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The World Congress on Evangelism 1966 in Berlin: US Evangelicalism, Cultural Dominance, and Global Challenges

  • UTA A. BALBIER (a1)

This article uses the World Congress on Evangelism held in Berlin in 1966 to explore the cultural dimensions of US leadership in the world of global evangelism post-World War II. It shows how a close alliance with technology and business, as well as traditional anticommunism and belief in Western civilization, spurred US evangelicals to assume global leadership. A closer examination of the cultural and spiritual atmosphere of the congress reveals, however, that beneath the apparent American leadership tensions emerged around race and social issues, expressed forcefully by new theological and political voices from the developing world. These tensions were negotiated through common practices and behaviours, such as during prayer sessions, dinner conversations, and discussions groups, and allowed a genuine transnational evangelical community to arise.

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1 W. Stanley Mooneyham, “Introduction,” in Henry Carl F. H. and Mooneyham W. Stanley, eds., One Race, One Gospel, One Task: World Congress on Evangelism, Berlin 1966, Official Reference Volumes: Papers and Reports, 2 vols., (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1967), Volume I, 34 . An image of the march was published on the front page of Decision, Jan. 1967, 1. The international secular press also reported on the event: “West Berliners and Evangelists Hold Parade,” Washington Post, 31 Oct. 1966, A16. The multicultural image of the march had been carefully planned and staged by the organizers. In an early Congress Bulletin, participants were encouraged to bring their national dress and costume to Berlin to “visually reflect the international character of the Congress for motion picture and television cameras.” Congress Bulletin, 12 April 1966, 4, Billy Graham Center Archives (BGCA) 14-2-1.

2 Martin William, A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story (New York, W. Morrow and Co., 1991), 337 ; on the congress see ibid., 325–37. See also Pollock John, Billy Graham: Evangelist to the World. An Authorized Biography of the Decisive Years (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1979), 187–89.

3 See the article by Melani McAlister in this special issue.

4 Stanley Brian, The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Billy Graham and John Stott (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2013), 6970 .

5 Comments from the German newspaper Die Welt were translated and reprinted in “Evangelical Parley Denounces Liberal Protestants’ Doctrines,” New York Times, 29 Oct. 1966, 2.

6 For an invaluable online collection of some of the conference papers, audio recordings, and photographs published by the BGCA see

7 Inboden William, Religion and American Foreign Policy, 1945–1960: The Soul of Containment (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Ruble Sarah, The Gospel of Freedom and Power: Protestant Missionaries in American Culture after World War II (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015); Preston Andrew, “Evangelical Internationalism: A Conservative Worldview for the Age of Globalization,” in Gifford Laura Jane and Williams Daniel K., eds., The Right Side of the Sixties: Reexamining Conservatism's Decade of Transformation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 221–40. An increasingly transnational turn in the study of US evangelicalism is indicated by works such as David D. King, “The New Internationalists: World Vision and the Revival of American Evangelical Humanitarianism, 1950–2010,” Religions, 3 (2012), 922–49.

8 Jenkins Philip, Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, 3rd edn, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012); Noll Mark, The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith (Westmont: InterVarsity Press, 2009).

9 On conferences and events see esp. Saunier Pierre-Yves, Transnational History, (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 86 .

10 Orsi Robert A., The Madonna of the 115th Street, 2nd edn (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002); Orsi, Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study them (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).

11 Marage Pierre and Wallenborn Gregoire, eds., The Solvay Councils and the Birth of Modern Physics (Bern: Birkhaeuser Verlag, 1999), viiix .

12 Stanley Brian, The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910 (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: William B. Eerdman's, 2009).

13 According to Sarah Ruble, in 1953 mainline Protestant missionaries constituted over 50% of the US missionary force. By 1985 this share had dropped to 11.5%. Ruble, 20.

