Tuesday, May 22, 2018

May I make a request for prayer?

The Disciples of Jesus Session

40 years ago the Disciples of Jesus session held our Covenant Day at the then International Training College. 

On Wednesday 23rd May about 30 sessional colleagues and partners will be meeting at Denmark Hill to remember the occasion, and participate in worship by following the Order of Service once again.

Lots of things have happened in the intervening years, and it is bound to be an emotional occasion for us all. There are those who have remained in officership (some now having retired), others who have moved into other spheres of Ministry, situations where relationships have broken down and new partnerships formed, not forgetting those who have since been Promoted to Glory. 

I would ask that you support us in prayer as we meet, and think particularly of any who are unable to attend or have no desire to do so because of events in the intervening years. 

Just as the first disciples, we were all sent out in the footsteps of Jesus, and He will not have turned his back on us.

Monday, May 21, 2018

No Figurehead Founder Part 4 of 4

Among many other initiatives, he recruited the first editor, Carl F. H. Henry, and when the first issue came off the press, sent him a lengthy critique. 
Though constructive and celebratory, his letter was brutally frank—and, as a CT editor recently observed, "he was right about everything in it."

Graham had a sense for what worked with readers, and I personally learned that five decades ago. Not long after he launched CT, he started his own organization's Decision magazine. As a college student, I received a letter from editor Sherwood Wirt saying he planned to include in the first issue my short story that had been published in Youth for Christ magazine. A few months later, Wirt wrote again saying Graham had looked over the layouts and decided the story didn't fit—and he was absolutely right.

Despite his multitude of commitments, Billy managed to keep guiding CT until the end. With his tremendous sixth sense about people and communications, he recruited editors and trustees and communicated regularly with CT's leadership as the organization grew from one magazine to a broad communications ministry. CT continues to resonate with his original vision.
Harold Myra was named publisher of Christianity Today by Graham in 1975. Myra retired as executive chairman in 2007 and is coauthor of The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham (Zondervan).

Friday, May 18, 2018

No Figurehead Founder Part 3 of 4

Everywhere Graham traveled, he absorbed what he was hearing and reading. Before writing that 2 a.m. paper, he had long been listening carefully as he logged thousands of air miles in pre-jet travel. As a former pastor, he had great empathy for them and their struggles. His immersion in their concerns provided essential insights into the magazine's priorities and clear convictions about how it should be positioned.
One of his deepest convictions was his rejection of harsh, judgmental approaches, declaring in his seminal paper that CT should "take the responsibility of leading in love."
All through the years, that spirit has been at the heart of CT's editorial philosophy, often surfacing with use of the word irenic. When I joined the hallway, like many a new staff member, I had never heard the word, but soon learned it was a perfect fit for "hybrid" Christianity Today and was used regularly—with a self-deprecating edge. The dictionary definition for irenic is: "pacific, conciliatory; irenic theology, concerned with promoting unity among Christian churches." That's exactly what Graham had emphasized.
He sought out wise counselors and colleagues, chief among them L. Nelson Bell. Among the other evangelical leaders also thinking about the need for a magazine like CT was Billy's father-in-law and mentor. Billy's wife, Ruth, recalled her father and husband having intense conversations about it on their porch. Bell had spent decades in China as a medical missionary and had played a key role in launching another publication, The Presbyterian Journal.
They knew the launch of CT would require large capitalization. Graham wondered if the funds could be raised; business leaders were interested but not ready to make a commitment. He told J. Howard Pew, head of then Sun Oil Company, that he "was giving more thought to the possibilities of this magazine than to any other single thing in my life."
Bell had written to Pew to arrange a special visit and later wrote, "On 10 March 1955, we boarded the overnight train from Black Mountain, the station below Montreat, for the definitive discussion with Pew at Philadelphia. They had a two-berth compartment, and as we neared Philadelphia, Graham said, 'Let's pray.' He got down on the floor, not exactly kneeling but almost as if prostrate before the Lord." More than 10 years later, Bell told the CT staff, "I had never seen a man pray like that before exactly. There was an earnestness in his prayers."
Above All, Prayer
The hallmark of Graham's lifetime of leadership was the centrality of prayer. Many would point to that as the key factor is his "improbable" accomplishments. Allan C. Emery, longtime president of Billy's organization, once told me at a CT board meeting, "That's the difference between Billy and so many others. When he's wrestling with a major issue, he'll spend the entire night in prayer."
In Philadelphia, Graham and Bell persuaded Pew to provide significant funding for the first two years. A short time later, Graham wrote to him, "I am a relatively young man and I am determined to see this vision, that I believe is from God, carried out and properly controlled. I would suggest we form a board of trustees immediately."
Graham established a structure that fit the mission and hovered over it for five decades. Some urged Graham to make CT part of his own organization, but he understood that would lessen its credibility. That's why he did not become chairman of the new board but turned to Ockenga, with his academic and theological credentials. Graham became chair only after Ockenga's death 25 years later.
Harold Myra was named publisher of Christianity Today by Graham in 1975. Myra retired as executive chairman in 2007 and is coauthor of The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham (Zondervan).

