Some California evangelicals are breaching barriers to hippies and other urban “unreachables.” Most of the dropouts have church backgrounds, many of them evangelical. An increasing number are ministers’ sons.

Curiously, opposition from the rear threatens to isolate the evangelical pioneers in an ecclesiastical no-man’s-land.

Ask Southern Baptist evangelist Arthur Blessit, 27, who runs “His Place,” a coffeehouse on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Or converted hippie Ted Wise, 30, who heads “The Living Room,” an evangelical beachhead in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district.

Sunset Strip clubs and sidewalks are clogged nightly with thousands of teens, including each night some 500 who jam into “His Place” for free coffee and sandwiches, gospel “rock, folk, and soul” tunes, and midnight sermons. Result: “Five or six receive Christ every night,” reports Blessit.

Blessit, who believes in “taking the gospel where the action is,” has also scored conversions among the “booze, dope, and sex” clientele at the famed Hollywood-A-Go-Go club during by-popular-demand Tuesday-night shows. His program: “groovy music, testimonies of ‘name’ Christians and former drug-users, and my messages—with no pulled punches.” His associate, Leo Humphrey, 33, recently led club coowner Rose Gazzarri to Christ, but a few weeks ago her partner and brother banned Blessit except for a few “seasonal” appearances. It seems other club operators fear a bad-for-business gospel aftermath.

The same group tried unsuccessfully to ban Blessit from witnessing on their sidewalks by having him arrested for blocking pedestrian traffic. The judge threw out the case during a colorful jury trial April 30. Blessit was defended by the American Civil Liberties Union. The young Jewish defense lawyer portrayed Blessit as a doctor pausing to treat spiritually ill persons in the best tradition of the Great Physician.

Most Strip transients, Blessit says, are “plastics”—young counterfeit hippies—from well-to-do families. Many blame their disillusionment on the “hypocrisy” and “misery” of Christianity as practiced at home.

Although Blessit’s talks often spark eager responses on the Strip, his appeals for follow-up help back home don’t. He offers the converts literature, training classes, and directions to evangelical churches in their home neighborhoods. But his letters to pastors requesting that they contact the youths are, dishearteningly, “almost always” unheeded.

In a survey, some pastors bluntly told Blessit they didn’t want Negroes or anyone with a hippie background in their churches. Nearly fifty others said they were “willing” but begged off because they “lacked a church program that would interest those young people.”

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Frequently caught in the middle on the issue is suburban San Francisco pastor John MacDonald, one of three American Baptist ministers who founded Ted Wise’s storefront coffeehouse, “The Living Room,” more than a year ago. MacDonald says hippie converts have native inclinations to reject the institutional, regimented aspects of the Church, while longtime parishioners scorn lingering hippie nonconformity. The clash leads to “isolation versus insulation” tendencies, causing some on both sides to worship elsewhere.

Most Living Roomers have found niches of service in evangelical churches, though in every case they are a source of irritation to some among the old guard. Another “Living Room” sponsor says wryly, “Most of our people want to share their Christ with the hippies, but not their pews—until the hippies conform to ‘straight’ appearances.”

Beards, beads, and sandals are a matter of retained culture for Wise and his volunteer aides. Wise, part of the original Haight-Ashbury scene, was saved from drugs and immorality two years ago. He immediately began winning others of the psychedelic set to Christ. He now makes sails part-time to help pay “Living Room” bills. Wise has “In” status, deep-rooted evangelistic fervor, and a surprisingly keen knowledge of Scripture. The result is scores of conversions. Some new converts return home, but others insist on maintaining transiency, which makes follow-up difficult.

Drugs, especially marijuana, present special problems for many hippie converts who “don’t see anything wrong” with them. Most eventually abstain, but for unorthodox reasons. (“Who needs drugs when you can have a permanent high with Jesus?” “Christians must obey the laws, even bad ones.”)

Wise is much in demand as a speaker to youth groups, who give him an enthusiastic hearing. Most adults are wary. After it featured a story on Wise, Christian Life magazine received a storm of protest from disgusted readers. Some churches returned bundle subscriptions with expressions of worry “lest our young people read about this.” A few readers, however, offered commendations, and some even asked for help in locating runaway children. (Wise was able to find three.)

On a recent visit to Haight-Ashbury, evangelist David Wilkerson, the author of The Cross and the Switchblade, was “shocked” by the language and drug use of some new converts. He promptly denounced them and Wise’s ministry over Bay Area radio and TV and in the newspapers. The manager at one Christian radio station was dismayed by the attack; he’s a “Living Room” board member.

