Religion Today Summaries - January 24, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - January 24, 2006

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.


In today's edition:

Baptist Minister Denounces IMB's Prohibition against Praying in Tongues


Rev. Wade Burleson believes his fellow trustees on the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board (IMB) have made a mistake in barring future missionaries who use a "private prayer language." Burleson agrees that Baptist missionaries should not publicly speak in tongues, but does not see the need to probe a candidate's private prayer life. He says the board's decision has already kept some qualified candidates off the mission field. Burleson's fellow trustees have recommended his removal from the IMB because of his open dissent, but he says that is a matter for the Southern Baptist Convention to decide at its meeting in June.


On Immigration Issue, Big Evangelical Groups Conspicuously Mum


Evangelical policy groups are saying they have other issues to focus on besides immigration reform, a Christianity Today story reports. As Congress grapples with legislation regarding an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, the nation's most powerful conservative Christian organizations have been watching from the sidelines, despite a traditional evangelical initiative to make America a hospitable haven for refugees. But right now the Christian right is more concerned with the confirmation of conservative judges and the battle against same-sex marriage, while also not wanting to appear soft on lawbreakers of any kind. Beyond that, there’s also some confusion on the proper stance regarding immigration. Among Southern Baptists, for instance, "there's no consensus about what to do about the [illegal immigrants] who are already here or about how we would allow legal immigration," says Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Southern Baptists "see a basic distinction between people who are refugees, who are in fear of losing their life and home… and those who are coming over primarily for economic reasons and not abiding by the laws." Because mass deportation "isn't realistic," Land says, the denomination needs to wrestle longer with what to do. Liberal religious activists say evangelical participation could make the difference between success and failure.


Soccer's World Cup Boosts Sex Trade, Churches Oppose 'The New Slavery'


The soccer world cup in Germany this summer will not only bring excitement to millions of sports fans but also misery to many women. Experts estimate that 40,000 women, mainly from Eastern Europe, will be forced to work as prostitutes during the month-long event. Taking advantage of the economic hardship in some parts of Central and Eastern Europe, dubious characters are luring women to the West with false promises of jobs as barmaids or models. Most of them end up in brothels. Voluntary prostitution is legal in Germany, and prostitutes may exercise their trade within certain city limits. While the international soccer association FIFA and the German organizers have been reluctant to address the problem, churches have started a campaign against forced prostitution. The wife of the German President, First Lady Eva Koehler, also lends her support. The fact that this form of slavery still exists in the 21st century must not be overlooked, she said. Leaders of Protestant Churches in Germany are campaigning for a World Cup without the menace of forced prostitution. The Bishop of Berlin, Wolfgang Huber, urged authorities not to allow an influx of sex slaves.


Companies Hire Chaplains Who Counsel Employees


Faith-based workplace programs have been around for decades, but exploded in the 1990s, partly because the pressures of downsizing in a global economy have created fertile ground for spiritual soul searching, the Charlotte Observer reports. "Religion is important to many people's lives and they want to at least be able to talk about that part of their life and not feel like they have to hide around a corner," said Os Hillman, president of the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries. But some scholars claim companies are using spirituality to sell, while others criticize chaplaincy programs as proselytizing. Confidentiality can also become a tricky issue, as can perception of allegiance, such as in 2003, when dozens of workplace ministry groups protested Tyson Food's use of chaplains, calling them "a tool of management.” But that's not the case, said Bob Corscadden, Tyson's chief marketing officer. The company offers the programs because it cares about employees. Tyson created an in-house chaplaincy program five years ago that now includes 128 chaplains. Tyson has not studied the impact of its faith-based programs closely but claims morale and worker retention have improved at participating plants. Other companies from food distributors to banks to car dealerships are also using chaplains for their employees. No one keeps official track of how many companies have faith-based programs, but industry groups estimate there are roughly 4,500 workplace chaplains, while the National Institute of Business & Industrial Chaplains said it’s closer to 25,000. Faith-based workplace programs come in a variety of forms, such as lunchtime Bible study, or closing on Sundays so workers can attend church, but corporate chaplaincy is thought to be one of the fastest-growing faith-based employee programs.