As religion editors and writers last month paused to review the significant religion stories of 1975, they seemed to be agreed about the two top choices: the moral and theological aspects of the Karen Quinlan case, and the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. (The Quinlan case concerns a brain-damaged young woman in New Jersey whose parents unsuccessfully sought court permission to have mechanical life-support systems removed.)

A poll of the Religion Newswriters Association (RNA), an organization of newspeople who report religion in the nation’s secular dailies, placed the women’s ordination issue first and the Quinlan case second. The editors of Religious News Service (RNS) in New York City listed them in the opposite order, as did the editors of Christian Century.

Other top stories listed by the RNA, in order: the continuing controversy in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod as it moved from doctrinal to legal and administrative phases; the expensive effort by the churches to resettle the Southeast Asian refugees; the reaction of the churches to homosexuality; the canonization of Mother Elizabeth Seton as the Catholic Church’s first American-born saint; and world hunger.

The RNS choices: refugee settlement program; the United Nations resolution equating Zionism with racism, and the condemnation of the move by Christian groups as being anti-Semitic; the Seton canonization; church-state tensions in a number of countries, including Chile, where the CIA was alleged to have used U.S. missionaries for intelligence purposes; the World Council of Churches’ Fifth Assembly in Nairobi and its emphasis on human rights; the Hartford Appeal that was drawn up by several theologians to protest what they saw as contemporary Christian “heresies”; and the increased recognition of the charismastic movement, along with internal conflicts and disavowal of it by some church groups.

The Century’s selections: the U. N. anti-Zionism resolution; persecution of church leaders and members in Chile, South Korea, the Philippines, and South Africa; the resettlement of the refugees; conflict over the charismatic movement; the “political and theological civil war” raging in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; the World Council of Churches’ assembly; the trend toward conservatism in theology and practice; and Christian involvement in liberation and civil rights struggles.

Other significant developments cited by a number of reporters include: the controversy over the Unification Church and its messianic leader, Sun Myung Moon; financial problems plaguing churches and ecumenical organizations; the enthronement of Donald Coggan, an evangelical, as Archbishop of Canterbury; and the continuing interest in the abortion issue.

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Many of 1975’s top stories will command major attention this year as well. The Episcopal Church will again vote on women’s ordination. If approval is rejected, as it was three years ago, a number of bishops may join the ranks of rebels and proceed with ordination of women in their own dioceses. On the other hand, if approval is granted, there is bound to be stiff reaction from some conservative quarters.

The squabbles in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod will go on, with the possible exodus of a number of churches. Structures to accomodate them are already shaping up.

The drive for church acceptance of homosexuality as a valid life style may intensify, in light of the recent publicity and certain gains by gay activists. Increasingly, there will be pressure to open the ranks of church leadership, including the ministry, to persons regardless of their sexual preferences.

Abroad, church-state tensions may be less intense in some countries, more intense in others. Civil strife, poverty conditions, and ever-rising tides of nationalism will continue to plague missionaries. Despite the hardships, however, the phenomenal rates of church growth overseas show no signs of letup.

Important issues remain to be thrashed out, both within the charismatic movement and among non-Pentecostal denominations for whom it represents a problem.

Many churches and parachurch organizations are tooling up to engage in creative witness during the Bicentennial. Thousands of young people will travel to Montreal to proclaim Christ at the Olympics. And important moral and ethical issues may emerge as topics for national consideration during the upcoming presidential election campaigns. Some of the candidates are professing Christians.

All in all, 1976 promises to be a fascinating year.


The Bible has recovered its position as the world’s most translated work, well ahead of the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, according to United Nations data published last month. There were 109 new translations of the Bible, sixty-two of Karl Marx, fifty-nine of Friedrich Engels, and fifty-seven of Nikolai Lenin in 1972, the latest year for which figures are available.

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Exiled Soviet author Alexander Solzhenitsyn was the most widely translated living writer, the study shows. Like William Shakespeare, his works have appeared in thirty-five languages.

Christian Radio: Culturally Tuned

Twenty-five years after its founding, Guatemala’s Christian radio station TGNA has moved into a new phase with the appointment of a Guatemalan manager, the first national to hold the top position. Oscar Lopez, 38, a graduate of Dallas Seminary, succeeds missionary Donald Rutledge in the post.

TGNA first went on the air from Guatemala City on August 6, 1950, with 1,000 watts. Today, classified as a “cultural” station, it operates on five frequencies—local AM and FM stereo and three short-wave bands—with 10,000 watts, the maximum allowed in the country. It is owned by the Central American Mission (CAM). While primary target area is Guatamala and Southern Mexico, letters come from listeners in Europe.

