Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
CFI Urges Immediate Release of Indonesian Sunday School Teachers After They Lose Appeal
Michael Ireland, ASSIST News Service
International Christian human rights organization Christian Freedom International (CFI) is urging the immediate release of three wrongly-accused Indonesian Christian Sunday School teachers who have lost their appeal to overturn charges that mean a three-year prison-term. The women are currently serving their sentence in the Indramayu district of West Java, having been wrongly convicted of "attempting to coerce children to change their religion" under the Indonesian "Child Protection Act." A local Islamic group brought the charges against the three for violating the Act. The women have now lost their first two appeals and have one appeal left under Indonesia's law process system, which has a three phase law court level. A local pastor who visits the three women weekly told CFI, "We still need support from all of our brothers and sisters to continue with the legal process until the highest level - the third level - is complete, the last action for our law process system."
Methodist Bishops Repent Over Iraq War
Leaders of the United Methodist Church, of which President Bush is a member, have released a joint statement saying they repent of their “complicity” in the “unjust and immoral” invasion and occupation of Iraq. “In the face of the United States administration’s rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent,” the statement, signed by 95 bishops and released Nov. 10, said. The author of the document, retired Bishop Kenneth Carder, said the leaders were careful not to place the blame for the war on anyone specific such as Bush. “We would have made the statement regardless of who the president was... It was the recognition that we are all part of the decision and we are all part of a democratic society. We all bear responsibility.” The statement includes a pledge to pray daily for the end of the war, for its American and Iraqi victims, and for American leaders to find “truth, humility and policies of peace through justice.” Mark Tooley, a United Methodist spokesman for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, responded by saying, “These bishops, like other politically outspoken officials of mainline denominations, seem to be incapable of criticizing any government in the world except for the United States and its closest allies.”
Christians Worldwide Mark First Day of Advent
The Christian Post
Christians worldwide observed the first day of the season of Advent on Sunday, Nov. 27, marking the time for reflection, introspection and preparation leading up to Christmas. Advent, the liturgical period preceding Christmas, begins in Western churches on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and in Eastern churches in mid-November. It is observed by many Christians as a season of prayer, fasting, and penitence. In recent years, many churches have started to treat the season of Advent as a December version of Lent, the 40 days of prayer and fasting leading up to Easter. Advent concerts, retreats, prayer services and penitential services have become common in many Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal churches, as well as some Presbyterian and Methodist churches. In Eastern Orthodox churches – where it is also called the Nativity Fast, Winter Lent, or the Christmas Lent – Advent lasts forty days. In Western churches, the earliest Advent can begin is Nov. 27 and the latest is Dec. 3. Very often Advent begins on the Sunday after the American day of Thanksgiving.
New Policy: Southern Baptist Missionary Candidates Can't Speak in Tongues
The Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC’s) International Mission Board (IMB) has adopted a new policy that forbids missionary candidates from speaking in tongues. The policy, adopted Nov. 15 during the board's trustee meeting in Huntsville, Ala., reflects ongoing Southern Baptist opposition to charismatic or Pentecostal practices. "In terms of general practice, the majority of Southern Baptists do not accept what is referred to as ‘private prayer language,"' states the policy. "Therefore, if ‘private prayer language' is an ongoing part of his or her conviction and practice, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC." The policy took effect on the day it was adopted and is not retroactive. It is designed to guide staff in the Office of Mission Personnel as they consider new candidates. The denomination's North American Mission Board has a policy that prevents the endorsement of chaplains who participate in speaking in tongues or "any other charismatic manifestations." The International Mission Board trustees voted that any exception to the policies must be reviewed by the board's Process Review Committee and staff of the mission board.