From San Francisco headquarters came the command: Pull back the troops, retrain, recharge, even cleanse the ranks when necessary, then go out fighting harder and more effectively.
With that, Jews for Jesus leader Moishe Rosen and his advisory board launched a militant new program, “Avodah” (Hebrew, meaning “work and worship”), in which all the agency’s methods and materials will be reexamined for greater effectiveness.
The entire evangelistic staff of Jews for Jesus—at least 65 persons—returned under orders last month to San Francisco for nine months of retraining and intensive evangelism. Staff members began morning classes under such teachers as W. A. Criswell of First Baptist Church, Dallas; James Boice of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia; Charles A. Ryrie of Dallas Theological Seminary; and Rachmiel Frydland, a Jewish Christian scholar in rabbinics and apologetics. In the afternoons, the staff planned concentrated evangelism on university campuses in northern California.
“Our new basis of ministry,” explained Rosen, “will involve intensive campaigns for extended periods of time.”
Information officer Sue Perlman said staff members will evaluate “what works and what doesn’t” in evangelistic witness during their northern California campaign. The agency had asked the uprooted staff members to find San Francisco area apartments with a spare bedroom, said Perlman. The expected influx of Jewish converts will create a need for places to stay—to allow converts both to escape unsettled home situations caused by their conversions and to be discipled.
In the long run, “Avodah” will mean growth for the six-year-old Jews for Jesus organization and its programs, said Rosen. Some volunteer workers will be brought on to the full-time staff. New programs will include an outreach to Jewish families, evangelistic banquets, a series of teaching tapes, Jewish gospel music albums, and the addition of new titles to the agency’s tract selection.
But in the short term, “Avodah” meant the termination of leases for six branch offices, and the pullback of the four mobile evangelistic teams. (Work will be carried on by volunteers in cities where branch offices were located.)
“Avodah” also meant the uprooting of staff members and, without doubt, some degree of uncertainty on their part. Rosen explained that no position was sacred: “We feel that some of our staff members should be replaced in order to build more effective teams.” Information officer Perlman further explained that depending on what happens in the training sessions, some present subordinates may end up replacing their superiors. Members who cannot “work as a team” may be replaced, she said.
Jews for Jesus has taken pains to explain the new program to donors (Rosen and his advisory board conceived the plan more than a year ago), and Perlman said response has been favorable. She called the program a “step of faith.”
The next big step will be eastward. After the nine-month California campaign, Jews for Jesus will begin a similar concentrated outreach in the New York City area, where the Jewish population approaches 3 million. Later the agency will decide which, if any, branch offices to reopen.
Rosen, who called “Avodah” a mission board’s dream—although it may have been a staff member’s nightmare—said, “If what we do succeeds, it will be a stepping stone for worldwide missions strategy and other mission agencies are sure to follow this example.”
Voluntary Disclosure: So Far So Credible
The participants drank ice water, not soft drinks, at the first membership meeting last month of the newly-formed Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. ECFA organizers explained that the hotel management wanted 75ȼ per can—too much for an afternoon thirst-quencher.
It was thus within this context of money consciousness that nearly 300 persons heard a well-organized sales pitch for ECFA membership. The gathering, which included college, mission, and parachurch officials from the Salvation Army to the PTL Club, seemed receptive to the idea. When asked about their organizations’ likelihood of applying, more than three-quarters of the crowd raised their hands.
But only the forthcoming number of applications will indicate whether the hand raising was a polite gesture or, more important, a commitment to the ECFA’s call for voluntary financial disclosure. The fledgling council bills itself as “An association of evangelical, nonprofit organizations requiring the highest standards of financial accountability and disclosure to government, donors, and the world.”
All ECFA members will be able to display their ECFA “seal of approval.” Depending on response and the speed with which ECFA bureaucratic machinery moves, ECFA seals may begin appearing within the next several months on member organizations’ printed and promotional materials.
“The seal alone … will be well worth the membership fee,” said Olan Hendrix, recently appointed executive director of the ECFA. Hendrix, an ordained Baptist best known for his management seminars, sees the ECFA seal as an indicator of an organization’s financial integrity—“although in no way do we want to imply that nonmembers are suspect,” he said.
