The following story is based on a report from CHRISTIANITY TODAY editor-at-large J. D. Douglas and CT interviews.
Seventy years after the famous Edinburgh Missionary Conference, a World Consultation on Frontier Missions (WCFM) came last month to the Scottish capital. Originally billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime global gathering of all evangelical mission agencies,” the consultation subsequently was downgraded to “a preliminary or pilot gathering.” Called by an ad hoc Pasadena, California, convening committee, and strongly influenced by the independent U. S. Center for World Mission located there, the gathering was planned for 800 persons. Only about 250 participants appeared, plus 170 students who conducted their own parallel consultation.
The major sending agencies were disenchanted with the whole notion of yet another consultation this year (after the World Council of Church’s Commission on World Mission and Evangelism at Melbourne, Australia, and the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization at Pattaya, Thailand). There was a point at which the convening committee had actually decided to postpone. But U.S. Center general director Ralph Winter, spurred on by his own sense of compelling urgency, overrode that decision.
Edinburgh ‘80’s arrangements suffered by comparison to its meticulously organized 1910 counterpart. The organization was haphazard, the timetable disorganized, and the accommodations spartan.
It would have been better to have waited until at least 1982 to have a fuller, more representative conference, one active participant judged. Some of the major mission boards would then have contributed. Yet, he acknowledged, pushing through the consultation may have benefitted the Third World since the proportional contribution of Third World agencies was higher than would have been the case later on. A delay might have brought further Third World participation, but a major presence of mission groups in the West would have lowered their influence.
More representatives of Third World agencies attended WCFM than this year’s other consultations. But claims to the contrary, they were not authorized to vote on behalf of their mission agencies or to commit them to particular programs.
About 170 mission agencies were listed as having staff at the consultation, the purpose of which was: “To promote a greater involvement of the world’s many evangelical Protestant mission agencies in the evangelization of the world’s ‘hidden people.’ ” This term referred to “those estimated 16,750 ‘people groups’ scattered throughout the world among which there is no church at present.”
David Bryant, Inter-Varsity missions specialist, observed that a lot of the design and thinking behind WCFM was Western. But he believed that thinking was appropriated and adapted by the 88 Third World representatives present. They began to conceive of what their mission might be in larger senses than they would have before. Many Third World agencies are less truly cross cultural than their counterparts from the North Atlantic nations. Those at Edinburgh made definite advances in that regard.
Part of the chaos was productive. Early in the process, after Winter gave an address in a morning plenary session, Sam Wilson of World Vision’s Missions Advanced Research and Communication (MARC), who had been made a kind of “implementation whip,” discerned a useful agenda within that message. He issued a call to set up task forces in the afternoons; a day later these superseded the study groups planned by the program committee. Both the unprogrammed task forces and an ad hoc evaluation committee, chaired by Wilson (which each night reviewed the program and modified it on the spot), produced creative ferment.
In one side benefit, the consultation provided access to a combined data bank. Roger Schrage of the William Carey Library suggested this project in a meeting of the convening committee. He and Wilson, assisted by George Cowan of Wycliffe Bible Translators and Alan Starling of Gospel Recordings, merged the indexes of the MARC unreached peoples data bank, the Wycliffe ethnologue file, and a Gospel Recordings file. The U.S. Center provided computer personnel and produced a microfiche look-up dictionary.
Many Third World agencies were calling for basic information on, and the location of, hidden peoples. The combined data bank furnished them a practical response, allowing them to look up information in any of the files by language, country, or group name.
During some hectic final sessions the participants agreed to proceed toward formation of an “International Catalyst Committee” to plan follow-up meetings by nation and region, to disseminate information, and to weigh the possibility of holding another world-level conference in five years.
In the parallel student consultation, some came with their own agenda of organizing a new kind of Student Volunteer Movement; others felt that to do so would alienate existing student organizations and cause them to resist the thrust of the consultation content.
Bryant said he was impressed with the way rousing debates were resolved, in every case, with unanimous support.
No continuing student committee was appointed. But Brad Gill of the U.S. Center was selected to serve in an untitled role as a catalyst. He is expected to gauge what happens over the next few years, perhaps opting for another international student consultation if grassroots movements begin to appear in other areas, as the European Missionary Association (TEMA) did in Europe during the seventies.
