The Second Latin American Congress on Evangelization (CLADE II) in Peru last month was a thoroughly Latin affair. Invited non-Latin missionaries were limited to 10 percent of the 250 participants (although a few more attended as observers).

The gathering, on the outskirts of Lima, was in no sense antimission, but it did offer a marked contrast to CLADE I, which had assembled more than 900 participants a decade earlier in Bogotá, Colombia. That congress, organized largely by Clyde Taylor (a former Colombia missionary) of the World Evangelical Fellowship, had been mission dominated and totally financed from outside. CLADE II, with roughly half of the finances raised inside Latin America, demonstrated that the evangelical church in Latin America is coming of age.

Although the Latin church has been quietly maturing at both local and national levels, observers note there had been a void in interchurch activity at the continental level. After the 1969 meetings, the Latins had made clear there should be no more mission-initiated congresses; but it took a decade for the Latin initiative to ripen.

The initiative, when it did come, issued from the 50-member Latin American Theological Fraternity, the only organizational child of CLADE I. Its president, Samuel Escobar of Peru, and its coordinator, Pedro Savage of Argentina, served in the same capacities for the congress.

One aim of the congress was to provide evangelicals with a forum in which they could restate their positions in the aftermath of the Catholic CELAM III at Puebla, Mexico, in January 1979, and interact with those Protestants (the great majority) who did not participate in the World Council of Churches-sponsored conference at Oaxtepec, Mexico, last September.

The emphases on the theological foundations of evangelism and social concerns vexed some participants who had come expecting a greater concentration on techniques for evangelism. But, as one observer commented, evangelism needs theology or it wanders off base. And theology requires dialogue if it is not to splinter. Evangelism techniques that do not grow out of the context are usually only marginally effective, Escobar pointed out.

Participants were exposed to one religious liberal speaker, but the congress and its concluding letter were theologically conservative and socially centrist.

The Central Americans, subjected to political turmoil, followed by those from some of the Andean countries, were the most vocal about the relation of faith to political and social issues. Brazilians and participants from South America’s “southern cone” were mostly disinterested.

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Russell Shedd, respected Conservative Baptist missionary to Brazil, pointed out, though, that if evangelicals fail to grapple with Third World problems, other ideologies are sure to move in.

Theologian Orlando Costas, originally from Puerto Rico, articulated the social activist case most forcefully. He defined evangelism as the proclamation of the gospel that calls the individual to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, incorporates him into faith, and puts him into the battles of the kingdom and against the forces of evil. The demand of faith, he insisted, is always contextualized, and its response must be as well. The rich young ruler sold his possessions; Zacchaeus made restitution to those he had defrauded.

Speaking on the topic of Christ and antichrist, René Padilla of Argentina stressed that antichrist is not only future but present, and not only persecutes, but also seduces. Christ is not only opposed by forces such as spiritism, rampant in much of the continent, but also by the absolutism of consumerism. Placing economic progress above other values, he declared, leads to abuses from both

left and right in the name of national security. He cited imprisonments without trial, torture, and disappearances as indications of the antichrist. The church’s task, he said, is to maintain a faithful witness, proclaiming the gospel and living true to its values. Oscar Perreira of Chile stressed that this involved, among other things, the church parting ways with the surrounding “machismo” society and its “high-handed” treatment of women.

CLADE II organizers worked to keep lines of communication open with the ecumenically oriented Council of Latin American Churches (CLAI), presently in formation. Indeed, CLAI held a “pre-Melbourne” meeting for four days immediately following CLADE II at the same location, and some participants attended both gatherings.

The smaller ecumenical wing, like the Roman Catholic liberation theologians and Marxists, is almost totally absorbed in the social causes of the poor and oppressed. In that context, as Pablo Pérez of Mexico noted, it took some courage for CLADE II organizers to include a session on reaching the elite.

