After 35 years of Communism, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland could reasonably be expected to be on the wane. Instead, there are more than 20,000 churches and chapels in Poland, each filled to overflowing for hourly Sunday masses. More than 85 percent of the Poles are practicing, often fervent Catholics, with the swing toward identification with the church the strongest among youth.

Pope John Paul II’s return this month to his native land dramatically demonstrated to the world the robust health of the Polish church—to the embarassment of his reluctant Communist party hosts.

The largest crowds in Poland’s postwar history thronged to greet him, in spite of roadblocks set up everywhere to turn them back. More than a million congregated in Warsaw and in Czestochowa; one-half million filled a Gniezno meadow in 90-degree heat to welcome their Pope; a quarter million, mostly youth, cheered him at Gebarzewo; and so it went.

The entire visit was one round of restrained but relentless sparring between hosts and guest. The former archbishop of Krakow picked up his campaign for human rights and religious freedom where he had dropped it nine months ago, using his increased clout to the full.

John Paul II said he was in Poland to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the death of St. Stanislaw, the patron saint of Polish Catholics who was killed because he defied a tyrannical king. The regime maintained that the reason for his visit was the 35th anniversary of the Polish socialist state. He was officially received as head of the Vatican state rather than as a religious leader. Therefore, like any other newly arrived head of state, he reviewed a military guard of honor (perhaps the only time during his visit that the self-assured pontiff looked distinctly ill at ease).

Television reporting of the historic visit was largely lacking, after brief coverage of his first Sunday in Warsaw—ostensibly due to technical difficulties. The Pope said he was distressed that in a time of “declared freedom and exchange of information” there might be East Europeans who could not hear him speak.

An avid preacher, the Pope skillfully wove a Pentecost week emphasis on the Holy Spirit and the “birthday of faith” of the church with the founding of the church in Poland in 1066, declaring that “it is therefore impossible without Christ to understand the history of the Polish nation.” The Communists are attempting, in the words of one observer, “to instill amnesia” about the long church and state linkage.

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Polish authorities hold that church and state can coexist if the church restricts its concern to moral and spiritual questions. The Pope explicitly pledged to “serve people also in the temporal dimension of their life.”

That does not mean that his triumphal return to Poland threatened the control of its Communist government, reinforced as it is by a Soviet military presence. But it did give a boost to the morale of the church, that will be felt for many years.

Healing Time for a Scarred Nation

The terror unleashed on Ugandans by former dictator Idi Amin was even more devastating than commonly reported in the Western press, according to tales now unfolding from the liberated populace.

George Lukwia, who survived three months in Kampala’s State Research Bureau headquarters, reported that on peak days 100 to 200 prisoners had their heads bashed in by 45-pound sledgehammers. Other detainees were tortured to death or died of starvation or suffocation, then were left to decay in 10- by 12-foot cells packed with as many as 60 prisoners.

Weeks after his arrest, Lukwia, a former Vicar of Kampala’s Anglican All Saints Cathedral, discovered that his crime had been parking next to one of Amin’s cars, marked only by presidential license plates. After months of beatings and harrassment, the 36-year-old clergyman was freed on April 5, less than a week before the fall of the capital. He was one of only five prisoners in his 60-man cell to survive.

It is difficult to uncover a Ugandan who did not lose one or more relatives to Idi Amin’s henchmen, who slaughtered an estimated 300,000 persons. Countless more Ugandans were permanently maimed or scarred by the former regime.

The new government is particularly concerned about the public morality of 12 million Ugandans who were barred from normal standards of decency, safety, and human dignity by eight years of state-sanctioned terror. New Ugandan President Yusuf Lule said that relief and material aid are “a minor matter” compared to repairs to neglected moral standards.

“The church can assist us in this problem by enlarging its normal functions to contribute to radio and television programs,” Semei Nyanzi, a senior adviser to President Lule, said, during a recent interview in Kampala. “If you have material rehabilitation, but minds aren’t brought back to normal, it does little good.” Within days after the capture of Kampala, the state-owned radio and television stations began saturating the nation with Christian programming, intended to lift the spirits of the battered population.

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Such Christian organizations as African Enterprise and Campus Crusade for Christ planned to heed quickly such government calls for help by blitzing the country with mass crusades stressing forgiveness and reconciliation.

Anglican Bishop Festo Kivengere who had been in exile in the United States, has been asked by the Lule government to guide the spiritual and psychological rehabilitation of the country. In accepting that challenge, Kivengere vowed that “God’s love is absolutely at the center of reconstruction in Uganda.”