One participant, Columbia Bible College president J. Robertson McQuilkin, summed up his impressions of WCFM this way: “Edinburgh was born because the church at large seems blind to the terrible, overriding fact of the twentieth century that more than half of the world’s population cannot hear the gospel because of the church’s failure.” The focus chosen by Ralph Winter and his colleagues at Edinburgh—those in cultural isolation from Christian witness—is, he noted, less than the whole Great Commission mandate of the church, since it does not deal with factors about the unreached such as their responsiveness to the gospel and their geographical distance from the witnessing church. “But,” he concluded, “it is surely both the most important and most neglected responsibility of the church.”
The Society for Biblical Literature
Evangelical Inroads Trim Bible Forum’s Liberal Set
Conservative Bible scholars and their liberal counterparts found themselves agreeing on more than they thought they would during meetings of the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL) in Dallas last month. The unexpectedly friendly atmosphere led some participants to believe that the opposing camps could start to build bridges between them.
One of the events that set the tone was a panel discussion in which, according to many who attended, Clark Pinnock, a leading evangelical scholar, ably defended the cause of evangelicalism. He appeared on the panel with two well-known liberals, Paul Achtemeier of Union Theological Seminary (Richmond, Va.), and James Sanders of Claremont College. The SBL is dominated by liberals, many of whom, on the day following the panel, crowded into a meeting of conservative scholars, called the Evangelical Consultation. They heard Pinnock defend even the more conservative evangelical movements in a speech that surprised some of the conservatives.
“I feel super about the whole thing,” said Mark Branson of Inter-Varsity’s Theological Students Fellowship. “The fact that an evangelical had been in the middle of [the panel] and had been respected was something new.” Branson organized the Evangelical Consultation as a beachhead for conservative scholars who attend the yearly meetings of the American Academy of Religion (which meets jointly with the Society for Biblical Literature).
The Pinnock-Achtemeier-Sanders panel, sponsored by SBL, dealt with canon and inspiration. By SBL standards the meeting was packed, with about 300, in Branson’s estimate.
“Pinnock really had that group where he wanted them,” Branson said. “Clark had done his homework and he knew these two guys. So he knew what issues to take on. There was just a lot of good humor and good spirit while the issues were still being dealt with. It ended up that Achtemeier and Pinnock were closer than had been anticipated, so Sanders had a hard time simply through public pressure. He basically ended up stating his position in the most conservative ways possible, which is unusual for the SBL, where radical is in.”
According to Achtemeier, Pinnock was the first to throw rose petals when, in October, he wrote graciously about Achtemeier’s new book on inspiration. The book acknowledges the work of God in forming the canon, although it criticizes the evangelical view of inerrancy. Nonetheless, it faults those liberals who dismiss the notion of an inspired canon. Said Pinnock in his review: “I see [Achtemeier’s] proposal standing alongside such positions as Smart, Barth, Berkouwer, Thielicke, Orr and the like …”
Achtemeier returned the compliment in a phone interview: “Pinnock has been most cordial. I find nothing that he’s written that I can’t accept. He and I pretty much view the Bible in the same way, and apparently we have found that out, which means either he’s going to lose his credibility as a conservative or I’m going to lose mine as a liberal.”
Achtemeier may be in jeopardy, but Pinnock actually solidified himself with his more conservative brethren. “He came out smelling like a rose as far as I’m concerned,” said Harold Hoehner, a New Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, the conservative evangelical bastion. According to Hoehner, “Pinnock said ‘don’t think those who are inerrantists are dummies …’ He came out on the side of the inerrantists. He gave a real passionate plea rather than a preachy pronouncement. That’s why people were willing to listen. I feel very comfortable, as an inerrantist, with him,” he concluded.
The day after his dialogue with Achtemeier and Sanders, Pinnock spoke to the Evangelical Consultation during a panel on the future of evangelicalism. He warned that evangelical scholars “who continue to push the limits to see what lies beyond them will become liberals themselves. After all,” he said, “where do you think liberals come from, storks?”
