This is the first Christmas with Bethlehem under Jewish political control, and Christians are making the most of it. Some 50,000 tourists, reportedly the largest number ever, were expected to flock into the little town to mark the birth of the Saviour at the place where it happened. To help control the crush, Israeli authorities planned to prohibit non-Christian visitors from entering Bethlehem during the holidays.

The big event is a midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity. This year it will be televised around the world via Telestar satellite, according to Religious News Service. Only 700 people can squeeze into the church, but in the adjacent square about 10,000 can watch the mass on a big TV screen.In years past Protestants have been barred from the church. In case of bad weather the Greek Orthodox group has invited them in.

For Protestants, the big events are in the Shepherds’ Fields adjoining Bethlehem. Part of the land is owned by the YMCA, and Christmas eve services are held in the same large caves where shepherds took refuge nearly two thousand years ago. The Christmas eve services include times of fellowship and partaking of bread together.

For the first time since Israel became a state in 1948, a considerable number of Christian Arabs who are Israeli citizens will be able to go to Bethlehem for Christmas. While Bethlehem was under the rule of Jordan, only a limited number of these Arab Christians were allowed entrance. Bethlehem came under Jewish control last June during the brief war in which Israeli troops swept eastward to the Jordan River, but its fate is extremely uncertain. Although the U. N. Security Council has agreed on delicately balanced guidelines for an indirect Arab-Israeli dialogue on the Middle East crisis, U. N. diplomats generally concede that things may worsen before they get better.

People from all over the world go to Bethlehem for Christmas. Evangelicals in recent years have shown a special bent for travel to the Holy Land, and the June war enhanced their interest not only in the geography of Palestine but in its history and, even more, its eschatology.

Curiosity has been centered on the question whether the Temple will be rebuilt. Israeli officials from Foreign Minister Abba Eban on down flatly deny any such plans. But rumors persist. A few years ago reports were widely circulated that a prefabricated temple destined for Jerusalem was seen at a port somewhere in Florida. More recently, just before the outbreak of the June war, an advertisement in the Washington Post invited correspondence from people interested in helping to rebuild the Temple. (A CHRISTIANITY TODAY inquiry went unanswered, and the Post refuses to identify the advertiser.)

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In August, a Hong Kong missionary, Michael Browne, reported in The Christian and Christianity Today that “Israel government representatives have ordered 60,000 tons of finest Bedford stone from Bedford, Indiana, to be used in the erection of the Jerusalem Temple.” The report got major display treatment in the weekly evangelical newspaper, which is the British sister publication of CHRISTIANITY TODAY. Key industry sources in Indiana disclaimed any knowledge of the deal. But Dr. J. D. Douglas, editor of the London-based publication, stood behind the report and said a follow-up article is in the making.

Browne wrote that “five hundred rail-car loads of stone from Bedford, considered to be among the finest building stone in the world, are being freighted pre-cut to exact specifications, and one consignment has already been dispatched to Israel. Shipments are being handled by Pier 26 in New York.”

He cited a report from “authoritative sources in Sellersburg, Indiana,” adding: “Cornerstones for the third Jersualem Temple are already in Israel. Materials for this Temple have been secretly in preparation for seven years,” the report went on, “and it is believed American Jews are mainly responsible for financially undergirding the whole project. Strong rumors from other usually reliable circles say the two freestanding pillars for the new Temple have already been cast in bronze.”

Such reports are of unusual interest to dispensationalists, the eschatalogical monitors among evangelicals, who insist that Old Testament covenants with the nation Israel are yet to be literally fulfilled. A few dispensationalists regard the current state of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, but most key thinkers of this school argue that the Jews there are still at the political mercy of the Gentile nations. The consensus is that the “times of the Gentiles” will not be concluded until the second coming of Christ, following seven years of tribulation after the rapture of the Church.

The brightest new exponent of this view, Dean Charles Caldwell Ryrie of Dallas Theological Seminary, discussed some of his convictions at a prophetic conference in Washington, D. C., last month. Like another speaker who said he was pre-everything (“I don’t even eat Post Toasties anymore”), Ryrie believes that rapture of the Church and seven years of tribulation will precede the end of “the times of the Gentiles.”

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A Phi Beta Kappa from Haverford College with a Ph.D. from Edinburgh, the 42-year-old Ryrie typifies a moderating trend within dispensationalism. The swing away from the traditional seven distinct dispensations is underscored in the New Scofield Reference Bible (the first Scofield was the literary focus of dispensationalism for two generations). Ryrie defines a dispensation merely as “a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose.” Unlike most dispensationalists of the past, he does not consider specific blocks of time as part of the system.