Applicants must be able to meet the seven standards that were approved at an organizational meeting in the spring (April 6 issue, p. 48). The standards are listed on ECFA application forms—which were distributed to everyone at the meeting. A standards committee had formulated follow-up questions that indicate how, if at all, each standard is met.
The standards require that member organizations have:
• An annual audit by a public accounting firm performed in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards.
• An audited financial statement to be made available upon request.
• An active audit committee and an active governing board—in each case, the majority of whom are not to be employees, staff, or immediate family members.
In addition, each ECFA member must “carry on its business with the highest standards of integrity and avoid conflicts of interest,” and have an evangelical statement of faith. Also, each member organization’s programs should be consistent with its stated purposes and its incoming donations must “be applied for the purposes for which they are raised.”
The latter standard was important to those wanting complete financial disclosure. A follow-up question asks, “How do you insure that the donated funds are used for the purposes for which they were raised?” Several blank lines are provided on the application for the response.
Leading ECFA organizer Stanley Mooneyham of World Vision told the gathering that escape from government regulation was not the sole motivation behind ECFA’s formation. However, even he would not deny that government pressures, such as the much publicized congressional bill HR 41, were involved.
Mooneyham and George Wilson of the Billy Graham organization conceived the idea for an ECFA-type group more than two years ago—about the time several religious groups were being exposed in financial scandals that spurred discussion about creating government regulations to prevent future irregularities.
U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, from the evangelical camp, had threatened to introduce congressional legislation himself if religious groups did not voluntarily make themselves more financially accountable to the donor public.
For that reason, ECFA organizers were especially pleased that Hatfield’s chief legislative assistant, Tom Getman, gave his blessing to ECFA at the meeting last month, held near Chicago’s O’Hare airport.
“Your rigorous standards are helping you to do voluntarily what the strictest government standards would require,” Getman said.
He added, however, that the true test for ECFA is whether it will refuse membership to organizations that cannot satisfactorily meet the council’s standards. World Vision’s Ted Engstrom, chairman of the temporary board of directors, said in a speech that Hendrix and the ECFA standards committee will exercise that prerogative when necessary. Hendrix and the committee “have the strength of character to meet this test,” he said.
At present Hendrix is the only paid, full-time ECFA staff member. Membership applications will be sent to his recently opened office (1444 Wentworth Ave., P.O. Box 1750, Pasadena, Calif. 91109). The council plans to begin publication of a newsletter in January, and, when sufficient funds from membership fees arrive, it may open a Washington office. (Until that time, Robert Dugan, public affairs officer for the National Association of Evangelicals, will be the Washington liaison. He, too, attended the Chicago meeting, and in a speech commended the formation of ECFA as the best way to forestall government intervention.) Hendrix hopes to add a lawyer and a certified public accountant to the ECFA staff, each of whom can be available as consultants to ECFA members.
Some attenders wondered about the “teeth” in ECFA standards. One attender asked, “How do we police those groups that might be slightly less than forthright in their applications?”
Engstrom said that the temporary board of directors (a permanent board will be elected by the new ECFA members at an April 21, 1980, meeting in Washington, D.C.) and the standards committee will make “independent inquiries” when questions are raised about an applicant’s financial integrity. Information on applications will be known only to Hendrix, the board, and the standards committee, he added.
In practice, however, each application will be reviewed only by Hendrix and one standards committee member. Their approval will be sufficient for an applicant organization’s acceptance into ECFA.
Some participants questioned the ECFA membership fee: organizations will pay $250 per $1 million annual income, with a $250 minimum and a $2,500 maximum. They asked that smaller organizations be allowed to pay less than the minimum.
Along the same line, several persons said smaller organizations might not be able to afford the required annual audit by a public accounting firm. Engstrom, however, said the standards committee would hold firm on that requirement.
