When he assumed the vice-presidency ten months ago, Gerald R. Ford told newspaper reporters that his faith “is a personal thing. It’s not something one shouts from the housetops or wears on his sleeve. For me, my religious feeling is a deep personal faith I rely on for guidance from my God.” Now that he is President, Ford is still reluctant to publicize his faith—but he’s not about to hide it, either.

Faced with uncertainties and conflicting reports about his status in the week preceding Richard Nixon’s resignation, Ford continued his regular routine, which included a prayer meeting with two of his close friends in the House of Representatives—Albert Quie, a Minnesota Republican, and John Rhodes, House Republican leader, who is from Arizona (the fourth member of the group, former defense secretary Melvin Laird, was not present). Questioned by reporters who were convinced it was a political strategy session, Ford said the prayer meeting was “a very quiet, much off-the-record group.” He reportedly assured his three friends that if he were to become President, the meetings—which have been held at 11 A.M. every Wednesday for several months—would continue.

There were other signs of Ford’s quiet faith. At the swearing-in ceremony his left hand rested on a family Bible open at Proverbs 3:5, 6, one of the new President’s favorite Scripture passages and one that he reportedly repeats nightly as a prayer.“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” On his first Sunday as President, Ford attended Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, (Episcopal) the Fords’ family church in the Washington area. (Ford is the nation’s tenth Episcopal president). The Ford family arrived at the Alexandria, Virginia, church shortly before the service started and slipped quietly into a back pew. There they heard prayers for the new President—something he’d asked for at his swearing-in ceremony—and a sermon urging parishioners not to “gloat and glower and grimace” over the events of the week.

Ford’s request that he be confirmed as President “by your prayers” was typical of the man, say his congressional colleagues. It was, said his closest friend, Congressman Quie (who was listed by some as a vice-presidential possibility), “the real Jerry Ford.” The swearing-in speech plus Ford’s address to Congress also impressed Oregon Republican John Dellenback, chairman of the House Prayer Breakfast Committee. “There were such easy references to God,” said Dellenback. “They weren’t strained or laborious speechwriters’ references.” In the Senate, Iowa’s Harold Hughes, who is leaving the Senate this year for full-time Christian work, said of Ford, “There’s no doubt he’s with it. He’s really committed to God.” Senator Jennings Randolph, a West Virginia Democrat, added that Ford brings to the presidency “strength of character, belief in God, and a record of family devotion, regular church attendance, and a reliance on our common Creator.” Nebraska’s Senator Carl Curtis noted that the intensive investigation of Ford after his nomination to the vice-presidency gave him a clean bill of health for honesty, integrity, and ability. Ford’s words, Curtis added, indicate that his thinking “is based on sound Christian doctrine.”

Article continues below

But while they are pleased with the new President, many evangelicals in congress are also cautious. Few are willing to go out on a limb regarding Ford’s faith; they’d rather he speak for himself. “Let’s not make the same mistake we made with President Nixon,” said one congressman, who preferred not to be named. “That is, present him as a born-again Christian without really knowing his true commitment.” The congressman said that in several speeches to religiously oriented bodies (Ford spoke to the National Religious Broadcasters in January and the Southern Baptist Convention in June) the President had not mentioned “the name of Christ.” Arizona Republican John Conlan agreed that evangelicals should tread lightly on the spiritual side of the President’s life. “We should let him speak out for himself about his spiritual commitment and relationship rather than others speaking for him. It’s wise for a man to give his own testimony.”

But if evangelicals expect President Ford to declare himself on national television, say his supporters, they may have a wait. There are dangers that a President closely identified with one group or another might use his association with that group to garner votes, or else be accused of doing so, said Quie. There is also the danger that religious groups would use that association to further their own ends, he added. Ford, he said, is aware that many people are suspicious of such declarations while others want to turn people “into something they’re not,” For Quie, it is enough that the President “is a man who believes in prayer and doesn’t wear his religion on his sleeve.”

While some evangelicals in Washington are reluctant to name Ford as a fellow believer—even though they welcome the signs—Newsweek magazine and the New York Times showed no such hesitancy. In a post-resignation cover story Newsweek flatly declared that “like a growing number of Washington figures, Ford is an evangelical Christian.” Said the Times: “It is widely assumed that [Ford’s religious beliefs] embrace the evangelical Christian faith.” Similar thoughts were expressed by friends and supporters when Ford became Vice-President (see December 7, 1973, issue, page 50). At that time also, his son Michael, a 24-year-old student at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, described his father as “a man very committed to God” who preferred to show his faith through deeds rather than words.

