Religion Today Summaries, May 12, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, May 12, 2003

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

In Today's Edition:

  • House Approves New Religious Discrimination Rules in Jobs Bill
  • Baptists Terminate 13 Missionaries Over Faith Statement
  • Faith-Based Disaster Response Follows Week's Deadly Storms
  • Four Christians Murdered in Colombia

House Approves New Religious Discrimination Rules in Jobs Bill
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) The House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday (May 8) that allows church-run job training programs to use federal money to hire only people who share their faith. The provision, included in the $6.6 billion Workforce Investment Act, reverses 20-year-old rules to allow religious groups to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion. The change would extend an exemption used by religious groups in private hiring to employees paid for with federal money. The jobs bill passed the House on a 220-to-204 vote. "Faith-based organizations cannot be expected to sustain their religious mission without the ability to employ individuals who share in their tenets and practices," said Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., according to The New York Times. "It is that very faith that motivates these people to help Americans that are in trouble." Democrats and church-state groups, however, said the new rules turn back the clock on civil rights protections.  The jobs bill now heads to the Senate, where opponents are more hopeful the discrimination language will be removed.

Baptists Terminate 13 Missionaries Over Faith Statement
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) The Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board voted Wednesday (May 7) to terminate 13 missionaries who declined to affirm the denomination's statement of faith. The board's trustees also accepted the early retirement of 10 missionaries who chose to retire instead of affirming the Baptist Faith and Message that was revised in 2000. In addition, the board voted to accept the resignations of 20 others who cited the faith statement as a factor in their decisions. "We regret that any of our missionaries have chosen to resign rather than affirm the faith statement, but we feel it is time to move forward and keep our focus on sharing Christ with a lost world," International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin said in a statement released after the meeting in Framingham, Mass. "It is not appropriate to expect Southern Baptists to support those who are not willing to work in accord with what the denomination confesses to believe." Rankin, who leads one of the nation's largest missions agencies, had sent most of the affected missionaries an April 11 ultimatum letter regarding their status with the missions agency.

Faith-Based Disaster Response Follows Week's Deadly Storms
Christina Denny

(RNS) Faith-based disaster relief efforts are under way to aid communities ravaged by the tornadoes and severe storms that ripped through the Midwest this week. Lutheran Disaster Response, a joint ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, is assessing damage in the hardest-hit states of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee. "It is certain that major cleanup will be needed, as well as spiritual and emotional care for the children and adults whose lives have been affected by this destructive weather," said the Rev. Gilbert B. Furst, director for Lutheran Disaster Response. Week of Compassion, the humanitarian arm of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), has sent emergency grants to at least five congregations and is collecting contributions for further efforts. The storms did not spare sanctuaries or seminaries. Missouri Baptist Convention disaster relief teams mobilized after a tornado that cut through Kansas and Missouri hit their communities and caused an estimated $15 million to $20 million in damage to affiliated William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., Baptist Press reported. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., narrowly missed damage and is aiding in local relief efforts.

Four Christians Murdered in Colombia
Deann Alford

(Compass) Twenty-five armed men entered a rural church in northern Colombia last week and murdered its 80-year-old evangelical pastor and three other believers, confirmed the head of the nation’s evangelical alliance. Hector Pardo, head of the Colombian evangelical alliance CEDECOL, told Compass that he had not been able to confirm details of the murders or a motive for them. The Cali newspaper El Pais reported that armed men called the victims by name and attacked them in the doorway of the church in front of other parishioners. El Pais, citing police sources, said that the men slashed the throats of two victims with a knife and shot two others with rifles, then fled into a wooded area. No group has claimed responsibility, reported El Pais, but Pardo said that paramilitaries are believed to be responsible. CEDECOL issued a statement calling for armed groups to respect life, expressing its concern for the recent turn of events. “[CEDECOL] asks Colombians to respond by seeking God, His wisdom and direction, while holding a firm hope in a peaceful solution to the wave of violence that is shaking the country,” the statement read.