A crowd estimated at between 12,000 and 15,000 persons gathered on a peaceful hillside overlooking the Danube River this month and welcomed evangelist Billy Graham to Hungary with a standing ovation. It was the largest gathering for a Protestant service in Hungary since before World War II, according to local church officials. It was also Graham’s first official visit to preach in a Soviet-bloc country. (Yugoslavia, where he addressed rallies in 1967, is not considered Eastern European within the bloc.)

Many in the crowd were young people. An estimated 1,000 other Eastern Europeans, half of them Czechs, were among those who traveled to the rural Baptist campgrounds about thirty miles northwest of Budapest. Standing in a clearing surrounded by locust and poplar trees on a bright Sunday morning, they gave the evangelist sustained applause as he and his wife were escorted to a large rustic platform made of split logs.

In his opening remarks, Graham said he had come to help build bridges. He noted the differences between the social systems in his country and Hungary but said: “We are bound together as brothers and sisters in Christ.” He went on to preach a simple sermon based on John 3:16. His down-home illustrations amused and warmed the crowd. At the close of his message, the evangelist asked for a show of hands by those wanting to make sure of their commitment to Christ. Thousands of hands shot up.

Afterward, Graham told reporters he was “overwhelmed” by the response. “I’ll never forget Hungary,” he said.

A choir of fifty young people sang hymns and choruses that are popular in Graham crusades in the United States. One of Graham’s soloists, Archie Dennis, also sang. The only black person in the entire crowd, Dennis became an instant favorite and was applauded enthusiastically.

That night the evangelist preached to an overflow crowd of more than 2,000 at Sun Street Baptist Church, the largest Baptist church in Budapest, the capital city with two million residents. Hundreds of people had to stand outside in the courtyard and listen on loudspeakers. Hundreds of others jammed two nearby churches to hear piped-in sound. Graham preached on the titles and descriptions of Christ, and a large number of persons raised their hands in response to the evangelist’s invitation to follow Jesus.

Graham and his team arrived in Budapest on Saturday, September 3, from Vienna, where they had spent several days preparing for the meetings. The evangelist was greeted at the airport by a government protocol officer, by American Ambassador Philip Kaiser, and by officials of the Council of Free Churches (CFC). There was no advance coverage on his visit in the secular press, and the churches had only several weeks to prepare. (The invitation to preach in Hungary was extended to Graham in July, but the final dates were not firmed up until mid-August.)

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On the Monday of his seven-day visit Graham met privately with the leaders of Hungary’s Jewish community and with officials of the state office of religious affairs. Here, in a sort of mini Marxist-evangelical dialogue, he exchanged frank viewpoints with Imre Miklos, who heads the government office that oversees Hungary’s religious affairs. The visit was described as a friendly one, and Miklos left the door open for a future visit.

The day was capped off with a two-hour session with several hundred of Hungary’s pastors and other church leaders. Graham recounted Christian progress in other parts of the world, shared from his experiences, and gave advice on how to have a successful ministry.

President Sandor Palotay of the CFC, who accompanied Graham at virtually every meeting, seemed moved. He announced he had intended merely to express gratitude for Graham’s visit. But, said he, he had to say more. “Behind this man we have heard the voice of God,” he stated solemnly. “The distances between the countries we represent are still great, but he spoke as a brother born here and living in our midst.” The issues and needs the evangelist touched on, stated Palotay, “are ours.”

Graham then fielded a number of questions from the floor. Several had to do with controversial doctrinal issues, and the evangelist artfully and inoffensively explained his own views that won him private expressions of admiration. In response to a question on where his organization stands on social issues, Graham listed disaster-stricken places where help had been sent. He also spoke out against war and the spread of nuclear weapons.

