While Chicago was shyly emerging into springtime, National Association of Evangelicals met April 14–18, to bask in recent evangelistic and theological gains in American life. By its 16th convention, NAE—“a service organization, a fellowship of believers, and a means of identification”—had gathered 41 cooperating denominations into its orbit and spawned an impressive array of affiliated agencies (Evangelical Foreign Missions Associations, National Association of Christian Schools, National Sunday School Association, National Religious Broadcasters, and many others). The Chicago gathering was unproductive of spectacular achievements, but 1,000 churchmen and lay delegates shared a common faith and fellowship that vigorous leadership could weld to a crusading spirit.

Behind the scenes conferences in Hotel Sherman were almost as plenteous as public sessions. Off-the-record discussion of ecumenism closeted some of NAE’s past presidents (Harold John Ockenga, Bishop Leslie R. Marston, Stephen W. Paine, Paul S. Rees, R. L. Decker, Frederick C. Fowler, and H. H. Savage) in an unofficial way with churchmen whose denominations (like Southern Baptists, Missouri Lutherans, Christian Reformed) make up some 22 million evangelicals outside both the National Council of Churches and NAE. Twenty additional churches and five organizations were accepted into NAE membership.

Mekeel New President

New president is Dr. Herbert S. Mekeel, pastor for two decades of First Presbyterian Church of Schenectady, New York.

Also named: first vice-president, Dr. Thomas F. Zimmerman, of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, Springfield, Missouri; second vice-president, Dr. Charles Seidenspinner, president of Southeastern Bible College, Birmingham, Alabama; secretary, Cordas E. Burnett, Springfield, Missouri; treasurer, Robert C. Van Kampen, of Wheaton, Illinois.

The Rev. Fred G. Ferris was appointed Executive Secretary of World Evangelical Fellowship; Dr. J. Elwin Wright remains as honorary chairman. Moving from Boston, WEF dedicated new Chicago headquarters at 108 North Dearborn during the convention.

Retiring Leader’S Appraisal

Dr. Paul P. Petticord, retiring president, depicted evangelical Christians as “a remnant of spiritual unity upon which to build anew the Christian character of the United States.” The nation presently is “vulnerable,” he said, “and lacking in power to generate the moral and spiritual integrity necessary to inaugurate a crusading spirit against the enemies of unrighteousness.”

Article continues below

Dr. Petticord stressed that NAE was born not “to combat someone or some organization,” nor “to penetrate or infiltrate National Council of Churches or organizations for the purpose of dividing its forces,” but to make possible an evangelical witness in the face of liberal Protestant challenge and opposition. “The NAE is not a splinter group from the NCC … the reverse is true. Liberals withdrew from the original Evangelical Alliance because they found themselves in the minority and without hope of changing the theology … therefore, they formed … the ‘Open Church League’which in 1900 became the National Federation of Churches of Christ in America and in 1950 became the NCC.… The NAE … went back to the original Evangelical Alliance for a basis of cooperation.”

A Bare Sketch

While identifying the evangelical movement as “a positive effort, an advance” Dr. Petticord’s address sketched positive principles only in a bare way. (“The evangelical does not seek unity, he has unity, he possesses it in Christ”; “In the body of Christ not only are God and man reconciled but those afar off socially are brought near. Racial inequality ends.…”)

His appraisal in fact, fixed an eye on NCC strategy and on the fundamentalist-modernist controversy. “To assume that the day of controversy is over is only wishful thinking … and I would say … that ‘We dare to open the controversy again.’ ” The new theological attack, he said, is “against the Word of God, the Bible as the final authority and against the person of Christ.”

Dr. Petticord depicted ecumenical inclusivism as a scheme to frustrate evangelical belief. “Theological liberalism attempted to destroy evangelicalism, now neo-orthodoxy wants to contain evangelicalism.” He cited Walter Marshall Horton’s Toward a Reborn Church (1949) for “the long view” of ecumenism. [Horton writes: “I do not believe the leaders of the ecumenical movement are going to be able to change the feelings or allay the suspicions of these Conservative Evangelicals sufficiently to bring them into the IMC or the World Council in the near future; but they can do two things which may make future reconciliation possible:

One, keep in personal touch with the evangelical leaders, answering their sometimes captious criticisms with patience and not with scorn; and two, conduct evangelistic campaigns and world missions with an earnestness which their rivals cannot fail to respect and a constant willingness to collaborate on particular evangelistic projects.

Article continues below

Eventual Unity?