Escobar, citing Roger Greenway, the Latin America secretary of the Christian Reformed Board of Foreign Missions, asserted that evangelicals are the true revolutionaries because lives are changed. Christians, he said, work for solutions within any society. Marxists, by contrast, exploit despair, working to sabotage reform.

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Full involvement by Pentecostals at CLADE II showed that they have been accepted into the evangelical mainstream. They were still underrepresented, however, in relation to their numerical strength.

One of the themes explored by the congress was the relationship of Scripture and the Holy Spirit to evangelization. As a congress organizer explained, Pentecostals sometimes have been charged with emphasizing the Spirit at the expense of the Word. Other churches have been charged with an emphasis on the Word at the expense of living manifestation of the Spirit. The conferees readily agreed that the written Word judges both the spoken word and the promptings of the Spirit. The easy consensus may mean that the Pentecostal position had been incorrectly perceived.

The World Council of Churches conspicuously has been wooing the Latin American Pentecostal movement in the last few years with some initial successes. At the initiative of Argentinian Pentecostal Norberto Saracco, 36 Pentecostal participants arrived a week early and formed a Confraternity of Pentecostal Movements. The confraternity acknowledges theological diversity in the movement as a strength, but will probably serve as a counterweight to the WCC inroads. A commission of five was elected, and a Latin American Pentecostal conference was slated for late 1981.

The congress was launched deliberately on Reformation Day to underscore the Protestant distinctives of a church set in an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic context. Speaking from the pulpit of Lima’s impressive, modern Pueblo Libre Christian and Missionary Alliance Church structure (2,000 seating capacity), Emilio Nuñez, president of the Central American Seminary in Guatemala, reiterated the Reformation themes of Scripture alone, faith alone, and grace alone.

The evangelical churches of Lima used the presence of the congress as an occasion for raising their visibility. With congress participants at the head, they formed a “parade of witness,” organized according to city districts, and replete with banners and more than one band. The church members paraded downtown, singing hymns and reciting Scripture. One participant from Colombia joked that all the parade needed to make it a (religious) procession was images of Saint Luther and Saint Calvin, the marchers converged on Manco Capac Plaza, where for two hours the massed group of almost 10,000 cheered, prayed, sang, and listened to messages and Quichua Indian gospel music over loudspeakers.

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No doubt the parade boosted evangelical morale, but some observers wondered if the parade and Reformation Day emphases, appropriate a decade earlier, were not reflex actions that no longer fit the increasing openness in sectors of the Roman Catholic church.

(Last May 10,000 Roman Catholics gathered in a Lima soccer stadium for ECCLA VI, the Sixth Catholic Charismatic Encounter in Latin America. They listened intently to preaching of the basic salvation steps, interspersed with testimonies of priests, nuns, and lay people. Many testified to their new life in Christ and the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit. Hundreds responded to the invitation.)

Perhaps 95 percent of Latin Americans are baptized Roman Catholics. But evangelicals, conferees were advised, would do well to think of their fellow Latins as culturally Roman Catholic, more than religiously so.

Costas told the congress that God had raised up the Pentecostals and the renewal movement in the Catholic church to evangelize the continent on a scale historic evangelicals were too small to cope with. The evangelicals, he maintained, would serve as a prophetic voice to keep the evangelistic wave from degenerating. Conferees were cool to his interpretation of current events. Escobar noted that the base communities concept being pursued so successfully by Catholics was copied from evangelical house meetings of earlier years.

A1 Shannon, Wycliffe missionary to Peru, maintains that evangelicals could relate to the Catholic renewal movement more easily than to the Protestant ecumenical movement. For one thing, he said, charismatic Catholics have no time for liberation theology. They are also wide open to Protestant teaching. Millions are predisposed to evangelism if it can be done within their church culture, instead of dragging them out “kicking and screaming” one by one into the evangelical subculture, he said.

CLADE II spokesmen indicated that uniformly the situation is not so favorable as it is in Peru. Catholic authorities in Colombia, for example, have recently moved to suppress the charismatic groups.