A 1965 book, Dispensationalism Today, lifted Ryrie to the role of scholarly spokesman of moderate dispensationalism. The tall, blond, quiet-spoken son of an Illinois banker was reared in an American Baptist church and now belongs to the First Baptist Church of Dallas, largest in the Southern Baptist Convention.


Christmas couldn’t be any whiter than it is in Labrador, that far-north tract of Canada which this year marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the start of Wilfred Thomason Grenfell’s remarkable work. Today he is honored in many parts of the world as “the Good Samaritan of Labrador,” or even, without exaggeration, as “the creator of a new Labrador.”

The Grenfell saga began when he entered a huge tent-like building in London in 1883 and saw “an aged man … praying on a platform before an immense audience. The length of his prayer!” Then a vivacious person jumped up and shouted, “Let us sing a hymn while our brother finishes his prayer!” Since unconventionality, common sense, or humor in anything religious was new to Grenfell, he stayed to hear the speaker.

The vivacious man was D. L. Moody, accompanied by Ira Sankey, and that night Grenfell heard and responded to Christ’s call for a life of dedicated service. Although his father was a clergyman, Grenfell’s spiritual impressions lay dormant until Moody showed him that being a Christian meant “loyalty to a living Leader” who demanded “knightly service in the humblest life as the expression of it,” as Grenfell later wrote. He was “prejudiced for an adventurous world,” and after graduation from medical school and several years as a medical missionary to British fishermen, he heard of the plight of Labrador.

When Grenfell arrived in Labrador in 1892 he was charmed by icebergs flashing all the colors of the rainbow and by birds both familiar and strange hovering over dense shoals of rippling fish. But he soon realized that Labrador was a rugged paradise. Unlike the British Isles, it had no Gulf Stream to warm its coastline. Instead it was swept by currents from the North Pole, hidden often by fogs, and battered by icebergs. Its interior was little more than a vast rocky tableland covered with stunted spruce trees—a region of terror as well as wonder.

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The climate notwithstanding, Labrador was, and is, a land of riches, though at that time its hard-working, poverty-stricken, shamefully exploited fishing folk seemed unable to enjoy them.

The year-round residents of the 1,100-mile coast were 5,000 Indians, Eskimos, and whites, but each spring 25,000 arrived in a fishing fleet from Newfoundland. With no doctors or hospitals, this large community was plagued by scurvy, tuberculosis, and rickets. A third of the infants died within their first year, and the mortality rate of adults was among the highest anywhere. Malnutrition and sickness earned for Labrador the nickname “Starvation Coast.”

For the next half-century, Grenfell and Labrador were identified. He started with a hospital, a small group of nurses, and a steam launch that he learned to steer masterfully among the treacherous currents and icebergs. The full story of his adventures would fill a volume.

Grenfell early started a campaign to prevent the fishermen from being exploited by unscrupulous traders. He established schools and two orphanages, cottage industries, and centers for castoff clothing. Today there are four hospitals with up-to-date equipment, fourteen nursing stations, and homes for the crippled and blind. Altogether the Grenfell Associations have a staff of 400, aided also by college volunteers. Grenfell Scholarships have enabled many Labrador young people to study abroad and return home as teachers, nurses, and clergymen.

Grenfell’s story is a notable example of the social impact of the Gospel through one man. Although he operated as a healer, not an orator, the lasting result of his work in Labrador is splendid service with a muted witness to the Leader who inspired it.


Fragmentary reports from Burma indicate that the country’s 230,000 Baptists—the world’s fifth-largest Baptist population—have been increasingly restricted by the Socialist regime, which banned all missionaries last year.

The Baptist World reports that a cooperative mission project between the Burmese and Indian Baptists in the Naga Hill area apparently has ended. The government reportedly recalled the missionaries for “security reasons.”

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The Burma Baptist Convention—transferred from missionary to national leaders in 1958—may no longer be able to hold annual meetings; food supplies are short at Zomi Baptist Theological School at Falam (the school that trains pastors for 45,000 Baptists in the Chin Hills), and a village pastor in the Shan State was robbed and killed by bandits in an unexplained raid on his home.

Baptist work in Burma began in 1814 with the arrival of pioneer American Baptist missionaries Ann and Adoniram Judson. It has been one of the most rapidly growing Baptist fields in recent years.

Foreign missionaries in “sensitive areas” of India also are facing government restrictions, according to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She told the Parliament that no new missionaries are allowed to enter the China-Burma border area because many of the Mizo and Naga tribesmen there are Christians and the missionaries’ influence is being blamed—in Indian public opinion—for tribal revolutionary acitvity.

