They declared war on war last month at a tranquil, wooded retreat center in Green Lake, Wisconsin. About 300 representatives of the so-called historic peace churches—the Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and the Society of Friends (Quakers)—studied peace and advocated nonviolent activism as the way to bring it about. They billed their three-day conference “A New Call to Peacemaking.”
Pacifism is a tradition for these small, but influential, church groups. The Quakers, Church of the Brethren, and Mennonites have always been conscientious objectors during wartime. But delegates at Green Lake looked for new and practical, even radical, ways to function as peacemakers. Their mood reflected the flair of an anti-Viet Nam war rally and the reverence of a traditional worship service.
“Are we going to pray for peace and pay for war?” asked delegates last spring in Old Chatham, New York—one of twenty-six regional conferences held over the past two years as preparation for the national meeting. For Green Lake conferees, the answer to that rhetorical question was an emphatic “no.”
The delegates called for total military disarmament and an end to economic support for military programs. The delegates passed a resolution that, while not binding on individual church members, called for carrying out peace education programs on the local level, returning to a simpler life style, and developing church support groups for persons who use nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience to “express a faithful peace witness.”
The most controversial issue in the Green Lake statement was war tax resistance—the practice of refusing to pay that portion of your federal income tax that goes for military programs. The measure asked persons to “seriously consider refusal” to pay the military portion of their federal taxes.
In addition, church and conference agencies were asked to honor requests from any employees who ask that their war taxes not be withheld. The delegates recommended that war tax monies be funneled into a separate peace fund, which would be formed and administered by the “New Call” churches.
Many of the delegates feared that the tax resistance proposal would be too radical for church people back home to accept. A Brethren delegate from Michigan wondered whether it was fair to ask church agency employers to cooperate in a “criminal act” by honoring an employee’s war tax resistance. (A findings committee was to reevaluate and finalize the entire conference resolution this month.)
But delegates had been looking for concrete ways to fight war and to create a society of peace. They were probably swayed by a vocal faction favoring war tax resistance.
Conference planners had invited representatives from the National Council for a World Peace Tax Fund. This Washington-based group is lobbying for Congressional passage of a bill that would let taxpayers register as conscientious objectors. They could then place the portion of their federal tax monies that go toward military programs (now estimated by the World Tax Fund at 36 per cent) into a separate fund for peace programs. The conferees endorsed passage of the Tax Fund bill, which has the support of evangelical senator Mark Hatfield.
Allyn Eccleston, a Friend from New London. New Hampshire, held a war tax resistance workshop that attracted a large gathering, mostly of curious people. A war tax resister for the last three years, Eccleston says he has never been prosecuted for his action.
Eccleston files a statement with his tax form that explains why and how he arrives at his “military-less” tax figure. Then he mails copies of his statement to his congressmen. This way, Eccleston explained, he is not filing a fraudulent return. And since “there is no debtor’s prison in America,” Eccleston says tax resisters like himself are rarely jailed.
In most cases, the government still gets its full amount by placing a lien on a war tax resister’s bank or property assets. Eccleston says he still regards his action “as a witness of Christian love.” (The Internal Revenue Service acknowledges the existence of a small but growing number of tax resisters, but it won’t say how many.)
Other features of the “New Call” issued by the conferees were:
• Opposition to the military draft. Representatives in the Washington offices of the churches had warned about the imminent return of the Selective Service System.
• The call for complete abolition of nuclear weapons on an international level.
• Continuation of the peacemaking effort among the churches and its spread to all denominations.
• The recommendation that a New Call delegation meet with President Carter.
Some delegates were upset when their individual suggestions for peace were left out of the final resolution. But that was expected, considering the diversity within the delegation.
Peter Ediger, who led the morning worship services, was to stand trial this month in a Colorado courtroom. He was arrested, along with sixty-four others last summer, on trespassing charges. The group blockaded the railroad tracks leading into the Rocky Flats nuclear plant northwest of Denver. Copastor of the Arvada, Colorado, Mennonite Church, Ediger said his involvement there signified “a Christian witness”—one that was obedient to Christ’s example as a peacemaker.
