From the ends of Malaya, 315 missionaries and national workers (about 60 per cent of the Christian leadership) gathered July 7–10 for the All-Malaya Christian Workers Conference sponsored by World Vision, the Malayan Christian Council and the Central Malaya Christian Churches. Although Malaya is one of Asia’s oldest centers of Christian activity, after a century of modern missions its Protestant church membership lags at only 30,000.
Only one in 18,000 is a convert. The deepest problem facing the Christian witness in Malaya was dramatized by the absence from the Port Dickson conference of all Malays, who number more than 3 million of the 6,250,000 population. The religious fate of the Malays was virtually sealed, and Christian penetration ruled out, when the British empire, as a price for its colonial foothold, promised protection of Malay religion and custom, intrinsically Moslem. Although Malaya is in the United Nations, national punishment by fine or imprisonment for distribution of non-Moslem literature precludes signing the UN Declaration of Human Rights which stipulates religious freedom. Moslems dominate the government, and some observers regard their pressures “from the right” politically as potentially explosive in Southeast Asia as communist pressures. Religiously, Malayan Moslemism is not virile, often blending with animism and Hinduism. But it remains politically powerful. Any convert to Christianity would be cut off by family and friends, would be disinherited and his life might be endangered. A foreign missionary baptizing such a convert faces deportation by the government.
Under these circumstances Malayan Christians minister effectively only to the large population of aliens. The 200 Protestant missionaries face 2,300,000 Chinese, 750,000 Indians and Pakistanis, and 95,000 others. Among Chinese, the educated speak Mandarin, but other dialects are also widespread. In religion, they are Confucians, Taoists and Buddhists, although Chinese Christian churches and communities were planted by immigrants at the turn of the century. World Vision discussion groups were caried on in Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien as well as in English, which most Indian workers use as well as their own tongue.
Malaya’s fine network of highways, a heritage from British rule, enabled carloads and busloads of workers to attend from distant parts. Malaya is Methodism’s biggest educational field, and the Methodist Church accounts for 50 per cent of the churches, more than half of which are said to be evangelical. In Wesley Methodist Church of Kuala Lumpur, the Rev. Harry Haines, preaching to the largest congregation in the Malayan Federation (which does not include Singapore) addresses 650 persons Sunday mornings and 350 at night. In the past year his church added 150 converts. The church includes 10 nationalities, and the chairman of its board is the only Japanese permitted to remain in Malaya after World War II. The Anglican church accounts for 20 per cent of Malaya’s churches, with Presbyterians and Plymouth Brethren active among the many smaller efforts. Malayan Christian Council represents 92 per cent of the Christian work in Malaya.
World Vision subsidized the Malayan pastors’ conference with a minimal travel allowance, lodging and food. One Indian worker walked 50 miles to attend, while others borrowed automobiles. To quicken evangelistic passion, evangelical devotion and spiritual unity, among Christian workers, the movement’s leader, Dr. Bob Pierce, brought a team of American and Asian leaders. “We are gathered so God may interfere with our lives,” he said, “and do his sovereign work in us.”
Bishop E. Sobrepena of the Philippines, president of the East Asia Christian Conference, pleaded for a revival of evangelistic dedication by ministers and laymen, and told workers: “We fear most the imperialism or enslavement of sin, and we know that Jesus Christ can make us free.” Dr. Kyung Chik Han of Korea, who led his congregation from North to South Korea ahead of the Communist invasion, and now preaches to 4,000 persons in two Sunday morning services in Seoul, called for a courageous Christian witness in the segment of Asia containing half the world’s population. “Two voices are now calling to these multitudes,” he said. “Both welcome Western science. But one insists that Asian religions are best; it promotes a resurgence of the non-Christian religions. The other, atheistic materialism, declares that all religion is superstition. God has placed the Christian minority in Asia for a courageous testimony to the redemption that is in Christ.”
Dr. Paul Rees stressed the need of stewardship, Dr. Richard Halverson the importance of private devotional life and personal dedication, and Dr. Carl F. H. Henry led morning Bible studies. Dr. William Van Valin, California surgeon, accompanied the party.
As workers dispersed, some to Singapore 180 miles south, others fanning through the Federation from the Strait of Malacca to the South China Sea, they recalled Bishop Sobrepena’s bursting plea to “West and East, North and South, white and brown and yellow and black, to enter with new dedication upon the completion of the Christian task.”
Before separating, workers took up an offering to assist the poorer nationals in Burma in attending a similar conference, after discouraged and lonely students, Bible distributors, pastors and missionaries voiced new-found encouragement for the evangelistic task. Depleted by his Osaka crusade, Dr. Pierce did not continue to Burma with his team.
Three in four members of the Malayan churches are under 25. When older missionaries failed to return after World War II, some began in a new way to sense their own missionary duty. Most of Malaya’s missionary force is today scattered throughout the new villages established by the government when Communist terrorists established mountain strongholds, and reserve workers are lacking. A Malayan missionary crusade may not be in early prospect, but evangelical unity in prayer is widening and the sense of evangelistic urgency is being sharpened.
Editor Carl F. H. Henry is on a five-week tour of the Orient with World Vision.
On these adjoining pages are dispatches from the scene in which Henry assesses Christian progress in Japan and Malaya.
In his report on Japan, the Editor discusses reasons why missionaries there have not seen as many conversions as are reported from other mission fields.
The Malaya report tells how the Moslem religion is protected by law and how Christian evangelism is virtually limited to work among the large alien population.
