Urban it was; Urbana it was not.
Over the last generation Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship has earned a reputation for meticulously planned and precisely synchronized conferences on foreign missions. Last month it tried its hand at a different kind of a conference—on North American urban issues and ministries.
The truth was that “Washington 80” came perilously close to being a smoothly programmed failure.
Instead, the four-day event housed in Washington, D.C.’s Shoreham Hotel breathed a mildly chaotic atmosphere. The hotel staff was stretched to deliver continental breakfasts to small clusters of people all over the building. Participants had to figure out how to grab their own lunches as they fanned out all over downtown D.C. for briefings and “experiences.” One evening’s featured speaker blanked out, leaving musicians to an impromptu fill-in performance while he struggled in vain to collect his evaporated thoughts. And the schedule was typically slightly off track.
But however much the conference’s skeletal structure may have suffered, it succeeded because it came across as authentic. It had soul.
Some of the elements that made it that way:
• Small group gatherings designed to forge more than casual acquaintances across racial lines as the members shared breakfast, interacted with assigned Scriptures, shared their personal experiences and feelings, and prayed together.
• Plenary sessions in which men who have poured their lives into serving the cities—from D.C.’s Foundry United Methodist Church pastor Ed Bauman to Brooklyn’s Bethany Baptist Church pastor William Jones, Jr.—laid a biblical basis for Christian involvement in them and suggested fruitful approaches.
• Briefings covering 23 different topics from “models of inner-city church activity” to “political organization and participation.”
• On-site “experiences” at D.C. churches, housing projects, institutions, and government offices that deal with urban problems.
• A special New Year’s Day service observing the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation (on January 1, 1863), complete with a volunteer student choir led by Henry Greenidge, urban youth ministry director with Young Life in Seattle, singing “O, Freedom Over Me.”
• City and area receptions that threw together students and workers in often highly individualistic urban ministries. (Participants from at least one metropolitan area agreed on the spot to launch a monthly fellowship meeting.)
The unique program mix resulted from widespread input by diverse people from across the continent. The story of how that happy result was achieved is intertwined with IV’s progress in engaging itself in black campus ministry.
Inter-Varsity’s dawning realization that it would have to reshape its thrust to reach the downtown campuses came relatively recently. Paul Gibson, IV’s first continuing black staffer, signed on only in 1968. By the 1977–78 academic year the number of blacks on staff had gradually climbed to 10. But it was apparent that black students had not bought into the student movement in any major way. At the Urbana 70 missionary convention blacks in attendance confronted speakers over inattention to this country’s needy urban areas.
From the mid-1970s, IV began to work harder at recruiting black leadership. It brought John Perkins, president of Voice of Calvary Ministries, into its 60-member corporation in 1978. Last year the corporation voted him on to its 25-member board of trustees. Last year it brought George McKinney, pastor of Saint Stephen’s Church of God in Christ in San Diego, California, into the corporation.
For Urbana 79, IV made a special effort to involve blacks. Michael Haynes, pastor of Boston’s Twelfth Baptist Church, was a speaker. A special luncheon was held for black leadership, and IV brought 45 or so black VIPs to the convention as its guests. But still there was only a sprinkling of blacks among Urbana’s 15,000 student participants.
A month after Urbana 79, James McLeish, IV’s executive vice-president, had okayed the decision to sponsor a separate conference the next year devoted to ministry to the cities of North America. John “Pete” Hammond, director of IV’s specialized ministries, who had previously served as director for IV’s Southeast area campus ministry and as assistant director of Urbana 79, was assigned to direct the conference.
The tacit assumption was that IV basically needed to apply the logistics know-how it had acquired over 11 Urbanas to the new conference, locate experts on the urban scene, and plug them into the speaking slots.
Planning had proceeded on this basis for three months when the alarm siren sounded. It came in the form of a conference call to IV’s Madison, Wisconsin, headquarters from black staffer Tony Warner in Atlanta, and from Elward Ellis, the new director of IV’s black campus ministry, in Pittsburgh. Warner, who joined IV in 1973, and Ellis made clear to Hammond their apprehension that planning and conducting an urban conference without major black input would destroy their credibility in the black community: “You’ll kill us, if you go ahead like this.”
