Bible colleges and seminaries not threatened.
The small but respected Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) holds a unique spot in Ontario higher education. Unlike the 15 recognized universities in the province, the Toronto-based graduate school teaches liberal arts from an evangelical Christian perspective. This approach supplies values and insights otherwise lacking in liberal arts programs, say ICS administrators, and certainly doesn’t weaken the school’s academic respectability.
Because of the 12-year-old school’s unique contribution, supporters believe ICS has every right to exist and flourish. Understandably, they are upset by proposed legislation, now before Ontario’s parliament, that threatens to yank the school’s degree-granting status, and, for that matter, that of any college or university existing without government recognition.
The province’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities last March introduced its Bill 4 primarily as a way to kill off so-called degree mills operating in the province. Most educators applaud this effort to close the mail-order colleges. But because its provisions also threaten schools like ICS and other alternative forms of education, critics would just as soon see Bill 4 on the floor and driven out of sight.
The Bill 4 squabble is best understood against the background of Canada’s systems and traditions for higher education. Christian liberal arts colleges are rare to nonexistent in the 10 provinces. Traditionally, Canadian politicians and academicians have favored publicly supported universities.
Legislatures have favored public education, partly because they see it as a way to unite the citizenry. Educators have warned of shabby educational standards at the small Bible schools (and in some cases were justified).
In Ontario, money enters the picture. Chancellor Jack Scott of Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto notes that recognized universities get government grants based on their total enrollments. Those schools are not likely to favor nonrecognized schools, which might lure away potential students (and dollars). What’s more, Scott asserts, these same university officials control the province’s education department, which, in turn, charts educational policy.
Since Canada lacks any systems of accreditation for its colleges and universities, the provinces themselves monitor schools. In Ontario, under the proposed Bill 4, liberal arts degrees could be granted only by the 15 government-recognized universities. To retain their degree-granting status, nonrecognized schools must affiliate with a recognized university, or work out some other arrangement with the legislature. Another option is to change their graduation degrees to “certificates.”
When Bible colleges and seminaries protested Bill 4, the Ministry of Colleges and Education assured them the government had no intention of changing its long-standing policy of noninvolvement in religious education: Bible colleges and seminaries still would be able to grant degrees, but only religious ones, and after getting approval from the legislature.
ICS makes no claims to being a major university, and it does not fit the pattern of a theological school. For that reason, said principal (president) Bernard Zylstra, “We were about to fall between the cracks of Bill 4.”
He describes the school as a small graduate university, “a philosophical institution with foci in three or four major disciplines such as aesthetics, theology, philosophy proper, political theory, and history.” The school grants its own master of philosophy degrees, and its students may earn doctoral degrees in cooperation with the Free University of Amsterdam. At present, 35 full-time and several part-time students attend classes at ICS. They study under respected faculty members, such as aesthetics professor and writer Calvin Seerveld (see Refiner’s Fire, p. 48).
ICS officials fought Bill 4 from the beginning, and slowed its progress. The evangelical association that funds and administers ICS mounted a nationwide letter-writing campaign against Bill 4: ministers of education and parliament were literally inundated with letters, said development director Marcia Hollingsworth of the Association for the Advancement of Christian Scholarship (AACS). With spiritual roots in the Reformed community, the AACS appealed for protests against Bill 4 in a letter to all Reformed churches in the province and to the 2,500 persons on its mailing list.
(The AACS founded the institute in 1967, and coordinates several programs, including book publishing and seminars. An Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship staff member leads its outreach program to college campuses.)
Some ICS faculty provide leadership for the Canada-wide task force, Committee for Justice and Liberty, which also raised an early alert to Bill 4. The independent group, described as liberal in politics and conservative in theology, has proposed an amendment to Bill 4 that would provide for recognition of free-standing universities, in addition to the recognized 15. Committee director Gerald Vandezande has contacted members of opposition political parties, and says they will support such an amendment when the bill comes up for the second and third readings required for its passage, possibly before the current legislative term ends in mid-December.
For the government to bar alternative forms of education would be a “violation of public justice in a pluralistic system,” he charged. Vandezande, with ICS officials, has drafted an application for a charter (not yet submitted) seeking status for ICS as a free-standing institution.
