Jimmy Carter’s phenomenal climb reached its climax last month when the devout Baptist layman from the peanut farmlands of southwest Georgia was sworn into office as America’s thirty-ninth president.

Carter, whose outspokenness about his spiritual rebirth led the way in making the nation’s Bicentennial year also the year of the evangelical, said his inaugural marked “a new beginning, a new dedication within our government, and a new spirit upon us all.”

He reached the top rung of his ladder out of obscurity by taking the oath of allegiance on a Bible given to him by his mother several years ago. It was opened to the sixth chapter of Micah, a well-known portion of which Carter used as the basis for his inaugural address: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Carter read the passage in the King James Version. He said that he also had before him the bulky Bible used by George Washington in the inauguration of the first President in 1789.

The new President did not otherwise invoke the name of God in his address, but his remarks nonetheless reflected a strong moral tone. He sought to communicate a sense of personal humility when he said, “Your strength can compensate for my weakness, and your wisdom can help to minimize my mistakes.”

Carter urged people to learn, laugh, work, and pray together. “In a spirit of common good,” he said, “we must simply do our best.”

He is only the third Baptist to reach the nation’s highest office despite the fact that Baptists outnumber all other American Protestant denominations. Presidents Warren Harding and Harry Truman also were Baptists.

Reflecting an often stated belief in leadership by personal example, he called on the nation to demonstrate that its system is worthy of emulation.

“We are a strong nation,” he declared, “and we will maintain strength so sufficient that it need not be proven in combat, a quiet strength based not merely on the size of an arsenal but on a mobility of ideas. We will be ever vigilant and never vulnerable, and we will fight our wars against poverty, ignorance, and injustice.” The ultimate goal to which he pledged to work was “the elimination of all nuclear weapons from this earth.”

Carter ended his speech by saying:

“I join in the hope that when my time as your President is ended, people might say this about our nation: that we had remembered the words of Micah and renewed our search for humility, mercy, and justice; that we had torn down the barriers that separated those of different race and region and religion, and where there had been mistrust, built unity, with a respect for diversity; that we had found productive work for those able to perform it; that we had strengthened the American family, which is the basis of our society; that we had insured respect for the law and equal treatment under the law for the weak and the powerful, for the rich and the poor; and that we had enabled our people to be proud of their own government once again.”

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One of the most moving moments of the ceremony came when Carter at the outset of his speech acknowledged Ford, thanking him for what he had done to help heal the land. New Presidents have rarely mentioned their predecessors in inaugural speeches. Carter’s gesture evoked an ovation from the thousands of spectators packed onto the east grounds of the Capitol.

The invocation at the inaugural ceremony was pronounced by United Methodist bishop William R. Cannon of Atlanta. Cannon prayed that God would grant a “new and vital realization of thy sovereignty and our dependence,” and that he would save us from “the arrogant futility of trying to play God.” He asked for forgiveness of those sins that “marred our national character and impaired the effectiveness of our government in recent times.” Cannon’s prayer noted the “inestimable service” of Gerald Ford and the “brilliant mind” of Carter and his “exemplary Christian life and devotion to thee and to thy people.” (Reporters noted that Rosalyn Carter seemed to be reading her Bible while Cannon prayed.)

The benediction was delivered by Roman Catholic archbishop John Roach of Minnesota, who in praying for Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale, observed that “there is loneliness on the mountain. Grace that loneliness with your presence.”

A Jewish cantor from Atlanta, Isaac Goodfriend, sang the national anthem at the close of the inaugural ceremony. Protests had been voiced that there were no clergy from the Jewish and Greek Orthodox faiths on the program. According to Religious News Service, Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, national director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee, called Goodfriend’s appearance “a sop to the Jews.” Tanenbaum and Father John Tavlarides, pastor of a Greek Orthodox cathedral in Washington, also expressed concern that having a cantor sing the national anthem mixes religion and patriotism.