Other activists included Robert Euler, a white-bearded Friend, who since 1959 has led a yearly Christmas-time march for peace from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Many people at the conference had taken part in demonstrations last spring outside the United Nations during its Special Session on Disarmament. A delegate quipped, “I even demonstrated at an IBM building while my husband was working inside; I hoped like everything he wouldn’t see me.”
Delegates who had never participated in a peace effort wanted to know how to get involved on a practical level back home. Jeff Deiss, a Brethren delegate from San Diego, said he was tired of peacemaking efforts by top church officials that resulted in statements and resolutions that were rarely acted upon. A Mennonite woman from Philadelphia said that she first became interested in peacemaking as she struggled to control her temper in family relationships.
The extremes of liberal and conservative theology also were represented. A Quaker official said that among the members of his church they had supporters of “everyone from the Dalai Lama to Anita Bryant.” Conference planners appealed to support from evangelicals.
The Society of Friends, which, like the Mennonite church, embraces several church bodies within its framework, numbers about 350,000 members. Its origins are in left-wing Puritanism of the seventeenth century. The Church of the Brethren emerged from German pietism of the eighteenth century, and the Mennonite churches sprang from the Anabaptist wing of the Protestant reformation in the sixteenth century. The latter two churches have memberships estimated at 180,000 and 110,000, respectively (in the United States).
Conference originator Norval Hadley frequently appealed to the churches’ biblical foundations for peacemaking. President of the 25,000-member Evangelical Friends Alliance (the most evangelical of four major Quaker church bodies), Hadley began thinking about a peacemaking conference five years ago. He first presented the idea to planners of the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. However, the peace witness did not make the Lausanne agenda, since “it was regarded as too controversial and too far off the subject of the conference,” Hadley said.
But Hadley’s dream materialized at Green Lake. In an opening session, the former World Vision staff member gave his goal for the conference: “To achieve a peace witness that will be spiritually sound, biblically based, positive and contemporary, and … practical enough to attract the widest possible support.” Hadley and guest speaker Dale Brown, a Brethren theologian, both warned that peacemaking demanded commitment.
Eastern Baptist seminary professor and author Ronald J. Sider was invited by Hadley to explain the biblical basis for peacemaking. Hadley wanted evangelicals to know that peacemaking was not social gospel, but biblical and essential to an evangelistic witness.
Sider presented three papers, one a day, that focused on Christ as the “suffering servant,” who would nevertheless support direct “non-lethal” action taken against unjust systems if that action was based in Christian love. The delegates asked Sider to compile his remarks in book form for use in peace education programs and Sunday school classes.
In a conference-ending benediction, Sider commissioned the assembly: “Go forth into this broken world and fight the Lamb’s war.”
DO THE CLOTHES MAKE THE MESSAGE?
Jesus was a clothing connoisseur who might have shopped at a Jerusalem Saks’s Fifth Avenue? So says Luciano Franzoni.
The prominent men’s clothing designer said influential men have always dressed for effect—knowing that clothes enhance verbal impact.
“Jesus Christ knew all about fashion and used it to tell others that he was unique,” says Franzoni. “He knew, in fact, that a simple white gown was chic, understated and made him stand out in a crowd of colors.”
Can there be a theology to vested suits or wing-tipped shoes that contemporary clergy are missing?
The Papacy: Time For Catholicity
Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland has a tough act to follow. Elected as the 264th pope of the Roman Catholic Church, he enters the papacy almost like an unknown preacher called at the last minute to substitute for evangelist Billy Graham. Wojtyla’s popular predecessor, John Paul, had captured the imagination of the Catholic world with a boldly informal approach to a stiff and formal papacy.
But Cardinal Wojtyla, who took the name John Paul, is not without his own distinctives. His election broke the 455-year-old tradition of Italian pontiffs. Polish Catholics were both happy and surprised. Reflecting on the choice of the conclave of cardinals, historian Martin Marty said in a newspaper interview: “As a demonstration of the catholicity of Catholicism, this was delightful.”