Central America has proved to be one of the most fertile areas of the world for missionary radio. All six countries, including Panama, have at least one evangelical station. In Guatemala, besides TGNA there are a Pentecostal station and a low-power tropical-band station also operated by CAM, Radio Maya, which broadcasts in seven of the country’s twenty-five Indian dialects from a remote town in the western highlands.

Additionally, the area is covered by such giants as HCJB, KGEI (Far East Broadcasting Company’s station in San Francisco), and Trans-World’s superpower facility on Bonaire in the Caribbean. A listener with a short-wave set in Central America can tune in to the Gospel on as many as seven Christian stations. Also, there are several hundred evangelical programs on commercial stations in the area.

A distinctive feature of Central American evangelical radio is the “Collaborators for Christ,” a sort of women’s auxiliary which helps raise funds and otherwise support the stations. There is an area-wide association of the support groups in the various countries even though the stations themselves have no official international tie.

Like most of its twenty-odd sister evangelical stations in Latin America, TGNA tries to fulfill two different purposes—ministering to the Christian community and evangelizing the unbelievers. Says Lopez, “We face a constant tension in designing programming which appeals to the unbelievers and at the same time is acceptable to the believers who support the station.” The dilemma is illustrated by two extremes found in a recent survey conducted by TGNA: one group of listeners objected to the “pagan” music in the evangelistic blocks, and another said, “You’d have a great station if you’d only take off that religious stuff.”

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One of the most effective means of evangelism for TGNA is its late-night soft-music programming, say observers. Listeners with problems are periodically invited to call the station for counsel and are offered literature. Calls are running around 300 per month, an impressive statistic in light of the limited number of phones in the city. More than 200 decisions for Christ have been made over the phone since the program began. “We are known as a place where spiritual help is available,” says Lopez.

Lopez sees radio as a springboard for supplementary ministries. “We are able to capitalize on the good will built up over twenty-five years of cultural programming to open doors,” he says. TGNA staff regularly go into high schools with gospel films. They have also used visiting athletic teams and drama and musical groups, including a choir founded by Lopez that won second place in a national choral competition. TGNA sponsored a Guatemala City-wide crusade with evangelist Luis Palau in 1971. Another part of the extension ministry of the radio is the Bible correspondence-course department, with 6,000 students enrolled.

TGNA has ventured into television with production of several short programs that have been aired in all the Central American countries. “There’s unprecedented opportunity for television evangelism,” says Dave Keeler, director of the project. “While the number of receivers is constantly growing, costs are still relatively low. We can blanket a country with a half-hour special for only a few hundred dollars.”



A leading rabbi in Israel ruled last month that religious Jews may listen to a woman sing on the radio—but only if the listener does not know the woman and the song is not a love song. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, leader of Israel’s Sephardic community, made the ruling after about 600 religious Jews complained to the national radio network that women’s voices in song should not be broadcast, according to a United Press dispatch.

Where Kids Are

Religion is playing an increasingly important role in the lives of “outstanding” teen-agers, according to the latest poll of high school leaders in the United States. The survey, based on responses from 22,000 “high achievers,” was conducted by Who’s Who Among American High School Students of Northbrook, Illinois.

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The students who believe religion plays a significant role in their own moral standards and actions increased from 63 per cent in 1972 to 86 per cent in the current poll. Fifty per cent said the role of religion is “very significant.” An increasing number identify with organized faiths—80 per cent, compared with 70 per cent in 1972. And 78 per cent said they believe in a personal God or Supreme Being. Expressing such belief were 84 per cent of those identifying themselves as Protestants, 85 per of the Catholics, and 39 per cent of the Jewish youths.

The results showed that the high school leaders tend to be less tolerant of drug use (90 per cent never tried hard drugs, 73 per cent never tried marijuana, and only 27 per cent support the legalization of marijuana, compared with 42 per cent in 1973). They are also more “puritanical” on sexual issues and more “old-fashioned” in their attitudes toward marriage and the women’s movement than the group surveyed the previous year.

Campus Innovation: Christian Studies

Some new ventures in cooperative Christian education are in evidence, thanks to the successful on-campus efforts of such groups as the Navigators, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, and Campus Crusade for Christ. These and the multiplication of house fellowships have fostered a demand for follow-up nurture and articulated Bible study which the average church may be ill-prepared to handle by itself.

One pilot program stressing evangelical cooperation is the College of Christian Studies in Champaign-Urbana, home of the University of Illinois. Neither college nor Bible school in the strict sense, CCS offers a basic curriculum in Bible and Bible-related subjects. It is directed by a community board, with Allyn K. Sloat serving as executive secretary. Sloat took the pioneering job after serving for fifteen years as Christian-education director of the large Wheaton Bible Church in Wheaton, Illinois. He is a former president of the National Association of Directors of Christian Education.

