Religion Today Summaries, August 11, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, August 11, 2003

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

  • Christian Coalition Divides Over 'Biblical Principles' Tax Plan
  • News About Fallen Leader Doesn't Change Truth of Ex-'Gay' Message
  • Germany's Cardinals Publicly Quarrel Over Exumenical Event
  • Despite Rampant Persecution, Indian Ministry Successful in Baptisms

Christian Coalition Divides Over `Biblical Principles' Tax Plan
Alexandra Alter, Religion News Service

The Christian Coalition of America has endorsed Alabama Gov. Bob Riley's tax plan after the group's state affiliate rejected it. A conservative Republican and Southern Baptist, Riley proposed a $1.2 billion tax plan that would raise taxes for the wealthiest families and relieve the poor.  "Gov. Riley has said many times that there are three things he has found in reading the New Testament. We are to love God, love our neighbor and take care of the poorest of the poor," Riley's press secretary said. Riley's plan, which passed the state legislature in June and faces a Sept. 9 referendum, fills a $675 million shortfall in Alabama's budget and would exempt families who make as little as $4,600 a year from paying taxes. In a statement released Wednesday, Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America, said she supports Riley's tax plan.  But Alabama's Christian Coalition, which opposes the plan, expressed irritation over Combs' statement, calling it a "dramatic departure" from the organization's views.  "It is unprecedented to have a national organization change their position on a core issue, without notifying their board or leadership," Alabama Christian Coalition chairman John Giles said in a statement. "We maintain that poor stewardship got us into this financial mess and the biblical principle of good stewardship will get us out."

News About Fallen Leader Doesn't Change Truth of Ex-'Gay' Message
Michael Foust, Baptist Press News

News that a prominent member of the ex-"gay" movement has fallen into sexual sin should not overshadow the success of the movement itself, Christian leaders say. An upcoming book, "Anything But Straight," as well as several homosexual newspapers are reporting that Michael Johnston, who appeared before Southern Baptist Convention messengers in 2000, fell back into homosexuality after saying he had been freed from the lifestyle through his faith in Christ. The reports -- confirmed by his friends -- say that Johnston had unprotected sex with men but failed to tell them that he was HIV-positive. Johnston has repented and is undergoing Christian counseling. While the news is being touted as another sign that homosexuality is genetic, the focus instead should be on the thousands of former homosexuals who have experienced freedom through Christ, Alan Chambers, the head of Exodus International, a nonprofit organization that ministers to homosexuals, said. Chambers himself is a former homosexual. The new book, "Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth," by homosexual activist Wayne Besen, is sure to add to the debate. Tim Wilkins, director of Cross Ministry, said that, "the ultimate goal for the person with unwanted same-sex attractions is, as with any sinner, to become a follower of Jesus Christ, which in turn brings freedom from homosexuality and restores his true identity." 

Germany's Cardinals Publicly Quarrel Over Ecumenical Event
David Anderson, Religion News Service

A verbal battle between three German Roman Catholic cardinals has broken out in the newspapers over a major ecumenical gathering that took place in Berlin earlier this year. The event, the Ecumenical Kirchentag, brought 200,000 people to Berlin
at the end of May for what many believe was the largest official gathering of Protestants and Roman Catholics.  At the time, senior Catholic officials called the event "a great step forward on the path of Christian ecumenism."  But in recent weeks Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the conservative doctrinal watchdog at the Vatican, criticized the event as "shallow." Cardinal Joachim Meisner said the Kirchentag had created "confusion" in Catholic parishes. But Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the head of German Catholics, in an article published in newspapers stated "openly my disagreement for the sake of justice and truth" with Ratzinger and Meisner. A major issue in the dispute -- and at the festival -- was the question of intercommunion between Protestants and Catholics. During the Berlin event, calls for easing of the Catholic ban on intercommunion were greeted with applause and, in some instances, standing ovations.  Lehmann noted that Pope John Paul II had sent a message to the event in which the pontiff called it "a great ecumenical sign that what unites Christians in faith is stronger and more significant than what divides them."

Despite Rampant Persecution, Indian Ministry Successful in Baptisms
John Lindner, Christian Aid Report

Though anti-Christian activities by radical Hindus hinder many new believers from following the Lord in public baptism, one ministry in India told Christian Aid it is recording two baptisms every hour. The ministry, which had over 2000 missionaries on the field early this year, baptized nearly two people every hour last year. This year, even though the ministry had to close all 21 of its regional Bible schools due to lack of funds, its workers together still baptized almost two people every hour. Every day they planted at least one pioneer church somewhere in South Asia, bringing its total number of church plants to over 3700. Meanwhile, its main Bible college in the state of Punjab is overflowing with more students than it can accommodate. The leader asks prayer that God would provide so that at least half its regional Bible training centers could reopen next year.