by Robert L. Niklaus
Reports from around the world.
MISSION-NAPPING: A TACTICAL MISTAKE
The terrorists arrived in a green Mazda taxi at the leprosy clinic operated in South Thailand by the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OFM). Nurses Minka Hanskamp, from New Zealand, and Margaret Morgan, from England, were taken away to a terrorist hideaway in the mountains to treat some patients.
That was in April. Four months later they are still in rebel hands. Letters have come back from the women stating that they are in good health and being well treated. By an equally devious route Bibles and hymnbooks were sent to them. At first a ransom of $500,000 was demanded for their release. Rev. Denis Lane, director of OMF, refused to pay the ransom lest it "put a price on the head of every missionary."
Negotiations continued until July when government pressure on the rebels grew so strong that relations were broken off between the OMF and rebel leaders. As of early August, nothing more had been heard from the nurses.
Another kidnapping took place in Ethiopia during May. Guerrillas of the Eritrean Liberation Front broke into the American Evangelical Mission Hospital at Ghinda looking for a doctor to treat their wounded. Failing to find him they seized two nurses as hostages: Mrs. Deborah Dortzbach of New Jersey, and Miss Anna Stickwerda, a Dutch nurse. A guerrilla shot the 54-year-old Dutch nurse when she failed to keep up with the fleeing band.
Mrs. Dortzvach, five months pregnant, was held hostage for one month and then released on June 22. She brought back an apology from the guerrillas for killing the Dutch nurse, calling it a "tactical mistake."
The terrorists in both Thailand and Ethiopia have probably learned that kidnapping missionaries is a "tactical mistake." Missions do not pay out millions of dollars in ransom as do commercial firms. And the captives – as demonstrated in Vietnam as well as in Thailand and Ethiopia – display an inner strength that baffles their captors, leaving them with an uncomfortable awareness of God.
Missionaries working in troubled areas of the world may have to add the possibility of kidnapping to their already long list of potential dangers. Peace and security are not going to increase as the Lord’s coming draws nearer. They will even have to face the possibility that their kidnapping experience may not have a happy ending. Three missionaries captured in Viet Nam in 1962 are still missing and unaccounted for.
AFRICA: RADICAL PLANKS IN AFRICAN PLATFORM
The All-Africa Conference of Churches (A-ACC) has included some interesting planks in its platform for Christian unity on the continent.
Meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, during May, the A-ACC demonstrated that it is a religious force to be taken seriously.
Some 500 delegates represented 112 Orthodox, Protestant and independent churches in thirtythree African nations. All told, the A-ACC constituency of forty-five million members comprises one-third of nominal Christianity in Africa.
Four of the largest planks in the A-ACC platform were not completely new. But they were expressed in unusual clarity that dispelled doubt as to the direction the A-ACC wants to lead African Christianity.
"Sanctified violence" was explained theologically by Burgess Carr, a Liberian-born Anglican canon presently serving as general secretary of the A-ACC. He said that liberation movements ". . . have helped the church to rediscover a new and radical appreciation of the Cross. In accepting the violence of the Cross, God, in Jesus Christ, sanctified violence into a redemptive instrument for bringing into being a fuller human life. "
Canon Carr was applauded as he concluded, "Any outright rejection of violence is an untenable alternative for African Christians."
Moratorium was another plank in the A-ACC platform enunciated with new force and clarity. A key report on the "Ministry of Social Justice" said bluntly, "Missionary, go home." The report stated, "To enable the African Church to achieve the power of becoming a true instrument of liberating and reconciling the African people, as well as finding solutions to economic and social dependency, our option as a matter of policy has to be a moratorium on external assistance in mosey and personnel."
Commenting on the discussion, an African observer noted, "One disturbing thing in the discussion was the type of attitude manifested. It was obviously vindictive. Every expatriate missionary was branded a neo-colonialist, and out to exploit Africa."
A moratorium on finances is hardly practical for the A-ACC at this time. Ninety-seven percent of its budget is a subsidy from non-African sources. Dr. Byang Kato, writing in Pulse, quipped, "If the support comes from Geneva, it is justified. But if it comes from elsewhere, it is servitude money."
Canon Carr apparently does not support a total moratorium on personnel and finances. In his keynote address he defined moratorium as "a demand to transfer the massive expenditure on expatriate personnel in the church in Africa to program activities manned by Africans themselves." His message to the Western churches wag obviously, "Keep your people and send your money."