Hammond grasped the urgency of their plea and asked them to fly in the next day for a lunch meeting with the IV leadership.
At the meeting, IV scrapped its planning to that point and started over. Ellis was appointed codirector with Hammond. The decision was made to hold “listening” sessions around the country to find out what black church leaders had on their agenda.
Hammond was scheduled to meet with Ozzie Edwards the next day at Detroit’s Metro-Wayne County Airport with the hope of recruiting him to head the academic aspects of the conference. Edwards directs the Center for Urban Studies at Harvard University. Like most black leaders, he needed to be convinced that IV was serious enough about incorporating black personnel and concerns to make contributing to its conference worth his while. It was immediately obvious that Ellis needed to stay over and be part of that approach. He did, and Edwards agreed to contribute his time.
That evening Ellis, who grew up in the heart of Newark, New Jersey, felt keyed up by the rapid developments and decided to do something to relax. He caught a ride into Detroit and pounded the city streets until composure returned. Hammond, who a year earlier had returned from a sabbatical study year in the Philippines, says he was struck by the incident. He thought back on the many missionaries he had met in Manila who were from suburban and rural backgrounds and obviously found functioning in the city a trial. How much more natural, he mused, to recruit city Christians for city ministry.
In July, a series of weekly listening conferences was held in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. (with people brought in from Atlanta). The outlines of Washington 80 emerged from that listening.
The planners progressively sharpened the subject focus: large cities, the inner core of those cities, 10 specific cities, and then Washington, D.C., as exhibit A.
They decided to push for participants from the cities and to seek to influence the ethnic makeup. Promotion was targeted to the 10 cities and to heads of college urban studies departments. Ellis was dispatched to the black ministerial alliances in the cities. Black campus staffer George Laws traveled to black schools and promoted the conference to their deans. A target for student participation that was 40 percent ethnic minorities was set. The numerical goal was 2,400 attenders, although pragmatist McLeish said he would be satisfied with 500—the attendance goal at the original 1946 “Urbana” in Toronto (actual attendance was 650)—as the benchmark.
Recruiting minority participation was an uphill struggle. Blacks say they find it difficult to participate in an event closely linked to the white establishment. Pastors in the congregation-centered black social web are suspicious of any parachurch organization. And although the majority of black churches are theologically conservative by instinct, they are liberal in other spheres. In the resulting us-them tensions, evangelical is most often perceived as a “them” word.
As it turned out, the registrations topped 1,100, with the ethnic composition approaching the target: 30 percent were black and another 5 percent of Asian, Hispanic, and Native American origins. Just over half the students registered to receive academic credit for attending seminars on various aspects of urban life. The low Hispanic turnout could be attributed to IV’s less developed campus ministry in that direction (only one staffer is Hispanic), and to inexperience that allowed them to schedule the conference over New Year’s Day, when Hispanics are loath to leave their families.
Congressman Walter Fauntroy (D.-D.C.), the chairman of the congressional Black Caucus and pastor of Washington’s New Bethany Baptist Church, welcomed the participants because they had “come to respond to our Lord’s inaugural address” (Luke 4:18–19). He said that humanism and more-righteous-than-thou liberalism had proved inadequate to the needs of the poor. But he exhorted his hearers to acknowledge that the gospel is not just good history but also good news for “the least among us.” He chided the white Christian right for focusing on what he branded a narrow range of secondary issues. But he handed blacks their lumps, too. They have left most service to the inner cities to whites, he said. He counseled them to move beyond “self-hatred,” and to lead a Christian return to the central cities.
Virgil Wood, director of the African-American Institute at Boston’s Northeastern University, said bluntly at one of the supper-hour forums for adult leaders that the white community has been running from the black community for several decades. During that period, he noted, personal racism has been outmoded largely by institutional racism. When, he asked, will the church retrieve the cross from the Ku Klux Klan, and cooperative economic credit (as described in Acts 4:32) from the Marxists?
William Bentley, board chairman of the National Black Evangelical Association, observed more gently in a briefing session that church members have become caught up in the upward mobility syndrome. He asserted that a basic part of Christian experience is lacking if we are not involved with the poor.
