Little of the overt spirituality that crept into Baptist Sunday-school teacher Jimmy Carter’s campaign found its way into Kemper Arena at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City. Ody Fish, convention manager and Republican National Committee vice-chairman, even sought to control invocations and benedictions by requiring advance texts of the prayers. To keep spontaneous sermons from cropping up, Fish ordered that “all invocations and benedictions will be limited to two minutes with a three-minute absolute maximum.”

To keep any apparent irreverence from television viewers, the rule-makers also decreed that the convention’s delegates bow their heads during all prayers. After the first day, however, a few non-Christian delegates declined to make such a gesture, citing privately the explicit invocation of the name of Jesus Christ or the Trinity in several of the prayers. Among the nine persons who offered opening and closing prayers were Episcopal bishop Arthur A. Vogel of Missouri, Catholic auxiliary bishop George K. Fitzsimmons of Missouri, Pastor Ted Nissen of Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, and John Erickson of the Kansas City-based Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Several other program participants referred to their personal faith in Christ.

The face of Christianity, however, was consistently visible on the streets. Christians from Kansas City and elsewhere preached, sang, and passed out tracts to the delegates, reporters, protesters, and convention guests who clogged the streets of downtown Kansas City and the stockyards, where Kemper Arena is located.

The most prominent group of young Christians, with several hundred in its ranks, called itself “Christians Care for America.” Originally the group had intended to carry a Christian witness to Yippie demonstrators, but that plan quickly failed. Explained founder Charles B. Childers, 26, of Madison, Wisconsin: “We didn’t reach them very well, because they were so drugged up.” The group then began to concentrate on the delegates and the press. A lot of literature was handed out, but rallies were sparsely attended.

One Christian who persisted in a head-on confrontation with the protesters was Fred Bishop, 36, a Baptist evangelist from DuQuoin, Illinois. Each evening Bishop stationed himself adjacent to the Yippie protest site outside Kemper Arena and preached and sang, imploring the demonstrators to turn to Christ. There were “a few” conversions, reported a colleague of Bishop’s without specifying details.

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The threat of disruptive demonstrations by Yippies and other protesters evaporated almost before the convention had begun. “I guess we sort of miss ‘Nam and Nixon,” lamented Yippie Billy Bright. Most attempts at confrontation ended feebly as police used consistent restraint in their handling of demonstrators. Through the entire week, convention-related arrests numbered fewer than two dozen, mainly on misdemeanor trespassing, and disorderly-conduct charges. One youth was arrested for indecent exposure when he took off his clothes in front of a delegate hotel and proclaimed himself the nude candidate for president with the slogan, “What have I got to hide?”

One major contributor to keeping the peace was a group called WATCH. Organized by James O. Leffingwell, executive director of Kansas City’s Metropolitan Inter-Church Agency, WATCH helped keep the city calm by spreading its 460 volunteer observers throughout the convention area to note any extraordinary activities on the part of protesters, police, or others. WATCH issued a daily newsletter summarizing its findings. In one typical case, a rumor spread among the Yippies that police were gathering nearby for an invasion of their campsite; a WATCH observer went to the nearest police station, where he learned that the officers were simply gathering for a reassignment of location. The observer reported the information to the demonstrators and they relaxed over beer, marijuana, and rock music.

The most conspicuous religious event during the convention was a prayer breakfast on Wednesday, attended by well over 1,000 persons, including hundreds of delegates. It was hosted by Governor Christopher Bond of Missouri, emceed by Congressman Bill Armstrong of Colorado, and sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. The star of the program was Pat Boone, who, between his two songs, affirmed his belief that “God is working in the political process here.” Boone was a Reagan delegate from California. Congressman Albert H. Quie, a Minnesota Lutheran and leader in the Washington prayer movement (he and President Ford have often prayed together), led in prayer, as he did at one session of the convention. In the main address, Crusade’s founder-president Bill Bright surprisingly skirted politics as he made a straight plea for Christian conversion. (In many recent addresses, Bright has emphasized the need for involvement by Christians in the political process, and he has taken a conservative stand publicly on some issues.)

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Missing from the dais were two of the most prominent Republican evangelicals, Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon and Representative John Anderson of Illinois. Anderson disagreed with most of the breakfast’s promoters on making abortion a political issue. “I don’t think it belongs in a platform,” he said. “You can’t make a political football out of a very personal human issue.”

