Caught in the turmoil of the newly-independent Republic of Congo were some 2,000 Protestant missionaries including 1,200 Americans and 250 Canadians.
At stake was a century or more of Christian missionary effort.
As turbulence in the Congo approached the proportions of a grave international crisis, most missionaries were obliged to evacuate at the advice of diplomatic officials. A few courageously stayed behind, most of them key personnel, to look after the interests of mission boards. Others stood by in bordering countries, hopeful of re-entry once the government had stabilized and tensions had subsided. U.S. military airlift missions gave priority to women and children in effecting evacuations.
Christians around the world fell to their knees in behalf of the missionaries’ safety. Prayers appeared to be answered in the fact that not a single missionary casualty was reported in the first three weeks of independence. Some Americans, however, did tell of being slapped and kicked by mutinous Congolese soldiers.
Arrival of U.N. troops raised hopes of mission boards that order could be restored and missionaries could return to their posts. At times there was confusion over the extent of the strife. Some missionaries were filing back into the country even as others were being evacuated. But as word spread of possible Red intervention, mission executives grew anxious to evacuate personnel as soon as possible.
It appeared that the Congolese had no resentment against missionary work as such. The danger to missionaries lay in the fact that they had been stranded in a chaotic situation where law and order had been abandoned. Their evacuation spelled a severe blow to the productive investment of life, time and money in the Belgian Congo missionary enterprise.
Observers watched developments closely, but few were willing to predict how soon missionary activity could resume. Returning missionaries told of how they had, insofar as possible, assigned responsibilities for spiritual leadership to their nationalist colleagues.
Roman Catholics are said to number some 5,500,000 of the Republic of Congo’s 13,600,000 inhabitants. Soon after independence became effective, Archbishop Gastone Mojaisky-Perrelli, Apostolic Delegate to the Congo and Ruanda Urundi, was received in formal audience by Premier Patrice Lumumba. In a speech welcoming the archbishop, who was accompanied by a group of high-ranking ecclesiastics, Lumumba thanked the Catholic church for its help to the Congolese and voiced appreciation of the assurances of cooperation which, he said, the church has given the new government. This was viewed as a significant development, inasmuch as Lumumba is known to have had serious differences with Catholics.
Fruits Of Christian Missions
The Belgian Congo, now the independent Republic of Congo, has been one of the most productive evangelical mission fields in the world. It is known for its strongly biblical stand and rapid growth. Its protest against ecumenical inroads based on an inclusive theology was demonstrated in a decision two years ago to withdraw from the International Missionary Council rather than to participate in the IMC’s merger with the World Council of Churches.
The Protestant community as a whole numbers nearly 2,000,000, or about 15 per cent of the population, according to the Missionary Research Library in New York.
An MRL report gives the following breakdown of approximate adult membership in Protestant groups in what was formerly the Belgian Congo.
Other groups, says the report, include Assemblies of God, Free Methodists, Reformed, Friends, Mennonites, Independent Baptists, Salvation Army, and churches founded by interdenominational and independent missions.
The Republic of Congo’s chief of state, Joseph Kasavubu, is a staunch Roman Catholic, having been educated in parochial schools.
Another top figure in Congo politics, Premier Moise Tshombe, whose province of Katanga seceded from the republic and asked the United Nations for recognition as an independent nation, is a product of Methodist schools.
Retired Methodist Bishop John M. Springer, 86, a pioneer missionary to Katanga for more than 50 years, refused to heed an evacuation plea from the American consulate at Elisabethville, it was reported.
In the worst danger, according to Religious News Service, were missionaries of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. in Kasai province. The church’s Board of World Missions held a special meeting to meet the emergency. It was decided to recall all missionary families who are due furloughs within a year or who have children of school age. A special contingent was assigned to neighboring countries with the understanding of subsequent re-entry efforts.
Two Southern Presbyterian missionary pilots, Dr. Mark Poole and John Davis, spearheaded the airlift rescue.
Missionaries returning to the United States cited inflammatory political promises by native leaders and Communist agitation as chief reasons for the Congo uprisings.
First missionaries to be evacuated by the U. S. Military Air Transport Service were flown to Washington in a pair of giant C-124 Globemasters. Most of the 133 missionaries and dependents aboard were affiliated with the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.
Congolese Christians were praised for their loyalty and were credited with protecting the missionaries. Lack of effective leadership in Congolese ranks was blamed for the turmoil which forced missionaries to leave.
“We left the dishes half done,” said Orville R. Chapman of the ABFMS, who with his wife and three children was rescued by helicopter. Chapman said his family, like most others, had to leave behind virtually all personal belongings.
• Construction of a huge new office building for the American Baptist Convention is under way. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the $8,500,000 circular structure, located on a 55-acre site at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, were held July 5.