Ugandan Christians may need a large dose of divine love to forgive the atrocities often perpetrated in the name of Islam by an Amin army packed with Kakwa-Nubian kinsmen. “There won’t be a single Muslim left among my tribe,” predicted one Christian Acholi tribesman, whose people, with the neighboring Lango tribe, lost thousands in a series of purges that reduced entire villages to widows and orphans. Indeed, since Kampala’s fall, there have been isolated massacres of Muslims by the Christian population in Uganda.

Many church and government leaders agree that Muslims were exploited by the basically animist Amin in order to siphon off financial and military aid from Arab states. While professing Christians occasionally converted to Islam under coercion, the Christian slice of the population rose from 52 to almost 70 percent during the nation’s eight-year nightmare. “Even more impressive,” said one Ugandan Anglican, “was the increase of commitment, with many nominal Christians giving themselves fully to Christ.”

Besides spiritual and psychological healing, Uganda needs massive material and technical aid. Amin had crippled the economy by pouring national resources into sophisticated weapons systems and into fat salaries and luxuries, intended to buy the loyalty of his 20,000-man army. Inflation and the scarcity of goods drove the price of eggs to $1.30 each and a gallon of black-market gasoline to as much as $100.

The global Christian community has been quick to respond to Uganda’s plight. Even while Kampala was still a post-battle ghost town, Danish Church Aid flew in 23 metric tons of medicine, clinic equipment, food, and soap. MAP International delivered a planeload of drugs from the U.S., while a convoy of emergency supplies from World Vision wove its way from Nairobi over some roads that had been blocked by corpses only hours before. John Wilson, a well-known Anglican minister who led the convoy, said Ugandan troops at the Uganda-Tanzania border dragged him out of his truck for bear hugs, while similar jubilation greeted him in villages along the way.

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Such Christian relief agencies as World Vision, Norwegian Church Aid, Mennonite Central Committee, Southern Baptist Mission, World Relief, and the National Christian Council of Kenya are coordinating efforts with, or channeling emergency and reconstruction aid through, African Enterprise, which will distribute goods and services through Uganda’s network of Anglican churches.

“Our schools have been battered down. Our churches have been destroyed. All our teachers either were killed or ran away to different parts of the world,” said John Wilson after touring battle-scarred Ugandan communities. We still need that same concern from Christians around the world as we work together to rebuild this nation.”


Turmoil in the Kirk: A Self-inflicted Wound

An astonishing farce was played out at the Church of Scotland general assembly in Edinburgh last month, when the 1,300 commissioners played a game of theological chairs. The beginnings were inauspicious: a harmless-looking motion by a lay professor who wanted to ensure that the prestigious Thomas Chalmers Chair of Theology at Edinburgh University, to be vacated this summer by Professor Thomas F. Torrance, would be filled by another Reformed theologian.

Rumor had it that Edinburgh University was about to appoint a Roman Catholic to this key post, which involves training men and women for the ministry of the Kirk. The rumor carried a name: James Mackey, a laicized priest and professor of theology from the University of San Francisco. The nominating committee, it was said, had recommended Mackey to the Edinburgh University court, which would meet three days after the general assembly closed and take action on the nomination. The nominating committee was comprised of six Kirk ministers and six university representatives; of the latter six, four were Church of Scotland ministers (including the chairman).

Genuinely alarmed (no Roman Catholic had ever held the post), the general assembly took the unusual step of summoning before the bar of the assembly the six church representatives. They appeared, but declined to confirm their choice.

Heedless of the fact that the general assembly had no rights in the matter, and that the university court had never before declined the recommendation of such a nominating committee, the commissioners launched into an emotional debate. Leading the attack was a former moderator, John R. Gray of Dunblane Cathedral, who asked incredulously if the Kirk could not produce an adequately qualified candidate from within its own ranks. He then moved that the university court be asked not to confirm the appointment if Mackey were indeed chosen. The motion was carried, 412 to 254.

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When the assembly ended for another year, the university court duly met and appointed Mackey to the chair.

Mackey, born in Ireland in 1934, was ordained to the priesthood, but he received a papal dispensation to relinquish his orders when he decided to get married. He lectured at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth (the largest Roman Catholic seminary in the British Isles), but had to leave because of his theological views. These are also reflected in his Jesus: the Man and the Myth (Paulist), published this year. Mackey taught subsequently in Belfast and Waterford before going to San Francisco in 1969.

It is not clear how Mackey will cope with the problem of teaching Church of Scotland students. Indeed, he may not have the opportunity, for it has been suggested that the Kirk withdraw all its students from the Edinburgh divinity school and place them in St. Andrews, Glasgow, or Aberdeen universities.

