The following report is based largely on an account filed by correspondent Alan Scarfe. An Anglican, Scarfe was ejected on the second day of the two-day Romanian Baptist meeting that he was assigned to cover in Bucharest when officials discovered he was neither a Baptist nor an officially invited guest. Undeterred, Scarfe—a young British journalist-researcher who once studied at a Romanian university—completed his mission in less obtrusive fashion.

Few church congresses have had as controversial a prelude as last month’s two-day meeting of the 975-congregation Baptist Union of Romania. Some 2,000 Baptists from across the country jammed into the 1,000-seat Baptist Church on Titulescu Road in Bucharest; many had to follow the lively proceedings over loudspeakers in hallways and other rooms in the building. Among those present were fifty voting delegates and most of the other pastors and leaders of the movement—the fastest growing Baptist body in Europe (20,000 baptisms annually since 1972 and a baptized membership pegged officially at 160,000, but with a constituency much larger than that). Also present were a few government officials and a handful of specially invited Baptist leaders from other nations.

The triennial congress—the Union’s twenty-seventh—was supposed to have been held twelve months earlier. Elections had been held in December, 1975, to elect members of the denomination’s policy-making council. Few incumbents were reelected, and the government’s Department of Cults declined to accept two of the key officers who were elected. This caused an uproar among the churches, the congress was postponed, and the government decreed that the old council would govern church affairs until the congress convened. A campaign of protest ensued in many churches, and hundreds of letters poured into Baptist Union headquarters calling on the officers to resign. The issues were aired in open letters circulated among the churches.

Ploesti pastor Josif Ton, one of Romania’s best-known Baptist leaders (see November 22, 1974, issue, page 52, and March 26, 1976, issue, page 6), led a three-week vigil of prayer and fasting, and thousands joined in. The vigil became a symbol of opposition to state interference in church affairs. It was also intended to show solidarity with the students at the Baptist Seminary who earlier in the year had led a ten-day demonstration for a better level of theological training (see May 7, 1976, issue, page 44). Two of the seminarians were expelled in what appeared to be retaliation, adding to the ferment in the churches.

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Toward the end of the vigil in late November, meetings were held between the old and new officers of the Union’s council and government officials, and some headway was made in easing tensions. Congress planning began again in earnest, and it was finally convened in early February.

The Friday morning session began with a half-hour prayer meeting, followed by the main reports of Union officials. Of special note were the ones by the general secretary, clergyman Ioachim Tunea, and the director of the seminary, loan Bunaciu. Both had been targets of widespread criticism.

There had been progress over the past five years, reported Tunea, but it had been accompanied by problems. He pointed to lagging care of the sick and elderly. Denominational unity had been jeopardized, he said, and he singled out Ton for much of the blame. Moreover, he asserted. Ton’s activities were responsible for the delay of the congress.

Bunaciu pursued a similar line: the seminary had prospered, there were now forty students, five future teachers were studying at the Protestant Institute in Cluj-Napoca, there were hopes of raising the seminary to university level soon, and a series of books by him were being printed. But 1976 was a difficult year because of the student protest, he added. Most of his students were in the congress audience. He said the dismissal of the two students was not related to the protest. They simply had not received further approval from their local associations to continue studies, he said. He criticized the intervention of theologian Pavel Niculescu, who had sent an appeal on the students’ behalf to Radio Free Europe—a station Bunaciu considers hostile to Romania. Niculescu’s involvement was neither biblical nor moral, he asserted.

The Friday afternoon session and the major part of the Saturday morning session were spent debating the reports and raising other issues. Nearly half the voting delegates spoke out, and congress chairman Pavel Barbatei, a lawyer from Cluj, was hard pressed in keeping things moving. A number of requests and resolutions were introduced, and it became obvious that it was impractical to vote upon them immediately. It was decided to let the new officers work on them and present them for vote at a special congress this December.

Two power groups clearly emerged: one pushing for a continuation of the middle way in the churches’ relations with the state, the other seeking a more independent course. Speakers from the Oradea, Cluj, and Bucharest associations of churches appealed for greater action on matters of church buildings, flexibility in scheduling services, and greater independence for pastors. Representatives of the Timisoara, Brasov, and Arad associations sought for greater restraint, a more appreciative attitude for gains, and a halt to the circulation of open letters.

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Judging by the number of resounding “Amens” accorded speakers, the audience was clearly on the side of Oradea-Cluj-Bucharest.

