Religion Today Summaries - May 29, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 29, 2007

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

  • Pentecostal Believers Raided on Pentecost Sunday in Belarus Church
  • Guatemala has Highest Percentage of Evangelicals in Latin America
  • Crowds Wowed by Creation Museum Grand Opening
  • Transgender Minister Reappointed to Lead Church

Pentecostal Believers Raided on Pentecost Sunday in Belarus Church

Ten state officials raided the Pentecost service of John the Baptist Pentecostal Church in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on May 27, ASSIST News Service reports. Pastor Antoni Bokun was arrested, held overnight at a police station and fined 20 times the minimum monthly wage for holding an "unsanctioned mass meeting." The church -- which has state registration -- has been refused permission to rent premises for public worship, so has to meet in a private home. Local lawyer Sergei Lukanin told a western news service that Pastor Bokun told the court he had broken the law only because it went against the law of God, according to Forum 18 News Service. Although he did not preach at the service, the pastor faces administrative charges on accusations of conducting unauthorized religious activity as a foreign citizen and hence violating laws on the presence of foreign citizens in Belarus.

Guatemala has Highest Percentage of Evangelicals in Latin America

ASSIST News Service reports that Guatemala has the highest percentage of evangelicals in its population of any country in Latin America, citing a story from the BBC. “Although figures vary, it is estimated that about 30% of the country belong to the numerous Protestant Churches,” said the BBC story. An indication of the growth of this sector of society, it says, comes from the denomination “Christian Fraternity”, which is about to open the largest religious auditorium in Guatemala, or indeed Central America, which can seat 12,200 people. The complex includes a school, nurseries and a multi-storey car park. “Yet not everybody is happy with such projects,” the BBC story continued. “Many Guatemalans feel that the construction of mega-church buildings is a waste of precious money in a nation where 56% of the population still live below the poverty line."

Crowds Wowed by Creation Museum Grand Opening

A report on reads: "First time visitors to Creation Museum say they're impressed with the attention to detail and God-honoring exhibits. The 60,000 square foot museum features animatronic displays, a replica of a portion of Noah's Ark and a planetarium, all designed to bring the Bible to life. Ohio resident Nancy Mary said the museum exceeded her expectations. 'I like the way they wove the quotes from the Bible through the exhibits. And the exhibits just illustrate what is stated so plainly in Scripture. That's what really stood out to me,' she said. Michigan residents Ray Ogden and his son Alex were also impressed. 'Mainly I think what was impressive was the extreme focus on the Gospel message as the core meaning of the whole operation and not just meant to wow you with special effects, but to get across the message that the Bible is God's Word and there's a purpose for existence.' 'It's probably the best place I've been to in my entire life,' 10-year-old Alex Ogden said... [Answers in Genesis] officials expect more than 250 thousand visitors annually to the Creation Museum."

Transgender Minister Reappointed to Lead Church

According to The Church Report, the Rev. Drew Phoenix - formerly the Rev. Ann Gordon - has been reappointed to lead St. John’s United Methodist Church in Baltimore. Phoenix spent much of the last year undergoing sex change procedures. As Gordon, she was ordained in 1989 and led St. John’s for nearly five years. At the annual conference recently, the 48-year-old said “last fall, after a lifelong spiritual journey and year of prayer and discernment, I decided to change my name from Ann Gordon to Drew Phoenix in order to reflect my true gender identity and to honor my spiritual transformation and relationship with God.” Phoenix hopes his example causes people to “commit themselves to becoming educated about the complexity of gender and gender identity and open ourselves to those in our congregations who identify as transgender.” The decision was not without controversy. The UMC does prohibit sexually active gay clergy, but does not have specific policies regarding gender assignment.