Over the last three decades, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been shaken to the core by a few of its theologians, who believe the church has erred in the basic beliefs that separate it from historic Protestantism. A showdown on whether to adapt to the new scholarship or stand fast on the teachings of founder-prophetess Ellen White has been building for some time.

Finally the volcano blew. Last month church administrators moved to strip the ministerial credentials from Australian theologian Desmond Ford, one of Adventism’s most widely known thinkers.

“This probably won’t blow over,” said Adventist professor Raymond Cottrell of Loma Linda University, near Los Angeles, in what may be a sublime understatement. Already, at least one minister has resigned and led his congregation out the door, and he predicts dozens more will follow. A dissident Adventist group has been planning a meeting in San Diego for Adventist churches contemplating independence from the general conference. The meeting was to be held next summer, but because of the Ford affair, it was moved up to October 13–16. Organizers had been expecting about 500. Now, they’re planning for more.

Ford challenges the heart of what traditional Adventists cherish, namely, the events of 1844 and their significance. William Miller, a Baptist preacher and Bible scholar, rode the waves of Second Coming fervor that swept many American churches in the 1830s. Basing his stand on the cleansing of the temple mentioned in Daniel 8:14, which Miller took to mean Christ’s return to earth, he predicted that the Second Coming would occur in 1844. Miller and his 200,000 followers were crushed when the time came and Christ didn’t.

Two followers, Hiram Edson and Ellen Harmon, the future Mrs. White, then reported visions of Christ entering “the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary,” just as the priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year in the Jewish Tabernacle to make blood atonement for sins. This is what Christ actually did in 1844, the visionaries said, and thus the movement was saved.

Through her writings, Ellen White expanded her vision into the doctrine of the investigative judgment of Christ. This says that although man’s sins are forgiven at the Cross, they must be blotted out by Christ before man can enter heaven. This blotting out of sin is what Christ has been doing in the heavenly sanctuary since 1844. But he blots out the sin record only after evaluating the life of each professing believer, to see how well he has kept God’s commandments. Some will pass the judgment, some will fail. According to this teaching, salvation is never secure. Ellen White wrote prolifically on these matters, and on all aspects of Christian life. Although Adventists officially claim the Bible as their first standard, many, in practice, regard Mrs. White’s books as at least equal.

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Now comes Desmond Ford, a man of great learning and gracious personality, who argues forcefully against most of this cherished tradition, all the while claiming to be an Adventist from head to toe. “Ellen White never claimed to be a basis of doctrine,” Ford said in a telephone interview. “She never claimed to be inerrant. Adventists have used her in a way she would be horrified at … Our administrators [who took his credentials] unfortunately, are not well read. There’s a great gulf … not in sympathies, but in understanding, between administrators and scholars in the church.” Ford hastens to add that he cannot blame them for their actions since they cannot have both time to run the church and to delve into theology, as can the church’s scholars.

Regarding the investigative judgment, which is the fundamental belief of Adventists, Ford said, “You can’t find the investigative judgment in the Bible. You can get it out of Ellen White. The fact is, she got it out of Uriah Smith [an early Adventist writer and editor].”

Traditionally, Adventists are taught they can’t be sure of heaven until they have lived lives good enough to have their sins blotted out during the investigative judgment. That, in many cases, has spawned an attitude of “perfectionism,” always striving to be good enough, but never sure just how good that is. The reason Ford has grown so popular among some Adventists is that he is throwing all that out the window, telling Adventists they can indeed be happy and sure of salvation because Christ finished his work on the Cross, where their sins were forgiven and the eternal punishment due them erased.

“I always thought I was a Christian until I heard Dr. Ford speak, and then I found the real peace of Jesus,” said an Adventist medical doctor on the West Coast. He continued: “There is a vast youth movement in the church identifying with the evangelistic gospel [as a result of Ford]. There’s a renewed excitement about the Cross.”

