US Department of the Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division - The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact - VIII. Protestantism in South VietnamSong Rating: 7.10/10
VIII. PROTESTANTISM IN SOUTH VIETNAM
The Protestant Church is represented by several denominations within South Vietnam. These include the French Reform Church, Anglican-Episcopalian, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Baptists, Church of Christ, Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, and Seventh-day Adventists. Other Protestant churches are represented in the various social services and/or welfare agencies, but do not seem to have formal church or missionary organizations.
Protestantisms 150,000 adherents represents about 1% of the total South Vietnamese population of fifteen million. Exact measurements of its influence on the national scene would be quite difficult to ascertain in view of the nonpolitical stance of the Protestant Church within Vietnam. While the Church makes no political pronouncements nor sponsors any organized political activities, its influence in some local areas is significant. Having only a small membership percentage of the total population, Protestants have been allotted six Chaplaincy billets in the South Vietnamese Armed Forces. The Buddhists and Roman Catholics share equally the remaining 176 positions, with each of the three faiths having its own Chief of Chaplains. This division of religious faiths with chiefs for the respective group is quite similar to the practice of many governments.
The French Reformed Church: is located at 2-bis Thong Nhut, Saigon. Here is its major church building, and the address at which its pastor may be contacted. In addition to being a circuit-rider for two other small groups of adherents in South Vietnam, the pastor is responsible also for divine services of French Reformed adherents in Cambodia. Though this faith has been in South Vietnam for many years, its activities seem primarily directed to the spiritual needs of the French rather than of the Vietnamese.
The Anglican-Episcopal Church: is represented by St. Christophers in Saigon. Their divine services are conducted at the French Reformed Church through a resident pastor to be found at 193 B Cong Ly, Saigon. Similar to the French Reformed, the Anglican-Episcopal appears to be oriented toward serving foreign adherents within the country rather than Vietnamese citizens.
The Church of Christ: is located at 28 Phung Khac Khoan, Saigon. This is a missionary effort by the Church of Christ denomination of the United States and divides its attention between the service connected personnel and the indigenous population. Being a recent arrival within South Vietnam, it does not yet have an extensive membership within South Vietnam.
The Evangelical Church of Vietnam (Christian and Missionary Alliance): is the oldest and largest Protestant Church in Vietnam. Pastor Robert Jaffray began the Protestant missionary effort in Vietnam in 1911, and since that time, the Church has grown to more than a hundred thousand adherents. Known in Vietnamese as Tin Lanh, Good News, the Church has an indigenous organization and a strong missionary drive which expands its efforts.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance headquarters in South Vietnam is located at 14 Hong Bang, Cholon (part of the greater Saigon) while the United States office is 260 W. 44th Street, New York, New York. From its first efforts in 1911 by pioneer Protestant missionary Robert A. Jaffray onward, determined efforts have succeeded in creating an indigenous church with its own administrators and staff of some 441 persons composed of 346 ethnic Vietnamese and 95 Montagnards. The total of 441 is made up of 296 pastors, 23 teachers, 20 nurses, 18 other medical workers and 84 other church employees.
In support of these Vietnamese citizens who are full-time church workers, the Christian Missionary and Alliance in Vietnam has 131 overseas missionaries laboring under the direction of Pastor Thomas Grady Mangham, Jr. These include 54 clergymen, 1 doctor, 8 nurses, 16 teachers and 52 unsalaried missionary wives. In a number of different locations and among various tribal peoples, the missionaries have been the first to succeed in transforming the spoken tribal language into written form with grammar, etc. This has enabled the reading of Scripture in the language of the individual and also opened the avenue of thought in other areas of human endeavor. The close cooperation between missionaries and the Summer Institute of Linguistics provides opportunities for the more rapid advancement of information and the development of rapport with the various ethnic groupings of South Vietnam.
The 572 member staff of the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (Christian and Missionary Alliance) currently operates 341 churches, 14 elementary schools, 1 high school, 2 hospitals, 1 leprosarium, 3 seminaries or training schools for pastors and 1 printing house for the publishing of religious literature. While serving the 41,733 baptised members of this faith (baptism does not occur until the individual is mature enough to make this choice for himself), the Church continues to stress the responsibility which each adherent has for his fellow Vietnamese.
Vietnam Baptist Mission: under the sponsorship of the Foreign Missionary Board Southern Baptist Convention, Box 6597, Richmond, Virginia 23230, has a Saigon headquarters (Box 107 Saigon) with current church work being directed by Pastor Herman P. Hayes. The Baptists began their efforts in Vietnam on 1 November 1959, and have 300 baptised members and approximately 400 adherents at present. These figures do not include the American civilian and military personnel serving in Vietnam even though many attend and support Baptist activities.
The Vietnam Baptist Mission staff is composed of 15 ethnic Vietnamese and 27 overseas missionaries. Four Vietnamese are pastors as are 14 of the overseas missionaries, while the other 11 Vietnamese are engaged in other church functions. The church staff now operates eight churches, 1 publishing house or plant for the production of religious literature, and 2 training programs for pastors predicated on plans for the future and anticipated growth. Pastor Hayes expressed the Vietnam Baptist Missions goals in the following words on 14 July 1966:
Baptists carne late to Vietnam. Protestants had been in Vietnam about 48 years prior to the coming of Baptists. Our work on a comparative basis, therefore is small. We are now located in four major cities with plans to reach out into others. Our work is primarily church-centered. Our efforts are primarily in the direction of winning people to Christ, baptising them, teaching them, and leading them into active Church life....out of these will grow many of the expressions of Christian Life and service such as schools, orphanages, etc. The Vietnam Baptist Mission (the organization of missionaries) does have hopes for medical work in the near future.