A generation of such tolerance and respectful relations might actually lead to unity.…”] Dr. Petticord commented: “This method of attack suggested by Dr. Horton has been followed very carefully, even to this present hour.… Possibly the most popular method of limiting and ameliorating the evangelical witness is to place the evangelical in compromising positions while complimenting him on his fundamental theology.… While a few evangelicals are generously treated the rank and file … are denied such privileges. This is all clearly evident when we enter the fields of comity, radio and television.” He warned that “almost all” who join “with the idea of redeeming a segment” of NCC are “swallowed up in the whole, and even though their personal voice is still evangelical, their affiliation seems to nullify their witness because the predominant voice is in another direction.…”

Dr. Stephen W. Paine, president of Houghton College, delivered a study of “Christian cooperation” comparing and contrasting NCC and NAE. He criticized the “Federal Council-National Council” for “lack of interest in Christian theology,” its historical opposition to a “straightforward evangelical basis of faith,” and its tradition of liberal leadership; for preoccupation with economic and social problems, often deferring to a planned economy and other collectivistic concepts; for concern for political influence and persistent public pronouncements on subjects only distantly related to the church’s primary mission; for its “monopolistic and illiberal” attitude toward religious broadcasting; and for its endeavor to capture the world missionary movement for inclusive ecumenism.

Graham’S Plea A Climax

Dr. Petticord hailed evangelist Billy Graham’s ministry as “another evidence of the resurgence of evangelical faith.” He commented that “most converts of recent Graham campaigns have come from churches belonging to the NCC.” (“I would assume that … many people in Protestant churches today … have little knowledge of the new birth”).

Article continues below

Graham personally addressed the convention’s closing luncheon and gave a stirring call for evangelical and evangelistic impact of the present social crisis. The convention featured an all-night prayer meeting for his San Francisco campaign. The previous midnight, NAE’s board of administration was on its knees in prayer both for Graham and his critics.

Convention resolutions expressed the movement’s concern over the spread of obscene literature, the imposition of minimum wage laws on volunteer religious workers, the growing pressures on evangelical broadcasts and liquor advertising on television.

Some of America’s foremost pulpiteers, aswell as Christian leaders in other spheres of vocation, were program participants and shaped the evangelistic and devotional convention mood: Billy Graham, Robert G. Lee, Harold John Ockenga, Wilbur M. Smith, Leon Sullivan, Richard Woike, J. Edwin Orr. Smith said that the hopes that this century would usher in a new age of Holy Spirit have thus far been disappointing.



Taking Sides

Dr. James S. Thomson, moderator of the United Church of Canada, says he would like to see the Dominion be neutral in any future global war.

He said a start toward the outlawing of war had to be made somewhere, and as a leader of small nations it was fitting for Canada to tell the large nations “where to get off.”

No one could win today’s style of war, Thomson added, and “it was time somebody stood up and said: In the name of God, war is not the way.”

Prayerful Prediction

“If what I have seen in Calgary is indicative of Canadian crusading, and if the many, many calls I have received from the Dominion of Canada are any indication of coming events, I would prayerfully predict the beginning of a miracle-harvest in the land of our northern neighbors.”

So summarized American evangelist Merv Rosell after a two-week campaign drew capacity crowds to Calgary’s Jubilee Auditorium despite a Manitoba cold wave which dropped the mercury below zero.


Distaff Ordination

The Swedish Parliament approved a bill authorizing the ordination of women in the state Lutheran church. The bill cannot become law, however, until approved by the Lutheran Church Convocation, which holds a veto power over legislation which affects it.

The measure climaxing a 39-year legislative fight would permit women to receive the priestly office in the state church as of July, 1959. Action by the convocation is expected in a special session next fall.

Article continues below

Last year, the convocation voted 62 to 36 against the ordination of women.

Any more vetos may touch off drives to abolish the veto privilege of the convocation. Demands may even rise to divorce church and state.

The fight for the ordination of women first began in 1919.

The Right To Meet

Religious News Service says that Italian Protestants are seen to benefit by Constitutional Court decisions upholding the right to public assembly.

The decisions of the court, highest in constitutional matters, involves the Italian charter of 1948 which grants freedom of peaceful assembly in places open to the public.

The court ruled that an article of the charter must prevail over another in police laws of 1931 which required police authorization for such gatherings.

A spokesman for the Federal Council of Italian Evangelical Churches was quoted as saying that the court’s decisions were handed down in cases not directly involving Protestants. However, he said, they had a positive bearing on the life of the Italian evangelical communities “because there have been many manifestations of police intolerance of evangelical gatherings.”


Over A Barrel?

To what extent should missionary efforts be devoted to secular aspects of education?

Missions in Congo are wondering how far Christian education should go. The schools on the field present great opportunity for evangelism, but the secular trimmings are getting ever more costly in time, effort and money.