Some attenders weren’t sure how much financial information about their organizations should be made public. In the past, many groups have made available a statement showing only annual income and expenses. This would not be enough for ECFA, said standards committee member and TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) controller Don Mortenson. Member organizations must make available upon request a statement showing their (1) financial position (also known as the balance sheet), (2) income and expenses, and (3) any changes in financial position. This statement “would give you the entire financial picture of the organization,” said Mortenson.
The number of requests for an audited statement probably will be low, said standards committee Vic Glavach—basing his assessment on past experience with Youth for Christ as assistant to the president—hoping to alleviate the fears of potential ECFA members.
“Many people don’t really care what the financial statement says,” he explained. “They just want to show if an organization is honest and open enough to make one available.”
Private Schools Get IRS Procedure Suspended
Many private school administrators heaved a sigh of relief last month when the U.S. Senate endorsed a House stand and in effect ordered the Internal Revenue Service to stay off these educators’ backs.
It all started when the IRS unveiled a new “procedure” aimed at stripping tax exemptions from private schools that failed to meet certain standards of minority enrollment. Civil rights organizations and some government officials contended that new guidelines were necessary to deal with many private religious schools that were founded allegedly on racially discriminatory grounds following court-ordered desegregation of public schools 25 years ago. Under the old procedure, schools were required merely to have an explicit nondiscriminatory enrollment policy. The new procedure would have applied a number of tests, including quotas, to help IRS investigators determine if schools are racist.
The controversial IRS proposal sparked some of the stiffest opposition bureaucratic Washington has ever encountered. Supported by key members of Congress, religious leaders and lawyers representing the bulk of the nation’s estimated 18,000 Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and other private schools, unanimously argued against the proposal in hearings (See January 5, 1979, issue, p. 42). Most of them condemned racism but warned that the IRS action would violate constitutional guarantees of religious liberty. Congressional offices were inundated with protest mail. As a result, the IRS backed off.
Then in February the IRS issued a revised version of the procedure exempting ethnic schools from certain requirements and instituting what amounted to double standards in other cases. For most critics, this final version was also unacceptable.
To thwart the IRS, Republican congressmen Robert Dornan of California and John Ashbrook of Ohio were among others who this past summer introduced restrictive amendments to a Treasury-Postal Services appropriations bill. The Dornan amendment, which passed easily, specifically forbade the IRS from spending federal funds to implement its proposed policy. The Ashbrook amendment went much farther: it prohibited the IRS from spending money to formulate or apply any rule or policy that would jeopardize the tax-exempt status of private schools unless it was in effect prior to August 22, 1978. That amendment passed 297 to 63 in late July.
When the bill arrived in the Senate last month, a committee deleted the Ashbrook provision, but allowed the Dornan amendment to stand. During deliberation by the full Senate, Republican Jacob Javits of New York failed by a vote of 54 to 31 to have the Dornan amendment struck. Republican Jesse Helms of North Carolina next introduced an amendment identical to Ashbrook’s, and it squeaked through in a 47 to 43 vote.
The effect of the action is to place a year’s moratorium (the life of the appropriations measure) on any new IRS efforts to police private schools. In the meantime, congressional committees are supposed to deal with the controversy.
Helms pointed out in floor debate that the IRS still has plenty of power under the old rules to take action against truly racist schools and that under these rules more than 100 such schools have had their tax exemptions removed.
His stated goal is putting the “Christian” back into the Young Men’s Christian Association. James O. Plinton, the recently elected president of the National Council of the YMCAs of the USA, says his faith helped him through some difficult boyhood experiences, such as the time he was banned from membership in a New Jersey YMCA because he was black. A marketing executive for Eastern Airlines, Plinton has helped organize employee prayer groups within the company.
Rock music critics are speculating about religious lyrics in the new album, “New Train Coming,” by Bob Dylan, the rock-singing, social conscience of the 1960s. One song goes: “There’s a Man up on a cross/And he’s been crucified for you/Believe in his power/That’s all you got do.” Reviewers say the album confirms rumors that Jewish-born Dylan has made a Christian commitment.
Former Postmaster General W. Marvin Watson accepted the presidency of Dallas Baptist College, promising to make the school “more Bible-oriented than any school in the area.” But the first task for Watson, who has held a variety of business posts since his one-year stint in 1968 as postmaster general, is to correct financial problems that have plagued the Southern Baptist school for nearly a decade.
