All over Korea during May and early June, farmers were busy transplanting rice seedlings. On the Christian calendar, however, it was harvest time. The nation was penetrated by the Gospel as few—if any—countries ever have been. The spring spiritual effort was climaxed in Seoul May 30-June 3 when Billy Graham preached to more people in five days than he had ever confronted in any crusade of any length before. It was also apparently the largest gathering in Church history.

Using a system of pre-marked sections that allowed for about three square feet per person, Korean organizers of the Seoul crusade estimated that 3.2 million came to the five meetings, including 1.1 million at the closing Sunday-afternoon rally. (Police estimates were about 50 per cent less.) Crusade totals thus surpassed by more than 900,000 the total attendance at Graham’s 1957 New York City meeting, which lasted sixteen weeks. Also falling was the record established at Glasgow, Scotland, during six weeks in 1955, when the cumulative total was 2,647,365.

The crusade was backed by virtually all the 1,600 Protestant churches in Seoul; Catholics, Buddhists, and Confucianists were in the enthusiastic crowds by the thousands.

“I seriously doubt if we will ever see meetings like this again in my ministry,” the evangelist said at the end of the series. What he had seen were the fruits of some ninety years of evangelical missionary work plus unprecedented cooperation among the churches in recent months of preparation. Graham often publicly acknowledged the contributions of both the missionaries and the churches, and in his final statement he declared, “Those of us who had the privilege of participating in it will never forget what God did in Korea.”

What Graham saw in Seoul, six of his associate evangelists saw in six provincial cities (Taegu, Taejon, Pusan, Chunchon, Kwangju, Chonju). They each conducted week-long crusades and spoke in a variety of auxiliary meetings. (For example, Grady Wilson on one occasion addressed 60,000 students in Pusan.) Cumulative attendance at their crusade was estimated at 1,177,300 while approximately 135,000 heard them in other meetings (such as in schools, military bases, and businesses). Few of the team members had ever before had larger audiences.

After the associates concluded their crusades, they came to Seoul to take on additional meeting engagements. Other members of the Graham team also spoke extensively in the capital area. In nearly every meeting, opportunities were given for public profession of faith in Christ. In the two weeks preceding the crusade, nearly 40,000 Christians from 6,142 churches distributed Christian literature to every home in Seoul (population: 6.6 million).

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Statistics on responses to the invitations were difficult to obtain, since many of the meetings were held in close quarters and there was no possibility of getting inquirers to “come forward.” Some of the Korean leaders expressed the opinion that for every decision card received in Crusade headquarters there were three other unrecorded decisions.

The number on record the last day of the crusade, however, was over 75,000 (including the inquirers in other cities and meetings).

Christian leaders in Korea saw the spring evangelistic effort as a landmark in the nation’s history.

“It is a new epoch in the history of the Korean church and a new beginning for Christian unity and cooperation in our church,” commented the Reverend Kyung Chik Han, chairman of the crusade executive committee and pastor emeritus of the internationally known Young Nak Presbyterian church—the world’s largest Presbyterian church.

The impact will be felt beyond Korea’s borders and throughout Asia, according to an assessment by Presbyterian seminary professor Samuel H. Moffett of Seoul, a second-generation missionary who believes the event was “a history-making turning point in the history of Christianity in Asia.”

He also said the crusade brought a new spirit of Christian unity to South Korea’s splintered Protestantism and lifted the morale of the believers, conscious of their minority status in a land that is 90 per cent non-Christian.

Moffett’s father was the first Protestant clergyman to enter Korea as a missionary. He came ashore at Seoul about a mile down river from Yoido, the island on which the crusade was held. “Never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined rivers of people streaming across that river to hear the Gospel,” the son said of his father.

Night after night they did stream across the bridges, most of them on foot. Some walked two hours or more each way. One widow was reported to have saved for a month to buy a ticket for an hour-long train ride. Few came in cars, and most of those who did drive had to leave the vehicles on the other side of the bridge and walk over since there was virtually no parking space. Hundreds of buses drove across the bridge and discharged their capacity crowds and then went back into the city to pick up more passengers.

