Because of a “problem within the staff” and because of his “closeness to the situation,” Bill Gothard has temporarily relinquished control of his eminently successful Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (IBYC). In addition, CHRISTIANITY TODAY has learned of:

• The resignation of Bill’s younger brother, Steve, who handled the day-to-day operations of the multi-million-dollar nonprofit corporation, based in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook on a 200-acre property.

• The resignations of Bill and his father, William, Sr., from the board.

• The board’s election in July of a new chairman, Milwaukee attorney John McLario, who was spending most of his time last month in Oak Brook overseeing the situation.

• The resignations and dismissal of an unknown number of the IBYC staff, which had numbered more than 50.

CHRISTIANITY TODAY also learned that as long as five years ago IBYC staff members had charged Steve Gothard with serious sexual misconduct. (He and Bill are single, and live with their parents in LaGrange, Ill., not far from institute headquarters.) Recent charges of Steve’s sexual involvement with a number of staff secretaries apparently led to the organizational shakeup. The official statement tersely said that “the situations have been dealt with.” None of the charges involved Bill himself.

Asked to comment on the board’s announcement, Bill at first replied, “I have nothing to say.” Later, however, the institute released to CHRISTIANITY TODAY on July 21 a copy of a letter (dated July 18) that Bill Gothard prepared for the ministry’s supporting pastors, in which he gave further details. Following is part of what he wrote:

“I must report to you that there has been serious failure within our staff. My brother, who was in a leadership position, has confessed to deception and fornication with several women. Those involved have acknowledged their personal responsibility, have submitted to scriptural discipline, and have been dismissed from the staff as a step toward restoration. My brother has encouraged me to make this statement; however, I must explain how I have failed.

“For many years I have put the ministry ahead of my family and staff, and especially my brother. My pride and wrong priorities resulted in encouraging him to postpone marriage because of the demands of the ministry, thus disregarding his personal needs. I have also failed others, including present and former staff members who have sought to warn me of my incomplete handling of past staff problems, rejecting reproofs, and personal inconsistencies.

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“I deeply regret that it has taken this tragedy as well as the leaving of additional staff to bring me to comprehend the full significance of the problem. It is for this reason that I have asked the board for a release from administrative responsibilities for a period of time in order to seek the Lord’s direction in correcting the situation. I ask for your prayers for my family, staff and their families, the board and me at this time.… We are continuing the seminars as scheduled, using the videotape.…”

Contacted at the Gothard home, Steve told CHRISTIANITY TODAY that he had “resigned first” as part of a “mutual understanding with the board.” Other staff persons had been dismissed, but he could not recall exactly how many.

Regarding the allegations against him, Steve Gothard said: “I have failed deeply before the Lord. The Lord has cleansed me; I am under the blood. I want to concentrate on rebuilding my life and on undoing the damage that has been done. I hope I can bring glory to God through this failure.”

Gothard’s Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts has sponsored hundreds of rally-like seminars across the country. These will continue, but Gothard himself probably won’t attend any in the immediate future. Of the scheduled 18 seminars remaining this year (of 56 total in 1980), Gothard was to have appeared personally at only three. He leads the other lectures by means of videotape.

The 1957 Wheaton College graduate had conducted a ministry to Chicago teen gang members prior to the start of his seminars in 1965. Now the 32-hour, six-day seminars—even those on tape—consistently draw 5,000 to 10,000 persons. Repeat attenders—called “alumni” by the IBYC—are invited back, and do not have to pay the regular fee of $45 per person.

Because of Gothard’s strong insistence on biblical principles, and because thousands of people have testified to having received help from his lectures and his manual, the announcement of an organizational shakeup brought expressions of surprise and dismay from evangelical leaders, as well as questions about what had gone wrong. In the past, Gothard has refrained from responding to criticisms of his seminar and in general from talking to reporters. The institute has shunned publicity.

Numerous interviews with former IBYC staff members and other sources, however, would indicate that matters came to a head in April. Former staff members Ken Nair, Ed Martin, and Gary Smalley, along with IBYC video seminar host Tony Guhr (who since has been dismissed), had confronted Steve, and then the board, with the allegations of Steve’s sexual involvements with staff secretaries. Sources indicated that before leaving IBYC, he and the women confessed. (An IBYC area representative in New Jersey, Bob Bulmer, has come to the Oak Brook headquarters to help out in Steve’s absence.)

