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Religion Today Summaries, March 21, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, March 21, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • STATEMENT: 'We will unite in prayer & faith'
  • Vietnamese Officials Hold ‘Informal Talks’ with House Church Leaders
  • Presbyterian Court: Moderator `Acted Improperly' on Special Assembly
  • Pakistani Brothers Acquitted of Blasphemy Charges

STATEMENT: 'We will unite in prayer & faith'
Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham

The primary responsibility of our government is to protect its citizens and there are times when war becomes a necessary last resort. Removing Saddam Hussein from power is a just and necessary action after 12 years of lies and deception. I believe it is the responsibility of America to lead in the desire for freedom and peace around the world. For this reason, I, along with millions of Southern Baptists, support our President's decision. This war is "just" because its cause is liberation not occupation, protection not aggression, peace not appeasement. In these days surrounded by fear, let us remember Psalm 27:1 and 3, "The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?" We enter and endure these days not in "a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). Now is the time for all Americans to band together as brothers and sisters in support of our nation, our Commander and Chief, George W. Bush, and our military forces. I encourage our pastors and churches to designate days of prayer and fasting. May our families join together in personal and private intercession. Let us ask God for a mighty outpouring of His Spirit across America and around the world.

Vietnamese Officials Hold ‘Informal Talks’ with House Church Leaders

(Compass) In what may be a small breakthrough for religious liberty, Vietnam’s religion authorities invited five leaders of Protestant house church organizations and non-denominational missions to Hanoi for “informal talks” on March 5. Such a meeting is rare in Vietnam, where the Bureau of Religious Affairs and other governmental bodies rarely consult the religious groups they are supposed to control. Together, the Christian delegation represented more than 1,400 illegal house congregations and hundreds of evangelists. The meeting took place at a time when Vietnam has markedly increased its activities against minority Montagnard Christians in the Central Highlands and against Hmong Christians in northwest provinces.

Presbyterian Court: Moderator `Acted Improperly' on Special Assembly
David E. Anderson

(RNS) The highest court in the Presbyterian Church (USA), in another skirmish over the volatile issue of homosexuality, has ruled that Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel "acted improperly" in attempting to convince commissioners (delegates) not to press for a special meeting of the denomination's General Assembly. At issue is a petition to recall commissioners who attended last summer's General Assembly, the church's highest legislative body. Those calling for the special meeting said it was needed to discipline churches that allegedly have defied a church ban against non-celibate gay pastors. Top denominational officials had expressed dismay at the petition, citing in part the costs involved in holding a special session just before the new General Assembly -- with different commissioners -- convenes in Denver on May 24. In its March 19 ruling, the judicial commission said Abu-Akel's opposition to calling the special session "had the appearance of seeking to undermine the rights of commissioners" to last year's General Assembly.

Pakistani Brothers Acquitted of Blasphemy Charges
Barbara G. Baker

(Compass) A Pakistani appeals court confirmed today the acquittal of two Christian brothers jailed nearly four years ago on charges of blasphemy. The Lahore High Court ordered the release of the two Pakistani Christians, currently incarcerated in the Sahiwal Central Jail. Saleem and Rasheed Masih have been under arrest and denied bail since June 1999, when they were accused of slandering the prophet Mohammed during an argument with an ice cream vendor in the Pasrur region of northeastern Pakistan. It will take at least a week for the brothers’ release orders to be transferred through legal channels so that the two men can be discharged and reunited with their families. But even then their lives will be in danger, since Islamist radicals in Pakistan have vowed to kill all accused blasphemers regardless of court decisions.