Several evangelical leaders in Pittsburgh moved closer to their goal of making their city “as famous for God as it is for steel” by sponsoring the first International Labor-Management Prayer Breakfast last month. More than 1,300 persons—including blue- and white-collar workers, management officials, clergymen, and educators—gathered in the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel to study how Christian principles can solve labor-management conflicts.

For Wayne Alderson, 52, a former steel corporation executive, the prayer breakfast fulfilled a personal dream. Alderson, who calls himself a “rank-and-file United Presbyterian layman,” had worked for four years with United Steel Workers official Francis “Lefty” Scumaci to bring the breakfast to the table.

During a major address in a three-hour Saturday morning session, Alderson outlined his “Value of the Person” concept, explaining that turmoil between labor and management will end only when each side shows love, dignity, and respect for the other.

Evangelical theologian R. C. Sproul laid the biblical foundations for the idea. He described Alderson’s vision of a “work world reformation” as “doing things God’s way, not man’s way, in the marketplace.”

Reid Carpenter, a Pittsburgh area director for Young Life, and John Guest, an Episcopalian pastor, conducted a seminar on “The Work World and Family.” Sproul, Carpenter, and Guest frequently appear across the country with Alderson. Sproul says Alderson is spending more time at Value of the Person seminars. Last spring, fifty-six front-line supervisors at a New Stanton, Pennsylvania, Volkswagon plant learned the “Value of the Person” concept at Ligonier Valley Study Center, an interdenominational retreat center near Pittsburgh, headed by Sproul.

Alderson has spent four years promoting his “work world reformation.” The cochairmen of the prayer breakfast were George A. Stinson and Lloyd McBride, whom Alderson calls men that “Christian corporation men can really take heart from.”

Stinson is chairman of the National Steel Corporation, the third largest in the nation, and McBride is president of the United Steelworkers of America, the largest union in America, with 1.4 million members. Each man spoke at the prayer breakfast—as did U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall, who represented President Jimmy Carter. Several Canadian and British officials also participated.

Article continues below

Alderson in the early 1970s was vice-president of operations in a Glassport, Pennsylvania, steel foundry—the former Pittron Corporation, later Bucyrus-Erie. He was promoted to that post immediately after settlement of a crippling eighty-four-day strike at the plant.

The steel executive’s trademark was a personal relationship with the workers. Alderson frequently went into the factory to talk to workers about their personal and work problems. He conducted a chapel service in a storage room beneath a steel furnace, which workers attended on their own time. At first, only a handful of people showed up, but after two years most of the 1,000 employees took part—many of them attending Bible studies.

As a result worker productivity increased and absenteeism decreased. And, most important to management, the company showed a $2 million profit; months earlier it had been struggling. At his own expense, Alderson chronicled this turnaround in a film, “The Miracle of Pittron,” which he shows at his seminars.

But in 1974 Alderson was fired. The company, he says, “was uptight with my involvement with the men” and he adds that management specifically wanted him to withdraw from the Bible studies and prayer meetings. He says he is not bitter over his dismissal, because “it set me free to do what God wanted me to do—to show what can happen when you take God into the world of work through the value of the person.”

Now Alderson supports himself by speaking engagements and seminars. During the work day, he frequently goes to coal mines, steel mills, and factories to talk with workers at the gates. Last month, he tried to reduce tensions during a truckers’ strike in Pittsburgh. Last year, he prayed with United Mine Workers President Arnold Miller for a settlement in the lengthy coal strike.

Reactions to the $20-a-plate prayer breakfast varied. A man complained that Alderson promoted “civil religion.” But Archie Parrish, international director of Evangelism Explosion, described Alderson’s address at the breakfast as “the most powerful, moving thing I have ever heard.”

During the breakfast, Alderson admitted that he is not necessarily trying to convert factory workers. “Christ is at the center of the value of the person approach,” he said later. “But even an atheist or agnostic can accept the worth of the person. An encounter with Christ may come afterwards.”

Article continues below

Alderson plans a second prayer breakfast. He says the marketplace will be “the battlefield of the 1980s unless labor-management conflicts are resolved” and he intends to go on preaching the worth and dignity of the worker. “There’s one thing I have besides my faith that no one can deny,” he said. “And that’s a track record [at Pittron]. That’s why for five years people have been listening to me.”