Not only the message but also the way it was packaged was a new experience for most of the nonblack two-thirds of the participants. The running barrage of calls from the audience (“well!,” “careful!.” “tell us Street know that the Spirit of God acts as well as speaks through Staggers and One Ministries. They have seen roofing, plumbing, wiring, and pest extermination performed in their homes. The elderly are visited and driven to appointments. Children take part in field trips and recreation programs. Last summer. One Ministries was host to 40 teen-aged government job program participants, who were supervised by 20 Christian college volunteers. They termed the program a success, unlike many other sponsoring organizations in the city.
Staggers shows up most Wednesday mornings at Third Street jovial and eager to hear “what the Lord’s been doing in your life.” In turn, he can share exactly what the Lord expects from him and his team: “Let us as Kingdom representatives exalt Christ. Let us relate to the least as brothers and sisters, seeking God’s grace to set us free from differences. Let us become one with Him and with each other.”
One Ministries: A Case Study In Urban Evangelism
The Third Street Church of God, in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., comes to life early on Wednesday mornings. From 7:30 A.M. until whenever, a hot breakfast followed by warm fellowship and prayer attract a roomful of people—black and white, from city and suburb.
“Great to see you here. No question about it,” says John Staggers as he greets newcomers, often with a bear hug. Staggers directs One Ministries, which “adopted” the square block of slum housing that surrounds the church. The group works in tandem with the Third Street pastor and congregation, ministering to residents and “making life more livable while we earn the right to present the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Named for Christ’s prayer for his disciples in John 17:21–23 (“That they all may be one …”), One Ministries has become a model of urban evangelism, emphasizing close cooperation with a local congregation. They are working as catalysts to involve other churches and agencies in adopting blocks similarly throughout the city. A long-range goal, says Staggers, is to link up white, middle-class, suburban churches with inner-city congregations, with the dual intent of ministering to the poor and allowing “rich and poor, black and white, powerful and powerless” to experience their oneness in Christ.
One Ministries, part of Washington’s Fellowship Foundation, was featured as an experience site for participants at Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship’s “Washington 80” conference last month. Staggers worked closely with the conference’s codirectors throughout the planning stages and assigned one of his ten team members as a full-time liaison with IVCF. The group also conducts an outreach to inmates of Lorton Prison, the city’s correctional facility located in Virginia.
Staggers previously taught sociology at Howard University in Washington, and later worked in the city’s administration. His “bottom line” in serving the poor is simply Jesus Christ. Apart from changes taking place in hearts, he explains, all the programs in the world won’t work.
He made that discovery the hard way. In 1970 and 1971, Staggers directed the Model Cities program in Indianapolis under former Mayor (now Senator) Richard Lugar. Admittedly a nominal Christian at the time. Staggers initiated a massive program of prayer breakfasts, viewing them as a good social vehicle for racial reconciliation. Then, he came to know a personal Christ, changed his emphasis, and returned to Washington. Instead of just generating talk through prayer breakfasts. Staggers now is generating action that he perceives as being in line with biblical mandates. “We have to be more than just a voice. The Word has to become flesh through practical involvement.”
Richard Halverson, new chaplain of the U.S. Senate, once wrote “I have never known a more effective communicator and motivator than John Staggers.… The Spirit of God speaks movingly and convincingly through him.” The residents of Third about it”) were unsettling to some from more staid backgrounds. The conference swayed to soul music paced by soprano Margaret Pleasant of East Orange, New Jersey, pastor-musician Richard Farmer of Pittsburgh, pianist-composer James Ward of Chattanooga, and “sanctified saxophonist” Sylvester Brinson of Chicago. Many even found it awkward to keep time to the music, conditioned as they were to clap on the (white) downbeat instead of the (black) upbeat.
By the end of the second day, when participants separated for “ethnic receptions,” many exhibited the symptoms of culture shock from a conference that codirector Hammond acknowledged was predominantly black in content and style. He told his segregated audience that God had made no mistake in creating them white, and that failure to accept that truth would make them psychological cripples, unable to help in the healing of the cities. “God wants redeemed whiteness to show to the world,” he concluded.