One of the notable firsts of the 1977 inaugural was an early-morning outdoor “People’s Prayer Service” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. A crowd estimated at more than 5,000 braved twenty-degree cold to participate in the half-hour event. Carter’s pastor in Plains, Georgia, the Rev. Bruce E. Edwards, took part along with the President’s sister, Ruth Carther Stapleton, and Martin Luther King, Sr., a retired Baptist minister. Among the musicians was the well-known Metropolitan Opera soprano, Leontyne Price, who sang “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

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King delivered a short sermon from the same spot where his late son gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the march on Washington in the summer of 1963. The elder King took his message from Christ’s words to Peter, “Lovest thou me more than the least of these? Feed my sheep.”

Parts of the service, including a closing illustration cited by King, were drowned out by commercial jets taking off from the nearby Washington National Airport.

After breakfast on Inauguration Day, Carter watched the Lincoln Memorial service on TV, then attended a private “Pre-Inaugural Service of Prayer” himself at First Baptist Church. With him was his family, Mondale, Cabinet designees, aides, and members of their families. The service, planned about three weeks earlier, began at 9 A.M. and lasted almost an hour. It was closed to the public, press, and even members of the church, except for ushers and four dozen choir members.

There was one congregational hymn (“O God, Our Help in Ages Past”), with two solos by Myrtle Hall of King’s College (known best for her appearances at Billy Graham crusades), prayers by several clergymen (including pastor Charles A. Trentham of First Baptist), and a short sermon by pastor Nelson L. Price, 45, of the 5,000-member Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia. Price has been a “prayer partner” of Carter since eight years ago when they were both speakers at a Junior Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Price, using Colossians 3:23 as a text (“Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord”), summed up his message afterward in an interview: “Let the Spirit of heaven permeate the new spirit of Washington with a new commitment to personal purity, prolific prayer, and proper principles.”

Trentham prayed that Carter’s family life would survive “the pressures of public responsibility.” “Let nothing sully the clear image they bear of honor, integrity, and loving concern,” he implored. (A church spokesperson said the Carters planned to visit both First Baptist, where Harry Truman worshipped, and Calvary Baptist Church during their first Sundays in Washington. Both churches are about seven blocks from the White House.)

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Another clergyman who led in prayer was Mrs. Mondale’s father, John Maxwell Adams, emeritus chaplain and religion professor at Macalester College.

On the last Sunday of 1976, Carter and his wife and daughter attended the United Methodist church in Plains. There they heard a sermon by Bishop Cannon in which he predicted a new era of compassion and justice in American life. Thirty years ago the Carters were married in the church, where Mrs. Carter had been a member.

The following Sunday the Carter family was back at the Plains Baptist Church, as were two bishops and two laypersons from the predominantly black African Methodist Episcopal Church. The group said they had come to show their support for Judge Griffin B. Bell, Carter’s choice for attorney general. Bell had come under attack from some civil-rights groups because of some of his decisions as a judge and because he belonged to three private clubs that exclude blacks and Jews. One of the bishops, I. I. Bearden, is board chairman of Morris Brown College, which named Bell its “man of the year” in 1976.

The Plains Baptist Church is now on record as having its membership rolls open to otherwise qualified blacks, but no out-of-towners need apply. The congregation unanimously rejected clergyman Clennon King, another black man, and a white woman after it became clear that they lived too far from Plains to be able to carry out the spirit of the church covenant. A Baptist Press release observed, “Southern Baptists encourage new members to join churches in the immediate community so they may be active.”

King, whose home is in Albany, Georgia, had appeared at the church the Sunday before Carter’s election, triggering a congregational crisis (see December 3, 1976, issue, page 50). The members subsequently voted in principle to admit blacks to membership and in so doing gave a vote of confidence to pastor Bruce Edwards, who strongly advocated the open-door policy. Only one family has left the church reportedly as a result of the controversy. Some younger members of a nearly black church are said to be planning to try to transfer their membership to Edwards’s church.

King had failed to meet with an examining committee prior to the vote on his application. Edwards said that he had been unable to reach King to advise him verbally of the meeting but that he had been sent a notice of it.

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The same Sunday that the vote on King was taken Carter taught the men’s Bible class for the last time before his inauguration. The subject was, “Jesus Facing His Call.” Carter was to be in Plains for one more Sunday but said he preferred not to teach on the topic scheduled for then: “A prophet is without honor in his own country.”

