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Religion Today Summaries, May 6, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, May 6, 2004

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

  • UMC Conservatives Lament Liberal Hold on Church Structures

  • Pope Worried About Renewed Violence in Indonesia

  • Law Firm Ready to Fight for Graduating Students' Free Speech


UMC Conservatives Lament Liberal Hold on Church Structures
Jim Brown & Jenni Parker
Agape Press


Controversies abound at the 2004 meeting of the United Methodist General Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, ongoing through May 7. There some conservatives are expressing disappointment over the outcome of Judicial Council elections, while Orthodox women in the denomination are rankling over being overlooked by the UMC's liberal Women's Division.  The day after a major snafu involving flawed voting machines, the General Conference elected four new members to the Judicial Council. Officials declared Monday's initial elections null and void because 74 invalid votes were recorded. The Tuesday do-over resulted in the election of four new council members to the church's high court.  Dr. Maxie Dunnam, a Kentucky delegate and President of Asbury Theological Seminary, calls the election results "very disappointing" for conservatives.  "The judicial council is the most important body in the life of the church," Dunnam says, "and we need that body not to be a body that is ideological as it relates to these issues that are tearing our church apart. It needs to be a body that will look seriously at and be fair in interpreting what the church has said and how the church has defined herself."


Pope Worried About Renewed Violence in Indonesia
Patrick Goodenough
Pacific Rim Bureau Chief, CNS News


The Pope has expressed concern about an upsurge in violence in Indonesia's troubled Maluku province, where almost 40 Christians and Muslims have been shot, stabbed or bombed to death over the past week.   The conflict erupted in the city of Ambon when nationalist Muslims reacted angrily to a demonstration by supporters of a small separatist movement that is identified as a Christian group but is rejected by the broader Christian community.  In a message sent to the bishop of Ambon, Canisius Mandagi, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano said Pope John Paul II expressed sorrow about the loss of life, injuries, and damage caused to houses, schools and churches.  Sodano said the Pope "wishes to assure the whole Christian community of his paternal affection and solidarity, and his heartfelt prayer that public order and peaceful relations between the various religious and social groups will be quickly restored."  Paramilitary police reinforcements were deployed over the weekend to disarm civilians and restore order. Since the violence began nearly two weeks ago, about 2,000 people have fled their homes near the dividing line between the two largely segregated communities, according to one local crisis center.


Law Firm Ready to Fight for Graduating Students' Free Speech
Allie Martin and Jenni Parker
Agape Press


A Christian legal firm has kicked off what it calls the "Friend or Foe Graduation Campaign." Through it the organization hopes to encourage schools to respect graduating students' rights to free speech and religious expression.  Mat Staver of Florida-based Liberty Counsel says the firm will provide free legal representation to schools taking a neutral position regarding messages presented by students at graduation. However, he says the legal group will oppose any schools that attempt to suppress the religious viewpoint of student speakers or to censor the spiritual content of their speeches.  "We want to be the friend of schools that protect the rights of students -- but we will be a foe of those schools that strip student speeches of their religious content," Staver warns.  The Liberty Counsel's president and general counsel notes that, while the Supreme Court has prohibited school-sponsored prayer, it has never banned all religious speech or prayer from graduation ceremonies.