In the platform adopted by the GOP, a plank on “Morality in Foreign Policy” set forth as the Republican goal “a just and lasting peace in the world … based upon our deep belief in the rights of man, the rule of law, and guidance by the hand of God.” The section came down hard on the human-rights issue in the Soviet Union, especially in regard to rights of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

On other issues, the platform reaffirmed support for the Equal Rights Amendment, endorsed the adoption of a constitutional amendment “to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children,” asked that non-sectarian prayers be allowed in public schools, favored tax credits for parents of children in non-public schools, and opposed forced busing.

In accepting the nomination, President Ford said he will campaign on his record of having demanded “honesty, decency, and personal integrity” from government officials. “Private morality and public trust must go together” at all levels of government, he asserted. He reminded his audience that he had asked the American people to “confirm me with your prayers,” and he said he has tried to live by the prayer of John Adams that is carved into a marble fireplace in a room in the White House: “May none but the honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

His running mate, Robert Joseph Dole, 53, was raised a Methodist. He still holds membership in Trinity United Methodist Church in Russell, Kansas. In Washington, however, he and his wife attend services regularly at St. John’s Episcopal Church, where the Fords also frequently attend. The Doles were wed in 1975 at the Washington Cathedral (Episcopal) in a service conducted by Senate chaplain Edward L. R. Elson, a United Presbyterian clergyman. (Dole’s first marriage of twenty-four years was dissolved in 1972 on grounds of incompatibility.)

In an interview, Michigan Ford delegate Paul Henry, 34, political-science professor at Calvin College (and son of theologian Carl F. H. Henry), spoke at length on the crucial issue of the impact of evangelicals on politics in 1976. Henry, a member of the convention rules committee, denigrated the idea of an evangelical voting bloc, maintaining that there are at least four very different groups of evangelicals (free-church, confessional, hardshell fundamentalist, and Catholic) who have little in common beyond a conservative approach to biblical and theological issues. “It is naïve to believe that just because there are fifty million of us we have much of an effect in politics,” he asserted. Moreover, there are forbidding logistical problems involved: “How do you take moral principle and implement it politically?”

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Henry, author of Politics For Evangelicals, also sees the strong individualistic bent of evangelicals as an obstacle to political influence. “The most enthusiastic evangelicals are the ones who have the least sensitivity to the organizational and bureaucratic aspects of political reality. In politics, you’ve got to be organized.”

Henry characterized many of his fellow evangelicals at the convention as representing “fundamentalism in a polyester suit,” he said. “They have little sense of the real moral issues of this election—economic issues and the like. They have zeal without humility; they don’t recognize how difficult the issues are.” According to Henry, there was a lot of outright “fundamentalist involvement in both the Wallace and Reagan candidacies.” As for abortion as a major moral issue this year: “There’s no doubt in my mind that in some cases abortion is justifiable. Killing is wrong, but in some cases war is justifiable. There is no difference. Our choices are all fallen.”

It is clear that evangelicals are going to be involved on both sides of the political campaign this year. Henry offers counsel: “The interests of God are in both camps. The Providence of God reaches down into all the affairs of men, and not just into one political group.”


Jesus Festivals

More than 40,000 registrants showed up on Ralph Watson’s dairy farm outside Mercer in western Pennsylvania last month for the final three-day Jesus ’76 rally in a series of four that were held this year. Earlier, Jesus ’76 in Orlando, Florida, attracted about 15,000, and the ones in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Brantford, Ontario, each drew about 6,000.

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Many of the nationally known speakers and musicians involved were at all four events. For the most part, organizers attempted to strike a happy medium in programming that both charismatics and non-charismatics could live with. Thus it was that Campus Crusade’s Bill Bright, for example, could appear on the same program with charismatic broadcaster Pat Robertson.

There were some raised eyebrows at the Mercer rally, though. In several emotion-charged sessions, Robertson encouraged the audience to speak in tongues, and he announced instant healings. A stream of young people flowed to the platform to confirm they had been suddenly healed (of epilepsy, cancer of the uterus, a fracture). Several said their eyesight had been corrected, and they smashed their glasses. One youth said that he had been plagued by lust from age 13 but was now delivered “forever.”

Some leaders privately expressed reservations about Robertson’s conduct, but one said it was calculated. At previous Jesus rallies, he explained, the middle-ground approach pleased neither the charismatics nor the non-charismatics. Hence Robertson’s style was one with which the charismatics could identify fully and feel liberated.