At the church service at the Sun Street church on Sunday night, Graham was greeted warmly from the platform by Bishop Tibor Bartha of the Reformed Church. A guest dignitary at the service, Bartha heads the Hungarian Bible Society and has led the Ecumenical Council for twenty years. (The council is an alliance of Hungary’s major denominations.) He implied that Graham’s visit was a timely one because “a new reformation” is stirring the churches. He suggested that the new movement centers on the doing of good deeds as a natural outflow from Christian teaching and belief. Addressing the evangelist in English, he expressed his happiness for Graham’s presence and said, “Let us demonstrate what we have in common—our commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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The gesture was seen as especially meaningful because Bartha has been cool toward Graham in the past, and neither the Reformed nor the Lutheran churches joined in the invitation to the evangelist to preach in Hungary. Palotay said later that he believes the bishop’s thinking about Graham has changed as a result of hearing the evangelist’s increased emphasis on social justice.

Indeed, in a preliminary statement at the Sun Street meeting, Graham acknowledged that he had undergone changes in this thinking and outlook in recent years. His concerns, he said, “now take in the whole world.” He also indicated he is more open in his views toward Eastern Europe, and he said he hoped to achieve greater understanding through his visit.

“At one time I never dreamed that I would ever have the privilege of preaching the Gospel here some day,” said Graham. “This [visit] indicates that our times are changing, our hearts and minds are changing, and perhaps under God someday we will have one world, where wars will be no more, whether they be hot or cold.”

The evangelist’s half-hour statement came as a response to a seven-page presentation by Palotay that was highly political in content. All of this was seen as “a necessary protocol” by leaders, but a number of pastors privately expressed displeasure, saying their people had come to hear the preaching of the Gospel, not politics.

On Tuesday the Graham party traveled to Debrecen, a city of 200,000 more than 100 miles east of Budapest. It is Hungary’s leading center of higher theological education. Here he toured the Reformed Church’s theological academy, then preached to a crowd of more than 1,000 at a 200-member Baptist church. This time there were no “introductory statements,” only preaching, and the people responded warmly. Many raised their hands during the invitation.

Graham’s schedule was crowded. It included lunch with Ambassador Kaiser, conferences with Reformed, Lutheran, and Catholic leaders, sightseeing and cultural tours (including a visit to a collective horse farm) and press interviews, as well as various preaching services. He also met with Soviet Baptist leader Alexei Bichkov, who was vacationing in Budapest the week of Graham’s visit. There are hopes that an official invitation can be worked out for Graham to preach in the Soviet Union (none has been received yet, contrary to some reports). Two of Bichkov’s aides traveled to Budapest to join in the discussion.

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Perhaps it is as a Graham advisor said: Hungary can be the door that opens the rest of Eastern Europe for the evangelist.

Son of Sam Child of God

David Berkowitz, the 24-year-old youth accused of being New York City’s .44 caliber killer known as “Son of Sam,” was a professed born-again Christian who apparently underwent a spiritual relapse and some striking mental-emotional changes.

That is the picture that has emerged from press accounts probing the youth’s background.

Berkowitz was born in Brooklyn in June, 1953, the son of Tony and Betty Falco. At the age of 17 months he was given up for adoption to Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz, a childless Jewish couple. He was bar mitzvahed at age 13 at Temple Adath Israel in the Bronx. His adoptive mother died a year later. As a high schooler, he organized a volunteer fire company in the apartment complex where he lived, and he signed on as a trainee with an auxiliary police unit. Following graduation from high school he enlisted for a three-year stint with the Army. His father had wanted him to go to college.

The youth spent a year or so in South Korea after training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and Fort Polk, Louisiana. Army buddies say he bragged about using drugs while he was in Korea. His last eighteen months in the Army were spent at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Then he returned to New York. His father meanwhile married again and moved to Florida.

One of Berkowitz’s former Army pals, Paul Billow, told reporter Robert D. McFadden of the New York Times that he noticed drastic changes in Berkowitz at Fort Knox. He became reclusive, then became a fervent Baptist “trying to convert others.” Recalled Billow: “He told me that if I did not take Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I’d be damned.” But two months before leaving Fort Knox, Berkowitz underwent still another personality change, noted Billow. “He started to swear,” he said. “Maybe he went back to drugs … because somebody doesn’t change like that overnight.”