Besides the seats for platform guests, the choir, and a few special guests, the only seating available was the pavement of a former runway now used as a military parade ground. Some people brought straw mats or scraps of plastic, but many sat on pieces of newspaper or nothing at all. A decades-long curfew was lifted, allowing a number to stay overnight.

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There was no protection from the elements, and on the first three nights the weather was unseasonably cool, with stiff winds blowing. For the final rally, an afternoon event, the sun bore down on the crowd.

More than 6,000 sang in the choir in Seoul. There were other thousands in the choirs in the provincial cities. Counselor training was virtually unknown before the meeting, but thousands took the course and helped in the crusade. In one of the satellite cities, few older Christians took the course, so nearly all the counselors were young students. Many of the ushers were women dressed in their traditional costumes.

Assistants came from nearly all missions operating in Korea. Para-church organizations that work in the nation were deeply involved, too.

One of the groups helping out and observing at close range was Campus Crusade for Christ, which plans to hold Explo ’74 in Korea next year (300,000 expected). Many of the international organization’s leaders were on hand. Campus Crusade has developed such a following in Korea that it uses an eighteen-story building in Seoul for a training program. Graham plugged Explo from the platform.

He also repeatedly spoke of the spiritual power in Korea and suggested that from a base in Korea Asia could become a “gravitational center” of Christianity. He said, “I urge church and theological leaders, especially in Europe and America, to come and study the Korean church. I believe the secret of the power and strength of the Korean church is that they believe and proclaim the Bible. They have a strong evangelistic and missionary interest. They couple all of this with a great social concern.”

The Korean church has been growing at a rate four times that of the population growth. It has been doubling every decade. Graham said that it was “the fastest-growing church in the world.”

One part of Asia that looked somewhat askance at what was happening below Korea’s demilitarized zone was the Communist-controlled sector. In violation of the agreement under which talks had been going on for several months between North and South Korea, the Communist radio attacked the crusade and accused the government in the South of forcing a large attendance. The embarrassment for the North was especially acute, since more than half of the executive committee in Seoul is made up of refugees from the North. They were unmoved by the broadcast claims that the government had brought in Graham to chase away “evil spirits” and to oversee a “gambling” attraction. The reaction was expected from the Communists, they say.

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Many at the crusade’s closing meeting chanted, “Fifty million for Christ!” The slogan had clear overtones. That figure is the combined population of both Koreas.

Nobody, however, had expected the degree of response to the crusade all over the nation. Nobody, that is, except the thousands of Christians who prayed, some for many hours early in the morning day after day.

Passing Of A Liberal

Professor Otto Eissfeldt of the University of Halle (East Germany), one of the foremost practitioners of Old Testament literary criticism, died recently at age 85. Eissfeldt’s books are standard works in many seminaries. He elaborated on the traditional JEPD hypothesis of his teacher Julius Wellhausen to “discover” two J-sources in the first four books of Moses. A liberal in more ways than one, Eissfeldt was one of the few university scholars to acknowledge the scholarly quality of the work of Samuel Külling of Basel, who rejects the theories of Wellhausen and Eissfeldt and holds to the single Mosaic authorship of the bulk of the Pentateuch.

The Kirk Immovable

An oldtime Scots comedian used to refer to the time of the Kirk’s annual gathering in Edinburgh as “the week when the city is covered by black spots.” When the 1,300 commissioners converge on the assembly hall near the ancient castle on the hill, and the precentor leads them in unaccompanied psalm-singing, the capital is reassured that Scotland stands where she did. Or so it used to be.

This year the national television cameras reappeared, as did the press’s top reporters (what other country’s religious occasions are so fully covered?). Outside the hall a few Protestants stood in the rain beside a coffin draped with a Union Jack, a soldier’s helmet on top to remind delegates of troops killed in Ulster, and to point to the iniquity of having a visiting popish abbot in their midst.

