It was the largest convention ever to hit town, announced Kansas City newspapers last month when nearly 40,000 registrants arrived for “The 1977 Conference on Charismatic Renewal in the Christian Churches.”

Almost half of the participants were Roman Catholics. The others came from a variety of denominational and independent backgrounds. For four nights Arrowhead Stadium, the sparkling 79,000-seat home of the Kansas City Chiefs football team in the southeastern section of the city, reverberated with their singing and jubilant praises to Jesus. On three mornings they gathered in denominational and “fellowship” sub-conferences on the Holy Spirit in auditoriums, halls, and churches scattered across town. During the afternoons they congregated in dozens of workshops and seminars. The event concluded on an upbeat note in Sunday morning worship sessions at the sub-conference sites.

Because of it all, many said they will never be the same. Numerous individuals said they had gained for the first time a deep sense of oneness in Christ with Christians from other backgrounds. Some leaders expressed belief that the conference will have wide influence on Christian unity efforts.

The emotional high point of the interdenominational conference probably occurred on Friday night in the stadium. Presiding Bishop James Patterson of the Church of God in Christ pounded home the need for personal renewal. Cardinal Leon Joseph Suenens of Belgium, a leading figure at Vatican Council II and in the Catholic charismatic movement, spoke gently but powerfully. “The world is dying because it doesn’t know the name of its saviour, Jesus Christ,” said Suenens. This name, he stated, is one “no one can pronounce without the power and the grace of the Holy Spirit.” The trouble “is not that we are Christian, but that we are not Christian enough,” he declared. “We have to be Christianized again … to be a new creation … so that others will see something of the Lord shining through us.”

Then came Bob Mumford of Cupertino, California, an independent Bible teacher who travels widely in charismatic circles. At one point he challenged Christians to drop their fearfulness and defensive mentality. He held his Bible aloft and said: “If you take a sneak look at the back of the book—glory, hallelujah—Jesus wins!” The crowd began cheering. “Glory to God! Jesus is Lord!” Mumford shouted, setting off the kind of thunderous response the Chiefs get after a touchdown. The lights on the giant score-board flashed repeatedly, “Jesus is Lord” and “Praise the Lord.” Next the scoreboard displayed pictures of the face of Jesus and of a crowd with uplifted arms worshiping him. The exuberant audience loved it.

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Speakers on other evenings included General Secretary Vinson Synan of the Pentecostal Holiness Church, Episcopal rector Dennis Bennett of Seattle, Catholic lay leader Kevin Ranaghan of South Bend, Indiana, inner-healing advocate Ruth Carter Stapleton of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Catholic priest Francis MacNutt of St. Louis, Lutheran pastor Larry Christenson of San Pedro, California, and Catholic educator Michael Scanlon of Steubenville College in Ohio.

Bennett said he sees three streams of Christianity that are beginning to flow together: the Catholic stream with its emphasis on history and the continuity of the faith, the evangelical stream with its emphasis on loyalty to Scripture and the importance of personal commitment to Christ, and the Pentecostal stream with its emphasis on the immediate experience of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the keynote address, Ranaghan, chairman of the conference planning committee, asserted that divisions among the various Christian churches have been a “serious scandal” in the world. “For the world to believe depends on our becoming one,” he said. It is the will of God, he emphasized, “that we be one.”

At a press conference, Mrs. Stapleton said she believes her brother, President Carter, is a “charismatic” Christian in the way that she defines a charismatic—one who has yielded to Jesus. She also stated that she had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and had exercised such spiritual gifts as healing, discernment, and prophecy eighteen months before she received the gift of praying in tongues.

Mrs. Stapleton’s remark underscored a basic difference of opinion among charismatics. Generally, classical Pentecostals and independent charismatics believe that speaking in tongues is the initial, necessary sign of Spirit baptism. Many charismatics in the Catholic Church and main-line Protestant denominations, however, believe that Spirit baptism can occur apart from tongues. The issue was not an agenda item for debate at the conference.