Schools such as Ontario Bible College and Seminary and Central Baptist Seminary have filed “private member’s bills” with the legislature. If approved, these applications (on which schools attest to their academic and financial health) give the schools government recognition for their religion and theology degrees.
Ontario Bible College’s bill was approved, said academic dean Robert Duez, but won’t be acted upon until (and if) Bill 4 passes. If anything, Bill 4 will help his school, Duez said: the government’s stamp on the school’s religion degrees further enhances a student’s ability to transfer his Bible college or seminary credit to a secular university. “Any institution that is respectable academically probably will not be affected [by Bill 4],” he said.
The goverment has assured the approval of Central Baptist’s private member’s bill, said chancellor Jack Scott.
But because it grants liberal arts, not religion degrees, ICS faces a stickier problem. ICS administrators and education officials have met several times to discuss options in the event that Bill 4 passes. (The planned date of Bill 4’s implementation, if adopted by the legislature, is Sept. 1, 1981.)
Education officials suggested that ICS consider: increased cooperation with the Free University of Amsterdam, which would grant ICS master’s, as well as doctoral degrees; affiliation with a Toronto university; or cooperation with Calvin College or another accredited U.S. school that would oversee ICS programs and grant the degree.
Education official Paul Gardner acknowledged the school does have an option to seek a private bill as a free-standing institution. However, he asserted the government stance “that arts and science degrees should be granted only through the 15 provincial universities.”
ICS last summer sought to affiliate with the University of Toronto, but was rejected. That school already has seven affiliated religious institutions: three Roman Catholic, two Anglican, one United Church of Canada, and one United Presbyterian. These “federated together” by a “memorandum of agreement” in 1978, said director Iain Nichol. The degrees are granted conjointly with the university.
Government officials have promised to intervene in behalf of ICS in further attempts to affiliate with the University of Toronto or another school, said ICS principal Zylstra. The affiliation route may be difficult because of the “secularizing thrust of higher education in the province,” he said.
Should ICS be unable to affiliate with one of the recognized universities, said Zylstra, it faces two alternatives: going out of business, or going “whole hog” for a charter as a free-standing institution that grants general M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees.
Vandezande hopes the school takes the latter course. In meetings between his Committee for Justice and Liberty and government officials, Vandezande has said, “I would be fighting just as hard [for ICS] if it were a Marxist or a socialist school.… In a pluralistic society, there must be justice and equal opportunity.”
Ironically, he said, the ruling Progressive Conservative party, which is Christian-dominated, has opposed free-standing universities while the opposition Socialist party and others have sided with ICS and schools like it. He criticized the province’s Bible colleges and seminaries for having “dropped out of the fight” for ICS, now that they have filed for private member’s bills.
If the government refuses an ics appeal to become a free-standing university, the school should continue granting its degrees until the matter is taken to court, Vandezande said. His experience shows him this sometimes is the best way to get things done.
Owners Who Tithe Make Bank a Prophet-able Idea
If all goes as planned, the nation’s first “Christian” bank will open sometime between November 1 and December 12 in a Portland suburb. It’s called the Stewardship Bank of Oregon, a state-chartered, full-service commercial bank with one significant difference: its stockholders all confess Jesus Christ as Lord and pledge a 10 percent donation of the bank’s gross profits to Christian schools and organizations.
The State of Oregon is requiring $1.5 million in stock to be sold before opening day; Robert Laughlin, one of the bank’s founders, expected to reach that goal by November 1. Stock is being offered at $10 a share, with a minimum purchase of $100. By late September, some 120 stockholders had bought about half the stock.
Laughlin is chairman and chief executive of Western Food Equipment Company of Portland, a family business. It will own the building to be occupied by the bank, on which construction is nearing completion.
Laughlin said a few years ago an employee of his asked why no Christian bank existed. “The idea kind of haunted me,” Laughlin said. That led to serious thinking, and the idea was born. Laughlin has been visiting around the country, trying to interest Christian businessmen in considering such banks for their own communities. There are 10 groups in seven states investigating the possibility, all them watching closely to see what happens in Portland.
When he speaks to businessmen, Laughlin asks if they know of Christian schools in need of extra money. That usually produces the expected answer, and makes the idea of a tithing bank sound especially good.
