Religion Today Summaries, May 13, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, May 13, 2003

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

In Today's Edition:

  • House Approves New Religious Discrimination Rules in Jobs Bill
  • Baptists Terminate 13 Missionaries Over Faith Statement
  • Faith-Based Disaster Response Follows Week's Deadly Storms
  • Four Christians Murdered in Colombia

Salvation & Scripture at the Heart of Iraqi Relief Efforts
Jeff Robinson

(BP) Opposing views on salvation and the authority of Scripture are at the heart of the debate over Christian mission efforts in postwar Iraq, as evidenced during a broadcast of National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" program May 5. A number of Christian groups are planning to provide humanitarian relief for the citizens of Iraq following the war. The controversy centers on whether missionaries also should take the Gospel into the predominately Muslim country. During his interview with host Terry Gross, Mohler pointed out that Christ commanded His followers to make disciples of all nations. "As Christians, we have a responsibility to share the Gospel, but we do not believe in evangelism by coercion, much less by legislation." Mohler said it is also important for Christians to communicate the message that missionaries are doing their work under the banner of Christ and not under the banner of the U.S. States government. Christians are united by their relationship to Christ and not by common ethnic or national background. "I think it is incumbent upon us to make very clear, as Christians, that we are not there in the name of the American government, nor frankly, representing the American people," Mohler said. "We're there in the name of Christ. Christianity is trans-ethnic, trans-political, and trans-national. That is essential to the Christian Gospel."

Charitable Giving Bill Moves to House
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) Sponsors of a bill that provides $11.5 billion in charitable giving incentives minus the most controversial elements of President Bush's "faith-based initiative" are optimistic that it soon will receive House approval. Reps. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Harold Ford, D-Tenn., said their Charitable Giving Act, like a bill approved last month by the Senate, will help churches and other groups reach out to those in need. "With a slow economy contributing to tight budgets and urgent needs in our communities, charitable giving is more important than ever," Ford said. The legislation is almost identical to the CARE Act, which the Senate approved last month in a 95-5 vote. Both bills allow non-itemizing taxpayers larger deductions for charitable giving and encourage senior citizens and corporations to donate to charity. Two years ago, the House passed a larger bill that would have allowed religious groups to compete for direct federal funding. But discrimination and church-state concerns killed that bill in the Senate. Blunt, the House majority whip, said he does not intend to revive those elements favored by President Bush. Both Ford and Blunt said they hope the full House votes on the measure by July.

Sudan Jails Episcopal Priest Near Khartoum
Barbara G. Baker

(Compass) A Sudanese court jailed an Episcopal priest “indefinitely” on April 7 for refusing to demolish a church he had built himself 11 years ago on the outskirts of Khartoum North. Judge Kamal Abd-Rahaman Alli ordered the Rev. Samuel Dobai Amum to tear down St. Matthew’s Parish in Takamol and surrender the land on which it was built to the “rightful owner.” Amum said he would not resist court-sanctioned destruction of the modest chapel he built in 1987 to serve war refugees, but could not personally tear down a structure devoted to God. The judge declared Amum “rude before the law” and sentenced him to be “imprisoned indefinitely” until he either tears down the building or pays 7,000,000 Sudanese dinars (nearly $3,000) to secure the land in the name of the church. “Is [this] not religious discrimination?” a columnist from the Khartoum Monitor asked. “I am sure that if the church was a mosque, it shouldn’t have been touched.” Compass has been unable to confirm reports that a government crackdown last week against the Khartoum Monitor came in direct reaction to its prominent coverage of Amum’s arrest and trial.

Tornado-Ravaged Churches Hold Services

(Charisma News) Despite a tornado that had destroyed their buildings, two Oklahoma congregations held upbeat, outdoor worship services Sunday, with members testifying to God's protection and faithfulness. A twister wiped out the structure of First Christian Church of Moore on Friday, scattering pews like firewood, the Associated Press (AP) reported. "The weather happened," pastor Mike Hohlier told about 250 people, many in their Sunday best, seated in metal chairs in the paved lot in front of what remained of the church building. "The bottom line is, God will use this to God's glory if we allow Him to do that." Three children and three adults from the church's day care were in the building when the tornado hit. They took shelter in a restroom and emerged safely. A separate ministry of First Christian, War Club Ministries, was also left without a home. Down the street, the congregation of First Presbyterian Church -- recognizable only by the remaining bits of a shattered sign -- met on a lawn littered with debris, the AP observed. "This isn't the church," said pastor John Austin, nodding toward the wreckage. He then waved toward the gathered crowd of about 50. "The church is what you see out here," he added.