Thursday, May 17, 2018

No Figurehead Founder Part 2 of 4

Billy's idea that night was for a magazine that would "restore intellectual respectability and spiritual impact to evangelical Christianity."
His paper shows the intensity of his concern for Christian leaders in the 1950s. From his contacts with hundreds of clergymen, he concluded, “We seem to be confused, bewildered, divided, and almost defeated in the face of the greatest opportunity and responsibility possibly in the history of the church. … In a sense we are almost leaderless.”
However, he also observed that most of the denominational and academic leaders in positions of power were on a different page. "Thousands of young ministers are really in the evangelical camp in their theological thinking and evangelistic zeal," Graham wrote. "I am convinced we are in the majority among both clergy and church members. However, we have no rallying point. ... We need a new strong, vigorous voice to call us together that will have the respect of all evangelicals of all stripes within our major denominations."
Visions in the night of great enterprises are not unusual. But most of them end up in a file. Graham did not just talk about the concept or hand off his paper to others to implement. He took point, personally tackling many of the countless challenges.
An Irenic Anthropologist
So what did it take to actually found Christianity Today? And what did Graham personally bring to the challenge that made it possible for all the disparate players to come together and invest themselves in the dream?
Graham was intellectually prepared. He often said later in life that he regretted not getting more education, but what he learned at Wheaton College gave him essential insights and attitudes that would permeate his lifetime ministry. He was, against our intuitive expectations, an anthropology major. This gave him a spirit of inquiry rather than judgment about others, so he did not simply caricature liberals or critics but sought to understand and learn from them. Always downplaying his intellectual capacities, he was likely off the scale in emotional intelligence. Though Graham wasn't a scholar himself, his enormous respect for scholars and recognition of their influence in and outside the church was a crucial element in founding CT.
This is seen clearly in his relationship with the scholarly Ockenga, first president of Fuller Theological Seminary and pastor of Park Street Church in Boston. That Ockenga would become CT's chairman and until his death work in harmony with Graham in giving dua

Harold Myra was named publisher of Christianity Today by Graham in 1975. Myra retired as executive chairman in 2007 and is coauthor of The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham (Zondervan).