Whatever, the heavy Pentecostal emphasis did not fracture the spirit of fellowship that was so plainly evident. In interviews, many persons said that the sense of love that pervaded the encampment was what impressed them most.

The Mercer organizers, a small band of laymen and ministers who had also sponsored Jesus ’74 in Mercer, announced they were disbanding this year. Money in excess of the $250,000-plus budget will be distributed to several area ministries.

The Jesus camp-meeting festivals began with Jesus ’73 in Morgantown in eastern Pennsylvania. Its leaders have since incorporated as Jesus Ministries, and they helped get the other Jesus rallies going. A permanent camp site for future rallies has been purchased in central Pennsylvania. (Last year’s Jesus ’75 at Morgantown attracted more than 25,000.)

The Jesus festivals emphasize Bible teaching (there were four huge “teaching” tents at Mercer), music “that ministers to the spirit,” and oneness in Christ. The book-store tent is always crowded, and display booths provide opportunities to meet representatives of mission agencies, Christian colleges, and other groups.

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Businessman Alex Clattenberg, who directs the Rock House youth ministry at Calvary Assembly of God Church in Winter Park, Florida (sponsor of the Orlando event), thinks the Jesus-festival idea will spread to many other states in coming years.

Choosing A Church

Presidential hopeful Jimmy Carter once said that if elected he would join the Baptist church nearest to the White House. Some Baptists around Washington, D. C., took him seriously and got out their maps and rulers. They quickly discovered a problem. First Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church are both six blocks from the White House. Pastor emeritus Edward Hughes Pruden of First Baptist happened to be at the Kiwanis luncheon where Carter made his remark, and Pruden proceeded to give directions, pointing out that Harry Truman frequently walked to worship services at First. Pastor Charles A. Trentham of First followed up Pruden’s contact with several letters.

Pastor George Hill of Calvary Baptist also dropped Carter a friendly letter. He insists his church is a couple of hundred yards closer than First—if the measurement is made from the east gate instead of the front porch.

Both churches are downtown; First is close to the posh neighborhoods of “Embassy Row,” while Calvary sits amid commuter parking lots and deteriorating houses near the red-light district. Both count heavily on older suburbanites as core members. Both are integrated (relatively few blacks attend; black churches abound in the same neighborhoods). And both are dually aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention and the American Baptist Churches. First’s ties are stronger to the SBC; Calvary has firm relationships with the ABC, and its pulpit tends to be somewhat more liberal than First’s. Calvary engages in week-day neighborhood ministries, some of them headed by a black minister on its staff.

Legislator’s Legacy

Congressmen do much more than make speeches and vote on legislation. “Sonlight,” a group of fifteen young people who came to Washington August 3 to proclaim the Gospel, became keenly aware of that just before their first public appearance the next day.

Gary Holder of Tower Grove Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri, leader of the group, had met Congressman Jerry Litton a few months earlier and told him of the proposed tour. Litton then arranged permits for Sonlight to sing in capital area parks and at the monuments.

Litton, a Presbyterian, won the Democratic nomination for a U. S. Senate seat August 3. His plane crashed when he was taking off from his hometown of Chillicothe for a victory celebration in Kansas City that night. He and his wife and two children, along with the pilot and his son, died in the crash.

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In recognition of the congressman’s death, flags were flying at half staff on the day Sonlight started singing in Washington. At a park concert, Holder concluded the program by telling of Litton’s assistance and asking for prayers for the survivors.

Pulpit Politics

Black clergyman J. L. Richard, president of the Baptist Ministers Union of Oakland, California, told reporters last month he has returned $2,000 to the Jimmy Carter campaign fund. His action came after the Los Angeles Times disclosed that he and three other black ministers in the Oakland area were paid a total of $5,000 to woo support for Carter among black voters in the June presidential primary (which Carter lost to Governor Jerry Brown). Richard said no receipts were available to document how the money was spent but, he added, he turned over a number of $25 and $50 “donations” to fellow ministers who had publicly endorsed Carter.

Richard said he considered the money as payment for services rendered. He told the Times: “When a preacher stands up in his church and talks about Jimmy Carter, he’s working for Jimmy Carter as far as I’m concerned, and he should be paid for it.… I don’t work for no damn politician for nothing.” He returned the money, he said, because of the “questionable implications” raised in press coverage.

There was no indication late last month as to whether the other three ministers will return the $1,000 each they received.