The older white IV leadership fretted some about the loss of precise control over the conference that was the price of the deliberate spontaneity sought and obtained by the blacks. “Is Inter-Varsity running this conference?” Hammond asked rhetorically? Then he added that he was learning that servant-leadership meant not being in full control. From their perspective, the content was heavy on exhortation in the black church style and light on the urban analysis that would have provided academic weight. But once the decision to bring in Ellis as codirector was made, the IV establishment allowed the blacks basically to shape the program.
Those concessions were rewarded by new respect from black civic and church leadership. Some were unprepared for the extent of student concern. Executive assistant to the mayor of Pittsburgh, James Simms, came to give a briefing on redevelopment, revitalization, and planning. He expected only a handful would attend his session in a large University of D.C. classroom. Arriving to find a wall-to-wall crowd, he was momentarily overwhelmed. “They did more for me than I could possibly do for them,” he said afterwards.
Persons as diverse as a black seminary dean and an Operation PUSH official agreed reluctantly to participate and came in what they afterward acknowledged was a skeptical frame of mind. They said they left convinced that IV’s commitment to take minorities and the cities seriously is genuine.
Ozzie Edwards of Harvard, who agreed to work with IV on Washington 80 only if there were a follow-through plan and he could be involved in it, perhaps analyzed most perceptively why he allied himself with a traditionally white evangelical organization:
He said he is willing to work with any group prepared to do something for inner-city residents, so long as he is convinced their agenda is not simply to revitalize the cities for whites.
But beyond that, he sees evangelical groups as potentially effective change agents. He assesses them as naive on social issues but strong on Christian commitment. That combination, he said, holds more promise than one of social sophistication not anchored in moral commitment. Only those motivated to do good simply because it is right will stick it out when the solution requires actions that are to their personal disadvantage. “Fundamental change must be in individuals. That can only come through Christ.”
Finally, Edwards said, he saw hope of Washington 80 evolving into a broader thrust—repeated and improved, replicated in individual cities for more specific application, and placing a growing number of interns in Christian ministry into the cities.
That, of course, is Inter-Varsity’s goal. And it was willing to sink several hundred thousand dollars into getting that dream off the ground.
The National Black Evangelical Association
‘Bind Us Together’: Black Evangelicals Make It Work
The National Black Evangelical Association has successfully healed a breach that had surfaced within its membership last April. At a protracted biannual board meeting held in Chicago in October, three members who had tendered their resignations at last year’s annual meeting in Dallas retracted them. And two of the three were assigned speaking roles at this year’s April 22–25 annual convention in Chicago.
The three who agreed that their grievances were sufficiently considered and dealt with to enable them to reverse their actions were former NBEA president Ruben S. Conner, former first vice-president Anthony T. Evans, and Dallas chapter chairperson Eddie B. Lane (CT, May 21, 1980, p. 44).
The three had expressed concerns about what they judged to be theological latitude within the NBEA, about the adequacy of its doctrinal statement, and about the degree of emphasis placed on the black experience alongside that placed upon Scripture in determining the association stance. They also had raised questions about the NBEA financial structure.
An official release from the NBEA described the October meeting, chaired by board chairman William H. Bentley, as characterized by “conciliation but not capitulation.” Working through recommendations drawn up at a special May board meeting in Dallas, the board arrived at a new agreed understanding by taking the following actions:
• It confirmed the NBEA umbrella concept of leadership, bringing together diverse elements within Christian orthodoxy.
• It reaffirmed the role of the Word of God as the final authority in matters of faith and conduct. It likewise reaffirmed the role of culture in mediating and expressing the gospel.
• It acknowledged that the existing doctrinal statement could stand strengthening at certain points, and agreed to draft alternate wording.
• It rejected allegations of theological liberalism within its ranks. Those charges, the board concluded, had arisen from a “misinterpretation of emphasis rather than a qualitative deviation” from orthodoxy.
• It agreed to instruct its officers to draw up a plan for fiscal restructuring for presentation to the board at its April meeting.