The clerk to the synod of the Free Presbyterian Church, Donald MacLean, pointed out the impossibility of reconciling Protestant doctrine founded in Scripture alone with the view of a Roman Catholic forbidden to offer teachings that run counter to his church’s doctrine. The consensus among thoughtful Scots is that this new situation presents a real danger that the teaching of theology may become divorced from the life of the church.

The assembly also: elected as moderator Professor Robin Barbour, at 58 the youngest incumbent for many years; heard that Kirk numbers had fallen below the one million mark for the first time since 1929; decreed that presbyteries should study and comment on a proposal to admit children to communion; welcomed news that a statement on Moonies would be prepared to give general guidance; and declined to censure the previous moderator for attending the installation last year of two popes.


World Scene

The new British prime minister’s father was a Methodist lay preacher, but Margaret Thatcher herself has kept a low religious profile. She has, however, spoken against one “heresy”: the belief that man is perfectible. She said such a view “takes the form of supposing that, if we get our social institutions right … we shall have exorcised the devil.” This, she concluded, “as a Christian I am bound to shun.”

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A Protestant umbrella organization in West Germany elected an evangelical to its board of directors for the first time in its 30-year history. It also dropped from the board a member of the World Council of Churches Central Committee who has supported its Program to Combat Racism. At the first meeting in its new six-year term, held recently in West Berlin, the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany elected Professor Erika Kimmich of the Württemberg Church, who is active in its evangelical movement, “The Living Congregation.” It voted against the renomination of Hildegard Zumach, executive director of an official organization of church women, who has led a controversial boycott of South African fruits and vegetables.

Bulgarian Christians are experiencing a fresh wave of persecution, directed mainly against the rapidly proliferating Pentecostals. Several Pentecostal pastors and lay leaders were arrested in March. Also, officials reportedly are anxious about the substantial amount of Christian literature entering Bulgaria from the West, and have been searching for and confiscating Bibles, other publications, and cassette recordings.

An important Methodist figure has urged support for Abel Muzorewa, new prime minister of Zimbabwe Rhodesia. Alan Walker, director of evangelism for the World Methodist Council, an Australian, called the Rhodesian settlement “not fully satisfactory but a long step forward.” Walker’s stance conflicts with statements by some North American Methodists, among them the executive committee of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. The committee has called for retention of the trade sanctions.

Christians in Israel have established a monitoring committee to observe reported harassment of individual believers. The committee is sponsored by the United Christian Council in Israel, which represents expatriate and missionary Protestant groups in Israel, and was formed after a sharp upturn in harassment following enactment of the law against religious bribery last year. The committee has secured the cooperation of a wide representation of Christians, many not connected with the United Council. The committee plans to verify incidents of harassment and report them to local authorities. It will appeal to overseas groups only as a last resort, should local authorities appear unresponsive in protecting the civil liberties of Christians.

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A rescue ship in the South China Sea recently saved 113 refugees from a pirate ship attack. Food for the Hungry says its rescue ship arrived as the refugees’ tiny boat was being rammed, and sinking. “Several of the women had been taken aboard the pirate vessel and repeatedly raped,” said “Operation Rescue” director John Newman. “Their fingers had been smashed in the process of removing their rings and other jewelry.”

Eight publishers of Chinese Christian literature in Hong Kong have jointly purchased three floors of newly constructed warehouse building. While maintaining their own identities, they formed a separate corporation to own and operate the pooled warehousing facility. Together, the eight represent 70 percent of Chinese Christian literature produced in the world.


A Southern Baptist journalist and pastor for 15 years, Richard G. Puckett, was named last month as executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Puckett replaces Andrew Leigh Gunn, who resigned in January to return to pastoral ministry.

Richard F. Gottier, 46, has been named president of CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Gottier leaves a similar post at Western New England College, a 6,000-student, private, independent school in Massachusetts. Current president and CBN founder M. G. “Pat” Robertson becomes chancellor. About 80 students attended the CBN graduate school of communications, which opened last year; several other CBN graduate programs are to open this fall.

The 163-year-old American Bible Society has its first female general secretary—Alice E. Ball, who succeeds the retired Laton E. Holmgren. She has been an ABS officer since 1960, and as general secretary, will oversee the nationwide Scripture distribution program and a national volunteer staff of 35,000.

Harold C. Bennett, 54, was elected to head the powerful Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, the agency that conducts business between annual meetings for the 13-million-member denomination. Bennett, formerly executive secretary of the Florida Baptist Convention, succeeds Porter W. Routh, SBC agency administrator for 28 years.

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