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

No Figurehead Founder Part 1 of 4

To glimpse Graham's dynamic leadership style, look no further than his founding of Christianity Today magazine.
Billy Graham was the founder of Christianity Today magazine.
To most people, that fact brings little more than a shrug. Billy's biographers chronicle many significant achievements, and founding CT is one on a long list.
But go back 50 years to the context in which he founded CT, and the case could be made that this particular achievement was both unique and improbable. How likely is the following scenario?
A young evangelist, best known for preaching to large crowds and often accused by academics and mainstream church leaders of oversimplifying the gospel, dreams of founding an "intellectually credible" publication. From a broad constituency of fundamentalists and evangelicals distrustful of scholarship, the then-38-year-old evangelist convenes a diverse group of national leaders, including titans of business, renowned scholars, and influential ministers. Their goal: to produce a thoughtful publication rooted in historic Christianity to address "the current crisis." At its launch, they distribute it "fortnightly" to all clergy and theological students in the nation, gaining wide impact and recognition. Described for decades afterward as a cross between Time and The Atlantic, it immediately exerts significant influence both nationally and internationally.
So what transformed Graham's improbable idea into a reality? Was this a perfect storm of positive dynamics, or a driving force moving mountains against all odds? Where did this self-described farm boy get the vision and passion to launch CT, and how did he persuade so many to give so much to sustain it for the next five-plus decades?
The Missing Rallying Point
When the trustees of Christianity Today brought me on as CEO in 1975, I was aware of Billy's connection with the magazine but not his role as founder and sustainer. At that time, the magazine was in a financial crisis. The board realized that its hybrid nature—"intellectually credible" yet widely circulated—presented huge editorial and marketing challenges. Should its readership drift dramatically lower to concentrate on a smaller market?
We met as trustees in the Airlie Center in Northern Virginia to evaluate CT's mandate. Harold John Ockenga was then chairman, although he often made it clear that CT was "Billy's magazine." Reaching deep into his battered brown briefcase, he searched for and finally surfaced his copy of Billy's original speech outlining the vision for CT. Ockenga stood and read the entire text.
As soon as he finished, one trustee exclaimed, "That's it!" Said another, "Remarkably prescient. That's still the essential CT, and should continue to be." For the next four decades, Graham's paper provided a detailed mandate for the magazine.
Where did that paper come from? Billy recalls in his autobiography,
About two o'clock one night in 1953, an idea raced through my mind, freshly connecting all the things I had seen and pondered about reaching a broader audience. Trying not to disturb Ruth, I slipped out of bed and into my study upstairs to write. A couple of hours later, the concept of a new magazine was complete. I thought its name should be Christianity Today. I worked out descriptions of the various departments, editorial policies, even an estimated budget. I wrote everything I could think of, both about the magazine's organization and about its purpose. … I wanted it also to be a focal point for the best in evangelical scholarship, for I knew that God was already beginning to raise up a new generation of highly trained scholars who were deeply committed to Christ and his Word.
Harold Myra was named publisher of Christianity Today by Graham in 1975. Myra retired as executive chairman in 2007 and is coauthor of The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham (Zondervan).

