Religion Today Summaries - June 12, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - June 12, 2008

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

  • Turkey: Murder Suspects Accuse Each Other
  • Southern Baptists Elect 'Peacemaker'
  • Turkey: Church Fights to Keep Doors Open
  • Obama Meets with Evangelical Leaders

Turkey: Murder Suspect Accuse Each Other

Compass Direct News reports that all seven suspects on trial for the brutal murder of three Christians in Turkey in April 2007 appeared in court Tuesday – each one protesting his innocence and incriminating one or more of the others. The hearing in eastern Turkey marked the first time all seven have appeared together in court to be cross-examined over contradictions among their individual court testimonies. In addition to the five accused murderers – Hamit Ceker, Cuma Ozdemir, Abuzer Yildirim, Salih Gurler and Emre Gunaydin – two others, Kursat Kocadag and Mehmet Gokce, face charges as accomplices. Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske were tied up, stabbed and tortured for several hours before their throats were slit at Zirve Publishing offices. Four of the suspects have said they were afraid of Gunaydin because of his alleged connections with local police and mafia figures, coupled with his violent threats against them and their families if they tried to pull out of the plot.

Southern Baptists Elect 'Peacemaker'

The Associated Press reports that the Rev. Johnny M. Hunt, the pastor of an Atlanta area megachurch, has been elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, taking leadership of the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. The Rev. Benjamin Cole, an associate pastor in Enid, Okla., who championed former president Rev. Frank Page's election, said that Hunt is a "passionate catalyst... I don't think there's any question he genuinely loves Southern Baptists and the world around him and wants to connect them in a way that brings them together." Malcolm Yarnell, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, voiced similar hopes. "Johnny is not going to be the type that brings divisions. He tends to avoid big theological controversies. He's not the type to point a finger at somebody. He's more likely to point a finger at himself and exhort the rest of us."

Turkey: Church Fights to Keep Doors Open

According to human rights group International Christian Concern, a church in the Turkish capital of Ankara is being forced to close its doors by local government. ASSIST News Service reports that Batikent Protestant Church is one of the very few Protestant churches which have been legally recognized in Turkey after winning a series of precedent-setting court cases. On June 2, however, police officers served the pastor with a notice requiring the closing because it is meeting in a building unapproved as a place of worship. Daniel Wickwire, the founding pastor at Batikent Protestant Church, has already fought - and won - a legal battle over zoning code violations last year. Wickwire, a missionary for 23 years, said, “It is very obvious that what is happening to our church is a pre-meditated, continuous and jointly orchestrated direct attack against the church as a whole in Turkey by the right-wing Islamic government (AK Party) that is currently in control in Turkey.” Wickwire has been involved in over 15 court cases in the last 6 years in order to keep the church doors open.

Obama Meets with Evangelical Leaders

Barack Obama held a private meeting with several evangelical leaders Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. Conversation topics included Darfur, the Iraq war, gay rights, abortion and other issues. The meeting included Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of a Dallas megachurch, Rev. Franklin Graham, and about 28 other Christian leaders left unnamed because of the meeting's private nature. Rich Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella organization for evangelical churches and ministries, said Obama asked participants to share "anything that's on your mind that is of concern to you." Cizik continued, "I think it's important to point out this isn't a group of people who are endorsing Obama… People were asked for their insider wisdom and understanding of the religious community." Meanwhile, the Christian Post reports that Obama's campaign has announced plans for "The Joshua Generation Project," which will aim to court young evangelicals and Catholics on moral issues such as poverty, Darfur, climate change and the Iraq war, although Obama’s pro-abortion stance is expected to keep some at bay.