Religion Today Summaries, May 18, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, May 18, 2004

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

  • No Closure Quite Yet on Acquitted Lesbian Pastor
  • Pakistani Pastors Feared Kidnapped
  • God Credited for Saving Christian Orphanage during Haiti Coup
  • Alabama Court Acquits Minister Arrested for Sidewalk Evangelism

No Closure Quite Yet on Acquitted Lesbian Pastor
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A lesbian United Methodist minister in Washington has decided not to return to the pulpit after she was acquitted in a church trial of practices "incompatible with Christian teaching." An official with the United Methodist Church says Pastor Karen Dammann has chosen to stay on family leave.  But the official says Dammann "is still a pastor in good standing."  In 2001, Dammann declared her homosexuality as she was seeking a new church appointment.  The Conference of Bishops filed a complaint against her and she stood church trial. Mark Tooley is with the theologically conservative group United Methodist Action.  He says he does not expect the semi-crisis to be resolved any time in the near future. "If nothing else, it means there'll be a delayed confrontation or a delayed decision on what her ultimate disposition is," he says, adding that decisions coming out of the denomination's recent General Conference muddle the issue. "The Judicial Council had, on the one hand, declined to vacate her acquittal from her trial last March," he notes, "but on the other hand had declared that any clergy person who a jury had found to be a practicing homosexual was not qualified to be appointed to a church pulpit." Methodists have been waiting to see whether Dammann's bishop, Elias Galvan, would uphold church law or follow public opinion in his region by giving the lesbian pastor another church.

Pakistani Pastors Feared Kidnapped
International Christian Concern

After a series of handwritten threats sent to Christian leaders in the Pakistani city of Quetta last week, at least one Protestant pastor has been reported missing by his family, with the whereabouts of another six uncertain. Pastor Wilson Fazal, 41, was reportedly enroute to Sunday morning services at the Pakistan Gospel Assembly in Quetta’s Bashirabad suburb when he disappeared yesterday. In a letter delivered to his house five days ago, Fazal was told, “Christians of Quetta, you are displeasing God … Accept the faith of jihad. … Get ready, ready, ready, or else.” Six other Pentecostal church leaders in the city are also missing and may have gone into hiding to avoid capture. According to unconfirmed reports, a local pastor has received a letter from Fazal’s kidnappers, declaring they will not release him until local churches comply with their demands to close down their Christian institutions. Pakistan’s Christian churches and institutions have been the violent target of repeated terrorist attacks since September 2001.

God Credited for Saving Christian Orphanage During Haiti Coup
Charisma News Service

The founder of a small Christian orphanage in Haiti believes God protected her ministry after armed rebels took to the streets and ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide earlier this year. Danita Estrella, who has 38 orphans at her Hope for Haiti home and runs a school that educates and feeds another 400 children in the town of Ouanaminthe, was contacted in February by the U.S Embassy in Port-au-Prince. Officials urged her to leave immediately, but she declined their offer of a chartered flight back to the safety of the United States."Haiti is my home," she said. "These are my children -- my sons and daughters. I can't leave them." When rebels invaded her town -- local police already had left -- Estrella and the children sequestered themselves inside the orphanage. From her kitchen window, Estrella, 39, saw rebels running through the streets, shooting guns and setting fire to the police station and homes of local Aristide supporters. One of the rebels spotted Estrella in the window, but "they left and went to another neighbor's home," Estrella said. "They never touched us." She credited supernatural intervention for protecting her and the children. Rebel leaders later came to the orphanage to offer assistance in getting food or water.

Alabama Court Acquits Minister Arrested for Sidewalk Evangelism
Allie Martin, Agape Press

An Alabama court has acquitted a street preacher charged with disorderly conduct for proclaiming the gospel in public. Matthew Bourgault is head of Consuming Fire Ministries, an organization that takes the gospel of Jesus Christ nationwide. In March, Bourgault traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, to preach to students of Alabama State University. He decided to preach on public sidewalks in the downtown area. Bourgault began preaching, and some time later, police arrived and arrested him, charging him with disorderly conduct. However, last week a municipal court judge acquitted the street preacher of all charges. Joe Murray, an attorney with the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, describes what the legal team had on its hands in Bourgault's case as "a disfavored message" and "an attempt to shut that message down." However, the attorney says, "the First Amendment will not permit that.” The attorney feels Bourgault got in trouble primarily for the content of his message, which a police official characterized, during his trial testimony, in very hostile and anti-Christian terms. Murray calls Bourgault's acquittal a major victory for free speech -- one proving that, in Montgomery, freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment are applicable to all citizens.