Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 16, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 16, 2007

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

  • Baptist Convention Expels North Carolina Church for Welcoming Gays
  • Bishops Banned from Western Wall
  • U.S. Senator: Defy Chinese Bible Policy at Olympics
  • Palestinian Pastor Vows to Continue, Despite Ongoing Threats

Baptist Convention Expels North Carolina Church for Welcoming Gays

FOX News reports that delegates to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina have voted overwhelmingly to expel Charlotte's Myers Park Baptist Church for welcoming gays and lesbians without trying to change them. MPBC becomes the first congregation to be kicked out under the year-old rules which state that any Baptist church that affirmed or endorsed homosexual behavior would be considered not to be cooperating with the convention. The Convention cites MPBC's decision "to open their hearts to homosexuals who want to worship with them and to respect local autonomy in interpreting the Bible," while also suggesting the church is doing so for publicity.

Bishops Banned from Western Wall

ASSIST News Service reports that the Rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch, has denied a group of Austrian Catholic bishops access to the Western Wall. The Wall, or Kotel, dates from the time of the Jewish Second Temple (516 BCE - 70 CE)., which is the Jewish people’s holiest site. The Rabbi's ban was due to the bishops' wearing crosses after he sent a “message” to the group requesting the crosses be hidden. According to a story released by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), Rabinovitch barred the group of 20 bishops and its leader, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna. “Crosses are a symbol that hurts Jewish feelings. I feel the same way about a Jew putting on a tallit and phylacteries and going into a Church. I would be the first to rebuke such a Jew for not behaving like a mensch,” said Rabinovitch. “They did not have to take them off, just hide them. I’ve never encountered a Christian who has refused, including the Pope.” A spokesperson for the Austrian embassy says they were unaware of the dress code.

U.S. Senator: Defy Chinese Bible Policy at Olympics

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) said Americans traveling to the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing next year should defy the Chinese government's rule that prohibits travelers from taking more than one Bible into the country. asked Salazar Wednesday whether Americans traveling to China should defy this rule. "I think so," said Salazar. "It's a trampling on a freedom that we cherish in this country that's a universal freedom. I don't think that kind of constriction on something that is such an international global celebration is something that ought to be tolerated." Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) didn't advise that anyone purposely defy the law, but believes anyone who can bring a Bible into the country should, "and then leave it there afterwards."

Palestinian Pastor Vows to Continue, Despite Ongoing Threats

According to ASSIST News Service, his efforts to help his people have led to numerous death threats, and because another Palestinian pastor was recently murdered, he takes the threats seriously. “I have to,” says Pastor Isa Bajalia, an American-born Palestinian who founded a ministry in Ramallah known as Middle East Missions. “Rami Ayyad once sat in my place and thought they probably won’t do anything,” he notes. Rami Ayyad, the manager of Gaza City’s only Christian bookstore, was abducted and killed in early October. The attack came six months after his Palestinian Bible Society bookshop was bombed, and nearly daily threats of violence. No arrests have been made in his killing. Threats against Pastor Isa began in May, after a medical mission from a U.S. church ministered in Ramallah. The physicians, nurses, and volunteers who distributed medicine and vitamins were “very bold in the way they prayed and witnessed, and somehow the word got back to the Palestinian Authority,” says Pastor Isa. “We have to use wisdom in ministering to people of other faiths – and not be offensive. At the same time we have a sovereign mandate in Mark 16 – The Great Commission.”