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Ford headed the theology department of the Adventists’ Avondale College in New South Wales, Australia, for 16 years. He holds doctoral degrees from Michigan State University and Manchester University in England. He earned the latter in New Testament studies under noted scholar F.F. Bruce. Ford has written nine books—seven of them published or in process—and has about 250,000 cassette tapes in circulation in the United States alone.

Ford contends that the Hebrew word for “cleanse,” in the key verse, Daniel 8:14 (as in Daniel cleansing the heavenly temple by blotting out sins), carries the notion of “restoring,” or “putting right,” and doesn’t really mean cleanse at all, even though the King James Version uses it. As evidence, he offers the fact that most modern translations interpret it as he does. (Ford’s opponents in the church acknowledge this but still contend the word can have the meaning of cleanse.)

The year 1844 has no biblical significance, Ford says, but he adds that God did raise up the Adventists in that year as a movement that would emphasize his creation, a doctrine Adventists stoutly defend. Ford notes that 1844 is the year Charles Darwin wrote the first sketch of his Origin of Species. Ford is also in complete accord with Saturday worship, another cardinal Adventist doctrine. Seventh-day worship signifies God’s completed creation, for it’s the day on which he rested. Ford said. Adventist have traditionally held that in the end times of the church, Saturday worship will separate those who are true believers from apostate Christians who worship on Sunday. Ford himself does not criticize those who do so.

Aage Rendalen, a Norwegian Adventist editor, said of the Ford situation that, “Among denominational theologians, it is openly conceded that Ford’s basic criticism of the sanctuary theology is valid.” But he says most of the others keep a low profile about it because the laity and the church administrators don’t like to hear it.

The flap began building a head of steam a year ago, when Ford was asked to present his views before a layman’s forum at Pacific Union College, an Adventist school in northern California where he has been a visiting professor (Feb. 8 issue, p. 64). When tapes of his talk began circulating, the phones started ringing off the hook at church headquarters in Takoma Park, Maryland. “Some old Miss Muffet out in Nebraska somewhere probably got hold of it,” said a disgruntled Adventist professor who is in sympathy with Ford.

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Ford was given a paid, six-month leave to defend his views, which he did by producing a document running 990 pages in length. In August, about 100 Adventist churchmen from around the world gathered at a church camp at Glacier View Ranch, Colorado, near Boulder. They spent a week poring over the manuscript in detail. At week’s end, they found themselves differing with Ford on 10 major points, which cover most of the controversy. Because Ford wouldn’t compromise, the President’s Advisory Committee decided to ask the church’s Australasian Division to revoke Ford’s credentials as a minister, which it did.

Church administrators point to the friendly spirit at Glacier View, and the strong consensus against Ford, as evidence that the church is united in its traditional views. The Norwegian Rendalen, however, contends the theologians sided with the administration not out of contempt for his theology, but because he was not willing to compromise, as most other theologians have been doing.

Many followers of Ford can’t figure out why the administration acted so severely against such a popular figure. They must have been able to predict the commotion that has ensued. One high official explained it, but only on condition his name not be used:

“We met with Ford for 50 hours, and with all that talk he never changed a pinpoint. You just can’t be right on everything.” The official said it was further frustrating because although Ford refused to budge an inch, he was so nice about everything. “I guess his tremendous amount of research has made him infallible,” the official said.

The younger minister syndrome

Cottrell, who said he knows many of the men who made the decision against Ford, said he believes they reacted harshly because Ford’s teachings have greatly polarized the Adventist church in Australia, and it is turning older traditional ministers against younger ones in this country as well as in Australia. “He has become a world figure in Seventh-day Adventist churches,” Cottrell said, “and his students react very positively toward him, almost without exception.” Ford has trained hundreds of ministers during his teaching years.

Cottrell may be on target when he says the situation is turning younger ministers against the church. John Toews, 30, is the California pastor who resigned his Adventist credentials because of the Ford decision. He and his 150-member congregation changed its name from the South Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church to the South Bay Gospel Fellowship. “We feel we want to move into the mainstream of Christianity now because we feel that Adventism is very definitely way off to the side.” Toews, who graduated from the Adventist seminary at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, predicts that there will be “many, many pastors who will be leaving.”

