Religion Today Summaries, April 29, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, April 29, 2003

Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news
stories impacting Christians

In Today's Edition:

  • N.C. Church Faces Expulsion for Baptizing 2 Homosexual Men
  • Southern Baptist International Missions May Face Budget Shortfall
  • Churches Praise Hungary's Court "Pro-Life" Ruling
  • Canadian Pilgrims Kept Away From Massachusetts Shrine

N.C. Church Faces Expulsion for Baptizing 2 Homosexual Men

(BP) A North Carolina Baptist church may be removed from its association for baptizing two homosexual men.  The Cabarrus Baptist Association will meet April 28 to discuss the possible expulsion of McGill Baptist Church for baptizing two homosexual men in March, The Charlotte Observer reported.  The controversy centers on whether the men were repentant before they were baptized, Cabarrus director of missions Randy Wadford told the Observer.  "It's understood that when a person comes to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, a conversion experience occurs, and repentance takes place in the life of the person," he said.  But McGill Baptist Church pastor Steve Ayers said churches should be more inclusive.  "I think salvation is between them and God," he told the newspaper. "I'm not going to exclude anybody from God's Kingdom."  Wadford wrote the church recently, saying, "It [homosexuality] is a sinful lifestyle. ... The Cabarrus Baptist Association must take a stand against any of our churches supporting or condoning this lifestyle. To allow individuals into the membership of a local church without evidence or testimony of true repentance is to condone the old lifestyle," the Observer reported him as writing.

Southern Baptist International Missions May Face Budget Shortfall
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) The Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board is weighing options to deal with an expected shortfall of millions of dollars in its budget of $290 million.  “This budget challenge is not due to diminished giving on the part of Southern Baptists," said board president Jerry Rankin in a Friday (April 25) announcement.  "The challenge is that we allowed our missionary force to grow at a faster rate than giving was increasing. Incremental increases in giving cannot keep up with the amazing growth of the missionary force."  Board officials cite two years of missionary appointments exceeding 1,000 and lower resignation rates as reasons for overspending the missionary support budget. Investments also generated less than usual income for the budget due to the stock market's downturn.  The final total for an annual offering that helps fund the mission board's efforts is expected on May 31, but projections are that the shortfall could be about $10 million of the $125 million projected in the 2003 budget for that offering.  Trustees will meet in early May to discuss options such as restricting staff travel and cancellation of some events.

Churches Praise Hungary's Court "Pro-Life" Ruling
Stefan J. Bos

(ANS) Referring to the "suffering of Jesus Christ" at the cross, Hungarian church leaders praised Monday, April 28, the Hungarian Constitutional Court's rejection of a law suit to legalize euthanasia.  Court President Janos Nemeth said, "Euthanasia has only been made legal recently in Belgium, in the Netherlands and in a state in the United States" and that Hungary's laws should not be changed.  He added that terminally ill patients can already refuse medical care if they wish as the country has allowed a passive form of euthanasia since 1997.  The court's decision followed a decade long debate in the former Communist country that began in earnest in 1993 when Gyorgyi Binder drowned her 11-year old daughter in a bathtub to end the child's suffering of an incurable disease.  She was initially handed a two-year suspended sentence, but the Supreme Court overturned the decision, saying that Binder had to go to jail for two years for manslaughter. Following that case, constitutional jurist Albert Takacs and lawyer Ildiko Kmetty sued the Constitutional Court to rule that such cases should not be treated as manslaughter.  Monday's ruling however re-enforced the opinion that euthanasia should be punished.

Canadian Pilgrims Kept Away From Massachusetts Shrine

(RNS) Organizers of North America's largest religious pilgrimage told 11 expected busloads of Canadian pilgrims to stay home because of SARS-related health concerns.  More than 20,000 people descended on the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., on Sunday (April 27) for the annual Feast of Divine Mercy.  State health officials, worried about contamination from a SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in Toronto, asked the Marians of the Immaculate Conception to keep the Canadian pilgrims away.  "It wasn't an easy decision," Kathleen Ervin, a spokeswoman for the order, told the Boston Herald.  Joselyn Isadore, an epidemiologist from the Department of Public Health, said officials did not want to take chances. "If someone were coming from Toronto, they could be in the early stages of this disease. They may be infectious and, in coming to a public place with a large gathering of people, there's the potential of spreading it," she said.  State officials told organizers that Canadian pilgrims would have to be questioned, screened, given warning cards and possibly separated from the rest of the assembly, according to the Boston Globe.  First aid attendants said they did not see any SARS-like illnesses during the festivities.