Churches and church-related groups across America celebrated the nation’s two-hundredth birthday in many ways. There were worship services in 1776 style, preachers and parishioners dressed in colonial costumes, birthday cakes, bell-ringing, interfaith services, community dinners and picnics, patriotic concerts, special prayers for the nation and a variety of other observances (see July 2 issue, page 36). In some smaller communities the church was at the center of the Bicentennial celebration.

Thousands of young Christians took advantage of the Bicentennial spirit and crowds to proclaim the Gospel through literature distribution, street witnessing, special rallies, and other projects—including a coast-to-coast Christian Bicentennial wagon train.

There were special masses and church services in New York, Boston, and Newport, Rhode Island in connection with the Bicentennial visits of the Tall Ships. A Declaration of Dependence on God was proclaimed at Seattle’s First Presbyterian Church on July 4. Interfaith services highlighted observances in a number of cities, although in Miami and perhaps elsewhere there were ruffled feelings because the Sunday morning meetings overlapped with normal Sunday-school and church hours.

Most attention was focused on the two main Bicentennial cities, Philadelphia and Washington.

July 4 dawned bright and warm in Philadelphia, where official observances began with an interfaith service conducted under a canopy on Independence Mall. Taking part were Greek Orthodox archbishop Iakovos, Cardinal John Kroll, and other church leaders. An audience of some 2,000 heard main speakers Cynthia Wedel, an Episcopalian who is a president of the World Council of Churches, and Jesse L. Jackson of Operation PUSH, a self-help organization, preach on the need to continue the revolution begun 200 years ago, to extend social justice to all.

President Ford arrived by helicopter a short time later, following a stop at Valley Forge, and delivered a televised address to the nation from the steps of Independence Hall before a crowd of tens of thousands. The speech underscored the nation’s spiritual heritage. “The American adventure began here ‘with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,’ ” declared Ford. “It continues in a common conviction that the source of our blessings is a loving God in whom we trust.” In closing, he asked everyone to join him “in a moment of silent prayer in gratitude for all we have received and for continued happiness in the United States of America.”

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At 2 P.M. as a parade passed, the Liberty Bell was tolled, signaling the simultaneous ringing of bells across the land.

Before, during, and after the President’s visit teams of young people leafleted the crowd. Most visible were members of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, whose literature many declined, and the Jews for Jesus, whose tracts generally were read and kept.

Queen Elizabeth arrived two days later to dedicate a Bicentennial bell given as a birthday gift to America from Britain, and again there were large crowds. Among those waiting for her were separatist leader Carl McIntire and some of his followers from the Bible Presbyterian Church across the Delaware River in Collingswood, New Jersey. As the queen’s yacht prepared to dock at Penn’s Landing, McIntire and his friends downstream tossed a plaster of paris replica of the bell into the river. They waved signs saying, “Send the bell back.” Overhead, a plane had spelled out the message, “Britain Bans Bible Verse From Bell.”

McIntire had urged President Ford to reject the bell because it omitted the Scripture verse Leviticus 25:10 that is inscribed on the Liberty Bell. He refused to accept the official explanation that the bell, which bears the inscription “Let Freedom Ring,” was not intended to replace or duplicate the Liberty Bell. McIntire and his wife followed the queen to Independence Hall, where he badgered her from across the street with a portable loudspeaker to “put the Bible back on the bell.”

Another separatist, evangelist Jack Van Impe, held a week of meetings in Philadelphia’s Convention Hall. Top attendance was estimated at between 6,500 and 8,500.

On his brief visit to Valley Forge, Ford greeted the hundreds of people who had come there by wagon trains from all over the country. Aboard one of the six Bicentennial wagon trains was Dorothy Shuman, 62, of La Verne, Oklahoma, wife of the wagon master of the official Oklahoma wagon. With the wagons assembled in a circle, Mrs. Shuman led the group in prayer before each day’s journey. A Methodist preacher from Arkansas rode with them part of the way. He and pastors along the route conducted services for the travelers (a Methodist minister led an Easter sunrise service for them outside of Nashville). There were no serious accidents or injuries en route. Says Mrs. Shuman: “The Lord was with us.”

