Since 1982, Fuller Theological Seminary has offered a course in healing and miracles. Originally called “Signs, Wonders and Church Growth,” course number MC510 quickly became the Pasadena, California, seminary’s most popular—and most controversial—class.

The faculty council of Fuller’s School of Theology voted last spring to deny theology students credit for the course. And last month, MC510 was canceled by the faculty council of Fuller’s School of World Mission, the same faculty that designed the course. The January 27 issue of Semi, the campus newspaper, said the course would not be offered during the current academic year “to permit time to review the … foundations of God’s usual and unusual intervention in the human process.”

The cancellation came as a surprise to many. Last fall, it was thought that a faculty-student task force, initiated by seminary president David Allan Hubbard, had satisfied the criticisms raised by the School of Theology. The School of World Mission faculty voted in December to offer a revised course, retitled “The Miraculous and Church Growth.” That course will not be offered unless further action is taken.

Student reaction to the cancellation of MC510 came swiftly. The three student representatives on the task force led a rally that attracted about 120 students and one professor. Nearly all the students present signed a petition in support of the course. The petition accompanied a letter to Fuller’s new provost, Larry DenBesten, urging that MC510 be offered this spring, provided the School of Theology agrees with the revised course syllabus.

“Our task force met every concern that had been voiced, … and we feel the faculty council needs to trust our work,” said student Tom Messenger. “We voted unanimously for a revised course—along with continued study [of the course’s biblical and theological foundations]. We feel investigation can best be accomplished while the course is in session.”

Faculty members in Fuller’s School of World Mission say they initiated the course because of phenomenal growth in Third World churches, where missionaries frequently witness healings, speaking in tongues, baptisms in the Spirit, prophecies, visions, and exorcism from demon possession. A professor said many faculty members recalled missions experiences where, in dealing with the spiritual realm, they had felt “a sense of inadequacy—having nothing positive to contribute.” More than 13 percent of Fuller’s students come from developing countries. And it is estimated that at least 30 percent of the seminary’s students are charismatic.

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In the course’s second year, 279 persons enrolled—the highest enrollment for any of Fuller’s 400 courses. The class moved to a nearby Methodist church basement where a doorkeeper kept out nonregistrants. However, the course also met with strong opposition, leading to polarization on the campus. Faculty members and student leaders told CHRISTIANITY TODAY the course was canceled to preserve unity.

If MC510, or a similar course, is reinstated, it would be taught by C. Peter Wagner, professor of church growth, and Charles H. Kraft, professor of anthropology and intercultural communication. “Probably no more life-changing course has been offered at this seminary,” Kraft said. “The course is not just a kookie idea.… [It] freed me from the constraints of our narrow Western view.… My whole life has been changed.”

Fuller student Diane Moore says she was miraculously healed of a degenerative eye disease after she requested the laying on of hands and prayer during MC510’s lab sessions. She says the course is essential.

The course’s optional two-hour lab, which provided an opportunity to exercise spiritual gifts such as prayers for healing, was a point of contention from the beginning. Opponents said the lab sessions were experimental and of insufficient caliber for graduate-level studies. They said healing ministries should occur in a caring community, not a classroom.

Critics also questioned the academic integrity of the course’s lectures. They said John Wimber, an adjunct faculty member who does not hold advanced degrees, used unpublished materials in his lectures that had not been tested in scholarly circles. Mel Roebeck, Fuller’s assistant dean of theology, said mainline Protestants and Pentecostals alike questioned whether the course “raised spiritual gifts too high in the structure of biblical theology.”

Wimber, pastor of the thriving Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Yorba Linda, California, says the faculty has a responsibility to scrutinize any course, “whatever the issues are.” He said he doesn’t know if he will teach again at Fuller.



Lutheran Membership Drops

A continuing membership decline in European churches last year resulted in a decrease in the number of Lutherans worldwide.

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Lutheran World Federation reported a net loss of about 50,000 members worldwide during 1985. A 630,000-member decline in European Lutheran churches was only partially offset by gains in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. North American churches reported a loss of 8,500 members.

