The Crenshaw Christian Center has 9,000 members.
They start coming as early as 6:30 on Sunday morning. By 10, there are lines around the block, and police unclog traffic bottlenecks near the parking lot. Those arriving too late to get into the 1,400-seat sanctuary will have to view the proceedings on closed-circuit television from the gymnasium. The morning service will be taped for television and aired as far away as Australia and the West Indies.
This is Crenshaw Christian Center in Inglewood, California; Frederick K. Price, pastor. Its membership, consisting mostly of middle-class blacks, has tripled in the last three years and now stands at 9,302, with over 3,000 in new members classes. To accommodate the numbers, the congregation has purchased the former Los Angeles campus of Pepperdine University for $14 million ($2.5 million down payment) and plans to construct a 10,000-seat-sanctuary. The existing buildings will be used for a school of ministry.
The church is charismatic but independent, and exhibits none of the disorder sometimes found in Pentecostal-style meetings. In the service on January 17, the pastoral staff carefully outlined biblical principles of order for the use of gifts. There were two instances of glossolalia (tongues), both by women, both short, and both followed by interpretation. The announcement for the offering was greeted with applause, and the gifts were collected in buckets instead of plates.
Price’s sermon is an hour-long, verse-by-verse study of Colossians. With his Bible open, he roams the aisles and up among the choir, interacting with the congregation by asking questions and repeating key points several times. Many people take notes. His illustrations, often humorous, draw on everyday life and the familiar world of the work place.
Now in his forties, Frederick Price grew up in a family influenced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he did not become a Christian until his first year of marriage in 1952. Since receiving the call of God to the ministry “in an audible voice,” he has been pastor of Baptist, African Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Christian and Missionary Alliance churches. The current facilities in a neat, well-manicured section of Inglewood, near Los Angeles, were purchased from a white Disciples of Christ congregation that Price states “went out of business” because they “would not integrate.”
Although the center’s television program, “Ever-Increasing Faith,” is enormously popular in Los Angeles, Price does not credit this with the recent upswing in membership. “We already had two morning services and closed-circuit television before the television ministry,” he says. His concept of television is not to build membership, but to teach the Bible. “Most people who come here are attracted by the changed lives of our members,” he affirms.
Price’s own ministry began to be successful, he states, after a Spirit-baptism experience in 1970. He was influenced by Kathryn Kuhlman, Lutheran charismatic Larry Christiansen, and Tulsa evangelist Kenneth Hagin. While maintaining his independence, he has supported Oral Roberts’s hospital project, expressing sympathy for Roberts’s concept of healing that “combines the natural and supernatural.” He approves of the work of the denominations, even the Catholic charismatic movement, and such people as Billy Graham. However, he maintains that “denominationalism will have to go some day, because by its very nature it is divisive.”
On the subject of theological education and the value of seminaries, Price refuses comment. He has had no formal theological training himself. His library is well stocked with standard biblical works popular among evangelical clergy, but he relegates them to the time before his Spirit baptism and no longer uses them. He also feels that even Hebrew and Greek linguistic studies, “unless implemented,” are of little practical use.
On political and social issues, Price likewise refuses comment, a stance that has upset local critics. He urges members to follow the injunction to pray for their leaders—advice not likely to satisfy social-justice advocates.
In his cassette ministry, Price makes available a series of ten tapes entitled, “Redeemed from Poverty, Sickness and Death” and nine tapes entitled “High Finance—Tithes and Offerings.” Critics have perceived such things as an undue emphasis on materialism and prosperity, with some accusing Price of being “a cross between Richard Pryor and Reverend Ike.” He finds the charge annoying, but dismisses it without response. Crenshaw Christian Center does have a financial assistance program for people in need, with priority given to church members.
Described in the local press as low-key, Price does not see himself as a leader beyond his own ministry. Unlike pastors at other large, area churches, he never calls press conferences and never seeks publicity. But with a swelling membership soon to go over 10,000, a huge new sanctuary, and television exposure, he may not have to.
Glenn Anderson has resigned as dean of North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago. Dean since 1968, he will return to full-time teaching of church history at North Park. The seminary’s enrollment doubled under Anderson’s leadership.
Bob E. Patterson, a professor of religion at Baylor University (Waco, Texas) has been named the president of a new organization, the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion. The association was formed to “foster scholarly publication” by members, and will launch a journal to be called Perspectives in Religious Studies.
North American Scene
The Chicago archdiocese announced that 40 percent of the parishioners in each parish must subscribe to the archdiocesan newspaper. Any parish that had not reached that quota by February 15 would receive a weekly bulk mailing of the newspaper—with a bill sent to the pastor. Hit by the recent postal hikes (CT, Feb. 5, p. 68), the plan was an attempt to augment revenue through an increase in circulation, which had been falling. So many priests objected that Cardinal Cody, the bishop of Chicago, extended the date by which the new subscriptions must be paid.
The United Church of Christ is the first U.S. denomination to have a female majority in its seminaries. Recent enrollment figures show 52 percent of the denomination’s students in master of divinity programs are women. Other denominations with significant percentages of women students include the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 34 percent; United Presbyterian Church, 32 percent; United Methodist Church, 32 percent; American Baptist Church, 29 percent; and the Lutheran Church in America, 26 percent.
Several evangelical seminaries have been reinstated on the United Methodist Church’s list of approved schools. Six of eight schools considered favorable to evangelicals by the UM renewal movement, Good News, were placed on probation last June by UM officials. That meant graduates of those schools would not be eligible for ordination in the denomination. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (S. Hamilton, Mass.) now has full approval, as does Oral Roberts University (Tulsa). Also approved were Ashland (Ohio) Theological Seminary and Memphis (Tenn.) Theological Seminary. Schools still unapproved by the UM include Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, Ill.).
One of C.S. Lewis’s Narnian Chronicles will appear on movie theater screens in two years. The Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation, pleased by the success of producing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for television, now plans to do The Magician’s Nephew for theatrical release. The Lion … won an Emmy award and attracted 37 million prime-time viewers for its television release in 1979. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia is a seven-volume story of fantasy and adventure for children.
The U.S. Supreme Court has reiterated its 20-year-old ban on sponsored prayer in public schools. The case originated when a 1980 Louisiana law permitting voluntary prayer in public schools was implemented by the school board of Jefferson Parish, near New Orleans. Three parents sued, contending that the law and the board’s policy promoted religion in violation of the First Amendment. A district court judge upheld the law, but the court of appeals reversed the decision in August, maintaining that it was an unconstitutional entanglement of church and state. The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling, not accompanied by a written opinion, upheld the appellate court.
Evangelist Morris Cerullo, his World Evangelism organization, and the purchasers of its San Diego hotel complex face a $13 million lawsuit filed by a real estate agent. Maureen L. King and her company, La Costa Financial and Investments, filed an eight-count suit accusing Cerullo and World Evangelism of bilking her out of a 3 percent commission on the December 9 sale, which she alleges would have amounted to $510,000. Atlanta-based developer Terry Considine and several associates bought the hotel and adjacent properties for an undisclosed sum, although county property records show the price was more than $12 million.
Arkansas state Senator Jim Holsted, sponsor of the controversial Arkansas creation-science law, has been placed on a year’s probation and fined $5,000. He was charged with stealing $105,000 from Providential Life Insurance Company, of which he was treasurer and board chairman. Democrat Holsted, who resigned his elective office as part of a pleabargaining arrangement and repaid the money, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of making false or misleading statements. He said he might run for election after his probation. “A winner,” Holsted said, “never accepts defeat.”
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