• World Vision plans a month-long crusade in Tokyo next May. According to President Bob Pierce, an invitation to hold such an evangelistic series came from 90 per cent of the churches in the world’s largest city (population: 9,312,000) and was signed jointly by moderators of the National Christian Council and the Evangelical Federation.
• Dublin got its first Protestant lord mayor in 60 years last month. 52-year-old Maurice E. Dockrell.
• Dr. James M. Bulman, dismissed from a pastorate in East Spencer, North Carolina, is starting a new Baptist church in the same town. Bulman has repeatedly clashed with Southern Baptist Convention officials over local church autonomy … A judicial commission appointed by the Presbyterian Church of Canada’s General Assembly relieved the Rev. A. Ian Burnett of his responsibilities as minister of St. Andrew’s, largest Presbyterian church in Ottawa. The commission cited failure to fulfill ordination vows. Tensions have arisen within his congregation since Burnett became separated from his wife two years ago.
• Eighty-seven per cent of Episcopal clergymen responding to a survey by Living Church, denominational weekly, say they accept literally the statement in the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus was “born of the Virgin Mary.” Of 539 responses, 39 do not believe in this traditional concept of the Virgin Birth and 30 are undecided. Every Protestant Episcopal candidate for the clergy must indicate, before ordination, that he accepts the creed.
• Ten young Anglicans from England are spending the summer supervising recreational programs for slum children on New York’s lower East Side. They are part of an English-American exchange program in social work.
• Dr. Arthur E. Hanson, district president-elect of The American Lutheran Church, officiated last month at the ordination of the fourth of his sons to enter the Lutheran ministry. The Rev. John Hanson, 25, has accepted a call to become associate pastor of Olivet Lutheran Church in Fargo, North Dakota.
• A Pentecostal congregation in Reykjavik, Iceland, is erecting a new church to accommodate 1,000 worshippers. The building will be one of the largest in Iceland.
• Five rifle shots were fired into the home of the Rev. C. B. Studstill, pastor of the First Methodist Church in Darien, Georgia, last month. Studstill has been preaching against gambling in his country and had received anonymous threats.
• The General Conference Mennonite Church is extending invitations for greater fraternity among Mennonite bodies. The invitations came out of a special study conference held in Donnellson, Iowa, last month in connection with the church’s 100th anniversary.
• The Virginia Methodist Conference plans to build a $3,000,000 home for the aged in Alexandria.
• The Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association is asking Federal Communications Commission approval for a 65,000-watt FM broadcasting station in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
• Old Bergen Reformed Church of Jersey City, New Jersey, is marking its 300th anniversary. The church, founded by Dutch settlers, has had only 10 pastors in its history.
• A pilgrimage to Aylmer, Quebec, highlighted Christian Endeavor’s Citizenship Convocation in Ottawa last month. Delegates visited the birthplace of the founder of Christian Endeavor, Dr. Francis E. Clark … A team of teen-agers from the Moline, Illinois, area won Youth for Christ’s annual Bible quiz competition. Finals were held in conjunction with the group’s 16th annual convention in Winona Lake, Indiana, last month.
Promoters of California’s proposed Bible Storyland amusement park say they will yield to Protestant objections in abandoning plans for such “rides” as “Garden of Eden,” “Ride to Heaven,” and “Dante’s Inferno.”
A bill designed to strengthen the Postmaster General’s fight against the mailing of obscene materials was signed into law by President Eisenhower last month. The new law enables the post office to secure a court order to impound the mail of a suspected smut peddler, pending the outcome of legal proceedings against him.
The University of Southern California is reactivating its Graduate School of Religion.
Named to head the seminary was Dr. John Geddes MacGregor, professor of philosophy and religion at Bryn Mawr (Pennsylvania) College, and a member of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian).
Southern California’s initial School of Religion was founded by Methodists, who subsequently moved it to a campus of its own at Claremont, California.
Phillips Old Testament
J. B. Phillips, Anglican vicar responsible for the highly-popular New Testament in Modern English, is working on a new translation of Amos, Micah, Hosea and Isaiah 1–39.
“Whether this will be successful or not,” says Phillips, “it is too early to judge.” He estimates that it will be another two years before a translation of the four prophets can be completed and published.
Phillips has genuine reservations about even an attempt at Old Testament translation.
“The Hebrew of the Old Testament is ‘literary and polished’ for the most part,” he explains, “while the Greek of the New Testament is written in rather commonplace and ‘unliterary’ language. It may therefore be that my particular gifts for New Testament translation would not be particularly useful for rendering the Old Testament in today’s language.”
According to Phillips, “there would be many who would agree with me that many of the fine old tales in the Old Testament and books of poetry such as the Psalms and Job would lose more than they would gain if they were rendered into contemporary English.”