Religion reporter Bruce Buursma of the Louisville (Kentucky) Courier Journal dug out the facts surrounding Berkowitz’s conversion from Judaism to Christianity. He found that the youth had been baptized into the membership of the 3,500-member Beth Haven Baptist Church in southern Louisville in May, 1973, where his name is still carried as an inactive member. Beth Haven, formerly a Southern Baptist congregation, is identified with an independent Baptist movement in the South.

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Berkowitz visited Beth Haven at the invitation of another Army buddy, Jim Almond, now a student at Bob Jones University. “He accepted Christ on his first visit,” Almond told reporter Buursma. Berkowitz initially had expressed reluctance about going to the church because he was Jewish, said Almond, but with a little encouragement he went “and really enjoyed it.” Almond stated that Berkowitz “went forward at the invitation” at the close of the morning service and afterward “came up to me grinning and laughing and saying, ‘Man, I’m saved.’ ” That night, remarked Almond, Berkowitz went forward again at the evening service because he “wanted to make sure it took.”

Beth Haven’s pastor, Tom Wallace, told Buursma: “He made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ here. I baptized the fellow. I noted he was a Jewish boy who had found Christ. Anytime a Jewish person comes forward to take a stand in a Baptist church, it’s a little special. I asked the people to pray for him.” Berkowitz was, said Wallace, “a person seeking deliverance from his past.” Wallace said his first impression of the youth “was that I had never met anyone more sincere or more honest.” Everybody, remarked Wallace, “was relaxed about him. Now, all of a sudden, he’s got weird ideas. I’d like to blame it on a flashback from his drug life.”

From interviews with Almond and others who befriended Berkowitz at the church, Buursma found that the youth apparently went all-out for Christ after his baptism. He attended most services of the church, including midweek prayer meetings and a Thursday night “soul winners” class, and he joined others in door-to-door witnessing. He brought in a number of fellow-soldiers from the base where he handed out tracts and talked openly to others about what Christ meant to him. On the church bus that shuttled between the base and the church he told Bible stories to the children who came along. One church member described him as “a great soul winner,” an avid student of the Bible strong in the faith.

Various peers of Berkowitz at the church remember him as “a really fantastic guy with a great personality,” as “a really nice guy who was friendly to everybody, talked a lot, sang songs, and played his guitar,” as a kind, gentlemanly, neatly dressed young man who overcame shyness toward women, and as one who was at peace with God, himself, and the world.

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Then, according to Almond, something happened shortly before Berkowitz’s discharge in June, 1974. “He started hanging around with the guys who drank and smoked pot and had dirty pictures on their wall,” recalled Almond, who believes loneliness had something to do with his friend’s “backsliding.” Berkowitz’s parents, said Almond, “practically disowned him when they found out he had become a Christian.”

The people at Beth Haven still can’t understand how the Berkowitz they knew could be the bizarre “Son of Sam” killer described in the newspapers, a mentally jumbled person accused of killing six and wounding seven, some seriously. Wallace wonders about it, too. He told Buursma:

“I have had hundreds and hundreds of success stories. And I’ve had some wrecks along the highway. We know many people who have gotten a good start in their Christian life and then soured up and gone bad. Either David wasn’t saved or he lost touch with the Lord. Only David and God know that.”

Wallace said he still feels in some ways that he is Berkowitz’s pastor, and if the accused youth wants to see him, he’ll go. “I’d try to turn this thing around,” Wallace told Buursma. “Not for me, but for the cause of Christ.”

Campus Countdown

The countdown has been going on for nearly six months, but it ends October 1. That is the deadline when $850,000 must be in hand to keep open the option to buy the former campus of Pasadena (Nazarene) College. If the fledgling Center for World Mission, headed by former Fuller Seminary missions professor Ralph Winter, gets the money, it will have a reprieve until next April 1 when it must come up with the full down payment of $1.5 million. Unless the $850,000 goes into escrow October 1 the whole seventeen-acre campus in Southern California will be bought immediately by Elizabeth Clare Prophet’s Summit International, a syncretistic group also known as the Church Universal and Triumphant.

