Fifteen years ago when African Revolutionary Mzee Jomo Kenyatta manned the helm of this newborn nation, Kenya’s former colonial governor warned that the freedom fighter would be an “African leader to darkness and death.” Urging both blacks and whites to “forget the past,” Kenyatta quickly disproved such gloomy forecasts and successfully molded an east African nation of rare stability, prosperity, and multi-racial cohesion.
Last month when Kenyatta died, the global prophets of doom again cautioned that Kenya might crumble into chaos or violence during the nation’s first transfer of power. Yet an eerie calm soon settled over fifteen million Kenyans as vice-president Daniel Arap Moi, Kenyatta’s likely successor, assumed power as the nation’s transitional president.
“President Moi has three things going for him,” a civil servant and officer at Nairobi Baptist Church told CHRISTIANITY TODAY. “First, Kenyans want a man of God, and Moi is a Christian. Secondly, he’s guided by a sense of fairness, and makes himself available to the people. Thirdly, he’s from a small tribe, which will require him to cultivate a broad-based coalition, rather than leaning on the power of a major tribe to rule the city.”
Moi, who has been deeply influenced by the Africa Inland Church (planted by the Africa Inland Mission), one of Kenya’s largest Protestant denominations, moved immediately to quell simmering tribal, racial, and political resentments that could flare into major crises for his fledgling administration.
Barely two weeks after Kenyatta’s funeral, Moi announced an end to land allocations, which had permitted monopoly of prime properties by the political and social elite. “All Kenyans, including ministers and civil servants, are answerable to me, but I am answerable to God,” President Moi announced at a large public rally. “If I do not rule fairly I will be judged by God.” Kenya’s new president also promised a crackdown on crime and said he will not tolerate expatriate businessmen whose cut-throat tactics shut Kenyans out of business. The Kalenjin tribesman noted that although he had a heart to forgive he will deal “drastically” with civil servants or businessmen who abuse the Kenyan people through corruption.
Moi, who estimates that 75 per cent of his countrymen now profess to be Christians, has maintained his visibility with a cross section of the religious leaders of Kenya during the transition period. “Without a vision, the people perish,” he reminded Africa Inland Church delegates at an AIC memorial service for Kenyatta. Moi urged his audience to “continue preaching the Word of God to maintain peace, love, and unity,” adding that although the formerly dark continent of Africa is now a bleeding continent, it has been the grace of God that has granted Kenya peace and stability.
Under Moi, as under Kenyatta, the Christian community will probably enjoy privileges and prosperity rare in Africa, if not in the world. During the Kenyatta era, churches mushroomed, bulging with what a prominent researcher has estimated in recent years as 500,000 converts annually. Kenya’s Evangelical Quakers claim the largest Quaker community in the world; its Anglicans claim the globe’s fastest-growing diocese, with churches near Mt. Kenya confirming 20,000 new members annually.
Such surges of growth have created some 700 new congregations in Kenya annually, with more than 360 churches and congregations thriving in Nairobi alone. At current rates of growth, most churches are expected to triple in size by A.D. 2,000. Although Protestantism may merely double, Catholics and independent churches are likely to quadruple. More than twenty-five Protestant Bible or theological institutes and colleges have also been established in Kenya, training adult Christians at primary, high school, and college levels. Students from throughout Africa converge on Kenya’s Bible schools, often returning home to minister under conditions far less conducive to the growth of Christianity.
Supplementing the impact of churches and church schools, the Kenyan government finances Christian textbooks for primary schools and sponsors religious education throughout the educational systems. State-owned Voice of Kenya (VOK) radio and TV stations, which monopolize the airwaves, also offer large chunks of free time for churches to beam the Gospel to sophisticated city dwellers as well as to traditional tribesmen. “When we get back to pagan Britain, we’ll miss all this,” the imported Anglican provost of Nairobi’s All Saints Cathedral moaned during the barrage of hymns from Voice of Kenya radio since Kenyatta’s death.
Although Kenyatta, who was baptized by Scottish Presbyterian missionaries, firmly supported Kenya’s Christians, he deeply resented what some Africans call the “cultural castration” by early missionaries who arbitrarily outlawed cherished African customs, alienating entire villages in the process. He was often heard to say, “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.” Despite such harsh criticism, most of Kenyatta’s “deepest convictions were formed in those early days with the Christian missionaries,” claimed Kenya Attorney General Charles Njonjo, during a memorial service in Nairobi early last month. “Few realized how he treasured those formative experiences or how conscious he always was of his unique debt of gratitude to them.” Kenyatta’s commitment to basic Christian principles was evident in the impact of both his life and his death. “President Kenyatta hammered away at the principles of unity, peace, and goodwill for all men,” said AIC Bishop Wellington Mulwa. “There would be tremendous opposition from our people if anyone tried to change those policies.” On a VOK radio broadcast aired last month, Kenya’s Minister for Agriculture, Jeremiah Nyagah, added that Kenyatta “hated discrimination based on sex, race, tribe, and he stood above petty religious differences.” Kenyatta also followed Jesus’ example by “discipling” key leaders in the cabinet, said Nyagah, so that a firm foundation would sustain the country long after Kenyatta’s demise.
