Religion Today Summaries, March 12, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, March 12, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • Religious Freedom Violators List Falls Short, Groups Charge
  • Court to Decide if Presbyterian Leader Interfered with Petition Drive
  • E-mail Campaign Chips Away At Missouri Synod Missions Shortfall
  • Religion Bestsellers

Religious Freedom Violators List Falls Short, Groups Charge
Christina Denny

(RNS) When the State Department singled out six countries last week as the world's worst violators of religious freedom, it left some prime suspects off the list, critics charge. The commission said it had also recommended India, Laos, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam -- countries that "even the State Department's own religious freedom reports" document as severe violators. Human Rights Watch, a Washington-based watchdog group, accused the State Department of turning a blind eye to abuses in partner countries. "The Bush administration says it wants to promote human rights in the Muslim world," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "But it can hardly say it's trying if it's afraid to state the simple truth about some of its partners." Secretary of State Colin Powell had rejected calls to give a CPC designation to Saudi Arabia, a major Gulf ally, but U.S. officials denied the decision was related to preparations for war. "We're not going to list them, but we are going to press them on this," a senior official told Agence France-Press last week. "We think there is an opportunity to push really hard this year."

Court to Decide if Presbyterian Leader Interfered with Petition Drive
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) The highest court in the Presbyterian Church (USA) will decide whether a top official broke the rules when he refused to convene a special assembly to debate church policy toward gay pastors. Church elder Alex Metherell said a special assembly was needed to discipline churches that allegedly have openly defied a church ban against non-celibate gay pastors and launched a petition drive. Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel is charged with improperly interfering with the petition drive to recall delegates from last summer's General Assembly meeting by convincing petitioners to change their minds. When enough petitioners dropped out, Abu-Akel said he was no longer mandated to call the assembly. The court will decide whether Abu-Akel was required to call the meeting, if he was allowed to ask petitioners to change their minds, how the signatures should have been verified and if signatures can be removed from an official petition. "It is not up to the moderator to decide if this is not a good idea. ... He should have asked, `Is this your signature?' and that is all," said Paul Rolf Jensen, a Virginia lawyer who has filed multiple charges against churches that ordain gays and lesbians.

E-mail Campaign Chips Away At Missouri Synod Missions Shortfall
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) A grass-roots e-mail campaign has made a small dent in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's shortfall in world missions funds. Prompted by an e-mail request from a church member in Omaha, Neb., more than $38,000 in individual donations have been received for the operating fund of the denomination's World Mission, the LCMS reports. Church member Paul Koehler sent out e-mails to fellow members asking them to contribute "at least $1 for each member of your household" and send the e-mail on to other Missouri Synod Lutherans. He was inspired to make the gesture after reading in a denominational magazine that the mission's shortfall of $2 to $3 million amounted to about a dollar a member. "... I see stacks of mail four or five inches high with gifts for this effort," said the Rev. Ronald Nelson. His St. Louis office has received donations such as one envelope with three $1 bills wrapped inside a copy of Koehler's e-mail message. Koehler is pleased with the results of the campaign. "Exciting to see God's hand at work, isn't it?" he said. "Hopefully, the awareness raised will help produce a longer-term solution to this critical situation."

Religion Bestsellers

(RNS) Editor's note: This list is compiled by Publishers Weekly magazine from data received from general independent bookstores, chain stores and wholesalers within the month of February. Copyright 2003 Publishers Weekly.

1. The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. (Zondervan)
2. Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge. (Thomas Nelson)
3. Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths, by Bruce Feiler. (Morrow)
4. Let's Roll: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage, by Lisa Beamer with Ken Abraham. (Tyndale)
5. A Life God Rewards: Why Everything You Do Today Matters Forever, by Bruce Wilkinson. (Multnomah)
6. Bringing Up Boys, by James Dobson. (Tyndale)
7. Traveling Light, by Max Lucado. (W Publishing Group)
8. Bible Code II: The Countdown, by Michael Drosnin. (Viking)
9. I Hope You Dance, by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers. (Rutledge Hill)
10. The Prayer of Jabez, by Bruce Wilkinson. (Multnomah)

1. The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. (Northfield/Moody)
2. The Power of a Praying Wife, by Stormie Omartian. (Harvest House)
3. The Power of a Praying Woman, by Stormie Omartian. (Harvest House)
4. The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel. (Zondervan)
5. The Catholic Church: A Short History, by Hans Kung. (Modern Library)
6. Walking the Bible, by Bruce Feiler. (HarperPerennial)
7. Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. (Harper San Francisco)
8. The Power of a Praying Husband, by Stormie Omartian. (Harvest House
9. Remnant, by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins. (Tyndale)
10. Left Behind, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. (Tyndale)