Tribesmen along the border have been carrying on an armed revolt against the central government, demanding either an autonomous state or independence. The missionary controversy has been building for some time as certain political figures in sensitive states have called for deportation of foreign missionaries and their replacement with natives.


A “Save our School” movement—backed by $1.2 million of student-raised pledges—convinced the trustees of Kentucky Southern College in Louisville to withdraw from a merger agreement with the University of Louisville.

Last March the debt-ridden, formerly Southern Baptist college renounced its convention affiliation so that it could accept federal funds. The merger plan was announced November 1 to stave off impending bankruptcy (see News, Dec. 8, 1967, page 47).

Proclaiming the fund drive a student victory, backers of the small liberal-arts college said the financial support would ensure its existence as an independent Christian institution. Board chairman LeRoy Highbaugh, Jr., personally pledged $800,000 of the $1.2 million, and another drive was immediately launched to raise $6 million over the next five years.



What ever happened to Adam Clayton Powell? He’s still in the Bahamas, by Bimini. But his woes are piling up like Christmas mail during a postal strike.

South Carolina Insurance Commissioner Charles Gambrell has charged that the longtime Harlem congressman’s Nassau-based insurance firm is illegally soliciting business through Negro churches.

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The Inter-American Life and Casualty Company, which lists Powell as a director, is pushing a mail sales campaign that asks Negro church secretaries to serve as agents at $1 a month per family, according to Gambrell. An extra carrot is that the church is promised $200 if the policyholder dies. The beneficiary gets $300. Gambrell said he didn’t know what Powell might get.

Meanwhile, back in Miami, the unseated Democrat’s estranged wife won a default judgment in a separate-maintenance suit. Some Harlem Negro clergymen think it’s time to elect a new congressman, and Negro-rights celebrity James Meredith, who aborted an earlier campaign, announced he would again run for Powell’s seat.

Powell, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, has not budged from Bimini since the House of Representatives charged him with misuse of funds and court defiance. Contempt charges would be pressed if he returned to New York.


Even though he can’t see, the Rev. Russell Reinert is a man of vision. He is the first blind man ever accepted for missionary service by Wycliffe Bible Translators, and one of only a handful of blind missionaries in the world.

Mr. and Mrs. Reinert are to be house-parents and teachers for children of Wycliffe missionaries on assignment in the Central American jungles. They were recruited for two-year service in Mexico City by the Christian Service Corps, a Washington, D. C.-based agency that provides skilled Christian workers for short-term missionary assignments—a “peace corps of the Church.”

Reinert, 26, has never been immobilized by his visual handicap. He attended college and seminary on a government scholarship, graduating summa cum laude from Gordon Divinity School, and has been pastor of the Gonic Baptist Church in Rochester, New Hampshire, for the past three years.

“I really don’t mind being blind,” he says, “for I’m able to help others ‘see’ spiritually.”

Reinert’s missionary enthusiam dates from his high-school days, shortly after his conversion: “It always has bothered me that maybe we have too many churches [in America] while some areas of the world have no witness at all.”

Although he had some eyesight during childhood, Reinert was blind by the time he was 17. His wife has normal vision, and their 17-month-old son has no handicaps. But Reinert had a rough time finding a mission board that would look at him.

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“In a sense, I’m a pioneer,” he says. His performance will be a proving ground for himself and a test case for boards reluctant to consider the handicapped.

Reinert’s purebred golden retriever, “E-Z,” may be the first missionary seeing-eye dog.

Because of Wycliffe’s urgent need, Reinert bypassed the corps’s usual two-to three-month training program in Washington, D. C. In its first two years the corps has trained and placed eleven persons in ten countries and has another in training now.

Director Robert Meyers, a genial Presbyterian minister who proposed the organization in a 1964 CHRISTIANITY TODAY essay, emphasizes that skilled lay personnel are recruited and channeled “within the existing missionary structure of the Church.” Thus candidates are commissioned in ceremonies in congregations of their various denominations. The corps recently mailed an information sheet to more than 200 mission boards.

Similar interest in temporary missions work is seen in the 200 applications received by Short Terms Abroad since it was founded. Most were placed, but the Wheaton, Illinois, offices still report more than 600 openings.

This year the Southern Baptist Convention assigned two dozen new volunteers, including two newlywed couples, under its “US-2” program. US-2 is designed to help out career missionaries in the United States and provide two years of useful experiences for Baptists in their twenties. Baptist Press reports that seventeen of eighteen persons in the first US-2 class decided to enter seminary or graduate school.

