Punk rockers, motorcyclists, and church youth groups flock to Greenbelt ‘84.

A late-August holiday in England provides Britons with one last fling before the end of summer. It also provides a long weekend for an unconventional Christian music and arts festival known as Greenbelt.

The annual festival is the largest event of its kind for evangelical youth in England: Greenbelt ‘84 attracted some 21,000 young people from all over Great Britain. About 5,000 of those paid £21 (about $28 U.S.) at the gate for the weekend. Some 16,000 purchased advance tickets at reduced rates. Most participants lived in tents and campers spread across acres of grassy meadow surrounding the ancient baronial Castle Ashby south of Northampton.

Greenbelt’s main attraction is rock music. The first such festival in 1974 was designed as a Christian alternative to the rock festivals of the day—principally the Isle of Wight event where kids vandalized the concert site and the surrounding neighborhood. The 1974 Greenbelt festival attracted some 2,500 British youth amid the outcries of a less-than-enthusiastic community.

Greenbelt now bills itself as an arts festival, though so-called contemporary Christian music continues to be the main attraction. Evening concerts at this year’s festival featured an array of musicians such as Larry Norman, Petra, Garth Hewitt, and Rez Band (formerly Resurrection Band). While the bands played on a large stage set up in an open field, some in the audience danced. Some lifted their arms heavenward. Others played with Frisbees at the back of the lot.

There was little preaching. Some musicians maintained a running commentary of Christian testimony between songs and sets; others didn’t. While most performed basically Christian music, a few bands—like Pieces from Germany—included little or none. Greenbelt’s administrator, Jonathan Cooke, said the bands should do “what they think is right at the time. If Petra, for instance, feel strongly they should always do an altar call, they should do one here. Artists like Bruce Cockburn or Maria Muldaur [also at Greenbelt ‘84], who are not direct in what they’re saying, should equally come and do their thing. Neither should feel pressure to do either.”

Greenbelt committee chairman John Gooding described the festival as the “framework within which we want to explore the relevance of our Christian faith to all of life, using the arts as an example of how we might do that.” He said the daytime seminars at Greenbelt encourage people to “think biblically about some of the more difficult issues with which we are faced in the twentieth century.”

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Beginning each morning at 9, festival goers crowded into large tents for worship services led by a variety of preachers and teachers. After the services, they could attend any of eight concurrent seminars on a wide range of subjects. The seminars continued throughout the day until the main-stage entertainment began. Thousands of kids listened to—and often debated with—such speakers as John Stott, Os Guinness, Ron Sider, and René Padilla. Some of the speakers dealt with issues of particular concern to young people, such as peace and justice. Others reinforced the arts emphasis, helping people to think through the relevance of Christianity to their work. One speaker, John Allan, spoke to packed sessions on Christian basics, including “How Do I Know If I’m a Christian?” and “How Much of the Bible Can You Still Believe?” Hundreds of teenagers whooped it up in another tent designated as a “rolling magazine” emphasizing humor and interviews with main-stage performers and speakers, and challenging the kids to identify where they are in their personal relationship to God.

At the same time, other tents featured dramatics and dance, while little-known musicians and other performers appeared on outdoor stages. Nearby, stalls were crowded with buyers of everything from Bibles, books, and records, to miscellaneous merchandise, including leather belts—some of them green colored and predictably labeled “Greenbelt.” A variety of organizations and humanitarian causes set up information booths.

Many Britons raise ecclesiastical eyebrows at the Greenbelt festival, pondering what, if anything, it accomplishes. Some point to established conferences—many of them geared to youth—and wonder where Greenbelt fits.

Organizers say the unconventional festival fills a niche untouched by more traditional programs. Greenbelt is more likely to attract the “rebels” in a church youth group, the kids who don’t go to anything else, Cooke said. Thousands of youth—from punk rockers with spectacularly colored hair to leather-jacketed motorcyclists—come to Greenbelt. Cooke said they come partly “because we don’t preach, and partly because the people behind the festival honestly like the music.”

Some of the young participants attend with groups from organizations or churches. Some bring non-Christian friends to hear the music. Others come as fans of a particular singer or band. One youth had painted his hair magenta and brilliant yellow to match the “Giantkiller” T-shirt he was wearing: Giantkiller’s performance at Greenbelt was his reason for being there.

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While overt evangelism is downplayed, Greenbelt still manages to communicate the gospel. Gooding said the event itself is evangelistic because those who come are celebrating their faith. Many non-Christians who attended the main-stage concerts sensed a need for something they didn’t know about, and asked counselors or someone else for help in knowing more. Cooke estimated some 2,000 festival goers had asked to talk to someone in the counseling tent during the four-day weekend while another thousand or more sought out the on-site doctor, using a pretext of medical complaints to elicit his advice on spiritual matters.

Most participants attended the Sunday morning worship and Communion service. There the audience supplied the music, blending their own voices in familiar hymns and gospel choruses. A speaker challenged the crowd: “You come here either to have a happy-clappy time, or you come to have your life changed irrevocably.”

An offering taken at the service aided organizations and causes predetermined by the Greenbelt committee. This year, £17,300 ($23,355 U.S.) was raised to benefit nine groups such as Primary Colours, a Christian dance company that tours schools, and the Church Youth Fellowship Association, which produces Christian nurture material for young people’s groups.

For all its uniqueness, Greenbelt is almost a victim of its own success. To break even, each year’s festival needs to attract 25,000, a figure that exceeds by

4,000 the number of paid participants at this year’s event. The bank balance that existed before the festival began has disappeared. And because Greenbelt is not considered evangelistic enough by supporters of more traditional endeavors, outside contributions to maintain the year-round operation (which includes publication of a Christian music magazine, Strait) are few.