The announced retirement on January 1 of Lillian Block as editor-in-chief of Religious News Service means bidding farewell to a long-respected fixture in interreligious journalism. Ms. Block, with the New York-based agency since 1943 and its editor since 1957, will be succeeded by RNS managing editor Gerald Renner. Through its network of correspondents, RNS provides more than 800 media outlets with religious news, features, and photos from the United States and around the world.
Georgia’s Legislature and the God Who May Refuse
Should a child be required to choose between “a God who may work through evolution” and “a God who may refuse to work through evolution?” In the words of James E. Andrews, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, that is what would happen if Georgia’s legislature passes a bill now under consideration by its lower house. Andrews warned an education subcommittee that the proposed law would create unnecessary conflict in the classroom.
The Atlanta-based denomination’s top administrator opposed House Bill 690 in a recent hearing attended by over 300 persons. Representative Tommy Smith of Alma, who introduced the legislation, emphasized in his testimony that the bill will not require the teaching of evolution or scientific creation across the state, but that it will mandate that when evolution is taught, the creation viewpoint will also be offered. Andrews, who quoted from his denomination’s 1969 General Assembly declaration on the lack of conflict between evolution and Scripture, was the only clergyman to testify against the bill. Five other opponents of the bill represented educational organizations opposed to legislative dictation of curriculum.
More than 25 proponents of the bill told committee members in testimony why they thought the legislature should “give direction” to the state’s schools. Among them was pro football linebacker Greg Brezina of the Atlanta Falcons, who left training camp during the week before the season’s first game to voice his support of equal treatment for the creation position. The chief judge of the state court of appeals, Braswell Deen, declared that inclusion of teaching about “a purposeful Creator” would be the best thing Georgia’s legislature could possibly do to stem the state’s crime wave. The appellate court judge specified, however, that creationists are not asking for “the Bible in the biology room.” Pastors, parents, politicians, lawyers, teachers, and scientists spoke for the bill, some of them calling it a question of academic and religious freedom. Subcommittee chairman Cas Robinson, formerly an executive of the Presbyterian Church U.S., warned participants in the hearing not to expect an early decision. The next meeting of the whole legislature will be in January.
PAUL C. EMPIE, 70, a founder and president since 1968 of Lutheran World Relief; his leadership in inter-Lutheran efforts included film production and world relief and development; September 1 in Zionville, Pennsylvania, of a heart attack.
Luke Belatedly Gets His Film Credits
The advance publicity shows empty sandals in the sand and asks, “Have you seen Jesus?” The answer is: nobody has—at least not the filmed version of Jesus that has been in the making over the past five years.
The Genesis Project—a New York-based organization that developed the New Media Bible—is preparing with much fanfare an October 19 release for its two-hour movie, Jesus. English producer John Heyman calls it “the most authentic film of the life of Jesus” ever done. He shot his docu-drama on location in Israel, and based the script entirely on the Gospel of Luke. Shakespearean actor Brian Deacon plays the part of Jesus, while about 5,000 Israelis and Arabs round out the cast.
So far, the behind-the-scenes supporting cast has gotten top billing. Ken Bliss, former director of distribution for evangelist Billy Graham’s World Wide Pictures, and Paul Eshleman, special assistant to Campus Crusade president Bill Bright, were hired to lead Inspirational Film Distributors. This Genesis subsidiary will promote the film in the religious community, while Warner Brothers will be paid a “distribution fee” for advertising the movie through regular motion picture channels and for booking the film in theaters across the country.
Denny Rydberg left the editorship of the satirical Wittenburg Door to play straight man as coordinator for national publicity. He said the film will be released in two waves in the United States: beginning October 19 in the West and South, then around Easter 1980 in the East and Midwest. Later the film will be sold to theaters and television outlets around the world. In countries lacking in movie and television facilities, missionaries will be given permission to use 16-mm prints of the film for evangelistic and educational purposes.