He called these people the “evangelicals with running shoes on” and from them, he said, “I see a watering down of evangelical convictions … which appears also in social issues like feminism and homosexuality, where the expectations of the circle we move in are very powerful, and make us wish to have the Scriptures agree with them, even though it is very hard.”
During his talk, Pinnock called the more conservative scholars “evangelicals with heavy boots.” These people are important, he said. “Even in [Harold] Lindsell, the battle techniques are atrocious and the power politics are often painful, but still the issue of the Bible teaching us reliably is crucial and vital. If you oppose him, and oppose that, you’ll never win … and I would root for him.” (Lindsell has written two combative books describing in detail how denominations and seminaries are sliding away from biblical authority, the first entitled The Battle for the Bible.)
In a phone interview, Pinnock summarized what he thinks happened at Dallas: “Essentially, the conservative position was highly respected. It was amazing … 10 years ago the SBL didn’t give a darn about inspiration and canon, they were too busy cutting up the text.”
The reason for the new interest in conservatism in SBL, he said, is that liberals recognize the vitality of evangelicalism, and they envy it. But also, Pinnock said the liberals look on the evangelical left “as proof that they’re eventually going to come around on their positions, so give them time. They [liberals] are encouraging liberalization.”
There was one other significant outcome. With the success of his Evangelical Consultation, Branson has so firmly established his conservative beachhead that he is preparing to move the troops inland. For the next five years, the consultation will be expanded into a “group,” which means that instead of one event on the sbl/aar program, he’ll have three sessions. That’s significant, because, as he puts it, “Our goal is to bring the best of evangelical scholarship into the middle of situations where it doesn’t normally exist.”
Society for Pentecostal Studies
Faith Formula Fuels Charismatic Controversy
An explosive controversy has been building on the campus of Oral Roberts University (ORU) for several months over the “confession and possession” teaching of several charismatic-oriented evangelists. Leaders in the growing “faith formula theology” are Tulsa evangelist Kenneth Hagin and a coterie of other teachers, including Kenneth Copeland and Fred Price. The national center of the teaching is Hagin’s Rhema Bible Institute, which has an enrollment of some 5,000 students. It is located several miles down the highway from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.
Seeds of the controversy were planted during recent chapel appearances at ORU by Copeland and Price. The issue is complicated by friendly contacts between oru president Oral Roberts and the faith teachers, who have made substantial financial contributions to the City of Faith, Roberts’s multimillion-dollar hospital nearing completion adjacent to the oru campus. Despite Roberts’s apparent relationship with Hagin (he has attended Hagin’s annual camp meetings, for instance), several ORU professors have taken strong exception to Hagin’s teachings.
The issue was raised at a meeting in November of the national Society for Pentecostal Studies on the Oral Roberts campus. ORU professor Charles Farah read a paper attacking the theology of the faith teachers to a standing-room-only audience of professors and students. Tracing the roots of the teaching to Charles Finney and E. W. Kenyon, Farah called the movement “Gnostic,” a version of “charismatic humanism” and in fact a “burgeoning heresy.” (Farah warns of the faith teachings in his book, From the Pinnacle of the Temple: Faith or Presumption? [CT, Nov. 7, p. 57]).
Joining Farah were ORU professors Howard Ervin and Robert G. Tuttle. The professors criticized the kind of “confession and possession” teaching in which adherents believe that if they publicly confess or claim something from God, they are assured of receiving it. They might request material goods, or physical healing; not to receive what was asked for means one lacks faith. Some faith teachers say they don’t really preach this message, and that they have been misunderstood. Opponents, however, say regardless of the teachers’ intent, this is the message that listeners are picking up.
In his address, Farah cited many case histories of persons who had been disillusioned by the teaching, although he admitted that faith-formula teaching is “without question the most attractive message being preached today or, for that matter, in the whole history of the church.”
Farah’s paper amounted to a veritable declaration of war on the faith-formula teaching. It will undoubtedly serve as a manifesto for those who oppose the Hagin-Copeland-Price teachings.
The Arab-Israeli Issue
The NCC Endorses Role for the PLO in Negotiations
The National Council of Churches spent thousands of dollars and countless hours over the past year drawing up a comprehensive policy statement on the Middle East. Last month, the NCC’s governing board formally adopted that statement, but the headaches involved left some observers wondering whether it merited so much effort.