While the Stewardship Bank of Oregon will be attuned to the needs of small businesses, according to Laughlin, it does not plan to be a soft touch for loans, no matter what an applicant’s religious beliefs might be. Its loan standards will be as rigorous as those of any other bank, he said.
Many denominations are represented among the stockholders, showing, said Laughlin, that Christians can unite for a common cause without compromising denominational beliefs. He believes that to be one of the important features of the Stewardship Bank of Oregon.
North American Scene
Some 15 to 20 Southern Baptist pastors recently gathered to oppose the strong coalition of conservatives, headed by Houston appeals court Judge Paul Pressler and president Paige Patterson of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies in Houston. Pastor Cecil Sherman of Asheville, North Carolina, who called the meeting, said the group wants to refocus on missions and restore leadership to those who will do so. He criticized conservatives as ignoring missions and mission financing in order to promote doctrinal issues. He said missions “is what called us [SBC] into being as a convention … and this is what we ought to continue to be organized around.”
A nondenominational Michigan Bible College finally closed this fall after a long-running financial crisis. Owosso College had more than 400 students several years ago. But when the 78-year-old school closed—the final blow coming when it couldn’t pay its electric bill—only 48 students were enrolled. Observers allege difficulties began during the early 1970s under former president Kenneth Armstrong, with irresponsible spending and investments not school related.
Opponents of President Carter’s White House Conference on Families found a platform with Ronald Reagan. The Republican presidential candidate appointed a 25-member family advisory board, to critique Carter’s WHCF report and find ways to promote so-called traditional family values. Leading WHCF critic Connie Marshner of the Free Congress Foundation chaired the committee, which included evangelicals Beverly LaHaye, Harold O.J. Brown, and antiabortion leader Mildred Jefferson.
Agroup of black pastors cast their vote for not voting. At the second National Black Pastors Conference in Chicago last month, New York City pastor and organizer William A. Jones said blacks should not support any presidential candidate because all have ignored the plight of the black poor. Blacks should focus instead on local elections, he said. The civil rights-oriented group was formed especially to plot strategy for this fall’s election, and generally in order to mobilize the black church on a variety of political and economic issues (issue of Dec. 21, 1979, p. 32).
Local churches will have a say in the proposed merger of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). A joint steering committee announced this plan: 200 congregations from each denomination will pair off to study doctrinal and structural issues of church union. Another 300 congregations, not located near ecumenical partners, will study church union individually. The two denominations will use this grassroots data in preparing for their 1985 decision on whether or not to begin formal merger talks.
The terminally ill have a right to commit suicide, according to a two-month-old California-based group, Hemlock. The 300-member group (which claims to be growing at the rate of 50 per week) will publish a manual describing consideration of, and means for, suicide—or “self-deliverance”—by the incurably ill. Hemlock is a member of the newly formed World Federation of Right to Die societies, some of whose 22 member groups advocate only “passive euthanasia” (removal from life support systems, for instance) to those such as Great Britain’s EXIT, which support active suicide.
The U.S. Catholic Church recently closed its film rating service. The film office has tried to adapt to the changing times and film industry since its founding in the 1930s. However, increasing violence and explicit sex in movies, along with changing church attitudes on moral issues, reportedly made rating difficult. This, along with financial shortages, reportedly led to the decision to close. Its magazine, Review, ceased publication.
Recent additions to the Billy Graham Center archives in Wheaton, Illinois, include records of Mission Aviation Fellowship and the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association. Parts of each collection are restricted at the donors’ request, but most archives materials are completely open to the public, said director Robert Shuster. The archives staff seeks materials on organizations and “the typical, as well as the famous, Christian worker,” Shuster said, so visitors can study some of the ways Christians in the past have functioned in specific areas of ministry.
Robert H. Mounce, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at Western Kentucky University, has been named president of Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. Mounce started a religious studies program while at Western Kentucky. He also wrote the volume on Revelation for the New International Commentary on the New Testament.
TV evangelist Pat Robertson has resigned from the Roundtable, an organization of evangelical conservatives involved in social and political campaigns. He said his first mission is soul winning and he wants to avoid involvements that might confuse that mission. He stressed he has no differences with other Roundtable members and said Christians should be good citizens.