Savage, in consultation with John Stott, is engaged in dialogue with some Catholics. But efforts over the last five months to find an opening to the new secretary of CELAM so far have been unavailing.

Nicaragua: the Shaking and Shifting of the Church

God used the devastating earthquake of 1974 to set in motion developments that prepared the evangelical church in Nicaragua for the national convulsion that culminated in the ouster of dictator Anastasio Somoza. The eight Nicaraguan Christian workers who participated in CLADE II were united in this assessment.
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Meeting disaster needs after the earthquake prodded the churches to work together as never before. They jointly organized CEPAD, the Evangelical Committee for the Relief of Victims, for channeling relief efforts. It involved them in the wider Nicaraguan society as never before. It also redeployed the church as members were relocated from destroyed homes.
CEPAD early moved beyond immediate relief efforts to development programs and the study of church involvement in society. A weeklong seminar on social issues brought together 280 pastors. They organized a 10-member central committee and 14 regional committees of pastors.
In this way a ferment of creative ideas was begun. Church members at the district level made suggestions on the church’s role and priorities and sent them to the central committee. Sessions were organized to help orient church members to community functions they could fill, to inform them of theological currents, and to help them improve church administration. Women’s and youth retreats were included. In October 1978, 500 pastors met for a retreat, after the event had been postponed four times in the midst of the growing unrest.
None of the increased activity was focused on politics, nor related either to or against the government. But the “national agony,” as believers called it, intruded increasingly. A human rights committee was formed in 1976 representing 48 Protestant denominations.
The committee first focused on reports of persons who disappeared—often from parents reporting a missing son. It became experienced in locating where these persons were imprisoned and negotiating their release, which always involved payment. “It became a business.”
Many individuals who learned that they were marked for extermination took refuge in foreign embassies in Managua. The committee supplied them with food.
It also assisted those who went into exile, providing guidance and financial help. Procuring their exit visas also invariably required payment.
As word of indiscriminate barbarities by the National Guard against rural people in the northern sector of the country accumulated, the committee decided to act. It collected specifics—those killed and tortured, with names, dates, and places—and requested an interview with Somoza. A three-man delegation obtained a 45-minute audience at Somoza’s bunker. He said he would do all in his power to correct the abuses; but no improvements resulted.
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Rodolfo Fonseca Castro, who is pastor of a Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) congregation in Managua (140 members after the earthquake relocations), is representative of the gradual change in political perceptions for many believers.
He says that as long ago as 1968 he took part in passive resistance to the oppression of the Somoza regime. Being party to violence, however, never occurred to him since his training included the tenets of submission to the existing authorities and noninvolvement in politics. But the pressures on his inherited stance became overpowering. The National Guard began indiscriminately to kill youths just because many youth were attracted to the Sandinistas. (The ironic result was that the young were forced to escape to the Sandinistas as their only refuge.)
Fonseca said he searched for a weapon, and then, when he had acquired one, prayed that God would spare him from ever having to use it to save his sons from death or his daughters from violation.
Starting last spring, he rose daily at five o’clock to pray that the Somoza regime would experience a change of heart. But increasingly he began to doubt that Romans 13 meant that Somoza’s regime was God-ordained. “How,” he pled, “can such injustice come from You?”
Eventually, he recalls, he received the distinct impression that God was repeating to him his words to Samuel about Saul: How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?
The following Sunday he announced his conclusion from his pulpit.
Undoubtedly elements of believers either supported the government out of a grim conviction that theirs was the biblical stance, or attempted to cling to neutrality. But, as Fonseca’s poignant narrative demonstrates, most were driven into reluctant opposition.
Traces of the Church Remain after Pol Pot

World Vision president Stanley Mooneyham, who had contacts with the small Cambodian Christian community prior to the 1975 takeover by the genocidal Pol Pot regime, wrote this article following his recent four-day relief assistance visit to the capital city, Phnom Penh.

Pol Pot may have thought he buried religion in his efforts to create a new “classless and glorious” society in Cambodia, but now green shoots of new life are springing out of the ground.