Henry’s itinerary is also taking him to Formosa, the Philippines, Thailand, Burma, and Hong Kong. He is part of a World Vision team which is holding pastors’ conferences at strategic points throughout the Orient. He is due back in the United States August 10.
Missionary radio leaders are asking the government of Morocco to reconsider an order to prohibit private broadcasting as of the end of the year. Unless the directive is rescinded, missionary broadcasts from Tangier will be forced off the air. Among stations affected is the Voice of Tangier, which uses three towers to beam 750 Gospel-centered programs a month throughout Europe and the Middle East. Officials of the Voice of Tangier say the station provides for many behind the Iron Curtain the only source of spiritual food.
Report From Ecuador
Ecuador’s Auca Indian tribe continued to demonstrate friendliness toward white missionary women last month.
In June, the Aucas welcomed two new-comers: Mrs. Marjorie Saint, wife of one of five missionary men slain by the Aucas 31/2 years ago, and Miss Mardelle Senseny of the Gospel Missionary Union both spent several days with the jungle tribe. They were led down the trail by Mrs. Elisabeth Elliot and her four-year-old daughter. Mrs. Elliot, wife of another of the martyrs, planned to stay with the tribe for several months.
At the same time, Miss Rachel Saint, sister-in-law to Mrs. Saint, came out of the jungle after four months of studying the Auca language.
The Bible And Rome
The first encyclical (letter) of Pope John XXIII is a 10,000-word Latin document punctuated with some 49 biblical references. No new policies are apparent.
Said to be entirely the Pope’s own work, the encyclical covers a range of subjects from theology (“There are quite a number of points which the Catholic Church leaves to the discussion of the theologians”) to television and other mass communication media (“they can be the source of enticement to loose morals”). The Pope pleads for peace, condemns communism, and warns against unemployment. He makes a new overture “to those who are separated from the Apostolic See”: “we lovingly invite you to the unity of the Church.”
The encyclical’s first biblical reference uses Isaiah 11:12 to support an assertion that the Roman church is “set up a standard unto the nations.” (The “standard” is from the Douay; the King James and Revised Standard versions say “ensign.”) In a “concluding exhortation,” he says: “If anyone … has wandered far from the Divine Redeemer because of sins committed, let him return—we entreat him—to the one who is ‘the way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John XIV, 6).”
Church And State
Lady Chatterley’s Lover appeared last month to be lining up clergymen in support of Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield who had banned the unexpurgated edition of the book from the mails, while drawing out their criticism of the U. S. Supreme Court, which ruled that a New York state ban on the movie version was unconstitutional.
A U. S. District Court in New York subsequently upset Summerfield’s ban and declared the novel mailable. The Post Office Department was expected to appeal. Summerfield calls Lady Chatterley’s Lover “obscene and filthy.”
The Supreme Court ruling on the movie said the First Amendment to the Constitution “protects advocacy of the opinion that adultery may sometimes be proper.”
A constitutional amendment was subsequently introduced before Congress aimed at overruling the court decision.
The Protestant clergy is believed to be largely in favor of a ban on Lady Chatterley’s Lover, though opinions doubtless are tempered by questions such as these: Will a precedent be established which could lead to undesirable censorship? Should decisions on what constitutes obscenity rest with post office administrators? Is obscenity adequately defined? (For a guide on where to draw the line, see “Demoralization of Youth: Open Germs and Hidden Viruses” in the July 6, 1959 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.) If the public chooses to accept obscenity, should churches—having failed to win support for a voluntary standard of morality-resort to legislation?
In view of questions raised and considering that the unexpurgated edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover has not been widely read, many religious leaders still prefer to address themselves to the problem of obscenity as a whole rather than censuring the novel by name. Nonetheless, a majority probably feel that a sweeping campaign against smut is long overdue.
Dr. Edwin T. Dahlberg, president of the National Council of Churches, said he “would be interested in cleaning up” literature intended “to arouse the prurient interest.” He urged, however, that “we safeguard ourselves on literature in which mention of sex is incidental.” He said he felt that the courts of the land had made clear a distinction.
Dahlberg spoke only for himself. An NCC spokesman said that its General Board has never taken an official position regarding the current obscene literature problem.
Dr. Clyde W. Taylor, secretary for public affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, said “it will be a sorry day for the people of the United States if their government has no recourse but to allow the mails to become the channel of morally infectious literature.”
“It appears that the post office, attempting to protect the moral integrity of our society, has become the victim of a few judicial officials who have a proper regard for freedom of the press but who have lost their bearings in the moral aspects of public welfare,” Taylor added.
President Eisenhower told a news conference last month that “there is no reason” why a Catholic should not be elected to the U. S. presidency. He called it “a perfectly extraneous question.”
As to whether a Catholic could be elected President, Eisenhower said he had no opinion.
A few days later, a similar query was put to Democratic National Chairman Paul M. Butler: Would a Catholic presidential candidate be handicapped because of his religion?
“As a Catholic,” replied Butler, “and one who has been in politics 33 years, I certainly do believe that would be true, sadly enough.”
“Observers” from the Russian Orthodox Church are expected to attend this month’s meeting of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches on the Greek island of Rhodes. Two representatives from the church’s Moscow Patriarchate recently completed a month-long “get acquainted” visit to WCC headquarters in Geneva. The church originally refused to join the WCC, but leaders are believed to be reconsidering. Leaders of the ecumenical movement may soon announce a new invitation.
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