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Religion Today Summaries - December 14, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 14, 2004

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

  • Church's 'Skipping Christmas' Campaign Focuses on God's Gift

  • Another NY Court Upholds Traditional Marriage 

  • China: Prominent House-Church Leader Arrested For Religious Activities

  • Indonesian Pastor Kidnapped, Still Missing

Church's 'Skipping Christmas' Campaign Focuses on God's Gift
Charisma News Service

Move over Scrooge, a church in Kentucky is skipping Christmas -- sort of. Crossroads Christian Church in Lexington isn't suggesting bailing out on the celebration altogether, just the bad parts such as the stress, getting into debt and huge crowds, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. "We want to encourage people not to get so caught up in the trappings of the season that they miss the heart of what Christmas is about," said Fred Turner, a pastor at the church. "We are not calling for people not to buy presents or put up trees, but we are trying to turn the focus on the things that matter." Turner said the church got the idea from John Grisham's newest book, Skipping Christmas, which has been made into the movie Christmas with the Kranks, starring Tim Allen. Crossroads Christian began a series of weekly discussions on the "Skipping Christmas" campaign that focus on helping the community find simplicity, joy, rest, belonging and Jesus, while skipping the loneliness, obligations and rush that come with the holiday. The last session will be on Christmas Eve. "We really think this is important because the heart of Christmas needs to be getting back to who Jesus is and why He cares," Turner told The Lexington Herald-Leader. (http://www.charismanow.com)

Another NY Court Upholds Traditional Marriage
Bill Fancher, AgapePress

A second New York court has ruled that the state's definition of marriage as exclusively being between a man and a woman is, indeed, constitutional. Last week Albany County Justice Joseph Teresi rejected arguments by 13 same-sex couples in the case of Samuels v. New York State Department of Health, claiming that the state's definition of marriage violated constitutional guarantees of free speech, equal protection, and due process. Mat Staver is president of Liberty Counsel, which filed a brief in the case urging the court to uphold the state's marriage laws. Staver is encouraged by Teresi's ruling, but he points out that the matter is by no means settled. The good news, the attorney explains, is that the Albany County court is now the second court to rule on the marriage protection issue in New York, a state that "is not necessarily known for conservative courts; and that state has now twice, in two different venues, upheld the marriage laws." The court rejected the discrimination argument presented by the group of pro-homosexual disputants.  Judge Teresi found no merit in the pro-homosexual couples' claims that preventing same-sex couples from marrying violates their right to free expression.

China: Prominent House-Church Leader Arrested For Religious Activities
Charisma News Service

One of the country's most prominent house-church leaders was recently arrested for his religious activities. According to The Voice of the Martyrs (VOTM), pastor Zhang Rongliang, 53, was detained on Dec. 1 in Xuzhai village in Zhengzhou, located in Henan Province. He has not been heard from since. Rongliang's wife and children were not at home when the arrest occurred, and they are now in hiding. At least three house churches in the Fangcheng area were also raided after Rongliang's arrest, including the house of Xiao Min's parents. Min has been sought by authorities because of her prolific writing of Chinese worship songs known as the "Canaan Hymns." Rongliang is the leader of the Fangcheng Mother Church, and he heads the China for Christ Church, which is one of the largest house-church networks in the country, with more than 10 million members. Rongliang is the co-author of the "House Churches of China's Confession of Faith and Declaration," which was published in 1999. He has been featured in a number of international books and articles in Newsweek, Time, Charisma and Christianity Today magazines. Rongliang has already spent 12 years in prison for his faith during five separate detentions since his secret baptism in 1969. His arrest comes in the midst of a crackdown on China's house churches. (http://www.charismanow.com)

Indonesian Pastor Kidnapped, Still Missing
Compass Direct

Rev. Jarok Ratu, 35, is still missing 10 days after a group of unidentified men kidnapped him in the early hours of December 3. National media reports suggested the kidnappers were looking for funds recently donated for the construction of a new church building. Ratu's wife said the intruders initially asked for money and searched the house before leaving with Ratu, saying they would only "borrow him" and that they intended to release him. Villagers who searched for Ratu on the following day found only the T-shirt he was wearing that night, marked with three bullet holes, laying on the beach near his home. Police have arrested one suspect in connection with the disappearance, but at press time, the investigation was still continuing.