Upon visiting Egypt tor the first time last month, an evangelist from elsewhere in Africa observed: “Where the Nile is, there is life.”

He intended a twofold meaning. First, nearly all of Egypt’s 40 million population lives in the fertile Nile valley that stretches from Sudan to the Mediterranean. Ninety-six per cent of the country is desert (Egypt is as big as Texas and New Mexico combined).

Second, many of the churches scattered along that verdant strip show signs of vigorous spiritual vitality. Despite its minority position (up to 90 per cent of Egypt’s population is Muslim), the Christian community is very much alive—yet largely overlooked by church people in the West.

Some observers believe the churches of Egypt may be in the early stages of a great spiritual awakening. Indeed, revival-like conditions exist in some sectors of the Coptic Orthodox Church, where thousands flock to Bible-teaching sessions (see April 17 issue, page 58). Protestant leaders agree that there are stirrings in many of their churches also.

The Protestant revival cause got a boost last month with the two-week visit of Anglican bishop Festo Kivengere, a refugee from Uganda, and Michael Cassidy, an Anglican lay evangelist from South Africa. The pair, who head a Kenya-based evangelistic organization known as African Enterprise, brought with them a racially mixed team of six colleagues from three continents. They conducted evangelism conferences for pastors and church leaders in Assuit in central Egypt and in Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast. They preached in well-attended public meetings in those cities and in a number of churches in Cairo, and they conducted a youth rally on the campus of Ramses College in Cairo.

In Assuit nearly 500 clergy and a similar number of lay leaders attended the conference sessions, held at an orphanage operated by the Assemblies of God. More than 250 pastors and lay leaders attended the Alexandria conference. Large numbers of young people attended the church services and other public meetings.

In all, weli over 1,000 persons requested follow-up counseling and literature, according to organizers.

It was the first time in Egyptian Protestant history that so many pastors and church leaders from so many denominational backgrounds came together in a cooperative endeavor. A number of leaders commented that the most significant aspect of the African Enterprise mission was the strong sense of unity that emerged. It brought encouragement and new resolve to reach Egypt for Christ, they said.

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The largest Protestant body in Egypt is the Evangelical Church (also known as the Presbyterian Synod of the Nile), with about 60,000 members in 200 organized congregations and 200 small-group fellowships. It dates from missionary work in the 1860s. Other relatively large groups include Pentecostals (including 160 Assemblies of God congregations), Free Methodists (100 congregations), several Holiness bodies (125 congregations), and Plymouth Brethren (of the moderately exclusive variety).

The inspiration for the African Enterprise outreach and training conferences came in 1976 when several dozen Egyptian church leaders traveled to Nairobi to take part in the Pan African Christian

Leadership Assembly (PACLA). While there, they met members of the African Enterprise team and asked them to come to Egypt. The Egyptian presence at PACLA marked the first significant interchange between Arab and black Christians in Africa, according to the Egyptian leaders.

General Secretary Abd-el-Masih Istafanous of the Bible Society of Egypt handled coordination of the African Enterprise project.

Cassidy, 41, was educated at Cambridge University in Britain and Fuller Seminary in California. While at Cambridge, he was led to Christ by a friend who had been converted at a Billy Graham meeting in London’s Haringey stadium. In 1957 Cassidy on a holiday visited a Graham crusade in New York, where he received “the Lord’s call” to enter evangelism. He launched African Enterprise in 1961. During that year he made a circular “survey trip” around Africa, beginning in Libya, preceeding through the central and southern parts of the continent, and ending back in the north in Cairo.

Cassidy says he was impressed by the need to reach the cities—“where the destiny of Africa will be settled.” He began to pray for thirty-one key cities, one for each day of the month. On his prayer list, Cairo comes on the thirtieth day of the month, Alexandria on the thirty-first. Last month’s mission was his first preaching visits to those two cities.

Rhodesia: Unsettled Settlement

Coincidence or not, the latest kidnapping of students from a Rhodesian mission school took place at a Methodist institution. Guerrillas last month herded some 400 youngsters into Botswana to get them into the rebel forces of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU). The United Methodist bishop of Rhodesia is Abel Muzorewa, one of three black leaders serving in the country’s new executive council with Ian Smith, long the symbol of white minority rule. One of the chief critics of Rhodesia’s “internal settlement” for transition to black rule is ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo. He and Robert Mugabe are co-leaders of the “Patriotic Front” that is said to be Soviet armed. They have refused to be involved with Smith, Muzorewa, Congregationalist minister Ndabaningi Sithole, and senator Jeremiah Chirau in the transition government.