Some “independent” wagon trains also made the trek. One of them was associated with Youth With a Mission’s “Spirit in ’76” cross-country evangelistic project. Headed by Earl Woodward, 32, the eight-wagon caravan and scores of riders left San Diego on January 4. Two days later his wife went into labor and was rushed to a Seventh-day Adventist hospital where a girl, their first child, was born. They named her Liberty. Mrs. Woodward rejoined the wagon train a few days later. The wagons arrived at Spirit’s church-site encampment outside Burlington, New Jersey, at the end of June.

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Also arriving on time as part of the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) effort were more than 50 transcontinental bicyclists (they averaged 50 miles a day), hikers, and a hot-air balloon team headed by pilot Craig Hill, 22, of Denver. The red balloon, nearly sixty feet tall and kept aloft by spurts of propane-fed flames, began its trip from near Gettysburg, tethered most of the time to a van. Attached was a huge banner proclaiming, “Jesus Christ is King of Kings.”

All of the YWAM teams engaged in outreach as they made their way across the country. A week of Christian training and rallies took place at the New Jersey site, featuring well-known speakers and musicians. Busloads of YWAMers were ferried daily to Philadelphia to engage in street ministry among the crowds there. The nearly 1,000 participants were joined by thousands of area residents for evening meetings. A spate of thunderstorms (including one that almost rained out Jimmy Owens and his “If My People” concert with 300 singers) and sparse local publicity contributed to unexpectedly low attendance.

YWAM was founded in the early sixties by Loren Cunningham, a former Assemblies of God worker, as a means of harnessing the abilities and potential of young people for Christian service. It is now one of the world’s largest mission groups.

In Washington, Bicentennial observances included an “Honor America” program at Kennedy Center on July 3, which featured Art Linkletter, Bob Hope, evangelist Billy Graham (he gave the invocation), the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and others. President Ford followed Graham to the podium and expressed thanks for the opportunity to join in “making a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

Two interfaith services were conducted early Sunday morning. One was sponsored at the Lincoln Memorial by Washington church leaders. The other was held at the Jefferson Memorial by the social activists of the People’s Bicentennial Commission. Crowd estimates varied widely, ranging up to 3,000.

Among the major liturgical events of July 4 was a rite of “dedication of service to the nation” at the Washington National Cathedral (Episcopal), led by presiding bishop John M. Allin of the Episcopal Church. Queen Elizabeth attended another of the cathedral’s dedication services later in the week.

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As in Philadelphia, organized evangelical groups handed out tracts and witnessed to passersby.

The Navigators sponsored an evangelistic rally near the Lincoln Memorial that attracted an audience of 2,500 and netted more than 200 inquirers. A week-long evangelistic training conference sponsored by some Washington evangelicals had more than 1,000 registrants.

Grocer Joel Ahlstrom, 30, of Minneapolis, and his brother Tony, 27, a Chicago minister, jogged up to the White House just before the holiday weekend after running 2,957 miles. Their well-publicized witness run began on April 26 in San Francisco. They ran six days a week and preached on Sundays, meeting with state and local government officials en route. President Ford invited them in for a brief chat, and they gave him a Bible.

A group of pastors and leaders representing the nine denominations in the National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship delivered a “Bicentennial Testimony” to the President. It stressed the role of faith in molding the nation and its institutions, expressed concern about America’s spiritual and moral condition, and called on Ford to help promote “interest in and regard for the principles of sound religion.”

Instead of singing “Happy Birthday” on July 4, many Americans seemed more inclined to sing “God Bless America.”


If A Hymn Offends …

A multi-faith hymnal published in 1974 for America’s military forces has been under fire in recent months. At issue especially is number 286, “It Was on a Friday Morning.” Its words are expressed from the viewpoint of a dying thief who bitterly harangues Christ during the Crucifixion. “It’s God I accuse.… To hell with Jehovah.… It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me,” declares the folk-style hymn.

Church people have showered Congress and the Pentagon with protests. Among the leaders of the protest movement is Mrs. Frank Horton, wife of the New York congressman, and Mrs. Melvin Price, wife of the chairman of the House Armed Forces Committee. Mrs. Horton was dissatisfied by the four-page response to a letter she had sent to the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, which supervised production of the hymnal. And Mrs. Price has been distributing hundreds of copies of the hymn ever since Mrs. Horton called her attention to it.