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Bill Gothard and his father, a former Gideons executive, had comprised two-fifths of the five-member IBYC board. Acting board chairman McLario and suburban Chicago businessman Fred Warded were elected to fill the two vacancies. (McLario is a Bob Jones University board member and chief counsel for Christian Legal Defense, a Wisconsin-based legal resource agency, mostly serving local, fundamentalist churches.)

Medical doctor Gustav Hemwall of Oak Park, Illinois, remained on the board, but stepped down temporarily as chairman because “we [IBYC] needed legal help,” he said in a telephone interview. The remaining board members are retired Wheaton College professor Samuel Schultz and pastor emeritus W. Hamilton Sinclair of First Baptist Church in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Gothard’s seminars have a central teaching called “the chain of command.” Essentially, he uses Scriptures to teach that everyone is under authority, and that the chief authority, God, deals with people through various structures and channels of authority: family, church, business, and government. Within the family, for example, the father is God’s appointed leader, followed by the mother, and then the children. In business, employees are under the authority of their employers. Gothard says Christians are to remain obedient to their authority figures, except when asked to do something contrary to God’s expressed Word.

How Gothard used, misused, or did not use his authority in the IBYC apparently was a cause of the organization’s troubles. In the case of his brother Steve, as far back as 1975 institute executives Nair, Martin, and Smalley had brought to Bill what they thought was serious evidence. According to Nair, who at that time coordinated Gothard’s videotaped seminars, Steve had confessed and promised to change his ways. Nair and the others understood that Bill’s intention was to have Steve confess to the board.

However, the matter apparently never reached the board, which indicated it first learned of the situation involving Steve at last April’s meeting.

In the meantime, according to Nair, Steve was sent away from the home office to IBYC’s 3,000-acre retreat and research center at Watersmeet, Michigan, an isolated spot in the remote Upper Peninsula. From all indications, Steve lost none of his managerial responsibilities.

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(The Michigan property includes a 5,000-foot airstrip for the institute’s Lear jet, a multiunit lodge, and a number of other buildings. Bill Gothard and other staff members go there frequently for study and writing, and IBYC intends to invite select groups of individuals there for seminars.)

John Farhat, of suburban Los Angeles, who says he lived with Steve for nearly three years at the Michigan property while he was an IBYC staff artist, complained of Steve’s alleged lavish spending of institute money. He also voiced criticisms, since echoed by Nair and other former staff members, which may explain the large turnover of personnel since the reorganization: that Bill Gothard exerts too much authority over staff members’ lives and that internal critics are ostracized and labeled as having bad attitudes—in some cases, being asked to leave the organization.

Meanwhile, Bill Gothard’s brother-in-law, Ken Musil, a teacher who lives in the Chicago suburb of Western Springs, said that by not being a part of the organization, he has found himself having the opportunity to be a neutral “listening ear” during the crisis, both for those supporting Bill Gothard and for those, such as Farhat, who have left.

Musil also revealed that he had felt free in the past to be critical of IBYC, and that as a result he sometimes found himself outside the graces of IBYC. But in the wake of the problems, he says he has been able to draw close and minister to the family. He remained optimistic that in a matter of time, IBYC’s serious problems would be satisfactorily resolved by the board.

The Local Church
Nelson Lets Sparks Fly; Witness Lee Files Suits

Thomas Nelson, Inc., in Nashville had good reason to sing the blues during the first week of June: the publisher had just been socked with three law suits totaling more than $37 million for allegedly libelous statements in the book The Mind Benders: A Look at Current Cults, by Jack Sparks.

The suits were filed in Santa Ana, Dallas, and Atlanta, by the Local Church of Witness Lee (LC), an Anaheim, California—based group, discussed in one chapter of the book. Named in all three suits were Nelson Publishers, and author Jack Sparks. The Dallas and Atlanta suits also named Dick Ballew and Jon Braun, who assisted Sparks in writing The Mind Benders. The Dallas suit added the fourth name of Peter Gillquist, editor in chief of Nelson.

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Besides demanding compensatory and punitive damages, the LC wants Nelson to stop all further publication of the book and recall all unsold copies. (More than 50,000 copies are now in print, according to Nelson.)

During the last week of June, Nelson retaliated with a $7.5 million countersuit in Atlanta, alleging that the Local Churches conspired to prevent Nelson from exercising its First Amendment rights.

Local Churches claim they suffered financial damage, as well as “injury to their reputation, public scorn, hatred, ridicule, and contempt, and their honesty, integrity and virtue have been impeached” because of The Mind Benders. They also reported “a sharp decline” in the number of new members.