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The students were free to stay in the neighboring country, to leave it for guerrilla training in Zambia or Mozambique, or to return to Rhodesia. Some observers have read great significance into the decision of all but forty-eight to go home. The result was the opposite of a similar school abduction a year ago, when 380 teenagers were forced into Botswana from a Lutheran school. Only fifty of them came home, and the rest went to Zambia for training in Nkomo’s army. The turnabout was explained by supporters of the internal settlement as a demonstration of black Rhodesians’ desire for peace and support of the new government.

Patriotic Front spokesmen outside the country have been trying to make the point that their popular support within Rhodesia is greater than that enjoyed by the Methodist bishop and others involved in the internal settlement. When more than 100,000 people (some estimates ran as high as 150,000) turned out to greet Muzorewa last month on his return from a trip to the United States, a Patriotic Front leader told The New York Times, “It is not at all significant.” The spokesman did not challenge the estimated size of the welcoming party, but he indicated that it was natural for the bishop to get that kind of a turnout in the Salisbury area, the “center of his constituency.” Supporters of the bishop note that last July he was welcomed by 20,000 when he returned to the country. The much larger crowd in March only underlines his popularity and that of the internal settlement, they claim.

Muzorewa was welcomed last month even though he had failed to get a hearing at the United Nations for the internal settlement. Although the British and American governments had helped to start the talks that led to the transitional government, their support softened as Chirau, Muzorewa, Sithole, and Smith took an oath of office before Anglican bishop Patrick Murindagomo. Andrew Young, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (and a United Church of Christ minister), was not a party to the final settlement and expressed surprise when it was announced. He then proceeded to warn that the internal accord opened the way to a “black-on-black civil war” since the Patriotic Front was not included. Later, he called the new arrangement “illegal.”

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Charles E. Cobb, a United Church of Christ (UCC) executive and president of the U.S. National Conference of Black Churchmen, had even stronger language for the internal settlement. He said it was “sinister” and “does not represent an authentic transfer of power.” The strong condemnations by UCC ministers Young and Cobb were particularly noteworthy in view of the UCC’s past support of Sithole. The Rhodesian Congregationalist, often identified as a UCC minister, was educated in the United States with UCC help. He has often spoken in America on platforms arranged by the UCC. Sithole said in response to some of the international uproar that he was preparing a booklet to demonstrate the differences between the internal accord and the outside proposals for majority rule.

After condemning the settlement at the United Nations, Young went to Africa to meet with leaders of the “front-line” states bordering Rhodesia and with the guerrilla leaders. He reportedly reached an agreement with Tanzanian president Julius Nyere that new talks should be started including the Patriotic Front chiefs. Young then met with President Carter in Nigeria, and Carter announced that the United States was working with the British to convene another meeting.

Following Young’s meeting in Tanzania, Muzorewa noted that the American U.N. representative was in effect ignoring all the progress that had been made within the country. Young, declared the bishop, has been “terribly brainwashed.” He added: “This is a genuine agreement to transfer power from the minority to the majority, let them say what they want.” The plan calls for a 100-member parliament, and whites would be entitled to twenty-eight seats for the first ten years. Blacks make up about 95 per cent of the country’s population of nearly seven million.

How much of that population has left to join guerrilla forces or to seek peace elsewhere is hard to determine. Another unknown factor is tribal loyalties. Chirau of the new executive council is a tribal chief, and all of the nation’s tribal chiefs are supporters of his organization. The guerrilla supporters have said that more people are in the areas they have “liberated” or in the areas which Rhodesian authorities have effectively abandoned than are under the protection of the central government. New York Times correspondent Michael T. Kaufman reported from Maputo, Mozambique, that “missionary sources” in Zambia and Mozambique corroborated reports that “large areas” are no longer controlled by Rhodesian authorities. In some of those areas the Patriotic Front has taken over schools and other institutions formerly run by either the government or church agencies. Many other facilities formerly operated by missions and religious organizations have been virtually abandoned in the midst of the strife.

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Troubled Germans

When Baldwin Sjollema, an executive in the World Council of Churches (WCC), asked for response to a controversial paper that he distributed to church leaders last December, he got it. Enough people in the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKID, in German) were upset by the document—entitled “South Africa’s Hope: What Price Now?”—that the federation’s council was moved to declare last month that its distribution was “irresponsible.” In a letter to WCC headquarters the EKID also disassociated itself officially from the paper. Since the EKID is one of the largest Protestant church bodies in Europe, and since it is also one of the largest financial supporters of the fiscally troubled WCC, the sharp action is seen as a serious development.

