From Africa, Mesopotamia, India, the South Seas, China, all parts of the Western Hemisphere, and from Europe,. 3,5oo delegates were gathered in the memorial hall of Columbus, Ohio, October 6-8, 1948. The occasion was the Annual World Missions Conference. Every race, color, and shade of Christian creed was represented.
The chairman of the American Foreign Policy Association gave the conference a general picture of the tense international situation. Top policy men, she declared, have only one hope; namely, that the powers working for peace may have time to consolidate the peace-loving world into a solid progressive bloc, which because of its strength will be too dangerous for any aggressor to attack. She declared it to be her conviction that the Christian church is the strongest force in the world working for such unity among world peoples today, but she did not feel that the present influence of the church was measuring up to its possibilities.
Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, under a great burden to convey the spirit of Amsterdam to this conference, outlined the responsibility of the church in materializing the kingdom of God on earth within the foreseeable future. Such was his hope, in spite of the obvious fact that the church is not at the present time holding its own against pagan influence in the world.
The president emeritus of the New York Theological Seminary, Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, has had a very wide experience in educational institutions in the Orient. During a recent tour of China he was much impressed with the demand of the country for the gospel. When he was in northwestern China, the governor of the province called him to his residence for conference. He met the commanding general, who told him he wanted his army of 40,000 soldiers Christianized, and asked that he speak to his six hundred officers. After this appointment the commander of the air force sent him urgent word to come and convert his army. He addressed the four hundred officers ; and as in the previous address to the officers of the land forces, he gave them the essence of Christian teaching, closing with the Scriptural injunctions to soldiers : "Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages."
The officers then asked for instruction as to how to proceed with getting the army baptized. The incident was a significant indication of the readiness of the people of China to receive the Christian religion. Millions of Chinese driven from their homes by the communist advance look to the various Western relief agencies for help. Christian missions are aiding in supplying and distributing food and clothes, and yet it is but a token of what should be done. Dr. Coffin's appeal was for a united front and a common voice in our appeal to the peoples of the Orient.
Kyung Chik-han, chairman of the National Christian Council of South Korea, told of the heroism of the Korean Christians throughout their fifty years of occupation by Japan. He told of the almost total collapse of anti-Christian sentiment in Korea, and the readiness with which Koreans are accepting Christ. He emphasized the need for a strong Korean church independent of foreign leadership or support. The political uncertainties ahead of the Korean people make this particularly desirable.
From South India came the clear, courageous note sounded by Paul Rameseshari, principal of the Church of South India Bible School. India is a land of great freedom of thought and worship. Hinduism is very tolerant of other faiths, and is friendly to Christianity as seen in Mr. Gandhi's frequent references to Christ and His teachings. Hinduism is, however, assuming new strength and drive as a result of the new status of India. Christian missions particularly, as revealed through education and medicine, are much welcomed in India today. The sentiment toward Christianity is more friendly than at any other time in history. Unfortunately, the Christian church is not measuring up to her opportunities. The emphasis is on institutions, not on preaching.
Hinduism is rejuvenating more rapidly than we are taking up the slack in our program. The fifty million outcasts are being ardently wooed by the new Hinduism. Christianity is no longer the sole champion of the cause of the outcaste. Under the new government it will be necessary for the convert to appear before a magistrate, and explain doctrinally why he is changing his religion. Is the young church in India going to be superseded by the revitalized Hinduism ? What of our own very slowly growing, and as yet unstable, church in that land?
Dr. John Bodion, president of the American University of Cairo, drew a sullen picture of Arab resentment of Western materialism. The Western powers are in the Middle East for airfields, communications, oil, and economic concessions. American politicians played havoc with Arab good will by magnanimously demanding sanctuary for a hundred thousand Jews in Palestine, while refusing shelter to Europe's displaced persons. Political pull with New York's three million Jews was placed above the good will of the Arab world. The harvest from such blunders may be reaped in loss of many American lives. Conversions in the Middle East are at an exceedingly low figure, and the few being recorded are not from among the Moslems.
