Religion Today Summaries, April 21, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, April 21, 2004

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

  • Eritrea's Christian Church Grows Despite Persecution 
  • Muslim Violence Forces Christian Withdrawal from Peace Talks in Nigeria
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church Appoints Three Homosexual Pastors
  • 'Rejuvenated' Church Prays for Kidnapped Soldier in Iraq

Eritrea's Christian Church Grows Despite Persecution
Chad Groening, Agape Press

Christians in an East African country are asking for prayers from believers around the world as they face increased persecution. The State of Eritrea is country of nearly four million people, where the population is almost equally divided between Muslims and Christians. But Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs ministry reports that religious persecution against evangelical believers is on the rise in Eritrea, where the latest wave began with a government edict. "About two years ago," Nettleton explains, "the government called all of the evangelical groups in for a meeting and told them 'We're closing down your churches. You're done having meetings.'" The VOM spokesman says for Eritreans, the government and its officials seek to control everything, and "those who don't submit to their control face arrest and persecution." With the exception of four specified groups, evangelical faiths in Eritrea have been outlawed by the country's communist-style ruler, Nettleton says. Evangelical Christians not included among the Catholic, Lutheran, or Orthodox headings practice their beliefs at their peril. "Those that meet in homes, which they started to do after their churches were closed, are facing arrest," Nettleton says. "This is a country where persecution is rising," he adds, "but it's also a country where the Church is growing."

Muslim Violence Forces Christian Withdrawal from Peace Talks in Nigeria
Barnabas News Fund

Violence in Kaduna has claimed 1000 Christian lives and destroyed 63 churches just this year; it must stop says the Christian Association of Nigeria. For three years, CAN has engaged in government-backed peace talks in the state of Kaduna with its Muslim counterpart, Jamutu'ul Nasir Islam (JNI). However, after the recent spate of attacks in which Islamic militants burnt down nine churches in Makarfi, CAN leaders say the peace process has been undermined. As a result of the ongoing violence against Christians, CAN withdrew from the talks 9 April saying, "If we continue to dialogue with people when we doubt their sincerity and commitment to the peace which we are honestly pursuing, then the consequences will be grave, to our peril and enslavement." North and Middle Belt Nigeria is plagued with frequent outbreaks of rioting between Muslims and Christians. Over 10,000 have been killed in such sectarian violence since 2000 when 12 Muslim-majority states in North Nigeria adopted Islamic law (shari'a).

Evangelical Lutheran Church Appoints Three Homosexual Pastors
Agape Press

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America could soon be following on the heels of the Episcopal Church USA.  In direct defiance of church doctrine, three Lutheran congregations have appointed open homosexuals to serve as their pastors.  Two of the newly appointed homosexual pastors were duly-ordained ministers in the ELCA, but were removed from the official clergy roster when the church was told they were living in openly same-sex relationships. identifies the three homosexual pastors as Jennifer Mason (Central City Lutheran Mission, San Bernardino, CA), Daniel Hooper (Hollywood Lutheran Church, Hollywood, CA), and Jay Wiesner (Bethany Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN).  The ELCA ordains homosexuals, but requires them to be celibate.  Just ten years ago, two San Francisco churches were expelled from the denomination for appointing ministers who were openly living with their homosexual partners.

'Rejuvenated' Church Prays for Kidnapped Soldier in Iraq
Charisma News Service

An Ohio congregation prayed this weekend for a kidnapped soldier in Iraq who previously attended the church. About 900 people attended two morning services Sunday at First Baptist Church of Glen Este, near where Pfc. Keith M. Maupin grew up. Known as Matt, Maupin, 20, has been missing since his convoy was attacked April 9 outside Baghdad. In footage shown last Friday on Arab television, Maupin did not appear hurt, but was surrounded by insurgents who offered to exchange him for imprisoned Iraqis. During his congregation's patriotic service, First Baptist Church pastor Brent Snook quoted from Proverbs -- "Hope deferred makes the heart sick"-- to show the congregants that they must have faith in God's plan for Maupin. "People here really understand that it's going to be faith in Jesus Christ that brings Matt back to us. We believe prayer is what's going to deliver him," Snook says. Photos of Maupin in uniform and as a teenager were projected on a screen behind the pulpit. The Cincinnati-area congregation will hold an outdoor service in support of Maupin and other American troops tomorrow night. An Army reservist, Maupin, who has been in Iraq for two months, was the first U.S. serviceman and second American confirmed kidnapped in a recent string of abductions.