Because the statement called for Israel’s acceptance of the presence of the Palestine Liberation Organization in any peace negotiations, certain Jewish groups angrily denounced the NCC. Pro-Palestinians felt dissatisfied, since the NCC asked the PLO to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish, not just a sovereign, state.
To top things off, the Middle East debate drew lines between certain of the NCC’s 32 member bodies. At last month’s governing board meeting in New York, for instance, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese (most of whose 152,000 members are of Arabic descent) consistently lobbied for Palestinians’ rights, while the Episcopal church delegation voiced support for Israeli concerns.
The Antiochian body wanted to delete policy statement references to Israel’s right to continue as a Jewish state. Its proposed amendment received support from board members who generally favor strict separation of church and state. They felt such a designation would allow discrimination against Muslim and Christian minorities in Israel. The proposal lost by a narrow vote, and perhaps saved the council from even sharper criticism from representatives of various Jewish groups (some of whom had met privately with small groups of governing board members prior to last month’s meeting).
Representatives of the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee all opposed the policy statement as amounting to recognition of the PLO and an endorsement of terrorism. In fact, Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum of the AJC’s interreligious affairs office told a reporter that Jewish groups might now choose to form closer ties with evangelical Christians who hold stronger support for Israel.
Interestingly, the governing board voted unanimously in favor of the policy statement—after a full day of debate on the issue.
Essentially, the statement asks that Israel and the Palestinians recognize each other’s right to exist. It seeks concessions from both sides in order to seek a just and lasting peace.
The council declared the PLO the only “organized voice” of the Palestinian people, and, as such, the only body able to negotiate in their behalf. On its part, the PLO must officially recognize Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state, or officially renounce its earlier statements seeking the destruction of Israel, the council said.
The policy statement, which also discusses interfaith and interchurch relationships in the Middle East, will be used by the NCC and its 32 member Protestant and Orthodox bodies as a basis for speaking to the government on Middle East issues.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses
Departing Leaders Reveal Cracks in the Watchtower
Rene Vasquez worked as a Jehovah’s Witness missionary in Spain for seven years. When he returned to New York City, he became a leader in the group’s Spanish work at Bethel, its world headquarters in Brooklyn.
But suddenly last winter, 30-year-old member Vasquez and his wife were disfellowshiped from the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s), charged with apostasy. And the soft-spoken, personable Vasquez doesn’t understand exactly why.
“I was not going around getting people on my side,” he said. “I was simply rejoicing personally in certain points from my study of the Bible. I thought that within the Jehovah’s Witnesses any individual had the inherent right to draw personal conclusions and share them privately.”
Apparently he thought wrong, considering the departures of 12 to 15 workers—several of them top leaders—from Bethel headquarters over the past year. Some, like Vasquez, were disfellowshiped for apostasy, while others, perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall, left voluntarily. These included:
• Raymond Franz, who resigned last summer as a member of this powerful governing body. He is the nephew of the Jehovah’s Witnesses 86-year-old president, Frederick Franz.
• Edward A. Dunlap, formerly head (for 12 years) of the jw’s missionary training school, the Gilead School of the Bible, who was disfellowshiped for apostasy. The school has sent out more than 6,000 missionaries since 1943.
Early news reports attributed the internal shuffling to “evangelical” Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe that all members—not just the select 144,000 “anointed class”—must be born again spiritually. However, there are no indications that there is an organized schismatic movement. Members’ independent study of the Bible apparently led them to question the authority of the hierarchy and some of its benchmark doctrines, and they remain at different points on the theological spectrum.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters would not reveal names or reasons for the disfellowshiping. A letter, stamped “The Watchtower Tract and Bible Society of New York,” explained this is an “internal religious matter.” (The group’s other major nonprofit corporations include the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and the International Bible Students Association.)
In an interview at Brooklyn headquarters, spokesman Robert Balzer acknowledged that disfellowshipings did take place. He said this action sometimes is necessary, since allowing internal doctrinal disagreements leads to schisms and splits. An August article in the JW’s 8-million-circulation Watchtower magazine described what constitutes apostasy.