In a press briefing, Scanlon, MacNutt, and other Catholic leaders said that the charismatic movement is helping to return Catholic theology to its biblical moorings.

The conference was directed by a fourteen-member, all-male planning committee, with chief administrative duties carried out by Charismatic Renewal Services, the main service organization of the Catholic charismatic movement. Two-thirds of the $950,000 budget came from registration fees ($20 per head, with special rates for families). The remainder was raised in conference offerings. Hundreds of volunteers helped out (including 300 who supervised activities of the 900 children at the conference under age 12). Scores of buses shuttled conferees between their hotels, the stadium, and other conference sites.

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Ten denominational and fellowship groups co-sponsored the main conference and held meetings of their own: Baptists, Pentecostals, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Mennonites, Messianic Jews, independent charismatics, Presbyterians, Catholics, and United Methodists. After Catholics, the next largest groups were the independents, Lutherans, and Methodists.

Southern Baptists and American Baptists discussed the possibility of organizing a pan-Baptist charismatic fellowship (there are an estimated 10,000 charismatics in each of the two Baptist bodies). The 750 or so United Methodists mulled over plans to organize formally within their denomination. Some disunity was noted over a proposal calling for charismatics to link arms with a non-charismatic evangelical caucus in the church. Leaders advised against it.

Two new fellowships were formed at Kansas City, the result of members of the same denomination discovering each other. One was organized by about sixty members of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a liberal denomination. UCC pastor Robert Carlson of Cleveland said there is “real hunger in the United Church of Christ for some renewal of the spirit.” The new group, he said, can be a channel for such renewal.

The other group was formed by about fifty conference participants who came from Wesleyan-Holiness background. These include the Church of the Nazarene, the Wesleyan Church, the Free Methodist Church, and The Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). The Christian and Missionary Alliance was also represented.

Ex-Nazarene clergyman Warren Black of Kansas City said inclusion of Church of the Nazarene members in the fellowship was significant in light of recent history. He alleged that the denomination has expelled about fifty of its ministers who had undergone the charismatic experience.

One denomination apparently wide open to the charismatic movement is the Episcopal Church. Leaders say one-fourth of the church’s active priests are involved in some way with the movement. In a press briefing, rector Everett Fullam of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Darien, Connecticut, predicted that in ten years “there will be only two kinds of Episcopal churches—charismatic or dead.” The church has lost a member every five minutes for the past ten years, he lamented. To fellow Episcopalians in the sub-conference he confided that the typical Episcopal church is not known as a spiritual-power center in the community where it is located. The denomination needs the unleashing of the Spirit’s power in the lives of its members, he said.

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One of the most colorful and best-attended of the sub-conferences was the one on “Messianic Judaism and the Holy Spirit.” There was a lot of singing, Jewish folk dancing, and chanting of “Baruch HaShem! Baruch HaShem!” (translation: “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”). The most spirited discussion was not on charismatic issues but on how far Jewish followers of Jesus should go in retaining their Jewish identity. Some leaders warned that culture can become an idol impeding the Holy Spirit’s efforts to bring about unity among believers.

There were other warnings elsewhere. Some leaders said that the unity experienced by charismatics so far has been at the emotional level. Serious doctrinal differences do exist, and they have been passed over too easily, thus posing a threat to future unity efforts, they said. But, replied Ranaghan, he has seen so many barriers and hostilities crumble that he now believes there is a “real possibility of moving together toward some lasting form of Christian unity.”

As for the degree of unity exhibited at Kansas City, Vinson Synan remarked to a reporter: “Of all things God has done in this century, nothing has surprised me more than this.”

Church Roundup

Summer is the time when many denominations hold policy-making sessions. Here are some convention highlights:

Church of the Brethren. Andrew Young, a United Church of Christ clergyman and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, chided delegates to the annual Brethren conference in Richmond, Virginia, for getting “a little too establishment.” The 179,000-member denomination, with its Anabaptist-pacifist roots, should avoid being shaped by forces around it and should seek renewal, he said. (Young once served a stint as a Brethren Service Worker in Austria.)