Since 1948, the Methodists have recruited nearly 1,000 persons for special three-year terms overseas. Its US-2 program in home missions, begun in 1951, has involved more than 400 single men and women and married couples without children.


The United Presbyterian Church will now appoint foreign missionaries for limited terms—some less than two years—rather than for life. The 1,000 persons already serving are not affected. Because of a salary increase, the mission board cut 1968 appointments from seventy to thirty-five. The agency, which pulled all its missionaries out of Egypt during the June war with Israel, has severed ties with the Coptic Evangelical Church to avoid “embarrassment” for the Egyptians.


The continuing American quest for answers on church-state separation took these directions in recent weeks:

• For the second time in 1967, the U. S. Senate passed (71 to 0) a measure to permit court tests of the constitutionality of public aid to church institutions. But House approval is questionable.

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• The National Council of Churches filed a brief asking the U. S. Supreme Court to recognize taxpayers’ right to challenge such aid. The court will rule this term on the right to sue.

• The Supreme Court agreed to rule on the constitutionality of the Federal Communications Commission’s “fairness doctrine” on personal attacks on the air. The doctrine is generally opposed by broadcasters, including right-wing religious speakers.

• Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court upheld a law prohibiting most food stores from selling on Sunday, and Governor Shafer signed a bill prohibiting bias in all housing sales.

From N.C.C. To The Pentagon?

Newspaper reports this month listed J. Irwin Miller, former president of the National Council of Churches, as one of the men being considered to succeed Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense.

The irony in that possibility was that Miller, 58-year-old Indiana industrialist, has been associated with NCC opposition to military escalation in Viet Nam.

Miller is board chairman of Cummins Engine Company, whose business includes a small number of defense contracts. He has long been active in the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) and has also served as an NCC General Board member. A recent issue of Esquire put his picture on the cover and cited him as Republican presidential timber.


The death of Francis Cardinal Spellman this month marked the end of an era in American Catholicism. The 78-year-old spiritual leader of two million Roman Catholics in the Archdiocese of New York was undoubtedly the nation’s most influential and famous Catholic clergyman.

His colorful career welded two disparate attitudes: utter modernity in things material and practical, and conservatism in things ecclesiastical and political. A militant anti-Communist, Spellman urged a role for the United States in Viet Nam back in the 1950s. As Roman vicar of U. S. armed services, for the past fifteen years the cardinal had cheered overseas troops with his annual Christmas visits.

Spellman was ordained in 1916. He went to Rome as a translator in 1925 and impressed the Vatican with American publicity techniques. Here he also became fast friends with the late Pope Pius XII, then Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, who in 1932 consecrated the cherubic Spellman a bishop in St. Peter’s Cathedral. He was named archbishop of New York in 1939 and became a cardinal in 1946.

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As dean of America’s cardinals, Spellman did much to shape the attitudes of his church and his country. Critics considered him somewhat anachronistic as the ecumenical movement gained strength.

He forbade Catholics to see movies he thought were immoral, opposed public aid for birth control, and urged federal aid for parochial schools. He once charged Eleanor Roosevelt with “discrimination unworthy of an American mother” for her opposition to state aid to Catholic schools. Although his church supported it, New York State voters this year rejected a new constitution that would have allowed such aid.

The prelate earned a reputation as a master builder. His promotion campaigns raised well over $500 million for ecclesiastical schools, churches, and institutions.

Two days before the Requiem Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, attended by President Johnson, Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Church offered a requiem there, saying it was the first for a Catholic prelate by an Eastern Church official since 1054.

Archbishop John J. Maguire, coadjutor and vicar general of the archdiocese, was named administrator until Spellman’s successor is named by the Pope.



Argentine Bishop Jeronimo Jose Podesta, 47, outspoken critic of the nation’s military regime, resigned this month upon the demand of the papal nuncio to the nation. The bishop, in revealing this pressure, said he had hoped for an audience with Pope Paul VI. But the Vatican merely announced his resignation without comment.

In his work with 900,000 Catholics in a suburban Buenos Aires diocese, Podesta had a reputation as a social reformer who often quoted Paul’s 1967 encyclical on economic justice. Critics of his political involvements linked him with exiled ex-dictator Juan Peron.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., plans to lead a massive civil-disobedience drive in the nation’s capital next spring to dislocate the government and city functions “until America responds” to the needs of the Negro and white poor.

King, who announced specific tie-up strategy this month at a Southern Christian Leadership Conference meeting, said some 3,000 demonstrators will be trained in non-violent disruption techniques. He admitted the campaign may be risky because of the “angry and bitter” feelings among some Negroes, but he said the program—also mapped for several other Northern cities—is a “last desperate demand” and the only alternative to the “worst chaos, hatred and violence any nation has ever encountered.”