Particularly irksome to the LC is the second edition of The Mind Benders, in which a new chapter on the People’s Temple of Jim Jones immediately follows the chapter on the LC. The LC claims the book communicated “in effect” that LC members “are the same type of people and could be expected to engage in the same tactics and conduct as the People’s Temple.”

“I think Satan’s overstepped himself,” Sparks said. “We wrote the book to contend for the faith rather than to attack the Local Church.”

Other allegedly libelous statements in The Mind Benders cited by the LC included the following:

• that the LC is a cult rather than a church;

• that it wants “absolute control” over one’s mind;

• that Witness Lee is an “autonomous dictator” of a “worldwide religious cult”;

• that the LC practice of “pray-reading”—shouting Scripture passages while punctuating them with “Oh, Lord Jesus” and “Amen”—is similar to the mantra of TM or Hare Krishna;

• that people in the LC are “held by the power of fear”;

• that “the brainwashing, or mindbending, of the Local Church is … the most powerful and lasting of any cult on the contemporary religious scene.”

Does Sparks regret anything he said in the book? “No, I don’t,” he said. “I’ve gone through everything I said, and I feel that it’s true and appropriate from the standpoint of contending for the faith and for orthodoxy.”

Some outsiders, however, while agreeing that Sparks’s facts and basic information in The Mind Benders are correct, feel that his tone was a bit caustic. One observer who monitors the cults said, “He’s far from loving in his approach toward his enemies. He has alienated people because he comes on like gangbusters.”

Sparks disagreed. “I can’t imagine what they’re talking about,” he said. “My purpose was to draw people out of heresy and to protect the people of God.”

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Nelson is not the only evangelical institution to anger the LC. The group has allegedly threatened others with suits, including Moody Monthly and Eternity magazines for statements they printed about the LC; Inter-Varsity Press, which hopes to publish a book about the LC; and several individuals who have written about the group. In Europe, the LC tried unsuccessfully to prevent a Swiss publisher from distributing a German translation of the forthcoming IVP book.

The Local Church’s leader, Witness Lee, declined a telephone interview. According to an LC spokesman, Lee had been a coworker with Watchman Nee in China from 1933 until the Communist takeover in 1949, when Nee sent Lee to Taiwan to carry on the movement. Lee worked largely in Taiwan until 1962, when he established the movement in Los Angeles.

Now based in Anaheim, the LC has approximately 7,000 members (in about 70 churches) in the U.S., and approximately 30,000 members worldwide, the spokesman said. Each Local Church is named for its city—The Church in Anaheim, The Church in Seattle, and so on.

Lee, 75, is married and has eight children. According to the spokesman, who is an elder in the The Church in Anaheim and a member of the LC since 1962, the movement has no successor in mind for Lee, believing that “the Lord will raise up someone to take his place.”

Conflict between the LC and evangelicals has centered primarily on the complex teachings of Lee and the practices he appears to advocate. Though Lee is a prolific speaker and writer, no systematic presentation of his teachings is yet available. Evangelicals who have studied Lee’s writings are of the opinion that they include many orthodox teachings, but also appear to present several distinctive LC doctrines:

• There should be only one true church in each geographic area—the Local Church—and all other churches are sectarian and apostate. There may be real Christians outside of the Local Church, but they must join it before they can be properly related to God.

• Christ’s nature was a “mingling” of the divine and human natures to form a third nature, and all true Christians become Godmen in the same way Christ is.

• A complex doctrine of the Trinity appears to include the “Body”—that is, the Local Church—as a fourth member. In addition, the doctrine allegedly is a form of modalism, in which the members of the Trinity are merely functions or expressions of one Person rather than three distinct Persons. (The LC denies that it teaches the doctrines of mingling and the Trinity as described here.)

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James Bjornstad of the cult-watching Institute of Contemporary Christianity in New Jersey feels that Witness Lee “goes too far” in some of his statements, particularly regarding his doctrines of “mingling” and the Trinity. Those statements “go beyond orthodox Christianity, and form a theology that is heretical. But there’s also the orthodox side of the Local Church, and many members will not accept the heretical side.”

Bjornstad thinks that the LC could improve its situation by officially coming to grips with those particular teachings of Lee and rejecting them. He added that the LC has deemphasized the practice of pray-reading in recent years.

LC members and leaders claim that evangelicals have simply misunderstood their teachings. “It’s been deliberately intentional,” said Clarence Hunt, legal counsel for the LC in California. “I’m not a theologian, but I don’t believe in one so-called Christian saying that another so-called Christian is Satanic or crazy. Each group has the right to its own doctrines.”