14 For the history, rise, and identity of the new evangelical movement in contrast to traditional Protestant Fundamentalism in the United States see Carpenter Joel, Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

15 On earlier evangelical missionary endeavours see Carpenter Joel A. and Shenk Wilbert R., eds., Earthen Vessels: American Evangelicals and Foreign Missions, 1880–1980 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman's, 1990).

16 Graham Billy, Just as I Am (New York: Harper One, 1997), 559 .

17 See Hofft W. A. Visser ’t, The Genesis and Formation of the World Council of Churches (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1982), esp. 9293 .

18 Graham, 565.

19 For a detailed study of the Edinburgh conference see Stanley, The World Missionary Conference.

20 Revised Report, Meeting of Executive Committee World Congress on Evangelism, Chicago, Illinois, 21 April 1964, 1, BGCA 313 -2-36.

21 For contemporary reports on the congress and its organization see Henry Carl F. H., Confessions of a Theologian: An Autobiography (Waco: World Books, 1986), 252–62; Pollock John, Crusades: 20 Years with Billy Graham (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1969), 233–39.

22 The minutes of the executive committee of the World Congress on Evangelism 1964–66 can be found in the Van Kampen Collection, BGCA 313-2-36.

23 Stanley, The Global Diffusion, 70.

24 Carl F. H. Henry, “Facing a New Day in Evangelism,” in Henry and Mooneyham, One Race, One Gospel, One Task, Volume I, 11–18, 16.

25 For the history of a more socially concerned evangelicalism in relation to the conservative majority in the US see Edwards Mark Thomas, The Right of the Protestant Left: God's Totalitarianism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Swartz David R., Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012); Gasaway Brantley W., Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014).

26 Roberts Dana, Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 69 .

27 “Congress Chooses ‘Most Experienced Airline’,” in World Congress of Evangelism Prayer-News Bulletin, Aug.–Sept.–Oct. 1966, BGCA 14-1-6, 4.

28 Ibid.

29 News Release 62-1-11-66-ESF-JD, 1, BGCA 14-1-7.

30 “We Are Victims to a Major Weakness,” Baptist Times, 3 Nov. 1966, 2.

31 Missions Advanced Research and Communication Center, That Every Man May Hear, n.p., BGCA 14-2-4.

32 Ted W. Engstrom, “The Use of Technology: A Vital Tool That Will Help,” in Henry and Mooneyham, Volume II, 315–18. See also That Every Man May Hear.

33 “Evangelical Parley Denounces Liberal Protestants’ Doctrines,” New York Times, 29 Oct. 1966, 29. This is also one of the main observations in Martin's account of the Berlin Congress. Martin, A Prophet with Honor, 329.

34 “World Evangelism under Review,” Baptist Times, 17 Nov. 1966, 2.

35 Very stimulating studies have been recently published on the role of religion and US evangelicalism in particular during the Cold War: Herzog Jonathan, The Spiritual–Industrial Complex: America's Religious Battle against Communism in the Early Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Stevens Jason W., God-Fearing and Free: A Spiritual History of America's Cold War (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2010). See also the earlier work of Whitfield Stephen J., The Culture of the Cold War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991). None of these, however, have addressed the question of America's spiritual Cold War abroad. Those studies on religion and Cold War diplomacy tend to ignore the important cultural narratives underpinning the spiritual Cold War: Inboden, Religion and American Foreign Policy; Preston Andrew, Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy (New York: Knopf, 2012). This is also the case for Muehlenbeck Philip E., Religion and the Cold War: A Global Perspective (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press 2012); Kirby Dianne, ed., Religion and the Cold War (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

36 “Evangelists Plan Meeting in Berlin: Major Congress Expected to Draw 1,200 Persons,” New York Times, 16 Jan. 1966, 81.

37 Graham, Just as I Am, 562.

38 Billy Graham, “Torchbearers for Christ,” in Henry and Mooneyham, Volume I, 1–2, 1.

39 “The Wheat Was High,” Decision, Jan. 1967, 8–9, 12, 8.