When the Khmer Rouge set about to take the country back to “Year Zero” (their designation for 1975, the year of their takeover), they tried to destroy every connection with the twentieth century. Inspired by the maniacal Red Guards of China’s “cultural revolution,” Pol Pot was determined to bring forth a revolutionary “pure” rural society. He wanted a society with ties to nothing more recent than the Angkor Wat Khmer empire of the tenth century.

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Thus, around the city of Phnom Penh were pyramids of automobiles, pianos, refrigerators, sewing machines, generators, and scores of other things, all smashed as an act of contempt for anything that looked like the twentieth century.

The Khmer Rouge were anti everything of an institutional nature, including religion. Teachers, office workers, students, businessmen, civil servants, technicians, Buddhist monks, Christians, anyone speaking a foreign language, anyone who had worked for a foreign organization, anyone knowing a foreigner—all these and more received an immediate death sentence. In fact, simply having lived in a city was itself a virtual death sentence; it meant that one had been corrupted by the twentieth century.

Under the Vietnamese-backed Heng Samrin regime, the city of Phnom Penh is gradually coming back to life. An estimated 100,000 people now live in the city. Thousands more are camped around the perimeter awaiting permission to enter. Access is carefully controlled. Only people who can contribute some skill to rebuilding are desired at this time.

Most of those now in the city are not former residents. They have come from the provinces.

Practice of ancient Buddhism and Christianity was forbidden under Pol Pot. Any public expression of Christian faith would have brought a club to the head of the witness. Yet Christians did retain their faith. In Phnom Penh, I met former World Vision staff members who said with tears, “God saved me. Otherwise I would be dead.” They said they had to erase completely from their minds any knowledge of their past lest they inadvertently betray themselves.

A former university student who had worked as a translator in the Bible Society said, “I had to pretend that I knew nothing about anything. I became an ignorant peasant for all that time.” Then she added, “But I always prayed.”

As soon as I reached the city, word spread quickly through the network of Christians. Some of those people now hold positions in the new government. They were selected when word was passed through the countryside that the regime needed anyone with an education or who could speak a foreign language. Gradually, some have begun to surface.

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In notes that were handed to me, Christians told their experiences under Pol Pot and indicated they still did not feel entirely secure.

Most noticeable in Phnom Penh by its absence was the huge Gothic cathedral that had dominated the capital city’s skyline. Built less than a century ago by French Roman Catholics, it was demolished by the Khmer Rouge and every stone was removed. Grass now grows on the vacant lot where it stood.

I saw no destruction of Protestant buildings, probably because these were less ostentatious and blended into the environment. Bethany Church on Monivong Street is closed, but with some allowance for more than four years of neglect, it looked much as it did when I used to preach there. The residential property on Norodom Boulevard, where the Christian and Missionary Alliance had its headquarters, looked intact, although unoccupied. The Bible school property in the suburb of Takhmau reportedly is still standing.

The World Vision pediatric hospital, which was built in 1975, is still standing and in good condition, but is presently occupied by the military. Probably all of the equipment is gone, along with the city’s automobiles and sewing machines, but World Vision has been told it can start negotiations to re-equip the hospital.

Since all the property in Phnom Penh now belongs to the socialist government of Heng Samrin, no one knows what will be the final disposition or usage allowed for these properties.

I did not find any of the church leaders I had previously known. They are presumed dead, but not confirmed to be; none can be accounted for visibly. I expect to begin inquiries regarding them on future visits. Since there was total disruption of community life and the people lived isolated from each other during Pol Pot’s rule, it is likely that many deaths will never be finally confirmed.

I was told that freedom of religion will be permitted under one of eleven articles of the constitution. But whether that is true or not, the faith of Cambodia’s believers, having survived all that Pol Pot could place upon it, is not likely to go into eclipse now.

Cleaver: Gazing at a Different Moon

Eldridge Cleaver denies he has joined Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. But the former Black Panther leader freely admits he shocked some people by speaking recently at a Moonie gathering in Oakland, California.