Carter spokesman Jody Powell said there was no need for Richard to return the money “because he’s done nothing wrong.” Giving “walk-around money” to community leaders to drum up votes has long been a political practice in both black and white neighborhoods. The practice is not illegal, Carter reminded reporters. He said he has ordered an investigation, however, to determine if some money was spent improperly, in which case recipients would be liable to income tax. He pledged to report anything illegal and to “take aggressive steps to prevent any reoccurrence.” Irregularities in financial reporting could force the Carter campaign to return part of the federal matching funds it has received.

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Graham: Undecided

Evangelist Billy Graham warned last month that Christians should not vote for “born-again” Christian political candidates simply because they agree with the office seekers’ religious views. “I would rather have a man in office who is highly qualified to be President who didn’t make much of a religious profession than to have a man who had no qualifications but who made a religious profession,” he told reporter Russell Chandler of the Los Angeles Times. He indicated that President Ford and challenger Jimmy Carter have similar religious views. He added that he had not yet decided for whom he would vote.

The interview was part of a series of press conferences in connection with the evangelist’s eight-day crusade in San Diego. An average of more than 31,000 persons attended each of the stadium rallies, and some 10,200 decisions for Christ were recorded, about 44 per cent of them first-time professions of faith, according to crusade officials.

The crusade had the backing of 399 churches. Several hundred pastors and other church leaders attended a week-long school of evangelism held in conjunction with the crusade. Also, 1,400 young people, many of them college students, registered for CODE ’76, a three-day training conference held at San Diego State University.


Pastor Charles B. Blair of the 6,000-member Calvary Temple church in Denver was convicted last month of seventeen counts of securities fraud. The jury deliberated seven hours. Appeals and sentencing are set for September 24. Each offense carries a prison sentence of from one to three years plus a $5,000 fine, but prosecutors say they will ask for probation for Blair because he is attempting to repay the investors.

Fund-raiser Wendell Nance was convicted last November of eleven counts of fraud in the case. He received a suspended prison sentence and had to pay a $5,000 fine.

The case involves sales of more than $11 million in unregistered time-payment certificates to 3,400 persons from late 1971 to early 1973. When authorities halted sales because the securities were unregistered and failed to contain adequate financial information, a crunch ensued, forcing Calvary, the Charles E. Blair Foundation, and Life Center, a nursing-home project, into bankruptcy (see July 26, 1974, issue, page 36, and January 3, 1975, issue, page 34). Many in the nursing home reportedly lost all or most of their savings in the collapse.

During the trial, Blair contended that Nance was to blame and that he was kept in the dark about the financial operation until it was too late to straighten it out. The prosecution established, however, that Blair had been warned by his own lawyer in 1971 that the church would lose in any civil suit against it because of inadequate information given to prospective investors. Also, he was told in 1972 and 1973 it would be illegal to “continue” in a “Ponzi” scheme (where interest is paid out of principal rather than earnings). Blair acknowledged knowing of the desperate plight in early 1972.

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Blair told his congregation on the Sunday after his conviction that he still feels he is innocent. He said he has decided not to resign from the church, which he started in 1947, and will stay on the job until every investor who lost money is repaid. Four payments totaling $1 million have been made under a quarterly repayment plan; a fifth is due September 19.

“The Lord will take this bad situation and bring out of it that which will bring glory to his name,” said Blair. He apologized to those who had lost money in investments and to members who have had to defend him to their friends. Reporter Virginia Culver of the Denver Post said Blair spoke quietly, his voice choked with emotion at times. “The crowd gave him a standing ovation,” she reported, “and many of the worshipers wiped tears from their eyes during his talk.”

The Dead Speak

During a memorial service the day after seven Campus Crusade for Christ women staffers died in the recent Colorado flood (see August 27 issue, page 34), some of their fellow staff members decided to do more than just remember. The some 2,000 attending Crusade’s staff training conference in Colorado at the time of the tragedy chipped in $9,000 outright and got on the phones to ask for more from relatives and friends.

On Sunday, August 15, their idea became reality: a full-page ad containing photos of the women and an evangelistic message appeared in 150 major newspapers throughout the land. Some of the newspapers donated the space, others offered reduced rates.

“These women lost their lives in the Colorado flood,” said the ad. “But they are still alive. They have a message for you.” Accompanying the evangelistic appeal was a reproduction of Crusade’s “Four Spiritual Laws.”