Like Albino Luciani, John Paul II hails from humble origins. The people in his native archdiocese Krakow fondly called him “The Working Cardinal,” in reference to the years he spent working in a chemical factory during high school and college. But the newly designated pope later earned degrees in philosophy and theology. His talent for languages was revealed in his first public appearance: “May Jesus Christ be praised.” he said in flawless Italian to the 100,000 people gathered below the basilica balcony in St. Peter’s Square. John Paul II has an intellectual prowess that was demonstrated when he helped draft the documents of Vatican II.
But most unique about John Paul II is the way he has guided Polish Catholics, people who live in a Communist state where atheism is the national policy. Unlike other eastern European countries, Poland has a vital Catholic Church, which claims the allegiance of 90 per cent of its 35 million population. Many observers say the Roman Catholic Church is the strongest social and political force in contemporary Poland (see October 6 issue, p. 44).
Perhaps Cardinal Wojtyla’s experience with the German occupation in World War II taught him how to coexist with the Communists. He has been critical of the Communist regime, but at the same time has maintained an ongoing dialogue with the government. He has criticized the Communists’ interference with the church and has spoken out for workers’ rights. However, he believed a strong condemnation of atheism would be unwise, saying, “It is not the church’s place to teach unbelievers. She must seek in common with the world.”
Admirers of Albino Luciani probably will feel comfortable with the new pope. John Paul II has the same warmth and outward goodness. He also intends to spread his power among the bishops of the world. Catholic observers say the fifty-eight-year-old pontiff is not afraid to break the time-honored traditions of the papacy, though his theology is conservative enough to satisfy the old guard.
Indeed, few discouraging words were heard among the world’s 700 million Catholics after the election of John Paul II. The health-conscious conclave of cardinals elected the athletic, sturdily-built Wojtyla to what they hope will be a lengthy papacy.
Social Action Gets Its Second Wind
Board members of the Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) rallied around the theme “Love in Action” last month at their annual meeting in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Harmony was evident among the conferees—a marked contrast to the mood at previous gatherings of the five-year-old coalition.
Some observers thought the group would disintegrate because diverse interests among group members had caused dissension. But president Ronald J. Sider reconstituted the organization earlier this year. A forty-member board was created to include people from a cross-section of vocational and geographical areas and to incorporate a substantial representation from minority groups.
Anticipating future growth, the board approved plans for a National Congress on Social Justice for 1981. Sider, Eastern Baptist seminary theology professor and an advocate of the simple life style, said the conference would be an “Urbana-type rally.”
ESA grew from a 1973 meeting in Chicago that produced the “Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern.” This statement declared that working for social justice was a biblical mandate, and it has served as a constitution of sorts for the group.
At their recent meeting, board members pledged themselves to organizational expansion. They agreed to charter local chapters, but only when those groups had demonstrated that they were engaged in research, education, and action projects in line with the principles of the Chicago Declaration. This cautious approach to expansion was reflected in the words of keynote speaker John Perkins: “We can call society to justice when we live out the love of God ourselves. We don’t need programs; we need love.”
After some debate, the body adopted a strong statement criticizing proposals before Congress that would abrogate the treaty rights of American Indians.
While the ESA encouraged its members to use this statement as one tool for social righteousness, it disclaimed being merely a political group.
The board also pledged itself to several goals:
—To begin a series of conferences on “Seeking Justice in the Local Parish,” the first of which is scheduled for some time next year at Fuller seminary.
—To develop vocational justice task forces. Members of local ESA chapters would serve on the national task forces, applying the question, What is just and what is unjust given the biblical norms for what justice is?, in relation to their respective professions.
—To promote minority economic development.
President and moving spirit of the ESA, Sider intends to encourage the creation of small support groups of evangelicals who are interested in working for social action. He believes that such evangelicals sometimes “feel lonely and isolated and don’t know about others who share the same concern for social justice.”
