Religion Today Summaries, April 9, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, April 9, 2004

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

  • Doing More with Less in Cuba
  • Conservative Anglican Leader Says ECUSA's 'Blessing' Rite Not Scriptural
  • Turkish Court Opens New Case against Pastor
  • Holy Week Visitors Heightens Need for Security in Israel

Doing More with Less in Cuba
Compass Direct

For over a decade, Cuba has endured shocking shortages of everything from food and clothing to jobs and transportation. However, the evangelical Christian church in Cuba has learned to survive, and even thrive, in the face of adversity, sustaining a high rate of growth. Pastors report that the Castro regime has shown more tolerance toward Christians in the past five years. However, they caution that the changes are not necessarily permanent. “The law has not changed. What has changed is the spirit,” a pastor told Compass. “What’s more, it depends on the spirit of local authorities.” Restrictions on worship, evangelism and Christian education are still in force. Policy regarding foreign visitors has the net effect of limiting contact between Cuban believers and Christians from overseas. And though leaders see a “notable improvement” in the availability of Bibles, Cuban Christians still face a critical shortage of Scriptures.

Conservative Anglican Leader Says ECUSA's 'Blessing' Rite Not Scriptural
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A conservative Anglican leader is denouncing the Episcopal Church USA's plan for a same-sex "blessing" rite. At their General Convention last summer, Episcopal Church leaders passed a resolution which said the blessing of extramarital relationships was "within the bounds of our common life."  That decision by the denomination's leadership was somewhat overshadowed by the decision to consecrate the Episcopal Church's first openly homosexual bishop. Now, a church task force in the ECUSA is developing a liturgy for same-sex blessing ceremonies.  The Episcopal bishop of Washington, John Chane, has asked the task force to report back to him by the end of May so the blessing ceremonies can begin in June -- the traditional "marriage month." However, Dr. Kendall Harmon with the American Anglican Council (AAC) says there is no place in the denomination for such activity. "A huge majority of world Anglicans would be totally opposed to it," Kendall contends, "and a significant chunk of the Episcopal Church would be opposed to it or would not at all be ready for it because it's against the clear teaching of scripture." Kendall traces it back to changes in seminary education over the last 50 years during which the Episcopal leadership, as he describes it, "got a way of looking at the Bible where they got to call the Bible into question, but the Bible didn't get to call them into question."

Turkish Court Opens New Case against Pastor
Barbara Baker, Compass Direct

A criminal court in southeast Turkey has for the second time pressed charges against Pastor Ahmet Guvener of the Diyarbakir Evangelical Church, this time accusing him of “opening an illegal church.” Guvener will stand trial for alleged violation of Turkish penal code 261/1. State prosecutor Mehmet Isbitiren charged Guvener in February with “using a building registered as a home to open a Protestant church and conducting religious worship together with music for the people attending.” The pastor could be jailed for up to two years if convicted. The Diyarbakir Evangelical Church has functioned openly in the city’s traditionally Christian neighborhood of Lalebey since April 6 of last year, gathering from 50 to 60 worshippers each Sunday. “Of course, the real purpose of this court case is to shut down our church,” Guvener told Compass, stating that the case will set a precedent for all other “existing and newly opened” Protestant churches in Turkey. His first hearing before the Diyarbakir Criminal Court is set for May 12.

Holy Week Visitors Heightens Need for Security in Israel
Agape Press

In Israel, thousand of Christians this week are visiting shrines thought to be the sites where the Easter story happened.  In the wake of the recent assassination of the leader of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, the Jewish nation has raised the security level at many of those sites.  Josh Block of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee says Holy Week only adds to the need for tighter security.  "The Israelis are on heightened alert, and one of the things we've got to remember is that these terrorist groups are trying to kill innocent people, day in and day out," Block says.  "It's all they do. It's their business to kill people."  The AIPAC spokesman maintains the Israeli government can handle the situation.  "In the last year, the number of suicide bombings carried out successfully by these terrorist groups has been cut in half," he says.  "That's due in part to the Israeli security fence as well as to some of the other stepped-up techniques that they've been able to employ."  The Israeli government knows that with thousands of Christians visiting the Holy Land this week, a strike by Hamas or any of the other terrorists groups would be devastating.