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A local official with Wilkerson’s antidrug Teen Challenge project privately voiced regret, adding, “Dave’s authoritarian methods work with hard dope addicts, but not hippies. We haven’t had much success in reaching them.”

“Living Room” spokesmen called the magazine story “premature” and Wilkerson’s charges “a threat to our successful, but still experimental, witness.” Despite the opposition and lagging financial support, they and Wise vow to continue.


Even the U.S. Army has its hippies—the 100,000 “marginal soldiers” who bring their character and behavior problems into the service each year. Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D. C., has run an experimental four-month rehabilitation program for two years now. Of forty-eight graduates, three-fourths are back on regular duty. In an untreated control group, 80 per cent went AWOL, landed in a stockade, or got an undesirable discharge.

The Army psychiatrists use the basic Pavlovian system: good behavior is rewarded with passes, playing cards, education, or TV. Bad performance is ignored; not punished. Nobody has to do anything.

Among thirteen staffers on the project is Methodist hospital chaplain David W. Polhemus, who holds a weekly class with the men, few of whom have had any contact with organized religion.

One major theme is that God accepts and loves the dropout. The chaplain also advises them that nobody will listen until “you are selective in your non-conformity.” “Anything beyond three slops and a flop [meals and a night’s sleep] must be paid for through participation in life.”

One discussion-starter was, “Does life actually have an ending?” One hippie replied that life ended when he entered the Army and would start up again upon discharge.


Colorado’s Episcopal Bishop Joseph S. Minnis, who faced an August 20 trial on unspecified charges, said last month he would resign. But apparently the trial will be held anyway, under church law.

The charges, involving personal conduct, were made by seventeen laymen, and an indictment was subsequently issued by the denomination’s Board of Inquiry.

In a speech to the diocesan convention, Minnis said the “sickness of heart” in the diocese over the past year has taken a toll on his family, including two sons who are priests in Colorado. He did not set any date for the resignation.

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A Canadian-born ecumenist known as a theological conservative was elected moderator of the 180th General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. He is the Rev. John Coventry Smith, 64, general secretary of the United Presbyterian Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations since 1959.

Smith, who spent twelve years in Japan as a missionary and was interned there for six months during World War II, was chosen on the second ballot. He received 476 of the 818 votes cast. The Rev. Frederick E. Christian, a pastor in Westfield, New Jersey, got 188 votes. The Rev. David E. Dilworth, chaplain and teacher at Whitworth College, got 154.

Smith was in the old United Presbyterian Church of North America before it merged in 1958 with the larger Presbyterian denomination, both mainly in the northern United States. He is the first from the smaller church elected moderator since Dr. Theophilus M. Taylor, whose election in 1958 was widely interpreted as a conciliatory gesture.

As a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and the General Board of the National Council of Churches, Smith has repeatedly espoused a wide assortment of social pronouncements. He also is a soft-spoken, gracious person who has the reputation of being a committed evangelical, and he has promoted contacts with evangelicals outside the conciliar movement.

A native of Ontario, Smith grew up in western Pennsylvania and northern Ohio. He was graduated from Muskingum College and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.


Evangelical Press Association editors were told off twice at last month’s meeting. First by alienated youth, in The Why Generation, a provocative drama produced for the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism. Second by black militants, during two hours at “The Way,” a community center in the Minneapolis Negro sector.

The Why Generation, produced by young people at a Presbyterian church, includes bitter denunciations of the Church by youths in the United States and overseas drawn from actual interviews (see November 25, 1966, issue, page 35).

At “The Way,” Milt Williams, bearded, bushy-haired teacher of Afro-American history, delivered a brilliant, earthy survey of material left out of “white nationalist” schoolbooks.

Negroes have been in America for fifteen generations, he said, longer than nine-tenths of the whites. “We paid a hell of a lot of dues to make this country rich.” As for the diligence of white immigrants, he said, “You didn’t work any harder than my grandfather. That’s a damn lie. If you were so swinging, why weren’t you rich in Wales?” “We built the country from the ground up,” he continued, hooking his thumb in a long string of beads around his neck.

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Negro Baptist minister Stanley King, head of another community-action agency, said both blacks and whites want to duck blame for the murder of 156 people in city riots. Blacks need to accept responsibility, he said, but whites must provide economic resources. “Many say, ‘lift yourselves up by your bootstraps,’ but we don’t have any boots.”

