In Today's Edition:
- Florida County Drops Citation Against Home Bible Study
- Christian Organization Agrees to Respond to Wildfires
- Dutch Lutheran Church Elects First Woman President
- Church Official: Christians Can Learn a Lot From Soccer
Florida County Drops Citation Against Home Bible Study ... On June 21, the Orange County Code Enforcement Division issued a letter to Paul and Dawn Bosch, dropping its Notice of Violation against the couple over a controversy involving a home Bible study. The Bosch family is represented by Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, a civil liberties organization based in Orlando.
Mr. and Mrs. Bosch attend Bay Hill Baptist Church and volunteered to host a Wednesday evening Bible study for the youth group affiliated with the church. On May 2, George Laporte, a code enforcement officer for the Orange County Code Enforcement Division, sent a Notice of Violation letter, indicating that the Bosches had violated the zoning code by operating a religious organization in a residential area without obtaining a special exception. The family was ordered to take "corrective action" and warned that failure "to comply may result in this matter being referred to the Orange County Code Enforcement Board and a possible fine of up to $250 per day as long as the violation continues." After receiving the violation, the Bosches contacted Liberty Counsel, which in turn faxed a letter to county officials requesting that the Notice of Violation be withdrawn and the issue resolved.
In September of 2000, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act was signed into law. This law was designed to prevent discrimination against houses of worship, including home Bible studies. RLUIPA has been a powerful weapon for houses of worship confronted with zoning laws that require a special exception for operation, which ban worship in certain zones, or which place discriminatory restrictions on houses of worship that are not similarly placed on secular institutions. The federal law has twice been ruled constitutional by two different federal courts.
Christian Organization Agrees to Respond to Wildfires ... After hearing from churches and organizations in Colorado and Arizona regarding their current and long-term needs, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) has agreed to respond to the current wildfire crisis. Since early June, more than 15 wildfires have raged across many parts of the Western United States. Twelve thousand firefighters are on the scene, battling blazes with flames more than 300 feet high and 2,000 degrees in temperature. Estimates indicate that hundreds of thousands of acres have been burned and hundreds of homes destroyed.
Dick and Marilyn Anema, CRWRC regional managers, have been monitoring the situation in Colorado since the fires erupted. After conversations with local churches, disaster response groups, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) they expressed a need for CRWRC to be involved in a long-term response.
"We are all concerned about the wildfires and wondering what we can do to help," one Denver-area church member reported to the Anema's. "The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army have received all the donations they need to meet immediate needs, but FEMA experts report that there are quite a number of people who have lost homes and are uninsured or underinsured. Some have their houses insured but not their belongings."
Responding to the long-term needs of uninsured or underinsured disaster survivors is one of CRWRC's areas of expertise. CRWRC Disaster Response Services has a long history of coming alongside these hurting people and offering clean-up, needs assessment, home reconstruction, and home repair assistance. A roster of over 1,200 qualified volunteers provide all the labor for these projects, and can often be found continuing to help disaster survivors years after the disaster has struck. In Colorado and Arizona, CRWRC plans to be involved in needs assessment and home reconstruction. There is also potential to join with a chaplaincy organization to provide emotional and spiritual support to disaster survivors. For more information, visit www.crwrc.org or call 1-800-55-CRWRC.
Dutch Lutheran Church Elects First Woman President ... (LWF) -- Rev. Ilona Fritz recently became the first woman to be chosen as president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. She was appointed during the church's May 31-June 1 synod. Fritz, pastor of a congregation in the capital, Amsterdam, succeeds Rev. Sietze van Kammen, who resigned for personal reasons. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands has been a Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member church since 1947.
According to LWF, of the 34 pastors currently in the church, 16 are women. About one in four pastors are of foreign origin, mainly from Germany and Scandinavia. With about 15,000 members, the Lutheran church is the smallest of the three Uniting Protestant Churches in the Netherlands (UPCN) members, involved in a merger. The process began in 1969 with the Netherlands Reformed Church (NHK) and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN). The Lutherans joined in 1986. Currently the two Reformed churches together with the smaller Lutheran church, form the country's largest Protestant body, the Uniting Protestant Churches, representing some 2.7 million Christians.
In other actions, the synod members unanimously expressed concern about efforts within the NHK to push for the removal of blessings of life partnerships other than traditional marriages from the UPCN's draft constitution. (http://www.lutheranworld.org/)
Church Official: Christians Can Learn a Lot From Soccer ... (idea) A high-ranking church official in Germany believes that Christians can learn a lot from soccer. They should be inspired by the enthusiasm during the world cup in Japan and South Korea, says Valentin Schmidt, President of the central church office of the mainline Protestant Churches in Germany. He is convinced that soccer and the Christian faith share something basic to strive for a common goal and to "accept defeat in humility." Schmidt is a soccer enthusiast himself; he backs his local club Hanover 96.
Schmidt is fascinated by the team spirit: "The players know that they have to act together and to balance individual strengths and weaknesses if they want to be successful." As Schmidt told the evangelical news agency idea: "Together we win, together we lose." The church had been following this philosophy for 2000 years, but on a much firmer spiritual basis. The New Testament teaches (Galatians 6:2): "Share each other's troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ." But Schmidt insists that Christians should speak up when fans "worship" soccer players: "There is only one God ..."