Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Riley's Biblically Inspired Tax Package 'Just,' Sharpton Says
- Bible Society Shop Trashed in West Bank
- Three Chinese Christians Released, Three Still Being Held
- Leaders Honor Charismatic Pioneer with Bash
Riley's Biblically Inspired Tax Package `Just,' Sharpton Says
Thomas Spencer, Religion News Service
Gov. Bob Riley gained another unlikely ally Friday when Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton endorsed his tax and accountability package, calling it "good and just for the people." "It is rare that I would endorse an initiative of a Republican governor," Sharpton said before meeting with black ministers gathered at Bethel Baptist Church. Sharpton was in town to organize his presidential campaign. Voters will decide the fate of Riley's package Sept. 9. Sharpton said he was rising above partisan differences to do what's right. "I'm supporting the children." The tax plan is inspired in part by biblical principles that a tax law expert applied to the Alabama tax system. Facing a $675 million shortfall in state budgets, Riley's proposed tax increases would fill the budget hole in 2004. When fully implemented, the plan would raise $1.2 billion annually, with money pledged toward the expansion of the Alabama Reading Initiative and Math Science Initiative and the creation of a college scholarship program. The plan is designed to cut taxes for low-income taxpayers. It eliminates the deduction for federal income taxes and raises taxes on property. The Alabama chapter of the Christian Coalition, the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Alabama Forestry Association and Republican Party leaders are fighting the plan, while the state's Democratic Party has endorsed it and the national Christian Coalition came to Alabama to support Riley's proposal.
Bible Society Shop Trashed in West Bank
Barbara Baker, Compass Direct
As violence escalated this past weekend between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants, the only Bible bookshop in Nablus got caught in the middle. According to local staff of the Bible Society in the West Bank, their Bible Center in downtown Nablus was commandeered by the Israeli army last Friday night as a control operation base. This past weekend, Israeli armored vehicles took over Nablus, clamping the city under a curfew as they searched house to house for weapons and wanted militants. "I doubt if they even read our sign on the door," a Bible Society representative from Jerusalem told Compass today. "They just went in and took over the place, and left it in a big mess." With the city of Nablus still under curfew, no other Bible Society staff have been allowed to travel to Nablus yet to help the lone staff member who had been manning the Bible Center clean it and start repairs.
Three Chinese Christians Released, Three Still Being Held
Voice of the Martyrs News
Three Christians arrested at an early-morning house church service on July 13 were released by Chinese authorities last week. Three church leaders, though, including an 80-year old man, are still being held. Xu Wei-Min and two other men were allowed to leave the hotel where they had been subject to repeated questioning and brainwashing. Authorities had been pressuring the men to register their house churches with the government. They were allowed to leave after telling authorities that they must consult with their congregations before making such a decision. Officers told the men they would be rearrested if their congregations did not register with the government's Religious Affairs Bureau. Three men-Shen Shao-Cheng, Gao Chong-Dao and Xiang Fa-are still being held, but have been moved to another hotel after leaks about their arrest reached the international community. Shen is more than 80 years old, and was one of the founders of the church in that area more than 25 years ago. Contacts in China report that the three are now being held at the Kai Yuan Cheng Shi Hotel. "This is a time of intense pressure for the unregistered house churches in China," said a spokesman. "The government is seeking to control the church through fear and intimidation, but the believers there continue to stand firm in their commitment to Christ."
Leaders Honor Charismatic Pioneer with Bash
Charisma News Service
Some 500 celebrities, politicians, church leaders and businessmen honored Harald Bredesen -- who played a strategic role in the charismatic renewal of the mid-20th century -- with a birthday bash this weekend in Beverly Hills. Harald Bredesen, who turned 85 Aug. 16, was a Lutheran pastor who helped introduce the gifts of the Spirit to mainline denominations in the 1950s. He also played key roles in the ministries of Pat Robertson and Benny Hinn, who both attended the party. Additionally, Bredesen gained audiences with world leaders, including President Ronald Reagan and French leader Pierre Trudeau. He is credited with prompting the call for prayer that President Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin sent out at the beginning of their historic Camp David meetings. Bredesen later founded the Prince of Peace Foundation (PPF), which honors international peacemakers in a Christian counterpart of the Nobel Peace Prize. Sadat, Mother Teresa and Jordan's King Hussein have been past recipients. At the party, Bredesen was given a PPF award. With entertainer Pat Boone's help, Bredesen blew out the candles on his cake, and joked about how God is still teaching him lessons as he grows older and his memory fades. "He [God] told me, 'Every time you lose another marble you have to depend more on Me!'"