The board, primarily lay, represents the spectrum of evangelical belief in the area. It has Catholic, Bible Church, Mennonite, Church of Christ, and Presbyterian members, among others. Pointing to a new cooperative spirit among evangelical ministries is the board membership held by representatives of Inter-Varsity, Navigators, and Campus Crusade, groups which have traditionally carried on their work in near-isolation from one another.

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In its two semesters of last year the program enrolled 520 students from some forty church backgrounds in fifteen courses. For several of the courses, credit arrangements were made with Trinity Evangelical Divinity School or Lincoln Christian College. The faculty has been drawn from local churches, from the university, and from institutions in the Chicago area.

Flexibility and improvisation are the keynotes. Last semester’s curriculum included four eight-week courses (“Mark,” “Ephesians,” “Communicating in Marriage,” and “Body-life and Community”), two fifteen-week courses (“1st Corinthians” and “Genesis”) and two six week seminars, one on “Christ Speaks to an X-rated Culture,” taught by Professor Alan Johnson of Wheaton College.

The CCS structure has proved to be the instrument for several kinds of evangelical innovation in the Champaign-Urbana area. A Logos-franchised (Inter-Varsity) Christian bookstore has opened in the campus area. Cooperative vacation Bible schools are being developed, and the prospects for a Christian radio station and day school are under study.

Sloat observes that the CCS idea, which he expects to see reproduced elsewhere, is not a real competitor for the Christian college’s students, since CCS confers no degrees. With the average cost for a year of private college education last year totaling nearly $4,000, and with middle-income families increasingly feeling the college-money crunch, there is a demand for meeting Christian education needs in the environment of the increasingly populous secular campus, Sloat points out.

Sloat points also to the statements of the late Louis Cassels, United Press religion writer, who repeatedly called attention to “America’s long, steady slide into religious illiteracy,” a slide which he believed could be halted only by giving top priority to adult education programs.

With adult education exploding throughout the secular world, says Sloat, it may well be that the typical local church needs the support of this kind of program for adult nurture, equipping its members for ministry. The cost is not prohibitive, figuring out as it does to less than $15 per course hour per student, of which the student pays only $5, with the balance underwritten by pledges. CCS is efficient with resources, observes Sloat; the program does not require putting up new buildings, for area churches have been willing to provide facilities.

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Bumped From Lumpa

What is a “normal” life for the founder of an exotic African cult? After eleven years in detention, “prophetess” Alice Mulenga Lenshina has been released by Zambia’s president Kenneth D. Kaunda.

Aaron Milner, the nation’s home-affairs minister, told reporters that the fifty-six-year-old woman had signed a statement expressing gratitude to the president for granting her freedom “to live a normal life and to join forces with the people of this nation in developing Zambia.”

The government, against which she had led a brief but bloody “holy war” in 1964, let her out of prison on condition that she would not try to revive her Lumpa independent church. She was also restricted to the Lusaka area and told that her sect had been banned forever.

At the time of her imprisonment, she was thought to have about 75,000 followers. Some 20,000 of them fled over the border into what is now Zaire at the time of the Lumpa uprising against the Zambian government. The uprising was reportedly started when a member of Kaunda’s party clapped a young Lumpa boy on the ear for playing hooky from school. In the fighting that followed, at least 700 of her disciples were killed. She issued “passports to heaven” to her warriors, instructing them that if they shouted “Jericho” their enemies’ bullets would all turn to water.

In releasing the founder of the movement from jail, the government announced that her followers were free to return to join any “legally authorized church.”

Lenshina began the independent church in the early 1950s when she absented herself from her usual surroundings for three days and then returned with the announcement that she had died and had risen from the dead. Her mission from on high, she disclosed then, was to be prophet of a black god in a new black religion.

The former member of the Church of Scotland attracted followers rapidly after she preached that sinners would be struck down by lighting. A bolt killed two members under a tree seconds after she made the declaration, accounts say. Her church included many persons in Southern Rhodesia as well as many in the northern area, now the nation of Zambia.

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The movement she started is only one of thousands of “African independent churches” on the continent. Many of them have gained respectability in recent years. Some are members of national councils of churches, and a few have been admitted to the World Council of Churches.

Angola: Practicing Christians

Some American church leaders are calling for cessation of American involvement in the civil war in Angola. At the same time they are reluctant to come out publicly in favor of any of the three warring liberation groups there. All three have received funds from the World Council of Churches (see November 7, 1975, issue, page 57). Ideologically, the three groups are not far apart. All espouse some basic tenets of socialism. And the leaders of the three groups are products of Protestant missions who, according to reports, have retained affiliation with their churches.

The National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), backed by Zaire, South Africa, China, and the United States, is led by Holden Roberto, a Baptist. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), backed by the Soviet Union, is led by Agostinho Neto, a Methodist. The National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), backed by South Africa, China, and the United States, is led by Jonas M. Savimbi, a member of the United Church of Christ.