President Daniel Arap Moi has giant shoes to fill and a mammoth task in sustaining peace, prosperity, and stability in his slice of the turbulent horn of Africa. But he is backed by millions of countrymen whose tribal animosities have been blurred by common commitment to Christ, and he has inherited a nation that has already demonstrated dignity, maturity, and strength during its greatest crisis yet. As Bishop Mulwa said, Moi’s supreme strength and Kenya’s greatest hope may well lie in the new president’s character as a “God fearing man”—one who has publicly acknowledged his dependence on God.
Crossfire At Crossroads
By the middle of last month, South African police had made four night raids on the huge Crossroads squatters camp outside Cape Town in as many weeks, using tear gas, clubs, and dogs. In the mid-September raid two men were shot dead and a baby was trampled to death. Hundreds of blacks were arrested plus more than a dozen whites (including some clergy).
Now that the cold weather is past, the government plans to demolish this last and largest—20,000 residents—of Cape Town’s black shantytowns. It sees the illegal township as a challenge to fundamental apartheid policies, since black wives and children normally live in rural “homelands,” not with their working men in urban areas where they are legally considered “temporary” residents. But a world outcry over Crossroads, including public prayer for it by Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan and the late Pope Paul, caused the authorities to hesitate before moving in with bulldozers.
Church Ferment In West Germany
Evangelical Protestants in West Germany have a lot to think about these days.
The state Lutheran Church began and then delayed proceedings against controversial clergyman Paul Schulz. He is charged with holding views that violate his ordination vows. The 40-year-old pastor has been suspended from his duties at St. James Church in Hamburg pending the outcome of the trial, the first in sixty-seven years.
The eloquent and popular minister had drawn many back to the ancient but declining downtown church, best known for its exquisite baroque organ. He attempted to structure an “open congregation,” one possessing a spiritual and social format that would appeal to modern-day people.
Although the church leadership had long been aware of Schulz’s deviations from orthodoxy, his recently published book Is God a Mathematical Formula? brought the matter into the open. The controversial cleric espouses a type of ecclesiastical atheism that makes him the darling of “progressives” but the bane of conservatives. Above all, he rejects the biblical view of a personal God and a life after death. The proponent of an updated Enlightenment rationalism, he condemns the traditional Protestant church. “When people enter the chancel, they leave their minds in the anteroom,” he chides.
In a recent interview in Die Welt, Schulz declared: “The growing awareness of a need for religion is in no way evidence of the validity of religion. Rather it is a sign that mankind might be able to break out of its present existence.” Speaking of the Christian life, he said: “We Christians believe too much and act too little. Following Christ should consist of responsibility for mankind in this world rather than spiritual and heavenly endeavors.” His most jolting statement: “The gospel of the resurrection of Jesus is merely faith, hope, and illusion, not a real fact.… No man will rise after his death—there is no eternal life.”
The action against Schulz pleased the adherents of the “confessional” communities, a theologically orthodox movement that for several years has been calling German Lutheranism back to biblical principles.
The confessionalists’ most noteworthy achievement was a meeting in West Berlin in May, 1974. It attracted evangelicals from both the established and free churches, and they drafted the Berlin Declaration on Ecumenism, a hard-hitting critique of the World Council of Churches. The action, however, was overshadowed by the Lausanne evangelization congress two months later and attracted little news media attention.
Although some sources claim revival is spreading among German young people, with enrollments at the conservative Bible schools at an all-time high, interest has been flagging in the organized confessional movement. Attendance at its annual assemblies has fallen off since a high point in 1975, and some prominent conservatives have refused to embrace the cause. The decline, say some observers, is due partly to personality clashes but mostly to the seeming inability of the movement to advance beyond an essentially negative, oppositional stance and to develop a positive plan of action to spread the Gospel.
Conservatives have generally been dissatisfied with the quality of theological education at the German universities, and they have made various efforts in recent years to provide alternatives. Among the most successful have been the theological academies at Basel and Seehism.
Three years ago an evangelical consortium launched a frontal assault on the ecclesiastical-academic establishment by founding the “Free University of Hamburg.” With an impressive roster of reputable scholars, a high sounding curriculum, and abundance of press releases, the university got off to an auspicious start. However, because of controversial actions by its director, Helmut Saake, the school soon became a cause célèbre in the Hanseatic city.
Saake had previously been appointed professor for life by the Basel academy while on its staff. The Swiss school later announced it had withdrawn the prized academic title. Saake insisted that a lifetime appointment is irrevocable, and continued to use the title in Germany. But Hamburg education authorities have now filed a suit against Saake, alleging that he is using the academic title without proper authorization.
The most notorious wrangle occurred when the eminent conservative scholar and theologian Helmut Thielicke denounced the enterprise in a free-swinging article in the local newspaper as a “questionable theological nursery school with a sand castle mentality.”
Saake countered with a libel suit, and Thielicke was forced to retract some of his accusations, or face a two-year prison term.