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“The college young people that I have to face every week are not worrying about the abstract questions we are discussing here, such as the doctrine of separation of church and state. What they throw at us are such immediate, concrete, urgent questions as, ‘What about this war in Viet Nam? Are we right in fighting there? Why is our country so divided on it? What stand shall I take?’ ”

Despite this pressing campus mood—described by sociologist Ivan Fahs of Minnesota’s Bethel College—theoretical discussion of war by forty evangelicals this month had its value. Host Myron Augsburger, president of Eastern Mennonite College, summoned the “peace seminar” partly because he is tired of Mennonites talking just with theologically liberal pacifists. So the seminar participants—half Mennonite and half from other traditions, hawks as well as doves—shared a common evangelical theology.

Many admitted they learned something from the other side. For instance, those outside the “peace churches” do not always recognize the distinction between two forms of opposition to all wars: “non-resistance” and “pacifism.” Mennonite theologian John C. Wenger said “pacifism as a movement does not always reckon as seriously as it should with the depths of sin and the human heart, and consequently is overly optimistic about the possible abolition of war.” While many pacifists labor humanistically for abolition of war and make international peace their major goal, “the New Testament non-resistant is concerned primarily to bring men and women to the experience of ‘peace with God’ through the Gospel of Christ in repentance and faith.”

Perhaps the sharpest cleavage during the probingly courteous three-day meeting came when “non-resistants” were told that the logic of non-participation in war requires non-participation in society and monastic withdrawal from life. The rebuttal was that it is difficult, if not impossible, to defend as righteous the promiscuously destructive character of war. The counter-rebuttal was that though war is never “righteous,” some unrighteous wars are justifiable.

The polarity (not explicit) was between the antinomianism of “just war” defenders and the perfectionism of the non-resistants. Willing involvement in unrighteous war seemed too complacent to the one side; the assumption that non-resistants can avoid all involvement seemed too optimistic to the other.

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316 Million Protestants

The 1968 edition of the World Christian Handbook will show that since the 1962 compilation, world population has grown by half a billion, while Protestants and Anglicans now number 316,286,081, a gain of more than 52 million. The new Roman Catholic total is 581 million, with Muslims estimated at 465 million.

The handbook, released by London’s Lutterworth Press, may in the future be produced by a new church documentation center in the Netherlands, with both Roman Catholic and World Council of Churches backing.

The new fifth edition of the handbook reports country by country, with a breakdown of membership by denomination and mission societies.

Some “doves” were surprised that the most articulate defender of justifiable wars was free to concede that all wars are unrighteous. Some “hawks” were surprised that non-resistants did not attribute guilt to those who, in Christian conscience, participate in war.

Conservative Baptist Seminary President Vernon Grounds painted with some bold strokes on a big canvas in his talk on social responsibility: “Political action is a legitimate expression of Christian love, and is a self-justifying expression of that love. It is not merely a circuitous method of proselytizing, a technique for obtaining some sort of commitment.… At the risk of misunderstanding, we can affirm that social action as an expression of love is an autonomous activity which does not demand any end beyond itself.”

Baylor University historian James Wood discussed nationalism in Hans Kohn’s sense—“a state of mind in which the supreme loyalty of the individual is felt to be due to the nation-state.” Wood said nationalism, including American, “ultimately judges or tolerates all religion on the basis of whether or not it is useful to the state. So long as religion serves the national interests and programs of the nation-state it may be tolerated, even warmly embraced.”

In the discussion it was pointed out that Americanism easily leads unwary citizens into uncritical approval of whatever the government does—for example, Viet Nam.

In summary, Augsburger said substantial consensus was reached on these points:

1. The need for clearer recognition of the human meaning of the Old Testament and the humanity of the incarnate Christ, and of their implications for church ministry.

2. The universal character of the Church as it seeks to fulfill its mandate and follow, above all, Christ’s authority.

3. The urgent need that the Church express itself more clearly on the evils of social injustice and work against the causes of these evils.

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4. The Church’s value in exposing the evils of idolatrous nationalism and in calling the nation to refine and restrict the claims it makes for itself.

5. War as a judgment of God upon sin; all war as a form of sin; a sense of penitence about the Viet Nam war; prayer and evangelical action as a deterrent to war through Christian redemptive influence.

Likely topics for an expected followup seminar are the doctrine of the state, what the Sermon on the Mount says about church and state, and the practicability of total Christian disengagement from war in modern democracies.


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