Sjollema is the top staff member of the WCC’s Program to Combat Racism (PCR). The sixteen-page typewritten paper that he circulated deals with the situation in South Africa along the lines of the “just war” theory. Even though it reaches no definite conclusion it indicates that liberation movements should be supported even in the use of violence to overthrow the system of apartheid (racial separation). In the last sentence of the covering letter Sjollema asks for comments and suggestions “for concrete action in supporting the oppressed as they struggle for liberation.” The paper itself declares: “… whatever hope was left of the development of the African tradition of nonviolent change has now been officially snuffed out.”

The paper likened the situation to World War II times: “We do not define the resistance fighters of Occupied Europe, who used violence against their Nazi oppressors, as terrorists, because we accept that their cause was just and their methods disciplined.” In a later reference to the Nazi era the document cites the name of a current hero of the German church, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was executed for his involvement in a plot to kill Hitler.

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After citing the resistance fighters of World War II, the paper declares: “It is on the grounds of exactly such arguments that South Africa’s black people today claim our recognition of their struggle as a just rebellion.” Later the WCC paper suggests that Christians who fail to help apartheid opponents “will be obstructing the just struggle of the oppressed.”

WCC officials said that the document has no “official status.” Sjollema’s covering letter also pointed this out but it went on to say that the paper’s purpose was to “stimulate discussion, and, through this, to offer lines for action, both corporate and individual.” Sjollema added that he was sending copies to the WCC Central Committee, to national councils of churches, to all WCC member-denominations, and to “interested groups and individuals.” He asked recipients to “distribute the paper as widely as possible and to ensure that the issue will be placed on the agenda of every relevant committee and working group, of every congregation and gathering of Christians.”

The EKID letter asked the WCC to define the status of the paper and to state whether the views in it reflect those of the church body. The EKID also asked whether the document was discussed with the churches in South Africa “who must bear the possible consequences of the front lines.” It questioned whether the anti-racism commission had overstepped its authority since the WCC Central Committee had refused to adopt a proposal that it define a just war or just revolution. EKID leaders were known to be disturbed by the content of the paper as well as by questions regarding the procedure by which it was written and distributed.

WCC spokesmen had no immediate comment on the German letter. They would say only that responses had been received from a number of member churches.

The headline-grabbing PCR has received much of its support from European churches, but much of its sharpest criticism has also originated there. The current Marxist regime ruling Mozambique and Angola got financial support from PCR’s special fund while they were operating as guerilla groups. At the last WCC assembly, in 1975, an effort to restrict PCR grants to non-violent groups was unsuccessful.

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Bulgaria Update

The first Baptist World Alliance representatives to visit Bulgaria since World War II reported some pleasant surprises last month. Executive Gerhard Claas of the European Baptist Federation and Denton Lotz, an American who teaches at a Baptist seminary in Switzerland, said that they found crowded churches, many active young people, and a refreshing intensity of spiritual commitment among members.

There are only about 500 Baptists scattered in sixteen congregations throughout the land. Despite the vibrancy of their faith and church life, potentially serious problems exist. The leadership tends to be elderly (both the general secretary and the president of the Baptist Union, though active, are in their seventies), and there is no seminary where young potential leaders can be trained for the ministry. A number of the meeting places are dilapidated or too small. And there are legal restrictions on evangelism, Christian education, and other aspects of church work.

Claas and Lotz spoke with officials at the government office for religious affairs in Sofia about the possibility of training some young people at seminaries elsewhere in Europe. The pair also expressed hope that Bulgarian church leaders could attend European and world meetings of Baptists. (Government travel permission is needed in both cases.)

The door was left open for future contacts and discussions, an encouraging development for the country’s Protestant minority, about whom little is known in the West.

The largest number of Protestants are Pentecostals, who number more than 10,000 in 120 churches. Membership ranges from 100 to 600 among the congregations in the major cities, according to Keston College, a research center in Britain. Keston reports that revival-like conditions exist among the Pentecostals. With the increase in numbers, however, has come an apparent increase in pressure from the government, according to sources. Since 1975, several pastors and church workers have been “exiled” from their home communities and forbidden to preach, reportedly for violating limitations imposed by the state on religious activities.

About 70 per cent of Bulgaria’s 8.7 million people are said to be baptized members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, but many are inactive. There are more than 3,700 churches and chapels, served by some 1,500 priests, ten bishops, and twelve metropolitans, according to an Orthodox leader. The Orthodox Church also has two institutions for theological training, with more than 300 students enrolled.

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Roman Catholics number about 50,000, with several dozen priests.

The needs most cited by leaders in virtually all the denominations are: an updated version of the Bible with widespread distribution, the training of clergy, improvement of relationships between the various church groups, and more adequate facilities.