The conference directed its general board to find ways in which women and other “under-represented groups” can become denominational leaders, but it rejected by a vote of 613 to 381 a proposal to require quotas of females in church leadership roles. Approved was a paper on marriage and divorce that sets the same standards for Brethren clergy and non-clergy. It allows divorce in some circumstances as a forgivable violation of the intent of Christ’s teachings.

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Conservative Baptist Association of America. Celebrating its thirtieth anniversary, the 300,000-member CBA learned that for the first time its annual home-missions income has topped $2 million (with 250 missionaries under appointment). The association of 1,200 churches has 500 career personnel overseas, and foreign missions giving totals $6 million per year. Over 1,500 messengers (delegates) attended the Estes Park, Colorado, meeting.

Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Founded on the frontier in the midst of a preacher shortage, the 90,000-member denomination is now becoming more protective of its ministers’ prerogatives. Commissioners (delegates) at the Tampa, Florida, assembly defeated a proposal to allow lay elders and unordained but licensed preachers to officiate at baptism and communion. The governing body of the church also refused to take a stand against homosexuality and expansion of nuclear power.

Reformed Church in America. The appointment of Arie Brouwer, 42, as general secretary was approved by the general synod at Sioux Center, Iowa. He succeeds Marion De Velder, who retires September 1 after sixteen years in the 355,000-member denomination’s top post. In one of its stickiest issues, the synod affirmed that it was neither legally nor morally responsible for the troubled $5 million securities program of its San Dimas church in California. A commission was authorized, however, to find ways of raising money throughout the denomination to help note holders who suffered hardship because of the situation.

Despite a plea that it declare a year’s moratorium on the issue, the synod asked its district bodies to vote again on a constitutional amendment to permit the ordination of women ministers. The matter has been submitted for several years, failing each time to get the necessary two-thirds approval. Also submitted (but for study and not for a constitutional vote) was a proposal to allow children to participate in the Lord’s Supper before making their public professions of faith. A commission was directed to study a paper “affirming the human and civil rights of homosexuals and lesbians.”

Evangelical Free Church of America. Strong positions against abortion and divorce were adopted at the annual EFCA conference, which drew nearly 1,700 participants to Fort Collins, Colorado. The resolutions upheld the biblical norm of marriage as an “indissoluble bond” and called on the state to “guarantee the rights of the unborn child as it would guarantee the rights of any of its citizens.” The 660 congregations of EFCA were urged to develop “meaningful ministries” to single persons.

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United Church of Christ. Just before the UCC general synod met in Washington, D.C., 498 of the 704 delegates returned a questionnaire on sex. Among the results: 65 per cent said they believe “many of the assumptions about human sexuality in the Old and New Testaments have been proved inaccurate.” The Bible’s “shortcomings” in this area, they held, should be criticized by current Christian ethics.

When they got down to voting in the synod the result was about the same. A controversial study on sexuality passed 402 to 210. Since 34 per cent were opposed, a minority report was appended in the published version. The majority advocated a view that the Bible alone is not an adequate guide for morality or sexual conduct. The report, which congregations of the 1.8 million-member denomination are being asked to study, looks askance at traditional interpretations of the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual acts. It also takes a liberal view of abortion, contraception, civil liberties for homosexuals, and sex outside of marriage. In a separate action the synod said it deplored the Dade County, Florida, repeal of a homosexual rights ordinance. The resolution denounced the use of the Bible to “generate hatred” in the controversy.

Avery Post, president of the Massachusetts conference of the UCC since 1970, was named president (the top executive post) of the denomination. The synod authorized a two-year study of the possibility of resuming formal merger talks with the Disciples of Christ. In a resolution on Africa the delegates asserted, “We now believe that withdrawal of business and investments from South Africa is the central expression of the gospel witness.”

