A Word For The Wetbacks

The NCC also grabbed some headlines with its action in regard to the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II). A White House official had called San Antonio the first day of the conference informing NCC officials that a Soviet-U.S. agreement on SALT II would be signed that day. The board unanimously endorsed the SALT II treaty and voted to take out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, which published a joint statement signed by twenty Soviet and U.S. (mostly NCC) churchmen, “Choose Life.” The statement, which indicated support for SALT II and nuclear disarmament, was presented to Governing Board members by several NCC officials that had attended the disarmament conference in March in Geneva, Switzerland.

One other publicized action by the Governing Board involved passage of a resolution in support of amnesty for all illegal aliens now in the United States. This was the board’s solution to the problem of undocumented and “overstayed” persons in the United States, most of whom enter from Mexico at the estimated rate of eight hundred thousand per year.

Newspaper stands in the city displayed red posters with banner headlines, “Churches Back Illegal Alien Amnesty”—certainly good reading in San Antonio where thousands of illegal Mexican immigrants live or pass through.

Several speakers described the illegal alien problem while at nearby Trinity College (United Presbyterian) during a luncheon that also included a tour of a major solar energy project at the school. Eunice de Velez, NCC staff official, called illegal aliens “children of need”—persons forced to flee subsistence living conditions in their own countries, who allegedly are harassed and deprived of their basic human rights by U.S. authorities.

An NCC study committee presented a 1200-word report that criticized U.S. churches for preaching ecumenism, but not practicing it (see box). Paul Crow, chief ecumenical officer of the United Church of Christ and author of part one of the report, “Foundations for Ecumenical Commitment,” wrote that, “while all Christians are called into one redemptive body, we are far from being generally one in Christ.”

Crow blamed denominationalism and “sectarianism” for blocking full Christian unity. He said the NCC needed to be transformed from a “cooperative agency” to a “communion of communions.”

In other action, the board:

• Called for a week of prayer and action in which denominations and local churches throughout the world write three letters in support of black South Africans—one letter to a local parish church in South Africa, one to the South African Council of Churches, and another to their own national governments.

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• Declared that the April elections in Rhodesia did not represent a transfer of power “from the white minority to the black majority,” and that the U.S. government should withhold diplomatic recognition of the new government and continue economic sanctions against it.

• Criticized the U.S. criminal justice system as doing “more to perpetuate violence and conflict than to halt them,” and called for numerous reforms in the system. This proposed policy statement passed its first reading.


Lifestyle Consultation
Keeping it Simple Takes ‘Smarts’

Just a short way down the Boardwalk from one of the country’s largest gambling casinos in Atlantic City, 102 evangelicals gathered in Ventnor, New Jersey, to consider trimming back their living patterns in order to share their resources with the poor. The late April U.S. Congress on the Simple Lifestyle for Evangelism and Justice, an outgrowth of the Lausanne Congress, was sponsored by the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization and the World Evangelical Fellowship.

The affair—a warmup for the international consultation on lifestyle scheduled for London in March 1980—brought together those seriously considering, or already practicing, simpler living. Invitations went to a diverse list including Americans and internationals from varied backgrounds.

Ronald Sider, Eastern Theological Seminary professor, coordinator—along with Horace Fenton, former Latin America Mission executive—called the interaction “above my expectations.” “We have seen an exciting affirmation by evangelicals that biblical evangelism is inseparable from a commitment to the poor and to justice.”

In an atmosphere refreshingly free of resolutions and declarations, guidelines surfaced. Most participants shared the attitude of Art Gish of New Covenant Fellowship, Athens, Ohio: “Although we believe there is no one particular form of lifestyle intended for all Christians, we do feel the urgency for the lifestyle of all Christians to take the particular form God intends for them.” A consensus definition of simple lifestyle never emerged.

It was recognized that the “simple lifestyle” emphasis could become a new legalism. Gish cautioned, “Whenever we put lifestyle concerns in the center of our lives the result is works-righteousness and legalism. Our lifestyle should express that our focus is Jesus and his kingdom.”

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Participants also noted that the simple lifestyle is impossible to live in isolation. Relatives, peers, and professional colleagues apply pressure to conform to the consuming society. One wife commented, “Our parents think our children are being deprived and try to make it up to them by giving an abundance of gifts.”

William Pannell, Fuller Theological Seminary professor, set the tone in the keynote address, reminding that lifestyle grows out of one’s view of Christ and his total mission. “How much longer can we preach Christ with integrity, when we are so privileged? For the Third World, the issue today isn’t evangelism, it’s survival.”