Dr. Sherwood Eliot Wirt, Presbyterian minister and author of Crusade at the Golden Gate, is taking up duties as editor of Decision, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s new periodical scheduled to make its debut in the fall.
For the past six months, Wirt has been Editorial Associate on the staff of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
His account of Graham’s 1958 crusade in San Francisco was written while he was minister of Hillside Presbyterian Church in Oakland, California. Wirt is now penning his first novel.
End of the World?
Predictions of a small Italian spiritualist sect that the end of the world would come July 14 set off reactions of fear and repentance that were felt in many corners of the globe.
When the day passed without incident, members of the sect gathered high up on Mont Blanc in the Italian Alps for an emergency meeting with their leader, who explained that he must have misinterpreted voices of “the Logos, that is, the Supreme Authority.”
The prediction nonetheless caused waves of fear in Italy, Holland, Israel, Greece, and even as far as Mexico, Malaya, and Formosa. It had been prophesied that a mercury bomb explosion would blow the earth off its axis, sending ocean waters roaring over all but the highest mountain peaks.
In Greece, many Orthodox believers engaged in long prayers. Villagers in one area publicly forgave each other.
In Mexico, great numbers of Roman Catholics crowded into churches despite assurances by Archbishops Miguel Dario Miranda and Luigi Raimondi (the latter is apostolic delegate to Mexico) that the prophecies of the Italian mystics were “absurd.”
Reports from Singapore said students there abandoned classrooms to participate in demonstrations in which slogans were displayed which read, “The world must be given another chance.”
Top representatives of the National Lutheran Council and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod explored the theological implications of inter-Lutheran cooperation at a historic closed meeting in Chicago last month. The three-day sessions marked the first time that the two groups have ever come together for an exchange of viewpoints. Presiding was Dr. Norman A. Menter, NLC president and American Lutheran official.
Following the meeting, participants said the sessions were “profitable and would lead to better understanding and closer relationships between the two groups.”
A chief item on the agenda was a “comparison of interpretations” of an article in the Augsburg Confession dealing with church unity. This article declares in part: “And to the true unity of the Church, it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Church that ceremonies instituted by men should be observed uniformly.…”
Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee for president, is generally regarded as being closer to the nation’s highest office than any Roman Catholic has ever been. He is given a much better chance of election than Al Smith had in 1928.
United Press International and Religious News Service, who sought clergy reaction to Kennedy’s nomination, found a number of Protestant leaders refusing immediate comment. Other churchmen indicated they would stand by their original positions which expressed anxiety about a Catholic in the White House.
Kennedy’s running mate, Majority Senate Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, is a member of a Disciples of Christ church in Johnson City, Texas.
Technically, Kennedy is the third Catholic presidential nominee in U. S. history, according to RNS. Besides Smith, there was Charles O’Conor, a states-righter from New York and the son of an Irish immigrant, who was the candidate of insurgent Democrats in 1872. O’Conor drew 29,489 votes; Ulysses S. Grant was elected with a popular vote of 3,597,132.
Unsuspecting teen-agers attending a “World Affairs Seminar” in Richmond, Indiana, found themselves subjects of a pacifist-socialist brainwashing session.
The seminar was sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and was one of 29 such “community projects and work camps” scheduled across the United States this summer. It was held on camp grounds leased from a local YMCA and attendance was open to teen-agers of all faiths.
“They said we attacked ourselves at Pearl Harbor,” said the daughter of a newspaper publisher who exposed the seminar, Edward H. Harris of the Richmond Palladium-Item.
The YMCA camp director took issue with seminar leaders who, he said, asserted that the United States wanted war and that other countries wanted peace.
Among seminar speakers was the Rev. Maurice McCrackin of Cincinnati, pacifist minister who has served a jail term because he refuses to pay income taxes.
Officials at nearby Earlham college stressed that the extreme views expressed at the seminar were not representative of Quaker thought and practice.
The American Friends Service Committee is a social action agency organized by Quakers which gets support from many yearly meetings of Friends. It is independently supervised, however, and includes among its constituents numbers of non-Quakers.
The 4,300-member First Baptist Church of Wichita, Kansas, voted last month to withdraw from the American Baptist Convention.
By a vote of 739 to 294, the congregation—one of the largest in the ABC—chose to cease affiliation in protest against the convention’s continued membership in the National Council of Churches.
Last March, the congregation had endorsed action by its board of deacons withholding financial support from the convention because of its NCC ties.
Proponents of the withdrawal declared that the NCC’s “policies and plans are not in accordance with the faith and practices” of the congregation. Also cited was (1) alleged Communist influence among NCC leaders, (2) the ecumenical movement’s advocacy of a “universal church,” and (3) NCC pronouncements on social, political and economic issues in violation of the Baptist principle of Church-State separation.
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