Religion Today Summaries, March 17, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, March 17, 2004

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

  • Open Doors Delivers Precious Cargo of Bibles for Persecuted Christians
  • Bush Assures Evangelicals of His Pledge to Defend Marriage
  • Pastor Frowns On Wal-Mart's Apparent "Always No Proselytizing" Policy
  • Church Building Set on Fire by Hindu Fundamentalists

Open Doors Delivers Precious Cargo of Bibles for Persecuted Christians
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A ministry that serves the persecuted Church delivered nearly four million Bibles and other scriptural books to persecuted believers worldwide last year. Open Doors International delivered the Bibles -- children's Bibles, study Bibles, and other resources, to Christians in 60 countries in 2003. Also, 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 religious persecution and discrimination. Jerry Dykstra is a spokesman for Open Doors. He says pastors and other Christians in persecuted nations are willing to risk their freedom for God's word, and the chance to share it with fellow believers. Next year Open Doors has a goal of delivering one million pieces of Christian literature to China. Dykstra says in countries like China, where the governments or ruling factions are hostile to the free expression of Christian faith, it is difficult for Christians to obtain the Bible or other scriptural resources. "In China we delivered 500,000 pieces of children's literature in 2003," Dykstra says, "and some of the responses we got were just so emotional.” Studies show that most Christian homes in the U.S. have five Bibles. Open Doors is working to provide Bibles and other Christian literature to places where they are needed and prized by persecuted Christians hungry for God's word throughout the world.

Bush Assures Evangelicals of His Pledge to Defend Marriage
Charisma News Service

President Bush forcefully restated his call for passage of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to enthusiastic rounds of applause in a speech last week before the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Speaking Thursday via teleconference displayed on three giant screens in the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., Bush was interrupted by applause several times during the NAE's annual convention. "I will defend the sanctity of marriage against activist courts and local officials who want to redefine marriage," the president said. Several prominent evangelicals in Washington, D.C., have told the White House that backing the constitutional amendment is vital to getting Christian voters to turn out on Election Day. NAE convention organizers were aware of their clout. The association boasts a membership including 45,000 congregations, with 30 million members. A slogan on the back of the convention program read: "What Can 30 Million Evangelicals Do For America? Anything We Want." The president gave a hearty endorsement to the NAE. "The National Association of Evangelicals was founded 62 years ago with the highest of calling -- to proclaim the kingdom of God," he said. "You're doing God's work with conviction and kindness, and, on behalf of our country, I thank you."

Pastor Frowns On Wal-Mart's Apparent "Always No Proselytizing" Policy
Fred Jackson and Jenni Parker, Agape Press

Wal-Mart has told a Baptist pastor in Conroe, Texas, that he must stop handing out church invitation tracts when he visits their store. Steve Barrett, pastor of Northridge Baptist Church in Conroe, was shopping at his local Wal-Mart store recently, and he struck up a conversation with one of the store managers. During this chat, Barrett gave the man a tract and invited him to visit his church. Barrett says a second manager informed him that he must not invite people to church or hand out any more tracts at the store. The manager claimed that to doing so would violate Wal-Mart's in-store solicitation policy. Incredulous, Barrett wrote to Wal-Mart officials to complain. However, he says the store officials are backing the local manager. A spokesperson from the Wal-Mart corporate communications office told the press that Barrett had received a response to his e-mailed complaint. She explained that in this case, the fact that the pastor handed out a tract was significant. That act violated the store's solicitation policy and all organizations, religious or otherwise, are equally prohibited from soliciting on Wal-Mart property. Northridge Baptist Church's pastor questions the apparent duplicity of national chain like Wal-Mart fostering a family-friendly image to get people into their stores and at the same time prohibiting Christians from practicing their beliefs there.

Church Building Set on Fire by Hindu Fundamentalists
International Christian Concern

ICC's India division is reporting the burning of a church in Gudiyattam on Feb. 20th.  Elim Prayer Mission was established in 1992 by eight Christians.  Through intense outreach, the small congregation has ministered to the town of Gudiyattam and many surrounding villages and presently has established 17 sister churches in 17 surrounding villages.  On the night of Feb. 20th, the Congregation participated in an evening prayer service that lasted from 10:00 p.m. to 2:15 a.m. Soon after the believers left the church to head home, the church building was attacked by Hindu Fundamentalists who set the church on fire and let it burn completely.  According to ICC’s source in India, the congregation is now holding services in the open air of the burnt church.