Heyman, who has won three Cannes Film Festival awards during his career, extols most the authenticity of the film. The props, he says, are realistic—right down to sheep dung and garbage in the temple courtyard—“because that’s the way it was. It was not the picture postcard world that the Renaissance painters have made it.”
The film ends with Christ’s Great Commission. The Genesis Project will be eyeing its own commission from theater ticket sales; the film cost six million dollars to produce.
Upward Calling of an Outreacher
Insurance executive Arthur DeMoss and his wife Nancy frequently invited as many as 500 business executives and professionals to their Philadelphia area estate for “outreach dinner parties.” Invitations to these pre-evangelistic dinner parties came highly regarded. Guests supped on a savory spread, and afterwards heard testimonies from Christian notables—from cowboy Roy Rogers and pro football’s Terry Bradshaw to Watergate figure Charles Colson—and were encouraged to consider a Christian commitment.
Last month another group of evangelical notables traveled to DeMoss’s home town, but this time for a somber occasion. They attended a service in the Wayne, Pennsylvania, Church of the Savior, held as a memorial for DeMoss, 53, who died of a heart attack while playing tennis September 8.
DeMoss’s death sent ripples through the highest church circles. Following his conversion under the preaching of evangelist Hyman Appelman in 1950, DeMoss parlayed his own insurance marketing company into the present-day National Liberty Corporation, with 1,500 employees and assets of over $500 million. He channeled his wealth toward a number of Christian organizations, and was a board member of such groups as Campus Crusade for Christ, Gordon-Con well Theological Seminary, and TV evangelist Jerry Falwell’s Virginia-based ministry. DeMoss’s white collar evangelism gained him prominence in the Philadelphia area and nationwide—as indicated by the memorial service contingent. Speakers included Campus Crusade’s Bill Bright, evangelist Leighton Ford, and Falwell, with special music provided by bass Jerome Hines of the New York City Opera and vocalist Ken Medema.
Decisions Ahead on Deregulation
The Federal Communications Commission last month proposed rule changes which, if implemented, will result both in the widescale deregulation of the nation’s 8,653 radio stations and in the disruption of some religious broadcasting. The proposals call for elimination of:
• Requirements that radio licensees demonstrate they have addressed the needs and problems of their communities.
• Restrictions of the amount of time stations can devote to commercials.
• Requirements that a certain amount of time be devoted to nonentertainment programming, such as news and public affairs.
• The need for commercial stations to keep detailed logs of their programming for FCC and public inspection.
Broadcasters—including religious ones—for the most part hailed the FCC announcement. They foresaw relief from red tape, mounds of paper work, and from hassles with both federal officials and community malcontents. However, some consumer and religious groups criticized the proposed changes, warning that portions of the public will be disserved and that the airwaves will become overcommercialized. Industry spokesmen argue that competition in the marketplace will keep the brake on exploitation, and FCC Commissioner Charles Ferris contends that most stations already exceed federal requirements for news and public affairs programming because of public demand.
Many stations presently provide free air time to one or more religious broadcasters, usually on Sunday mornings, as partial fulfillment of FCC public-service mandates. Many of these free-time broadcasters fear they will be dropped in favor of income-producing programs if the FCC’s public service requirements are lifted. In such circumstances evangelicals could be big losers.
For example, “The Lutheran Hour,” sponsored by the Lutheran Laymen’s League of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, is aired on some 1,100 stations—about half of them airing the broadcast free. “The program is so good and the audience is so large that some of the free-time stations would retain it, but a number of stations undoubtedly would drop us,” commented league spokesman Walt Cranor. In many communities Sunday morning public service slots feature local evangelical church services. Deregulation will endanger most of these broadcasts, say observers.
The FCC proposals are open for public comment until the end of the year. Responses to the comment will be taken until next April. Then the FCC will have an indefinite time to decide what action, if any, to take.
A congressional bill to free both radio and television from virtually all federal regulation except for technical aspects died in committee in July. Sponsored by Democratic Congressman Lionel Van Deerlin of California, the proposed legislation would have unfettered radio immediately and freed television over the next 10 years, starting with elimination of the obligation to provide public interest programming. Licenses would have been made permanent, and the FCC’s equal time provisions and the so-called Fairness Doctrine would have been eliminated.