Cleaver, 44, who became something of an evangelical celebrity after his about-face Christian conversion in 1976, had attended a weekly gathering of Project Volunteer, a Unification group involved in social service projects in Oakland. He told an enthusiastic audience of 150 about his conversion experience and his rejection of socialism.

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In a lengthy telephone interview, Cleaver said he has been investigating the Unification Church and its doctrine out of personal curiosity for some time. “I had decided I had to find out what was going on,” he said.

This curiosity led him to attend Oakland area Unification dinners and seminars. Then, last summer, he spent six weeks at a Moonie ranch in northern California. Cleaver said he received the same indoctrination, regimented treatment, and “love-bombing” as other potential converts at the ranch.

“I knew what I was doing [by being there],” said Cleaver, explaining his decision to go to the ranch came after prayer.

Cleaver said he didn’t want to be drawn into theological arguments about the Unification Church. What is more important, he indicated, is that Moonies practice what they preach:

“I’m looking at the Moonies the same way I look at any other church or evangelical organization … I put them on a graph on my wall and check the consistency between what they preach and what they practice … I end up looking at the situation totally different than some other people do.”

Evangelicals are lacking on Cleaver’s scale—explaining in part his remark about preferring to be with the littlest Moonie than Billy Graham: “If you only knew the littlest Moonie, you’d say that, too,” Cleaver told this reporter.

Cleaver asserts that the organized church and evangelicalism are guilty of commercialized religion. He said the churches are “misusing” their resources by building superchurches and “secret bank accounts,” among other things.

Cleaver’s remarks seem less jolting to persons familiar with his background. He never was bland or lukewarm: his response to the civil rights movement was furthest from the middle. He joined the Black Panthers, becoming one of its leaders.

His involvement culminated in an April 1968 shootout between Black Panthers and Oakland police. Cleaver still awaits trial on charges of assault and attempted murder in connection with that shooting. (Last May, the California State Supreme Court upheld the use of certain key evidence in the case—ending nearly two years of legal maneuvering and clearing the way for a retrial.)

Cleaver jumped bail after his 1968 arrest, and spent seven years in exile abroad. His Communist politics won him temporary homes in Cuba, China, North Korea, and Algeria. Finally in Paris in 1975, disillusioned by his wanderings and on the verge of suicide, Cleaver professed to seeing a vision of Christ in the moon, which prompted him to start reading the Bible and gave him inner peace.

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He felt led to return to the United States, where he immediately was incarcerated. Then, under the influence of a prison evangelist, he formally accepted Christ. Christian businessmen raised his $100,000 bond, and within 10 months after his baptism, Cleaver had established his own evangelistic association, Eldridge Cleaver Crusades, a small operation in his Menlo Park, California, home. (Cleaver wants to open a larger headquarters near Carson City, Nevada.)

Cleaver recently has been working among the elderly in the Bay area. He said: “That’s really where we encountered the Moonies, on that same terrain of working with these elderly people in Oakland.” He said he anticipates cooperating with the Unification Church in various other projects.

Cleaver says he has plans for the first “Debtors Bank of America,” which he was to announce during a “bill-burning ceremony” in an Oakland city park last month. Cleaver wants the poor to “deposit their bills in our bank and accept our union as their bargaining agent and to send the bill collectors to our union.” The bank, he said, would be financed from government and private industry sources.

Soon after his conversion, Cleaver attended Bible studies at pastor Ray Stedman’s Peninsula Bible Church at Palo Alto, California, and started off on the evangelical speaking circuit. Stedman, a popular author and seminar speaker, said last month that Cleaver’s wife, Kathleen, and two children still are regular attenders at the church. However, he has not seen Cleaver for about six months, despite several attempts to meet with him.