This month a dissident group emerged in Bulgaria for the first time with publication of a six-point statement of alleged human-rights violations, according to Austrian press reports. Although it was unsigned, the paper was considered authentic by sources in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, who said it apparently was the work of intellectual dissidents. The paper called for freedom of press, religion, and travel, respect for human rights, higher pensions, and better living standards.

Black Religion And Black Politics

Black ministers and theologians shared time with political scientists and politicians last month in Philadelphia at a symposium on “The Function of Black Religion in Public Policy.” The three-day conference was sponsored by the Afro-American Studies Department of the University of Pennsylvania. Theologian Joseph R. Washington, author of four books on black religion, is chairman of the department.

“Although religion is essential in the black community, it really hasn’t been looked at seriously or understood for its real political potential,” commented Washington at the onset. With that, the some 300 participants plunged into a discussion of the topic at hand. They emerged with a less than unanimous assessment, however. The newly-elected black mayor of New Orleans, Ernest N. Morial, a Roman Catholic, acknowledged that “without black religion there would have been no civil-rights revolution.” But he made a sharp distinction between black religion and the black church, suggesting that progress often has been in spite of the church and not because of it.

Another critical note was sounded by C. Eric Lincoln, professor of religion at Duke University and one of the most prolific black writers on religion. In discussing the “function” of black “sects and cults” in public policy, he concluded that they had none. His designation of Muslims and black Pentecostals as examples brought emotional denials from representatives of both groups present. No Muslims or Pentecostals were featured as program speakers; James A. Forbes, Pentecostal associate professor at Union Seminary in New York, had been scheduled to speak but was canceled in a program-budget cutback. Most of the principal speakers were Baptists. Among the notable exceptions was Democratic Congresswoman Shirley A. Chisholm of New York, a United Methodist.

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Samuel D. Proctor, Adam Clayton Powell’s successor as pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, cited the low numbers of university youths attending black churches. Pastor Leon H. Sullivan of Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia, founder of a nation-wide network of urban job-training centers, criticized blacks for “putting all our eggs in the basket of the Democratic party.” (Sullivan is a Republican.) And Edward D. Irons, professor of banking at Atlanta University, expressed worry about the “dictatorial” style of many pastors, whom he described as “prima donnas.”

On the whole, however, most speakers agreed that the black church is the underlying force, the mobilization front, and the definer of values for nearly all black political action, both electoral and non-electoral. “Poverty is at its base a religious problem,” asserted one participant. Proctor insisted that desegregation, social security, minimum wage standards, and affirmative action “are on the side of the angels. People who don’t understand that just don’t know what the kingdom of God ought to look like.” Democratic congressional delegate Walter E. Fauntroy of the District of Columbia, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in the capital, spoke of experiences as an aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “The Gospel was declared in our day,” he proclaimed, “when the body politic translated our beliefs into public policy.”

A ringing definition of the “ethical imperatives of black religion” came from James A. Joseph, under secretary for the U.S. Department of the Interior. More than all the rest, his address portrayed the theological, ethical, and social interrelationships of black religion. “All of life is sacred,” Joseph affirmed. “Black religion is not a doctrine but an ethic of mutual obligation. Power is political, and it cannot be redeemed or used creatively until we become political.”

Relatively unknown to most of the symposium conferees beforehand, Joseph became the star of the meeting. “Why didn’t somebody tell us we had someone like him in Washington,” one woman asked.

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A white Jewish panelist, educator Harold H. Frank of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, took exception to the conferees’ unanimous opposition to the controversial Bakke decision by the California Supreme Court. (The case, involving in effect the successful challenge of a medical school’s compensatory admissions program by a white applicant, is before the U.S. Supreme Court.) Harmony otherwise prevailed throughout the conference. Most participants saw no disjunction between “evangelistic services” and political activity—a distinct contrast with views of many white evangelicals.

“Some wonder if there is any hope,” commented Sullivan. “There is more than hope, there is movement. The black community’s basic economic and political and social organization is the church. It will still turn cities around. It may even turn the world around.”


A Matter of Policy

The Mormon-related 24,000-student Brigham Young University (BYU) and dozens of landlords in the Provo, Utah, area face a possible federal lawsuit because the school insists that men and women be separated in off-campus housing.

The U.S. Department of Justice says it has “reasonable cause” to believe that equal housing opportunity has been denied by BYU and the landlords on the basis of sex.

BYU president Dallin H. Oaks in effect told the Justice Department to get lost. “BYU is not supported by taxes, and it uses no government funds to build or administer its housing or to enforce its policies,” he asserted. “BYU simply insists on our constitutional right to teach and to require our students to live high moral standards, and to foster housing patterns supportive of that effort.”