“Scripture never condemns wealth. Rather it must be coupled with God’s grace. We must be stewards not proprietors of our wealth,” the former coeditor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Frank Gaebelein, pointed out as he challenged the consultees to “give until required to give up something.”

Creativity abounds in the families trying to simplify their living patterns. One young mother told of the initial negative reaction of her children to lentil patties: “Now they ask for seconds and thirds.” Another described activities in which the children discovered how wealthy they were: “One day we counted our sweaters and another our windows, discussing how many people do not have any sweaters, or windows in their homes.”

Michael E. Haynes, minister of Twelfth Baptist Church, Boston, added a sobering comment regarding black churches. “By and large, like black people in this country, they have always practiced the simple lifestyle. We have been too limited in opportunity to do otherwise.”

Attorney David Pullen of Houghton, New York, explaining that legal assistance is given where there is money, told of establishing a legal aid clinic with the excess funds from his practice. Howard Dahl, Fargo, North Dakota, manufacturer, is using surplus company profits to develop a small, easy-to-maintain-and-operate farm tractor for use in developing countries.

Lou Fischer, president of Gino’s fast-food chain, shared changes made in his style of living after being confronted with the poor in Lima, Peru: “I’ve sold the shore house, fly coach, and drive a Chevy.”

A simplified style of living calls for commitment, stewardship, a support group, identification with the poor, and vulnerability. “Simplification of our lives must always flow out of unconditional commitment to the risen Jesus as Lord and Savior,” Sider concluded. “When God came to share his plan of salvation, he took on the flesh of a poor oppressed Jew. Effective biblical evangelism in a hungry world necessarily shares in that kind of costly vulnerability.”

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Church Construction
Single-Sunday Finance: Its Unbeatable Terms

The First Presbyterian Church (UPCUSA) in Centralia, Washington, ordered a $225,000 miracle in April, and its 275 members say God responded within dollars of their request. The resulting impact on this timber products town of 11,000 has been “absolutely incredible,” says pastor Ronald Rice. “Everywhere you go, people are talking about it.”

The congregation announced in advance that $225,000 needed for church remodeling and additions—due to a corroding boiler, a deteriorating church annex, and a poor fire inspection rating—would be raised in a single offering on “Miracle Sunday,” April 8. As a “step of faith” the church announced in a front page article in the local newspaper their expectation that God would provide.

The congregation had voted 94–4 on this plan of financing to avoid borrowing the money. Rice had considered the idea ever since attending a seminar five years earlier, which planted an awareness that “Borrowing is the easy way out.… By so doing, you deny the congregation the opportunity to see God perform a miracle. And that was the theme we went on.”

There were other reasons for not borrowing. At current rates, interest payments would nearly equal the loan principal, and church officials noted that only half of a donor’s dollar would thus go for the church’s work. Neither did the church want to diminish existing giving programs because of a building project. More than a third of the church budget goes to missions, said Rice.

As the idea for “Miracle Sunday” evolved, other local churches expressed interest and prayer support, as did former members and friends of the church around the country.

Rice told the local Daily Chronicle, “We are convinced that the amount of money that comes in … will be adequate and sufficient for the project.… We have no ‘Plan B.’ ”

A packed church greeted Miracle Sunday. Some persons cried, others shouted for joy, when the total of the gifts was announced as $210,874—a figure that would reach roughly $225,000 with two known gifts that had not yet arrived. Final counting would reveal a total of $229,000: $48,000 in cash, $34,000 in real estate and properties, and the remainder in pledges to be paid by October 1 when construction is expected to be finished. Rice said the church had no idea in advance how much money would be given. Some envelopes came from “people we didn’t even know.” All this was in addition to the regular Sunday offering, which totalled a near record $3,200.

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North American Scene

Canadian Baptists have begun a series of evangelistic crusades nationwide that will culminate in July 1980 at Toronto with the meeting of the Baptist World Alliance. C. Ronald Goulding, evangelism coordinator for the Alliance, is the speaker at preparatory rallies to be held in five regional centers this year.

The Shroud of Turin so far appears authentic according to American scientists who spent two weeks last fall in Turin, Italy, performing scientific tests on this cloth that some believe wrapped Christ’s crucified body. Kenneth Stevenson of New Orleans, scientific team spokesman, said that preliminary findings indicate that the man’s image is totally on the surface of the cloth—not painted on it or stained—and that the cloth probably originated in the Jerusalem area within a 200-year span of Christ’s period. Other tests, said Stevenson, suggest that the image was formed by some unknown thermal or radiant-energy occurrence.

Clergy in the United States do not believe their salaries will keep up with inflation and that ministers will become more aggressively involved in their own salary negotiations. These were among findings of a survey of pastors, seminarians, and church administrators, taken by Ministers Life, a Minneapolis-based life insurance company. The 700 respondents (more than half of them from Texas and Minnesota but representing every state) also believed that clergy specialization and part-time ministries will increase, and that pastors and their families will be more unwilling to relocate.