King said urban unrest “is not my problem. It’s not your problem. It’s an American problem.” The only way to stop Communist aggression in poor nations, he said, is for America to prove it believes in justice.

As for the Church, he scored its racism and said it has “hurled an anathema at the inner city.” Suburban churches are “air-conditioned cubicles with three-manual organs to drown out the cries of the perishing!” he shouted.

A white suburban minister, Methodist Rolland Robinson, spoke as president of the board of “The Way.” He said that “the Church, predominantly influenced by liberalism, has totally misunderstood” the race situation. It thought education and evolution would erase the problems. But “racism is a demon. You must exorcise it.” He said evangelicals have failed to counter the dangerous “optimism on human nature” that “perpetuates racism in the Church and condones it in society.”

If two of the black speakers were nervous about the meeting, so were some of the white visitors. One middle-aged lady editor admitted, “I got out of there as fast as possible.”

The day before, at a panel on situation ethics, talented piano Professor C. Edward Thomas of Bethel College, St. Paul, said he saw value in Joseph Fletcher’s agape emphasis. As a Negro trying to find housing, he discovered “Christian people are more concerned with their property than with me as a person.”

Closing-night speaker Lester DeKoster of the Reformed Journal and of Calvin College expressed surprise at the panel’s “mild acquiescence to Fletcher. Never has love suffered such systematic destruction.”

“Liberal theology welcomes an honesty-to-God which questions his existence,” DeKoster said. But for fifty years the Soviet Union has provided a laboratory test of the idea, and “men have gone out with God.” With God “dead,” Stalin scientifically collectivized the farms in the interests of the whole and “12 to 15 million peasants disappeared in the process.”

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He said Communism proves that “when politics is not invaded by religion, it becomes an agent of destruction.” DeKoster said the “unfilled promise of evangelical Christianity to this generation” is a passion for saving men’s institutions as well as souls. He then recounted some of John Calvin’s daring, institution-saving social action in Geneva.

On internal matters, EPA rejected a bid from the ecumenical Associated Church Press to hold a joint or concurrent convention. A statement noted “friendly ties” through the several mazazines that belong to both associations but said “differences exist.” The key difference is “doctrinal distinctiveness,” said EPA President Paul Fromer of His, an ACP member; leaders feared a joint meeting could split EPA.

Judged Periodical of the Year from among EPA’s 184 publications was Campus Crusade’s bright quarterly Collegiate Challenge. But the judge in the “Most Improved Periodical” contest, Wesley Hartzell of Chicago’s American, said Challenge “has reverted to a ‘house organ’ rather than a forum appealing to all collegians and challenging them for Christ.…”

After scanning the magazines, Joseph Bayly of David C. Cook Company said that “writing hasn’t improved as much as art and layout,” and EPA subsequently voted two $150 scholarships for student writers at evangelical colleges, one for a Negro “if possible.”


The United Presbyterian Church of West Pakistan, inheritor of the legacy of Andrew Gordon and John “Praying” Hyde, lies in shambles following a violent April split. The rupture was brewing for years over the so-called dictatorship of veteran Moderator K. L. Nasir, accused of trying to control the synod and other Presbyterian institutions.

Opponents, who say Nasir’s influence has dwindled, accuse his supporters of starting violence at the April meeting to prevent his ouster. They reportedly threw chairs and flower pots and broke windows, and general disorder prevailed. Nasir supporters—about one-third of the synod members—walked out and held their own “synod” on the grass outside. Three weeks later the Nasir party formed what it called the true Presbyterian Church, paving the way for a bitter court struggle.

President Carl McIntire of the International Council of Christian Churches, long a foe of the Presbyterian establishment, predictably showed up at the Nasir synod to fish in the troubled waters. But it was a strange catch for anti-ecumenist McIntire. Nasir was a leading figure in Pakistan ecumenical circles until the split, when he renounced these ties. He was principal of the United Theological Seminary, president of the West Pakistan Christian Council, a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, and a strong advocate of a proposed united church.

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The new denomination joined McIntire and split with the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. Nasir based the action on the U. S. “Confession of 1967,” but the Pakistan synod had earlier discussed the new confession and rejected it in favor of the traditional Westminster Confession. A missionary said, “Liberal theology is no problem here because it just won’t stand up in a Muslim culture.”