Sunday, May 13, 2018


Sven Ljungholm & Kathie (Ljungholm) Bearcroft

A colorful Salvation Army display took place for the first time along Petrograd’s (now St. Petersburg) Nevsky Prospekt on Easter morning April 1917. To the stirring tune of “Rouse then Soldiers, Rally ‘Round the Banner” a band of twenty Salvationists, led by Swedish SA Colonel Karl Larsson playing his concertina, marched to their Sunday morning meeting. 450 Russian nationals out of thousands of spectators along the route, were induced to join the merry band in a celebratory Easter morning service. 
This was a day to rejoice! The Salvation Army had been unofficially at work and growing in the Land of the Czars since 1913 and ‘very unofficially’ even 23 years before then. However, its activities were severely restricted until the March 1917 revolution extended religious freedom to all.
         In less than one year a contingent of Swedish SA officers descended upon Petrograd as reinforcements. Included were Adjutants Otto and Gerda Ljungholm assigned to the training college, and who after the commissioning of 18 Russian officers in September 1918, were assigned the daunting task of ‘opening fire’ on the recently designated Russian capital of Moscow. Following the success of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Vladimir Lenin, fearing possible foreign invasion, moved the capital from Saint Petersburg back to Moscow just six months earlier on March 5. The Kremlin once again became the seat of power and the political centre of the new state. However, a short five years later, by 1923, the Soviet Communists had totally proscribed the work of The Salvation Army from all Russian soil. 
         Three quarters of a century years after Adjutants Otto and Gerda opened fired in Moscow their grandson Sven and his wife Kathie, re-founded the work in the exact same building and public hall as his forbearers, after first re-‘opening fire’ in Leningrad five months earlier,. They along with four other pioneers from Norway and Canada were under orders from General Eva Burrows.
         Initially, unlikely candidates to pick up the mantle, Sven and Kathie were living a comfortable upper middle class suburban existence in suburban New York City when a mid-life turning point changed the course of their lives. 
         Not unfamiliar with the Army as they were both children of the regiment with roots in the USA Central Territory, their first appointment was to revive the fledgling New York Central Citadel Corps. Sven who had been a travel industry entrepreneur, president of an airline and executive of a major tour company with corporate offices on Madison Avenue and Kathie who owned her own bookkeeping business, quickly put their leadership skills to work. 
         The corps was soon thriving with increased Sunday attendances of upper Manhattan Eastside yuppies who volunteered in the soup kitchen, street people who couldn’t read until the Ljungholms created a reading/graduate program and local Salvationists who wanted to be involved in the innovative programs at the newly revived corps. Their work was featured on all national television networks, CNN, CBN, the New York Times, WSJ and even the BBC and TV specials in Russia, Sweden and the UK.
         In 1991 when the call came from General Burrows to re-open the work in Leningrad, the Ljungholms dutifully mustered up. A few months later, following a productive pioneering period in Leningrad, they set out for Moscow with $200 in their pocket, two cartons of Russian Bibles, a SA flag and the address of a ‘borrowed’, uninspected two room abandoned apartment in which to set up their battle headquarters. Within another year they had been instrumental in raising an Army of several hundred uniformed soldiers in three corps, two operational centers in two Russian Ministry buildings, and a thriving social services program including 41 soup kitchens and ground-breaking work among prisoners until ordered to ‘open fire’ in Ukraine and Moldova
         Until now much had been lost in the SA’s early history regarding the sacrificial contribution of Swedish Salvationists to this endeavor. The only book written on the subject by Karl Larsson in 1937 (then Commissioner) titled “Ten Years In Russia” had never been translated and published in English. Dr. Sven-Erik Ljungholm’s riveting read in “Return to Russia and Beyond” Volumes I and II brilliantly bridges that gap.  Daryl Lach, SA Journalist and Historian

Friday, May 11, 2018

Love One Another


Devoid of love, all that we say and do is worthless,
Though men congratulate us for the things they see.
We may impress and leave observers speechless,
But God sees deep into the hearts of you and me.

If I have knowledge and a depth of understanding,
Of all things sacred, with a faith that is profound,
Yet lack the love that does not boast or envy,
Then I am nothing, just a noisy, empty sound.

Have we the love that is clearly seen in our Saviour?
Or do we nurse the wounds inflicted long ago?
Can we not forgive and love the one who hurt us,
Like the One we crucified, who loves us so?

Lord, make us gracious, kind and patient with each other,
Keeping no record of the pain they've put us through,
Never hurtful, rude, revengeful or self-seeking,
Forgiving them, as though they know not what they do.

('My command is this; love one another, just as I love you.' John 15:12)
Howard P. Webber
Officer (Pastor)
Bournemouth UK

