Robed Greek Orthodox priests disrupted a Protestant open-air evangelistic campaign near Kastoria in northern Greece on August 8. The incident led to two separate lawsuits now pending in Greek courts, pitting reciprocal charges of physical and verbal abuse alleged both by the evangelists and the priests.

The incident occurred during an outreach program in the town square of Argos Orestiken. Dimitrie Iliadis, an ordained evangelical minister and evangelist cooperating with the Greek Evangelical Church, was speaking at a microphone when he was interrupted by a vehicle with a siren, which drove through the crowd to the speaker’s platform. According to Iliadis, two priests, a monk in training, and several other young men got out and “started shouting and gesturing angrily.”

Frieda Tsinoglou, a staff member of Campus Crusade for Christ, said she began to take photographs when she saw Iliadis being attacked. Tsinoglou said a priest near her shouted at her and took her camera.

Following the confrontation, Father Gregorios of Kastoria accused Tsinoglou of physically assaulting him. The 6′ priest claimed the 5′2″ Tsinoglou had “tom my religious robes and physically beaten me.” Iliadis has charged Father Gregorios with physically beating him and insulting him. Both Tsinoglou and Iliadis were detained overnight at the police station; Father Gregorios was released after initial charges were filed.

The incident brought to a halt a two-week evangelistic campaign by Campus Crusade and the Evangelistic Team of Thessaloniki, an interdenominational group representing six Protestant churches in Greece’s second-largest city. The evangelistic team consisted of 30 participants, most of them Greek, and included eight expatriates from Operation Mobilization’s “Love Europe” conference (CT, Sept. 22, p. 46).

Right To Preach

Various evangelical groups have conducted summer evangelistic campaigns in large cities, resort areas, and camping sites throughout Greece since 1979. Last summer’s effort was the first to target a smaller city such as Kastoria (population 30,000), which Iliadis said was chosen “because there is no known evangelical presence in the whole region.”

“We have gone out every Saturday night for the past year in the squares of Thessaloniki to preach the gospel like this,” Iliadis said, “and we have never had a single incident of violence before.”

Iliadis said he was pressing charges only to establish the right to preach freely. “I will not ask that this priest be punished by any sentence,” he said. “The laws of my country are supposed to protect Protestant and Catholic clergy, as well as the Greek Orthodox.”

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Greek Orthodoxy remains the official state religion, representing 98 percent of the population (though only 2 percent are churchgoers). Greek laws that date back to 1938 prohibit, but fail to define, religious proselytizing.

“As a result,” noted Demosthenes Katsarkas, director of Saint Luke’s Hospital and a leading Free Evangelical Church pastor in Thessaloniki, “every judge can make his own definition of proselytism.”

“Right now there is a real revival of religious fanaticism among the Greek Orthodox here,” said Costas Macris, president of the Hellenic Missionary Union. Macris was acquitted three years ago of charges of proselytizing in a heavily publicized trial in Athens.

According to Macris, the Greek Orthodox Church established this year a special “anti-heresy department” to neutralize the influence of Protestants within Greece. He also said that a new Pentecostal church on the island of Rhodes was notified in August that its official permission papers had been revoked. “To my knowledge, this is the first time such an action has been taken since the restoration of democracy in Greece in 1974,” Macris said.

By Barbara G. Baker.



Medical School to Close

The executive committee of the board of regents at Oral Roberts University (ORU) decided on September 12 to close the medical school at the end of the current academic year. Hospital operations at the City of Faith will cease by January 1, 1990.

In addition, the university will sell off much of its property, including the homes of Oral Roberts and his son, Richard, and will lease the City of Faith facility as office space to address the ministry’s $25 million debt.

A letter to the school’s regents, written by Oral Roberts and released to the press, described the measures as “drastic,” but “necessary for the very survival” of ORU. Said third-year student Donald Eagle, “We anticipated this coming. We’re relieved that the burden of waiting for the ax to fall is over.” Eagle expressed confidence that the university is working to ensure that students will be able to transfer to other medical schools.

Eagle praised the teachers and physicians at the medical school, and said its demise was a “great loss to the Christian world.”


No Consensus on Abortion

At the first churchwide assembly of the 5.2 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), denominational representatives declined to take an unequivocal position on abortion.

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A phrase in a proposed statement on the issue urged church leaders to “encourage free access to services.” But abortion opponents within the denomination successfully persuaded delegates to amend the statement, arguing that “services” would be interpreted to mean “abortion services.” As amended, the statement urges church leaders to “prayerfully consider the issues and to offer personal care, information, counseling and competent Christian guidance” to individuals faced with unwanted pregnancies.

In another action, ELCA representatives voted to retain membership in the National and World Councils of Churches. The vote was widely regarded as a test case for the future vitality of the ecumenical movement.

Also, responding to grassroots frustrations at the lack of progress in South Africa toward ending apartheid, delegates passed a resolution calling on the church’s pension board to divest by September of next year at least half of its investments in companies doing business in South Africa.


Southeastern Strife

Lewis Drummond, president of Southeastern (Southern) Baptist Theological Seminary, has responded to a document issued last year by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) that criticized the seminary for making belief in biblical inerrancy a prerequisite for teaching there.

In his response, Drummond proposed establishing a task force to deal with “perceptions regarding academic freedom” and to address such issues as “the difference between education and indoctrination.” He also proposed a workshop involving the school’s faculty and trustees, who are deeply divided over the seminary’s hiring policies. In a separate faculty response to the 1988 SACS report, Southeastern professor Richard Hestor said the relationship between faculty and trustees “couldn’t get much worse.”


Coast to Coast Move

Campus Crusade for Christ International announced last month that Orlando, Florida, would be its new home. The organization, currently based in San Bernardino, California, had been considering a move to Atlanta, Charlotte, Colorado Springs, or Dallas.

Campus Crusade founder and president Bill Bright said the decision to move to Orlando was due largely to offers of assistance from friends of the organization. According to an organizational press release, “several prominent Floridians” have offered land to Campus Crusade.

Crusade officials said the actual relocation is at least two years away. The organization plans to move some 450 employees and anticipates hiring some 300 from the Orlando community. The international Christian ministry has 16,000 staff and volunteers working in countries that together represent over 95 percent of the world’s population.

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Briefly Noted

Introduced: The Revised English Bible (REB), an update of The New English Bible, which was released in 1970. In step with the new release is the introduction of the REB Charity program by the Bible’s publishers. For every Bible purchased, 50 cents will be donated to one of six charities: Prison Fellowship, Habitat for Humanity, the AIDS National Interfaith Network, Reading Is Fundamental, Save the Children, or Food for the Hungry, Inc.

Voted: By Religion in Media, the film A Cry in the Dark as the best picture of 1988. The movie, which stars Meryl Streep, is based on the true story of a deeply religious Seventh-day Adventist woman who was accused in 1980 of murdering her nine-week-old child.

Continuing: Prayer, research, and other activities surrounding Vision 2000 Canada, a nationwide initiative in which 40 Protestant denominations and parachurch groups are participating to reach the country with the gospel. According to the effort’s organizers, a mere 16 percent of Canadians aged 19 to 24 attend church, and if current trends continue, 95 percent of the country’s people will be unchurched by the year 2000.

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