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Religion Today Summaries, July 20, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, July 20, 2004

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

  • Massive FMA Support Has Politicians Concerned
  • Arizona Teen Ministry Facing Abuse Allegations Sues State
  • China: Attacks Stepped Up on 'Illegal' Religious Activity
  • Despite Terrorist Threat, Die-Hards Still Go For Short-Term Missions

Massive FMA Support Has Politicians Concerned
Agape Press

The head of a Christian legal organization says Capitol Hill has been shaken by the voices of Americans who support traditional marriage and want it protected from judicial efforts to redefine it.  Despite losing the vote that would have ended a Democratic filibuster of the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), the voices of pro-family Americans have been heard -- and it has many elected officials on Capitol Hill worried.  Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver explains part of what transpired in Washington, DC, over the days leading up to the vote.  "We [had] over three-million petitions being delivered to the Senate in just a matter of a couple of days -- [and] for two days, the Senate voicemail system was literally shut down and inoperable because of the overwhelming response," the attorney says.  And in one case, Staver says Senator Bill Nelson of Florida "received a thousand calls in favor and only one in opposition" to the FMA.  Democrats are concerned that this will become a campaign issue that could hurt them.  Former President Bill Clinton has reportedly warned John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, not to get involved in the marriage debate or the abortion debate prior to the November election.  But pro-marriage groups plan to make it an election issue.

Arizona Teen Ministry Facing Abuse Allegations Sues State
Charisma News Service

Despite orders to shut its doors, an Arizona ministry known for transforming the lives of troubled teens remains open and has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the state. Teen Reach claims its freedom of speech rights were violated during an April raid of a Bible study. Seven adults were removed from the Teen Reach facility, held for three hours and not permitted proper legal representation, the suit claims. The lawsuit comes in the wake of charges that two minors were abused at Teen Reach during supervised spankings. In March, the Arizona Department of Child Protective Services suspended Teen Reach's license to operate as a child-welfare agency. However, the faith-based group continued to house youth in its 18 homes in the Scottsdale area. A teen had told staff at a psychiatric-care facility that he had been spanked and abused at Teen Reach. A second youth was interviewed and inspected by police. Bobby Torres, Teen Reach founder and president, denied all abuse charges, claiming specifically that no teen has been injured during supervised spankings. Police told him they found no problem with the youth they interviewed and inspected. Torres said child-protective services took such action because non-Christians don't understand how the power of Jesus transforms a life. "It barely makes sense to me, but there is power, and God does change lives," Torres said.

China: Attacks Stepped Up on 'Illegal' Religious Activity
Compass Direct

Chinese authorities detained and interrogated well-known house church leader Samuel Lamb after worship services on Sunday, June 13. Ten of his co-workers were also detained and interrogated. This is the first time in 14 years that Chinese authorities have taken repressive steps against Pastor Lamb, who reportedly hosts 3,000 worshippers per week at his new meeting place in Guangzhou. Sources in China say it is no coincidence that just two days earlier, authorities detained and later released 100 leaders of the China Gospel Fellowship house church network in the central city of Wuhan. Prior to these incidents, members of a high-level Politburo meeting reportedly issued a secret directive calling for a crackdown on all "illegal" religious activities such as unregistered house church meetings. Chinese authorities may be over-reacting to high profile publicity concerning house churches and the "Back to Jerusalem Movement" published in overseas media.

Despite Terrorist Threat, Die-Hards Still Go For Short-Term Missions
Allie Martin, Agape Press

The rise in incidents of terrorism around the world is having an impact on international short-term missions, particularly those trips to some of the more dangerous locations. SEND International is an interdenominational ministry that organizes short-term missionary opportunities for students and working adults. Warren Jenzen, SEND's general director, says incidents such as the terrorist train bombing in Spain can affect a church's plans, but many church groups seek to make alternate arrangements. "Timing is very critical," Jenzen says, "The bombing in Spain or elections in certain countries may deter the church group from going to that country. But they don't [opt not to go]; they redirect, often, to other places." Also, during an interview with Mission Network News, the ministry director noted that while many young people are staying clear of terrorist "hot spots," many older workers are actually volunteering for these dangerous locations. "These threats are not deterring their interest or their commitment," he says. "For some it's even putting more of an edge on missions, and they're articulating the fact that this is worth dying for." And at the same time, the terrorist threat is providing greater opportunity to expose more people to the gospel of Christ. This summer, nearly 500 people will take part in short-term projects organized by SEND International.