Baptists Hold World Congress
More than 10,000 Baptists from 85 countries gathered in Seoul in August for the sixteenth Baptist World Congress. Their number included 177 pastors and laity from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, which sent a delegation of 150, the largest Soviet group to attend any religious event outside the country.
Some 50,000 Korean Baptists welcomed the international delegates to the meeting, held once every five years, at ceremonies held in Seoul’s Olympic Stadium. About 10,000 new Korean Christians were baptized at the Olympic rowing site during the five-day congress.
Participants elected Danish Baptist leader Knud Wumpelmann, 68, to a five-year term as president of the alliance. They endorsed the Seoul Covenant, a seven-part agreement committing Baptists to make evangelism a priority through the end of this century. They also denounced by resolution religious persecution and intolerance, particularly anti-Semitism, and called on Baptists to foster movements of peace, justice, and preservation of creation. The next congress will be held in Buenos Aires in 1995.
Montt’S Popularity Grows
Efrain Ríos Montt, former military leader of Guatemala and self-described born-again Christian, is steadily gaining popularity in his bid to return as president of the Central American nation. Montt seized power in a palace coup in 1982 and was removed two years later. During his time as leader, critics faulted his human-rights record. Yet they also acknowledged that he brought order to the country. It is that same appeal for order that has propelled him in public polls to within only a few points, and in some cases ahead, of the other leading presidential candidate.
A constitutional provision bars anyone who took power in a coup d’etat from becoming president. But Montt has remained intent on running in the November election, and has hinted that a popular uprising could result if he is not allowed into office if elected.
During the past six months, political violence has risen in Guatemala. Recently, Montt’s home church, the Verbo Church in Guatemala City, was bombed while 3,000 people were gathered there for a prayer meeting. None was injured.
House Churches Closed
Chinese government authorities in Zhangzhou, in the province of Fujian, have announced that all house churches in the city are “abolished” and all unregistered religious meetings are “illegal,” according to a report from Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF). Bibles and Christian literature have been labeled “tools of subversion.” In addition, the daughter of one of China’s best-known evangelists, herself an itinerant trainer of house-church leaders, was arrested in the province.
The action continues the government’s growing renewal of persecution of unregistered churches, and is particularly troubling because the Fujian province had enjoyed “relatively relaxed implementation of the Communist party religious policy,” said OMF’s Anthony Lambert.
Independent Baptist missionary Clark Alan Jacobsen was killed in August amidst the civil war in Liberia. Western sources in the Ivory Coast report that Jacobsen was arrested by government troops on August 17 and his body was turned over by them to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia two days later. No further explanation of his arrest and death were available. Jacobsen, from Sterling Baptist Church in Sterling, Alaska, had stayed in Monrovia to guard church grounds that had been burned and looted.
Escalating violence has forced virtually all missionaries to leave the country, including Southern Baptists Ed and Fran Laughridge and their son, Edward (CT, Sept. 10, 1990, p. 79). Some have contined to shuttle food and medical supplies from neighboring countries to refugees in Liberia.
PEOPLE AND EVENTS
Elected: Agustin (Jun) Vencer, Jr., as international director-designate of World Evangelical Fellowship. Vencer, 43, a Filipino, will replace current director David Howard, who has held the position since 1982. The appointment will take effect July 1, 1992.
Jane Dempsey Douglass of Princeton Seminary, as president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. She replaces South African leader Allan Boesak, who resigned his church positions following the disclosure of an extramarital affair.
Continued: East Germany’s liberal abortion law, for two more years under a unified Germany. Women in East Germany, as well as West German women who obtain the procedure there, will be free to have abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The issue was a major stumbling block along the road to reuniting the two countries (CT, Aug. 20, 1990, p. 48).
Declined: Membership in the Church of Scotland, from a peak of 1,320,091 in 1956 to 804,468 last year. Although it continues to be the largest denomination in Scotland, one Edinburgh University church historian predicts church membership will drop to 200,000 by the end of the century.
Convened: The Asian Missions Congress, sponsored by the Evangelical Fellowship of Asia, in Seoul. The gathering of 1,300 delegates from 50 nations last month was the first continent-wide missions meeting to be held in Asia.
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