40 Pugh Emily, Architecture, Politics, and Identity in Divided Berlin (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014), 56 .

41 Program of the World Congress on Evangelism, Schedule, 16, BGCA 14-2-6.

42 Memo to World Congress press staff, 30 Sept. 1966, 3, BGCA 14-2-1.

43 World Congress on Evangelism, Executive Committee, New York City, 14 Dec. 1965, 3, BGCA 313-2-36.

44 Evangelizing the Earth, Christianity Today, 10, 15 (29 April 1966).

45 Billy Graham, “Why the Berlin Congress,” in Henry and Mooneyham, Volume I, 22–34, 24.

46 Muri Thompson, “An Hour for Mobilization,” in Henry and Mooneyham, Volume I, 367–69, 367.

47 Martin, A Prophet with Honor, 329.

48 Press Release 53-31-10-EO-NR, BGCA 14-1-7.

49 For the relationship between time and Western modernity see Thompson E. P., “Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism,” Past & Present, 38, 1 (1967), 5697 .

50 Decision, Jan. 1967, 10.

51 “The Wheat Was High,” 12, see also images at 9.

52 Ibid.

53 On the role of premillennial fears in the development of US evangelicalism see Sutton Matthew, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2014).

54 For the historical context see Westad Odd Arne, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2006); Engerman David C., Gilman Nils, Haefele Mark H., and Latham Michael E., eds., Staging Growth: Modernization, Development, and the Global Cold War (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press 2003).

55 See Heather Curtis's article in this special issue.

56 Stanley, The Global Diffusion, 64.

57 Auca is the exonym term for Huao Indians used during the conference and in most future publications. I decided to use it here as well to avoid confusion.

58 Long Kathryn T., “In the Modern World but Not of It: The ‘Auca Martyrs,’ Evangelicalism, and Postwar American Culture,” in Bays Daniel H. and Wacker Grant, eds., The Foreign Missionary Enterprise at Home (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003), 223–36, 224.

59 Ibid., 229.

60 Press Release 33-29-10-6-LW, 2, BGCA 14-1-7.

61 “Miss Saint among the Hunters,” The Guardian, 12 Nov. 1966, 4; “Evangelists Plan Meeting in Berlin”: Major Congress Expected to Draw 1,200 Persons, New York Times, 16 Jan. 1966, 81; Ecuador Indian Now a Christian, Washington Post, 30 Oct. 1966, B7.

62 “Evangelists Plan Meeting in Berlin.” For the tradition of the display of tribal people at missionary conferences see Hasinoff Erin, Faith in Objects: American Missionary Expositions in the Early Twentieth Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

63 “The Faith of Kimo,” Decision, March 1967, 3. The BGCA published the audio tape of the press conference, available at

64 “Aucas visit Berlin Congress,” Church of England Newspaper, 11 Nov. 1966, 3, 13.

65 Ibid.

66 Ruble, The Gospel of Freedom and Power, 55–90.

67 “Religion: A Rally of the Evangelist,” New York Times, 6 Nov. 1966, 26. There might have well been other reasons for the Western and US speakers to down tune their anticommunist message: the Vietnam War, an example of anticommunist fears turned into action, was about to split the Western Christian community. Billy Graham had received sharp criticism for his public support for the war during his campaign work in Europe in 1966.

68 See the reports from different country representatives published in the “Windows on the World” section in Henry and Mooneyham, One Race, One Gospel, One Task, Volume II, 163–288.

69 Helen Kim, “Communist Opposition to Evangelism,” in Henry and Mooneyham, Volume I, 291–93; Andrew Ben Loo, “Communism and Christianity”, in ibid., 294–97.

70 Graham Billy, ed., Revival in Our Time: The Story of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Campaigns (Wheaton, IL: Van Kampen Press, 1950), 124 .

71 Loo, “Communism and Christianity,” 294.

72 Kim, “Communist Opposition to Evangelism,” 293.

73 “The Wheat was High,” 12.

