Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 21, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 21, 2006

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

  • Command Chaplain Urges Prayer for U.S. Troops in Iraq
  • University of Texas Staffers Fired after Praying at Work
  • Study Claims 95 Percent of Americans Have Had Premarital Sex
  • 'Silent Treatment' Demands High-Profile Preacher Step Down, Says Seminary President

Command Chaplain Urges Prayer for U.S. Troops in Iraq

Military chaplains in Iraq are preparing for Christmas holiday services, although it won't be a holiday for the troops. According to AgapePress, Colonel Michael Hoyt, the command chaplain for U.S. and allied forces, says there is some added anxiety this Christmas as President Bush considers a change in strategy in Iraq. He says the troops are wondering how it will affect them. Hoyt says soldiers who arrive in Iraq as believers generally leave with a deepened faith, while others seek a relationship with God for the first time. Others remain indifferent. But Hoyt says they all need intercessory prayer this Christmas season -- for morale and stamina to complete their mission.

University of Texas Staffers Fired after Praying at Work

AgapePress reports two former employees of the University of Texas at Arlington say they were fired after praying over another staff member's cubicle and anointing it with olive oil. Evelyne Shatkin, an administrative assistant, and Linda Shifflett, a development funds assistant, filed a federal lawsuit alleging religious discrimination. Their attorney, Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Legal Institute, says the university "should be ashamed for punishing these two women for simply praying after work on their own time." In a statement, the University of Texas at Arlington calls the women's accusations "a gross distortion of the truth" and says their dismissals were upheld by the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Study Claims 95 Percent of Americans Have Had Premarital Sex

The Christian Post reports that more than nine out of 10 Americans, men and women alike, have had premarital sex, according to a new study. The high rates extend even to women born in the 1940s, challenging perceptions that people were more chaste in the past. "This is reality-check research," said the study's author, Lawrence Finer. "Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades." Finer is a research director at the Guttmacher Institute, a private New York-based think tank that studies sexual and reproductive issues and which disagrees with government-funded programs that rely primarily on abstinence-only teachings. However, Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, which strongly supports abstinence-only education, said she was skeptical of the findings. "Any time I see numbers that high, I'm a little suspicious," she said. Leslee Unruh, who runs a South Dakota-based organization promoting abstinence-only education, contended that increasing numbers of young people were open to remaining chaste until marriage.

'Silent Treatment' Demands High-Profile Preacher Step Down, Says Seminary President

A crisis at one of the nation's largest Southern Baptist churches appears to be escalating as a seminary president has called for that church's senior pastor to step down for remaining silent about allegations of sexual abuse involving a longtime staff member, AgapePress reports. Dr. Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, has been under fire since revealing this past Sunday that Pastor Paul Williams, minister of prayer and special projects at Bellevue, had been put on a paid leave of absence while the church investigates allegations of what it describes as "a past, but highly concerning moral failure" involving Williams. The alleged incident took place 17 years ago when Williams molested a family member. He has been on the Bellevue staff for 34 years, according to one newspaper report. After his sermon on Sunday, Dr. Gaines addressed the issue. "As a result of this entire situation, it's obvious that we need operational policies [and] procedures at Bellevue that would be available to give us guidance in these types of situations," he told the congregation. A statement from the church said Pastor Williams will undergo outside Christian counseling, but will have no church responsibilities and will not be on church property during the investigation, which is expected to take a few weeks to complete. Bellevue Baptist Church is the home church of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, who pastored there for more than 30 years and was a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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