Religion Today Summaries, June 24, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, June 24, 2003

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

  • Presbyterians: Jesus is True, But Not Necessary for Salvation
  • Police in Pakistan Disregard Church Attack
  • 'God Over Country' Flag Flap
  • Police in Former Soviet Republic Watch as Orthodox Mob Persecutes Protestants

Presbyterians: Jesus is True, But Not Necessary for Salvation
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

Nearly three-quarters of Presbyterians believe that the "absolute truth for humankind is in Jesus Christ," but fewer than half say that only Christians will be saved, according to a new church survey. The periodic poll of members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) found that 70 percent of members, 75 percent of elders, 71 percent of pastors and 55 percent of specialized clergy (such as chaplains) agreed that the "only absolute truth for humankind is in Jesus Christ." When asked if "only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved," 43 percent of parishioners, 50 percent of elders, 39 percent of clergy and 24 percent of specialized clergy agreed. The nature and role of Jesus in salvation has divided the church in recent years. A furor erupted in 2001 when one pastor rhetorically asked, "So, what's the big deal about Jesus?" and suggested there may be other avenues for salvation.  A statement passed by the church's 2001 General Assembly affirmed salvation through Jesus but remained silent on the destiny of non-Christians. "Although we do not know the limits of God's grace and pray for the salvation of those who may come to know Christ, for us the assurance of salvation is found only in confessing Christ and trusting Him alone," the resolution said. In other findings, two-thirds of members and 80 percent of pastors and elders believe that "Jesus will return to earth some day," and 86 percent of members and 96 percent of pastors believe in life after death. While 93 percent of parishioners believe in heaven, only 78 percent believe in hell.

Police in Pakistan Disregard Church Attack
Michael Ireland, ASSIST News Service

Following the desecration of a church 50 km north-east of Lahore, Pakistan, the police are refusing to press charges. The Barnabas Fund reports that armed men attacked worshippers and ransacked the church. Despite broken up pews and knocked down walls, the police refuse to accept that the attackers damaged the church. The trouble began when a group of young Muslim men who were obstructing the church entrance and making inappropriate comments about the women and girls trying to pass. After a while the Muslim youths left, only to return shortly with weapons including guns and knives. They stormed into the church, beat up the Christians, broke up the pews and threw the communion vessels to the ground. Following the attack Christians lodged a complaint with the police. The police accept that an attack took place; but they do not accept that the church was affected. They refuse to acknowledge this as it would mean having to file a case against the attackers under the “Blasphemy Law.” Section 295 protects against “injuring or defiling of a place of worship” and section 295-A specifically refers to “the religious feelings of any class,” and it is under this clause that the police should have charged the attackers. It appears that either the police are biased against the Christian community or they themselves are fearful of recriminations if they were to use the Blasphemy Law against Muslims.

'God Over Country' Flag Flap
Charisma News

A Christian businessman in Pennsylvania is causing a flap in his community for flying a Christian flag above Old Glory. Greg Podlucky, the owner of the Le-Nature's beverage company, has been flying the flag for months now, irritating some residents of Latrobe, located in Westmoreland County, local TV station WTAE reported. The United States code reportedly states that the American flag always comes first on the flagpole. "Nothing flies above the American flag," said veteran Dick Johnston. "But this guy just don't want to cooperate with us." Another Latrobe resident Steve Semnisky added: "In my estimation, it's a contempt for the city of Latrobe and contempt for any citizen. He's doing it and he knows that it's not right and why he won't change it. I have no idea. It's sad." But Podlucky said his flag move wasn't meant to offend anyone. He said his inspiration was a Bible distributed by President Roosevelt right before World War II. In that Bible, there's a picture of the U.S. flag being flown under the Christian flag, Podlucky said. The American Legion has tried to convince Podlucky to switch the flags, but Podlucky reportedly said it's "God over country." "That's a fine statement to make," Semnisky said, WTAE reported. "But that gives no one the right to fly the flag above the United States flag." Semnisky said his family plans to boycott the popular Le-Nature's, and many others in Latrobe said they'll do the same.

Police in Former Soviet Republic Watch as Orthodox Mob Persecutes Protestants
Charisma News

While police looked on, a large mob of Orthodox vigilantes prevented a Pentecostal pastor from using his home yesterday as a meeting place for his church. According to Forum 18 News Service, it was the fourth time since April that the group prevented Nikolai Kalutsky's church, located in the capital of Tbilis, from gathering for worship. Local police chief Temur Anjaparidze said he supported the group's actions. "It's not fair [to Kalutsky's] neighbors," he told Forum 18. "The neighbors won't allow this. What can I do?" Kalutsky's congregation has been targeted with death threats. "We will do everything to prevent you from meeting. We won't stop till there's blood," Kalutsky's wife, Vera, said members of the mob reportedly told their congregation, June 15. Although there was no violence, the protest was organized by an Orthodox priest who also led a mob against the Pentecostals last year, accusing them of being Satanists. Elsewhere in the ex-Soviet republic, a Baptist church was set on fire earlier this month in the village of Akhalsopeli, located in the Kvareli District of eastern Georgia, Forum 18 reported. An Orthodox group was suspected in setting the blaze.