Baptist General Conference. The 1,300 delegates to the BGC national meeting in Duluth, Minnesota, sent a letter of commendation to singer Anita Bryant, who has become a national symbol of the drive against the homosexual-rights movement. She was thanked for “being willing to become a rallying point for millions of Christian citizens.” The conference, which reported a nationwide membership of 121,000 and a record attendance of 3,100 at the meeting, assured the singer of “our prayerful support” and of its confidence that “you will join us in expressing Christ-like concern for the individuals in the homosexual community.” A proposed amendment to its bylaws, which would have barred employment of divorced persons in conference leadership positions, was defeated. However, an earlier statement upholding the “scriptural ideal” that marriage is “to be broken only by death” was reaffirmed.

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Church of God (Anderson). For the first time, the church’s assembly approved a budget of over $5 million for its international endeavors. In addition to the 4,000 pastors and lay leaders composing the assembly at San Diego, more than 20,000 others reportedly participated in the sessions. James Earl Massey was named speaker on the denomination’s radio program, “The Christian Brotherhood Hour,” succeeding R. E. Sterner, speaker since 1968.

Helping Ugandans

Uganda’s president-for-life Idi Amin early last month did what many citizens of his country wish they could do: he left Uganda. Then he returned, after attending the meetings of the Organization of African Unity in Libreville, Gabon.

He was the only black African leader to be cheered at virtually every appearance in Libreville, the Associated Press reported. AP quoted an unidentified black delegate to the conference as saying, “Amin is a disgrace to all of Africa, but he is also the most popular man on this continent. There is a mystique of bigness and arrogance about him that fascinates the average African. If you elected a king of all Africa, Amin would win.”

The Ugandan dictator took the tri, only after getting assurances that the Anglican Church centenary celebrations would not spark a revolt. During preparations for the nationwide festival he had blown hot and cold, but he never told church officials they could not observe the anniversary. However, he found an excuse not to attend the June 30 service in Kampala’s cathedral, the event’s climax.

Amin reportedly ordered the cancellation of all invitations to non-Ugandans two days prior to the service. Outsiders were there, however, in the persons of Dutch Bible smuggler “Brother Andrew” Vander Bihl and two members of his staff. They entered the country as tourists without credentials from the church, and Anglican officials told them they were the only non-Ugandans attending. They were given places of honor at the three-and-one-half hour service at which former archbishop Erica Sabiti preached. Some 3,000 were inside and perhaps 100,000 outside, according to a report by the Dutch visitors.

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Amin’s trip spotlighted the plight of some of his citizens who would not vote for him in any office. At least 3,000 of them are in Kenya now as refugees, and many are in other African states or in Europe. Most of them have fled since the murder of Archbishop Janani Luwum in February (see March 18 issue, page 49, and April 15 issue, page 20). Getting an accurate count of the exiled Ugandans is difficult because many have avoided registering for political asylum with host governments for fear of being identified by Amin agents abroad. Many who need material assistance have been reluctant to go to United Nations or Christian relief offices in Kenya.

Spearheading relief efforts is the (Anglican) Church of the Province of Kenya. Also involved in efforts to provide at least subsistence rations to the refugees are the World Council of Churches, the All Africa Conference of Churches, and World Vision. A unique ministry to students, intellectuals, and professionals is being launched by the African Enterprise organization (American address: P.O. Box 988, Pasadena, California 91102). Led by exiled Anglican bishop Festo Kivengere and administered in Kenya by another Anglican minister from Uganda, John Wilson, the program is named RETURN. Kivengere is seeking over $15 million to finance scholarships for students whose educations have been interrupted, to establish professionals (especially doctors) in new work, and to otherwise prepare leaders for the day when they will be able to return to Uganda.

Latin America: Catholics in Conflict

The following news account is based largely on reports filed by correspondent Stephen Sywulka:

Right-wing terrorists in El Salvador gave the forty-seven Jesuits in that Central American country thirty days to clear out or else be assassinated. “The execution of all Jesuits found in El Salvador after July 21 will be systematic and immediate,” warned a message released to the press by the White Warrior Union, a paramilitary anti-Communist organization.