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Another young minister, who asked not to be identified, says he’s known Adventists who for years have never had assurance about whether they’ll get to heaven. “That breaks my heart,” he said, adding that he is also contemplating leaving the church.

J.R. Spangler, secretary of the church’s ministerial association and editor of one of its magazines, said he believes the controversy will spark a renewed interest in the doctrine of the investigative judgment of Christ, which all who were interviewed say has not been a topical subject in the church’s pulpits for some time. Spangler said, “We realize there have been some exegetical problems with the heavenly sanctuary, but we feel we’ve handled some of them quite well.” Spangler was speaking for Neal Wilson, president of the church’s general conference.

Ford has taken a job as chaplain in an Adventist medical ministry in California, and plans to keep writing and preaching, even if, as he suspects, he will never be able to teach again in an Adventist school. He plans to remain in the United States if he can get a permanent visa. He is convinced his views are right, and he is equally convinced the church will head in his direction as more and more of its bright young people take seminary training, and learn the issues for themselves.


Jews Turn Protective of Their Atheists from Russia

America is experiencing a new wave of Soviet Jewish immigrants. But religious ideas aren’t necessarily kosher to the newcomers. They are more interested in finding the good life than spiritual things, say many Jewish and Christian leaders.

Up to 90 percent of the Jewish emigrants from the Soviet Union are atheists, according to Jim Melnick, director of the Slavic Gospel Association’s Russian Center on Chicago’s north side. He and others explain this as the result of Russians living for the past 60 years under a government that teaches there is no God (and that Jesus is a myth invented by the early church).

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This nonbelief has disappointed America’s religious Jews, who expected the newcomers would be as devoutly religious as their Eastern European ancestors. Various Jewish groups are encouraging the immigrants (reportedly with little success) to attend synagogue and observe religious traditions. These groups have occasionally clashed with Christians and cult groups who also are aware that the Soviet Jewish immigrants constitute a mission field.

(In their new book, Prison or Paradise? The New Religious Cults, James and Marcia Rudin estimate that Jews compose 20 to 50 percent of cult members, while Jews compose less than 3 percent of the American population. Most likely to join cults are persons searching for “a caring community,” said Rudin, an interreligious affairs executive with the American Jewish Committee.)

On June 26, the Jewish Sentinel newspaper in Chicago alerted Soviet Jews to the danger of being proselytized by Christian groups. Sol Goldstein of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago told the weekly newspaper (read mostly by conservative religious Jews), “We will not leave our Soviet Jewish Brethren alone to defend themselves against this new attack on their Jewishness. They spent a generation fighting Soviet anti-Semitism and the attempt to woo their children from Judaism to Communism. They uprooted and came here to get away from that.”

Several days after the article was published, vandals smashed windows at SGA’s Russian Center. Religious Jews also distributed anti-Christian tracts outside the building—perhaps indicating what Goldstein meant when he said in the article, “We will see to it that there is a Jewish presence around the premises where conversion attempts are being made.”

In recent months, the center has experienced several window breakings, and staff members are accustomed to a degree of harassment, said Melnick. But he is more concerned that recently some Jews have complained of being threatened if they come to the center. Also, immigrants are warned on arrival not to go to the center, Melnick said.

Ironically, Melnick says, these warnings have “backfired” somewhat; many of the immigrants come anyway out of curiosity, and just because they were told they shouldn’t.

Staff members at SGA’s Russian Center, which has been in operation for about 18 months, have helped the new immigrants learn English, how to drive, where to locate government service agencies, and have provided them with clothes and furniture.

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The staff holds an evangelistic service on Sunday night, and is starting Bible studies for the immigrants. Melnick has said that many Soviet Jews think only the uneducated believe in God, but that they are curious about spiritual things, such as Bible prophecy—especially as it relates to Israel. The center has tried a variety of evangelistic approaches, including showing Moody Institute of Science films.