Article continues below

And the son’s faith has been an influence on the father. At a House prayer breakfast earlier this year Ford told his colleagues that he had been strengthened in faith himself by seeing the impact of a strong faith on Mike’s life. Said Dellenback: “Normally, influence flows from parent to child. In this case it flowed the other way. [Ford and his wife Betty] were impressed by the way the Lord took a grip on Mike’s life.” At a prayer meeting in Congress shortly before his father became President, Michael prayed: “Protect him and keep him strong in spirit.… Grant him the courage to trust in you always and not in the things of this world. Work in his heart … to seek your guidance and direction in all things.”

Meanwhile evangelist Billy Graham called for thankfulness that “the trauma of the past months is passing” and that “a man of the moral caliber of Gerald Ford was waiting in the wings to take over.” Graham, along with others, also called for prayer for the former president and his family.

But there were also some backward glimpses. Presbyterian minister John Huffman, formerly pastor of the Presbyterian church that the Nixon family sometimes attended in Key Biscayne, Florida, told newspapers that the Nixon resignation was “the very best thing for the nation.” He added that Nixon had “lied to the American people and to me personally.” Huffman, now pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said that he was assured by Nixon in personal conversations that the president was “doing everything in his power” to get to the bottom of Watergate. The resignation and disgrace were a tragedy for the family, Huffman declared, “but justice must be served.”

At the Southern Baptist Convention’s Home Missions Week in Glorieta, New Mexico, some 2,200 heard Nixon’s resignation speech and then knelt in prayer for Nixon, Ford, and the nation.

Article continues below

The troubles facing Ford as he assumed office were many. High on the list were inflation, lingering bitterness over Watergate, a shaky Mideast peace, and the crisis in Cyprus. But his congressional prayer colleagues are convinced that President Ford will meet those problems as he has met many others—in prayer and with a quiet faith.


Compassion And The Law

The resignation of Richard M. Nixon created a hard question for evangelicals and others in Congress: Can compassion for the former president be allowed to overcome the legal process? Or can the two operate at once?

“This is a time not alone for compassion, but for fairness and reasonableness,” declared Senator Carl Curtis (R-Neb.), “For civil authorities to proceed further is not a matter of compassion but of justice.”

Those thoughts were echoed in many congressional offices. Christ’s message was one of repentance before forgiveness, said Congressman John Dellenback (R-Ore.) and while “my heart goes out to Mr. Nixon and his family” Christians in Congress have an obligation to their oath and to the standard of equality under the law. “I didn’t hear [Nixon] say ‘I was wrong,’ or ‘I committed a serious offense; I’m sorry and I ask for your forgiveness” in his farewell speech. Only that there were a few errors in judgment,” said Dellenback. Without any sign of repentance, he said, forgiveness will be harder to come by. But he added that vengeance should not be a motive for any prosecution. Senator Jennings Randolph (D-W.Va.) said any moves to press prosecution of the former president should be “a matter of careful thought and not a hasty action.”

Congressman John Anderson (Ill.), third-ranking Republican in the House, said he hoped “the deep moral lessons of Watergate will not be forgotten.” Senator Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) added that “a spirit of reconciliation” is needed to restore trust and confidence. “Instead of malice and retribution we should pause and reflect on those individuals this pervasive web has entangled and shattered.”

Those who are trying to make up their minds on the matter of prosecution have one comfort: immunity from prosecution is a technical question. The final decision rests in the hands of Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski.


Contrary to rumors circulating among church groups throughout the country, Congress has no plans to cancel tax-deductible contributions to churches and tax-free housing allowances for ministers. A bill was introduced in 1972 calling for reexamination of special tax treatment and lifting of such exemptions “if good reasons could not be found for retaining the special and favorable treatment,” but co-sponsor Wilbur Mills himself later repudiated the bill and it died in January, 1973. A similar bill was introduced in the current Congress but abandoned in April.

Article continues below

No such bills are now alive and no hearings are being heid, according to findings of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. A committee official lamented the falsely grounded floods of protest letters and lobby efforts directed against Congress; future credibility of persons with valid concerns may be damaged, he implied.

Washington: City For God?

The day after Gerald Ford announced that “our long national nightmare has ended,” Senator Harold Hughes kicked off the first of a series of Saturday-morning “Upper Room” rallies on Capitol Hill intended to “help make Washington a model Christian city.”

Speaking to a racially mixed crowd of 300, most of them young Jesus people, Hughes asked if they believed God was with them and if they were agreed that “Washington shall stand as the Lord’s city this morning.” The crowd, meeting in the Ebenezer United Methodist Church, five short blocks from the Capitol, voiced its approval. Citing Jesus’ instructions to his disciples, Hughes declared that the solution for national survival was for Christians “to love one another and to seek first the Kingdom of God.”

