Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Southern Baptists Converge in Indiana for Annual Get-Together
- Chinese Christians Fear for Life of House Church Leader
- Meeting Discusses Strategy to Restore 'Religious Left'
- Nigerian Governor Deposes Christian Chief, Relocates Mosque
Southern Baptists Converge in Indiana for Annual Get-Together
Allie Martin, Agape Press
Thousands of Southern Baptists will head to Indianapolis this weekend for the denomination's annual business meeting. The nation's largest evangelical denomination is preparing to hold its two-day meeting in the Indiana capital, where "messengers" -- representatives from Southern Baptist churches nationwide -- expect to elect a new president for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and to be presented with several significant business matters. The theme of the meeting, which begins Tuesday, is "Kingdom Forever." John Revell, a spokesman for the SBC, says the theme is meant to encourage messengers to put God first in all aspects of life. According to Revell, the annual meeting has several objectives. "The point of the convention is for the messengers from all of the various Southern Baptist churches across the country to come and hear reports from their entities and agencies, to vote on those reports and on key motions and resolutions, and to elect leaders who will represent them and accomplish the agenda that the messengers set forth," he says. Business matters that could be presented to the messengers include: a recommendation to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance; a name change to the denomination's annuity board, and a proposed resolution that asks all Southern Baptists to withdraw their children from government-run schools. Messengers are also expected to elect Dr. Bobby Welch as the denomination's new president.
Chinese Christians Fear for Life of House Church Leader
Stefan Bos, ASSIST News Service
Chinese house church leader Xu Shuangfu's whereabouts and condition are unknown, and Chinese Christians fear for his life after another believer was tortured to death by Chinese police. Xu, leader of the 500-thousand strong house church group "Three Grades Servants" in Henan Province, northeast China, was arrested April 26th, and since then family members have been prevented from seeing him. He was detained by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) along with other believers including Gu Xianggao, a teacher of the group. Gu was beaten to death the next day while in the custody of PSB officers. If Xu is convicted of leading a so-called "Evil Cult," he could also face the death penalty, and he may be executed already. The case against Xu has been handled as a national security case, rather than as a religious-affairs case. "Authorities have even questioned villagers in Xu's hometown in Henan Province in their search for evidence against him," Voice of the Martyrs said. Xu Shuangfu has been a well-known house church leader since the 1980s and was arrested more than 20 times, and spent more than 20 years in prison. "This case is being handled as if Pastor Xu was leading some kind of insurrection," said VOM Spokesman Todd Nettleton. "The fact is that his group simply wants freedom to worship God as they see fit."
Meeting Discusses Strategy to Restore 'Religious Left'
While thousands of people gathered on Thursday in Washington, DC, to honor the legacy and life of Ronald W. Reagan, there was another meeting across town involving more than 300 religious and political liberals. The Washington Post says the meeting was called to put together a strategy to restore the voice of the "religious left" in the nation's political debate. Among them was John Podesta, a Roman Catholic who was White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton. Podesta, who now heads a Democratic think tank called the Center for American Progress, says his group called the meeting to highlight what he calls the "proud past" and "promising future" of the religious left. Many delegates blamed themselves for the current strong influence of Christian conservatives in Washington. Pastor Charles Henderson of the Presbyterian Church (USA) noted that from the 1950s through the 1970s, mainline Protestant denominations took for granted that their values would infuse television and public schools. But he says Evangelicals responded by creating their own schools and broadcast outlets -- and that that is why their views are so dominant today.
Nigerian Governor Deposes Christian Chief, Relocates Mosque
Herbert Eze, Agape Press
The Governor of Adamawa State in Nigeria has decisively taken action to address last Tuesday's religious crisis at Numan, Adamawa State, which claimed 7 lives including the burning down of 20 houses and 3 mosques. The Christian traditional ruler of the Christian Bachama kingdom, Sir Freddy Soditi Bongo was deposed from office with effect from yesterday, 11th June 2004. On the Muslim side, the governor ordered the local government council to relocate the controversial mosque which stood close to the palace of the traditional chief. In his verdict, the governor faulted the chief for alleged complicity in the crisis. He noted that "mutual suspicion and distrust had become endemic among the religious and ethnic communities of Numan." This mutual distrust among the Hausa muslims and the Bachama Christians engenders fear and grossly erodes the harmony and brotherhood of the Bachama kingdom. Gov. Boni reasoned that since the close location of the mosque has led to bloodshed and would continue to be a sad memory, it was proper for the government to announce the relocation of the mosque with immediate effect. In compensation to the Hausa muslim community, Numan local government has been directed by the Governor to provide alternative land within 30 days for construction of a new mosque. In justifying his disposition of the Hama of Bachama, the governor said he acted in the overall interest of peace.