Most Soviet Jews have settled in major metropolitan centers. For instance, roughly 5,000 to 7,000 live in Chicago, and most of those have arrived in the last two years, Melnick said. An estimated 200,000 Jews have emigrated from the Soviet Union during the past decade: their legal departure resulted only after massive international pressure. They leave only after an official invitation from the state of Israel, and are expected to go there.

However, many of these emigrants “drop out” to other nations in the West; an estimated 81,000 of the 200,000 given visas have come to the United States, the Washington Post reported, noting that unlike previous waves of immigration following World War I and World War II, the third group is better educated, not interested in Jewish religious life, and concerned most about personal and intellectual freedoms and in having economic security. Mostly it is the religious Jews who do go to Israel, say observers.

Kidnapping in Love

The alleged kidnapping and forcible enthronement of the wrong bishop of the Mediterranean island of Crete has brought a rare challenge to the authority of the hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Church, and to the patriarch in Turkey—the spiritual leader of 200 million Orthodox Christians around the world.

It all began with a vacancy in the post of bishop of Kisamos on the Greek island. Deliberations began last December. The people of the diocese overwhelmingly favored the return of 69-year-old Bishop Eirinaios, a native of Crete who had served there until 1971. He is popular in this underdeveloped west end of the island for the projects he launched and raised funds for, including orphanages, schools, and a safe ferry line to Athens. But the bishop fell out of official favor for refusal to collaborate with the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. He was banished to Germany and the Central Europe jurisdiction of the church—which reports directly to Patriarch Demetrius II in Istanbul—where he set up cultural centers for the 350,000 Greek migrant workers there.

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The New York Times reported that matters came to a head in August when the Church of Crete, which is autonomous and responsible only spiritually to the ecumenical patriarch, elected a bishop other than Eirinaios. The incensed local populace seized and locked the episcopal residence. Then, while Bishop Eirinaios was vacationing on the island, they are said to have abducted him against his will and enthroned him at the cathedral.

Some 5,000 supporters then consolidated their position by keeping a vigil outside the cathedral and residence and building wooden barricades and brick walls to forestall any forcible attempt to evict him.

The patriarch accused Eirinaios of abandoning his post and ordered that he return to his German station or face stiff penalties. (This order was still in effect as of mid-September, according to a New York spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Diocese of North and South America, but no deadline had been specified.)

As for the white-bearded Eirinaios, he has decided to comply with the public’s desire. “I regret the forceful way I was brought here and wish that the patriarchate’s approval was forthcoming,” he said, “but I cannot betray the people’s love.”

The government in Athens appears to have acquiesced in the revolt since it has declined to fulfill its normally routine formal function of ratifying the appointment of the elected bishop. Speaking privately, Greece’s foreign minister, Constantine Mistotakis, who is from Crete, said that the patriarchate must quickly compromise to save face. He calls Eirinaios one of the foremost Orthodox figures worldwide. “Is it too much to allow him to serve the final years of his life as bishop of the small diocese from which he began his almost apostolic work?” he asks.

Snapshots and Bible Burnings
Jewish Believers Are Badgered in Israel

A new wave of anti-Christian vandalism in Israel has raised protests from church leaders. A spokesman for the United Christian Council of Israel, the largest interchurch organization there, has asked the Israeli Foreign Ministry for help in stopping the attacks. The July and August incidents—unlike a spate of occurrences last January, which were confined to Jerusalem—occurred in several smaller towns, attracting less publicity.

A skull and slogans were daubed on church walls, tires on the cars of a Protestant clergyman were slashed, and an evangelical minister, Barach Maoz, who also serves as a CHRISTIANITY TODAY correspondent, was attacked.