Hunt also claimed that Sparks himself uses some of the tactics he criticizes in the LC—apparently referring to the authority structure of the Evangelical Orthodox Church, which Sparks, Braun, Ballew, and Gillquist helped to form. All are bishops in the one-and-a-half-year-old denomination, and Gillquist is the presiding bishop.

Sparks said that he viewed the suit as an opportunity to show specifically what the differences are between orthodox Christianity and the cults. “I’m praying that the proceedings will be used to draw people out of the cults and into the Christian church,” he said.


The PCA Invites Three to Merger, Minus the Haggling

Several Presbyterian bodies may unite under the name Presbyterian Church in America, and without the bureaucratic hassles of a merger.

In an unusual move, the governing body of the 75,000-member PCA in June asked three other evangelical Presbyterian bodies to consider simply joining the PCA instead of engaging in complicated merger negotiations. The proposal was intended to preclude long, and potentially divisive, discussions on issues such as denominational name, governing documents, and other details that frequently take months of negotiation in a typical church merger. A favorable response from the national governing bodies of the other three denominations would lead to a constitutional merger vote by a subsequent PCA general assembly, and then would require ratification by three-fourths of the 24 PCA presbyteries (district governing bodies).

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The 20,000-member Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, had the chance to respond first to the invitation. Its national governing body last month overwhelmingly approved (157–4) to begin formal preparations for a 1981 vote on the PCA’s invitation. The assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church met before the PCA’s invitation was issued, but that body had gone on record in favor of formal talks with the other groups. The Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America held its annual meeting this month.

The four denominations, which have a combined membership approaching 115,000, are the only U.S. Presbyterian bodies (there are about 10) with consistent growth patterns over the last decade. The PCA has nearly doubled its size since formation with 40,000 in 1973. The other three denominations, which, like the PCA, have a strong missionary emphasis and are generally conservative on theological and social issues, have been averaging annual growth of at least 5 percent per year.

Structural unity of the four churches has been discussed for more than a year. Support has grown, along with the opposition to alleged liberal trends within the 2.4-million-member United Presbyterian Church.

North American Scene

For 20 years John Perkins’s Voice of Calvary ministry has pioneered in blending social action with spreading the gospel among Mississippi’s poor. To highlight this twentieth anniversary, a voc Jubilee was held last month at Millsaps College in Jackson, where the keynote speaker, evangelist Tom Skinner, focused on God’s concern for the poor. voc operates health centers, thrift stores, preschool and adult education programs, and a community gym in several communities and is expanding to others. Perkins reiterated the “three Rs” of VOC’s basic philosophy: relocation—living and working among the poor, reconciliation, and redistribution.

The American Psychological Association has granted a five-year renewal of accreditation to Fuller Seminary’s School of Psychology. Approval of the school’s graduate program in clinical psychology was jeopardized last year when five Fuller students protested to the APA about alleged discriminatory policies and a conservative sexual standards statement at the Pasadena. California, school (July 20, 1979, p. 34). In response, the APA withheld its approval of Fuller’s program—the only one it has accredited that is religion-affiliated—and sent a special team to the school to investigate. Psychology school dean Neil C. Warren said APA approval was important not only for Fuller, but “for all church-related institutions that have a relationship with secular accreditation agencies.…”

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International Students is building a conference center especially for discipleship training of new converts from countries restricting or forbidding open Christian witness or ministry. Located at its Colorado Springs, Colorado, headquarters, the new facility will have meeting and living quarters for up to 160 persons. Hal Guffey, president of the organization, which ministers to internationals coming as students, businessmen, or diplomats to the U.S., explained: “Before internationals can return to closed countries as effective witnesses for Christ, they need to learn doctrine, and they need to develop Christian fellowship with other converts from their homelands.”

Several major U.S. religious figures have called on the government to “launch a thorough examination of the entire spectrum of issues involved in genetic engineering … before it is too late.” The shared statement, by National Council of Churches general secretary Claire Randall, U.S. Catholic Conference general secretary Thomas Kelly, and Synagogue Council of America general secretary Bernard Mandelbaum, was issued in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court decision authorizing patents on new forms of life, specifically ruling that a “man-made” microbe is patentable. “We believe,” they said, “that no government agency or committee is currently exercising adequate oversight or control, nor addressing the fundamental ethical questions in a major way.” The statement also urges international guidelines for genetic engineering and pledges that the religious community “will address these fundamental questions in a more urgent and organized way.”