It is not a question of whether to support education, for no church can be expected to grow in an illiterate society. But how much education?

Years ago, the little class sitting in the sand under a palm tree was nothing more than a novelty. Interest was limited, for few cared about laborious study which seemed to hold no reward for the man in the bush.

It took the impetus of developing commerce after World War I to make Congolese youth realize that even a meager education was a paying proposition. There was a demand for clerks and salesmen, not to mention the prestige of being part of the “educated” class.

Missionaries generally were glad to see the influx of youth into the schools. Chiefs came from afar demanding teachers. Christian instruction blossomed.

But as the schools grew, costs rose. Then came the depression and it became increasingly difficult to carry on educational activities.

Roman Catholic schools won subsidies from the government for “national” missions starting in 1925. Non-Catholics missed out until after World War II and the change to a liberal-socialist government in Belgium.

Article continues below

Protestants had been hard-pressed until official government recognition and financial help came. Education costs were soaring far beyond limited missions budgets. Diplomas awarded were worthless to job seekers because the government had not accredited the institutions.

Finally came accreditation, but with it responsibilities. Teachers required more training to meet government standards, basically desirable though expensive. Curricula had to be formulated to suit government specifications. Courses had to be programmed, text books printed, reports submitted. All this for a chance to present the Gospel.

How much do missions contribute to the educational system in Congo? Roman Catholic sources say a government school costs four times as much as individual subsidies to mission institutions which accomplish comparable educational ends.

Finances are not the only concern, for missionaries now find themselves spending more and more time in educational activities removed from direct spiritual instruction. Children’s workers who came to the field to tell dark-skinned youngsters about Jesus are teaching them to count instead. Ministers who gave up comfortable parishes in America to take the Gospel to unreached tribes are occupied with reading and writing instruction. One small secondary school requires the efforts of at least four missionary couples.

Then with increasing interest in education comes the need for specialized schools and colleges. Belgian Congo has only two universities, one run by the government, the other by Catholics.

In most of Africa the opportunity for evangelism is unprecedented. How to meet this chance is a principle which demands comparison with the question of who holds the responsibility of public education. Missionaries are eager to establish a solid indigenous church. They must have schools to take advantage of the present opportunity. Yet they must weigh their investments into purely secular phases of instruction.

Is it worth the time and expense of carrying out unlimited secular education to be able to preach the Gospel to students? Should the missionary be obliged to work for the government in order to have an effective witness? Protestant missions in the Belgian Congo must decide where to draw the line.

Daughter To Sister

The Evangelical Church of Egypt came of age last month.

Article continues below

In Cairo’s historic Ezbekia Church, where the first Evangelical congregation was organized 96 years ago, the bang of a gavel opened the first formal meeting of the Synod of the Nile since its break with the United Presbyterian Church of North America.

Now the Synod, largest and oldest of the Protestant community in Egypt, is a sister church to the United Presbyterian movement which mothered it.

The Evangelical Church today has nearly 30,000 members and many more adherents in some 200 congregations throughout Egypt, led by 175 pastors and lay evangelists. Cairo is labeled “the third largest United Presbyterian city in the world,” giving way only to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in number of members.

In keeping with nationalistic spirit, Egyptian United Presbyterians last year petitioned the denomination’s General Assembly for permission to change from a Synod into an independent Evangelical Church. The permission was granted, and a number of Presbyterian officials in America were commissioned to witness the initial gathering of the separated sister church. Among those on hand were Dr. Robert N. Montgomery, president of Muskingum College and moderator of the General Assembly, and Dr. Park Johnson, field representative of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A., with which the United Presbyterian Church is merging.

At the meeting, delegates elected the Rev. Labib Mishriky as its moderator for 1958.

The American United Presbyterian Mission in Cairo will continue liaison activities.


A Korean First

The first honorary doctorate ever conferred upon a missionary by a Korean government university was given last month to Mrs. Archibald Campbell of the Presbyterian mission in Taegu by Kyong Pook University for outstanding service in education.

Her citation for the degree of doctor of literature reads, “Distinguished educator … in the religious, academic and humanitarian institutions of our land; distiller of the joy of learning; inspirer of the love of scholarship; able interpreter and teacher of the English Bible; generous benefactress of the orphaned and unfortunate; exemplar mother and loyal co-worker with her missionary husband; erudite instructor …; for forty years the devoted friend of the people of Korea.…”

Mrs. Campbell is the wife of Dr. Archibald Campbell, president of Keimyong Christian College and a former president of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary now located in Seoul. The couple is retiring this year.

S. H. M.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.