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Maoz reports that Jewish hostility to Christians meeting in Rehovot (the group’s earlier worship place in Roshton LeTsion was burned down) escalated throughout the summer. First the neighborhood rabbi was reported to have called for “extreme violence” against the believers. Then Orthodox Jews began the practice of gathering around the Congregational Hall at meeting times to discourage attendance. By August, police presence was required to assure access.

In late July an agent of Yad Le’achim, Joseph Birenbaum, burst into a meeting in the hall. He began snapping photos of those present, and refused to leave when asked to do so; he was arrested and held by police. But upon the intervention of Knesset member Porush and two local rabbis, Birenbaum was freed, after being taken to a doctor who advised his release on medical grounds. (Yad Le’achim is a government-subsidized organization whose basic purpose is educational work among immigrants; however, it also has a strong antimissionary thrust, making a practice of photographing Christian gatherings in order to identify the attenders and subject them to harassment and intimidation.)

The Maoz home was broken into in August. The intruder demanded that the Maoz family leave town and stop their “illicit activity,” then proceeded to dump books on the floor, tear down pictures, and break furniture. Maos and the intruder grappled, but the incident was cut short by arrival of the police.

Last spring, Yad Le’achim asked that the Israeli public send it any missionary materials that had come into their possession, including tracts, Christian books, and New Testaments. These, group leaders said, would be burned in a public ceremony. Soon afterward the Sephardic chief rabbi pronounced that whole Bibles, as distinct from Torahs (or Old Testaments) need not be considered holy books and might therefore also be burned.


John Beekman, 61, international translation coordinator for Wycliffe Bible Translators, coauthor of a book on translating the Bible, and the subject of two books; August 10 in Dallas, of internal hemorrhaging, after 25 years with an artificial heart valve.

Edwin Palmer, 58, executive secretary for the Committee on Bible Translation of the New York Bible Society, who supervised the 12-year project that produced the New International Version Bible, which has sold close to 3 million copies since 1978; September 16, in Passaic, New Jersey, of a heart attack.

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El Salvador
Restore Christian Values, Junta Members Urge

El Salvador’s ruling Revolutionary Junta has called for a prayer campaign for peace in the strife-torn republic. Colonel Jaime Abdul Gutiérrez, a member of the junta, said he hoped everyone would join in, and that “all churches can do much for peace in our country.” Gutiérrez made his remarks during an August 17 meeting between several junta members and a group of evangelical leaders led by Juan Bueno, an Assembly of God missionary and pastor of a large church in San Salvador.

Another junta member, José Napoleón Duarte, commented that “man has lost Christian values, and it is urgent that they be restored through the Word of God, something to which all religions can contribute.”

An estimated 5,000 people have been killed so far this year in violence that continues to wrack the small Central American country despite reforms instituted by the moderate-leftist junta. Nine Catholic priests have died since 1977, including Archbishop Oscar Romero, a vocal advocate of human rights, assassinated in March of this year. Right-wing extremists have claimed credit for most of the killings (although responsibility for Romero’s murder remains unclear), and have warned of “subversive Communists” within the church.

Romero’s successor, Acting Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas, called recently for an end to the “bloody struggle” between the government and leftist guerrillas, and condemned both sides. “As a pastor, as a Christian, and as a Salvadoran, I have to say, ‘Enough!’ ” he declared.

Despite the violence, evangelical churches report overflow crowds and high spiritual interest. A number of churches in San Salvador are opening their doors for early-morning prayer meetings. While some pastors have left the country under threats, evangelism continues and numbers are aligning themselves with the evangelicals. A campaign in June by the Assemblies of God, one of the largest evangelical groups in the country, attracted crowds of up to 30,000 to the soccer stadium.


Guerrillas and Saints
Political Turmoil Hampers Missions in Guatemala

Continuing political violence in Guatemala has prompted one mission to withdraw all its personnel, at least temporarily. After three families associated with the Primitive Methodists received threats in recent months, the board decided to pull out the rest of its missionaries as well—four couples and one single woman.