One of the most searching analyses of mission activities was that by Emory Ross, secretary of the African committee. Mission work in Africa crystallized thirty years ago, and for the most part little new planning or thinking has been evidenced in this time. He states that among none of the missions is there any adequate plan of education whereby the African is brought above the old village-teacher level. The result is continued lack of native leadership and a persistent failure on the part of the mission bodies to develop a strong African church leadership.
Mr. Ross outlined plans being developed for strengthening village evangelistic work. He pointed out the tendency in all missions to fail to integrate various phases of the work for soul-saving purposes. Schools were teaching merely the secular subjects. Hospitals were merely dispensing and operating, with no proper integration of the various phases into a strong soul-winning force. How do we stand before this criticism, not only in Africa, but in every land? This speaker told of measures put into effect, under his direction, to inaugurate well-directed laymen's evangelical campaigns in various parts of the country. He mentioned the Adventists as among those participating in this program.
One thought that was stressed is worthy of our consideration. The speaker pointed out the desirability of mission societies, when opening up new schools or other work, seeking out virgin territory, and not moving in on territory where such work will be in competition with already established work. His reasoning was sound. If there is a totally unentered village or district available where the love of God and the gospel have not been preached, how do We justify our action in passing up this virgin field to work in a village where another society has established itself, and where the presence of another church only brings in confusion? Our experience in every field emphasizes the fact that our strongest congregations are in communities where our work pioneered the gospel.
Gonzalo Comargo, representing evangelical Christianity in Latin America, appealed for greater emphasis on circulation of the Scriptures. All Christian literature is good, but the plain unvarnished Scriptures by the hundreds of thousands bring more people to Christ than any other agency. Surely we can champion his earnest plea in this matter. Adventist colporteurs should be first in sales of Scripture. I doubt if we are placing the emphasis on Scripture distribution which this worthy enterprise calls for.
Walter H. Judd, M.D., was formerly a medical missionary to China. So impressed was he with the misunderstanding of China by the West, that he returned to America and has given his greatest effort to lecturing and representing the cause of China before Americans high and low. He is a member of the staff of the Mayo Clinic and a representative in Congress, where he has been able to do much to represent China's interests favorably. America has lost prestige in China of recent years. Dr. Judd pointed out that America has given China reason on many occasions for loss of confidence and friendship. The most staggering blow to our accord with them occurred in 1945, when secretly and in violation of previous agreements we gave China's northern province of Manchuria to Russia, which country proceeded to turn over vast war supplies to China's enemies. Then when China refused to surrender to these Russian-supported enemies, we cut off supplies to China. The vast patience and perseverance of the Chinese are seen in the fact that they are able to survive at all, and that they still attempt to be friendly to their disloyal and blundering "friends" across the Pacific.
Dr. Judd warned against large expenditure on physical facilities in China at this stage. The probability is that the communists will spread themselves much farther and will destroy all Christian institutions, which may be a total loss. But if we spend our money on evangelism, and on training men for the ministry this will be an investment which communists cannot destroy. Might this not be a good thought for lands other than China? What of other unsettled parts of the Orient ? True, we must have institutions. It is often in institutions of an educational nature that our training for the ministry must be carried out. Dr. Judd's challenge to the Christian world to swing to a strong emphasis on evangelism should be taken seriously by our people in every land. China is not alone in her state of internal confusion. In many lands there is evidence that the time may come when the only assets to survive will be our fine loyal Christian people. We have seen this happen in China, in Burma, and in various countries of Europe.
It is heartening to see among other Christian groups a realization of the significance of the world's ills. It is inspiring to hear from these fine Christian people a clarion call to greater earnestness in preaching the Word. The impression of those of us from the General Conference office who attended this missionary conference was that Christian peoples everywhere are becoming more aware of the futility of material means and instrumentalities, and that they are looking for a greater manifestation of the power of God in the finishing of the gospel commission.