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Religion Today Summaries - June 22, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - June 22, 2006

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

  • GFA Opens Bible College Despite Anti-Christian Sentiment
  • Rape Victims Charged with ‘Forced Conversion’ in India
  • Research Firm Launches in October as a Help to Churches
  • Foundation Awards Grant for Study on Pentacostalism/Science Dialogue

GFA Opens Bible College Despite Anti-Christian Sentiment

Despite weeks of concern about radical Hindu violence, a Gospel for Asia Bible college in Rajasthan, India opened for classes on time this month - and event welcomed "with an extra measure of happiness and relief," the ministry announced. Two weeks ago, Bible college leaders were suddenly asked to vacate their current facility. When their landlord, fearing local anti-Christian sentiment, asked the leaders and students to find another site, they scrambled to locate a suitable place to rent. However, no one was willing to rent them space amid increasing pressures to refuse occupancy to Christian groups, and time was running out. Then, only 10 days before the beginning of the new school year, the landlord came to the Bible college staff with a change of heart. The man's daughter just received a sought-after position, and the family planned to relocate with her. Since the landlord knew the Bible college leaders personally and had watched their lives, he asked them to continue renting the facility in his absence. "He wanted to hand over his building to them rather than anyone else, or for any other purpose," a GFA field correspondent reported. "He assured our staff that they could stay in his building as long as they want, and if any problem arises from outside, he would stand by their side to help them." In Rajasthan, Christian opposition has increased markedly in the past few months. Most notably, an anti-conversion bill - making third-party complaints about Christian activity grounds for arrest and imprisonment - has been proposed and is being re-drafted after review by the president of India.

Rape Victims Charged with ‘Forced Conversion’ in India

Hindu extremists have filed a counter-complaint of “forced conversion” against two Christian women who had lodged rape charges against Hindu villagers in Madhya Pradesh state. The women had filed the charges on May 31 after being gang-raped in Nadia village on May 28. The counter-complaint of “forced conversion” against the women and their husbands was supposedly lodged on June 1, but Indira Iyengar, a member of the Madhya Pradesh Minorities Commission, told Compass she suspected it was actually filed later and registered with a backdate entry. “The administration is taking advantage of the fact that the victims are illiterate. How can they talk about their religious freedom or defend themselves?” Iyengar said. A member of a National Commission for Minorities team sent to probe attacks on the Christian community in Madhya Pradesh reportedly said the administration had allowed the forced conversion charges in order to protect the rapists.

Research Firm Launches in October as a Help to Churches

The largest provider of church and Christian resources will soon provide custom research for churches and ministries. Dr. Tom Rainer says LifeWay Christian Resources wants to help churches be more effective when it comes to reaching the unchurched. Toward that end, LifeWay Research will launch in October. Dr. Rainer says LifeWay Research will help churches and other ministries to be more relevant. "We are, quite frankly, funding this and putting the resources into it, where it's going to be one of the most -- if not the most -- significant Christian research firms in the world," he says. According to Rainer, the company is poised to conduct extensive research on a number of topics. "We're the world's largest provider of church and Christian resources as it is," he says, speaking of LifeWay Christian Resources. "So we already have so much research that's going on just about our business." Consequently, he says, having the two companies in close proximity will allow "so much of what we do and so much of who we are" to be centralized. "It's really a culmination of everything that has come up to this point," he notes. "So I think it's going to be an exciting endeavor." Brad Waggoner is director of LifeWay Research. Waggoner is a former dean at Southern Baptist Seminary's school of leadership and church ministry in Louisville, Kentucky.

Foundation Awards Grant for Study on Pentacostalism/Science Dialogue

Calvin College and Regent University recently were awarded a grant of $162,078 from the John Templeton Foundation for a project called "Science and the Spirit: Pentecostal Perspectives on the Science/Religion Dialogue." Heading up the effort will be Amos Yong, theology professor at Regent's Divinity School, and James K.A. Smith, philosophy professor at Calvin. They have assembled a team of scholars (in fields such as biology, chemistry, psychology, anthropology, sociology, physics) from across the country to study the places where science and Pentecostal faith meet. Outcomes will include a book that could be used in science courses at Pentecostal and charismatic universities around the world. Yong and Smith say the time is right for such a study since this year marks the centenary of the Azusa Street Revival that was a catalyst for the Pentecostal movement. "There is a clearly a need for Pentecostal and charismatic traditions to take science seriously," Yong says. Smith adds: "We believe that the need here is reciprocal: we believe that Pentecostal spirituality, with its distinct emphasis on the Spirit and pneumatology, can yield unique insights for the broader science and religion dialogue."