Religion Today Summaries, July 16, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, July 16, 2003

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

  • Eritrean Christian Still Jailed in Saudi Arabia 
  • United Church of Christ Urges Boy Scouts to Change Gay Policy
  • Children Who Are Attending Church Not Being Impacted, Research Shows
  • Priest Released in Sudan

Eritrean Christian Still Jailed in Saudi Arabia 
Barbara Baker, Compass Direct

As soon as Girmaye Ambaye pays off a traffic fine, the Eritrean Christian jailed nearly four months ago for prohibited "Christian activities" can be deported from Saudi Arabia back to his home country. A little less than $300, the alleged fine appeared on government computers last week, when the Eritrean Consulate was finalizing the paperwork for Ambaye's exit permit and formal deportation. Ambaye, 42, has been jailed since March 25 at the Bremen deportation center in Jeddah. He became active in an Ethiopian-Eritrean Christian congregation in Jeddah five years ago. "I was arrested because the police caught me preaching the gospel," Ambaye commented yesterday. "They told me that there is no pardon in Saudi Arabia for proselytizing, and that I must leave the country." Ambaye said he does not have the money to pay the fine and wonders if authorities are in fact using it as a ruse to demand a bribe. "But I am all right here," he said, despite a persistent cough from the dozens of heavy smokers crowded into his cell. "I am happy in Jesus Christ even here."

United Church of Christ Urges Boy Scouts to Change Gay Policy
Alexandra Alter, Religion News Service

The General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) has pressed the Boy Scouts of America to allow gay youth to join the organization. "Discrimination against anyone based on sexual orientation is contrary to our understanding of the teachings of Christ," delegates said in a resolution adopted Sunday. During a debate at their biennial meeting, UCC representatives said the Boy Scouts' exclusion of gay youth conflicts with its otherwise tolerant policies. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Scouts have a right, as a private organization, to exclude gay members and leaders. The resolution, which does not speak for the UCC's 1.4 million members, supports churches that maintain ties with Boy Scout councils and those that choose to sever relations. Some councils have ended relations with UCC churches that are open to people of all sexual orientations. One volunteer scout leader said, "I ask you to reconsider this attack on an American institution...this has everything to do with (gay) activists enlisting Scouting into their crusade."  James Florez, national spokesman for Boy Scouts of America, said, "We believe that the values this organization lives by are worth upholding. We ask that they respect our views and our rights to uphold certain standards of membership and leadership as we see fit."

Children Who Are Attending Church Not Being Impacted, Research Shows
Baptist News Press

A majority of America's teenagers, 56 percent, attended church-related activities an average of at least twice a month when younger, but few of them received Christ or developed a biblical worldview while there, new research by Christian researcher, George Barna, shows. However, of all those teens, only 53 percent said they understood "the Bible so that every decision you make is based on biblical principles." In a news release, Barna said, "the result of [teens'] involvement at a church is that they can recite some religious facts, they made some friends, and they had fun... For most teenagers who have spent years attending church activities their faith is not integrated into who they are and how they live."  Eight out of 10 teens who attended church activities said they gained an important "insight" from their attendance. Twenty-six percent said they received general information about God -- such as the teachings of Christ. Seventeen percent said they had gained core religious beliefs from the Bible. Twenty-one percent said they learned nothing of value. "Unfortunately...most of the young people who claim they developed an understanding of the Bible that enables them to make decisions based on biblical principles show no evidence of using that understanding in relation to the core beliefs and lifestyle choices that we studied," Barna said. (

Priest Released in Sudan
Compass Direct

Six weeks after a Sudanese court jailed an Episcopal priest for refusing to tear down his own church, the Rev. Samuel Dobai Amum has been set free, with the legal process set in motion for his parish to obtain official ownership of its land. Amum was sent to prison on April 7 for an "indefinite sentence" until he either demolished St. Matthew's Parish or paid 7 million Sudanese dinars (about $2,700) to purchase the land on which he had built it 11 years ago. The priest did not have such a huge sum of money, and would not personally destroy a house built in God's name. The day before Amum's release, a small Christian delegation from the United States met with Amum. In response to specific questioning, Amum told his visitors that he had been beaten while in prison. Local Sudanese Christians had raised a total of 2.6 million dinars ($1,000) towards the purchase of the land. The Calvary Chapel delegation promptly declared they would cover the remaining 4.4 million dinars. When they raised Amum's case later that night with Sudanese government officials, they were given a firm promise: If the 7 million dinars was paid in full to the court, Amum would be released the same day.