vins from a Soviet prison. Vins, head of a dissident Baptist movement branded illegal by the Soviets, was jailed early last year on charges related to the exercise of his faith.

A spokesman for the National Institute of Education says the “voucher plan,” that would have given parents vouchers to pay for educational costs at the public or private school of their choice, is virtually dead. Voters in New Hampshire and Connecticut rejected trials of the plan, and the only test now under way is in the San Jose, California, area, where parents are restricted to a choice between different public schools. Even if the concept is adopted eventually in some states, it is likely that private religious schools will be ineligible because of constitutional considerations.

Bills have been introduced in Congress that would allow taxpayers a tax deduction of up to $1,000 a year for tuition paid for their children at any private (including religious) or public school, from first grade through graduate school.

A special commission has been set up by the government of the province of Ontario to study the possibility of extending property taxation to churches, schools, and hospitals.

The board of trustees of St. Clare’s Hospital in Denville, New Jersey, voted unanimously not to appeal the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that authorized the removal of a mechanical respirator responsible for keeping 22-year-old Karen Anne Quinlan alive for nearly a year. Her parents said they prayed that God would take her before it became necessary to unplug the machine.

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Rita Warren, 46, a school-prayer crusader from Brockton, Massachusetts, is calling on church people across the country to organize a Christian Civil Liberties Union to counteract the “threat” posed by the American Civil Liberties Union. When the ACLU goes to court to take away “some of our rights,” she says, “we will have Christian lawyers fighting for our rights.” (Mrs. Warren is of Catholic background but says she prefers to be known simply as a Christian. She has debated atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair seven times, and surprisingly they have become good friends, she told Religious News Service.)

A government study, based on a survey of 2,917 households, found that nine out of ten U.S. households gave an average of $350 in one year—$26 billion—to churches and charities. They also donated an estimated $29 billion worth of their time. The researchers, said to be astonished by their findings, reported that 88 per cent of the families gave to charities on a regular basis and that they were giving more than ever before. The study was based on 1973 figures.

Death: Gerald L. K. Smith, 78, Disciples of Christ minister who exchanged his pulpit and liberal social views for right-wing politics; known for his views against blacks, Catholics, Jews, and labor unions; publisher of The Cross and the Flag; founder of the Committee of One Million and the Christian Nationalist Crusade.

Well-known Canadian missionary surgeon Robert McClure, 75, came out of retirement in 1968 to serve a two-year term as moderator of the United Church of Canada. Then he went off to work for nearly three years among former headhunters in the wilds of Borneo. Last fall he came out of retirement again to head a jungle hospital in Peru that was sponsored in part by the Canadian government. But in late March McClure quit and came home, blaming his decision on financial headaches and administrative mixups that disrupted the hospital work.

Mormon officials are upset with Douglas A. Wallace, 46, and Larry Lester, 22, of Vancouver, Washington. Wallace, a white life-long Mormon, ordained Lester, a black, into the Mormon priesthood. Lester than baptized and ordained a white businessman. The actions, performed before TV cameras and reporters, were carried out in an attempt to force a revision of Mormon doctrine, which teaches that blacks are ineligible for the priesthood because they sinned in a pre-existent state. Mormon church officials declared the ordination by Wallace invalid because it lacked authorization by a bishop.

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Contrary to earlier reports, a Vietnamese ordained recently to the Southern Baptist ministry in Florida was not the first Vietnamese refugee to be ordained in this country. Last November, five Vietnamese refugees were ordained to the ministry of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in a ceremony at Chula Vista, California.

Members of the Eastminster Presbyterian Church of Wichita, Kansas, designated $120,000 from their local building fund to help rebuild twenty-six churches and twenty-eight pastors’ homes in earthquake-ravaged Guatemala City.

Chaplain John W. Vannorsdall, 51, of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, was named to succeed William Sloane Coffin as senior chaplain of Yale University. The Lutheran Church in America clergyman is also speaker for the fifteen-segment 1976 Lutheran series of “The Protestant Hour.”

Quietly but steadily, churches are withdrawing from the Santa Clara County (California) Council of Churches over the council’s December acceptance for membership of a gay church in San Jose. So far, nine churches have withdrawn. Some were heavy contributors to the council’s budget, now strained. Other churches pledge to take up the slack.

