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Religion Today Summaries, January 14, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, January 14, 2004

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

  • ECUSA Leader Doesn't Grasp Seriousness of Rift, Conservative Says

  • Former California Casino ‘Reborn’ as Pentecostal Church

  • Senior Citizens Labeled 'Heroes' in Texas Battle for Religious Freedoms 

  • Islamic Militants Suspects for Bomb, Indonesian Christian Persecution

ECUSA Leader Doesn't Grasp Seriousness of Rift, Conservative Says
Jim Brown, Agape Press

The leader of the Episcopal Church USA continues to downplay divisions in his denomination over the consecration of an openly homosexual bishop. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold helped consecrate New Hampshire Bishop Vicki Gene Robinson in November, despite the opposition of conservative Episcopalians and many Anglicans worldwide.  In his sermon on Sunday at Washington National Cathedral, Griswold said Episcopalians who believe the Bible condemns homosexuality may be deceived. "Satan frequently masquerades as an angel of light," Griswold said, adding:  "Beware of zeal in the name of righteousness, devoid of mercy and compassion.  Beware of visions of an unblemished Church built upon judgment rather than love." However, Rev. Martyn Minns with the American Anglican Council says Griswold underestimates the extent of the rift over Robinson's ordination. "I don't sense yet whether or not he has fully grasped the problem that we're in," Minns says.  "And I'm still not convinced that he recognizes the offense [that] both the action that has been taken and the way it has been taken [have] brought to the wider Anglican Church -- and to those of us who disagree with it." Three-thousand conservative Episcopalians met over the weekend in Virginia to consider their place in the denomination in the wake of the decision by ECUSA's leadership to consecrate Robinson.  A new Network of Conservative Anglican Dioceses and Parishes will be meeting next Monday and Tuesday in Plano, Texas, to formalize the group.

Former California Casino ‘Reborn’ as Pentecostal Church
Charisma News Service

A former California casino reopened its doors this weekend to a different crowd - worshipers. About 1,300 parishioners and guests were anticipated Sunday for the "grand opening rebirth" of the former Vineyard Casino to Vineyard Worship Centre Church, an Assemblies of God congregation. The denomination provided the $2 million to buy the property. Senior pastor, Rod Haro doesn't see a stigma attached to the former 49,000-square foot gambling center in Fowler, located near Fresno. He believed that God would someday use this "former sinful site" for the betterment of his church, referring to a passage from Proverbs that says the wealth of the wicked will be given to those who follow God. "People are hungry," said Haro, 48, who started the church in April 2002 and has seen its active membership grow to more than 700. "They are not hungry for church, they are hungry for a movement of God.” The casino closed its doors in January 1997, less than a year after it opened. Haro said for years, as he passed by the casino, he thought how "that building would make a great church." Associate pastor Marty Lynch, who started the church with Haro, said "God orchestrated" the purchase of the casino, which initially had a $12 million asking price.

Senior Citizens Labeled 'Heroes' in Texas Battle for Religious Freedoms
Allie Martin, Agape Press

The U.S. Justice Department has accepted an agreement between members of a senior citizens center in a Dallas suburb and city officials which provides religious freedoms for the elderly residents. Last year, city officials in Balch Springs told residents attending daily meetings at the local senior citizens center that they could no longer pray over their meals, sing gospel music, or have inspirational messages from the Bible presented in the building.  The ban was put in place by City Manager Kandi Hubert after two residents of the center complained about a lack of separation of Church and State. Liberty Legal Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of the seniors, and the Department of Justice opened an investigation of the city. Now Liberty president Kelly Shackelford says a settlement has been reached.  "We've just filed an Agreed Judgment [that] not only gets the senior citizens all of the religious freedoms that they have requested from the very beginning, but it also awards them money damages as well," the attorney explains. The Balch Springs city council accepted the resignation of City Manager Hubert after the agreement was announced. Shackelford says the case should serve as a lesson to others about the First Amendment rights of citizens in a public place. 

Islamic Militants Suspects for Bomb, Indonesian Christian Persecution
Voice of the Martyrs

A bomb went off in cafe in the town of Palopo on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, on January 10, 2004 (10:15 pm local time) killing 4 people. No one has claimed responsibility but Sulawesi is home to one of the largest concentrations of Christians in Indonesia and its Christians have been attacked repeatedly in the last couple of months (especially in the Poso area) by Islamic militants. Thirty-five Christians have been murdered in the last few months.