Edwards himself planned to be away from the church on Sunday, January 30, and the sermon that day was scheduled to be delivered by James Hefley, a well-known evangelical author who is compiling a book on the Carter roots in Plains.

Carter is expected to be watched closely by religious leaders and by many others who are curious about what kind of personal style will emerge from his born-again faith. The first indication came in an interview in People magazine where Carter said he intended to revert to a “wine only” policy during White House social functions. “That is my present intention,” Carter said. “Most of the Presidents have not served hard liquor at receptions.” People said “wine only” was the drinking policy at the White House until John F. Kennedy became president.

There is also interest in some details of Carter’s theological beliefs. The Atlanta Constitution said last year that Carter did not “believe in such biblical accounts as Eve’s being created from Adam’s rib and other such miracles.” Carter is reported to have written the Constitution denying the article and saying, “I have never made any such statement and have no reason to disbelieve Genesis 2:21–22 or other biblical miracles.”

Graceful Exit

President Gerald Ford closed his State of the Union address with a prayer:

“May God guide this wonderful country, its people, and those they have chosen to lead them. May our third century be illuminated by liberty and blessed with brotherhood, so that we and all who come after us may be the humble servants of thy peace. Amen.”

Ford’s address before a joint session of Congress constituted a formal farewell after twenty-eight years in the federal government, including twenty-nine months as the chief executive.

He prefaced the prayer with the statement, “My fellow Americans, I once asked for your prayers, and now I give you mine.” He was referring to an appeal he had made upon being sworn in: “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me as your President with your prayers.”

Ford’s dignified and spiritual goodbye included references to the separation of powers, which “places supreme authority under God, beyond any one person, any one branch, any majority great or small, or any one party.” When Ford was a congressman he met regularly with others in Wednesday prayer meetings. W. Barry Garrett, Baptist Press representative in Washington, wrote that “although during the first part of his presidency Ford dropped the regular prayer meetings to avoid a show of religiousness, he quietly and without publicity resumed private prayer sessions with his colleagues during the past year.”

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Ford, an Episcopalian, was among those who attended a communion service at National Presbyterian Church on the morning that the new congress convened. The service has become a Washington tradition.

Here’s Life

Here’s Life, Dallas! Here’s Life, Philadelphia! Here’s Life, Portland!

All across the United States in 1976 that theme showed up, differing from place to place only in the name of the city. The evangelistic saturation effort spearheaded by Campus Crusade for Christ hit 165 metropolitan areas last year, and this year it aims for fifty more.

While the name of the overall effort is Here’s Life, America, the non-involved resident of target areas is more likely to remember another slogan, “I found it!” First it shows up on billboards and television, then on bumper stickers and in newspapers. Finally, if all goes according to the plan of Crusade’s founder, Bill Bright, everybody in the area will hear “I found it!” in person or on the telephone from a trained Christian.

Bright’s plan is probably the most comprehensive evangelistic scheme ever carried out in the United States. He had originally intended to present the Gospel to every person in the country by the end of 1976. Beyond that, he wanted to saturate the world’s population by 1980.

Even though the 1976 target was missed, the number of evangelistic presentations recorded during the year by Campus Crusade may still set a record. At year-end, officials reported that volunteers had made some 6.5 million personal contacts and that 536,824 persons had expressed a desire to receive Christ as Saviour. They note that these figures are incomplete since they believe many who made decisions because of the program never recorded them. They point out, for instance, that one television special was seen by an audience estimated at 50 million in its 240 showings, and that those deciding for Christ as a result of the telecast would not necessarily report to Here’s Life.

While there is a heavy use of the media in each area, success depends to a great extent upon the volunteer workers from local churches. The primary thrust of the plan is for a trained Christian to share Bright’s “four spiritual laws” with people who are willing to listen. At the conclusion of the presentation the listener is asked if he wants to commit his life to Christ, and a model prayer is recited for his guidance.

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About two million people last year were curious enough to respond to the “teaser” advertisements, calling a central telephone bank to ask about “I found it!” Their names were assigned to volunteers in their own neighborhoods, who then tried to arrange appointments for face-to-face sharing of the Gospel. If they could not work out personal meetings, the workers either recited the four laws on the telephone or mailed a booklet to the inquirers.