Dialogue will be another plank in the AACC’s future activities. The conference report on dialogue stated: "Christianity now repentantly recognizes positive contribution in the indigenous religion of traditional African societies." The underlying assumption of this emphasis on dialogue is the equality of religions rather than the uniqueness of any one religion through divinely revealed absolute truth.
Unify, a well-worms plank, is due for even more service among A-ACC-member groups. Their goal is total elimination of all denominational labels and varieties of church practice. Acclaiming the Church of Christ in Zaire as a model of unity, the Lusaka conference leaders urged delegates to liberate themselves from disgusting vestiges of the colonialistic missionary era. (Eleven major church unions have been achieved since 1928 in Africa. Eight more are currently being worked out.)
There was a time when the A-ACC attempted to pass itself off as a neutral grouping somewhere between the liberal and conservative camps. That neutral pretension is now history. Evangelicals attending the Lusaka gathering found themselves outsiders subjected to hostile comments and unable to influence the course of the conference or its pronouncements.
Dr. Byang Kato, general secretary of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (AEAM), summed up the Lusaka meeting by saying that "the Church in Africa is now heading for a new form of liberalism."
IN PRAISE AND AID OF LIBERATION
Addressing the All-Africa Conference of Churches see above), Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda praised the liberation movements in southern Africa. "In many ways," he asserted, "the liberation movements are helping to create conditions in which aspirations expressed in the Christian gospel can be fulfilled."
It is difficult to see how one of the lauded liberation groups created conditions favorable to the gospel in an operation it carried out in northeast Rhodesia one month prior to Dr. Kaunda’s speech. Guerrillas raided the Mavuradonha mission station of The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). They killed two of the African church leaders. Pastor Fran Kakunguwo was chaplain of the high school; Mr. Richard Tsinokwadi was boarding master of the school.
The station was closed after the raid, and the students were assigned to other schools. Another TEAM mission center and two bush stations were also closed because of guerrilla activity. More than 8,000 Africans were moved out of their ancestral lands and resettled away from the frontier region.
Closing the TEAM stations and resettling the local people has caused considerable hardship to thousands of Africans. But the liberation movement which carried out the raids need not be unduly concerned for itself because of hardships caused by the moves. Under the Church World Service’s new set of priorities ‘see above), it would qualify for relief aid.
Church World Service (CWS), largest Protestant relief agency in the world, may shift its program of relief for human suffering to include support for political change as well. CWS is an agency of the National Council of Churches (NCC).
James MacCracken, CWS executive director until midJune, devoted the agency’s $25 million budget to providing food, clothing, shelter and medicine to victims of war and natural disasters. Under his leadership the CWS label became familiar in almost every suffering nation of the Third World. Missions in and out of the NCC have been glad to dispense readily available CWS supplies when disaster hit their areas.
Mr. MacCracken was abruptly dismissed from his post in June. "Deep theological differences" was one major reason he cited for his dismissal. Another reason was "personality conflict." Both reasons related directly to the man who fired Mr. MacCracken from his post: Dr. Eugene L. Stockwell, assistant general secretary for overseas ministries. A third reason cited was criticism of Mr. MacCracken by Third World and NCC mission leaders who emphasize liberation from unjust governments as a legitimate activity for the churches.
Dr. Stockwell contends that CWS should not be content to clothe and feed the needy but should also devote itself to "systemic change." This view is consistent with the training Dr. Stockwell received at the Chicago-based Ecumenical Institute which prides itself in turning out "awakened revolutionaries." New CWS policy is reported to give priority aid for hungry revolutionaries.
Dr. Stockwell’s views on dispensing aid align more closely with the World Council of Church’s policy than does Mr. MacCracken’s limited view of giving aid for the immediate needs of disaster victims. World Council aid to revolutionary groups dedicated to "systemic change" in minorityrule countries has stirred opposition and controversy among local churches of its member groups.
If CWS aid takes on a revolutionary bias, it will bring a diminished role for an agency widely respected for its past record of prompt, large-scale aid to crises areas. Other activist agencies of the NCC are financially broke because of lack of local support. Should donors be convinced that CWS funds are used for support of "systemic change" – even by violent means – instead of aid to the suffering, they will cut back their giving to CWS as well.
For thirty million people in West Africa, Ethiopia, India and other ailing areas, a diminished role for CWS could not come at a worse time.
"Church attendance in Europe is everywhere declining," says Bishop Stephen Neill, the Anglican missions leader. "The secularization of life proceeds apace."