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The latest case, in July, involved Don Lawrence, 42, who had worked in the town of Nebaj, in northern Quiché Departement (province) for 15 years. A letter, which claimed to come from the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), a Communist group, accused the Lawrences of working for the CIA and gave them—on pain of death—24 hours to get out of town and 48 to leave the country.

The Primitive Methodist Church, which entered Guatemala in 1921, has some 135 congregations with a combined membership of 8,000. A hospital and a Christian school operated by the mission will continue to function under the national church.

Guatemala is the PMC International Mission Board’s only field. Most of its work has been in Quiché, the area of the country where the guerrilla sway is strongest.

“I’m positive about the situation because God is in control,” said field director Bill Vasey. “And a lot of the [national] brethren told us we did the right thing to pull out.” Vasey plans to return in January to continue work on the Joyabaj Quiché New Testament from a base in Guatemala City.

Complicating the situation have been reported problems between the mission and Guatemalan pastors. One departing missionary commented, “We will return when the national church invites us back.”

Other agencies working in Quiché have pulled expatriates out of the area and are maintaining a low profile. Wycliffe translators—including the Stan McMillens, burned out by the EGP a year ago (issue of Sept. 21, 1979, p. 44)—have moved to Guatemala City or other large towns, with their national translation helpers traveling back and forth.

Last November, two missionary families with CAM International, returning home to a remote town in Huehuetenango Departement, were caught at an EGP roadblock during one of these incidents, threatened, and told not to return to the area. One family had already planned to relocate in another part of the country; the other decided to go on furlough, but plans to return to Guatemala soon.

Roman Catholics have also come under attack in Quiché. Two priests, both Spanish, have been killed by right-wing terrorists since June, and 25 others, mostly European, have withdrawn from the area, leaving only two Guatemalan clergy to serve the entire province. Elsewhere in the country, a Belgian priest was murdered last May in the Pacific coastal region; another, of Filipino origin, was kidnapped May 1 and has not been heard from; other clergy and nuns have received threats.

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Despite the climate of uncertainty, missionary work outside Quiché continues with no restriction in presenting the Christian message. More than 60 mission agencies work in the country; most have no plans to withdraw personnel or drastically change their operations. One international mission agency plans to move its regional office for Latin America from Guatemala to Costa Rica, while retaining its Guatemalan unit intact. Its executive said that recently imposed martial law could restrict regional coordination activities.

Meanwhile, Guatemala’s first candidate for sainthood, seventeenth-century monk Pedro de San José de Betancur, may have performed his first miracle since being beatified last summer. Dissident priest José María Ruiz Furlán—better known as Padre Chemita—an ardent supporter of canonization for Betancur (popularly known as Brother Pedro), returned to the fold two years after he was excommunicated and reacted by founding his own “Guatemalan National Catholic Church” (issue of Sept. 22, 1978, p. 48).

The controversial Chemita twice ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Guatemala City and had been a constant critic of the local church hierarchy. He apparently requested forgiveness and restoration when in Rome for the June beatification ceremony, and Pope John Paul II lifted the excommunication.

Archbishop Cardinal Mario Casariego of Guatemala, with whom Chemita had long been at odds, communicated the decision to him and the two concelebrated a mass in August at the priest’s self-styled “Cathedral of the Third World,” near a Guatemala city slum.

While the reconciliation between the cardinal and the rebel priest may have seemed miraculous to some, more likely the real reason was the almost total lack of support the pragmatic Chemita received for his breakaway movement.


In the Crisis: Was the Church a Paper Tiger?

Polish workers may have bolstered the Roman Catholic church more than the church helped the striking workers. That is the consensus after the crisis that won the workers the right to independent trade unions. Midway through the strike Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, the 79-year-old Polish primate, gave a homily that was interpreted as an appeal to return to work. That impression was strengthened when the state television network—which never before had allowed the church use of its broadcast facilities—broadcast his remarks.