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

RETURN TO BATTLE Volume Two Excerpt 2

Visit to Volgograd 
The Friendship Society soon learned of our interest in, and concern for the hundreds of children and their families. This was well before the cyberspace era of inter-connected  § and information difficult to unearth and expose. .We began the cumbersome process of seeking and tracking resources relating to this shameful episode of medical malpractice. And, as material on the tragedy became available, all from credible Russian sources, my visits to Dr Voronin’s clinic became more frequent. The promised support began arriving from the nearby SA territories of Sweden, Great Britain and Norway, with assurances of support from New Zealand, Canada and the USA.
         Dr. Voronin became convinced that the Army could better comprehend and provide even more important assistance by meeting with the medical staff and mothers in Volgograd and we began planning a 3 day exploratory visit.
         Dr. Voronin flew with my wife and me 3 weeks later to meet with the parents of children in Hospital Number 7 (21) suffering with AIDS. 
         We were met at the airport by three white-clad female Doctors, all wearing the chef-style hat worn by all Russian medical doctors, with our ‘limo’ waiting at the curb. We clamored into an aging, beat-up ambulance for the 25 - minute ride to the clinic. We were seated, hunched over, on the somewhat shaky ambulance stretchers in the rear bay.
         I met with the mothers. The arduous task of explaining the disease and its inevitable consequence was assigned to me.
I read from the Scriptures and spoke briefly about life after death, and how infants and toddlers at death go straight into the arms of Jesus. My translator looked at me hesitatingly – I gave an assured smile and she continued- I shared that there was at the present time no cure; all the children faced a very certain future. The all female staff and mothers wept openly. We then prayed together, and before leaving promised SA assistance with a return visit in December.
         A few days subsequent to our return to Leningrad I went to the Friendship Society to share our Volgograd impressions. Later that morning a gentleman from America was introduced to Kathie and me, and over coffee, traditional Russian teacakes and chocolate, we learned that he was Gerd Ludwig, an internationally acclaimed National Geographic magazine photographer. 
         Gerd had recently arrived in Russia and the FS was his official Russian host. The magazine sent Gerd to Russia to begin his series of stories that would become The Broken Empire; “His own life experiences shaping his approach – ‘adding’ a mix of documentary and editorial drive - to his assignments.”[1]
He was in essence freelancing, searching for a pictorial summary of life in post-Soviet Union Russia. Gerd asked if we’d run into any unique stories that might interest readers in the west. We shared several stories of interest we’d encountered in Leningrad. Gerd expressed an immediate interest in the infected toddler’s HIV story. In that we had just returned from Volgograd the stories shared were crisp, alive and compelling.
         Gerd asked if we had plans to re-visit Volgograd, and might he be allowed to join with us. I told him that a Christmas party was being organized by Kathie and i would seek, “Dr Voronin’s approval, but expected no objections.

Christmas 1991 Volgograd
Gerd Ludwig shares impressions from the Volgograd visit -“There are other instances of singular acts having long ranging effects. He recalls, In 1992, at Hospital 21 in Volgograd, I witnessed the human impact of bad health care - and I experienced one of the most shocking and poignant moments of my career. 
I attended a Christmas party organized by The Salvation Army for about 50 of the doomed children and their families. For some of the victims, this would be their last Christmas. The adults sat with tears in their eyes as the children played and laughed and opened their gifts, innocent of their fate.”
         He has not always met with this kind of ingenuousness. When the curtain came down in Russia there was this moment of brief openness, when people were willing to show you what had happened for the last 150 years. But after that, there was the backlash; people ceased wanting to show you. But he did what he could no matter the political climate. Gorbachev's glasnost enabled him to begin the journey of separating the political system from the people and capture a different, more complete vision from the one I had been focused on for so long. Then after the 1991 coup he was faced with a new challenge; to define the new Russia. I had two avenues to explore: the transformation of a society from a state-controlled to a market economy at manic speed; and the social and economic conditions that had prevailed for generations, hidden from outside eyes.
         The majority of children born to mothers living with HIV in Russia are essentially orphaned, even if their parents are still alive.
   While working on Broken Empire he shot between 15,000 and 20,000 images. The project earned him what is known as the Oscar in photography circles; Photographer of the Year at the Lucie Awards. It is a project that was years in the making and which chronicles Ludwig’s dismissal of all evidence of the Soviet Union's repressive government as Western propaganda. His visit to Volgograd enabled Ludwig to find focus in a complex motive; ‘the extraordinarily resonant image of the schism between rich and poor in Russia at the time.’[2]

[1]McNally, Greer Interview with Gerd Ludwig Photography Blog Newsletter

Monday, May 7, 2018

RETURN TO BATTLE Volume 2 excerpt 1

"Not one of the organizations promising support has been heard from again, except one...."