Cleaver said he has been deluged by phone calls and letters since his appearance at the Unification meeting. When asked exactly what his present status is regarding the Unification Church, he replied: “I don’t know how else I can say it more plainly than I follow no man. I follow the Holy Spirit and the leading that he gives me. I listen and I reason with people and I follow the Bible as best I can.”


North American Scene

Registrations for Urbana 79 were officially closed on October 26. All of the more than 18,300 spaces for Inter-Varsity’s twelfth Student Missions Convention were filled two months prior to the December 27–31 gathering at the University of Illinois at Urbana. The 1976 registrations for the triennial event closed in mid-December.

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Evangelist Billy Graham is keeping a busy schedule. He recently held a five-day Atlantic Provinces Crusade in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Graham disclosed at a press conference in Chicago that he and his wife Ruth had since been dinner and overnight guests of President and Mrs. Carter at the White House. Graham left a Chicago meeting directly for England, where he made preparations for his January 1980 Cambridge/Oxford crusade.

Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses gathered recently for mutual encouragement and anti-Witnesses apologetic at their first national convention in New Ringgold, Pennsylvania. The meeting included lectures by ex-Witnesses and others, including Julius Mantey, Southern Baptist theologian and one of the translators of the New International Version of the Bible, who discussed “Distortions of the New Testament by Jehovah’s Witnesses.” W. I. Cetnar of Kunkletown, Pennsylvania, a Witness for 22 years, chaired the meeting, which also emphasized evangelizing persons still in the cult.

A Westminster Seminary graduate was denied a Presbyterian Church in Canada pastor’s license, presumably over the women’s ordination question. Daniel MacDougall, a member of Bridlewood Church, Toronto, had told a committee of the Presbytery of East Toronto that he could not in conscience ordain women ministers or elders. The presbytery voted to reject MacDougall’s application, and after he appealed, the synod upheld the presbytery’s decision. The denomination authorized women’s ordination in 1966 and, responding to recent allegations of discrimination against women clergy candidates, the 1979 General Assembly appointed a task force to probe and correct any such discrimination.

Religious groups are watching with interest the proposed formation of a giant coalition of charities and voluntary organizations. John Gardner, formerly of Common Cause, headed a task force that recently suggested this confederation, “Independent Sector,” as a united defense against government encroachments and regulations. The Coalition of National Voluntary Organizations and the National Council of Philanthropy, cosponsors of the effort and representing nearly 100 charities and foundations, hoped to have the confederation in operation by January.

World Scene

The Vatican’s internal budget has been in the red for almost a decade and is currently running at an annual deficit of more than $17 million. This was disclosed during the assembly of the College of Cardinals last month, the first time the full body had examined the Vatican’s secret financial operations. Up to now, the deficit has been covered from Peter’s Pence, the pope’s discretionary fund, comprised of donations from the faithful the world over on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29. The cardinals also discussed ways to increase the efficiency of the church’s central administration and its cultural departments.

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Sweden has dropped homosexuality from its official list of diseases, according to a spokesman for the National Board of Health and Welfare. A government committee has also recommended that children be permitted to divorce their parents. This would make it possible for a child to remain with foster parents in the face of demands from the natural parent that the child be returned. Earlier the government passed with only minor dissent an antispanking law.

The Communist party youth organization in the Soviet Union is deploring the latest “craze among our young people.” Its publication, Komsomolskaya Pravda, noted that they are wearing crucifixes around their necks and sporting Jesus T-shirts. The Communist youth organ acknowledged that “church-going is spreading among the young” and urged a renewed antireligion campaign “to dissuade the young from doing so.”

The Lutheran Church of Botswana is still at odds with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, according to Lutheran missionary sources in the German Federal Republic. The 10,000-member Botswana church broke away from ELCSA in September of last year, saying it did not want to remain under a church with administrative headquarters in white-controlled South Africa, and that it wanted to be free to join with other Botswana Lutheran groups. Since then Botswana has refused permission to ELCSA workers to enter the country.

