Religion Today Summaries, August 21, 2003

Compiled and Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, August 21, 2003

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

  • President Bush Says His Faith 'Matters A Lot'
  • Ireland's Anglican Primates Regret Threat to Unity
  • Ethnic Azeris Targeted in Church Raids
  • Closing Arguments Heard in Russian Baptist Seminarian Smuggling Case

President Bush Says His Faith 'Matters A Lot'
Charisma News Service

President Bush says his faith is helping him deal with the challenges of the presidency, and he credits the Bible with inspiring him to push for federal funding to fight AIDS. In an interview appearing next week in the October issue of "Ladies' Home Journal," Bush says it is possible to function in the presidency without believing in God, and probably some of his predecessors did not believe in God, but he finds that Christianity helps. "When you realize that there is an Almighty God on whom you can rely, it provides great comfort," says Bush, who was interviewed with first lady Laura Bush. "That's why I read every morning, the Bible and Scriptures and Charles Stanley devotionals," he adds. "It matters a lot to me personally." Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is a TV and radio evangelist. Bush, a Methodist, often refers to his faith in public remarks but does not link it to government policy. "You shouldn't fear a religious person," Bush says. "The Bible talks about love and compassion. ... That's really a lot behind my passion on AIDS policy, for example." Bush surprised some conservatives in January when he asked Congress to raise the five-year budget on fighting AIDS in Africa from $5 billion to $15 billion.

Ireland's Anglican Primates Regret Threat to Unity
Robert Nowell, Religion News Service

Ireland's two Anglican primates -- Archbishop Robin Eames of Armagh and Archbishop John Neill of Dublin -- have issued a joint statement expressing regret at the threat to the Anglican Communion's unity caused by the reaction to the election of Canon Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. The two leaders said they wanted to make a distinction between the Robinson election and the wider issue of how the church should deal with same-sex relationships. At the Church of Ireland's general synod this summer, Eames said that the House of Bishops hoped to publish a discussion guide to facilitate study of the issue throughout the Church of Ireland. "There are deeply held views on the issue of homosexuality in the Church of Ireland, and there are serious implications concerning the use of the Bible to be addressed," the two archbishops said. "There are also many individuals with a real sense of hurt and alienation surrounding this whole issue. For all these reasons it is important that the study takes place, and not simply in response to events in the U.S.A." Meanwhile it has been confirmed that Bishop-elect Robinson will be visiting Ireland in October to speak at the annual retreat of the diocese of Limerick and Killaloe.

Ethnic Azeris Targeted in Church Raid
Barnabas Fund News

On 13 July police raided a Baptist service being held in a private apartment in Gyanja, Azerbaijan. They interrupted the service during the sermon and declared the gathering to be illegal because it was not a registered church. They then proceeded to take the two ethnic Azeri members, Zaur Ismailov and Magomet Musayev, to the police station and interrogate them for three hours; they were interrogated for similar three hour stretches over the next few days as well. There were around a dozen members of the congregation, but only Ismailov and Musayev were targeted for interrogations and fines. Being ethnically Azeri, they would be viewed as apostates from Islam since nearly all Azeris are traditionally Muslim; as such they would come under particular pressure from the Azerbaijani authorities. The other members of the congregation were of non-Azeri, non-Muslim heritage, and thus not apostates in the eyes of the authorities.
Closing Arguments Heard in Russian Baptist Seminarian Smuggling Case
Frank Brown, Religion News Service

Appealing for wisdom and justice, lawyers for a Harvard Divinity School student charged with smuggling $48,000 in cash into Russia made closing arguments Wednesday in a case being closely watched by thousands of American evangelicals. "We're not talking about some kind of dirty money," Anatoly Pchelintsev told the court. "It was collected by Russian believers in America to help the poor and needy here." His client, Andrew Okhotin, a Baptist youth pastor in Massachusetts, is accused of trying to bring the cash through Moscow's main airport without declaring it to customs officials. During the late March incident, Okhotin says he duly filled out a customs declaration, which customs inspectors ignored, choosing to demand bribes of first $10,000 and then $5,000. A significant part of the three-hour proceeding was devoted to reading into the record dozens of faxed and mailed appeals for justice from hundreds of evangelical Christians, Okhotin's professors and a letter from eight U.S. congressmen. Okhotin's case resonates deeply in Christian circles not only because they view him as the victim of venal customs officials but also because his father was convicted in 1984 for his leadership role in the underground Baptist church and spent years in a Soviet labor camp. A verdict could come as early as Friday.