Todd Putney, an American Baptist pastor, was appointed to direct the recently-opened ESA office in inner city Philadelphia (in the same building as The Other Side magazine). Putney is the first full-time staff member of the organization. Elected as vice-presidents of ESA were Clarence Hilliard, a black pastor from Chicago, and Linda Doll, editor of HIS magazine.
RICHARD V. PIERARD
Out At The Inn
It was a matter of conviction. L.M. Clymer, president and chief executive officer of the Holiday Inns empire, chose early retirement to avoid participating in plans for adding casino gambling to Holiday Inns in cities other than Las Vegas.
The board of Holiday Inns recently decided to open a $55 million hotel-casino in Atlantic City, and shortly thereafter Clymer announced his retirement. In a prepared statement, Clymer stressed that his decision was not based on the financial aspects of the gambling venture. Clymer explained, “This is one of those benchmark occasions in a man’s life when he arrives at moral and ethical conclusions concerning his own life’s meaning and direction.”
Specifically, Clymer linked his decision to his “overriding regard and respect for my Lord Jesus Christ.” Clymer, 55, is active in the 4,000-member Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee.
Clymer joined the board of directors of Holiday Inns in 1957, and he attained its top management position in 1976—ruling a corporate empire that now includes 1,700 inns in 53 countries. Company officials say that although he will no longer have a direct management function, he may be used occasionally in an advisory capacity.
Holiday Inns achieved some notoriety for its spiritual emphasis when it established a “chaplain on call” program in 1970. (Clymer did not figure in its planning, however.) Many inn managers, besides placing Gideon Bibles in the rooms, enlist a local clergyman to be on “twenty-four-hour call” for guests in need of emotional or spiritual counseling.
Prayer: Shunned In An Election Year
Republican senator Jesse Helms tried a back door approach for reintroducing prayer in the public schools. But he couldn’t get through. Helms had attached a prayer amendment to an irrelevant bill that was designed to clear the logjam in the federal courts. But fearing a religious showdown on the prayer issue in an election year, Congress ignored the entire bill before its adjournment last month.
Helms’s prayer measure would have circumvented the controversial 1962 Supreme Court ruling that banned officially directed (government-prescribed) prayer. Instead, state legislatures would have been given the final say in matters of public school prayer.
A Southern Baptist from North Carolina, Helms denied that his prayer amendment was prompted by the folks back home. And since he was involved in his own reelection campaign, Helms also denied that the bill was politically motivated: “It’s just something I feel strongly about.” (Helms has been stymied in past attempts to amend the Constitution to allow public school prayer.)
At least fifteen major church groups were happy to say last rites over the rider. The church groups complained that religious education should take place at home, not in the public schools. A statement to that effect was included in a letter drafted by representatives of the Lutheran Church in the USA, the United Church of Christ, the Church of the Brethren, the United Methodist Church, and the Unitarian-Universalist Association. The letter was hand-delivered to all 100 senators before they began consideration of the bill.
Helms also received negative response from fellow Baptists. The Baptist Committee on Public Affairs wanted it known that Helms didn’t speak for all Baptists. Committee director James Wood wrote a statement in behalf of Baptists that read in part, “We contend that the Court clearly did not rule out religion from the curriculum of the public school but in effect affirmed that the public school is not a place of worship but for learning.”
Another bill with church and state ramifications died in the waning hours of the 95th Congress. Senate and House versions of a tuition tax credit bill were never reconciled.
A House version of the bill would have given tax credits to parents of children in elementary and secondary private schools, while a Senate tax credit proposal would have allowed tax credits only to parents of college youth—up to $250 per student per year. A House-Senate committee presented alternatives for a compromise bill, but none were approved before the adjournment deadline.
President Jimmy Carter had planned to veto the tax credit measure. He views the plan as wasteful, since credit would be given the rich and poor alike, regardless of need. He views tax credits for elementary and secondary private school education—most of which would go to church day schools—as a violation of the separation of church and state. Many church groups, particularly the Roman Catholics, fumed that Christian schools would be hurt by the credit loss.