Worldwide Evangelization Crusade: Box A, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, is active in Vietnam especially in I and II Corps. P.O.B. 101, Danang is the civilian mailing address for the organization popularly known as WEC with its Vietnam headquarters in Danang. The multiple activities of this Protestant Church are directed by Gordon Hedderly Smith and his son Stanley E. Smith. The formal start of this church in Vietnam is given as 1956 although the Smith family has been engaged in Protestant Church work in Vietnam for approximately 30 years. During this time, the Smiths pioneered in many areas and worked with tribes in the attempt to convey to them the Protestant faith prior to the establishment of Worldwide Evangelization Crusade in Vietnam.
At present the WEC with some 500 baptised members have more than 6,500 adherents who attend divine services and are influenced by the church teachings. Its overseas staff is composed of three clergymen, 1 doctor, 2 nurses, 3 teachers and 3 administrators for a total of 11, while the indigenous staff numbers some 70 persons. This indigenous staff is made up of 50 ethnic Vietnamese and 20 Montagnards. The staff consists of 30 pastors, 4 teachers, 5 nurses, 20 medical workers, and 10 miscellaneous church employees.
In spite of strife, war and Viet Cong activities among both Vietnamese and Montagnards, at least 21 of the WECs 38 churches are still operating. The adherents of the other churches have generally either fled as refugees or have become casualties of the war. WEC has two elementary schools, 1 leprosarium, 1 training school for pastors, and one orphanage for both Montagnard and ethnic Vietnamese children. Though working among the ethnic Vietnamese, the major strength of the WECs following is currently among the Hrey and Jeh tribes, with some 5,500 adherents for these two tribes alone. The activities and teachings of the WEC, like other organizations, have influences which cannot be measured in statistics alone.
Extended information may be gleaned about this Protestant missionary effort by reading Gordon H. Smiths book The Blood Hunters or Laura Irene Smiths Victory in Vietnam. Two color films produced by the WEC show many mission activities and also reveal many of the customs of the people among whom the WEC labor. Contact can either be made directly or through the I Corps Chaplain, Advisory Team #1, APO San Francisco 96337.
Seventh-day Adventist Mission: P. O. Box 453, Saigon, South Vietnam began its activities in Vietnam in 1930 as a part of the worldwide missionary effort of the Adventists with world headquarters at 6840 Eastern Avenue, N. W., Washington, D. C. 20012. Pastor Ralph E. Neall, the current director, heads a mission staff of 209 people working within Vietnam. This comparatively large group of workers for a baptised membership of 1300 is composed of 11 Western missionaries and 198 indigenous workers. The Western missionaries include one pastor, 2 doctors, 1 nurse, 2 business administrators and 3 unsalaried wives. The indigenous component includes 12 pastors, 16 teachers, 15 nurses, 85 other medical workers, and some 70 miscellaneous employees, many of whom are salesmen of religious literature.
The Vietnam Seventh-day Adventist Mission currently has 15 churches, 1 large elementary school (presently being converted into both elementary and high school), 1 nursing school for the training of fully qualified nurses, 1 hospital (with a new larger one in the plans stage), 1 publishing plant for the publication of religious literature in Vietnamese and 2 welfare centers for various social services provided to the community regardless of religious affiliation. With the exception of nurses, the training of other professional church employees is undertaken largely in the Philippines or other countries in Southeast Asia where the church has established schools for this purpose already. The educational opportunities offered within Vietnam will be expanded as will the other institutions normally operated by the church as a part of its church and community services as the membership grows.
Observations of Vietnamese Protestantism: For reasons not covered in this study, the Protestant churches represented in active Vietnamese endeavor are conservative. In spite of theological and organizational differences, the personnel of the various churches have cooperative rapport with the practice of friendliness and concern for each other. These conservative Churches practice baptism and membership based upon the believers profession of faith, so if children and non-baptised adherents are included the number of 150,000 or more is not unrealistic. The insistence of these churches on doctrines of belief so different from many of the Vietnamese cultural patterns may keep the percentage of Protestantism comparatively small. However, highly motivated by the sense of personal responsibility, the Protestants can make valid contributions to the community and the Vietnamese nation.
Other Religious Groups in Vietnam
Bahai World Faith: has a meeting place at 193/1C Cong Ly, Saigon. With a belief much like that of the Bahai of the United States, its adherents are few in number.
Christian Science: have a regular service in the Saigon area at 69 Nguyen Du, on the third floor. This denomination in Vietnam seems to be for service personnel of Christian Science persuasion as no Vietnamese adherents were discovered.
Latter-day Saints: 22 Gia Long, Apt. 12 also appears to be service oriented as it is not listed in the phone book nor do there seem to be any resident missionaries of the church in the country.
Date of text publication: 16.01.2021 at 05:53