Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Imprisoned South China Church Founder Near Death
- Senior Navy Chaplains Question Baptist Chaplaincy Standards
- Missionary Beaten in Rajasthan
- Canadian Gay-Marriage Ruling Blasted
Imprisoned South China Church Founder Near Death
Charisma News Service
The imprisoned founder of the unregistered South China Church, banned as a cult, is reportedly near death after repeated torture. Gong Shengliang, who is serving a life sentence on bogus rape and assault charges, has been beaten into a coma by prison officials, suffering internal injuries. "If you want [him] to be alive in the future, you'd better think of a way as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the consequences will be unimaginable," a source inside the prison said in an urgent message sent recently to Shengliang's family. Besides having lost hearing in one ear, Shengliang reportedly has been bedridden for more than two weeks. The Chinese government used the fear of SARS to prevent family members from visiting. The source inside the prison said three guards are specifically assigned to Shengliang daily, and his activity is watched and recorded. A political officer also visits him daily. Shengliang is repeatedly brainwashed in an attempt to get him to reject his faith and admit to crimes against the state. Additionally, he is forbidden to talk to any of the other prisoners, and any prisoner caught talking to him is severely punished. Officials urged American Christians to pray for Shengliang and for them to contact the Chinese embassy on behalf of the pastor.
Senior Navy Chaplains Question Baptist Chaplaincy Standards
Adelle Banks, Religion News Service
A decision last year by the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board has prompted a challenge by some senior Navy chaplains concerning the denomination's requirements for military chaplaincy. Chaplain (Capt.) Al Hill hopes to present a motion at the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention meeting to instruct the board to make ordination a requirement for military chaplains. After Southern Baptists adopted the 2000 version of their faith statement, which declared that the office of pastor was not suitable for women, their denomination's chaplains commission decided it would not endorse ordained women chaplains. Women who are not ordained may serve as chaplains. At the time of the mission board's Feb. 2002 decision, it stated: "The Chaplains Commission has not required or considered ordination in the endorsement of chaplains in the past." That statement roiled some Navy chaplains, who consider it inaccurate. Some chaplains fear that statement implies they could be viewed as lay people instead of professional clergy. "It is not a gender issue," Hill said. "It is a ministry identity issue." But Chaplain (Col.) Darrell Morton said the military does not have a specific requirement about ordination and leaves the decision about who is appropriate for the chaplaincy in the hands of religious bodies. The chaplains commission or the mission board trustees could reconsider the matter later in the year.
Missionary Beaten in Rajasthan
Christian Aid Report
A native missionary of Rajasthan State in India was attacked by opponents to the gospel recently while visiting a village. The missionary, who lived in a neighboring town, visited a village one Sunday recently to conduct a regular meeting for believers. Just as he was boarding a bus to go home, a group of fanatics surrounded him and began to beat him. One man took off his belt and lashed the missionary from one side while others kicked him until he lay helpless on the ground. His attackers threatened him and said that if they saw him again in their village, they would kidnap or kill him. After they left, the man was able to make his way to the homes of believers who cared for him. The leader of the Rajasthan-based ministry asked for prayer that this man and others like him will be able to be strong in the face of so much persecution in Rajasthan. The leader also said that many missionaries are being sued in courts throughout India. The lawsuits are harassment suits, seeking to frustrate the advance of the gospel, not because the missionaries have acted illegally.
Canadian Gay-Marriage Ruling Blasted
Charisma News Service
Two Toronto men wed yesterday in North America's first legal gay marriage after an Ontario, Canada appeals court ruled that the heterosexual definition of matrimony was unconstitutional. The court also ordered marriage licenses issued to nine homosexual couples involved in the case. The Canadian government could still challenge the ruling. Vermont and the Canadian province of Quebec have allowed gay civil unions, but not full marriage. Conservative groups blasted the decision. "We're very disappointed that the court came out with [this] ruling," Focus on the Family Canada vice president Derek Rogusky said in a statement. "Marriage is not some evolving social construct, but a universally understood institution of immeasurable worth to society." Real Women of Canada vice president C. Gwendolyn Landolt added: "[The court] has handed down a decision setting aside the heterosexual definition of marriage, which transcends culture, religion and time." In the United States, the California Assembly passed a bill a week ago that greatly expands the rights and responsibilities of same-sex couples despite charges from Christian groups that it undermines the will of voters who approved a pro-marriage initiative three years ago. The bill would give gay couples - as well as heterosexual domestic partners - many of the same rights and responsibilities that the state bestows on married people.