Paster Geabo Pascu of the Bucharest Association complained about delays in getting permits for church construction and repairs, forcing many congregations to meet in dangerous conditions. Another Bucharest pastor pointed up the need to reopen many of the small churches that had been closed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. A Cluj pastor said the uniform time schedules for church services throughout the country worked a hardship in village areas, and he asked Union headquarters to be more flexible.

Josif Ton called attention to the place of Baptists within society. He told how police had fined Baptists meeting in private homes under a law designed to deal with hooliganism and vandalism—an insult, in Ton’s opinion. He held up papers documenting a case in which a group of women had been fined for singing “illegal religious songs”—from the official Baptist hymnal. He also spoke of discrimination against Baptist children in the schools.

Secretary Tunea commented that the numbers fined were small, and Barbatei attempted to clarify the legal issues involved, saying he had successfully defended some victims of the law.

The climax of the second day was the election of the Union council members. Fourteen of the fifteen nominees elected by the six associations in late 1975 were ratified. The exception was Liviu Olah, dismissed from his pastorate last year at the behest of the Department of Cults. Barbatei succeeded Tunea as general secretary, and Tunea—not elected in 1975 by his Bucharest association—benefited from the vacancy by winning that seat on the council (he will edit the Union’s publications). Elected Union president was Cornel Mara of Brasov. The seminary’s Bunaciu retained his position.

Barbatei’s assistant at Union headquarters is Vasile Talos, who also is a lawyer. Talos delivered a well-received paper at the congress on the legal aspect of the Baptist churches in Romania. He contended that the authority of the denomination rests in the congress itself and not in the Union. (Many restrictions on church activities are the result of government pressure on the Union, and the government holds the Union responsible for regulating the churches. Thus Talos’s paper really represented a challenge to the government itself.)

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Seminarians say they feel the congress let them down, and this may lead to more trouble, but for now the churches have survived the threat of schism.

The congress closed on triumphal notes of praise and unity with an old-fashioned Baptist evening service, Romanian style—complete with a brass band, a big choir, spirited congregational singing, and biblical exhortation. The public was invited, and more than fifty persons responded to the invitation to receive Christ.

A Dog’s Life

King Carl Gustaf of Sweden has been persuaded to change the name of his dog, Ali. It all happened after Ijaz Khan, a Calgary, Alberta, resident, read an account of the royal Labrador’s rescue of a young woman. Khan, a Muslim, was impressed by the pooch’s prowess but offended by his name. Ali, he pointed out, was the name of the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, and naming the dog Ali was like naming him Jesus Christ.

A palace aide replied to Khan, saying the dog’s registered name is Eros and Ali is just a nickname commonly given to dogs in Sweden. But because of the misunderstanding, said he, “His Majesty has chosen to call the dog Charlie from now on.”

Church Watching In Chicago

Some ministers and agency officials of the United Methodist Church in the Chicago area are upset with the Chicago police department. More than twenty pages of police files detailing surveillance of activities related to the UMC’s Northern Illinois conference were disclosed recently by the conference’s Board of Church and Society, thanks to successful suits to obtain the information.

The documents cover the period from June 2, 1972, until “at least” October 14, 1974, according to board chairman Gregory Dell. The data were gathered by the police department’s intelligence division, sometimes referred to as the “Red Squad.” Much of the material relates to conference ties with the Alliance to End Repression, a Chicago-area alliance of some seventy human-relations and church groups concerned with civil liberties, prison reform, police affairs, and other issues provoking controversy.

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Other pages, Dell says, cover appointments of pastors to churches, church allocations, routine church business, personal acquaintances of Methodist pastors and laymen, and correspondence of conference officials.

Some of the intelligence was faulty. The appointment of a district superintendent to a 1,200-member suburban church after six years’ service, for example, was labeled a “demotion.” The report failed to indicate that six years is the maximum time a pastor can serve consecutively in that position.

A Cook County (Chicago) grand jury in 1975 sharply criticized police surveillance practices, concluding that Chicago police had “assaulted the fundamental freedoms of speech, association, press, and religion, as well as the constitutional rights to privacy of hundreds of individuals.”

Declared Dell: “Spying upon the church as it seeks to carry out its business, including expression of the Gospel in social issues, is a deeply disturbing infringement upon the free expression of our religion … [and] we ask for an apology from the city of Chicago.”

Resisting A Probe

Federal agents checking records at the Episcopal Church headquarters in New York said they were looking for information that might lead to the arrest of the terrorists responsible for numerous bombings.

Two women employed at the headquarters claimed the agents were simply trying to destroy the Puerto Rican independence movement.

