Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Activist Chen Guangcheng Expected to Leave China for U.S.
- Methodists Uphold Policy That Calls Homosexuality 'Incompatible With Christian Teaching'
- Maine Town Levies Parking Lot Tax on Church
- GLAAD Argues Pro-Homosexual Voices 'Underrepresented' in Media
Activist Chen Guangcheng Expected to Leave China for U.S.
A breakthrough emerged Friday in the case of Chen Guangcheng, the Christian Chinese human rights activist who escaped from home prison and took refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for six days before reaching out to U.S. Congress to plead for help in leaving China with his family, CNN reports. The U.S. state department said Chen had been offered a fellowship at an American university "where he can be accompanied by his wife and two children." State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "The Chinese government has indicated that it will accept Mr. Chen's applications for appropriate travel documents. The United States government expects that the Chinese government will expeditiously process his applications for these documents, and make accommodations for his current medical condition. The United States government would then give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention. This matter has been handled in the spirit of a cooperative U.S.-China partnership."
Methodists Uphold Policy That Calls Homosexuality 'Incompatible With Christian Teaching'
Despite protests and fierce lobbying from gay rights groups, United Methodists voted May 2 to maintain their denomination's stance that homosexual acts are "incompatible with Christian teaching," the Religion News Service reports. Two "agree to disagree" proposals were soundly defeated during separate votes by the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered to the United Methodist Church's General Conference in Tampa, Fla. One proposal would have replaced the "incompatible" phrase in the Book of Discipline, which contains the denomination's laws and doctrines, and both sought to soften the disputed doctrine by adding more ambiguous statements about homosexuality. With nearly 8 million members in the U.S., the UMC remains the country's largest mainline Protestant denomination -- but United Methodism is shrinking in the U.S. and growing in Africa and Asia, shifting the balance of power to overseas conservatives. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates gathered in Tampa live outside the U.S.
Maine Town Levies Parking Lot Tax on Church
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a church in Rockland, Me., saying the county assessor is unconstitutionally applying a state law regarding property taxes and charitable organizations, WORLD News Service reports. State law grants property tax exemptions to all charitable organizations, but Aldersgate United Methodist Church only received an exemption for its building -- not its parking lot or parsonage. In a brief filed with the Board of Assessment Review, the city attorney wrote, "Were Aldersgate also entitled to exemption as a charitable and benevolent organization, the entire property would be exempt from taxation." That view, says ADF, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. "Churches shouldn't live in fear of being targeted by the government in ways other groups aren't," said ADF senior legal counsel Joel Oster. In addition to worship services, Aldersgate allows the community to use its facilities for several purposes, and according to the Bangor Daily News, the Rockland Board of Assessment Review rejected the church's request for tax abatement last year.
GLAAD Argues Pro-Homosexual Voices 'Underrepresented' in Media
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) released a study last month saying that pro-homosexual voices are "underrepresented in the mainstream media," WORLD News Service reports. The study says that "national television and print news media [display] a disproportionate reliance on anti-LGBT religious voices commenting on LGBT people and issues. Three out of four religious messages come from people whose religions have formal policies opposing LGBT equality." However, the study doesn't take into account that almost all religious traditions say homosexual behavior is immoral, so 25 percent of "religious messages" being pro-homosexual is in reality a dramatic over-representation of this viewpoint. The report is particularly hard on evangelicals: "Whenever LGBT issues are discussed by religious voices in national media, outlets disproportionally quote or interview evangelical Christian individuals (34 percent) and organizations (50 percent) and the messages from those sources are overwhelmingly negative (76 percent).
Publication date: May 7, 2012