The chief executive officer of South Africa’s largest Dutch Reformed denomination has resigned amid speculation that he found it increasingly difficult to support his church’s stand in favor of apartheid. Frans O’Brien Geldenhuys did not immediately announce his reasons for leaving the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, but he had publicly questioned his church’s position.
Thomas Phillips, chief executive at Raytheon Corporation, will chair the annual Bible Week luncheon in New York City later this month. Phillips, an evangelical Christian, helped lead Charles Colson to Christ after Colson’s involvement in Watergate while serving as an assistant to President Nixon.
James Dunn has been elected executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, the Washington, D.C.-based agency representing nine Baptist denominations. For the last 12 years Dunn directed the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and he has been an outspoken critic of the political efforts of well-known conservative Christian evangelists. He declared his first priority to be “faithfulness to religious liberty and church-and-state separation.”
Melvin Bailey and Thomas White are among 37 American prisoners released from Cuban jails as a good-will gesture. The pair spent 18 months in Havana’s Comenado del Este prison after their single-engine aircraft ran out of fuel and landed on Cuba’s southern coast in May 1979 while dropping religious literature (issue of Sept. 7, 1979, p. 75). They were charged with “dissemination of anti-Communist, diversionist literature,” a state security crime, and sentenced to 24 years each. White had been on the payroll of the Glendale, California-based organization associated with the name of Richard Wurmbrand: Jesus to the Communist World.
Brazilian Mormons recently opened a new headquarters building in São Paulo.
The complex, which includes administrative offices and a training center, serves the ballooning Mormon church in Brazil. Its membership jumped 50 percent in the last five years—from 75,000 to 115,000—and has been influenced by large numbers of missionaries sent from the U.S.
Is Protestant extremist Ian Paisley being groomed to lead an independent Northern Ireland? The British government denied such reports, although Northern Ireland Secretary Humphrey Atkins recently consulted with Paisley. The British press claims the idea is that an independent Northern Ireland would be free to make peace with the Irish Republic. Dublin officials are said to be receptive to the concept, which they believe would lead to some form of confederation.
West Germany’s “Missionary Year 1980,” a nationwide evangelistic initiative in which all the major denominations and evangelistic organizations in the country are involved, is providing “the greatest encouragement and motivation for evangelism in the history of the church in Germany.” So reported Peter Schneider, executive secretary of the German Evangelical Alliance at a meeting of the European Evangelical Alliance in Lausanne, Switzerland, last month. But EEA president Morgan Derham told German evangelicals he was concerned because Pentecostals are excluded. He said he would like to see the “German Alliance accept the Pentecostals as evangelical brothers.”
A Pentecostal denomination in Romania has linked up with the U.S.-based Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). The 150,000-member Apostolic Pentecostal Church of God in Romania was officially recognized as belonging to the denomination this year during that body’s fifty-eighth general assembly in Dallas. The Romanian denomination, which claims more than 1,000 congregations, was begun in the early 1920s, and grew out of correspondence between a Romanian immigrant to the United States and friends in his homeland. The doctrinal statement and government of the church were developed from copies of the Church of God Evangel sent from the United States.
The East German Communist party moved to improve its relations further with the church last month. It dropped the requirement—in force for 10 years—that churches obtain advance permission from authorities for all meetings and other activities by registering with the militia. The party stipulated, however, that lifting of the preregistration applies only to events of an “exclusively religious character.” Earlier conciliatory gestures were the granting of television time to churches on church holidays and creation of a 100-member committee to prepare for the five-hundredth anniversary in 1983 of the birth of Martin Luther. The East German Protestant Church provided four advisers to the committee, but declined to join it, having set up its own committee in 1978.
In the aftermath of Poland’s nationwide strikes, a joint Episcopal and Government Commission was established to normalize relations between the Roman Catholic church and the Communist authorities. It met first in late September and is to meet again this month. Similar commissions operated previously: 1949–1950 and 1956–1960, when the regime was relatively weak. After 1950 the government abrogated a signed agreement, and gave itself full power over clerical appointments. In 1960 it reneged on promises of democratization made during the earlier Gdansk workers’ riots and instead emphasized “strengthening Socialism and the position of the party.” Catholic Sunday masses continue to be broadcast on radio and television.