Speaking of his church in Germany, one Protestant confessed that the established church has "the institutionalized character of the municipal garbage collection." Most of his countrymen must agree with this evaluation, because fewer than five percent of all Germans worship regularly.
The same can be said of most European nations. In Denmark only one to two percent attend church. The Swedes double that proportion to three percent of the population. Barely two percent of England’s Anglicans worship on Sunday; churches are being closed or consolidated at the rate of 800 per year.
Roman Catholics face similar problems. In Italy, the "last bastion of the Roman Catholic Church’s temporal power," the monolithic authority of the church is showing some ugly cracks.
Rising anticlericalism is moving many Italians into the Communist camp. Forty-five seminaries closed in 1973. In the recent referendum on a divorce law, the Vatican put its prestige on the line in opposing the law. Fully three million Catholics ignored threats of excommunication by voting for the law. They were led by almost 1,500 priests who defied a papal directive to fight the law.
The same decline in Catholic power is also evident in France where only five priests were ordained in 1973; in the Irish Republic training institutes are being closed for lack of candidates; in Belgium the candidate crisis is equally acute; in Portugal under the new leftist government Catholicism is taking a bashing.
Despite the deadness of both Protestantism and Catholicism on the continent, there are some encouraging scenes. In November Dr. Donald Coggan, a recognized evangelical, will become Archbishop of Canterbury.
Young Christians in Denmark successfully combated the production of the blasphemous film, Love Affairs of Jesus. More than 2,000 Swedish youth attended "Jesus conferences," a lively mixture of music and solid Bible teaching. In Germany this autumn the Greater Europe Mission will open a theological seminary.
Missionaries in the Irish Republic notice a new openness to the gospel and opportunities of witness never before possible. The same freedom is evident in Belgium where a program similar to Evangelismin-Depth is underway. An American evangelist, John Haggai, recently conducted successful evangelistic campaigns in the Portuguese cities of Lisbon and Porto.
Thus while secularism is gaining ground on the continent there are significant steps forward in evangelism and biblical training. Aided by 1,500 North American missionaries, continental Christians are seriously attempting to turn the tide and call their contemporaries to Christ. – Abridged from "Christianity in Europe: Can Evangelicals Stem the Secularist Tide?" by Dr. Wayne Detzler; reported in Evangelical Newsletter, volume 1, number 19.
AFRICA: TARGET CITY NAIROBI
Mission leaders of the Assemblies of God held a strategy session in 1972 to pick a target city for their 1974 special evangelistic effort. The target had to be a strategic urban center responsive to the gospel but inadequately evangelized.
Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, seemed an obvious choice. Over 600,000 people live in the city, and the population would reach one million in a few years. Evangelical missions and churches in the city were having a good ministry, but the city was growing faster than efforts to evangelize it.
Designating Nairobi as the 1974 target city touched off efforts in several directions. Veteran missionary Delmar Kingsriter led a staff of missionaries into Nairobi to begin evangelistic services and training classes for participants in the 1974 crusade. Another veteran missionary, Morris Plotts, was transferred from Tanzania to work in Kenya and then tour U.S. churches during 1973 to stir interest and secure backing for the Nairobi effort.
Exciting developments in Nairobi pointed to God’s approval of the city chosen. The Kenyan government donated an acre of land valued at $100,000. It is in the most densely populated area of Nairobi. When the city council handed over the deed to Mr. Plotts, one counselor said to him, "We want to look out the window and see something happen."
Something was already happening. Open-air services and cottage prayer meetings by Mr. Kingsriter and his colleagues attracted a nucleus of believers. Prayer cells organized. Education by – extension classes opened for untrained but zealous believers.
By countdown time in July of this year, a 100-member congregation in Nairobi was supporting its own pastor. Two hundred pastors and laymen had been trained for the all-out effort, code-named "Gospel News Crusade." Large quantities of evangelistic literature were ready for distribution. The tracts and pamphlets were provided by Assemblies churches in America observing a "Light-for-the-Lost Day" on May 5 to raise $10,000 for literature distribution.
July also marked the dedication of the evangelistic multiplex called the Nairobi Christian Center. The center will eventually contain facilities for a youth program and an evening Bible school. The church will accommodate 1,000 people and cost $100,000. Although Assemblies of God churches in America under wrote the construction costs, the Nairobi believers wanted to contribute as well. They organized a "Harambee" day and raised $3,600 for the building project.
The Good News Crusade is now in progress and initial reports indicate that the two-year planning and preparation period was worth it all.
Copyright © 1974 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.