Religion Today Summaries, August 4, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, August 4, 2003

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

  • Bush's 'Heterosexual Marriage' Stance Praised
  • Baptist Pastor Seeks to Pay White Visitors to Diversify Congregation
  • Indonesian Pastor Released, Persecution Continues
  • Gay Bishop Clears First Hurdle in Episcopal Church

Bush's 'Heterosexual Marriage' Stance Praised
Charisma News Service

Christian pro-family groups are praising President Bush's statements this week for saying he believes marriage "is between a man and a woman." "There is a real movement for same-sex marriage, and if the president doesn't intervene, and if he doesn't take leadership in this area, we could lose marriage in this country the way we know it," said Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "I think the president is doing the right thing." Roberta Combs, head of the Christian Coalition, said.  Even as he made it clear that he did not support the idea of gay marriage, Bush appeared to issue a call for tolerance.  "Yes, I am mindful that we're all sinners," the president told reporters at a White House news conference Wednesday when asked for his views on homosexuality "I think it's very important for our society to respect each individual," Bush added. "On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage." Administration lawyers are looking for some way to legally limit marriage to heterosexuals. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or another," Bush said. Last month, Bush declined to support a constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriages.

Baptist Pastor Seeks to Pay White Visitors to Diversify Congregation
Religion News Service

Observing that "churches are too segregated," the pastor of a black congregation in Shreveport, La., says his church will pay white people to attend services this month to increase the fellowship's diversity. Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Baptist Church Bishop Fred Caldwell said he will pay $5 per hour for Sunday services and $10 an hour for the Thursday service. The idea came to him during his sermon last Sunday. "Our churches are too segregated, and the Lord never intended for that to happen. It's time for something radical," he said. Caldwell's unorthodox initiative is based on a parable from Matthew 20:1-16, the story of the workers in the vineyard. A landowner hired men to work in his fields for the day and throughout the day kept seeking more workers. No matter what time they came to work, the workers were all paid the same. Since his concept started attracting media attention, Caldwell said he has had several positive responses from the white community and expects to put out extra chairs this Sunday. One man who called didn't want the money, he just appreciated the invitation, Caldwell said.

Indonesian Pastor Released, Persecution Continues
Charisma News Service

A pastor jailed who served more than three years and nine months for allegedly proselytizing a Muslim girl has been released. Robert Marthinus who was imprisoned in July 1999 in Padang, West Sumatra, was recently released. Marthinus was jailed along with five other Christians for helping a teenage Muslim girl who came to them because she had been rejected by her family after becoming a Christian. Indonesian Christians said local Muslim extremists mounted an elaborate "sting operation" against the Christian leaders, who were imprisoned. Meanwhile, Muslim radicals are reportedly harassing churches in Bekasi, West Java. Groups such as the Front Hizbullah, supported by the local government, are destroying unlicensed church buildings and ordering Christians to cease their religious activities. Hendra Undas, pastor of the Indonesian Charismatic Church in New Cikarang, said a Muslim mob recently entered his church during a worship service. "They shocked us by coming in a huge crowd, along with local civil servants and policemen. The mob asked us to stop the service."

Gay Bishop Clears First Hurdle in Episcopal Church
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

The Episcopal Church on Friday (Aug. 1) made its first official endorsement of an openly gay priest to serve as the next bishop of New Hampshire.  The Rev. V. Gene Robinson was elected as the church's first openly gay bishop on June 7. Robinson's election needs to be certified by bishops, clergy and lay delegates to the General Convention meeting in Minneapolis. Conservatives have threatened to lead a schism if Robinson is confirmed.  On Friday, a committee of lay and clergy delegates approved Robinson's nomination after two hours of emotional testimony. The committee's vote tally was not announced, according to Episcopal News Service.  The House of Deputies, comprised of more than 800 lay and clergy delegates, must ratify Robinson's election, and those of nine other bishops, on Sunday.  If the House of Deputies approves Robinson, his election will then need to be certified by the church's House of Bishops. That hearing is scheduled for today or tomorrow.  The 2.3 million-member church will also debate whether to create liturgies to bless same-sex unions during the convention that ends on Aug. 8.