The mysterious deaths in London last month of Bulgarian defectors Vladimir Simeonov and Georgi Markov didn’t surprise fellow defector Stefan Bankov. Bankov, a Christian who left Bulgaria with his family in 1969 to escape persecution, now preaches the gospel by radio to his countrymen. Working with Underground Evangelism in Glendale, California, he says that he and his family have been subjected to Communist harassment, threats, and assassination attempts.
While flying from London to Seattle in 1974, a man and woman spilled a liquid on Bankov’s shoulder that paralyzed his side and made him violently ill for several days. Two months ago, shots were fired at him outside his home. Bankov says that during his stay in the United States, there has been an attempt to kidnap his daughters. He reports that strangers have made attractive offers to his wife and daughters to get them to return to Bulgaria, and that his family has received hundreds of abusive telephone calls. A note taped recently to a window at the Bankov home warned: “You are marked. We follow you all the time.”
Bankov made these threats public only recently and after the deaths of Simeonov and Markov, who were among a group of five Bulgarian broadcasters who defected. Markov died after being stabbed by a poison-tipped umbrella. Simeonov died after falling down the stairs inside his London apartment (London authorities aren’t discounting the possibility that he was pushed), and Vladimir Kostov survived a poisoning attempt similar to that which killed Markov. A fifth broadcaster now working for Radio Free Europe hasn’t been attacked.
Currently under police protection, Bankov is cooperating with the FBI and Scotland Yard in an investigation of the deaths of the Bulgarian defectors—victims, he is sure, of foul play on the part of Bulgarian Communists. “I think their (the Communists’) main purpose is to scare every member of my family,” Bankov said of his own situation. “They want to keep us under constant psychological pressure.”
The Bulgarians apparently are upset by Bankov’s radio witness that is beamed to his homeland of nine million people. He recently received a letter from Bulgaria that warned him to leave Underground Evangelism, an organization with an evangelistic outreach to Communist countries, or “the troubles will never stop.”
Bankov attended a Bible college in Los Angeles for four years before starting his radio ministry. He works seven days a week preparing sermons and lectures in systematic theology for his Bible College of the Air. Broadcasts are aired once a day over Radio Trans Europe in Portugal and over Radio Malta.
The Bulgarian government frequently uses “ground wave jamming” to block Bankov’s broadcasts into major Bulgarian cities, according to Underground Evangelism president Joe Bass. Copies of a two-volume set of Bankov’s sermons and lectures, as well as cassette tapes of his broadcasts, are being smuggled into that Communist nation.
Bankov became a Christian in 1953, and he later pastored an independent church in Bulgaria until the government closed it in 1964. Bankov still owns the tattered New Testament, held together by a rubber band, that was his only resource during his ministry in Bulgaria.
The forty-five-year-old Bankov is accustomed to persecution. Before he escaped Bulgaria, Bankov says he was “constantly under pressure.” “It was a difficult time with the Bulgarian government.… They accused me of being mentally sick because I could not see the progress of the Communist party or of the Socialist society.”
Bankov, who creates most of his own teaching materials during twelve- and fourteen-hour working days, fears most for the safety of his family. As he intends to continue his radio ministry, he says, “My prayer every day is just, ‘Lord, help the kids and my wife to understand.’ ”
Carrot And Stick For The Media
Two antipornography organizations were in the news this month, but their approach to the problem differed. The National Federation for Decency (NFD) was using negative reinforcement, while another group, Morality in Media, advocated a positive slant.
NFD director Donald E. Wildmon was pushing a nationwide boycott this month of ABC-TV programming, which, he says, features too much sex and violence. A United Methodist pastor from Mississippi, Wildmon hoped the boycott would result in a $30,000 loss in ABC advertising revenues—advertising rates are based on a network’s share of the viewing audience. Earlier this year the NFD organized a protest against Sears that caused the company to withdraw its sponsorship of two television shows that the NFD found offensive: “Charlie’s Angels” and “Three’s Company” (see June 2 issue, p. 38).
