Religion Today Summaries, May 27, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, May 27, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

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

  • Appellate Court Permits School Distribution of Religious Literature
  • Death of Evangelist Highlights Growing Tension in Bangladesh
  • Power Team Founder Jacobs to Retire
  • Episcopal Church Elects First `Gen X' Bishop

Appellate Court Permits School Distribution of Religious Literature
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

An appeals court has ruled that an Arizona school district cannot prohibit distribution of literature advertising a program with religious content. The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerned a Scottsdale Unified School District policy. "The district cannot refuse to distribute literature advertising a program with underlying religious content where it distributes quite similar literature for secular summer camps, but it can refuse to distribute literature that itself contains proselytizing language," a three-judge panel concluded. Mary Ellen Simonson, Scottsdale school district attorney, said the district may ask the appellate court to review its decision or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case, the Associated Press reported. She said the appellate decision puts school districts in the "untenable position" of assessing "how far a brochure can go in promoting a religious event in its advertising." The ruling was hailed by the American Center for Law and Justice. "The appeals court decision sends an important message about the constitutional rights of religious speakers," said Walter M. Weber, senior litigation counsel for the law firm. "Equal treatment of Christians and equal access for Christians in our public schools is long overdue," said Gary McCaleb, a lawyer with the fund, in a statement.

Death of Evangelist Highlights Growing Tension in Bangladesh
Sarah Page, Compass Direct

A surge in Islamic nationalism signals danger for minority Christians. The recent murder of evangelist Hridoy Roy is one of many violent attacks against Christians in Bangladesh, as tensions have increased dramatically since the election of a fundamentalist Islamic government in October 2001. Some Christians have had their rice crops destroyed by Muslim militants, and Christian girls have been threatened with rape. The coalition government has consistently denied any alliance with Muslim extremists, but provincial officials of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party have been linked to the harassment of Christians in the Natore district of northern Bangladesh. The rise of Islamic extremism can be traced in part to the 64,000 “madrassas,” or Muslim schools, established in recent years.

Power Team Founder Jacobs to Retire
Religion News Service

Power Team founder John Jacobs has announced his retirement from the evangelistic ministry that focuses on demonstrating feats of strength at crusades and other events. Jacobs announced May 7 that his retirement would be effective in July, reported Charisma News Service, affiliated with Charisma magazine. The 43-year-old evangelical leader attributed his decision to the pressures of leading a ministry amid several personal "hits" in recent years, including marital and financial troubles. The Power Team said in a statement that it was time for Jacobs "to go on with his life, separated from this ministry, so he can focus on identifying, clarifying, and letting the Lord refresh and purify him in several key areas." Jacobs said he had not been asked to retire "but I felt like God wanted me to go deeper." He plans to continue to demonstrate his strength through speaking opportunities in churches and schools. The Dallas-based Power Team, which includes 20 world-class athletes, has evangelized through events across the country and abroad.

Episcopal Church Elects First `Gen X' Bishop
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

The Episcopal Church has elected its first "Generation X" bishop, a sign of hope for young clergy in a church where only 4 percent of priests are under the age of 35. The Rev. Johncy Itty, 40, was elected the new bishop of Oregon on May 17. Once Itty's election is confirmed, he will lead 21,000 parishioners in 78 congregations in western Oregon. The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, president of the Gathering the neXt Generation network of young clergy, said the church needs more young bishops like Itty. Generation X is generally described as those born between 1961 and 1981. "While much progress needs to be made to make discernment processes for ordination in every diocese open to Gen Xers, there are now many experienced Gen X priests who are well qualified to serve as bishop," she said. A 2000 study showed that only 3.94 percent of Episcopal clergy are under the age of 35, compared with 19 percent in 1975. Almost 40 percent of the church's clergy are over the age of 55.