Religion Today Summaries, August 22, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, August 22, 2003

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

  • Judge to Reconsider Ruling on Church Land-Use Law
  • Teenage Christians Jailed at Eritrean Military Camp
  • Bomb Attack on Christian Concert in Serbia
  • ‘Emerging Churches’ Sprout in Seattle

Judge to Reconsider Ruling on Church Land-Use Law
Religion News Service

A Los Angeles federal judge has agreed to reconsider his earlier ruling that declared parts of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson had alarmed some lawyers and religious leaders when he ruled in June that the federal law aimed at helping houses of worship overcome land-use disputes violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law. On Aug. 11 he put his decision on hold and, at the request of attorneys for the Elsinore Christian Center agreed to reconsider it. The church sued the city of Lake Elsinore in 2001 after it was denied a conditional-use permit to move into a former grocery store building. Wilson said the church might be able to pursue its case under the commerce clause of the Constitution. If it did that, there would be no need for him to decide about the constitutionality of the religious land use act. The judge has delayed a final ruling for four months to give opposing sides of the legal matter time to conduct discovery and depositions. Wilson, who called the three-year-old law "a blunderbuss of a remedy,” thought it unfairly prevented local authorities from making legitimate land-use decisions "simply because the aggrieved landowner is a religious actor."

Teenage Christians Jailed at Eritrean Military Camp
Compass Direct

More than 60 teenage Eritrean students caught with Bibles at a compulsory military training camp have been arrested and subjected to severe punishment over the past two days. Documented reports from the tiny East Africa nation confirm that military commanders at the Sawa Military Training Camp ordered a search of students’ personal effects. On August 19, they confiscated Bibles from 35 Protestant students, put them under arrest and subjected them to severe torture. The following day, another 27 teenage believers were incarcerated with them. The youths are reportedly locked in metal shipping containers with no light, high temperatures and a limited oxygen supply. This week’s arrests bring to 213 the known total of evangelical Christians currently jailed for their faith in Eritrea, due to a harsh government crackdown launched last February. The country’s independent Pentecostal and charismatic churches now have some 20,000 adherents, most of them emerging from a mushrooming renewal movement begun five years ago within the Orthodox Church.

Bomb Attack on Christian Concert in Serbia
Elizabeth Kendel, ASSIST News Service

Every year the Church of God in Serbia and Montenegro runs a series of week-long youth camps at its camp site in Vrdnik (60 miles north-west of Belgrade). A major highlight of the camps is a public music concert held at the public stage in the city centre. The concert has Council approval, is registered with the police and there have never been any complaints. This year a German Pentecostal youth band from Heidelberg led the concert. However, only one hour into the 8 August concert, the electricity cables were cut through with an axe. Power was eventually restored and the concert resumed. One hour later there was an explosion to the right of the concert area. Examination of the area revealed that gunpowder had been used, shrapnel had been blown around the area, and two cars destroyed. Police confirmed that the explosion resulted from a “shock-bomb three times stronger than a regular hand grenade.” Whilst there were no injuries, the 8 August 2003 attack on the Christian music is an audacious attack that could have resulted in multiple fatalities or injuries and is a serious escalation in violence.

‘Emerging Churches’ Sprout in Seattle
Charisma News Service

The Northwest is widely known for its low church attendance, but Seattle is the home of a growing number of worship centers - which are being started and attracting people in their 20s and 30s who say neither traditional nor contemporary churches speak to them. According to "The Seattle Times," ministers of the new types of congregations call themselves "emerging churches," dedicated to finding alternative ways of presenting the message of Christ - ways that they say are more in line with current culture. "I genuinely believe that God is raising up a new generation of 20- and 30-year-olds that are reinventing and bringing renewal to the church," said Tom Sine, of Mustard Seed Associates, which tries to come up with creative ways churches can respond to a changing culture. "It's a breath of fresh air for the church."  Such churches include Seattle Urban Foursquare, which meets in a pizza parlor; Emmaus Road, which has doubled in membership every 18 months since forming six years ago; Grace Church Seattle, which attracts about 230 people to its weekly services; Quest, which recently opened a 4,500-square-foot coffeehouse/community center; and the Mars Hill Church, which moved earlier this year to a 40,000-square-foot warehouse. "They value experiential, intuitive experiences of God. They meet anywhere - from churches to members' houses to restaurants and cafes," reported the “Times.”