Religion Today Summaries, August 5, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, August 5, 2003

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

  • Assemblies of God Oks 'Divorced Marriage'
  • Church Opening Blocked by Authorities
  • Terrorist Activity Continues in Peru
  • British Church Bells Will Toll for David Kelly

Assemblies of God OKs 'Divorced Marriage'
Charisma News Service

The Assemblies of God (AG) Church General Council has approved a controversial resolution giving its 33,000 ministers more authority to officiate at weddings of people who have been divorced. Last Thursday, a resolution was approved by a show of hands by the 3,734 delegates to the denomination's biennial convention in Washington, D.C. "This is not a statement in favor of divorce," said Michael Jackson, a pastor from Wisconsin, who sponsored the resolution. Instead, Jackson said, the resolution empowers pastors to make their own decisions about who should marry for the 2.7 million-member Pentecostal denomination. Under current church law, ministers can only officiate at the weddings of church members who were divorced because of adultery or abandonment. Phil Nissley, a pastor from Taylor, Mich., unsuccessfully urged the general council, composed of delegates and pastors, to reject the change. "It's time to uphold traditional values, godly values," said Nissley, who pointed out that President Bush spoke a day earlier about the importance of marriage. The council also voted to include women ministers in the governing body of the church. There are no women among the church's top 17 elected officials, said AG spokeswoman Juleen Turnage. 

Church Opening Blocked by Authorities
Barnabas Fund News

Authorities in Sheikh Zied City, Egypt, are opposed to a newly built church and have gone to extreme lengths to disrupt the official opening. Prayers of dedication for the church were due to be held in early July at an official celebration of the church's opening; however on that very day the authorities cut off the electricity and water to the building and even barricaded all the roads leading to the church. Each road had a deep trench dug across it with a correspondingly high bank alongside. The congregation had decided to construct a building that looked like an office, though a church on the inside. This decision had been reached because it would be extremely difficult for them to get official authorization through the correct channels. In addition to the normal permission, Egyptian law requires presidential approval to build a new church. This comes from a nineteenth century Ottoman regulation. It is a slow bureaucratic process, which can take many years, and does not always result in success. To repair or renovate a church, permission must be sought from local governors. Whilst this is less bureaucratic, local governors are prone to prejudice against Christians. The Church in Egypt is often faced with the dilemma of either not applying for official permission, or having no building at all.

Terrorist Activity Continues in Peru
Charisma News Service

Terrorists have threatened a pastor with death on several occasions, once beating him up badly because his church members refused to attend indoctrination classes in a nearby village. A mission leader, whose ministry sends missionaries frequently among the Yanesha and Ashaninka tribes of Central Peru, said the incident was part of an increase of terrorist activity in that region since March. He said armed terrorist youths visit isolated villages to give political talks, ask for donations of food, steal medicines from the health post, and forcefully recruit young people and children. The leader urged Christians to pray for God's protection from violence. "Fifteen years ago, when terrorism was bad in Peru, the united prayers of God's people brought an end to the violence," he said. "Now we call upon God's people once more to beseech God to put an end to the rapidly spreading violence in Peru, before we have another bloodbath."

British Church Bells Will Toll for David Kelly
Robert Nowell, Religion News Service

As a mark of respect for Dr. David Kelly, the Ministry of Defense scientist who apparently committed suicide over his role in the controversy about Iraq weapons, many churches throughout the country are planning to toll their mourning bells at the time of his funeral.  Kelly apparently committed suicide after being exposed as the source for a BBC story about how the British government manipulated its intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.   His death has created more turmoil for the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair among a population that largely opposed the war against Iraq and where there was widespread skepticism about whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  Kelly's funeral is set for Wednesday (Aug. 6).  Among churches taking part will be Shrewsbury Abbey, Truro Cathedral and Bristol's historic church of St. Mary Redcliffe.   Exactly how many churches will be involved will not be known until the actual time, since the bell-ringing is in the nature of a spontaneous gesture as a mark of respect for Kelly and as an indication that people's thoughts and prayers are with his family.