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Religion Today Summaries -- March 11, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries -- March 11, 2004

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

  • Church Leader's Persecution Belies China's Religious Freedom Myth
  • Open Doors Delivered 4 Million Bibles to Persecuted Christians in 2003
  • America: A Nation in Desperate Need of Prayer
  • Planned Parenthood Hires Chaplain to Add 'Spiritual' Element

Church Leader's Persecution Belies China's Religious Freedom Myth
Allie Martin, AgapePress

Voice of the Martyrs staffers in communication with Chinese house church Christians insist that it is time for the rest of the world to know that religious freedom in China is a myth. On February 9, Public Security Bureau officers raided an underground Christian Church and arrested its leader, 40-year-old Chu Wei, along with his wife and 10 other Christians. The officers eventually released the group, but days later, Chu Wei was warned that officials with the Chinese government were going to send him to a labor camp. This news forced him into hiding. Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) representative Todd Nettleton says the Chinese government officials are threatened by the Christian leader. "Chu Wei is the head of a group of about 50 house church meetings in China, so he has considerable influence," Nettleton says. "The government is trying to pressure him into registering all those meetings and coming under government control." For Christians in China who resist joining the official state church, Nettleton says, this kind of pressure is par for the course. "To be put under pressure by the government, for a church group to be arrested and questioned, interrogated and intimidated -- that's an everyday occurrence in China," he says. Nevertheless, the Chinese Church is growing, with thousands and thousands of new believers coming to Christ every month. (www.persecution.com)

Ministry Delivered 4 Million Bibles to Persecuted Christians in 2003
Open Doors USA

Open Doors with Brother Andrew delivered almost four million Bibles, Children's Bibles, Study Bibles and other Scriptural books to persecuted Christians worldwide in 2003, an increase of about 40 percent over 2002. In addition, more than 22,000 pastors and church leaders received intensive training in how to lead their congregations and stand strong in their faith in the midst of persecution and discrimination. "We are very grateful that Open Doors teams working in hot spots around the world were able to deliver four million Bibles and other Scriptural pieces along with training thousands of pastors - despite the increase in danger," says Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller. An estimated 200 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with another 200 to 400 million facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors serves and strengthens the Persecuted Church in the world's most difficult areas through training, Bible and literature distribution, community development and personal encouragement. (www.odusa.org)

America: A Nation in Desperate Need of Prayer
Jody Brown and Allie Martin, Agape Press

Preparations are under way for this year's National Day of Prayer. Shirley Dobson, chairman of the NDOP Task Force, reminds Americans that if the nation is to receive God's direction during trying times, they must take advantage of the freedom they have to pray openly. "Our leaders confront difficult challenges every day and our society faces a future of uncertainty," Dobson says. "In order to realize the potential outlined in the Declaration of Independence, we must continue seeking Divine Counsel, asking for His intervention and direction." According to the Task Force, approximately 40,000 separate NDOP events were held nationwide last year. The activities included prayer breakfasts, Bible-reading marathons, student flagpole gatherings, and concerts of prayer. The event's theme in 2004 is "Let Freedom Ring," and the most visible event of past NDOP observances has been at the Capitol in Washington, DC, where representatives from all three branches of government and from the military have gathered. Addressing that group this year will be Retired Marine Colonel Oliver North, honorary chairman of the 2004 NDOP.

Planned Parenthood Hires Chaplain to Add 'Spiritual' Element
Susan Jones, CNS News

Planned Parenthood, a frequent critic of the "religious right," has hired a chaplain to "articulate the spiritual dimensions of sexuality and reproduction." The Rev. Ignacio Castuera, a Methodist, will fill the newly created post, from which he will "act as a public spokesperson to promote Planned Parenthood's mission and vision," the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) announced earlier this week. At a recent pro-abortion rally in Texas, Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt reportedly said that the organization created the chaplain position to counter the perception that most Christians oppose abortion. The Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera currently serves as Senior Pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church in Los Angeles and is described as a "strong advocate for choice" and a "staunch supporter" of Planned Parenthood. Rev. Castuera is on record as saying that a fetus is not a child and, according to the Planned Parenthood press release, "will play a pivotal role in communicating the theological justification for choice, sexuality, and contraception to the Planned Parenthood community and the general public." In addition, Dr. Castuera will work with affiliates to expand their relationships with religious leaders and organizations in their communities."