Oaks also said that BYU has monitored landlords to assure that ample and acceptable housing exists for both men and women.

Religion in Transit

Under relentless pressure, mostly from church groups, the San Jose, California, city council voted to rescind its designation of a week in June as “Gay Human Rights Week.” The council members earlier had tagged it “Gay Pride Week,” then settled for the human rights angle as a compromise when opposition arose (see April 7 issue, page 63).

The 11,000 congregations of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have been asked by their executive leaders to take part in church-wide local conversations that will help determine whether formal union talks will be started in 1979.

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The Mississippi-based National Federation For Decency has called for a boycott of the Sears, Roebuck company until the firm agrees to stop sponsoring TV programs featuring profanity, excessive violence, and sex. The National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting in Washington, D.C., ranks Sears as the third highest sponsor of violence and sex during prime time.

Publishers’ notes: The Zondervan Corporation, a Christian publishing firm, reports a net income for 1977 of $1.4 million on sales of $32.6 million. Scott Foresman, a Chicago textbook firm, purchased the Fleming H. Revell publishing house, a producer of Christian books. Harper and Row bought the Lippincott-Holman combine. (Holman publishes Bibles and religious books.) Doubleday says it has added an evangelical publishing line: “Galilee.” Logos International, in an economy drive, has trimmed fifteen employees from its roster and reportedly asked executives to take a salary cut.

Planned Parenthood will “become more aggressive” and take a national leadership role in lobbying for abortion rights, government funding for welfare abortions, federal backing of contraceptive development, and a national strategy to reduce teen-age pregnancies, according to a spokesperson.


Robert J. Marshall, for ten years president of the 2.9 million-member Lutheran Church in America, announced that he will not seek reelection at the LCA’s annual convention in July. He has accepted an executive post with the U.S. office of the Lutheran World Federation. The LCA presidency is a full-time administrative position. Marshall has been known for his emphasis on Christian unity.

Charles Colson, the convicted Watergate figure who has become a leader of an evangelical prison ministry, is depicted as a nasty villain in H. R. Haldeman’s new book on Watergate, The Ends of Power. Some allegations in it concerning what Colson did or did not know, say, and do in Watergate conflict with Colson’s public statements. During a talk last month at First Baptist Church in San Antonio, Colson criticized the book as a disservice to society and said he had found at least twenty-five major factual errors in it. Said he: “I have admitted the mistakes I made. I think we should start forgiving one another. Then maybe the public can start forgiving us.”

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Prince Philip of Britain presented the 1978 $100,000 Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion to Edinburgh theologian Thomas Torrance, last year’s moderator of the Church of Scotland. At the awards ceremony, President James McCord of Princeton Seminary noted that Torrance “has sought to rid theology from the blinders that have left it oblivious to what is going on in modern science and from its captivity to bad science.”

United Methodist bishop L. Scott Allen of Charlotte, North Carolina, resigned as president of the denomination’s Commission on Religion and Race. The agency in February voted not to hold meetings in states that have failed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. That meant cancellation of a commitment to a hotel in Charlotte, where a meeting was scheduled next spring. “I felt I could not go on heading an agency that would not honor a valid commitment it had made,” explained Allen. (The National Organization of Women has asked churches, businesses, and other organizations not to hold conventions in states that have not ratified the ERA. The boycott has cost states $100 million so far, according to various estimates.)

Keith R. Bridston, 53, professor of systematic theology at Pacific Lutheran Seminary, Berkeley, and an American Lutheran Church clergyman, became the executive secretary of the U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches in New York April 1. He is a former director of the WCC Faith and Order Commission. He succeeds Charles H. Long. 54, who will become director and editor of Forward Movement Publications, an Episcopal agency in Cincinnati.

World Scene

Some 200 pastors representing all of Brazil’s major denominations gathered in São Paulo last month to plan “Generation 79,” a congress for 16,000 Brazilian young people. To be held early next year, the week-long event will feature as speakers Billy Graham, Luis Palau, Brazilian Nilson Fanini, and other evangelists. Two public rallies will be held at an 85,000-seat stadium in São Paulo, where Graham will preach. (Two-thirds of Brazil’s 116 million population is under age 26.)

The government of Finland has introduced legislation to ban the smuggling of unauthorized goods—including Bibles and other religious materials—across its border into the Soviet Union. Presently only pornography is prohibited. The Soviets, however, ban much more, and there have been some awkward border incidents as a result.

The South African government in a reversal of policy announced that white churches may now admit blacks without official permission.

More than one-tenth of couples living together in Sweden are unmarried, and one-third of all Swedish children are born out of wedlock, according to a government report.

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