Spiritual Payoff

Does bingo in a church hall pay off? John J. Capuano, a Roman Catholic pastor in Worcester, Massachusetts, said the weekly games at Mount Carmel-St. Ann Church grossed about $8,000 (of which $1,400 was clear profit) per week last year, but he’s not sure about the pay. In a recent parish bulletin he wrote, “Bingo has certainly helped us financially and somewhat socially, but it is no longer helping us morally or spiritually.”

When the parish’s gambling license expires in October the games will stop, the priest announced. Sometimes only 100 of the 500 playing are from the parish. Capuano said, “The people who came to play bingo weren’t coming to help the church or take part in a parish social. They came to make money.” About $5,300 of the weekly gross went to prizes. Deciding that bingo brings out the worst in players, the priest said he would stop the play because it has become too “hard to keep it innocent and charitable.”

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The deadline passed without immediate violence. Many sources, however, said the Jesuits now are in jeopardy not only from the right but also from the left. Their theory is that leftists would welcome the opportunity to create a national disturbance that could be pinned on rightists—and thereby imperil the government of General Carlos Humberto Romero, the new president.

There had been speculation that Romero’s ascension (he was formerly minister of defense) might alleviate some of the tension that had built up between the government and the Roman Catholic Church over social-reform issues. But a June meeting between Romero and church leaders ended in an impasse, and Archbishop Oscar A. Romero y Galdámez and the hierarchy boycotted the new president’s inauguration ceremonies early this month. The boycott, said the archbishop, was a protest against government harassment of the church and the seeming lack of desire by authorities for dialogue and conciliation.

El Salvador has a population of about 4.5 million, 90 per cent of whom are identified as Catholic. The vast majority are landless, and there are hundreds of thousands of impoverished, mostly illiterate peasants, according to press sources. Lately, the Catholic Church has been calling for social justice, especially land reform (church leaders claim the government is protecting major landowners at the expense of peasants’ rights), and the Jesuits have been in the forefront of the controversy. Two priests were killed by terrorists earlier this year (the White Warriors claimed responsibility), another disappeared, some were beaten, and others were expelled (see June 17 issue, page 40). A Jesuit-run university has been bombed six times.

Despite the threats, the priests vowed to stay “until we fulfill our duty or are liquidated.” The government dispatched police and troops to protect churches, a seminary, and schools run by the Jesuits. Romero himself met with Jesuit officials and discussed security precautions for the priests, a number of whom shed their black suits and white collars in favor of civilian garb. Many of the country’s other 200-plus Catholic priests took similar precautions.

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Romero did not mention the conflict in his inaugural address. He did say, “I will guarantee the free exercise of all religions, but I hope that the image of God is not confused with other kinds of behavior that provoke disharmony.” He also said he was conscious of the social injustice within the country, and he pledged that the government would try to use “the strength of the strongest sectors to help the weak” and to encourage employment and literacy.

In Guatemala, meanwhile, a breach between Cardinal Mario Casariego and the country’s bishops is widening. Casariego, an old-guard prelate with ties to a rightist political party, recently ordered his clergy to avoid political involvement. Earlier, he had disavowed a pastoral letter issued by the bishops in which they called for fairer distribution of land and wealth and for an end to unjust social structures.

The cardinal’s latest directive was in apparent response to another declaration by his ten bishops. They denied that Communism and class warfare are promoted by clergy supporting human rights, and they said that violence and repression grow out of “ongoing abysmal inequalities and the absence of daring and urgent reforms.” The statement was prompted in part by an attack on the church by Guatemala vice president Mario Sandoval Alarcon (who heads the party favored by the cardinal). Alarcon accused the church of helping the cause of Communism by its emphasis on “renovation” (renewal).

The bishops said that “some want to see the church’s mission reduced to preaching the mysteries revealed by God with no reference to human contemporary problems.” But because of the “excessive inequalities” existing among the people of Guatemala, they said, “the church is engaged in a series of activities that are promoting projects and works designed to make men more aware of their Christian … rights and responsibilities.”