The Nazarene college left the campus to take over more spacious facilities in San Diego. The institution is now known as Point Loma College. Part of the Pasadena campus was rented to Summit and part to the Center for World Mission.

Winter, who took a leave of absence at Fuller last November to organize the center and obtain the property, has pulled together a who’s who of evangelical leadership in America to lend moral support to the project. He sees it as a “research nerve center for world-wide American mission efforts” and a specialized university. Its work will focus on the unevangelized people of the world (now estimated to number over 2.4 billion). The $1.5 million needed by next April is just a start; the total price tag is $15 million.

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Winter’s vision for the center has been caught by a number of Christians, particularly on the West Coast, who are giving more than moral support. Groups have been joining in “Jericho marches” around the campus on the last Sundays of the countdown. Entertainer Pat Boone has agreed to star in a benefit show. Nine missionary organizations contributed funds, staff, or promotional help for the financial campaign. Other groups have decided to mail the center’s material.

Winter has been encouraged as much by the interest of individual congregations as by any other manifestations of support. Two notable supporting churches are in Portland, Oregon. One, Bethlehem Baptist, decided to give $100,000. Then a neighboring congregation, Aloha Community Baptist, wanted to match that contribution, but its own building was burned (see story, page 58). At a meeting immediately after the fire a decision was made to tithe the proceeds from the insurance and then to try to make up the rest of the $100,000.

By September 1 the amount in sight was $450,000. With this kind of interest, Winter is optimistic that the option will be exercised and that soon Summit International will have to find another place for its statue of Buddha.

On the Beach, On the Brink

Separatist preacher Carl McIntire has his back to the wall in Cape May, New Jersey. The seawall, that is. City officials claim he owes $723,000 in back taxes on twelve properties, including three hotels connected with his Bible conference ministry, and they have begun foreclosure proceedings to collect the first $350,000. (Most of the balance is owed on modern but unused facilities on the former campus of Shelton College, which McIntire moved to Florida years ago amid controversy with New Jersey officials over educational standards.)

McIntire, 71, also has serious troubles on other fronts. Hyland Shepherd quit last month as president of Shelton following years of intense financial pressure and strained relationships with the board, which McIntire controls. Four teachers also left in a huff. They and Shepherd represent forty years of teaching at Shelton. Shepherd was on the staff of McIntire’s Collingswood (New Jersey) Bible Presbyterian Church for twenty-four years and was Shelton’s president for five years. Two of the teachers who exited have joined the staff of Florida’s Clearwater Christian College, the product of an earlier dispute when Shelton was still at Cape May. Shelton, founded in 1907, includes many pastors and missionaries among its alumni.

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The controversial minister barely met a deadline in raising $1 million last year to retain the part of his complex at Cape Canaveral that houses Shelton and a Bible conference program. Under the terms of the settlement, McIntire agreed to make quarterly payments of $92,000 on the remainder of the Cape Canaveral debt, but he has recently fallen two quarters behind, according to sources close to Shelton. For months last year, faculty members went without pay (one resigned as a result). Sometimes, said the sources, McIntire unilaterally hired teachers whose qualifications and abilities did not measure up. “They were forced on us,” stated one of the sources. The last straw, asserted the source, was when McIntire (with board approval) took a legacy that had been given to the school and used it to pay other bills. (Shelton had fewer than seventy students last year.)


MAX WARREN, 73, internationally known Anglican missions leader and author, general secretary of the Church Missionary Society 1942–1963; in England.

