Religion Today Summaries, June 11, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, June 11, 2004

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

  • Small Churches Face Same Challenges as Larger Mainlines
  • Lutheran Minister in Denmark Suspended after Inflammatory Remarks
  • Controversy Over L.A. County Seal Cross Continues
  • Eritrea: Christians Arrested and Tortured

Small Churches Face Same Challenges as Larger Mainlines
Randall Murphree, Agape Press

Rev. Greg Williams, pastor of Clyde's Chapel Southern Methodist Church (SMC) in Batesburg, South Carolina, is going into full-time evangelism because of his burden for the falling membership and decreasing commitment he perceives in his denomination. The small SMC denomination stands in stark contrast to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the nation's largest Protestant group. Yet Williams believes the SMC's concerns reflect a parallel with what is happening in many larger churches and mainline denominations. "I will be the only evangelist in the whole denomination," Williams said. "I really feel that God wants me to go and help the churches that are struggling to regain the vision and to preach the Gospel...It is the church's responsibility to lift up Christ." His decision to go into evangelism is a big step of faith. There's no salary, only the gifts of those who want to support his ministry and from the churches where he'll preach. He hopes to find a home near Clyde's Chapel because the congregation there has promised to look out for his family while he's on the road.

Lutheran Minister in Denmark Suspended after Inflammatory Remarks
Michael Ireland, ASSIST News Service

The Lutheran minister who proclaimed last year that there was no God or afterlife was suspended for a second time Thursday, June 10 for ignoring church orders not to repeat those beliefs from the pulpit. Helsingoer Bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel suspended the Rev. Thorkild Grosboell, pastor of Taarbaek, and handed his case to the government ``requesting that it take the necessary steps.'' In Denmark, Lutheran ministers are employed by the state and only the government can fire them with a recommendation from their presiding bishop. Rebel oversees the diocese that includes Taarbaek, a small town north of Copenhagen. Grosboell has been under Rebel's strict supervision since he first was suspended after a May 2003 interview in which he said "there is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection.'' About 85 percent of Danes belong to the state Evangelical Lutheran Church. Grosboell eventually retracted his statement and apologized for what Rebel had termed "provocative'' remarks. His suspension was lifted. Yet, he repeated those beliefs in past weeks. The sermon was ``clearly incompatible with the state church's faith,'' the bishop said. Rebel concluded that Grosboell "had disregarded the state church's basis for belief, undermined his duties (of) respect and confidence, disregarded the official order (and) caused a deep confusion about the state church.''

Controversy Over L.A. County Seal Cross Continues
Chad Groening, Agape Press

A public interest law firm has filed suit in Federal District Court in California to block Los Angeles County from removing a small cross from its official seal. Officials decided last week to replace the cross with another image after the ACLU threatened the city with a law suit. The Thomas More Law Center has filed suit on behalf of Ernesto Vasquez, a Los Angeles County employee who objects to the removal of the cross. The suit brought by Vasquez contends that removal of the cross would send a government-sponsored message of hostility towards Christians and would be in violation the United States Constitution. The law center spokesman says county officials should never have let a threatened lawsuit from the ACLU intimidate them into complying with their demand, which claims the cross violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Recently the Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles added his voice to those opposing the removal of the religious symbol. Cardinal Roger Mahony has asked the county supervisors to reconsider their decision. The archbishop says the cross on the seal reflects the importance of Catholic missions in Los Angeles County's early history, and to remove it, he insists, would be to deny the historical record.

Eritrea: Christians Arrested and Tortured
Elizabeth Kendal, ASSIST News Service

Compass Direct reports (4 June) that three more Christian leaders and a popular Christian singer have been arrested in Eritrea. Haile Naizgi and Dr Kifle Gebremeski (chairman of the Eritrean Evangelical Alliance), key leaders in the Full Gospel Church, were arrested on 23 May. Pastor Tesfatsion Hagos of the Rema Evangelical Church was arrested on 27 May and his location is unknown. Christian singer Helen Berhane has been incarcerated in a metal shipping container at the Mai Serwa military camp since 13 May. When a music CD she released became very popular, she was arrested. At least 400 Eritrean evangelicals of minority denominations are now imprisoned for their faith. Prison conditions for these persecuted believers are appalling. Christians are tortured with the aim of forcing a renunciation of faith. Many Christian prisoners are incarcerated in metal shipping containers brought in from the ports to hold the overflow of prisoners. Prisoners are also subjected to unspeakable sexual torture. The Eritrean government has warned leaders of the evangelical minority not to report on their suffering. Nevertheless, the churches release this information, knowing they will be harshly punished, yet hoping their brothers and sisters around the world will pray for them, and governments that believe in freedom and justice will support them.