Additional millions of Americans who did not ask for an explanation of “I found it!” heard one anyway when a Here’s Life telephone surveyor called them. Workers attempted to reach every home in their assigned areas to offer an opportunity to hear the Gospel.

The workers, trained in a fourteen-hour course, were encouraged to use a step-by-step presentation in their telephone survey to lead the listener to a point of expressing an interest in getting “closer to God.” Those with such an interest were then asked if they would like to hear the four laws.

Persons praying the prayer of commitment on the telephone were then visited by the workers and given a special Living Bible edition of the Gospel of John and aids to Christian living. They were also encouraged to join five-week Bible-study groups. At the end of the year, the total number enrolled in such groups was reported to be more than 60,000.

The workers at the heart of the campaign in 1976 came from 11,826 congregations of all major denominations, according to Crusade’s statistics. Over a quarter of a million Christians were trained, and most of them took a shift one night a week for three weeks at a neighborhood telephone survey center.

As many as half of the adult members of some churches had active roles in the campaign, but in others only a handful actually completed the training and accepted telephone assignments. For a variety of reasons many churches across the theological spectrum did not participate. From both fundamentalist and liberal camps there were a few who opposed it publicly.

On the national level, there was also opposition, but little of it appeared as theological opposition. Most of the opponents saw in Here’s Life a scheme by Bright to harness evangelicals for conservative political action. He denied, however, that the campaign had any political motivation. He also denied, in a letter to Time managing editor Henry A. Grunwald, that he had ever been involved in partisan politics.

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Time, in its January 3 edition, said Bright appeared to have “undergone a political conversion of sorts” since he recently indicated that he was more optimistic about the nation’s future than he was early last year. In his letter responding to the article, Bright said the “conversion” was “actually renewed hope and optimism—a result of a spiritual movement that is sweeping across America as millions of Americans are turning to God. Historically, whenever individuals or nations turn to God the blessing of God is assured.”

Most of the objections have been to the techniques employed by Here’s Life, with writers in such publications as the Christian Century and the Banner of the Christian Reformed Church calling it a canned approach from which no deviation is permitted. Crusade officials have insisted, however, that cooperating churches are free to use any method as long as there is a clear and concise presentation of the Gospel. When the Banner published a pastor’s article opposing Here’s Life, it was run alongside an article favoring the campaign. The latter was written by an evangelism official in the denomination’s Board of Home Missions.

Some expected opposition from members of the Christian Reformed and other Calvinistic groups failed to materialize after the four-laws booklet was revised. For years Bright had been under attack in some Reformed communities, especially for the first law, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” The 1976 Here’s Life version, “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life,” found a much wider acceptance.

There were also significant changes in the fourth law. The early version read, “We must receive Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord by personal invitation.” The beefed-up 1976 version is: “We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.”

As is often the case in community-wide evangelistic efforts, there were some objections from church hierarchies because planners went directly to pastors and laymen without the permission of denominational officials. In Peoria, Illinois, for instance, the Roman Catholic bishop, Edward W. O’Rourke, wrote in his diocesan paper that Here’s Life was being conducted “without my knowledge or consent.” He went on to describe it as “incomplete … misleading, and mischievous” and “not acceptable in a pluralistic society.” The impetus of the campaign moved him to urge his own people to be more zealous in studying the Scriptures and evangelizing.

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Campaign officials have stressed, especially since the pilot program in Atlanta, that follow-up by local churches is essential if Here’s Life is to have lasting effects. Since many of the people who respond to the telephone calls are not churchgoers, it was suggested that follow-up Bible studies be offered initially in home or other “neutral” neighborhood locations. Some churches that followed this suggestion nevertheless reported immediate jumps in attendance at their worship services.

Others, while unable to note any direct attendance increase, are still pleased with the results of their participation. Members of their churches who had never had any training or experience in presenting Christ gained that during the campaign.

A pastor in the Washington, D.C., area expressed his appreciation to the area Here’s Life executive committee chairman, John Broger, by explaining that he now has twelve “assistants” able and willing to help in the work of evangelism. Before the twelve lay members participated in the campaign’s training and calling, he had none. Broger, the veteran director of information for the Armed Forces at the Pentagon, said another pastor told him that Here’s Life gave him his first actual experience of leading a person to Christ.