Townspeople of the fishing towns of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Kodiak, Alaska, are apprehensive about a convergence of Moonies in their midst. Followers of Sun Myung Moon have opened the most modern fish-processing plant in Kodiak, at a cost of $3 million. In Gloucester, the Moonies have a thriving lobster business and are plunging into other fishing operations. In June, also in Gloucester, they bought a 30-room seaside mansion on 12 acres. They purchased the property for $1.1 million from a businessman who had just acquired it from an order of Roman Catholic nuns for about $120,000 less. Seven days later the Unification Church paid $650,000 for a popular Gloucester seafood restaurant after outbidding all others at a public bank auction. The Moonies say they will turn the mansion into a “professional education center.”

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Professors from a dozen evangelical Christian colleges met recently to discuss the ethical questions involved when confronting the environmental crisis. Meeting for four days at the AuSable Trails Institute of Environmental Studies in Mancelona, Michigan, the professors and other environmentalists asked that Christians discard the frontier mentality that says the U.S. has infinite resources and that growth is progress. Instead, they urged a biblical stewardship view of world resources, one in which the Christian assumes a caretaking, serving role toward nature instead of exploitive.

New York’s Governor Hugh Carey last month vetoed a so-called cult bill that had been passed by the state legislature. In effect, the bill would have allowed parents to forcibly “rescue” grown children who had undergone “a sudden and radical change in behavior, lifestyle, habits, and attitudes” and subject them to “deprogramming” for up to 90 days. Proponents of the bill cited the hazards of the “Moonies” and Hare Krishnas; some observers speculated that Hebrew Christians were a hidden target. Governor Carey said the bill would be “both unworkable and unconstitutional.” An Albany clergyman, in a published letter to the New York Times, said the bill really attacked conversion; by its language, he declared, Saint Paul and Martin Luther would have qualified for deprogramming.

The Unitarian Universalist Association has resolved to promote the hiring of openly homosexual and bisexual persons to leadership positions within the denomination and its local congregations. At their annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, delegates from more than 1,000 member churches in the United States and Canada also voted to offer assistance to those wishing to apply for conscientious objector status, and in favor of public financing of abortions. Denomination president O. Eugene Pickett said that a major domestic priority for the church is “rebuffing the emergent new right in its vengeful desire to smother the rights of women, gay people, minorities, and others who struggle for justice.”

The Roman Catholic segment of the United States population has increased dramatically during the last 33 years—at the expense of Protestants and Jews. In its newsletter, the George Gallup-related Princeton Religion Research Center further indicated that since 1947 Catholics have moved from 20 to 29 percent of the nation’s adult populace, while Protestants have slipped from 69 to 59 percent, and Jewish adherents from 5 to 2 percent. A “relatively high birth rate” and “the influx of Hispanics” are cited as factors in Catholic growth.

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World Scene

Pope John Paul II’s visit to Brazil last month was well received. He clearly defined a social action role for the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil that Rome could live with, according to Warren Hoge, writing in the New York Times, Hoge said, “He endorsed the church’s commitment to social causes but insisted that it be strictly nonviolent and orderly, not linked to any parties or ideologies, and always subordinate to the primary mission of spreading the gospel.”

The Presbyterian Church of Ireland voted to withdraw from the World Council of Churches (WCC) at its June General Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The 433-to-327 vote made final a move begun two years ago when the church suspended its WCC membership. The main issue then was WCC’s grant to the Zimbabwe Patriotic Front, perceived by many as parallel to a subsidy of armed resistance movements in Northern Ireland.

A French public opinion institute, IFOP, says there are three times as many Protestants in France as officially listed. Published results of its poll, commissioned by a group of religious magazines, showed that 4.5 percent of 10,000 adults interviewed accepted the Protestant version of Christianity. It had been claimed that only 1.5 percent of the population are Protestants (750,000). By extrapolation, however, there may be 2.3 million Protestant adults among France’s 53.6 million.

The opening of a first nudist colony in Greece has aroused the wrath of Orthodox Church bishops and their followers. One thousand demonstraters attempted to storm the Salandi Beach resort where 300 members of West Germany’s Obona Free Body Culture organization were swimming and sunbathing. The Greek government since has assigned armed police to protect the nudists. The national Tourist Organization would like to attract more nudist camps, and is at odds with existing laws that provide for the arrest and trial of nudes if a local inhabitant protests to the police. The bishops have set up “watch committees” to file complaints.

Religion is alive and well in Hungary, according to a study recently featured in the government newspaper Magyar Hirrlap. A social scientist author reported that from 50 to 60 percent of Hungary’s 10 million hold religious beliefs. About one-third of adults, he found, attend church regularly.