A significant number of Witnesses left after 1975, when the world didn’t end as the Watchtower had predicted. Researchers cite other jw predictions of the world’s end: in 1914, 1918, 1925, and 1941.
(The 144,000 places already were filled from among those living in 1914, says JW doctrine. Only 9,700 of this elect group remain alive today, and jw’s believe the end of time must come before all have died.)
The impact of the latest departures remains unclear. “I wouldn’t say a reformed movement is growing … but definitely something is happening,” said Duane Magnani, a converted Jehovah’s Witness who now heads a San Francisco—based research and evangelism ministry to Jehovah’s Witnesses, called Witness, Incorporated. “Now a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses are actually questioning the authority of the organization,” he said.
The 1980 Jehovah’s Witnesses yearbook lists roughly 2.1 million members worldwide in 205 countries; there are about 520,000 U.S. members. Some 2,000 fulltime workers (called “the Bethel family”) live at the Brooklyn headquarters, and from president to printers, all receive $25 per month plus room and board.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe theirs is the one true religion, and the Protestant and Catholic groups in “Christendom” are victims of false doctrine. The JW’s governing body and incorporated bodies are termed “theocratic instrumentalities” that are “divinely guided or ruled.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses do believe the Bible is God’s inspired Word. However, they rely on scriptural interpretations from the Watchtower and from the governing body. (Franz and the 15 other governing body members are appointed for life. They are regarded among God’s chosen 144,000 with the “heavenly calling,” who will rule with Christ in heaven. All others seek everlasting life on earth.)
Distinctive Jehovah’s Witness doctrines include: (1) there is no Trinity; (2) Jesus is a created being, inferior to the eternal, supreme God; (3) the human soul ceases to exist at physical death; (4) the Holy Spirit is an impersonal being; (5) hell does not exist. The JW’s are well known for their refusal to accept blood transfusions or government service and for their emphasis on works as essential.
They generally use the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, completed in 1961 by a small Jehovah’s Witness translation committee that included President Franz. A number of researchers charge that except for Franz, none of the other translators knew Greek or Hebrew, and Franz’s language ability is questionable.
Ex-members frequently cite dishonesty in scholarship as their reason for leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Researcher and ex-Witness Duane Magnani believes the best way to confront Witnesses is with contradictions in their own literature, “which prove to them the organization cannot possibly be their authority.”
At the second national convention last month of a group called Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses for Jesus, Greek and Hebrew scholars challenged passages in the New World Translation that undercut the deity of Christ. John 1:1 in the New World Translation, for instance, reads “the Word was a god,” rather than “the Word was God,” as in other translations. The New World Bible has Christ saying in John 8:58, “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been,” rather than “Before Abraham was, I am”—the way other scholars say God described himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14.
Bill Cetnar, a converted JW and a stockbroker from Kunkletown, Pennsylvania, started the fledgling group. Organizers see its value in terms of building mutual support. Disfellowshiped Witnesses are to be regarded by members as dead, even by their own families; many suffer emotional problems as a result. And since Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that “Christendom” is false religion, they often fear joining a church after they leave.
Former governing body member Raymond Franz declined comment on his resignation—probably due to the sensitivities of still being a Jehovah’s Witness member. Former jw educator Dunlap said he holds no animosity toward Bethel, and of his disfellowshiping says only that “I feel like the others … I want to study on my own.” Regarding the scriptural experiments of ex-members, Witnesses spokesman Balzer said, “The Bible says Scripture is not for private interpretation.”
Meanwhile, the recently disfellowshiped prefer to be left alone to sort things out. Vazquez, whose travel and sales business suffered since Witnesses consider those disfellowshiped as nonexistent, complains that Witnesses circulated false rumors that he’s formed his own church. He says his worship now is limited to Bible study with his family. Yet he speaks warmly of what he is learning there about the salvation message and the “great dignity of Jesus.”
Pope John Paul II’s visit to West Germany got off to a bad start. A booklet distributed by the Bishop’s Conference in advance of his mid-November arrival described Martin Luther as one who “brought no reform, but only schism in the church” and charged that his polemic attitude “blinded him to Catholic truth.” Protestant leaders felt slighted since little time was scheduled for them to meet with the Pope. John Paul worked at reversing the damage. He held a private discussion with Protestant churchmen in Mainz, and stated that “all have sinned” in referring to the widespread sale of pardons by the Roman Catholic church that so enraged Luther. Also, music by Protestant composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Paul Gerhardt was used in the Masses he celebrated.