A well-publicized evangelical experiment in inter-racial urban ministry came apart recently. As a result of policy differences and intra-staff tensions, black evangelical leader Clarence Hilliard was asked to leave the pastoral staff of Circle Church, an Evangelical Free Church of America congregation in Chicago. He had served about six years. Most of the forty or so blacks in the congregation of about 400 left with him to help organize another church.

A new cooperative series of Christian education materials for elementary-grade children, “Discovering the Bible with Children,” will be launched this fall by eleven denominations. The goal of the series, says a spokesman, is that by age 12, children will be aware of nine major doctrinal themes, will have discovered that the Bible speaks to issues in their lives, and will have developed a variety of skills promoting effective Bible study.

Hard to stomach: In an out-of-court settlement, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has agreed to pay $3,000 to a San Antonio caterer who claimed an $86,000 loss in food costs and salaries when a special cafeteria set up during the denomination’s biennial general assembly last year was little used by delegates.

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For theological rather than sociological reasons, women will never be ordainedpriests in the Catholic Church, declared Archbishop Jan Jadot, the Vatican’s representative in the United States, at the recent annual meeting of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils in Houston. But at a meeting of 600 nuns in New York, Sister Elizabeth Carroll of the Religious Sisters of Mercy got an ovation when she asserted that neither the Gospels nor the central doctrines of the church exclude women from the ordained ministry.

A nationwide campaign is underway to raise $21 million for the Graham Center at Wheaton College. The center will house the archives of evangelist Billy Graham, a library on outreach and church renewal, training facilities, and television and radio studies.

The suicide rate among 15-to 24-year-olds in America has increased by 250 per cent in twenty years.

The American Bible Society received $1.4 million in support from some sixty denominations last year. Southern Baptists led with $238,500, the Missouri Synod Lutherans placed second with $161,400, and United Methodists followed with $132,600.


David K. Winter, 45, executive vice-president of Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, was named to the presidency of 950-student Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.

Anglican bishop Alfred Stanway, an Australian educator and former missionary bishop in Africa, will assume the presidency of Trinity Episcopal School For Ministry, a new evangelical seminary in suburban Pittsburgh.

Joseph J. Sisco, 56, U. S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, will become president in July of 13,800-student American University, a United Methodist-related school in Washington, D. C.

World Scene

Father Dmitri Dudko, the popular Russian Orthodox priest removed from his last two parishes for sermons and statements interpreted by authorities as critical of the Soviet government, has been reassigned to a village parish twenty miles from Moscow. Considerable pressure was exerted against church and government officials on behalf of Dudko after it appeared he would be banished from the ministry.

Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians have been executed or have died of disease since the Communists took over a year ago, according to Time. Sources say former government employees, former soldiers, and educated persons are being killed systematically. If so, many of the key leaders of the young Protestant church (which was growing phenomenally at the time of Phnom Penh’s fall) have been or will be killed. Most of Cambodia’s Protestant churches were related to the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

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Anglican bishop Festo Kivengere of Uganda recently found doors open to his evangelistic teams in Catholic churches, in a Catholic seminary, and even in a Muslim mosque in the West Buganda area of the country. A judge in Masaka, where more than 100 reportedly professed Christ, suspended hearings and called a team to speak to all gathered in the courtroom.

Operation Mobilization’s witness shipLogos visited Tunisia recently at the invitation of the Ministry of Education, and more than 16,500 persons came aboard to view book displays and make purchases. Many took Scripture portions, and some 500 attended a concert by the Logos choir.

Twenty-one persons, many of them cripples seeking a miraculous cure, were trampled to death in a stampede during a service in Rio de Janeiro conducted by faith healer David Martins de Miranda, according to press reports.

Ramon Calvan, a lay pastor of a Baptist congregation in the Philippines, was shot to death as he was walking to church with his wife and two of his seven children. He was executed by insurgents who accused him of being a government informer, a charge denied by Calvan’s friends and Southern Baptist missionaries with whom he worked.

World membership of the Mormon church increased by almost 50 per cent over a ten-year period, from 2.39 million in 1965 to 3.57 million in 1975, according to a church press report.

Christian Aid, the relief arm of the British Council of Churches, had a record income of $8.4 million last year.

Reports of the United Bible Societies indicate that the organization is assisting twenty groups of translators in Eastern Europe, most of them working on entirely new translations of Scripture.

The Assemblies of God denomination has come a long way in Italy since World War II, when there were only thirty-five small congregations meeting underground. Now there are 700 churches with more than 150,000 constituents. Growth is so rapid that there are not enough pastors to go around.

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