The national capital area campaign, held after the national elections in November, contacted about one-fourth of the homes in Washington and its suburbs. There are approximately 800,000 households in the Washington television viewing area, and Here’s Life volunteers recorded contacts with 203,000 of them during the three-week calling period. Some of the 230 cooperating churches kept their special telephone banks after November, and workers are still calling neighborhoods that were not reached during the three-week period. Volunteers reported that 10,800 persons prayed to receive Christ during the capital area campaign.

Broger said 7,000 volunteers were trained in the Washington area. They worked in 150 telephone centers, some with as many as twenty telephones and some with as few as four. Training and administration were handled by twenty-two full-time Campus Crusade staffers, all of whom raised their support outside the Here’s Life local budget.

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Here’s Life has had a high price tag. In the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, the budget was reported at just over $200,000. In the five-county southern California area it was $600,000. The largest budget items are purchase of media space and telephone rentals. The volunteer workers usually pay for their own materials. Most of the funding comes from local businessmen, the rest from cooperating churches.

Crusade officials express hope that the churches involved in four-week campaigns in 1976 will now move into Phase II, emphasizing discipleship of both new and older Christians. A Phase III projected for 1978 is to involve more use of the media.

Meanwhile, for some cities, 1977 is the year of Phase I. The nation will probably get a better view of “I found it” than it has previously had this spring when the spotlight turns on for Here’s Life, New York.

A Veteran Out, A Lesbian In

There was talk of schism last fall after the Episcopal Church opened the priesthood to women. Now there’s more than talk. Clergyman Albert J. duBois, 70, coordinator of Anglicans United, announced the formation of a new body to be known as the U.S. Episcopal Church. Initially, said duBois, the new denomination will have about fifty parishes with “between 10,000 and 12,000 members.” It will use the 1928 edition of the Episcopal Prayer Book and observe traditional canon law.

A long-time leader in the Anglo-Catholic wing of Episcopalianism, duBois maintained he wasn’t leaving the Episcopal Church “as constitutionally established.” He added: “We represent the loyal remnant—the others have left us.”

Meanwhile, the Episcopal diocese of Colorado has decided for now not to contest in court the secession from the diocese by St. Mary’s Church in Denver. The parish voted in November to leave the denomination in opposition to the women’s ordination issue.

Conservatives in the Episcopal Church have differed on whether to stay in the denomination. Many already upset by liberal trends in church life expressed outrage last month when Bishop Paul Moore, Jr., of New York ordained an avowed lesbian at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Manhattan: Ellen Marie Barrett, 30, a doctoral student at the Graduate Theological Union of Berkeley, California.

Moore explained that “many persons with homosexual tendencies” are already in the ministry, and that Ms. Barrett is “highly qualified intellectually, morally, and spiritually to be a priest.”

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Bishop William Frey of Colorado warned Moore in a telegram before the ceremony that his action seemed “totally irresponsible” and would harm the church. “Ordination of practicing homosexuals,” said Frey, “does not represent the mind of the church and is plainly contrary to the teachings of Scripture which we have all sworn to uphold.” And during the service, a priest of Moore’s diocese, James Wately, declared that Ms. Barrett had not rejected homosexuality as “a sinful life-style.” The ordination, he said, was “a travesty and a scandal.”

Ms. Barrett two years ago was a founder of Integrity, the “gay caucus” in the Episcopal Church, and she has been involved in homosexual counseling projects in New York and Berkeley.

Time quoted her as saying that her lesbian lover “is what feeds the strength and compassion I bring to the ministry.” Homosexuality, she has said, “is an alternative life-style that can be a good and creative thing.”

Ms. Barrett was the second admitted homosexual to be ordained in a major denomination. The first one was William Johnson of the United Church of Christ in San Francisco in 1973.

A Jesuit seminarian, Thomas Sweetin, told reporters last month in New York that he had been refused ordination to the priesthood because of his homosexual orientation. He said he has been “inactive” sexually in recent years but still believes homosexuality can be “viable.”

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