One hundred churches in South Vietnam have been closed since the Communist takeover or are being used for other purposes. That is what the Christian and Missionary Alliance reports in the Alliance Witness, based on firsthand information, about the fate of its 490 churches in existence there in 1975. Approximately 50 Vietnamese pastors have been sent to reeducation camps; none have been permitted to move from where they were five years ago. The tribal church in the mountain highlands has been almost totally destroyed, at least in an organizational sense. In spite of all this, some churches are experiencing growth. The principal church in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) reported 1,000 conversion decisions during 1979.
The World Council of Churches for the first time has publicly criticized the Soviet Union over human rights. In a letter made public October 30 but written earlier, and addressed to Metropolitan Juvenaly, head of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Konrad Raiser, acting wcc general secretary, says the council is “disturbed by the coincidence of a number of cases involving Christian believers” on trial in the USSR, and that it finds the sentences already pronounced “disproportionate with the seriousness of the crimes which have allegedly been committed.” Critics have frequently complained of imbalance in the ecumenical organization’s human-rights concerns. But the wcc has until now taken the position that to criticize Soviet policies publicly would pose problems for Soviet churches.
The World Evangelical Fellowship is taking a fresh and careful look at Roman Catholicism after member fellowships in Italy, Spain, and Brazil protested in varying degrees a Catholic presence at the wef general assembly last March. The wef Theological Commission will consider basic issues in contemporary Catholic theology and practice and prepare an evangelical statement on them. The commission’s executive committee agreed at an October meeting at Amerongen, Netherlands, to establish a task force for this purpose, to be chaired by Pablo Perez of Mexico. Evangelicals, said a commission spokesman, need to understand these issues clearly prior to any conversations with Roman Catholics.
HCJB Reaches Its 50-year Milestone
Missionary Radio Station Hasn’t Stopped Pioneering
Clarence Jones and Reuben Larson gave birth to missionary radio under humble circumstances in Quito, Ecuador, on Christmas Day, 1931. Aided by several other missionaries in a living room fashioned into a studio, they broadcast an hour of inspirational messages in Spanish and English, along with hymns backed up by a pump organ and trombone. The program beamed from a 200-watt transmitter in a converted sheep shed, and was picked up by the handful of primitive radios then in the country.
Since then, their radio station HCJB—“Heralding Christ Jesus’ Blessings”—has grown to become the streamlined grandfather of short-wave gospel broadcasting. As it enters its fiftieth year, HCJB now airs programs in 14 languages, has an annual budget of $6 million, and carries a multidenominational staff of 225 missionaries from 20 different countries, and 280 Ecuadorian employees. Each day, HCJB transmits more than 70 program hours, and many of its programs are heard worldwide.
HCJB—also called Vozandes, “The Voice of the Andes”—has maintained a pioneering spirit during its first half century. The station and its parent organization, World Radio Missionary Fellowship, point to completion of several major projects.
• HCJB engineers spent five years constructing in Elkhart, Indiana, a new 500,000-watt transmitter, which will become missionary radio’s most powerful short-wave unit. Currently, the unit is being tested at HCJB’s transmitter-antennae site 15 miles east of Quito, and figures to be in operation by early next year.
• Work began last January on a $2 million hydroelectric plant 40 miles east of Quito. Scheduled for completion in 1983, the new plant will generate 4 million watts of power. The facility is being constructed alongside HCJB’s 15-year-old, 1.8-million watt hydro plant, which is too small to power the new transmitter, plus the 10 other transmitters currently on the air, including three 100,000-watt units and two 50,000-watt units.
• A “steerable antenna,” under development since 1976, will be used in conjunction with the new transmitter. It presently allows a transmitter’s power to be focused into a narrower beam to reach a target area. Another feature, planned for completion in 1982, involves placing part of the antenna structure on railroad-like tracks to direct it toward different continents. Overall, the steerable antenna will entail eight towers, the tallest of which is 417 feet, and 18 miles of reflective wire fashioned into a massive, weblike screen.