Two Soviet Pentecostal leaders have been arrested and one has already been sentenced, according to information reaching the Research Center for Religion and Human Rights in Closed Societies. Boris Perchatkin, 34, has been rearrested after an escape last year. He was a leader and organizer of the Christian Emigration Movement, now having about 50,000 members. Bishop Nikolai Goretoi, arrested earlier, has received a sentence of 12 years—7 years of hard labor and 5 years of internal exile. Goretoi served a previous sentence. Both men lived in Nakhodka, an eastern Siberia coastal town near Vladivostok.
Three Ghanaian denominations slated to merge in January have agreed to a two-year postponement. Two Presbyterian groups and the Methodist church (Sept. 5 issue) were to have inaugurated the Church of Christ in Ghana (CCG) two months from now. Eight of nine presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church of Ghana requested postponement of the union to allow time for educating congregations about the merger. The Ghana Mennonite Church plans to vote during 1981 on whether or not to join the CCG.
The Protestant church is thriving in an otherwise dismal Ethiopia, with the junta facing military and political crises in the north, east, and central regions, and drought and famine in the south. Churches in the capital, although organized to go underground if necessary, are bulging. The Word of Life Churches (with Sudan Interior Mission origins) added 40 new congregations throughout the country last year, bringing the total above 700. The elders commissioned 18 new evangelists this year. Its Bible school system is not only self-supporting, but is also offering scholarships to students from areas only recently exposed to the gospel. Aid agencies such as TEAR Fund and MAP International are channeling food, medicines, blankets, and water tanks to drought areas by means of the churches.
Police are conducting an investigation into alleged bribery and corruption in Israel’s Religious Affairs Ministry. Religious Affairs Minister Aharon Abuhatziera and six close associates are suspected of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars of ministry funds to nonexistent rabbinical seminaries, or to seminaries claiming far more students than they actually have. Some of the money, the Israeli press reported, has turned up in the Swiss bank accounts of those under investigation. The affair threatens to split the National Religious Party, since it pits Yosef Burg, party leader and interior minister (in charge of the national police) against Abuhatziera. The 12 NRP seats are crucial to survival of Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s fragile Likud ruling coalition.
Hostilities in the Middle East were not allowed to disrupt the pilgrimage during the Muslim lunar month that ends November 8. One startling example: more than 100 Iranian buses were driven from Tehran around Iraq—by way of Turkey, Syria, and Jordan—to Israel. There, some 5,000 white-robed pilgrims boarded the buses, some bearing pictures of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, for the trip through Jordan to Saudi Arabia. Jordan, still technically at war with Israel, provided temporary passports for the Israeli citizens, who were asked to leave their Israeli papers with the Jordanian Ministry of the Interior. “I don’t think they’d like them walking around Mecca with Israeli documents,” said an Israeli military spokesman. Jordan allows its own buses to ferry Arabs from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, but insists that non-Jordanian buses transport Israel’s Arabs.
Koreans are sending church-planting missionaries to Indonesia, and Americans are helping with the funding in a pacesetting international partnership arrangement. Han Chul-Ha, associate director of the Asian Center for Theological Studies and Mission in Seoul, Korea, started the project. He formed the Asia Evangelistic Commission to help export Korea’s rapid church growth to other parts of Asia. World Vision agreed to provide support. Each new congregation is tied to an Indonesian “mother church,” which provides oversight and a pastor or evangelist. Workers are trained in church-planting techniques by the Indonesian Bible Institute. Outside assistance to a new congregation will be limited to approximately three years. The Korea-Indonesian Church Planting Project plans by next September to increase to 75 its sponsorships of congregations moving toward self-support.
Billy Graham drew capacity crowds during his month of crusades in Japan. Police had to shut the gates of Osaka’s Nissei Stadium when 27,000 people crowded into spaces provided for 25,000, with hundreds more outside trying to get in. Earlier, officials in Okinawa said that the Graham meetings there were the largest gatherings ever held on that island. CHRISTIANITYTODAYwill carry a full report on the Japan crusades—including the Tokyo meetings in the 50,000-seat Karakuen Stadium—next issue.
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