The year has been a difficult one for the NBEA. But the self-analysis and adjustment required to head off schism laid a basis for growth and new strength. The association’s structure is being streamlined and its role and stance has been delineated more crisply.
Methodists Win Settlement Of Pacific Homes Law Suits
If a special session of the Pacific and Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church later this month (Feb. 26–28) approves a $21 million settlement plan for the bankrupt Pacific Homes retirement complex, almost four years of tangled litigation that twice reached the U.S. Supreme Court will be ended. The constitutional question of whether the denomination as a whole is a suable entity that can be held responsible for actions of its constituent units has attracted wide attention among denominational and ecumenical groups.
Agreement in principle to a plan of reorganization for the chain of seven retirement facilities in Southern California, Arizona, and Hawaii, and suspension of all pending litigation, was announced in San Diego Superior Court on December 10. The announcement followed months of intensive negotiation by attorneys and came while a class-action suit on behalf of about 1,450 of the elderly residents was in its fourth month of trial. Under the proposal, the Pacific and Southwest Conference will provide $21 million to the homes—$15 million by mid-1981 and the rest during the next several years. Once the homes are on a sound financial basis, the money is to be repaid the conference. The annual conference, to which Pacific Homes has been related for 65 years, must borrow heavily from national-level agencies of the church in order to make the money available.
At a special assembly February 26–28, the 196,000 members of 488 United Methodist churches in Southern California, Arizona, Hawaii, and Southern Nevada will be asked to raise $6 million by midyear and another $6 million “over the next few years.” Los Angeles Bishop Jack M. Tuell said he was “grateful” for the anticipated settlement, which must also be approved by the federal bankruptcy court and the bankruptcy trustee.
“Quite apart from the question of legal liability,” Tuell said in a statement, “I believe every United Methodist in this conference would like to do something to respond to the loss which many residents have suffered.” About $5 million of the settlement package would go to elderly plaintiffs to compensate them for Pacific Homes’s failure to honor “lifetime care” contracts many of the residents entered into when they moved into the retirement centers.
The plaintiffs’ case was designed to show that the United Methodist Church as a denomination, the Pacific and Southwest Conference, the board of global ministries, and the general council for finance and administration, were liable for damages. The suit alleged that fraud and mismanagement had occurred over several decades.
Representatives of UM agencies feared a precedent would be set if the courts held a national denomination responsible for actions taken in its name. That is why all settlement moneys are to be channeled through the regional conference.
Attorney Samuel Witwer of Evanston, Illinois, who represents several UM agencies, had said that an adverse Supreme Court ruling could have broad implications for all U.S. religious institutions and breach the separation of church and state by interfering in the church’s organizations and activities. The out-of-court settlement, of course, leaves the constitutional question unanswered—perhaps an expensive alternative for the church, but one that could be less damaging in the long run.
If the plan of reorganization is finally approved by all parties, the church as a denomination, the general council on finance and administration, and the board of global ministries and its health and welfare ministries division, will be dismissed as defendants. This part of the case cannot then be reopened; dismissal of the regional conference is contingent upon performance of the agreement.
The court proceedings, described by San Diego Judge Edward T. Butler as “the most complex litigation we have had in this courthouse in some time,” followed four years of growing media attention to the financial woes of Pacific Homes and other retirement complexes. Many have foundered over inflation problems and unexpected longevity of retirees who paid lump-sum fees for health care with the expectation they would pay nothing more the rest of their lives.
In 1977, the Pacific and Southwest Conference approved a nine-year, $9 million plan to bail out Pacific Homes, but the class-action suit, seeking $220 million in damages and fulfillment of the contracts, aborted the plan. Litigation then mushroomed to six suits with pleas totaling $600 million. At least seven law firms had been engaged to defend the denomination, its units, and individuals, and litigation costs for the church at the time the trial was recessed in December had already topped $4 million. The 1980 UM General Conference authorized up to $1 million annually for the next four years to maintain the legal battle.
Under the proposed settlement, about $16 million, less certain fees and deductions, will be used to reorganize Pacific Homes and enable it to remain open and carry out the terms of the lifetime care contracts. About 175 residents who had moved out will be able to return and share the benefits. Although monthly payments now made by the residents will not be entirely eliminated, the fees—averaging about $500 a month—will be reduced to about $185 a month.