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On July 9, Chief of Chaplains James Rogers of the Veterans Administration ordered the hymn to be “removed” from the VA’s 15,000 copies of the hymnal within twenty-four hours. Chaplains at seventy-one VA hospitals were affected by the order. Rogers, a United Methodist, said he issued the directive because the hymn is sacrilegious and is out of place in a hospital. Rogers’s action upset some VA and Pentagon officials, and a study was under way last month to determine if Rogers had the right to issue such an order.

Meanwhile, a spot check indicated that VA chaplains were searching for adhesive opaque paper to cover the offending hymn instead of cutting it out. Outright removal would affect four other hymns, including “There Is a Green Hill Far Away” and “O Perfect Love.”

More than half a million copies of the 815-page hymnal were printed, at a cost of $1.87 per copy.

Fundamentalists On Record

The following story is based in part on a report filed by J.D. Douglas in Scotland.

Billed as “the first meeting of its kind to cross denominational lines,” the eight-day World Congress of Fundamentalists convened in 2,500-seat Usher Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland, under the joint chairmanship of chancellor Bob Jones, Jr., of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, and Ulster preacher-politician Ian Paisley. Their aim was to promote unity among badly fractured fundamentalist forces, to rekindle the fires of fundamentalist-styled evangelism, and to specify and speak out against the evils of the day.

More than 2,000 persons attended the congress, with the United States having the largest representation. Americans also dominated the thirty-three-man sponsoring committee (ten came from other countries, none were from Scotland, England, or Wales) and the roster of sixty-nine speakers.

A notable absentee was Bible Presbyterian founder Carl McIntire, who heads the fundamentalist International Council of Christian Churches. He had declined an invitation to participate, objecting to what he saw as the formation of another movement that constituted a challenge to the ICCC. He accused Jones of spawning a “neo-fundamentalist” movement representing “a new inclusivism based upon an undefined fundamentalism.” Congress organizers wrote off McIntire’s objections as a case of sour grapes because the congress was not held under ICCC auspices. In one of the unanimously passed resolutions, congress participants defined what it means to be a fundamentalist. The statement concluded with a repudiation of the term “neo-fundamentalist” as “an invention of one who would discredit a movement he cannot dominate.” Bob Jones III and Paisley—whom McIntire had sided with for years—were among the five who drafted the statement.

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Present as a protester instead of a participant was Baptist pastor Jack Glass, editor of The Scottish Protestant View. He accused Jones of holding Arminian doctrinal views and expressed surprise that Presbyterian Paisley “should be party to such deception.” He seemed to take special delight in picketing one of the world’s arch-demonstrators.

The statement defining a fundamentalist listed seven criteria, among them “an immovable allegiance to the inerrant, infallible, and verbally inspired Bible,” a belief in the foundational truths of the historic Christian faith, a commitment to evangelism and to contending for the faith, and a determination to expose and separate from “all ecclesiastical denial of that faith, compromise with error, and apostasy from the truth.” Fundamentalists use the separation criterion to distinguish themselves from evangelicals.

In other resolutions, the congress:

• repudiated women’s liberation and opposed the ordination of women as unscriptural;

• called for more responsible reporting by the news media;

• condemned the charismatic movement as “a Satanic counterfeit”;

• denounced as Satanic and unbiblical Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church and Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God;

• deplored “the cheap and worldly approach” of such organizations as Youth for Christ, Young Life, and Campus Crusade for Christ, alleging they are destroying fundamental churches “with their ‘easy believism’ and ungodly philosophies” while “emasculating the ministry of those who support and cooperate with them”;

• upheld capital punishment;

• opposed contemporary trends in Christian music;

• warned about the “devilish origin and deception” of many new Bible versions and translations, including Today’s English Version (“Good News for Modern Man”), The Living Bible, the Revised Standard Version Bible, and the New English Bible, and called upon Christians to withdraw financial support from Bible societies that distribute them;

• condemned the “unbiblical evangelism and missions” conducted by “Romanists,” ecumenical leaders, and “the new evangelicals through the cultural mandate and Billy Graham type of compromising ministries,” and called upon “all born-again Christians to separate from such associations”; and

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• supported the stand taken by fundamentalists in Northern Ireland on the Ulster issue.