An ad hoc group of workers at the Interchurch Center in New York said the federal probe is being conducted “to intimidate and frighten the churches from carrying out their Christian mission of ministry to the oppressed and forgotten minorities.”

One National Council of Churches executive spoke of the “legal monster in our midst” while another warned that the government was trying to define religious work.

Episcopal bishops involved in the affair wish it had never happened.

The principal judge in the case, meanwhile, was unconvinced that it has anything at all to do with broader issues of the clergy’s privilege of confidentiality or church-state separation. The Episcopal National Commission on Hispanic Affairs, said Judge Lawrence Pierce, is a “social agency,” and its employees are “social workers” who cannot refuse to testify before a grand jury.

Another federal judge, Marvin Frankel, found one of the Episcopal commission employees. Raisa Nemikin, guilty of contempt of court for refusal to answer grand jury questions. Early this month she went to jail, all the while blasting top Episcopal officials for the degree of cooperation they gave to government probers.

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Her colleague in resistance, commission executive director Maria Cueto, also faces a jail sentence for refusing to talk to the grand jury. Their terms could run as long as fourteen months, the life of the New York federal court jury.

Both women maintain that they did cooperate in the initial phases of the search for Carlos Alberto Torres, a member of the commission last year. He is now being sought as an alleged leader of FALN, a Puerto Rican nationalist-terrorist group that has claimed credit for more than forty bombings. One of the explosions killed four people and injured more than fifty at Manhattan’s historic Fraunces Tavern in 1975. The string of bombings has caused widespread damage and a number of other injuries. Two more Manhattan skyscrapers were hit last month.

An FALN message found after the latest New York blasts demanded a halt to the grand jury proceedings. Among the other demands were release of the Puerto Ricans convicted of shootings in the House of Representatives in 1954 and the attempted assassination of President Truman in 1950.

Federal investigators believe that Torres showed up at Episcopal headquarters last October 26 and met with the two women then. According to Religious News Service, the authorities also believe that the church employees know his whereabouts. In the week following his visit to New York, Chicago police and federal agents raided a Chicago apartment in which Torres was living. They reported finding a “bomb factory” and among other items letterheads from the Episcopal commission. Evidence gathered in the raid also linked Torres to a typewriter used to write some of the FALN notes found after bombings.

Luis Rosado, formerly a member of the Episcopal commission’s staff and now on the staff of the ecumenical Joint Strategy and Action Committee (JSAC), confirmed that Torres was in New York last October and met with personnel at the commission’s offices.

Episcopal church officials said they first knew that the man was wanted when Federal Bureau of Investigation agents came to church headquarters November 18. Elizabeth Fink, lawyer for the two women, said they then told FBI agents “everything they know” about the case. After the investigators started looking into the files of the commission and requesting other material on its affairs, the pair decided to stop answering questions.

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The search of the headquarters brought lawyers for Presiding Bishop John Allin and other top officials into the case. They told a federal attorney that they would seek to quash his subpoena for church records if it were not more limited. He agreed to specify the areas of inquiry, and the top executives agreed to hand over certain materials voluntarily. Bishop Milton Wood, national executive for administration, later explained that what was provided to federal agents was “quite public” material that anyone could have for the asking. However, he expressed his regret that he did not stay at the office the night FBI agents came to take samples from office machines. The church’s executive council has since given tentative approval to a policy on handling police inquiries.

At one point the case pitted two bishops against the presiding bishop. After Bishop Allin’s lawyers settled their differences with the federal attorney, lawyers representing Bishop Paul Moore of New York and Bishop Francisco Reus-Froylan of Puerto Rico tried to quash subpoenas against the women. Their motion was later withdrawn, however.

The two women have continued to seek support for their resistance. Just before going into court to be convicted of contempt, Ms. Nemikin charged that Bishop Allin “has prostituted the Church’s mission by completely and unthinkingly cooperating with the FBI and participating in grand jury abuse.” Her lawyer called a news conference at her office, but the women refused to answer many questions. Ms. Cueto maintained that the church did not advocate bombings, but when asked if she opposed the FALN actions, the lawyer interjected that the question was improper.

One object of the probe has been to learn of any movements by FALN leaders that might have been subsidized by the commission. While members were unsalaried, they did get travel expenses for meetings. The 1976 expenditures amounted to $361,000, of which $115,000 was earmarked for “community development” and $130,500 for “grants.”

Torres, 24, remains at large meanwhile. His wife is also being sought by the authorities. As probing has continued some top Episcopalians are wondering if all the uproar was worth it. They have discovered that the fugitive’s father is a United Church of Christ minister, and no one has turned up any evidence that he is a communicant in any Episcopal parish. Appointment of a non-communicant minority representative to a national church body is not an unusual practice, however.