ETHEL WATERS, 80, actress and Gospel singer who had been a regular on Billy Graham Crusade platforms since the evangelist “clarified the way home to Jesus for me” at his 1957 New York campaign; in California, of heart failure. With Graham in Hungary, his colleague Grady Wilson preached the funeral, and George Beverly Shea was among soloists. The private service also included a tape of Miss Waters singing her favorite hymn, “His Eye Is On the Sparrow.” (See editorial, page 34.)

Early this year McIntire raised enough money to stave off foreclosure of a $450,000 mortgage on the campus of Faith Seminary in Philadelphia. The mortgage money, the minister told his supporters, had been used in an unsuccessful attempt to gain renewal of the broadcast license of a small Philadelphia radio station operated by McIntire. The minister, however, has failed to tell his backers about two other mortgages on the property, according to a person close to Faith. (The school in recent years has had only a handful of students, many of them foreign nationals on full subsidy.)

Last year a dispute at Faith led to the founding of another splinter school. Reformation Seminary. Its leaders, mainly ministers in the Philadelphia-area churches of McIntire’s Bible Presbyterian denomination, believe that homage to the Christian flag amounts to idolatry, a view not shared by McIntire. The controversy also involved disagreement over the kind of music that ought to be sung in churches. (A schism at Faith in the 1950s led to the establishment of Covenant Seminary. In 1971 another split resulted in the founding of the Biblical School of Theology in the Philadelphia area. Among its organizers was Allan A. Macrea, who had been president of Faith from its founding.)

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Following the revolt in the Philadelphia churches, McIntire led a move at the Bible Presbyterian Synod last year to merge those churches into the New Jersey Presbytery, which he strongly controls. The Philadelphia faction hopes to reverse that action at next month’s synodical meeting in Cape May.

As for the Cape May tax case, some observers believe McIntire is correct in his contention that the Bible conference facilities ought to be exempt. McIntire claims the city fathers are not only violating the constitutional rights of his organization but they also are practicing religious discrimination against him. To support his claim, he points to a bingo hall built by a Catholic church in town. The hall, he says, is tax exempt. He also alleges that the city wants to run him out to make room for gambling interests.

Relationships between McIntire and the city became worse last month. The minister was charged with obstruction of traffic and using a sound truck without permission after he defied city officials and led several hundred followers on a peaceful march to protest the taxes. Earlier, he and his friends had “liberated” a beach in front of one of his conference-center hotels. He claimed the city, which charges bathers beach-use fees to help pay for lifeguards and clean-up crews, had no right to administer his beach. He ordered the city lifeguard off the property, posted his own guards, and announced that bathers could use his beach free of charge. During the showdown, McIntire suggested that the city could continue to police his beach—if it gave his organization a fair share of the beach-use fees it collected.

Lutheran Strains

The already badly strained ties between the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the American Lutheran Church (ALC) were stretched further last month. At a meeting in Minneapolis, the ALC’s policy-making Church Council voted to recommend to its constituency that altar and pulpit fellowship be established with the new Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC). Next year’s convention of the ALC will take action on the recommendation, which is expected to pass.

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The AELC grew out of the long and widely publicized doctrinal dispute in the LCMS, where feelings against AELC leaders still run high. At the LCMS convention in Dallas in July, delegates decreed that congregations could not belong to both the AELC and the LCMS, and those affected were told to choose soon which side they would stay with. The LCMS also voted to declare “a state of fellowship in protest” with the ALC because of issues involving women’s ordination, ecumenism, and doctrine (see August 26 issue, page 36).

Meanwhile, a committee of the Lutheran Church in America, with which the LCMS does not have official fellowship, authorized grants of up to $50,000 in program support and up to $1 million in credit for AELC congregations.

In another action, the ALC Council also decided to ask an ALC program unit to end its six-year involvement in a controversial program to train church workers in the field of human sexuality at the University of Minnesota. A study committee had cited the lack of adequate “theological input” in the program, which the denomination has supported by about $10,000 a year. Controversy erupted in the ALC over the program’s use of sexually explicit films and homosexual lecturers. The council, however, did encourage continued participation in a related religion and ethics program.

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