Another antipornography group. Morality in Media, affirmed the “positive contributions to enriching family entertainment” by honoring performers Donny and Marie Osmond, of the Mormon church, and comedian Sam Levensen at its thirteenth annual awards dinner in New York this month. Morton A. Hill, priest and president of the nonsectarian organization, said the Osmonds and Levenson “provide the American people with performances grounded in a sense of values and a sense of family.”
Religion In Transit
His decision will be appealed by state officials, but Franklin Circuit Court judge Henry Meigs has ruled in favor of Kentucky Christian schools who were involved in a year-long suit with the state (see Sept. 22 issue, p. 37). Meigs ruled that private Christian schools can operate without state regulation, providing they meet minimum fire, health, safety, and attendance requirements. The state had denied accreditation to the schools and had intended to prosecute parents of children attending the schools, saying their children were truants.
A group of Vancouver Christians, representing some forty congregations, called last month for a day of prayer for the healing of their nation. The group invited leaders of the four national political parties in Canada to a prayer breakfast, saying in a written statement, “We are aware that our Canada not only needs healing in the political arena, but also in the personal lives of us all.…”
Last month the City Council of Berkeley, California, passed one of the strongest gay rights ordinances in the nation. It forbade discrimination on the basis of sexual preference in employment, credit, schools, and city services and facilities. The bill provides for mandatory awarding of damages and enforced penalties when the ordinance is violated.
It was the old story of inadequate finances and personnel problems that caused Inspiration magazine to fold. Dead after nine months, the magazine was unique in religious publishing. It had a “slick” format and newsstand distribution. And it was owned by a secular firm, Peterson Publications (which also distributes such specialty magazines as Hot Rod and Motor Trend). Inspiration claimed a 250,000 circulation last June.
The National Council of Churches wants to make the word ecumenical understandable. It hired comedian Stan Freberg to write and produce three radio spots that began airing last month. The definition: “that different churches work together on programs that show God’s love in the community.” The commercials poke fun at supposed misconceptions of the meaning of the word, using radio characters like “Norman Vincent Mouse.” Freberg and the NCC say that the similarity in names between the mouse and Norman Vincent Peale is coincidental, and have denied any intent to portray the positive thinking preacher as antiecumenical.
Private, profit-making nursing homes charge less than homes run by churches, the government, and other nonprofit groups, a government health survey has revealed. Tentative survey results indicate that the average monthly charge in the private nursing homes was $641, compared with $722 in the nonprofit homes.
Bishops of the Episcopal church voted to censure “in the strongest terms” retired bishop Albert Chambers of Springfield, Illinois. Chambers was condemned for consecrating bishops last January of the breakaway Anglican Church of North America—formed by Episcopalians who were disgruntled by the 1976 General Assembly’s authorization of women priests. At their meeting last month in Kansas City, the Episcopal House of Bishops also declared that four bishops who had ordained women priests before the 1976 authorization was passed had “broken fellowship.”
John Kyle has been named missions director for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. He recently served as coordinator of international relations for Wycliffe Bible Translators.
A former executive officer of Mission Aviation Fellowship, Charles Mellis, will become director of Missionary Internship—an educational and internship agency for missionaries.
The first and still the only female dean of a U.S. theological seminary has announced her resignation. Sallie McFague, 44, will step down in May at Vanderbilt Divinity School (United Methodist) to resume full-time teaching and research at the school.
John E. Moyer was elected bishop of the 29,000-member Evangelical Congregational Church at the fourteenth general conference of the denomination; its 161 member churches are located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
Bishop Alfred Stanway, pioneer African missionary and educator, has retired as dean/president at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. Stanway was founding dean of the three-year-old Episcopal seminary, located near Pittsburgh in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.
GUENTHER HARDER, 76, a leader of German Protestant resistance against Hitler, and with Dietrich Bonhoeffer a founder in 1936 of the illegal Bible school that later became the official seminary of the Evangelical Church in Berlin and Brandenburg; on September 12 in West Berlin.
BENJAMIN L. MASSE, 73, a Roman Catholic, often called the “labor priest” for his active role in the Catholic church’s defense of the labor movement, an associate editor of America magazine for thirty years; on September 28, in New Rochelle, New York, after a heart attack.
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