Pacific Homes will provide supplemental Medicare Medi-Cal insurance for class-action plaintiffs as well as “residential, clinical and skilled nursing, convalescent hospital and custodial care.” The annual conference will maintain a resident assistance fund to ensure that no plaintiff will ever have to move out because of inability to pay the monthly fees.
Also, the plaintiffs will be represented on the Pacific Homes board of directors for several years to assure that their interests are protected.
Bankruptcy trustee Richard Matthews, who has been operating the homes by court appointment, filed a report with the bankruptcy judge charging that for years Pacific Homes’s management defrauded elderly residents, with the knowledge and approval of some church officials, through a “pyramid scheme” that required new lifetime care contracts to finance current expenses.
Ronald Reagan’s pastor, Donn Moomaw, of the Bel Air (Calif.) Presbyterian Church, will take a year’s leave of absence in 1984 to run the weightlifting competition at the Olympics in Los Angeles, for which he’ll be paid $70,000. Moomaw is a former All-American football lineman at UCLA.
Volunteer missionary work in Africa helped Air Force Capt. Jonathan Scott Gration, 29, earn a place among the Jaycees’ Ten Outstanding Young Men of America. Gration, whose parents were long-time missionaries with the Africa Inland Mission, helped buiid airstrips and medical clinics during a stint in Kenya in 1974. Following the overthrow of Idi Amin in 1979 he went to Uganda and repaired vital hospital equipment, using mostly crude tools he had improvised. His air force career has taken him back to Kenya, where he serves as an F-5 instructor pilot.
Hudson T. Armerding has announced his intention to retire as fifth president of Wheaton College (III.), by June 1983. He will then be 65, and has been president for 16 years.
Summit on Human Life Amendment
Anti-Abortion Groups Spar Over Amendment Tactics
The numerous lobbies fighting for an antiabortion amendment to the U.S. Constitution are facing a critical struggle over just what that amendment should say. There is concern that if the groups don’t coalesce in a united front, they will dissolve into factionalism and be far less effective in convincing Congress to pass such an amendment.
To try and solve the problem, two summit meetings were scheduled for Washington, one last month and one this month, in an effort to hammer out acceptable terminology. One meeting was held by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the largest prolife group, with 10 million members nationwide and chapters in all 50 states. The other will be conducted by Moral Majority. “The biggest ballgame in town,” said NRLC president John Willke, “is the reopening and reexamination of the human life amendment.”
NRLC’s winter board meeting on January 23 centered on a final report—in preparation for six months—by a committee of four lawyers and a physician: Robert Byrn of Fordham University; Charles Rice of the University of Notre Dame; Joseph Witherspoon of the University of Texas; Matthew Bulfin, a physician; and James Bopp, the NRLC legal counsel. Their efforts represent the first time since it was drawn up in 1973 that their human life amendment has been reconsidered.
As it now reads, NRLC’s proposed amendment would prevent all abortions, and would allow “only those medical procedures required to prevent the death of the mother.” This would include, for example, an operation to correct a fallopian tube pregnancy, in which the fetus develops outside the uterus, or an operation to remove the cancerous uterus of a pregnant woman. In both cases the fetus must be destroyed to save the mother’s life, but Willke and others say these are not abortions because the intent is not to kill the child, but to save the mother’s life.
Judie Brown, who heads an active prolife group called American Life Lobby, fears that if this wording is adopted, critics who don’t buy that reasoning will charge that prolifers consent to “just a little bit of abortion.” She and others back the Helms-Dornan Amendment (named after its Senate and House sponsors), which guarantees the right to life for each human being from the moment of fertilization, and stops with that. It assumes that tubal pregnancy operations and cancerous uterus operations will be done, but since they are not abortions, they need not be mentioned. Adding any stipulation to the basic right-to-life declaration could be a crack in the dam, which could eventually burst into a new flood of abortions after the courts get through interpreting it. Willke believes the best way for the amendment to survive court tests is to stipulate which medical procedures don’t apply; that is, those necessary to save the mother’s life, and limit it to that. “If you don’t put it in and limit it to that, the court will put it in,” he said. He fears any broadening of the meaning through court interpretation, because it would probably be a first step to unlimited abortions.