All three men are “practicing Christians,” says Larry Henderson, a mission executive of the United Church of Christ who spent twenty years in Angola. Concurring in that assessment is black American journalist Richard Gibson, who spent ten years in several African countries (including Angola).

Holden Roberto, the Baptist leader of the NFLA, is said to find enough time between military engagements to attend church “quite regularly” both in Angola and in neighboring Zaire. The 53-year-old Roberto was baptized at an early age by British Baptist missionaries (after whom he was also named), and attended schools sponsored by the British Missionary Society in both Kinshasa, Zaire, and Sao Salvador, Angola. (British Baptists first came to Angola in 1788.) Later he served as an instructor at a Baptist school in Sao Salvador. From 1951 to 1958, he was linked to the independent Messianic churches movement, joining it in anti-Catholic skirmishes in northern Angola and in what is now Zaire.

Roberto received “much encouragement and assistance from American Protestant groups and missionary societies who had long been aware of the Catholic-Protestant conflict,” said Gibson. The American Committee on Africa, partially sponsored by the National Council of Churches, was one of his key supporters. In 1958, influenced by the pan-Africanism of Ghana’s Nkrumah, Roberto transformed his anti-Catholic organization into the present NFLA, and redirected his efforts toward a free and united Angola. The northern area which Roberto represents has the largest Protestant following, an estimated 40 per cent of the area’s population. Most NFLA members are said to be Baptists.

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The MPLA’s Agostinho Neto, 52, a Methodist, is recognized as an intensely spiritual leader, says Henderson, because of his close identity with the churches. (Protestants are a persecuted minority representing less than 10 per cent of the population in that area, although American Methodist missionaries came as early as 1885.)

Neto is the son of a Methodist minister. After attending mission schools through the secondary level, Neto was given a Methodist scholarship to attend medical school in Portugal. For a short period, he served as secretary to a Methodist bishop in Angola.

Present Angolan Methodist bishop Emilio de Carvalho is a strong supporter of both Neto and the FNLA. The Methodist church from which Neto comes has a larger urbane and intellectual membership than other Protestant groups in Angola; the same traits characterize his MPLA leaders, say observers.

Jonas M. Savimbi, 41, of UNITA, a member of the United Church of Christ, holds a Ph.D. in political science, the result of UCC sponsorship to both the universities of Lisbon and Lausanne. From his childhood, he attended mission schools operated by the Congregationalists. (American and Canadian Congregationalists began work in central Angola in 1880.) Savimbi’s father was a railway worker fired by a zealous desire to spread the Christian faith throughout Angola. Scores of churches and schools can trace their origins in part to his father’s evangelistic labors as he was transferred about by the railway.

Savimbi, however, has recommended a less pietistic religion. At one time he stressed at party meetings the need for less Bible reading and more political ideology, states Gibson. Nevertheless, Henderson says, since 1965 Savimbi “has been brought much closer to the church,” aware of the political advantage of such an association.

Most of Angola’s more than six million people are followers of traditional African religions. Catholics number 2.8 million, according to the 1975 edition of Africa South of the Sahara. Protestant strength is estimated at between 450,000 and 800,000; most are Baptists or Methodists, with the Plymouth Brethren also numerous.

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Black congregations should stop buying inner-city church buildings that white congregations have deserted, says clergyman Glenn S. Gothard, a United Methodist building consultant. Such structures, he asserts, are usually “white elephants” unsuited to needs of blacks for flexible facilities that can serve their immediate neighborhoods in a variety of ways. On top of that, most “hand-me-down” buildings often don’t have the choir and congregation facing each other with the preacher “front and center” he says. This arrangement is needed, he explains, because of the emphasis on fellowship and preaching in black worship.

Shared Tragedy

An American missionary who recently fled Angola says she wants to return as soon as the fighting ends. Joyce Lee Myers, a United Church of Christ missionary for twelve years in Angola, described the situation there as chaotic.

Traveling from the Emanuel Seminary near Bela Vista, Angola, Ms. Myers said she and five other fleeing American and Canadian missionaries encountered roadblocks everywhere, sometimes three in a row, each one manned by rival liberation groups.

After arriving in Nova Lisboa, Angola, the missionaries hid in an African home for a week. They were finally whisked to South Africa in a private plane.

The suffering in Angola is due in part to a scarcity of food and medicine, she points out. “Our mission doctor bought the last remaining insulin in central Angola a week before we left, and when that goes, all his diabetic patients will die,” she warns.

In a strange twist, the Angola war has drawn the races together, observes Ms. Myers. “We stood in line, black and white, for three hours, waiting for bread,” she recalls. “Everybody was sharing their tragedy, and a sense of comradeship existed in the common suffering.”

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