Religion Today Summaries, September 2, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, September 2, 2003

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

  • Christian Persecution Continues in India
  • Bishops' President Stands Firm on Celibacy Discussion
  • Town Appeals 'Jesus Prayer' Ban
  • Leader Says Cross 'Symbol of Deliverance,' Not 'Oppressive'

Christian Persecution Continues in India
Charisma News Service

A new believer was recently beaten and another man poisoned by his parents after they converted to Christianity. According to Christian Aid Mission, the two are part of the Metei group, a poor and marginalized people in the Manipur State of northeastern India. Traditionally Hindu, Meteis often face rejection when they turn from the religion of their ancestors. "The Meitei Christians request prayer that they remain strong in the Lord in the face of persecution and reach their brothers and sisters with the gospel," aspokesman said. Meanwhile, a Gospel for Asia (GFA) church of 51 believers in Jharkhand was recently attacked in an effort to drive them out of the village. Village leaders have ordered the Christians to pay a fee to meet together for services. Elsewhere, a GFA Bible school student and another believer were recently distributing tracts in a Himachal Pradesh village when anti-Christian men from the area attacked them. "Pray for the Lord to protect and encourage these brothers," said GFA officials, noting that the ministry has established 36 churches and 80 mission stations in Himachal Pradesh.

Bishops' President Stands Firm on Celibacy Discussion
Religion News Service

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said he does not foresee any action on petitions by priests' groups asking for a discussion of mandatory celibacy.  Bishop Wilton D. Gregory said the church's position on priestly celibacy is clear. "Since the Second Vatican Council the question of celibacy has been raised by popes and a number of synods and bishops' conferences, and I think we have a fairly clear position on the importance of celibacy and its relationship to the Catholic priesthood," he said.   Priests from Milwaukee sent a petition to Gregory that said the church's sacramental life was at risk because of a shortage of priests. Opening the clergy to married men would boost the number of priests, the letter said.  Since then, priests' groups in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Gregory's own Belleville diocese have said they intend to circulate similar letters on celibacy.  Gregory said the issue has already been "fairly well discussed" and did not need to be re-examined. He was "emphatic" that the church's recent sex abuse scandal should not prompt discussions on celibacy. One Milwaukee organizer was not surprised by Gregory's response. "We were just asking for dialogue," the Rev. Joseph Aufdermauer said. "That was a fond wish, but I think I'm a bit of a realist."

Town Appeals 'Jesus Prayer' Ban
Charisma News Service

Officials in a South Carolina community are appealing a federal judge's recent decision that barred council members from mentioning Christ in pre-meeting prayers. Last Thursday, Cameron McGowan ruled that the Great Falls Town Council cannot invoke the name of Jesus or any other specific deity during prayers offered before meetings. The ruling comes after a lawsuit filed against the town by Wiccan high priestess and Great Falls resident Darla Kaye Wynne, who claimed officials violated the First Amendment of the Constitution by using the name of Jesus in prayers offered at meetings. Wynne proposed in 2000 that prayers be limited to only mentioning "God," or that members of different religions be invited to give prayers. "I just wish they would understand there's more than Christians here," Wynne said. "Instead of diversity dividing us, it should be bringing us closer together." Mayor H.C. Starnes Jr. said the council will comply with McGowan's ruling until it can be reversed. Starnes said prayers mentioning Jesus has been the practice "ever since we've had a council." Town Attorney Brian Gibbons noted that, "this [case] potentially could have a snowball effect for every city council, county council and school board around." Several churches and area ministers have shown their support for the council, with church members opposed to allowing "an alternative prayer to a self-proclaimed witch."

Leader Says Cross 'Symbol of Deliverance,' Not 'Oppressive'
Agape Press

High-ranking Southern Baptist official is taking issue with a suggestion that Christians do away with the symbol of the cross because some people find it offensive. While an executive of the American Clergy Leadership Conference has called upon Christians to take the crosses off their churches as a gesture of reconciliation because some regard it as a "symbol of oppression and perceived superiority," mainstream Christian leaders like Dr. Bill Merrill of the Southern Baptist Convention are reacting with dismay. He says it is remarkable that any who call themselves Christians should take offense at the cross. Merrill says the cross is not a symbol of oppression at all, but "a symbol of our deliverance." The American Clergy Leadership Conference is a spin-off of the Unification Church, founded by Sun Myung Moon. They say peace in the Middle East is blocked by how non-Christians react to the cross.