Both sides thus have the same goal; they differ only in how to reach it. In light of the factionalism that seems to be developing, sources said at press time that it was possible the NRLC committee would recommend altering the wording of its amendment when it met last month. That would be momentous, because support for the present amendment is widespread, having been approved by nearly every state NRLC organization.
The prolife lobbyists fear that if they do not somehow hang together behind strong language, any right-to-life amendment reaching Congress will be watered down by compromises. Some of those compromises might include abortions allowable as a result of rape or incest; those permitted when the “health” of the mother is at stake; or simply turning the whole matter over to the states. (In the past, an exception for the health of the mother has been interpreted broadly to include mental health, which has resulted in abortion on demand.)
Moral Majority plans to sponsor a two-day meeting in Washington in late February. The first day will be public, with some hard issues to be addressed, such as why there can be no exceptions for incidents like rape or incest. The second day’s meeting will be closed to the public, and will focus on getting the organizations to agree on wording.
Karl Moor, political activities coordinator for Moral Majority, emphasizes that although his organization has been in the spotlight, it “intends very much to work with people who’ve been here before, and not set ourselves up as the spokesman for the issue.” He plans to spend as much as three-fourths of his lobbying time on abortion, because “this won’t be a roll-over, play-dead thing for the proabortionists. We’re threatening their economic well-being as well as their principles.”
Another key figure is Connaught (Connie) Marshner, who is the chairman of the Library Court group, a coalition of 30 conservative, profamily organizations. She said, “We will pull out all stops in favor of the human life amendment, but first we want to see the people who are leaders in the movement get their acts together.”
Roman Catholic support for the amendment finds expression through the National Committee for the Human Life Amendment. Ernest Ohlhoff, executive director, said, “we’ve never taken a strong position on any particular wording. We want to see the strongest, best possible wording. When a serious amendment is proposed, it will be evaluated on its own merit.”
Rallying all who support an end to abortion behind an effective human life amendment is viewed by Moral Majority’s Karl Moor as paramount. “We’re not looking for ideological purity as much as we are numbers on this issue. What would be worse than nothing would be passage of a vague statement that is absolutely meaningless in terms of protecting the unborn.”
After the strong showing by conservatives in the November election, particularly Ronald Reagan’s victory and the Republican capture of the Senate, prolifers were euphoric over the chances of getting a right-to-life amendment passed during this Congress. Much of that hope has dissipated, however, because the numbers required for passing a constitutional amendment, two-thirds in each house, still don’t appear to be there. Willke said his organization counts a simple majority in the Senate, but not 67, and it counts only about 250 supporters in the House, well short of the 290 necessary. Consequently, it appears unlikely that an amendment will pass Congress before the 1982 congressional elections.
In the meantime, some organizations will turn to remedial measures, such as a permanent prohibition against spending federal money for abortions. Until now, makeshift amendments preventing expenditures for abortion have been attached each year to appropriations bills.
Douglas Badger, legislative director of the Christian Action Council, the evangelical lobbying group, said there will also be attempts to extend federal assistance to indigent pregnant women, who now can qualify for aid only if they are dependents of welfare recipients. Without federal aid, it is still cheaper for them to scrape up enough money for a private abortion than to bear the child, he said.
The Protestant church in Mexico now accounts for 3.5 percent of the total population, up from 1.8 percent in 1970. That is what preliminary returns from the official Mexican 1980 census show. According to the census, Mexico’s total population reached 67.4 million people last year, 2.4 million of whom are Protestants. Evangelical church leaders believe that for various reasons, official figures tend to understate their numbers, principally because census takers in some cases assume everyone is Roman Catholic without actually asking the question. The 1980 census shows more than 88 percent of Mexicans as Catholic, down from a 96 percent figure a decade earlier.
