Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Growing Repression of Christians in Eastern Europe
- Pennsylvania Ministry Updates the Bible for the 21st Century
- Three Key Church Leaders Wait Verdict in China
- Christian Medical Association Denounces APA for Homosexual Endorsement
Growing Repression of Christians in Eastern Europe
Stefan Bos, ASSIST News Service
A major Christian relief organization warned Thursday, August 5, that government-led repression of Evangelical Christians is on the rise in Eastern Europe, especially across the former Soviet Union. Eastern European Outreach (EEO) said its work was hampered by a crack down on Christians by security forces which allegedly included burning down evangelical churches as well as beating pastors and individual believers. "When Communism failed in 1989, there was great rejoicing around the world (and) Christians rejoiced because they knew that Russia would be open to the Gospel," EEO said. "Now, 15 years later, there seems to be a shift away from the glory days of religious freedom that followed the fall of the Soviet Union." EEO, which provides aid and evangelizes to especially impoverished people such as families, children and prisoners, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin and other politicians of encouraging persecution by "making deals with the Russian Orthodox Church" as it "doesn't want competition from Bible-believing groups." This year, the organization is unable to carry out some of its activities while it claimed that the Association of Christian Churches in Russia and other groups are still coping with the aftermath of recent violent incidents. EEO Executive Director Jeff Thompson said he hopes that "even though we are seeing some repression now, it's nothing like it used to be." He stressed however the "need to monitor trends" although he was convinced his ministry "is properly focused now and for the future."
Pennsylvania Ministry Updates the Bible for the 21st Century
A Bible targeting the video and Internet generation is being marketed by a Pennsylvania ministry. Back in 1991, James Fitzgerald says he was looking for a way to make the Bible more appealing to people. Fitzgerald came up with the idea of producing the Bible in a video format. He has now released the entire New Testament in a word-for-word video format called the "WatchWORD Bible." Fitzgerald says the WatchWORD Bible meets a specific need. "The average family has five, six, seven Bibles, but people are not reading them," he explains. "So this was a vision to take the Word of God from what I call 15th-century print in thick books and take it to 21st-century electronic media." Fitzgerald's company, WatchWORD Productions, also runs TheBibleChannel.com.
Three Key Church Leaders Wait Verdict in China
Stefan Bos, ASSIST News Service
A Chinese court is due to deliver a verdict to three well known representatives of China's rapidly growing house church movement on charges of providing intelligence to overseas organizations, while nearly one hundred other Christians have been released, human rights watchers said Thursday August 5.The Intermediate Peoples Court of Hangzhou city in Zhejiang province was expected to deliver its verdict Friday, August 6, to Liu Fenggang, Xu Yonghai and Zhang Shengqi, almost 10 months after their detention, China Aid Association (CAA) said. One of them, Mr. Liu, reportedly wrote articles on the government's actions on the destruction of the house church buildings in several areas in 2003. CAA quoted sources as saying that prosecutors accused the three Christians of leaking information about a court case to an overseas magazine in 2000. The organization said that under Chinese Criminal Law, these Christians could face up to ten years or even life in prison if convicted. "These charges are simply baseless and absurd, " said CAA President Bob Fu, in a statement. "First of all...the Chicago-based Christian Life Quarterly magazine is a well-known world recognized evangelical Chinese Christian magazine. Second to report a court case open to the public doesn't involve any national intelligence at all. Thirdly, if reporting the truth like this is regarded as "national secret" people will inevitably wonder how much more such secrets haven't been revealed under the tight secret system in China," he added.
Christian Medical Association Denounces APA for Homosexual Endorsement
A spokesman for the Christian Medical Association is denouncing the American Psychological Association's endorsement of homosexual "marriage." APA president Diane Halpern said recently that the organization will adopt a policy supporting homosexual marriage because, as she says, "keeping gays from marrying puts a particular stress on them because of their sexual orientation." But Dr. Robert Rogan with the Christian Medical Association says he believes the APA is overstepping its bounds by giving a green light to something once classified as a mental disorder. Rogan also contends there may be some political motivation behind the APA announcement. "I think there are certainly questions about the people's bias and preconceived notions and own past history that goes into making these decisions," he says. And speaking of Halpern, Rogan says "she's definitely going out on a limb -- and of course, she also knows that she's making a statement that clearly is against the majority of Americans who believe that this is wrong." Rogan states that his biggest concern are the consequences of asserting that something God proclaimed to be evil is really good and healthy.