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Credentials Controversy

“Why,” asked Columbia Broadcasting System diplomatic correspondent Marvin Kalb, “take it out on one person?”

That one person, who believes he is being harassed by the National Council of Churches, is Washington clergyman-journalist Lester Kinsolving, no friend of the NCC. The Episcopal priest began this month minus his credentials for covering sessions of Congress and minus his membership in the Department of State Correspondents’ Association.

He believes the NCC is out to get him because of his less-than-flattering reports on its activities. In particular, he dates the attack to his exposure last year of the NCC board membership of Romanian Orthodox Archbishop Valerian Trifa, who has been accused of World War II crimes. As evidence, Kinsolving cites a letter to the Department of Justice dated last July 19 from Tim Smith, executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), “a sponsored related movement” of the NCC. In that letter, Smith reported that Kinsolving countered ICCR arguments at a number of stockholder meetings where questions of corporate policy in southern Africa had been raised. He charged that the priest-journalist was sent to the meetings by a law firm representing the Republic of South Africa. Smith provided copies of the letter to various congressmen and to leaders of Washington correspondents’ associations.

The matter came to a head last month when action was taken in rapid succession by the Department of State Correspondents’ Association and the Standing Committee of Correspondents in the Capitol press gallery. The 350-member association at State voted 9–7 to drop Kinsolving from its rolls. The committee at the Capitol voted 4–0 to let his gallery pass expire at the end of February. The more serious of the two was the lifting of the gallery pass, since credentials are issued by that committee, and journalists are not admitted to the Capitol gallery without current passes. The State Department press office issues credentials directly without requiring the association’s endorsement, so the action there does not deny Kinsolving access to the premises. Even though the Smith letter was also sent to the White House, Kinsolving does not consider his access in danger there since its press office issues credentials directly also.

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The Episcopal journalist, who customarily wears clerical garb, writes a syndicated column now published in more than two hundred newspapers. He also has a daily commentary on four radio stations and edits a weekly religion supplement in a Washington suburban paper.

An NCC spokesperson discounted the charge that the council’s action against Kinsolving was related to the Trifa affair, noting that other reporters had written about federal probes into the Orthodox prelate’s past before the columnist wrote about allegations against him. There was no denial, however, of the fact that Kinsolving’s articles on the archbishop also identified him as a member of the NCC governing board, something other reports had not done. The clergyman-journalist charged the council with moral laxity for not removing Trifa from the position.

The controversy over Trifa disrupted the last NCC board meeting (see November 5, 1976, issue, page 58) and has since consumed many hours of meeting time for council officers and staffers. Kinsolving was at the board meeting last October when Jewish youths protested Trifa’s continued membership.

After weeks of negotiations with the hierarchy of Trifa’s denomination, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the NCC announced last month that the controversial prelate “will not function as a member of the governing board” until current proceedings against him are concluded. The principal charge against him now is that he lied about his wartime activities when he came to the United States and sought citizenship. Jewish groups have accused him of leadership of Nazi organizations that exterminated Jews and Christians in Romania.

NCC president William R Thompson said the “practical effect” of the OCA action was to suspend the archbishop from membership on the governing board. His name remains on the roster, however. He has not been active in council affairs for several years, and the original Jewish protests were simply against keeping his name on the board’s roster.

Meanwhile, there has been no NCC apology for the action against Kinsolving. The spokesperson said his ties to the law firm representing South Africa are “well documented” and that his comments at stockholder meetings are a matter of record. Asked if the council had questioned the credentials of any other correspondents who had spoken before various audiences around the country, the spokesperson said no.

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The columnist pointed out that long before he began speaking out on the African question he had spoken for the State of Israel and had received Israeli bonds as honoraria. Many other journalists and clergyman did the same, he noted.

Kalb, the CBS newsman, resigned from the correspondents’ group at State after it kicked out Kinsolving. In doing so he noted that other members of the group, specifically correspondents for Tass and other Eastern-bloc news services, received all their pay from foreign governments. In a letter to the congressional press galleries’ standing committee, another reporter reminded the panel that the Soviet Union’s ambassador had declared Tass to be “an organ of the council of ministers of the USSR.”

Gallery rules provide that passes will not be issued to writers “engaged in paid publicity or promotion work,” and Kinsolving plans to test whether the rules will be applied uniformly.


