Religion Today Summaries - September 9, 2011

Religion Today Summaries - September 9, 2011

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • 5 Months & 600 Arrests Later, Chinese Church Still Defying Beijing
  • Evangelicals Left Off National Cathedral 9/11 Program
  • Through Conflict, Sovereign Grace Ministries Seeking to Change
  • Dick Baker Dead at 84


5 Months & 600 Arrests Later, Chinese Church Still Defying Beijing

Baptist Press reports that on August 28, five members of a house church in Fangshan, China, woke at 4 a.m. and traveled for two hours to a public square in Beijing in order to worship with members of the embattled Beijing Shouwang house church. On their arrival at 7 a.m., waiting police sent the five back to their local police station. Officials then urged them to sign documents repenting of their decision to support the Shouwang church. All five refused but were eventually released. The Fangshan five are part of a growing wave of house church Christians determined -- despite the consequences -- to support Shouwang Church in its five-month-long stand for greater religious freedom. Shouwang members have attempted to meet in the outdoor venue every Sunday since April 11, after government officials repeatedly denied them access to a permanent worship place. Church leaders prayerfully decided on this course of action as a means of forcing the government to resolve their dilemma. More than 600 arrests have been made over the last 22 weeks, including 15 on Aug. 28 and 12 arrests on Sept. 4. Police arrest the Christians before the service even starts and typically free them within 24 hours. More than 160 people were arrested at the first outdoor meeting of Shouwang Church.

Evangelicals Left Off National Cathedral 9/11 Program

According to FOX News, A weekend of religious-themed 9/11 memorial observances at Washington National Cathedral will include a Buddhist nun, a rabbi, a Hindu priest, an incarnate lama, and an Imam. No evangelical Christian minister has been invited, causing Frank Page of the Southern Baptist Convention to ask President Obama to reconsider attending the event. “It’s not surprising,” said Page. "There is a tragic intolerance toward Protestants and particularly toward evangelicals and I wish the president would refuse to speak unless it was more representative.” Richard Weinberg, the Cathedral’s director of communications, confirmed that neither Southern Baptists nor other evangelical denominations were extended an invitation to participate. “The goal was to have interfaith representation. The Cathedral itself is an Episcopal church and it stands to reason that our own clergy serve as Christian representatives.”

Through Conflict, Sovereign Grace Ministries Changing

According to a story in the Washington Post, earlier this summer, inside Gaithersburg-based Sovereign Grace Ministries, there was a growing sense that things had gone too far with founder C.J. Mahaney. Mahaney would go on to take a leave of absence from the 100-church denomination, saying he was guilty of “various expressions of pride.” Former church members said Mahaney had created something they thought was more like a cult. Mahaney's leave came days after a former top Sovereign Grace pastor distributed hundreds of pages of e-mails and internal church documents which included discussions that showed Mahaney and others threatening the movement’s co-founder, saying they would make private family details public if the man were too openly critical of Sovereign Grace. Mahaney declined to comment to the Post. However, two blogs on which former members vent have shot into the tens of thousands, with posters often telling stories about Sovereign Grace pastors being abusively controlling, shaming people who criticized clergy and dividing families when someone disagreed with a pastor. And Mahaney’s protégé, Josh Harris, Covenant Life’s lead pastor, left the denomination’s board because of differing views on what God is trying to say through the shake-up.

Dick Baker Dead at 84

Richard D. "Dick" Baker, a prolific composer and former minister of music, died Sept. 5 in Plano, Texas, Baptist Press reports. He was 84. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary honored the distinguished alumnus in chapel Sept. 7 and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano will hold a public celebration service in Baker's memory Sept. 10. Baker began composing songs in 1947 and continued writing throughout his lifetime, publishing more than 300 gospel compositions, with several of them translated into other languages. Baker's hymns include "All to Thee," "Longing for Jesus," "His Way Mine" and "Have You Been to Calvary." Many of his songs were written with his brother, Bo, a former pastor at Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth and Plymouth Park Baptist Church in Irving, Texas. In 1978, he was called to serve as Prestonwood Baptist Church's first minister of music, developing a 200-300 member choir, full orchestra, music conservatory and choir programs for children and youth.