74 Program and Information, 6, BGCA 14-2-6. See also Stanley Mooneyham, Congress Bulletin Memo to all Participants, section II, BGCA 14-2-1.

75 E.g. “Report of Group Discussion,” in Henry and Mooneyham, Volume II, 191–93, 205–6, 246–47, 316–17, 193.

76 Ibid. 205–6, 316–17.

77 Ibid., 193.

78 Ibid., 192.

79 Ibid., 193.

80 Ibid., 246.

81 Ibid. 37.

82 Chandu Ray, “The Religions of Asia,” in Henry and Mooneyham, Volume II, 285–86, 285.

83 Henry, Evangelicals, 77.

84 “Report of Group Discussion,” in Henry and Mooneyham, Volume II, 205–6, 286–87. Most of the presentations by Western delegates, in particular the European ones, ignored the question of race and racism entirely.

85 News Release 69-1-11-66-NAL-JN, 2, BGCA 14-1-7.

86 Ruble, The Gospel of Freedom and Power, 66–68.

87 See e.g. Grant Nicholas, “Crossing the Black Atlantic: The Global Anti-apartheid Movement and the Racial Politics of the Early Cold War,” Radical History Review, 119 (2014), 7293 .

88 William E. Pannell, “Spiritual Needs of the Negro,” in Henry and Mooneyham, Volume II, 376–80, 376. See also “Evangelism and Race,” in ibid., 523–24.

89 News Release 69-1-11-66-NAL-JN, 1, BGCA 14-1-7.

90 Miller Steven P., Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009). Randall J. Stephens, “‘It Has to Come from the Hearts of the People’: Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Race, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” Journal of American Studies, published online 18 May 2015, at

91 News Release 69-1-11-66-NAL-JN, 2, BGCA 14-1-7.

92 “One Race, One Gospel, One Task. Closing Statement of the World Congress on Evangelism,” in Henry and Mooneyham, Volume I, 5–7.

93 “Racism Is Denounced at Evangelism Parley: Raised Racism Issue Fr. Sheerin Impressed,” Washington Post, 5 Nov. 1966, C7.

94 Stanley, The World Missionary Conference, 91; Visser ’t Hofft, The Genesis and Formation of the World Council of Churches, 63–69.

95 Stanley, The World Missionary Conference, 102.

96 Ibid. 91–132.

97 Henry Carl F. H., Evangelicals at the Brink of Crisis: Significance of the World Congress on Evangelism (Waco: World Books, 1967), 56 .

98 Ibid. 33–40.

99 Ibid. 12.

100 News Release, 87-11-4-66-NAL-TS, 2, BGCA 14-1-7.

101 Congress Bulletin, July 11, 1966, 2, BGCA 14-2-1.

102 Program of the World Congress on Evangelism, schedule, 16, BGCA 14-2-6.

103 “Aucas visit Berlin Congress,” 13.

104 Ibid.

105 “The Wheat was High,” 12.

106 “Prayer Sweeping World on Behalf of Congress,” in World Congress of Evangelism Prayer-News Bulletin, Aug.–Sept.–Oct. 1966, 1, BGCA 14-1-6.

107 Program of the World Congress on Evangelism, schedule, 16, BGCA 14-2-6.

108 Henry, Confessions, 260. The importance of prayer at international conferences and exchanges is also addressed in Stanley, The World Missionary Conference, 88–90.

109 News Release, 87-11-4-66-NAL-TS, 5, BGCA 14-1-7.

110 Billy Graham,“Stains on the Altar,” in Henry and Mooneyham, One Race, One Gospel, One Task, Volume II, 151–60.

111 “Racism Is Denounced At Evangelism Parley.”

112 Decision, Jan. 1967, 11.

113 “Eine Menschheit, ein Evangelium, ein Auftrag,” Tagesspiegel, 5 Nov. 1966, 9.

114 Press Release 35-30-10-66-NAL, 3, BGCA 14-1-7.

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