CLIFFORD P MOREHOUSE, 72, well-known lay member of the Episcopal Church, long-time editor of the Living Church (an independent Episcopal weekly), and former president of the denomination’s important House of Deputies; in Sarasota, Florida, of a heart attack following an auto accident.

Religion in Transit

Pastor Robert H. Schuller of the 8,000-member Garden Grove Community Church in southern California has led his congregation in a successful $10 million fund-raising drive to dedicate debt-free by 1980 a 4,100-seat and 10,000 window “Crystal Cathedral.” Construction is expected to begin by this summer. “Our first offering in the cathedral will be used to build a hospital in Calcutta,” says Schuller, a popular television preacher and promoter of “possibility thinking.”

Minnesota Independent-Republican Arlan Stangeland, 47, a Lutheran, upset Democratic Farmer Labor candidate Michael Sullivan, a Catholic, in a special election to fill the congressional seat vacated by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Robert Bergland. Controversy erupted in the campaign after it was learned that Catholic bishop Victor H. Balke sent a letter to his priests urging them to encourage their people to vote. Balke noted that Sullivan was “very pro-Church” and that Stangeland’s voting record was “negative” on Catholic issues (Stangeland had opposed a parochaid measure in the state legislature but had supported other bills favored by Catholics). A light turnout, cautioned Balke, would help Stangeland.

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Geno Baroni, 46, an activist Catholic priest who has led a nationwide fight to save and revitalize urban ethnic neighborhoods, was nominated by President Carter to be assistant secretary for consumer affairs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Baroni has organized neighborhood groups in forty-five U.S. cities, and he is president of the Washington-based National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs. His main concerns will be retained as part of his new job description.

Mary Eleanor Wall, the wife of the editor of the Christian Century, was named to a nine-member blue-ribbon panel to advise President Carter on the selection of a new FBI director. Her husband James took a two-month leave of absence from his editorial position last year to be Illinois chairman of the Carter campaign. The Walls are United Methodists. Mrs. Wall holds an elective office in the DuPage County (Illinois) government.

A recent Gallup Poll shows that the number of families troubled by problem drinking—18 per cent of all the nation’s families—has increased 50 per cent since 1974, and that the number of women who drink (66 per cent) has increased by 8 per cent. Drinking is at an all-time high: 71 per cent of all adults, based on a 1,501-person sample. In the poll 81 per cent of Roman Catholics and 64 per cent of Protestants said they used alcohol.

Some conservatives in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are unhappy with President J. A. O. Preus, and they have launched a movement to unseat him at the synod’s biennial convention this summer in Dallas in favor of theologian Walter A. Maier, Jr. And to Preus’s left, a few of the remaining “moderates” are looking for a more liberal candidate to challenge him.

The church-and-society unit of the National Council of Churches has launched a campaign to raise funds for a civil suit against police authorities in Chicago. The suit was filed by families of two Black Panther leaders killed in a 1969 shoot-out, but their funds are now depleted, explained NCC executive Lucius Walker, Jr. He believes there is new evidence indicating the two were “murdered” by police.

The Church of Scientology last month filed a $750 million damage suit against federal agencies (including the FBI, the CIA, the Postal Service, the National Security Agency, and the departments of Justice, Treasury, and Army), charging them with illegal intelligence activities and other alleged harassment aimed at the church and its members.

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A religious person is more likely than a non-religious person to offer help in a crisis as well as on a day-to-day basis, according to a sociology study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

World Scene

Booklets containing forged sermons of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski have been circulated throughout Poland, say church sources. The sermon texts try to make the prelate appear to be a supporter of Marxism and state officials, say the sources. Meanwhile, Poland’s Catholic bishops called on the Communist regime to “appreciate and understand” the church’s “evangelical mission” and to accord the church “freedom to carry out its religious tasks in conformity with the needs of the faithful.”

Christian and Jewish leaders in Czechoslovakia were pressured into issuing declarations of loyalty to the Communist government, but they clearly attempted to be as vague as possible, according to press accounts. The government is publicly interpreting these utterances as condemnations of Charter 77, a landmark human-rights manifesto signed by clergymen and other leaders. It maintains among other things that religious freedom has been “systematically curbed with a despotic arbitrariness.”

A Ghana newspaper called for removal of the Billy Graham organization’s Hour of Decision radio broadcast from Ghana radio after the airing of a sermon by associate evangelist Roy Gustafson. The evangelist in his sermon denounced terrorism in Rhodesia, and he spoke positively about the country’s armed forces. The newspaper felt the sermon was a slap at the cause of black liberation.

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