Religion Today Summaries, June 6, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, June 6, 2003

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

  • Court Gives Filipino Pastor Suspended Sentence
  • Conservatives Cheer Vote to Ban 'Partial-Birth' Abortions
  • Army Reports Increased Violence Against Christians
  • SBC Seminaries Equip Women For Local Church Leadership Roles

Court Gives Filipino Pastor Suspended Sentence
Compass Direct

A criminal court in the United Arab Emirates has declared Filipino pastor Fernando Alconga guilty of "abusing Islam" and conducting Christian missionary activity. Arrested five months ago for giving a Bible and Christian literature to an Arab Muslim at a Dubai shopping center, Rev. Alconga was jailed for five weeks and charged with a felony for "preaching other than the Islamic religion," as forbidden in the Federal Criminal Code. A total of eight court hearings were conducted in his trial, which opened on January 19. Announcing his verdict, Chief Judge Mahmood Fahmi Sultan of the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance suspended Alconga's punishment because the court was of the opinion that the 54-year-old pastor would not repeat his crime. "In the long run, we are seeing God's hand in this," said Alconga, an ordained Conservative Baptist minister who has pastored congregations in the UAE for the past nine years. He had been scheduled to return to the Philippines in January with his family, where he was due to take up pastoral ministry in a Manila church.

Conservatives Cheer Vote to Ban `Partial-Birth' Abortions
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

Religious conservatives savored a victory eight years in the making after the House voted Wednesday (June 4) to ban so-called partial-birth abortions. The House voted 282-139 to prohibit the rare late-term procedure that critics call "barbaric." Abortion rights supporters vowed a swift legal challenge once President Bush signs the law.  "When President Bush signs this bill into law, it will be the most significant blow to the pro-choice, pro-death agenda since the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade 30 years ago," said Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. The bill imposes a two-year prison sentence for any doctor who aborts a partially delivered fetus whose head is outside the mother's body, or in the case of a breech delivery, whose trunk beyond the navel is outside the birth canal. The legislation, as passed, contains an exception that allows the procedure if it is deemed necessary to save the life of the mother.  Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council, pronounced the new law "constitutionally sound," despite abortion rights supporters demanding the new law is a violation.

Army Reports Increased Violence Against Christians
Compass Direct

According to a military report released in April, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) pose the most serious threat to Christians in Colombia. Despite the findings, Roman Catholic and Protestant evangelical church leaders say that stationing troops or police officers at churches would likely place them in even greater danger. "We don't believe that this would solve the problem for us. All citizens should be protected," said Hector Pardo, president of the Evangelical Council of Colombia. The army report said that armed groups have killed 56 Catholic leaders in the past 19 years. Of those murders, 14 occurred in the last four years. Pardo said that about 30 evangelical ministers were killed in 2002 alone. Most recently, four Christians, including an 80-year-old pastor, were killed by armed men that entered their rural church in northern Colombia. Army press officer, Major José Espejo, said that attacks on Christians are increasing, he thinks, because the church rejects violence and has spoken out against murders, extortion, and kidnappings carried out by armed groups.

SBC Seminaries Equip Women For Local Church Leadership Roles
Melissa Deming, Baptist Press News

For Baptist women excluded from the senior pastorate, why spend time and energy training for ministry in the local church at a Southern Baptist seminary? This question is being addressed by all six seminaries supported by the Southern Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000's article on the church gave critics a chance to contend that Southern Baptists believe women do not play an important role in the church, said Heather King, one of two females that served on the study committee to revise the historic confessional statement. "In authoring the statement on women serving in the local church, the committee fully realized that both Scripture and the testimony of Jesus designates women as integral ministry initiators and coworkers," said King, women's program coordinator at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. "That is why it is so important for women to be present in seminary classrooms, so they can be equipped for ministry." Critics of the confessional statement expected female attendance in Southern Baptist seminaries to drop in the post-convention meeting media blitz that labeled the SBC as misogynist. However, statistics from all six schools indicate female enrollment has remained the same or is growing. (