The Law Arrived Before The Lord

For nearly ten months a group of believers related by blood or marriage waited in a house in Grannis, Arkansas, for the second coming of Christ. Many sold their property, took their children out of school, stopped paying bills, and left their goods behind in response to a revelation that Viola Walker, 67, the clan’s matriarch, said she had received. Gene Nance, owner of the $15,000 house, stopped making mortgage payments, believing the house would be empty by the time an eviction notice was served. Twenty-one gathered to wait; others came and went. Finally, after months of hassles with creditors and authorities, federal marshalls arrived—ahead of the Lord.

Despite the eviction, the vigil will continue but probably “only in our hearts,” said Elizabeth Bard, one of the thirty-one in the house at the end. “We don’t know what we will do, but our faith is certainly not shaken.” Nance agreed. “The Lord,” he said, “doesn’t desert anyone.”

Church Business

Many denominations hold their main business conventions and assemblies in the spring and early summer. Here are highlights from some of them:

Evangelical Free Church of America. Pastor Thomas A. McDill of Crystal Evangelical Free Church in suburban Minneapolis was elected president of the 646-church, 80,000-member denomination. McDill, 49, succeeds the retiring Arnold T. Olson, 66, the EFCA’s first and only president since the 1950 merger of two Scandinavian-background bodies that brought it into existence (with 18,000 members in 318 congregations). Olson, a leader in evangelical circles, has long been a vocal advocate of biblical inerrancy, and he attributes much of the EFCA’s growth to emphasis of this belief.

About 1,700 persons attended the week-long Free Church conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The 900 voting delegates among them adopted with little discussion resolutions calling for family life to be strengthened, for parents to set an anti-drug example by being “totally free from any chemical dependency” themselves, and for Christians to become aware and active politically. Unnamed leaders in Congress were commended for alerting citizens to “the inherent dangers” in the Child and Family Services Act and in the Youth Camp Safety Act; and for expressing concern over the National Science Foundation’s development of controversial curricula materials such as MACOS (“Man, A Course of Study”). The conference expressed reservations about the Equal Rights Amendment, and took a stand against allowing Transcendental Meditation and occult courses in public schools.

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Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. The biggest issue at the 154th RPCES general synod in Colorado Springs was left unresolved. Commissioners (delegates) after more than a day of debate voted 79 to 76 to refer to an enlarged study committee the question of ordaining women as deacons. The original study committee said in a majority report that the Bible opens the door to women deacons. In separate action the synod affirmed that God has not called women to the authoritative teaching and ruling office of elder. And a motion to allow women to serve on boards and agencies of the denomination lost by a close vote.

A proposed union of the 18,000 communicant RPCES with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church—voted down last year (while the OPC approved it)—was left in limbo. The next vote cannot be taken before 1978.

International Church of the Nazarene. A record 35,000 attended the six-day nineteenth quadrennial general assembly of the ICN in Dallas. Housekeeping matters, including a reorganization plan, were the main items on the business agenda for the 729 voting delegates. Among other things they voted to establish a department of communication, an area where the denomination has had problems in recent years.

In a state-of-the-church address, Chairman Eugene Stowe of the Board of General Superintendents—the ICN’s chief executive officer—announced the addition of 196 churches during the past quadrennium and an increase in membership to 586,532 in sixty-one countries (about 450,000 in the United States). Overseas, the membership growth rate has been 33.8 per cent, he said.

Reemphasizing the group’s anti-charismatic stance, he warned: “Any practice and/or propagation of speaking in tongues either as the evidence of baptism of the Holy Spirit or as a neo-Pentecostal ecstatic prayer language shall be interpreted as inveighing against the doctrines and usages of the Church of the Nazarene.”

Missionary Hugh Friberg, jailed by the new Marxist government in Mozambique last fall, made his first public appearance since his release in April. He was given a standing ovation. In a brief talk he thanked the church people for their help in gaining his freedom, and he said he had not been mistreated in jail. Fellow Nazarene missionary Armand Doll, 60, is still in prison. For a while, said Friberg, he and Doll were able “to have a ministry of sorts,” including a Sunday-morning church service with some 300 other prisoners, mostly Catholic. Stowe told the assembly that on June 11 the U. S. Senate agreed on an amendment prohibiting any consideration of funding to Mozambique until Doll is released.

