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Religion Today Summaries, May 7, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, May 7, 2004

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

  • Methodist Policies on Homosexuals Remain at Forefront in Pittsburgh
  • Christian Convert Tortured to Death in Pakistan
  • Minister Helps Michigan Non-Muslims Fight Mosques' Prayer Broadcast Ordinance
  • Number of Unchurched American Adults Has Nearly Doubled

Methodist Policies on Homosexuals Remain at Forefront in Pittsburgh
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A decision by the United Methodist Church's Judicial Council to let stand a church trial verdict in favor of a lesbian pastor is getting mixed reviews from a conservative group. The Judicial Council, the UMC's top court, ruled that it did not have authority to review the findings of the Methodist trial court in the Karen Dammann case.  Dammann, a minister from Washington state, was recently acquitted of the charge of "engaging in practices incompatible with Christian teaching." Mark Tooley with the Institute on Religion and Democracy disagrees with the ruling, but says it is not entirely unreasonable. "The Judicial Council does not usually overturn the verdict of a lower court in terms of a trial of a clergy person," Tooley explains.  The Judicial Council also ruled that a bishop may not appoint one who has been found by a trial court to be a self-avowed, practicing homosexual. Meanwhile, United Methodists who want to stop the appointment of homosexual clergy have won some new tools to do so at their quadrennial General Conference this week in Pittsburgh.  Among the legislation they have adopted is a measure making it a chargeable offense for clergy to perform weddings for same-gender couples and for ministers to have sex outside of marriage.

Christian Convert Tortured to Death in Pakistan
Charisma News Service

A Christian who refused to convert to Islam died this week after being severely tortured by Islamic militants. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Javed Anjum, a 23-year-old resident of Toba Tek Singh District, was tortured for five days and nights by extremists from a "madrassa," or Islamic school in the area. He was hospitalized for 11 days and died in a Faisalabad hospital on Sunday. In a statement to police before he died, Anjum said he was searching for water near the school, but was accused by Muslim leaders of trying to steal a water pump. "I rejected the charge and told the Islamic leaders that I am a Christian youth and a student," he reportedly told police. "As soon as the Islamic extremists came to know that I am Christian, they asked me to convert to Islam. I refused and they started torturing me... They tortured me badly and during the torture they continuously asked me to accept Islam." CSW urged Pakistani authorities to bring the militants to justice. "This is a tragedy, and is an example of the threat that Christians continue to face in Pakistan," Stuart Windsor, national director of the CSW, said. "We urge our supporters to pray for Javed's family."

Minister Helps Michigan Non-Muslims Fight Mosques' Prayer Broadcast Ordinance
Chad Groening, Agape Press

Members of an Ohio church are coming to the aid of some Michigan residents who do not want a call to Muslim prayers blasted over loudspeakers in their community. Jim Marquis is pastor of the New Covenant Worship Center in Wellston, Ohio. When he learned about the situation in Hamtramck, Michigan, where city council members were prepared to pass a new ordinance allowing mosques to broadcast their calls to prayer, he decided to get involved. Last week Marquis took nine church members with him to speak on behalf of citizens in the community who felt the ordinance exempting mosques from the city's noise regulations would infringe on their rights. "There's no place that you can go. You're going to be able to hear it in your home; you're going to hear it…wherever you are -- you have no choice. Five times a day… you're going to have to hear this prayer recited to Allah," Marquis says. The pastor says the City Council bought into the argument from the Muslim community that the prayer calls are no different than church bells. Marquis asserts, "There's no comparison between a church bell that is a nondescript sound, and a prayer." Pastor Marquis is now working on several options to get the new rule thrown out. He is talking with Christian attorneys about taking legal action against the city council, and is also helping to advance a referendum effort.

Number of Unchurched American Adults Has Nearly Doubled
Charisma News Service

The number of Americans who don't go to church has mushroomed from 39 million to 75 million since 1991 - representing more than one third of the U.S. adult population and a 92 percent increase. According to the "startling statistics" discovered by the Barna Research Group's (BRG) latest study, the percentage of adults who haven't attended a worship service - other than a wedding or funeral, Christmas or Easter - during the past six months has risen from 21 percent 13 years ago to 34 percent today. Released Tuesday, the survey looked at 18 different religious factors, nine behaviors and nine beliefs, of the unchurched. The poll found that non-churchgoers are more likely to be young, male and single than born-again adults. BRG president George Barna noted that to unchurched people, embracing church life is "both counter-cultural and counter-intuitive." "The rapidly swelling numbers of unchurched people may be forcing existing churches to reinvent their core spiritual practices while holding tightly to their core spiritual beliefs," he added. "It will take radically new settings and experiences to effectively introduce unchurched individuals to biblical principles and practices."