Lutheran congregations in Asia reported the greatest increase, from 3.4 million members in 1984 to 3.8 million last year. During the last three years, the Protestant Christian Batak Church in Indonesia, for example, has grown by 300,000 members, to 1.9 million.

Lutheran Churches in Africa grew at a slower rate, increasing last year by 1 percent to 3.9 million members. In 1984, African Lutherans reported an increase of 3.1 percent.


Anthem or Prayer?

An Indian court has refused to allow children of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be exempted from singing India’s national anthem at the start of each school day.

The children had been removed from school rolls when they refused to sing the anthem. Jehovah’s Witnesses objected to the anthem because it refers to a “ruler of the heart.” They said their religion prohibits them from singing prayers to earthly rulers.

The judges of the high court of the Indian state of Kerala ruled that singing the national anthem is a secular act that does not violate the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ religious rights. The court said it was unable to “discern any traces of worship” in the anthem. “When men, women, and children join together to sing such an anthem, they are not joining any rituals or prayers to God or to any other divine concept,” the court ruled. “The religious freedom of Jehovah’s Witnesses will not in any way be abridged, affected, or offended by singing it.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses filed for permission to appeal the ruling to India’s Supreme Court. However, the Kerala court refused the request, saying the case lacked a “substantial” issue.


Peace Activists Stopped

Peace activists attempting to enter a war zone in El Salvador were stopped twice last month by the Salvadorian army.

In the first demonstration, a 12-bus caravan attempted to enter Morazon province in northeastern El Salvador. The demonstrators were stopped by army officials who said civilians were not permitted to enter a conflict zone. The buses were forced to return to the capital city of San Salvador.

Three days later, soldiers again met the demonstrators at the border of Morazon province. Soldiers accompanied the eight-bus caravan back to San Salvador.

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“We have had six years of war,” said Ana Isabella Flores, one of the demonstration’s organizers. “Our people want peace. The objective of the march is for dialogue [between rebel guerrillas and the government]. Why does a Salvadoran need permission to enter the territory of his own country?”


Multiracial Youth Meeting

A recent conference sponsored by Youth for Christ brought together 1,200 young people in racially troubled South Africa. Called Youth Week, the conference included participants from all four of South Africa’s racial groups: black, white, Indian, and colored, or mixed-race.

The conference gathered the youths into cross-cultural groups, where they discussed common problems and needs. “The greatest problem in South Africa today is we just don’t know each other,” said one of the conferees.

For South African blacks, participating in an event such as Youth Week can be risky, Christianity is viewed by many blacks as “the white man’s religion.” Any attempts at building bridges across racial barriers can bring accusations of selling out to the system. And in some townships, blacks who identify themselves as Christians risk suffering physical violence.

Amid the social unrest, multiracial Youth for Christ music teams continue to travel around the country.


Evidence of Persecution

After returning from Nepal, a delegation from the United States and Britain says it found “ample evidence” of widespread persecution and torture of Christians in the Hindu nation.

The 11-member delegation included two British members of Parliament and representatives of two congressmen. The group interviewed more than three dozen Nepalese Christians who said they have suffered persecution at the hands of local authorities.

“The torture of Christians in Nepal was much worse than what was reported to us before we got there,” said Jeff Collins, executive director of Christian Response International, the organization that sponsored the trip. Collins said 85 Christians face criminal charges of “preaching Christianity and causing a disturbance to Hinduism.”

Under Nepalese law, he said, attempting to convert Hindus to Christianity is punishable by three years in prison. Actually converting a Hindu can bring a six-year sentence, he said, while Hindus who convert to Christianity face one year in prison.

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Collins said the number of Christians in Nepal has increased in the past five years from an estimated 2,500 to 25,000, despite the threat of criminal prosecution. He said Hindus make up 90 percent of the country’s population of 13.4 million.

The delegation asked Nepalese officials to end arbitrary harrassment of Christians, to give arrested believers the right to reasonable bail, and to stop confiscating Bibles. One member of the delegation said Nepal’s foreign minister, Randhir Subba, promised a thorough investigation of the abuses.

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