Religion Today Summaries, March 27, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, March 27, 2003

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

  • Evangelicals Plan to Minister to Iraqis' Needs -- Physical and Spiritual
  • Palau Breaks U.S. Ministry Record With 300,000 at Beachfest in Florida
  • Turkish Protestant Church Pursues Official Status
  • Bibles, Other Religious Book Sales High in January

Evangelicals Plan to Minister to Iraqis' Needs -- Physical and Spiritual
Mark O'Keefe
(RNS) Two leading evangelical Christian relief and missionary organizations say they have teams of workers poised to enter Iraq to address the physical and spiritual needs of its large Muslim population. The Southern Baptist Convention, the country's largest Protestant denomination, and the Rev. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse said Tuesday that workers are near the Iraq border in Jordan and are ready to go in as soon as it is safe. Both organizations said their priority will be to provide food, shelter and other needs to Iraqis ravaged by recent war and years of neglect. But if the situation presents itself, they will also share their Christian faith in a country that's estimated to be 97 percent Muslim and about 1 percent Christian. "We go where we have the opportunity to meet needs," said Ken Isaacs, international director of projects for Samaritan's Purse, located in Boone, N.C. "We do not deny the name of Christ. We believe in sharing him in deed and in word. We'll be who we are."

Palau Breaks U.S. Ministry Record With 300,000 at Beachfest in Florida
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) Evangelist Luis Palau preached to about 300,000 people last weekend (March 22-23), breaking U.S. records for his ministry, during Beachfest, a two-day evangelistic spring break gathering in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Police estimated the crowd was 200,000 on Saturday and 100,000 on Sunday, ministry officials said. "Determining crowd size at this level is difficult, but it's exciting for us as a team to know we had our first and second largest crowds in the U.S. back-to-back this weekend," said Andrew Palau, Beachfest director and son of the Argentinean evangelist. During the gathering, Palau led a prayer for the nation in a time of war. "This is something none of us want, but we know we can trust you," Palau prayed, including requests for protection for the troops and thoughts of their families, President Bush and innocent Iraqi residents. Ministry officials estimated that more than 1 million people heard the prayer because the event was linked via satellite to more than 300 locations in North America and aired live on more than 1,500 radio stations across the United States. It involved 1,100 churches and had sponsors ranging from Pepsi to the Miami Dolphins.

Turkish Protestant Church Pursues Official Status

(Compass) -- Three years after a Turkish Protestant congregation began meeting for worship, the local state prosecutor dropped pending criminal charges against its activities. Last year, the local governor accused the pastor of the Ephesus Protestant Church in Selcuk of holding church meetings “without legal permission” and conducting religious education without authorization from the Turkish Ministry of Education. In addition, Pastor Kamil Musaogullari and his congregation faced legal charges for using their building for religious worship and education without official certification from the Selcuk town council. But in late December, the state prosecutor told Musaogullari that he had dropped charges against him because the accusations of illegal worship and religious education activities were in fact baseless under Turkish law. “This tells me that there are some people who uphold the laws of this country,” a jubilant Musaogullari said. “I believe God will bless the people of Selcuk for the way that the prosecutor handled this case.”

Bibles, Other Religious Book Sales High in January

(RNS) Preparation for war may have boosted sales of Bibles and other religious books in America, the Financial Times reported. U.S. publishers collected almost $15 million in religious book revenues in January. "Is this a result of the war? ... A fear of the unknown? Could be," said Mark Rice, a spokesman for Zondervan, a leading Bible publisher. Revenues from the company's Bible sales in January were 10 percent higher than the year before -- and the earlier sales had been influenced by the Sept. 11 attacks. In other religious book sales developments, Publishers Weekly's Religion Bookline reported that religion titles continued to fare well in 2002, though they did not top the magazine's annual fiction or nonfiction lists as they did in 2001. "The Remnant," the 10th book in the "Left Behind" series, ranked third among all fiction titles, with sales of more than 1.8 million. The top 15 nonfiction titles included five books released by evangelical Christian publishers, with each selling more than 600,000 copies. "A Life God Rewards" by Bruce Wilkinson was in the No. 2 spot, with sales of more than 1,186,000. It was followed by "Let's Roll" by Lisa Beamer with Ken Abraham, ranking third with more than 958,000 in sales.