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Religion Today Summaries, April 23, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, April 23, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians

In Today's Edition:

  • Yemeni Man Testifies That He Killed American Missionaries
  • Pastor Found Guilty on Gay Wedding Charge, Cleared on Ordination Charge
  • Christians in Nigeria Defy Ban on Easter Celebrations
  • Crime Scene Greets Easter Worshipers

Yemeni Man Testifies That He Killed American Missionaries

(RNS) A Yemeni man suspected of having ties to al-Qaida has testified that he killed three American missionaries at a Southern Baptist hospital because he believed they were trying to convert Muslims. Abed Abdul Razak Kamel told a court in Jibla, Yemen, on Sunday (April 20) that he planned the Dec. 30 attack for a year and a half, the Associated Press reported. "I acted out of a religious duty ... and in revenge for those who converted Muslims from their religion and made them unbelievers," said Kamel at the opening of his trial in southern Yemen. The 30-year-old man said he entered the hospital hiding a semiautomatic rifle under his clothes and then opened fire on a staff meeting, shooting each of his targets twice. Kamel further testified he traveled to Jibla in July 2001 and began to scout his target by frequently visiting the hospital and asking about its activities. "I found out that they were truly converting Muslims into Christians," he said. Residents of Jibla have said the Americans working at the hospital never discussed religion. Yemeni law bars non-Muslims from proselytizing in the country, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.

Pastor Found Guilty on Gay Wedding Charge, Cleared on Ordination Charge
Kevin Eckstrom

    (RNS) A Presbyterian court has found a Cincinnati minister guilty of presiding at weddings for same-sex couples, but refused to suspend him or remove him from his pulpit. The Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken was formally "rebuked" for presiding at gay weddings and was acquitted of a charge that he broke church law by ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians as pastors and elders. Van Kuiken acknowledged both acts. Van Kuiken, pastor of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, said he will appeal his guilty verdict to a regional court. He said he would continue to marry gay couples and ordain openly gay church officers. "I just have to be true to myself, and that's the best I can do," he told reporters after the verdict was released Monday (April 21). "Our congregation has always felt that these ceremonies are marriages in every way. ... Gay people are equal." The Presbyterian Church (USA) allows same-sex unions as long as they are not equated with marriage. Both sides agree this will probably not be Van Kuiken's last court appearance. A dissenting member of the court, Charles H. Brown said, "All of us will be forced to go through this exercise again" because of Van Kuiken's promised defiance.

Christians in Nigeria Defy Ban on Easter Celebrations
Obed Minchakpu

(Compass) Christians in Nigeria defied a three-day ban on Easter celebrations across the country and trekked to their many churches to participate in Holy Week services. Police officials ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew from Friday to Sunday and designated Saturday a no-travel day in order to stem electoral fraud and political violence as the country held its presidential and gubernatorial elections. Church leaders, however, denounced the ban as a deliberate attempt to curtail the religious liberty of Christians. “The restriction was an attempt to prevent Christians from celebrating Easter,” said Dr. Olusola Ajolore, Kwara State Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria. Two Christians were killed and several others injured on Saturday evening in political violence while returning from worship services in the city of Ilorin. International observers certified the elections as “free and fair,” though chaotic, and expressed relief that fewer than expected incidents of political violence occurred.

Crime Scene Greets Easter Worshipers

(Charisma News) People arriving for the Easter service at a New Jersey church Sunday found it turned into a crime scene. Black and yellow caution tape hung from the doors of Calvary Bible Church in Somers Point, as pastor James McCartney used the theme of the TV series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" to preach on the Resurrection. "Over 2,000 years ago there was a crime," he told the congregation, "The Press of Atlantic City" reported. "This crime was committed against God and all of humanity." McCartney examined the evidence for Jesus' return to life, dismissing the chances of a mass hallucination. "Over 500 disciples having the same hallucination for 40 days," he said. "They must have had better drugs than in the '70s." Ellen Levonchuck, attending her first service at the church, told the "Press" it was "very moving." "We want to try to connect with people whose lives are outside the church," said associate pastor Mike Hall.  www.charismanews.com