Fulanis, the nomadic Muslim cattle herders of West Africa, are responding to the gospel in significant numbers for the first time. Sudan Interior Mission missionaries report that a recent conference in Zaria, Nigeria, for Fulani believers drew a record attendance of 103, plus 33 from other tribes. During the meetings eight professed faith in Christ.

The Menachim Begin government greatly expanded surveillance of Christian missionaries when it took over two years ago. This was disclosed in an interview carried in Hatsofeh, a National Religious Party publication, with “a former employee in the Ministry of Religious Affairs who for many years dealt with the subject of the Mission.” It increased from one to three the staff employed to “keep track and orderly record of the tens of sects and hundreds of missionaries [working in Israel] and to restrict their activity.” Sources believe the interviewee was Rabbi Simon A. Dolgin, the former director-general of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

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Construction has begun on the $1.8 million relocation project for India’s Union Biblical Seminary. The seminary—with 200 students it is India’s largest evangelical seminary—has been located in the remote town of Yavatmal (Yeotmal) since its founding in 1953. It took two years to clear the title legally to the new hillside property overlooking Pune (Poona), a city of 1.5 million not far from Bombay. As soon as enough buildings are erected, the seminary will move. Benefits of the relocation, according to principal Saphir Athyal, include wider service outlets for both students and faculty, more adequate research and library facilities, improved communication, quicker transportation, more interaction in both city and village ministries, and a better climate.

A selection of Christian materials for Southeast Asian refugees in their own languages is now available from a single source. The Far East Broadcasting Company, drawing heavily on the Christian and Missionary Alliance, is making up “media-paks” that contain a New Testament, a few pieces of literature, and two cassette tapes. The paks, in Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, and Hmong (Meo) languages, present both the gospel and practical advice for adjusting to the American way of life. They may be obtained with a donation to cover costs—about $8—from Project SHARE, FEBC, Box 1, La Mirada, CA 90637.

The Chinese have delayed consecration of the new bishop of Peking for China’s “independent” Catholic Church until at least 1980. The delay is viewed by observers as tending to confirm speculation that secret talks with the Vatican are under way. Michael Fu was elected bishop at a diocese synod in July in a move that greatly displeased Rome. Attempts to heal the schism may snag on the Vatican’s strong ties with Taiwan.

The Cults
A Verdict on Espionage as a Religious Science

If the Watergate burglars had asked the Church of Scientology for some pointers first, they might not have bungled the job.

Between 1973 and 1976, Scientology operatives broke into government offices virtually at will and stole copies of many thousands of documents, including classified ones, according to evidence presented in federal court in Washington last month. Except for a fluke or two and the defection of a ringleader in 1977, the church’s spying operation might have continued undetected.

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As it turned out, nine Scientologists—including some of the highest ranking officials of the church—were found guilty on conspiracy charges in October by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey in Washington. Penalties could be as high as five years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

The guilty verdict capped more than a year of complex legal maneuvers and plea bargaining. In a rarely used procedure that enabled the defendants to bypass a plea of guilty or not guilty, they agreed to accept as factual a 282-page “stipulation of evidence” submitted by the government. They also agreed in advance to a nonappealable verdict of guilt. In return, federal prosecutors reduced the charges to one count of conspiracy each against eight of the defendants (from a 28-count grand jury indictment) and a single count of misdemeanor theft against the other.

Hours of last-minute haggling by defense attorneys threatened to undo the delicate agreement, and Richey several times angrily threatened to schedule the case for a normal trial. The Scientologists seemingly wanted to deny publicly the authenticity of the government’s evidence while at the same time privately acknowledging it. They also fought bitterly to keep documents supporting the government’s case sealed, but Richey opened them to inspection by the press and public.

The documents were among some 48,000 seized by FBI agents at the church’s headquarters in Los Angeles in July 1977 (Aug. 12, 1977, issue, p. 32). Approximately 15,000 were later returned to the church. An appeals court has ruled that the FBI raid was legal, but the Scientologists have voted to fight the ruling until every legal recourse is exhausted. If the ruling is eventually overturned, the government’s case—and the conviction—apparently would have to be thrown out.