Evangelical Publications
Young Editors and Unused Clout

The placard banner behind the speaker’s podium at the Evangelical Press Association convention in Nashville tilted suddenly. And as outgoing EPA president Eleanor Burr began her farewell remarks, the banner, bearing the EPA convention theme, “A Certain Sound,” thumped to the floor.

That may have been the most resounding statement at the thirty-first annual EPA gathering last month. The most “certain sound” at the meeting might have been the Gospel music—Nashville style: EPA delegates benefited by receiving complimentary albums from such convention entertainers as Doug Oldham and Jeannie C. Riley. Perhaps most discussion among delegates followed an address by Forrest J. Boyd, former radio network newsman and president of International Media Service. Boyd called for greater influence by evangelicals at all levels within the mass media. Boyd said that evangelicals “have clout,” and to an extent have used it in political and other realms, but that “we’ve forgotten the news media.”

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Boyd also suggested the need for an evangelical news magazine, and some of the delegates speculated afterward about the logistics of beginning such a venture. They tempered their enthusiasm, however, by remembering similar previous ventures that failed financially.

The Banner, denominational organ of the Christian Reformed Church, won the top Periodical of the Year award. The judges panel also named winners in a number of divisional categories. Awards of exellence went to Moody Monthly, general; Impact, missionary; Good News, organizational; Youth and Christian Education Leadership, Christian education; Youth Illustrated, Sunday school take-home; and Dash, youth. CHRISTIANITY TODAY was runner-up in the general periodical category.

Robert Myers, a former managing editor of curriculum with David C. Cook and now the editor of The Arete Journal, a new publication for evangelical educators, was elected to a two-year term as EPA president. His constituency includes more than 230 member periodicals that serve a cumulative total of 20 million readers. Veteran EPA delegates observed the large number of young editors at the conference—attributing the youthful influx to a communications vocations boom in the media overall.

This Nashville conference was “more inspiration than issue-oriented,” said Myers. He said the EPA conference next spring in Chicago will focus more on building editorial skills.

But a lack of issue confrontation at the EPA gathering last month frustrated several delegates. One Wheaton, Illinois, editor was tired of conferences in which “we just preach to ourselves.”

Another delegate, who left gasoline-starved Pasadena, California, to come to the Nashville conference said the writers and editors should have studied ways to deal with immediate future problems—energy and the continuing paper shortage:

“If you don’t have gas and if you don’t have paper, you won’t have a magazine.”


Roman Catholics
Reshaping the Mass for the Mass Media

Some religious programming now on television would “serve the Eucharist like a TV dinner,” said a witness at one of four public hearings sponsored by the Communications Committee of the United States Catholic Conference. “The electronic church is no church at all,” complained another.

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At the spring meeting in Chicago last month of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, about 250 bishops heard these and other comments during a 30-minute presentation showing filmed portions of the hearings on communications media. Not all opinions about the planned Catholic media campaign were unfavorable: one witness said that Catholics need “their own Billy Graham” in the communications media.

But the number of pro and con positions on whether the Catholic church should make greater use of mass media may indicate the ambiguous status of the present so-called Catholic Communication Campaigns. The NCCB earlier authorized a national collection for communications; most dioceses received the special offering May 27, with $7 million expected nationwide.

Half of that amount will go toward programs on the national level, and the other half will be divided among the dioceses. The church hierarchy enlisted the advice of mass media professionals on how and where that money should be spent, and also sought input from individual church members—thus explaining the public hearings that were held in four U.S. cities and attended by 140 witnesses.

The net effect may be one of confusion, despite enthusiasm for the project in some Roman Catholic circles. A myriad of options are open to the church, as revealed in the communications presentation at the bishops’ conference. These options range from “starting a syndicated series on television to explain Catholic doctrine,” to investing in “one really important dramatic television show,” to branching into radio, cassette, magazine, cable television, and other projects.

This diversity of options provoked criticism of the mass media campaign: some dioceses complained about donating to a project without knowing specifically how or where the money would be spent.

Joseph R. Crowley, auxiliary bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend (Indiana) diocese and communication committee chairman, acknowledged that “it will be hard to please everyone.” His own priority for communications media outreach would be television: “We [Roman Catholics] have to get more of a presence on television.… It is such a compelling force in shaping the thinking of people today.”

He anticipated a “modest and small” television campaign. Some observers say the project will be small by necessity anyway—that the expected $7 million offering will buy little, considering the high cost of communications promotions.

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