But for thousands of British youth, Greenbelt is a must. It has become a means of encouragement and growth for many, and the door to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ for countless others.


A Pastor Faces Legal Action For Refusing To Break A Confluence

A Florida clergyman was jailed after refusing to divulge a conversation he had with a parishioner accused of raping a young girl.

John Mellish, pastor of the 54-member Margate Church of the Nazarene near Fort Lauderdale, had spoken in counseling sessions with Earl Sands, an accused child molester. Sands was arrested in August on charges of sexual battery of a child, and a Broward County grand jury later indicted him.

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State prosecutors subpoenaed Mellish to testify against Sands. When Mellish refused to testify, a Broward County circuit judge gave him a weekend to reconsider. The judge later sent Mellish to jail for contempt of court when the pastor said he still would not testify. Mellish was out on bail the next day.

Broward County legal authorities say Mellish is the first Florida minister to be jailed for maintaining a pledge of confidentiality. His case is being appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeals in West Palm Beach, Florida. If Mellish loses, he will go back to jail.

“This is a real threat to the ministry, a threat to the separation of church and state, and [a threat to] the confidentiality between minister and parishioner,” Mellish says. If he testifies, the pastor says, he would set a precedent for the state to demand other confidential information from clergymen. Florida law protects the confidentiality of a pastor and counselee except in cases of suspected child abuse.

“The law says that if we even have knowledge or suspect child abuse, we must report it,” he says. “There’s no way a minister can minister to his flock without jeopardizing them. This infringes on the sanctuary of the church and the integrity of the ministry. The question would always be on the mind of parishioners as to whether I would tell on them in something else.”

The Adam Walsh Child Resource Center, a nationwide clearing house for missing children based in nearby Plantation, Florida, supported the action taken by the state. Its spokesmen say the well-being of a child is more important than pastoral confidentiality.

The 500,000-member Church of the Nazarene stands behind Mellish. The denomination’s bylaws prohibit its ministers from divulging anything said to them in confidence. An exception is made only when a parishioner signs a waiver giving a pastor permission to repeat what the parishioner told him. Sands refused to sign such a waiver. Even if he had, Mellish says he still would refuse to testify.

“There’s a greater principle here,” the pastor says. “All people must be able to come to the church as a sanctuary for spiritual help.”

JULIA DUINin Florida

North American Scene

A federal appeals court has ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not protect homosexual conduct. In a 3-to-0 vote, the court upheld the U.S. Navy’s 1981 discharge of a petty officer who admitted that he had engaged in homosexual acts. In his ruling, Judge Robert Bork wrote that “the effects of homosexual conduct within a naval or military unit are almost certain to be harmful to morale and discipline.”

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The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that a driver who causes the death of a viable fetus can be prosecuted for motor vehicle homicide. The court voted 4 to 3 that a viable fetus is a “person.” The ruling resulted from a case in which a car struck a pregnant woman and killed an eight-month-old fetus in 1982.

After nearly 20 years of steady increases, the percentage of firstborn babies conceived by unmarried women has stabilized. U.S. Census Bureau officials also reported that women who get married soon after conceiving or giving birth are more likely to face an eventual divorce than women who are neither pregnant nor mothers when they marry.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed suit to challenge President Reagan’s appointment of an ambassador to the Vatican. Last year Congress repealed a 116-year-old ban on formal diplomatic ties with the Holy See, and Reagan named William A. Wilson to the post (CT, Dec. 16, 1983, p. 36). Americans United filed its suit in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadephia. Judges there are known to favor strict separation between church and state.

After eight months of daily protests, an adult bookstore in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, has closed its doors. “Our persistence in picketing was the key,” said Olin Smith of the 1,600-member Franklin County Citizens for Decency Through Law. The organization plans to picket Franklin County’s other adult bookstore.

A judge has denied a 27-year-old rapist’s request for chemical castration, ordering instead a surgical castration. Circuit Judge C. Victor Pyle, Jr., ordered Roscoe Brown of Anderson, South Carolina, to find a doctor to perform the procedure. Brown agreed last year to be castrated in return for an early release from prison.

Nebraska’s State Board of Education has approved regulations allowing church schools to hire teachers who lack state certification. Parents must supply the board with background information on the teachers, a list of courses to be offered, and proof that students comply with compulsory attendance laws. The decision ends a legal battle that began in 1979 when a court ordered the unaccredited Faith Christian School in Louisville to close its doors (CT, Feb. 17, 1984, p. 32).

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World Scene

Leaders of the Solidarity movement in Poland have called for a two-week boycott of vodka, the government’s largest revenue source. The action came in response to a church-sponsored one-month boycott of vodka. Poland’s Roman Catholic church sponsored the boycott as part of a two-year sobriety campaign. Thirty percent of the average family food budget in Poland is said to be spent on hard liquor.

Taiwanese officials have released the general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. Chung Ming Kao, 54, was sentenced in 1980 on charges of subversion. A Presbyterian Church (USA) official says Kao was released because the Taiwanese government is concerned about its poor international image resulting from the imprisonment of Kao and other opposition leaders.

The West German Baptist Union has issued a “declaration of guilt” for its behavior during the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler. The 68,000-member body says it was “humbled by having been subordinated often to the ideological seduction of that time, in not having shown greater courage in acknowledging truth and justice.”

A United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report confirms that more than seven million Ethiopians face starvation.UNICEF has spent $2 million for emergency relief in Ethiopia in the last 18 months. The United States will send an additional 5,000 metric tons of grain to the famine-stricken country.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Assembly has adopted a statement opposing abortion. Meeting in Budapest, Hungary, the assembly included the statement in an amendment to a proposal dealing with violence against women. The action calls on LWF-member churches to help Christians find alternatives to abortion.

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