“The combination of the 500,000-watt transmitter and the steerable antenna, backed up by hydroelectric power, gives great promise for the future,” said Abe Van Der Puy, who retires next September as wrmf’s second president. In 1962 he succeeded cofounder/president Clarence Jones, and has been with the mission 35 years.
Over the years, HCJB occasionally has drawn criticism as isolating itself as a “missionary compound” in the middle of Quito, a city of 800,000 located on a plateau 9,200 feet above sea level. Many of the HCJB staff live on or near the two-acre property with its nine studios, where 70 percent of HCJB’s programs are produced.
Nevertheless, HCJB’s multifaceted programs have earned it the increasing respect of Quito residents and national officials. In 1955, HCJB opened the 50-bed Hospital Vozandes in Quito, where patients include government leaders, penniless Indians, and missionaries. Three years later, HCJB opened the 28-bed Epp Memorial Hospital in Shell, the first hospital in the jungle that covers about half of the nation.
Both hospitals are known for quality care. When Ecuador’s minister of finance was shot in a murder attempt last year, he demanded to be taken to Hospital Vozandes.
Through its varied medical outreach, HCJB opens spiritual doors. Each week 15 to 20 patients at Hospital Vozandes ask for contact with a pastor or chaplain; at Shell, “three to seven patients every month come to know the Lord, maybe more,” one missionary physician said.
(Because of an increasing case load caused by more settlers move to the jungle areas, the Shell facilities became overcrowded. The organization hopes to begin construction there next year of a $1 million, 45-bed hospital, and has applied for 80 percent funding through the Swedish International Development Agency.)
Recently, the HCJB hospitals formed an important tie with the Catholic University of Cuenca, which is one of six medical schools in Ecuador. About one-third of the 30 graduates from the university’s new medical school spend all or at least a portion of their internship with WRMF.
HCJB also led in formation of a community health care program, in which personnel of several U.S.-based mission agencies participate. Organizers so far have trained 133 volunteers in 93 Indian villages, encompassing 70,000 people. They provide instruction in basic hygiene, first aid, nutrition, and in obtaining government health services for their communities.
HCJB operates several other support ministries. Its Bible Institute of the Air handles about 300 letters per month from students in 40 countries taking one of its 19 Bible correspondence courses. HCJB also produces a variety of religious television programs for use throughout Latin America. It began Ecuador’s first TV station in 1969. and in 1972 turned it over to a group of Quito businessmen.
Still, HCJB’s primary focus is short-wave radio broadcasting. Spanish, English, and 17 dialects of Quichua (the ancient tongue of the Incas), take up its largest blocks of air time. HCJB is the primary gospel broadcaster to the 10 to 15 million Quichuas, whose language is the fourth most predominant in the Americas. Russian-language broadcasts are another noteworthy HCJB outreach; in 1941 the organization became the first to direct gospel programs to the Soviet Union.
Highlights of HCJB’s fiftieth anniversary celebration include: Tyndale House releases of a biography of Clarence Jones and three other HCJB works, the Ecuadorian government’s release of three different commemorative postal stamps, a Christmas radio musical, and a 65-part radio series on the mission’s history.
Whether HCJB stays around another 50 years may depend on its relationship with the Ecuadorian government. Now, relations remain cordial. In 1975, HCJB got a new government contract for its radio operations through the year 2000, with a renewed provision for importing the mission’s equipment duty-free. It maintains a policy of strict political neutrality—often important for weathering Ecuador’s sometimes unexpected, sometimes violent, governmental changes.
HCJB officials figure their programs serve as a supplement to pastors’ teaching, and reach into many remote areas where there are no churches. The station also provides vital information for believers in countries lacking religious freedom. In many rural areas, HCJB has opened doors for evangelical work, with its positive programming contrasting with antievangelical accusations and rumors.
Letters indicate HCJB’s wide hearing: a total of 88,000 letters in 1979 from 134 countries. And responding to listeners’ spiritual questions occupies a central role in HCJB’s ministry: “Without that, we’re just broadcasting the gospel and not doing anything about it,” said one missionary.
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