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A commemorative service was held at Pilot Point, Texas, where the church was founded in 1908.

Christian Reformed Church. The synod of the 163,000-communicant CRC, meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, established “official fellowship” with the Reformed Church in America. This status provides for intercommunion, pulpit and fraternal delegate exchanges, and joint efforts to promote Christian unity. (The CRC withdrew from the RCA more than a century ago.)

On matters of doctrine, the synod adopted guidelines regarding what is meant when one subscribes to the confessions, the major creeds of the church. Subscription is “without reservation to all the doctrines contained in the standards of the church as being doctrines which are taught in the Word of God,” say the guidelines. But that does not mean that the subscriber believes the confessions contain every doctrine or warning of heresy, the statement goes on, and the subscriber is not bound to the material “incidental to the formulation of these doctrines nor to the theological deductions which some may draw from the doctrines set forth in the confessions.”

The synod upheld the ordination of Allen Verhey, a teacher on loan to Hope College, a Reformed Church in America school. A church in the Grand Rapids area alleged that Verhey does not accept some scriptural accounts as literal (a talking serpent in the Garden of Eden, the earthquake in the Resurrection account). The ordination was procedurally correct, said the synod; any further action must be according to procedures governing ministerial relationships.

Reformed Church in America. The 170th general synod of the 215,000-communicant RCA, meeting in Madison, New Jersey, elected as president for a one-year term Louis H. Benes, retired editor of the Church Herald, the denomination’s official magazine. Amid lively debate, the synod voted to return the issue of women’s ordination to its regional governing units (known as classes) with a recommendation that they approve it. Four times in recent years the classes have turned it down, this year by a narrow margin. The synod cannot act upon it until it is approved by the classes. Women may be ordained as elders and deacons in the RCA but not as preaching ministers.

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In other action, the synod took a firm stand against state lotteries, and tabled a recommendation calling for full civil and human rights for all—including homosexuals.

Religion In Transit

Delegates to the biennial convention of the 82,000-member Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada voted to permit women to be ordained to the pastoral ministry.

A federal panel ruled that all non-public schools in Pennsylvania must either buy or return some $19 million worth of educational materials and equipment provided by the state under a law invalidated by the U. S. Supreme Court last year.

Prospective counselors for the Billy Graham crusade in Detroit in October will be offered training on television twice a week for four weeks beginning August 9. The TV training, a first, will be conducted by crusade director John Corts on UHF Channel 62, thanks to free time donated by commercially sponsored talk-show host Jack Reyhberg. A final session must be attended in person. In San Diego, where a Graham crusade will be held this month, a school of evangelism will be held for young people between 15 and 25.

Fire destroyed the well-known Scofield Memorial Church in Dallas.

In two years, more than a dozen children of the 400 members of the Church of the First Born, a religious community at Cortez, Colorado, have contracted diphtheria, and two have died. The group refuses inoculations on religious grounds. State officials are looking for legal ways to force immunization before a worse outbreak of the disease occurs.

World Scene

Three Catholic nuns, three priests, and two seminarians were assassinated in two Buenos Aires churches last month, apparently by right-wing terrorists. Some church officials theorize their deaths, along with those of fifteen other persons a day earlier, were in retaliation for leftist bombing of a police headquarters dining room in which eighteen were killed and sixty-six injured. More than 600 have been killed in political violence in and around Argentina’s capital since January 1.

Swedish authorities say no public money will be used for the filming of a proposed porno movie on Christ. But, they add, they cannot stop the film from being made if Danish producer Jens Jorgen Thoresen proceeds with production. To do so, they explain, “would interfere with the basic principles of Swedish cultural policy and freedom of expression.”

Orthodox rabbis in Israel continue to crack down on Christians who “convert” to Judaism without giving up their belief in Jesus. Pressure has resulted in the nullifying of a number of conversions by American rabbis. Some of the converts had engaged or intended to engage in missionary work in Israel.

Twenty-six Catholic missionaries of various nationalities were expelled from South Viet Nam with no explanation.


CHARLES F. PFEIFFER, 57, noted evangelical Old Testament scholar and writer on biblical history and archaeology; in Pentwater, Michigan, of a heart attack.

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