The real issue appears to be money and control of institutions. One missionary said, “Unfortunately, none of the church leaders are clean in this fight. There could be no neutrals. Everybody had to pledge loyalty to one party or another. The only clean ones are the laymen.” No one is quite sure whether the laymen will support their pastors in secession.

The bitterness goes deep, and the majority Muslims are likely to see the Christian minority fighting and fragmented for a long time to come.

In neighboring India, meanwhile, McIntire’s ICCC claims to have won the allegiance of 471 Baptist congregations in the Telegu area. The American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, however, estimates the dissident group led by the Rev. J. Edward at between five and twenty congregations.

An ABFMS spokesman said that in 1957 the vast majority of South India’s Baptist churches voted to form Telegu “Samavesam” in order to circumvent a complicated legal battle with Edward. He said this group, which continues ABFMS affiliation, includes 553 churches with about 190,000 members. In the intervening decade Edward has lost three lawsuits, and in January of this year his churches voted to link up with the ICCC.

Edward claims his group is nationalist and lay-oriented—similar to the Burmese Baptist Convention, which he says brought about the expulsion of missionaries from that nation in 1966.

In a letter to McIntire, Edward said the missionaries employ “a gang of parasites, sycophants, mercenaries, satellites, seducers, and guerrillas,” attracted by “bags of foreign money.”

As to Edward’s charges of heresy, the ABFMS official said the South India affiliates are “as conservative as you’re likely to find.” Edward also opposes participation in the National Christian Council of India and use of the New English Bible.

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Raymond Joseph, Wheaton College graduate who leads the Haitian Coalition, said that his group of exiles in the United States did not organize last month’s invasion of Haiti by anti-Duvalier forces in the Bahamas, but they agreed with the goals of the group. Lay preacher Arthur Bonhomme, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, announced that the small invasion force had been crushed at Cap Haitien. Haiti then lodged in the United Nations an official complaint against the United States that referred to Joseph’s shortwave broadcasts critical of the Duvalier regime (see March 15 issue, page 43).

Portland: Melting The Resrve

By the time they near the half-century mark, most evangelists tend to slow down, to lose their luster, to establish institutions, and to reminisce. George Whitefield was an exception. So is Billy Graham.

In Portland, Oregon, last fortnight, the roses were still in bud, but the man Graham was in full bloom. Presidential candidates were whistle-stopping around the state, mostly with indifferent results; but the appeal of Graham’s message was undiminished. The new Memorial Coliseum on the banks of the Willamette plus two overflow rooms were filled each night as he proclaimed the same Gospel that had won such an astonishing hearing a month earlier in Sydney, Australia. (Three services of the Portland crusade will be telecast in color in hundreds of cities beginning June 17.)

The attraction for young people was again evident, and Graham reaped his advantage by scheduling three youth nights in nine days. He invited a dozen “rose princesses” to sit on his platform, and one of them gave her Christian testimony. He shared his pulpit with the popular U. S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield, whose Christian testimony is well known. Norma Zimmer of the Lawrence Welk TV show also gave a Christian testimony and sang.

As a result, things began to happen. The sight of hundreds of young people flocking forward nightly to give their lives to Christ melted the reserve of many a conservative Oregonian. Church leaders, excited to see their own people making spiritual commitments, began to speak of “revival” and “awakening.”

By the time the ten-day crusade was half over, 99,730 persons had passed through the coliseum turnstiles and 2,830 had passed through another kind of turnstile, the nature of which only the Spirit of God knew. Well over half of these were making first-time commitments to Jesus Christ.

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A nurse at the first-aid station in the coliseum heard the invitation one night and responded in uniform. A minister and his wife and son came forward, the parents for rededication, and when the counselor filled out the wife’s card he referred her to her husband.

Many links with an earlier crusade in the Rose City were discovered. A man and his wife had found Christ in 1950 in the tabernacle on Glisan Street; this time their three children made commitments. The chairman of the counselors serving each night was himself a 1950 convert.

But this year Portland faced urban problems unknown in post-war days. A Negro member of the Graham team, associate evangelist Ralph Bell of Los Angeles, was one of the chief speakers at the School of Evangelism held during the crusade and attended by some 420 seminarians and young pastors from four Western states. Bell warned them that evangelical churches have been inexcusably slow to accord Christian treatment to their Negro brethren.

Editorialized the Oregon Journal, “A Graham campaign gives a moral and spiritual lift to a city or a region wherever it is conducted. Portland and its environs was no exception.” As the crusade moved to its climax, that opinion seemed well grounded.


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