Voronin, the clinic’s founder and director, says: "We've started receiving HIV-positive children who have been isolated until they were 1 1/2 or two years old in regional hospitals where the personnel were afraid to approach them," Voronin said. "We noticed that while we could help these children medically, they no longer had any hope of adapting to life because they were so neglected socially. These children resemble each other -- they don't show any emotion, their face is mask-like, they don't smile, they sit in one place." 
         Voronin is well placed to speak about the prejudice against HIV. 
         The clinic was created after 270 children were infected with the virus in hospitals in southern Russia, in what remains the country's most shocking HIV scandal.-

14 September 1991 New Zealand
AIDS affected children 
         The AIDS clinic director, a doctor in his mid 30s, was until recently a devout non-believer.  He has told Captain Ljungholm of many ‘western’ organisations who have visited the clinic, and who have assured the clinic of future support. The doctor went on to say that not one of the organisations has been heard from again. He admitted that although he was pleased to have the initial visit of the Army, he never really expected a further contact.       

         When the Captain returned a few days later, it was a day the director described as his ‘lowest day ever since beginning his work among the children’. As he was thinking he didn’t know where to turn to for help he spied the Army van coming through the gates of the clinic.  It was then he ‘felt for the first time there was a God that wanted to help me.
         On this occasion Captain Ljungholm brought news of a promised blood centrifuge machine on the way from the USA, a gift from the Captain’s brother, a medical equipment executive. In addition, the Captain said, I was able to hand over the toys and games my wife and I purchased as we emptied the almost bare shelves of one of the few toyshops in Leningrad.

         The above information has been received by Capt David Major, Auckland Congress Hall, after speaking to Captain Ljungholm by telephone during a live broadcast (Holiness) meeting on Sunday 25 August. Auckland Congress Hall Corps has made a commitment to contribute $3,200.00 (10% of the budgeted cost to purchase books, a video player, provide for bus transportation, funeral expenses and the return of the children’s remains to their homes. During the week following a substantial parcel of books, toys and other items was packed ready for dispatch.
         All the children who attend the clinic are in need of clothing and a diet sup­plement to their one substantial daily meal. A small Roman Catholic chapel in Gothenburg, Sweden, is to provide the clothing, and the Army will provide the diet supplement.!


         Forty toddlers and children ranging from one to seven years of age were hospitalized in Volgograd’s Hospital 7. It has been operating as a research facility specializing in HIV/AIDS treatment since 1991. Perhaps symbolic of the persistent stigma attached to HIV and AIDS in Russia, the clinic’s new orientation drew strong opposition from the local population when it was announced. In fact, the problem of stigma is one of the issues The Salvation Army is seeking to address.
         The majority of children born to mothers living with HIV in Russia are essentially orphaned, even if their parents are still alive. Because up to a year and a half is required to diagnose possible HIV infection in a newborn baby, the children of mothers with HIV are not admitted to childcare centres before the end of that period. Most of them live in specialized hospital wards, isolated from the rest of the world. Later on, if HIV is not detected, they are moved to a Children’s home, where they have very dim hopes of future adoption. Those who are found to be HIV-positive remain in the hospital or in an isolated unit at a Children’s Home. 
         The doctors suggested we meet with the city fathers and the Mayor Yuri Chekhov. We learned that Volgograd was partnered with sister city, Cincinnati, Ohio.
         On learning of our visit the Mayor immediately scheduled a TV interview for the same day. We were invited to appear on the local TV midday news. The issue was the past date shelf life of the drug AZT that Wellcome Ltd. somehow had managed to ‘sell’ to the Russian health ministry.
         Dr. Voronin flew with my wife and me three weeks later to meet with the parents of children in Hospital Number 7 suffering with AIDS. 

Kathie and Sven Ljungholm