Religion Today Summaries, April 20, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, April 20, 2004

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.  In today's edition:

  • Poll on Same-Sex Marriage Skewed by Self-Identified 'Evangelicals'
  • More Hispanic Catholics Turning to Evangelical Christianity
  • Ministry Determined to Build Christian Leaders for a Democratic Iraq
  • Four Christian Students Released In Egypt after Pressure

Poll on Same-Sex Marriage Skewed by Self-Identified 'Evangelicals'
Fred Jackson, Agape Press

Some pro-family leaders are questioning the credibility of a recent poll that indicated many Evangelicals do not support a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage.  The problem appears to be the definition of who's an "Evangelical." The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in recent weeks.  The results of the poll, which were widely publicized, indicated that by a margin of 52 to 41 percent, Evangelicals prefer to leave the issue of same-sex marriage up to the states rather than amend the U.S. Constitution. The fact that a New York Times poll in March said 59 percent of the general population supports a Federal Marriage Amendment caused many to question the polling group's definition of "Evangelical." Russell Moore, a senior officials at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says the survey is off target because the authors assumed self-professing Evangelicals are true Evangelicals.  He says that 45 percent of those so-called Evangelicals in the survey disagreed with the statement that "only born-again Christians go to heaven." Moore says what this means is that there is a large segment of people who call themselves Evangelicals who do not believe in the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation.  And he says that means that if the Church is to reclaim the true meaning of "evangelical," it must reach the next generation with biblical discipleship and biblical preaching.

More Hispanic Catholics Turning to Evangelical Christianity
Charisma News Service

More Latino Catholics are turning to evangelicalism. According to a report last month by "The Los Angeles Daily News," nearly 20 percent of Hispanics nationwide have converted to evangelical Christianity in the last 10 years -- after centuries of devotion to Catholicism. "Drawn to the no-nonsense sermons on pious, drug- and alcohol-free living, many Latinos say evangelism is a powerful antidote to everyday troubles plaguing their communities," the newspaper observed. Pedro Villarreal, a pastor at the evangelical Iglesia del Dios Vivo in Los Angeles, whose congregation has grown 15 percent over the last year, noted that: "They come from the Catholic Church because they receive something better. They receive peace and security here. There is a movement. The [Catholic Church] has good morals, but the people don't have spiritual experiences. We are growing because people needed something more." The sermons at La Iglesia En El Camino are so popular that Sunday services often fill the church to capacity, with dozens of worshipers overflowing into the hallways. Many Latinos who converted from Catholicism say the strict moral code demanded by evangelical preachers is the main attraction. "Here, lives are transformed. You are rehabilitated," said Juan Zelaya, 31, a former womanizer who reconsidered his lifestyle after hearing a sermon at El Camino.

Ministry Determined to Build Christian Leaders for a Democratic Iraq
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A lack of Christian leadership is hindering Iraqi believers from planting much-needed churches in that nation.  That's where an Atlanta-based ministry is stepping in, in an attempt to make a difference for Christ in the predominantly Muslim nation. The Christian church in Iraq is experiencing explosive growth.  But along with that growth is a serious lack of church leaders and available resources that could hinder the growth of emerging churches.  That is why Equip, a ministry that provides leadership development for Christians worldwide, is committing resources and personnel to train Iraqi church leaders. Equip president John Hull says training will continue even with the volatile situation in the war-torn nation. Hull says there is great openness to the Gospel in Iraq, partly because of the new freedoms being experienced in the post-Saddam era. "This is the first time in generations that there has been freedom," he says, including the freedom to worship freely and to learn what it means to "network and partner" with other churches in a nation whose infrastructure he says has been "severely limited by Saddam's own selfishness." Equip was founded by author and Bible teacher John Maxwell.

Four Christian Students Released In Egypt after Pressure
ASSIST News Service

Four Christian university students arrested in the Sinai dessert in January for the possession of Christian materials have been released, a leading human rights organization said Monday, April 19. Barnabas Fund, which investigates the plight of persecuted Christians reported that the four young men, identified as Peter Kamel, Ishak Yessa, John Fokha, and Andrew Saeed, were freed on April 3. Egyptian police of Naweeba district arrested them after raiding their rooms at a resort hotel and confiscating Bibles and various Christian tapes, Barnabas Fund said in a statement. Their releases came amid international pressure as "none of these materials were illegal and there was nothing found in their possession which would have justified their arrest," the human rights organization added. The students were initially charged with "disturbing the national unity and threatening the social peace," which Barnabas Fund called "a broad and vague charge commonly used in Egypt." Their detention was extended several times, with no trial date set. "However, all charges against them have now been dropped," Barnabas Fund said.