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Soviet Pentecostals sent an open letter to President Jimmy Carter this summer voicing support for the Olympics boycott and stating that authorities were forcing believers to leave cities in which Olympic games would take place. The letter said such measures were being taken because Soviet authorities were “worried that the true plight of believers in the USSR will become known to the world public.”

Soviet authorities in June broadcast an alleged confession by Russian Orthodox priest Dimitri Dudko, a leading activist for religious freedom. Dudko, 58, had been in solitary confinement since mid-January (Feb. 22 issue, p. 50). On Soviet television Dudko appeared healthy, totally calm, and he was smiling as he read a statement acknowledging “anti-Soviet activities”—which could result in seven years of prison and five years of exile. Friends speculated about the possible use of a euphoria-inducing drug. Released immediately afterwards, Dudko is reported to be resting not far from Moscow. Keston College cites a source who reports that Dudko is in poor physical condition, has lost more than 40 pounds, and is in a state of deep depression.

The Africa Inland Mission is moving into fields outside its traditional sphere in east central Africa and has changed its name to reflect that expansion. The newly-dubbed AIM International is expanding into the Reunion, Seychelles, and Comoro Islands in the Indian Ocean east of the mainland, and inner-city work in Newark, New Jersey. There are also tentative plans to enter Rwanda and Namibia.

Thirty-five church leaders in South Africa who staged an illegal demonstration in July were fined $70 each, with the alternative of 50 days in jail. Bishop Desmond Tutu, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, and all but three of the rest chose to pay the fine. Representatives of the SACC were scheduled to have a long-sought meeting with Prime Minister Pieter Botha on August 7.

The Evangelical Churches of West Africa are launching a second seminary next month. The new seminary in Jos, northern Nigeria, will complement the existing seminary founded by the Sudan Interior Mission in Igbaja, southern Nigeria. Each can accommodate only 40 students currently, and each received 300 or more applications for the coming school year. H. Wilbert Norton, retired dean of the Wheaton College Graduate School, will be principal of the Jos school, with Yusufu Turaki, a Ph.D. candidate at Boston University, vice-principal.

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Thousands of Ethiopians are starving and their cattle dying because of drought. The normal spring “short rains” did not materialize this year, and the summer “long rains” came late. Lacking clean drinking water, people have turned to contaminated sources and are contracting intestinal diseases; 84,000 cases of dysentery have been reported in Gamo Goffa Province alone. The Sudan Interior Mission reports an initial shipment to the province of 20 tons of Fafa, a local high-nutrient grain. Together with its sister Word of Life Churches, SIM is working to provide new fresh water sources.

Vietnamese churches in and near Saigon are experiencing revival, according to sources reported in the Alliance Witness, organ of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Services reportedly are so full that Christians stand outside to make room inside for nonbelievers. At least two congregations have enlarged their church buildings to accommodate more people. Members arrive as early as 5:00 A.M. to pray.

Availability of Bibles is important news in China. Bryan Johnson of the Toronto Globe and Mail reported last month from Canton (Kuang-chou) that a customs official had asked if he had any Bibles and informed him that importing them was no longer permitted. The United Bible Societies has reported publication this month of the complete Today’s Chinese Version Bible in a regular Chinese script. Inside the People’s Republic, the government-regulated Three-Self Movement is planning to print 135,000 Bibles by October. But there is a distribution hitch: those who want a copy reportedly will have to provide their names, addresses, and occupations. Given memories of past religious crackdowns, that is unlikely to encourage Scripture circulation.

A Sports Ambassadors amateur basketball team has been invited to play a series of games in China this month. The team was invited by the People’s Republic of China’s Supreme Sports Council as the result of contacts established nearly three years ago. Sports Ambassadors, a division of OC Ministries (formerly Overseas Crusades) usually features player half-time testimonies in tours of its basketball, baseball, and soccer teams. But the goal of this visit is limited to showing friendship, building good will, and paving the way for return visits.

The Korea International Mission is entering two new fields. Twelve years old and a leader in Third World missions, KIM plans to send 12 families to Thailand and 12 to Indonesia in joint projects there with national churches and mission organizations.

The Christian memorial service for Japan’s Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira may not have seemed unusual to President Carter and other foreign visitors. But for most of the 3,000 Japanese dignitaries who paid their respects at his home, the cross prominently displayed above his coffin underscored the contrast with prevailing Buddhist ceremonies.

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