Religion Today Summaries, June 10, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, June 10, 2003

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

  • Conservatives Vow to Defeat Newly Elected Gay Episcopal Bishop
  • Christian-Muslim Violence Breaks Out in Nigeria
  • Sudanese Refugees in Iowa Earn Christian Ministry Diplomas
  • American Arrested in Delivery of Ministry Donations to Russian Baptists

Conservatives Vow to Defeat Newly Elected Gay Episcopal Bishop
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

A battle is brewing in the Episcopal Church as conservatives vow to overturn the election of the church's first openly gay bishop. The Rev. V. Gene Robinson was elected on Saturday in New Hampshire as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Under church rules, Robinson's election needs to be certified by delegates and bishops at next month's General Convention legislative meeting. Conservatives said they have already laid the groundwork to oppose Robinson's election. Fellow bishops said the church could not condone homosexuality by accepting an openly gay bishop. "If Gene Robinson's election is confirmed by General Convention, it would bring through the back door a practice that the Episcopal Church has never agreed to bring through the front door," they stated. Robinson's election brings home the rising tensions over homosexuality in the global church. Prelates in fast-growing African and Asian churches accuse the Episcopal Church of ignoring biblical prohibitions against homosexuality. Conservatives say that if Robinson's election does not split the American church, it will certainly isolate it from the 70 million-member Anglican Communion.

Christian-Muslim Violence Breaks Out in Nigeria
Religion News Service

Sectarian violence broke out in the Nigerian town of Numan on Sunday (June 8) after an evangelical Christian woman was stabbed to death by a Muslim water vender. The evangelist was killed after she disputed the price of a can of water. Angry residents of the predominantly Christian town, blocked by police from attacking the water seller, converged on Muslim neighborhoods, where they burned mosques, houses and cars, witnesses said. The central mosque as well as six others was burned during the riots, which culminated in one death and dozens of serious injuries. Christians, who account for roughly half of Nigeria's 120 million citizens, have periodically clashed with the country's Muslim population over the introduction of an Islamic Shariah legal system. Shariah was introduced in 12 of Nigeria's predominantly Muslim northern states in 1999 when the country emerged from 15 years of military rule. Since then, sectarian violence has plagued the north African nation and claimed more than 5,000 lives. On June 5, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo warned warring religious communities they would be held responsible for inter-religious violence under the riot acts. The rioting in Numan over the past weekend stands out as the most serious sectarian clashing since Obasanjo was re-elected May 29.

Sudanese Refugees in Iowa Earn Christian Ministry Diplomas
Erin Curry, Baptist Press News

Nearly a decade ago, a group of Sudanese refugees sought safety and religious freedom in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after fleeing persecution in their warring homeland. Now, five dedicated Sudanese men have received diplomas in Christian ministry through the Southern Baptist Seminary Extension program. The refugees became Christians while still in Sudan. In the midst of a civil war, they were persecuted for their beliefs and sought asylum in the United States. Immanuel Baptist Church offered a place of worship, and provided basic English classes. The men wanted to learn about the Bible and also how to be pastors, but they couldn't go to seminary because they had families and much-needed jobs. The basic Seminary Extension curriculum was found to meet their need. The Southern Baptist Seminary Extension provides college-level educational opportunities for students who are not able to attend a regular institution, using methods such as correspondence and the Internet.  Five Sudanese men persevered, despite the language barrier, and received their diplomas in a graduation ceremony at the church June 1 in the presence of about 100 family members and friends. Their dream is to return to their native land as Christian pastors, despite persecution, to spread the word of Christ to their suffering countrymen. (

American Arrested in Delivery of Ministry Donations to Russian Baptists
Charisma News Service

An American accused of trying to smuggle almost $50,000 into Russia has gone on a hunger strike to protest the case against him, which he says is in retaliation for refusing to pay a bribe. Andrew Okhotin was detained at Moscow's international airport on March 29, when he arrived to deliver donations collected on behalf of Russian Baptist churches by a ministry run by his father, a former Soviet religious dissident who moved to the United States in 1989. Okhotin said that he legally declared all the money, but he was questioned at length and told he could go free if he paid $10,000, a deal later reduced to $5,000. He refused and was released, on the condition that he not leave the city. "I'm not going to stop the hunger strike until they dismiss the case," Okhotin, a 28-year-old Harvard Divinity School student who has gone without food since May 21, told the newspaper. The case -- which could mean a five-year jail sentence -- is "a shakedown, pure and simple." "Even though his health and freedom are at risk, he refuses to give in to this blatant extortion attempt, no matter what the cost." Efforts by the American Embassy have had "no effect" so far, said a news agency.