Religion Today Summaries - May 12, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 12, 2006

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

  • Christian Churches to Work for Code on Conversion
  • Christian Chinese Dissidents Meet with Bush about Religious Freedom in China
  • School District Sued After Suspending Christian Student
  • China-Vatican Relations Thaw

Christian Churches to Work for Code on Conversion

The World Council of Churches (WCC) said it was launching a joint effort with the Vatican to shape a code of conduct on religious conversion, a Reuters news story reports. A senior WCC official said it was hoped that the intra-Christian project would spark discussion on the same issue among Muslims. "We hope to produce a code that will ensure that believers' commitment to their faith never translates into denigration of another," said Hans Ucko, head of the WCC's Office on Inter-religious Relations and Dialogue. Ucko said the idea of rules on proselytising had arisen several years ago during regular contacts between the WCC and the Vatican after methods used by Christian missionaries in India had caused problems for local Christians. The Rome meeting this week would be attended by representatives of other faiths, including Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and indigenous religious traditions. "Changing one's religion should not be seen as a betrayal of Islam or of any other faith," Ucko said.

Christian Chinese Dissidents Meet with Bush about Religious Freedom in China

AsiaNews reports that a group of Christian dissidents were to meet President George W. Bush Thursday at the White House to discuss freedom of religion in China. The group is very critical about Beijing’s control over religions. Bob Fu, a former unofficial Protestant pastor of Beijing and current leader of the China Aid Association, said the meeting “reflected Bush's growing impatience with the Communist regime’s restrictions on religion, including its attempt to exclude the Vatican from control of Catholic bishops’ appointments”. He said: “This meeting sends a strong signal to Beijing that President Bush is very determined on this issue. China's small but growing band of politically engaged Christians might have attracted Bush's interest. This is a new phenomenon - young supporters of democracy and human rights who have also embraced Christ.”

School District Sued After Suspending Christian Student

A North Carolina school district is being sued over its decision to discipline a student for passing out leaflets which presented a Christian viewpoint on homosexuality, AgapePress reports. Midway High School in Dunn suspended Benjamin Arthurs for distributing religious flyers regarding the "Day of Truth," an event where Christian students share a biblical perspective on the homosexual agenda. Superintendent Stewart Hobbs claims Arthurs was trying to push his religious beliefs on others, but Arthurs' attorney, David Cortman of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), is citing the First Amendment. "This school district permits the [pro-homosexual] 'Day of Silence' to be promoted, which is of course the homosexual agenda being promoted in the schools," the attorney explains. "And the day after, ADF has begun what is called the 'Day of Truth.'" Cortman explains that Arthurs, a ninth-grader, felt the "Day of Truth" observance would afford him the opportunity to give a Christian perspective on the homosexual agenda. Instead, the student was given in-school suspension, prompting the ADF spokesman to declare a double standard.

China-Vatican Relations Thaw

Following a tense political showdown last week, the Vatican has approved the episcopal ordination of a US-educated priest in China, confirms Independent Catholic News in a story on Spero News. The event may mark a slight thawing of relations, as Fr Paul Pei Junmin was ordained coadjutor bishop by the current ordinary bishop, Jin Peixian. At least 5,000 Catholics celebrated the episcopal ordination on Sunday May 7. The “approved” ordinations followed two unauthorized episcopal ordinations of Chinese priests and a Vatican warning last week that such actions could jeopardize relations between Beijing and the Vatican. The two illicit ordinations in Kunming and Wuhu were branded by a Vatican statement as “a grave violation of religious freedom” and a “serious wound to the unity of the Church,” incurring “severe canonical sanctions.” The recognised Catholic Church in China is not permitted to have formal relations with the Pope, as this is seen as outside interference by the head of a foreign state (the Vatican City) by the Chinese authorities.