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Among the concessions won by the strikers were government permission to televise a Roman Catholic Mass every Sunday, and the church’s access to state-controlled papers, radio, and TV (the latter, church officials said, would become reality only after lengthy negotiations).

Last month the church found itself in the awkward position of being praised—by Prime Minister Jozef Pinkowsky at a session of parliament—for its reasonableness and good sense during the strikes. To help rectify its tarnished image, Wyszynski met with strike leader Lech Walesa in an effort to maintain the church’s considerable moral authority over the people by moving more in step with some of the aspirations for freedom expressed by the strikers.

World Scene

Christian leaders have been having a tough time in Bolivia since a July 17 military coup. Methodist leader Mortimer Arias was abducted on August 26 from his home in Cochabamba by armed men. However, the ruling junta reportedly planned last month to exile Arias to Brazil, after Christian leaders worldwide sent messages supporting Arias, who is general secretary of the Confederation of Evangelical Methodist Churches in Latin America and an officer in the still-forming Latin America Council of Churches. Last month the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops condemned the junta’s alleged human rights violations, and documented cases of murder and torture of innocent persons.

The World Evangelical Fellowship general secretary is in Europe this month to attempt a reconciliation with the Italian Evangelical Alliance. Waldron Scott is meeting with the leader of various evangelical alliances in Europe and with leaders in the Italian alliance. The Italians withdrew from WEF membership in protest over the presence of a Roman Catholic observer at the WEF General Assembly in London last March. They were especially upset that the observer was permitted to bring greetings to the assembly.

Church pronouncements figured in the West German electoral campaign just concluded. The country’s Roman Catholic bishops circulated a pastoral letter criticizing Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s Social Democrat-led government for so simplifying divorce and abortion laws, without giving specific support to marriage and the family, “that love is destroyed.” The Protestant Church in Germany (EKD) declared itself politically neutral but acknowledged its concern about pastors living with common-law wives in church-owned houses. An EKD press spokesman said pastors “are not exempt from the general uncertainty in the area of ethics,” but added that they must apply to their own lives what they preach about “the unequivocal witness of the Bible.”

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Norway’s government has appointed an “unorthodox” clergyman to a pastorate over the unanimous objection of all 10 of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway bishops. The bishops rejected Helge Hognestad because his public statements conflicted with Lutheran confessions on the character of God, the historicity of Jesus, the Atonement, and justification. Rather than accept these evaluations, the government’s minister of church and education solicited opinions from two theological faculties in Oslo. One seminary declared Hognestad unsuited while the University of Oslo gave a divided opinion. The government minister went ahead with the appointment, saying there should be diversity of theological opinion. The bishops have lodged a protest.

The Christian Peace Conference, mainly a forum for churches in Soviet-bloc nations, nearly always follows the political line of the Soviet Union. But in late August Karoly Toth, president of the Prague-based organization of churchmen, called an unusual special session to cope with objections from its committees in the United States and Europe over its defense of Soviet armed intervention in Afghanistan. The Reformed Church of Hungary clergyman said the session was characterized by a “frank discussion and exchange of views.”

Nearly 5,000 East German Christians participated in the annual Evangelical Alliance conference at Bad Blankenburg in late August. The 2,500 spaces for campers were all reserved more than two weeks in advance. Publicity about the annual event in this center of early German pietism was limited to word of mouth. Some 70 percent of the attenders at the weekend Bible study conference were youths in their late teens and early twenties.

Liberia’s new regime remains an enigma half a year after the April coup that brought Sgt. Samuel Doe to power. Victoria A. Tolbert, wife of assassinated Liberian President William R. Tolbert, Jr., was released from custody in midsummer, but many political prisoners remain. Last month the commanding officer of the stockade warned anyone attempting to visit these prisoners that “you will be severely punished, or maybe not live to tell the story.” Liberian Baptists gained permission to meet in late August; they elected an interim general secretary to replace Tolbert, who was president of both church and nation.

