- Gay-rights Activists Protest Southern Baptist Annual Meeting
- Religious Freedom Intact at Ministries Using Federal Funds
- Church of England Appoints First Senior Black Bishop
- Vietnam: 14 Tribal Pastors Sent to Undisclosed Prison
Gay-rights Activists Protest Southern Baptist Annual Meeting ... AP reports that James Merritt, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention, "condemned" homosexuality in his keynote address Tuesday, "More and more we're being told sit down, shut up, go along, get along, be inclusive, be tolerant, be nice and be quiet," he said. But Merritt said Southern Baptists have a "biblical responsibility" to preach against such things.
Meanwhile, gay rights protesters shouted slogans as they marched through the convention hall. Twelve protesters were arrested inside and 38 more were taken into custody outside, where riot police stood near the main doorway. "Stop killing us! Stop the spiritual violence!" one man shouted as police pulled him away. A woman from the group Soulforce, which claims Southern Baptist teachings lead to violence against gays, shouted: "God loves his gay children!"
On Tuesday, the Baptists elected the Rev. Jack Graham, pastor of the 22,000 Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, as their new president. Also on Tuesday, President Bush greeted delegates via satellite from the White House. "I want to thank you all for your good works," he said. "You're believers and you're patriots, faithful followers of God and good citizens of America."
Religious Freedom Intact at Ministries Using Federal Funds ... According to AP, urban ministries that utilize federal welfare money "do not lose their religious identities." In addition, the government does not interfere with them, a new study found. The study of programs in four major cities also found that "creating a secular arm to accept the funds does not dilute the religious aspects of the welfare services."
Funded by the Manhattan Institute and a University of Pennsylvania center on religion and urban life, the research contradicts the belief that small religious groups lose their religious motives and identities when using federal funds. It is one of several new studies trying to understand the number and kinds of government-aided faith-based welfare services.
John DiIulio, a former Bush White House official on faith-based policy now with the university and institute, said the report is some of the best data so far on the topic. "It draws conclusions that neither people on the right nor the left will find easy to digest," he said.
Church of England Appoints First Senior Black Bishop ... (ENS) -- The Church of England has appointed a Ugandan-born anti-racism campaigner as its first senior black bishop. The Rt. Rev. John Sentamu was appointed as the bishop of Birmingham in central England, succeeding the Rt. Rev. Mark Santer, who retired in May after 15 years in the post. A former assistant bishop of Stepney in east London, he becomes the first black person to head an Anglican diocese in the United Kingdom. "I am both delighted and overwhelmed to have been chosen as the eighth bishop of Birmingham," he said at a news conference in Birmingham.
Sentamu is a high-profile figure who has often accused the Church of England of being institutionally racist. In 1997 he became an adviser to an inquiry into the bungled police investigation of the 1993 killing of black teen-ager Stephen Lawrence. The inquiry concluded that London police were institutionally racist. In January 2000, the bishop criticized the force after he was stopped and searched by police officers while driving near St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Sentamu, who left Uganda during dictator Idi Amin's regime in the 1970s, was ordained in 1979 after studying at Cambridge University.
Vietnam: 14 Tribal Pastors Sent to Undisclosed Prison ... A confidential contact told Christian Aid Monday that 14 Vietnamese pastors were arrested in that country's Central Highlands in the last two weeks. The exact location of these pastors is not certain. This brings to 26 the known number of Christian pastors laboring in Vietnam's rural prison system, including 12 who remain in the notorious brick kilns in the North.
Even though the Communist government has been attempting to convince the world it is taking steps to improve its stance on human rights, in actual practice authorities there have been pressing a brutal persecution campaign against Christians in the Central Highlands and other tribal areas. The recent arrests were in retaliation for the Vietnamese Christians who recently obtained refugee status after fleeing to Cambodia and were given clearance to immigrate to the United States, the contact said.
"The greatest obstacles faced by the Vietnamese people who desire to come to the Christian faith include ancestor worship and the brutality of the local authorities," said Steve Snyder, president of Washington, DC-based International Christian Concern who visited Vietnam on a fact-finding mission in March. "People who become Christians are discriminated against and may be watched, fined, they lose their job, their children are not allowed in school, their movements are restricted, and they are omitted from any government assistance during floods that commonly plague the country." Snyder's complete report can be found at www.persecution.org.
Christian Aid has connections to get aid to Vietnamese Christians for the purpose of purchasing Bibles, radios, bicycles, motorcycles and helping families who have fled persecution or whose pastor-fathers are in prison. For more information, contact [email protected] and put MI-323740-VEC on the subject line