The bill was sharply opposed during 95 days of public hearings, and Van Deerlin finally threw in the towel. Among the vociferous religious opponents were the United Church of Christ and the U.S. Catholic Conference.
North American Scence
Religious leaders are condemning as blasphemous a new Warner Brothers film, “Life of Brian.” The film, by the British comedy group, Monty Python, depicts a fictional contemporary of Christ, Brian Cohen, a dull-witted character mistaken as the Messiah, who joins the People’s Liberation Front of Judea, and is crucified by the Roman Army. The film received favorable reviews and high ticket sales after its August 17 release in New York. But the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, among other groups, criticized the film—with its obscenity-spouting, son of a prostitute, Brian—as “a mockery of Christ’s life.”
A recent Gallup Poll indicates an increase in religious tolerance in the United States. Of 1,511 adults interviewed, only 1 to 2 percent were willing to profess personal dislike for Jews, Catholics, or Protestants. This compares to a 4 to 7 percent figure in a similar survey in 1965.
The American Lutheran Church defines taboos for its pastors in guidelines prepared by the ALC ministerial department and district presidents. The denomination previously had procedures for disciplining clergy but, until the guidelines, had never specified exactly what is conduct unbecoming a pastor. The proposed guidelines, which will be reacted to by the church’s 6,000-plus clergy before final action by a 1980 Church Council meeting, say pastors should not: neglect personal debts, have extramarital affairs, or be prejudiced about race, sex, age, or social classes, among other things.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are building a new Canadian headquarters in the Ontario community of Georgetown. The $5 million structure will contain the group’s printing and publishing plant, and provide living accommodations for 240 people.
The World Home Bible League wants used Bibles. The Bible distribution agency began a used Bible collection campaign last month, hoping to alleviate English Bible shortages overseas. Bible requests have come particularly from several African countries and India, said League officials. More than 500,000 Scriptures, they say, could be placed in India within a year. Bibles should be mailed fourth class to the League’s offices at 16801 Van Dam Road, South Holland, 111. 60473.
Charles Colson’s growing Prison Fellowship ministry held a first annual leadership conference recently in Washington, D.C. Various ministry workers from around the country heard Colson discuss, among other things, his goal for developing prison ministries on the local level and for church-planting behind bars. In August the Arlington (Virginia) County board rejected a special zoning permit for the Fellowship, which wanted to buy a local Nazarene church for its national headquarters. Area residents had opposed the request—apparently not wanting furloughed inmates (Christians taking part in Colson’s training program) in a facility in their neighborhood.
The third assembly of the World Conference on Religion and Peace was ecumenical in the broadest sense. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Shintos, Confucianists, Zoroastrians, and Sikhs, were among the 360 delegates who sought guidelines and a program for use by the major world religions to work toward global peace. The broad range of guests included William Howard of the National Council of Churches, activist Jesse Jackson, and an eight-man delegation from China. The WRCP, formed in 1970 with headquarters opposite the United Nations building in New York, held two previous assemblies in Japan and Belgium.
Prayer commentary author Rosalind Rinker spoke at the annual meeting of the predominantely homosexual Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. In an address to 2,000 MCC members in the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel, she discussed unconditional acceptance and prayer, while avoiding the homosexual issue. In an interview, she explained her presence, saying, “I’m an expert on prayer, and God wants me here.” Rinker, whose Prayer: Conversing with God has sold more than I million copies, recently became an advisory board member of Evangelicals Concerned—an organization that allows practicing homosexuality, calling itself a nationwide support group for gay Christians.
The North Carolina General Assembly rejected a bill that would have shortened the mandatory waiting period for a divorce from 12 to 6 months after the date of separation. Thomas A. Fraser, bishop of the 40,000-member Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, rallied various other state church leaders in opposition to the bill, which, until their protests, appeared likely to receive state house approval.
Correctly spelled, the name of the president of the newly-formed Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations is Daniel C. Juster. Juster says the group is an association, not a denomination, as described in the August 17 issue, since it has no controlling authority over member congregations.
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