Elsewhere in Latin America, Brazil’s congress by a vote of 226 to 159 approved a constitutional amendment providing for legalized divorce for the first time in the history of the country. The measure, stiffly opposed by the Catholic Church, allows for divorce after three years of legal separation or five years of de facto separation. Just before the vote Cardinal Aloisio Lorscheider warned that divorced Catholics will be barred from confession, communion, and last rites.

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Graham: Back to the Bloc

Ten years ago Billy Graham boarded a train in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, after two days of rallies there. A large crowd of Christians came to the station to see him off and to beg him to return. He has not been back to Eastern Europe to preach since then, but he may soon return to that part of the world. This time it will be for a longer stay.

His acceptance of an invitation to conduct “a series of religious meetings” in Hungary was announced last month. It will be the evangelist’s first public appearance in any of the Communist countries since 1967 and his first full-scale evangelistic campaign in any of them. He will go to Hungary at the invitation of that nation’s Council of Free Churches, a federation of eight smaller Protestant groups (see April 15 issue, page 48). Although the larger Reformed and Lutheran Churches are not a part of the council, their leaders reportedly have given the plans tacit approval.

Graham’s trip may involve more than one Eastern bloc country. In announcing that he had accepted the Hungarian invitation, Graham also reported that negotiations are proceeding about the possibility of preaching in the Soviet Union. Baptist leaders from Moscow, in Miami last month for the Baptist World Alliance general council meeting, met informally with Walter H. Smyth, director of Graham’s international ministries. In a statement issued after the session, Smyth reported that the Graham organization “and the Russian brethren are ready to join forces to make such a visit a reality.”

The evangelist is known to have invitations from Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia, but he has not indicated that he is prepared to accept them now. (Since “official” invitations can be issued by Eastern-bloc churches only after approval by state authorities, the developments are seen as a thaw in government attitudes toward Graham.) In announcing the acceptance of the bid to preach in Hungary he emphasized that he would be willing to “cancel any engagements” to go. Smyth added that scheduling of the campaign in Hungary would not require cancellation of any crusades already planned.


ERNEST D. DICK, 88, noted Seventh-day Adventist educator who served as general secretary of the SDA denomination from 1936 until 1952; in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Smyth was in Hungary and Romania in April and reported a “warm and hospitable” reception after visiting a variety of churches, church-related institutions, and government officials. A delegation from the Council of Free Churches of Hungary met with him during the Baptist sessions in Miami, and the announcement of Graham’s impending visit was released after that. One member of the delegation, council president Sandor Palotay, stopped on the way home to Hungary to discuss the plans with Graham, who was working on a book and vacationing in Europe.

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Religion in Transit

A recently published book that explores the religious life of Abraham Lincoln concludes that he became a Christian after his address at the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg. In A Heart That Yearned for God (Third Century), retired evangelist-scholar Frederick Owen quotes Lincoln as telling friends: “When I buried my son, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated my life to Christ.”

Anita Bryant will be retained as the advertising symbol of Florida orange juice despite her widely publicized campaign against homosexual-rights laws. The Florida Citrus Commission says a study shows she can still sell orange juice. However, she may be forced to change the name of her anti-gay “Save Our Children” group. The Connecticut-based Save the Children Federation, which solicits money for underprivileged children, claims it is losing donations because of the similarity in names. A federal judge last month issued a temporary restraining order against use of the Bryant group’s name.

There are still hard feelings between the Baptists in President Carter’s home town. The congregation of Plains Baptist Church voted to refuse letters of transfer to twenty-six former members who broke away to form a new church, Bottsford Baptist.

A number of church leaders have been pressuring ABC television to dissolve Soap, an “adult comedy” program scheduled to begin this fall. Morally, it’s low, they say. After viewing pilot episodes, a number of ABC’s affiliates publicly criticized the series, and some have declined to run the early programs.

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