The agenda for the Church of Scotland’s conclave was impressive and wide-ranging. Prime Minister Edward Heath was to speak, within a week of a call-girl scandal that had deprived him of two ministers. The bishop of Iceland would address the assembly at a time when the “Cod War” with Britain had reached alarming dimensions. And news had just come that kirk membership had diminished by a shocking 23,000 over the past year, and that there were 50,000 fewer Sunday-school children than in 1967.

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But Mr. Heath did not refer to morals, the bishop spoke no word about peace in our time, and the assembly never really came to grips with the problem of shrinking numbers, though a former moderator gloomily prophesied that if the trend continued there would be nobody in the church in forty-four years. “The Church of Christ will not die,” exclaimed Professor Robin Barbour, adding pointedly, “but what about this institution?” In that institution, observed another younger minister valiantly, “we see more grey hairs than enough” (a kirk official has estimated the average ministerial age to be fifty-five). Perhaps it was not surprising, then, that drastic remedies and constructive suggestions were rejected by the assembly, less than 10 per cent of which had stayed until the vote was taken on a motion that might have led to greater representation for the young on church courts.

The assembly’s general lack of enthusiasm extended to other projects. It again declined official commendation of the WCC’s special fund to combat racism and of the withdrawal of church investment in corporations trading in Southern Africa. It took another hesitant step toward relegating the Westminster Confession from subordinate standard to “historic statement.” It remained unmoved when Lord MacLeod of Fuinary introduced his eloquent annual lost cause in trying to get the kirk to clarify attitudes toward nuclear war.

There was almost a biblically based debate when someone objected to the listing in the kirk’s Diary of Monday as the first day of the week; only a Scots assembly would have been satisfied with the explanation that pages had been bought economically in bulk from a source not limited to religious customers. There was the traditional tilt at the quaint moderatorial attire when Dr. R. Selby Wright installed as his successor Dr. George Reid of Aberdeen: “I don’t really feel that eternal truths need be held up by eternal breeches.” Altogether, though, the establishment emerged unbloodied, the status at the end of the day was impressively quo, and only one of the militant Protestants in the gallery mustered up a good shout for John Knox.

Across the street, meanwhile, the Free Kirk assembly called on the government to observe a national Day of Humiliation and Prayer, and urged the prime minister to make moral character his first concern when choosing high government officers. Referring in his opening address to Common Market entry, new moderator G. C. Dunnett warned of the dangers, but pointed out that this could provide “enlarged opportunities of making Christ known,” and of strengthening the hands of those already working among their countrymen of Europe. The assembly chose Professor W. J. Cameron to be principal of the Free Church College.

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Mending The Breach

The Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church—two small denominations with common ancestry in the modernist-fundamentalist controversies of the 1930s—took long steps toward mending permanently a thirty-five-year-old split between their own churches in late May meetings. The two denominations represent approximately 30,000 members.

The two churches’ denominational gatherings sent down to presbyteries and local churches for study and comment the two major parts of a three-part plan of union, with the expectation that the completed plan can be submitted for formal approval by both churches next year. The two parts contain a declaration of purpose and spell out doctrinal and governmental standards. Part III, dealing with the mechanics of union and operational details, will be completed this fall.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, whose 140 commissioners met in Manhattan Beach, California, remains virtually the same church that, under the leadership of J. Gresham Machen, separated in 1937 from what was then called the Presbyterian Church, U. S. A. Orthodox Presbyterian delegates gave overwhelming approval to the proposal to send the plan of union down for grassroots study.

Reformed Presbyterians are made up of one branch extending back to 1774 in the United States and another that broke away from the Orthodox Presbyterians shortly after the 1937 division. Portions of those two roots were merged in 1965. Last month 201 ministers and ruling elders of that united church sent the proposals down for study with few dissenting votes.

In the proposed plan of union, the two churches look back candidly at the 1937 split, saying, “We do not claim to have achieved unanimity of opinion on all the issues that led to that division but in effecting this union we do confess that the unity of Christ’s church should not have been broken as it was in 1937. Both those who left and those who suffered them to leave did so without pursuing with zeal all the Scriptural means for reconciliation. Each sinned in a measure, and even the least sin against the love of Christ brings reproach on His name.”


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