Furor Over Form 990

Opposition is growing among church leaders to a proposal that would disqualify religious schools, hospitals, orphanages, and old-age homes from being classified as “integrated church auxiliaries” by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

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The change in classification would mean that these institutions would have to submit a completed Form 990 to the IRS each year. No taxes would be imposed, but the form asks non-profit organizations with more than $10,000 a year in gross receipts to list the names and addresses of all people who have contributed $5,000 or more in a year. The form also requires a detailed listing of other income, grants and gifts, certain salaries, and the nature of the activities engaged in.

The proposed change was announced in the Federal Register February 11, and a hearing on the issue was held June 7. Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, and Mormons have expressed strong opposition. The Eastern Association of Christian Schools had a lawyer draw up a twenty-two-page brief that was sent to IRS commissioner Donald C. Alexander last month. It charges that the change runs counter to the intent of Congress when it enacted current tax-exemption legislation.

Sunday schools, men’s and women’s clubs, mission societies, and churches themselves would continue to be exempt from filing the information form.

For Sale

Deeply in debt, the Black Muslims have decided to dismantle their commercial holdings, estimated to be worth up to $70 million, according to a New York Times report. The business empire was built up in accord with the self-help philosophy of Elijah Muhammad, who led the Muslims for some forty years. But a lot of the business enterprise was just show, says Wallace Muhammad, who took over after his father died in 1974. The businesses were run poorly, and there was evidence of widespread corruption, he asserts. He acknowledges that the group owes millions of dollars in back taxes.

Latin Ferment

Some forty Catholic churchmen from fifteen nations, including seventeen bishops (four of them Americans), were detained by the Ecuadorian government last month and “invited to leave the country.” Plainclothes military police carrying automatic weapons burst into the conference room at the mountain retreat house in Riobamba where the group was meeting. The churchmen were taken by bus to a military barracks in Quito, 120 miles away, where they were detained for twenty-seven hours. Some were interrogated all night. The thirty-seven foreigners were then expelled.

Minister of the Interior Javier Manrique accused the group of interfering openly in the internal affairs of Ecuador. “The themes being discussed were of subversive character,” said Manrique, claiming that the police had found documents dealing with the unity of Catholics and Marxists, the role of the Catholic leftists, the military coup in Argentina, and the role of the Trotskyist party in Argentina. “There were even criticisms of the present Ecuadorian government by foreigners, which we cannot permit,” said Manrique. He said the participants had entered the country secretly.

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The action was criticized sharply by church officials and the press. Political, labor, and student groups in Ecuador also protested the move.

Auxiliary bishop Alfonso López Trujillo, general secretary of the Colombia-based Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM), called the incident a “lamentable error” and “a violation of pastoral liberty,” and denounced “the burying of democracy in Latin America.” He said the church will “continue to exercise the right of criticism, in favor of the poor.”

Auxiliary bishop Patricio Flores of San Antonio, Texas, one of those attending the pastoral conference, said the detained churchmen had been treated well (they were allowed to celebrate a midnight mass), but he criticized “the unjustified suspicions of the Ecuadorian government,” and said the only purpose of the meeting was to discuss the propagation of the Catholic faith.

Other Americans involved included Archbishop Roberto Sanchez of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Auxiliary Bishops Juan Arzube of Los Angeles and Gilbert Chavez of San Diego, and Paul Sedillo, the director of U.S. Catholic Spanish-speaking work. They denied that there was anything subversive or even secretive about the meeting.

Three Chilean bishops were the objects of a violent rock-throwing demonstration on their return to Santiago. Catholic officials blamed press hostility, and they charged that secret police participated, an accusation denied by the government. The demonstrators who took part in the violence were declared excommunicated by Cardinal Raoul Silva Henriquez of Santiago.

Another American Catholic priest, James Weeks, 42, was expelled by the military government of Argentina on August 17. He had been arrested August 4 while teaching at a seminary in the Province of Cordoba, accused of subversive activities, and held incommunicado until shortly before his expulsion. The government alleged that the cleric had in his possession “abundant Marxist-Leninist literature and a record with subversive songs.”

Elsewhere in Latin America, Colombian minister of government Cornelio Reyes charged that priests were promoting subversion in areas of the country threatened by guerrillas. Reyes told the Colombian senate that he had a list of 100 priests who are operating with extreme leftist groups in the Uraba region in the northeast of the county.


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