John Staggers, a young black Christian activist who formerly served in the office of Washington’s mayor, presided at the first rally. He said that the Upper Room rallies can be a vehicle for bringing together people from all walks of life, and that through this means Washington can become the moral capital of the nation. “God can revolutionize this city if we pray, witness, and put him first,” Staggers declared.


Farm Fellowship

Jesus ’74, successor to last year’s Jesus ’73 festival, was held earlier this month. Craig Yoe and Joseph Hopkins attended the three-day affair and filed this report.

Last summer 11,000 young people converged on Paul Mast’s potato farm in eastern Pennsylvania for a happening called Jesus ’73. During the first three days of August the 1974 edition of what has been projected as an annual Pennsylvania Jesus festival took place on a 270-acre dairy farm at the opposite end of the state, near Mercer.

Article continues below

In its charismatic emphasis, Jesus ’74 differed significantly from Jesus ’73, according to Presbyterian John Musser, vice-chairman of Jesus Ministries, Incorporated, producers of Jesus ’73. Although led by neo-Pentecostals, most of them Mennonites, Jesus ’73 sought to take in all groups concerned with evangelistic outreach, while Jesus ’74 unabashedly promoted the “gifts of the Spirit” and drew its leadership from charismatic ranks.

Each night an altar call was given. Those seeking salvation or Holy Spirit baptism were directed to one tent, those desiring healing or deliverance to another. There was no head count, but each tent overflowed, though the number had dwindled to several hundred by the concluding sessions on the final day. Approximately 600 young people were joyfully immersed in the farm pond on Saturday afternoon.

Folk singer Barry McGuire (he sang with the New Christie Minstrels in the sixties) and his backup band didn’t show up. The promoters of Jesus ’74 claimed to have a signed contract with his managers, but in a phone interview McGuire said he’d never heard of the festival. Scott Ross, a Christian rock disc jockey from Freeville, New York, says he first learned that he himself was scheduled to teach when he read the festival’s published publicity.

There were other problems. The night before rock singer Randy Matthews was scheduled to appear, he expressed apprehension. “I’m the only authentic rock act here,” he said, “and I don’t know how the audience is going to react.” Matthews usually performs solo but planned to première his rock-and-roll band at the gathering. He has a vision of taking the Gospel to the youth culture via rock music and plans to do the rock concert circuit this fall with a secular group, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. While confident that this is the way God is leading him to present Christ to the rock-and-rollers, Matthews feared that Christians wouldn’t accept rock music as a valid means of presenting the Gospel.

His fears were justified. Thousands of young people walked out on his performance, saying in effect, “The message is fine but the music is the kind I used to listen to before I was saved.” Insult was added to injury when the promoters pulled the plug on Matthew’s sound equipment in the middle of one of his songs, effectively ending the performance.

Matthews immediately went back-stage and fainted. The strain of grueling long hours spent getting the band together, fear of not being accepted by fellow Christians, and then the fact of not being accepted was apparently too much for him. Matthews and his band did not play the next night, by mutual agreement between his manager and the staff of Jesus ’74.

Article continues below

Meanwhile singer Pat Boone made an unannounced visit and was thronged by admirers in the over-30 set and by younger campers who wanted to meet an authentic Hollywood star who was a Christian.

And in the middle of the festival gospel rock singer Larry Norman was flown in, presumably to quench mumbled charges of “rip off” being heard because some scheduled performers had failed to appear. Norman has been semi-retired from the Christian music scene for about a year and a half. His rock-oriented music plus his absence from the music scene led some to believe he’d lost his original zest for gospel music—a charge that has stirred much controversy in recent months. One reporter from a Midwest Jesus paper, asked if he was going to interview Norman, replied, “No. Ours is a Christian paper.”

But if any doubted Norman’s salvation or nearness to God, they weren’t talking after his early Saturday morning set. He interspersed his own songs, “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” and “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” with what some observers called “the heaviest teaching to be heard from the stage.”

There were, not surprisingly, a few excesses at the festival. Some attempts at mass exorcisms took place, causing hysteria. And there was some healing extremism: for instance, a crippled boy was laid on the ground and then commanded to “get up and walk for Jesus”; he had to be dragged in dejection back to his wheel chair.

The sponsoring organization, Jesus Ministries, Incorporated, is “totally non-profit,” according to its chairman, 47-year-old Harold Zimmerman. Zimmerman, a free-lance machinery designer from Ephrata, Pennsylvania, devised and constructed the festival’s trailer-stage with the help of building contractor John Musser of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Zimmerman, a Mennonite, at one time wanted to be a minister.