Reformed Judaism
Conversionist Ardor: Rekindling the Flame

Reform Jews last month announced a program to win converts to their faith—the first such program by a major body of Judaism in modern history. Alexander Schindler, rabbi and president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (the most liberal of American Jewish groups) requested the proselytizing effort at a meeting of the board of directors of the 1.2-million-member organization of Reform Judaism. In approving his request, the board also authorized creation of a thirty-member commission that will launch the program.

Schindler, as with leaders of the Conservative and Orthodox branches of Judaism, is concerned by a declining American Jewish population, which, according to the American Jewish Year Book, dropped by 100,000 in the last ten years to 5.7 million. He particularly appealed for efforts to convert the unchurched, non-Jewish spouses, and “seekers of truth” who might otherwise drift into cult groups.

In a newspaper interview, Schindler said that Jews tried vigorously in ancient times to convert pagans, but that proselytizing was curtailed when Christianity became the state religion of the Roman empire and when Muslims conquered Jewish land. He said, however, that proselytizing by Jewish groups did not end completely until 400 years ago.

Schindler said that fear of persecution no longer inhibits potential Jewish converts, and that proselytizing should resume. The first steps in the program include establishing information centers, publicizing courses on Judaism, and developing literature.

Thanks, But No Thanks

Southern Baptist evangelist James Robison won’t accept the gift of a college campus in Big Sandy, Texas. Earlier press accounts—based on a news release from the Robison evangelistic association—said Virginia businessman William Menge had given the $10.6 million property to Robison (see the November 17, issue, p. 53). But operating costs at the 1,600-acre, multi-facility campus, formerly the property of Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God, would total up to $1 million annually. Robison, an association spokesman said, doesn’t want association funds diverted from his current project to evangelize America over prime time television. The Robison association is filming a series of fifteen programs, and $15 million has been budgeted to produce, and then in the coming year air the programs on the top 225 television markets in America.

Article continues below


The 6,000-member Calvary Temple of Denver is making a steady comeback from bankruptcy. Its indebtedness totaled nearly $10 million when it went into bankruptcy in 1975 as a result of illegal bond sales and financial collapse of an affiliated nursing home operation (See January 3, 1975, issue, page 34, and September 10, 1976, issue, page 67).
Having raised about $4 million and paid in full 800 creditors, the church recently was released from receivership. Last month, members and friends chipped in cash, real estate, stock, jewelry, and even an antique car in a single-offering attempt to wipe out the rest of the debt. Church officials estimated the “Celebration Sunday” collection at $2.7 million—short of the nearly $5 million goal, but enough to pay many of the 700 remaining creditors.
Pastor Charles Blair says his people are anxious to clear the debt. There are investors who really need their money, he says, and the church needs to free its offerings for missionary work. (Under a repayment plan, the church has had to set aside a minimum of $500,000 a year for paying off debts.)

Radio evangelist Lester Roloff of Corpus Christi told the Dallas Times Herald that he wanted the property if Robison didn’t. Menge acknowledged Roloff’ s interest and said that “right now he is the frontrunner over James [Robison].” The businessman plans to use the purchase for “tax purposes,” and will negotiate a lease with one of the evangelists.

Roloff, 64, operates eight charity homes for troubled children, and he intends to move two of these facilities to the former Ambassador College Campus, according to the Dallas press account. Often the subject of controversy, he once spent five days in a Texas jail for refusing to let state welfare department officials inspect his child care centers.

Natalia: From Russia With Feeling

During a speech last year at Harvard University, exiled Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn chided Americans for their moral weakness. Last November his wife, Natalia Solzhenitsyn, addressed American Christians at another Ivy League gathering. She wants the American church to support Russian Christian dissidents.

Article continues below

Mrs. Solzhenitsyn spoke for more than an hour to 1,600 people at Dartmouth College; her private secretary translated. In low, impassioned tones, she said American Christians need to show greater concern for persecuted fellow Christians in Russia.

The audience gave Mrs. Solzhenitsyn a standing ovation. The only negative response came during a question and answer session following the speech. Someone wondered why she had not spoken to the plight of Jewish, as well as Christian, dissidents. Mrs. Solzhenitsyn, who heads a committee fighting in behalf of imprisoned Soviet (and Jewish-born but Russian Orthodox) activist Alexander Ginzburg, said that time, unfortunately, had not permitted her to do so.


