Religion Today Summaries, June 29, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, June 29, 2004

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

  • Presbyterian Church Elects Non-traditionalist Leader

  • 'Global Prayer Call' Targets Hand-Over of Power in Iraq

  • China: Arrest Of 100 House Church Leaders Confirms Trend

  • New Evangelical Group Hope for 'Profound Impact'

Presbyterian Church Elects Non-traditionalist Leader
Jenni Parker, Agape Press

The Presbyterian Church USA has elected lay-leader and activist Rick Ufford-Chase as the mainline denomination's head and spokesman for the next two years, despite his association with a group that is seeking to change the church's ordination standards. According to an Associated Press report, the 40-year-old elder of a Tucson, Arizona, congregation was installed at the PCUSA's 216th General Assembly Saturday in Richmond, Virginia, as its new moderator. The moderator presides over the assembly and acts as the denomination's chief spokesperson until another moderator is chosen at the next General Assembly. Ufford-Chase's church is affiliated with More Light Presbyterians, a group that has been working to remove the PCUSA's requirement that church officers "live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." The More Light Presbyterians are also seeking to nullify a church law that prohibits the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals. In response to questions about how his allies will react to Ufford-Chase's pledge not to use his new position to advance the cause of changing these standards, he said his commitment is "to be as absolutely fair as I possibly can, to make sure that everyone gets heard," but when asked his personal opinion, he would share it.

'Global Prayer Call' Targets Hand-Over of Power in Iraq
Charisma News Service

Christians worldwide are being urged to pray for Iraq this week as the Iraqi interim government assumes control of the war-torn country from the U.S.-led occupation. The long-awaited hand over was supposed to happen tomorrow, but the United States formally handed sovereignty to Iraqi officials on Monday, aiming to forestall guerrilla attacks with a secretive ceremony formally ending 14 months of occupation. Meanwhile, intercessory and missions groups are mobilizing believers to intercede for Iraq. International Prayer Council, a worldwide network of prayer movements, has issued a Global Prayer Call relating to the hand over of power. "We feel it is right that we mobilize special prayer ... for the situation in Iraq," British prayer leader Brian Mills said. Operation World is also encouraging Christians to stand in the gap for Iraq during the transition. In Baghdad, a Christian worker is asking Christians to pray. "I asked one Iraqi if there will be big parties in the streets on the 30th," said the worker, referring to the original hand over of power deadline. "She replied that everyone will be happy, but no one will be out in the streets celebrating. Everyone is too afraid."

China: Arrest Of 100 House Church Leaders Confirms Trend
Compass Direct

Chinese police arrested 100 house church leaders on June 11 as they gathered for a retreat in the central city of Wuhan. Xing Jinfu, 39, who has already been arrested three times in the past for church related activities, was among those detained. The church leaders are being held at an unknown location, according to the China Aid Association. On the same day, Shen Xianfeng, a senior leader of the China Gospel Fellowship (CGF), was placed under house arrest. Reports of increasing arrests of house church leaders began to filter out of China in April, when the New York-based Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China reported that Xu Shuangfu of the controversial Three Grades Servants movement was kidnapped in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. The mass arrest of CGF leaders confirms the belief of many Christians that the Chinese Communist Party apparently has not changed its repressive religious policies under the leadership of President Hu Jintao.

New Evangelical Group Hope for 'Profound Impact'
Jody Brown, Agape Press

Several high-profile evangelical leaders are behind the formation of a new group whose focus is to identify, educate, and activate Christians and religious conservatives in America.  Americans of Faith announced last week its plan to "make the voice of evangelical Christians and religious conservatives heard." The group has launched a new voter registration effort called "Operation Vote" that it says will emphasize the fact that Christians not only have the right vote, but the duty as well.  "We are going to make sure that every Christian and religious conservative in our nation hears that message this year," says Jack St. Martin, executive director of Americans of Faith.  Saying the group's goal is to have a "profound impact" on American society and culture, St. Martin explains the group hopes to make individuals "good citizens, reliable neighbors, and responsible stewards of our nation's blessings."  Others involved in the leadership of the new organization include Tony Perkins (president of the Family Research Council), Ed Atsinger (president and CEO of Salem Communications), Dr. Richard Land (president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission), and Frank Wright (president of the National Religious Broadcasters).  Founder Jay Sekulow has been quoted in press reports as saying Americans of Faith expects to register five-million "social, Christian conservatives" to vote in the upcoming presidential election.