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The Dimitri Dudko case is still not closed, according to sources cited by Keston College: when a Moscow home was searched on August 15, its Christian owner was told by the investigators that the search was connected “with the Dudko case.” Last June the Russian Orthodox priest publicly recanted of his leading role in support of religious freedom (August 8 issue, p. 55) after five months of solitary confinement. He was then promptly released. But he refused to comply with a summons to attend as a witness the August trial of Gleb Yakunin, another activist. He also is reported to have made statements regretting his recantation. Soviet officials reportedly tried to coerce him to sign a document—the contents of which are unknown—but Dudko refused.

Another Russian Orthodox religious activist has been tried and sentenced by Soviet authorities. Alexander Ogorodnikov, 29, who founded the Christian Seminar on Problems of Religious Renaissance, which attracted young Orthodox intellectuals concerned with religious revival, was given a maximum 11-year sentence for “anti-Soviet” activities—7 years at hard labor and 5 years banishment to a remote Soviet Union location.

A fourth secret printing press operated by the unregistered Baptists in the Soviet Union was tracked down and impounded by Soviet authorities in June. A Russian-German mission source said seven printers and four local contacts were arrested at the press, located in Glivenki, a village in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains east of the Black Sea. This was the second press confiscated this year.

A French radio station claims that a missing Muslim religious leader is a prisoner in a Libyan military camp near the Algerian border. Imam Moussa Sadr, a Lebanese Shiite leader who was born in Iran, disappeared August 31, 1978, while attending celebrations marking the anniversary of the Libyan revolution. The Paris-based Radio Luxembourg, which aired the allegation, cited no sources and gave no possible motives. Libya has repeatedly denied any involvement in his disappearance.

The September military coup in Turkey sought to stem the tide of terrorism in that country. Attacks on Syrian Orthodox Christians in the southeast sector of the nation is a little-publicized aspect of that lawlessness. IDEA, the information service of the German Evangelical Alliance, reports that Muslim fanatics destroyed vineyards belonging to the Christian villagers of Deir es Salib (“Monastery of the Cross”) at the beginning of the harvest, eliminating their only source of income. They have also repeatedly attacked nearby villages of Kerburan and Arbey over the last several years, murdering a mayor, ransacking a church, and driving out all Christians. Turkish officials have done nothing to prevent the attacks, claiming no persecution of religious minorities exists. Christians in Turkey number about 100,000 out of a population of 45.5 million, or about one in 450.

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Until now, Pakistan has been an Islamic republic in name only. That is the opinion of President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, the country’s military ruler, and he is doing something about it. Last month his administration ordered all female college students and teachers to wear the chador, the outer garment that covers the body from head to toe. He has also moved to introduce Islamic law, to punish those caught breaking the Muslim dawn-to-dusk month of fasting, to excise interest rates from financial transactions, and to levy taxes on the rich as sanctioned in the Koran. The latter measure, especially, has raised stiff resistance from religious minorities. While the majority Sunnis endorse compulsory collection of the tax, the Shiites, composing between 20 and 25 percent of the population, believe the tax should be voluntary. A protest against the tax by 20,000 angry Shias in the streets of Islamabad this summer led Zia to promise a compromise ordinance.

A 1980 survey of churches in Japan shows gradual growth over the last decade and better distribution of churches. Conducted by the Church Information Service in Tokyo, the survey revealed that while the number of churches in Japan increased by nearly 40 percent over the decade, there is still only one church for each 19,600 persons in the country. But whereas 10 years ago there were 11 prefectures (states) with less than 40 churches, today there are only 3. Some missionaries moved into the underchurched prefectures in response to the earlier survey.

Australia’s Uniting Church recently leased one of its Sydney buildings to a homosexually oriented Metropolitan Community Church. The “gay” church was exported from the Los Angeles, California, church of the same name to Australia in 1975. The Anglican dean of Sydney, Lance Shilton, commented that a special church for homosexuals was as logical as a church for “people who beat their wives or have bad tempers.”

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