In the meantime, a power struggle broke out between the director and board, and last September most of the faculty resigned in protest against Saake’s allegedly high-handed methods. They then organized a new theological school with more modest pretensions, and classes were to open this fall in the facilities of a defunct missionary training college at Breklum near the Danish border. Ironically, the same school had been closed a few years before in order to get rid of a tenured teacher who espoused heretical views. His name: Paul Schulz.
Meanwhile back in Hamburg, the Superior Court forbade the “Free University” to continue its operations within the city. The suit before it, also filed by the education authorities, contended that students would be misled by the name of the institution. The August verdict of the court declared that private individuals and associations are not permitted to establish a university or other institution of higher learning.
RICHARD V. PIERARD and ROBERT D. LINDER
Opening Up A Crack
The Chinese government in Peking has reactivated the World Religion Research Institute, dormant since the Cultural Revolution of 1966. Although the regime of Chairman Hua Kuo-feng is not seeking an “accomodation” with religion, the reopening of the Institute seems to indicate that it recognizes the importance of religion as a social force. The government has reopened some Buddhist temples and at least one center of Confucian teachings since Chairman Hua succeeded the late Mao Tse-tung in 1976.
Reliable sources indicate that Peking also has lifted its long-standing ban against informal contacts between foreigners and Chinese citizens. In another liberalizing move, China indicated in August that it will send about 10,000 students abroad next year, perhaps, as many as 500 to the United States.
Christians in Pakistan are protesting remarks made by their minister of religious affairs in this largely Islamic republic. According to press reports, the official told a gathering of Asian Muslims that the Christian world did not fear the day of judgment and was not accountable to anyone for its cruelty, tyranny, and injustice. The remarks were made in an opening address to the First Asian Islamic Conference held in Karachi in July.
Soon after the speech Christians in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, came out with their demand that the minister, A.K. Brohi, be forced to withdraw his remarks and apologize to the Christian community. Christians in Pakistan number approximately 1 million and form the largest minority in this country of 75 million. In late July many Christians in Lahore wore black arm bands to church. As many as 10,000 gathered in the Anglican cathedral to protest against the minister’s speech.
Some Christians fear they have a bleak future in Pakistan, which is currently experiencing a resurgence of Islamic orthodoxy. Most major newspapers ignore the protests, but Viewpoint, a leading leftist weekly, supported the Christian demand that Brohi retract his statement. “It is a simple, generally accepted principle that praise of one’s religious beliefs should never be accompanied by disparaging remarks about the beliefs of others,” the magazine editorialized.
Soviet authorities have approved the constituting of a second Baptist Church of Moscow in Mitischi, a suburb about thirty minutes’ drive from the downtown Central Baptist Church. The new 200-member congregation, which has received approval for church registration within the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, also has applied for a building permit to construct a 400-seat chapel.
The World Council of Churches plans to alter what it calls the “scandalous” situation in which member churches do not recognize each other’s sacraments and ministry. At the triennial meeting in Bangalore, India, of its Faith and Order Commission, the council issued the carefully worded statement, “One Baptism, One Eucharist, and a Mutually Recognized Ministry.” The statement was intended to serve, with revision, as the basis for establishing reciprocity in those areas. Obvious hurdles include differing stands on the ordination of women and the priesthood.
Authorities in Nepal heard about a secret baptismal service in the lowland city of Butwal and promptly arrested the baptizer and the baptized—seventeen adults and children. The children were quickly released from jail, but, according to word from the isolated Himalayan kingdom, the adults were eventually released on bail but will face charges, which carry sentences of from one to six years. Under Nepalese law, conversion from the state religion, Buddhism, to Christianity is illegal.
One hundred West German Lutheran theological students signed a statement requesting that pastors live in communes. They declared, “We are no longer willing to live by the traditional marriage and sexual ethics of the Church and to work to enforce them.” The Rhineland provincial church headquarters rejected the declaration “with all distinctness.”
Twelve scholars commissioned by the Swedish government in 1973 to prepare a totally new translation of the Bible into modern Swedish are halfway home. They recently finished their New Testament translation that will be available in 1980. Their five-million-dollar project won’t result in a complete Bible until 1990.
Egyptian architects will go to Jerusalem to supervise repairs on the city’s ancient Al Aksa Mosque. The Muslim shrine, situated on the historic Jewish temple mount, was burned by an Australian Christian sheep-shearer in 1969. Israeli authorities ruled the arsonist “a paranoid schizophrenic” and deported him in 1974.
Pope John Paul has named Cardinal Bernardin Gantin president of the Vatican’s coordinating agency for Catholic aid and development projects around the world—the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, or “One Heart.” Gantin, 56, is a black African prelate from Benin.
The description of Eduardo Bonnin as a leader of a “Spanish charismatic movement” (as reported in the September 22 issue, p. 42) was incorrect. More clearly and accurately stated, Bonnin is a leader of the Cursillo movement, which is an international spiritual renewal movement that began in Spain; the movement has, however, influenced many charismatic leaders.
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