The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization is moving its internal headquarters office from Kenya to England in April, LCWE chairman Leighton Ford said the decision to move was based on travel convenience, ease of international communications, and comparative costs. Gottfried Osei-Mensah, a Ghanaian who pastors the First Baptist Church of Nairobi, has been reappointed executive secretary.
Denmark has the highest suicide rate in the Western world, followed by two other Scandinavian countries, Finland and Sweden. 1979 Danish statistics show that almost twice as many people took their own lives as were killed in automobile collisions. The Danish suicide rate is 26 per 100,000 of the population, as compared to the American rate of 13 per 100,000. Niels Juel-Nielsen of Odense University is leading research into the causes of suicide in Scandinavia with its high standard of living. According to a Reuters report, he cited as causes the complex nature of urban life; unemployment; Denmark’s social welfare system, which he says can destroy personal initiative; a decline in spiritual values; materialism; and the breakup of the family unit in moving from an agricultural to an industrial society.
The French government recently approved Trans World Radio’s request to add a 500,000-watt, short-wave transmitter to its two present 100,000-watt transmitters at Monte Carlo, Monaco. Negotiations had continued for several years. The extra wattage, together with the addition of two new antenna systems, will permit more thorough saturation of key areas of Europe. TWR has been broadcasting from Monaco for 20 years.
Polish Catholics have won another concession from the state. This year they broadcast a Christmas Eve Mass for the first time in 30 years. Earlier they had won permission for broadcast of a weekly Sunday Mass. At the same time, the church leadership has come to the aid of the Stanislaw Kania government by urging restraint on workers. A West Germany guest observer says that meanwhile, greater Roman Catholic self-awareness has only increased the disadvantaged position of Protestants. “It is not socialism that is the problem, but the Catholic church,” asserted Karl Inmer, president of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland. He said that for this reason Protestants especially appreciate visits by Christians from the West.
The Walayta Christians of southern Ethiopia got the New Testament in their language in time for Christmas. Until the mid-1970s, printing materials in tribal languages was prohibited. As soon as the restrictions were eased, the Sudan Interior Mission initiated a translation program. The 675 Walayta Word of Life congregations until now have used Scripture portions on cassette tapes. Some 2,400 Bible study groups, with an estimated attendance of 30,000, used the cassettes as the basis for study and memorization.
The printing press of a Lutheran denomination of South-West Africa (or Namibia) has been blown up for the second time in seven years. Located in Oniipa, the press belonged to the Ovambo-kavango Church, begun by Finnish missionaries, whose membership includes about half the Ovambos, or roughly one-fourth of the country’s population of one million. Reporter Joseph Lelyveld wrote in the New York Times that South Africa, which rules the country, has viewed the church as a threat because it instills values and aspirations that make the Ovambos hard to manage. He reports that it is widely, “even universally,” believed that efforts to still the church’s voice in 1973 and last December were engineered by South African security police, although no proof has materialized.
An ecumenical youth conference opened and then disbanded after security officers were discovered to be present. The December conference in Manzini, Swaziland, organized by the All Africa Conference of Churches youth department and the World Christian Federation, had assembled more than 20 youth leaders to discuss the liberation struggle in Southern Africa. Police officials confirmed, when approached, that Swaziland law demands police monitoring of all meetings. The AACC youth secretary, Costa Magiga, explained that continuing with the planned discussion would have jeopardized “the safety and interest of our delegates.”
Paving stones from the Herodian period have been unearthed in Jerusalem’s Old City and were raised and incorporated into a repaving of the Via Dolorosa, the traditional route Jesus traversed from Pilate’s judgment hall to Golgotha. Municipal workers, upgrading the Old City’s rudimentary sewage system, encountered the stones—some weighing as much as two tons—under a collapsed sewer dating from the last century, and 12 feet below street level. The stones cover a stretch of about 30 feet between the third and fourth stations of the cross.
The Indian government has decided against evicting all missions agencies from tribal areas, but will follow a case-by-case approach. That was the gist of remarks by Home Affairs Minister Yogendra Makwana in response to questioning in Parliament. Adverse notice of any foreign organization’s activities, he said, would lead to appropriate action. He said the West Bengal authorities had so far identified some nine organizations and had instructed them to shift their operations out of tribal areas.
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