The following changes should be noted to the religious census listings of members of Congress and governors in the December 1 issue: Ertel (D-Pa.) is a Lutheran, not a Roman Catholic; Lloyd (D-Tenn.) should be listed with Churches of Christ, not with the United Church of Christ; Randolph (D-W.Va.), a Seventh Day Baptist, and Schweiker (R-Pa.), a Schwenkfelder, are Senators (names should have appeared in bold-face type); and Thorsness (R-S.D.) in the Baptist column has been supplanted by Daschle (D-S.D.), a Catholic, as apparent winner in a still uncertain race in mid-December. The deaths of two congressmen occurred after they were reelected: Ryan (D-Calif.), a Catholic, and Steiger (R-Wisc.), an Episcopalian. In the governors listings, Goodwin, Jr. (R-Va.) of the United Church of Christ, should be deleted in favor of Dalton (D-Va.), a Baptist. And Janklow (R-S.D.) should be transferred from the Presbyterian to the Lutheran column.

During a press conference after the speech, Mrs. Solzhenitsyn said Americans may get a false picture of the Russian Christian church when they visit Moscow for the 1980 Olympics. She said that dissenters are being removed from the city, and that KGB agents will be planted in the city to pose as church members who will express satisfaction with the relationship to the state. This was Mrs. Solzhenitsyn’s first major appearance since she joined her husband in 1974.

The Solzhenitsyns live in Cavendish, Vermont, which is less than thirty miles from the Dartmouth campus at Hanover, New Hampshire. Mrs. Solzhenitsyn particularly wanted to encourage local churches in New England to get involved in behalf of Russian Christians.

Article continues below

Mrs. Solzhenitsyn spoke under the auspices of the Dartmouth Area Christian Fellowship, which was described by an elder, J. Robert Beck, as a “charismatic, evangelical fellowship of about 200 persons.” Formed eight years ago out of prayer and Bible study groups on the Dartmouth campus, the DACF meets Sunday afternoons in a college building. Half of its members are students who attend this prestigious college of 4,000.

According to Beck, the Solzhenitsyn speech was a “mutual coming together.” Mrs. Solzhenitsyn had wanted to speak in behalf of Soviet dissidents, but under the sponsorship of a religious group, he said. And since the Dartmouth fellowship sponsors missionaries to Eastern Europe, its sponsorship of the Solzhenitsyn speech was a natural, according to Beck.

After conversations with the Solzhenitsyns, Beck found them to be “committed believers.” He said the exiled Soviets worship in a private chapel in their own home, frequently under the direction of invited Russian Orthodox clergymen.

Tickets for the speech sold for a dollar, and proceeds went to the Russian Social Fund—a nonprofit agency established by author Solzhenitsyn with money from his book royalties. The fund helps support families of Soviet dissidents who have been sent to labor camps.

North American Scene

A family life conference planned by Texas Southern Baptists was canceled after Houston pastor Glynn A. Little publicly criticized scheduled keynote speaker Charles Shedd, popular author and frequent lecturer on family topics, as an advocate of oral sex between husband and wife. Calling oral sex a “heterosexual perversion” in violation of Scripture, Little complained that Shedd supported it in a tape on marriage enrichment. Shedd, who has said a couple’s sex life is their business, withdrew from the conference gracefully to prevent a controversy. However, planners later canceled the conference, fearing the dispute would turn the March conference into a media event.

Members of the Canadian House of Commons were sent a proposal recommending inclusion of freedom of religion and conscience clauses in a future Canadian constitution. The proposal emanated from Vancouver last November at a Religious Freedom Conference, which was sponsored by the Bible Holiness Movement, a tiny Wesleyan denomination of 500 members in Canada and 30,000 worldwide.

Muslim leaders say that Islam now is the third major religion in this country, behind Christianity and Judaism. At a recent conference of religion scholars in New Orleans, specialists said the U.S. Islamic movement numbers 3 million followers or about 1.5 per cent of the population.

Article continues below

Sheldon Vanauken’sA Severe Mercy, which recounts the author’s conversion to Christ under the influence of C. S. Lewis, won top honors in the annual Eternity magazine “Book of the Year” poll. Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity placed second. About 180 book reviewers and writers were asked to determine “the most significant” books of the previous year.

Minority and inner city staff members of Youth For Christ attended a weekend retreat last month at Fellowship House in Washington, D.C. Glandion Carney, Director of Urban and Minority Development, said the retreat was the first time YFC “staff of color”—including blacks, Hispanics, and Asians—had come together under one roof.

C. Kilmer Myers described himself as a “vulnerable and sinful human being” when he issued his surprise resignation as the Episcopal bishop of California at a San Francisco diocesan convention. Myers, who once joined the Selma freedom marches, had undergone treatment for alcoholism but was expected to remain in his post.

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

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