Jesus Ministries has plans for future crusades with Billy Graham teams in South America and (it is hoped) Cuba.

Baptist Youth: A Challenge To Live

More than 5,000 Baptist youths from fifty-four countries gathered in Portland. Oregon, this month for the eighth Baptist Youth World Conference, sponsored by the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Their objective: “To explore and affirm each other as different peoples who share the common challenge to live—as the body of Christ.”

Article continues below

BWA youth conferences have been held since 1931. This was the first one in the United States.

More than 600 delegates came from Europe, and several were from eastern Europe. The largest European delegations were from West Germany and Sweden.

Mass meetings were held to a minimum. The action was centered around smaller “core” groups at which participants were able to express their own experiences, doubts, and hopes.

Performers included Denise Johnson, a folk-rock soloist with the Young World Singers of Sydney, Australia; Louise Rose, a professional musician from Pennsylvania; Ken Medema, a blind pianist who writes and sings his own songs; and Ingemar Olsson, a Swedish singer and guitar player. Indonesian delegates interpreted the story of David and Goliath through folk dance.

Don Kim of Los Angeles told the youths that more than five million Koreans—one out of six—are now professing Christians. When the first Christian missionary, a Scotsman, tried to go to Korea ninety years ago, Kim said, he was slain before he reached dry land.

Dr. Robert S. Denny of Washington, D. C., BWA general secretary, told the youths that they are “tomorrow’s world leaders in all fields of endeavor.”

One of the principal addresses was given by the Reverend Roger Valasquez Valle, minister of the First Baptist Church of San Salvador, El Salvador. “We Christians are the only people on this planet with a firm hope,” he said. “We should be known as the people of hope, the people who possess the confidence in a mighty God who will make all things new, the people that work hard no matter which system, because one day there will be peace and justice in a belligerent and unjust world.”

More than $5,000 was given in offerings for aid projects in Zaire and India.

Christian Books: Business Is Good

Of the making of books there is no end Solomon once observed. If he were alive today he might note with interest, that between the making and the reading there is another consideration: selling. Such is the business of the members of the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA), the trade organization for evangelical book retailers.

Last month some 4,000 people gathered at the Minneapolis Auditorium and Convention Hall for the CBA’s twenty-fifth annual convention. Approximately two-thirds of the registrants came from about 900 stores; the rest represented some 220 publishers and manufacturers whose wares were displayed. The convention was not open to the public.

There were numerous workshops (on motivating employees, controlling cash flow, designing displays, and the like), a wide variety of soloists and musical groups, and several inspirational speakers, all authors. However, the main purpose of the convention was to allow the booksellers to roam the aisles of the exhibit area (larger than a football field) to inspect the Bibles, books, curriculum materials, cassette tapes, phonograph records, posters, trinkets and what-nots, and to place their orders for the coming year. Exhibitors generally offered incentives to the stores such as bigger discounts and free shipping. Many promoted their wares by having authors personally autograph give-away copies.

Article continues below

The number of Christian bookstores in the United States and Canada is estimated at 3,400, of which nearly 1,600 (80 of these in Canada) are CBA members. There are also nearly 100 member stores in other countries. Membership increased by more than 450 stores over last year. (The number of general bookstores is about 10,000.) Christian bookstores are still relatively small operations, the average annual sales of CBA members are not quite up to the $100,000 level. However, the growth rate is rapid. From mid-72 to mid-73 average sales increased 22 per cent. This came on top of a 19 per cent increase the previous year.

Probably the key person in the launching of the CBA a quarter-century ago was William Moore. He began to develop the idea with the continued encouragement of his boss, well-known paraphraser Kenneth Taylor, who was then director of Moody Press. The first convention (held in Chicago, as were nine of the next fifteen) had fewer than 300 registrants and 50 exhibitors. Just over 100 stores signed up as charter members. (Taylor, a speaker at this year’s convention, said the future of Christian literature is “tremendous” because “everybody is reading Christian books.”)

The convention is the biggest event each year for the CBA, but the organization’s twelve-person staff, directed by executive vice-president John Bass and headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, provides several year-round services. Among these are the monthly Bookstore Journal, seminars in various parts of the country, insurance, legal advice, and computerized record-keeping facilitated by a special cash-register network.

Richard Fish of the Christian Book and Supply Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was elected president for the next two years.

Meanwhile CBA member publishers are taking Solomon’s injunction to heart and “making” more books of a greater variety to tap that vast potential market Taylor pointed out.


Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.