Seven Scientologists were convicted of conspiring to obstruct justice: Mary Sue Hubbard (wife of controversial Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard), Henning Heldt, Duke Snider, Gregory Willardson, Richard Weigand, Cindy Raymond, and Gerald Bennett Wolfe. Convicted of conspiring to steal documents was Michael Hermann. Sharon Thomas was convicted of theft.

Wolfe infiltrated the Internal Revenue Service and Thomas penetrated both Coast Guard intelligence and the Justice Department. Both were employed as government secretaries. They and their Scientology supervisor, Michael Meisner (who later defected), carried out most of the actual thefts, according to the evidence. The other six were part of the chain of command within the church’s Guardian Office. The evidence indicates they issued directives calling for church spies to be planted in various government agencies and for certain documents to be obtained, and they inspected, evaluated, or commented upon the documents in writing once they were received.

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Scientology teaches that humans previously existed as “thetans” in outer space. Some psychological troubles in the present life can be traced to problems from a person’s previous existence, the church teaches. These troubling experiences, called “engrams,” may be embedded in the subconscious, preventing full enjoyment of life. With the help of a guide and an electronic device known as an E-meter, a person can progress through various stages to a “clear” state, where he is freed from the curses of the past. The process is known as “auditing” and may cost from $50 to $75 an hour; seekers often spend thousands of dollars hoping to become clear. Upon reaching a certain level, an individual can become an auditor, helping to free others from their psychological shackles. (A Portland, Oregon, court recently awarded $2 million in damages to a woman who claimed the church had failed to fulfill its promise to make her a better person.)

Government and medical authorities have harassed the church for years over its practices and finances.

The main goal of the church’s undercover activities was to obtain information contained about itself in government files. Some of the church’s branches had been denied tax-exempt status by the IRS, founder Hubbard was having difficulty with audits of his personal tax returns, and there were clashes with other government agencies. Using provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, the church obtained some of the material it wanted. Ironically, the government provided Scientology with indexes of withheld material, and church operatives used these as a guide for stealing copies of the withheld documents.

The operation gave the church an early warning of government intentions, and it enabled the church to devise countermeasures accordingly.

Copies of non-Scientology documents also were taken, however. These included personal notes and logs of government officials, the bulk of the files from an office of Interpol (the International Police Liaison Organization), and material involving such organizations as Bob Jones University and the Unification Church. The latter files were taken as part of a cover to divert attention away from Scientology when potentially embarrassing material taken from government files was leaked to the press, ostensibly by a disgruntled but anonymous government employee, according to evidence. Some material was to be used against individual government officials in attempts to gain advantages for the church.

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Scientology agents stole material from several important offices in the IRS, including the office of Chief Counsel and two sensitive offices in a supposedly extra-secure area. They even broke into the IRS identification room and made false credentials for themselves and other Scientology members.

Also rifled were high-level offices in the Justice Department and the office of the U.S. Attorney in the courthouse where the Scientologists were convicted last month. The Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies were infiltrated, too.

A week after announcing the guilty verdict and unsealing the reams of documents used in the government’s case, Judge Richey also unsealed many other documents seized by the FBI at Scientology headquarters. These documents indicate that Scientology spies stole secret IRS files on celebrities (Frank Sinatra, for example) and politicians (including Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley). The church apparently intended to leak some of the materials to the press to show that the IRS gathered intelligence on such persons that was not tax related. (Certain tax returns were among the files stolen by the church, however.)

The documents also show that a church operative inside the American Medical Association obtained “approximately 6–7 feet of internal AMA documents”—including its “most confidential” files. One document discusses a plan to steal minutes from a New York grand jury investigating another religious group. Another file mentions that several Scientology members are employed by the CIA. There were copies of communications from former CIA director William Colby.

In internal memos introduced as evidence, Scientology officers acknowledged the illegality of their activities and discussed the distinctions between misdemeanors and felonies.


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