Religion Today Summaries, November 13, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, November 13, 2003

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

  • Bishops' Lawyer Warns Against Threat to Religious Freedom

  • Charismatic Church's 'Sign of Judgment' Elicits Reactions

  • Chinese Christian Converts Arrested and Questioned

  • Egyptian Arrests of Christians Continues

Bishops' Lawyer Warns Against Threat to Religious Freedom
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

The top lawyer for the nation's Roman Catholic bishops warned Wednesday (Nov. 12) that religious freedom is under attack from opponents who want to "force people to choose between God and government." Mark Chopko, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said all religions are threatened when Catholic hospitals or employers are forced to provide abortions or contraceptives against church teaching. "We cannot allow the principle of religious freedom and the tradition of making accommodations for conscience to be eroded," Chopko said. "Forcing people to choose between government and God has never been the American way, nor should it be now." On Dec. 2, the California Supreme Court will hear an appeal from Catholic Charities on whether they -- along with Catholic hospitals and universities -- should be required to provide contraceptives to employees. A similar case is pending in New York. Chopko said church institutions have been threatened with loss of tax-exempt status or denied access to tax-free bonds unless church teachings were not enforced. He also said church-run social service agencies should be allowed to hire only Catholics, a provision that has been heavily debated in President Bush's faith-based initiative. "The trends I describe, left unchecked, will hurt everyone," he said.

Charismatic Church's 'Sign of Judgment' Elicits Reactions
Charisma News Service

Employing an unorthodox approach to promote the biblical admonition to "judge not," the pastor of a small charismatic Texas congregation is promoting his flock as a "judgmental church." In August, Country Community Church in Kerrville erected the sign "First Condemning Church of Kerrville" in an effort to stir reactions and grab attention, according to David Dodge, who leads the 50-member nondenominational congregation. Pastor of the church for three years, Dodge said the sign bluntly points out the judgmental nature of many churches and it encourages Christians to look at their condemning thoughts toward others. "Lots of people stay away from church because of condemnation - be it real or imagined," said Dodge, who has preached a series of sermons on judgmentalism, which he planned to send to pastors in the community of about 22,000 people. Dodge said he anticipated more negative responses from the community over the sign, which has been photographed by many people. "Since we put it up, we've had visitors every Sunday," said Dodge, who estimates that about 20 people have visited the church. "They realize that we're the opposite of what we're advertising."

Chinese Christian Converts Arrested and Questioned
Voice of the Martyrs News

On the morning of November 9, Dr. Xu Yong-hai and his wife, Li Shan-na were finishing their night shifts at Ping'an Hospital in Beijing where Dr. Xu is a prominent psychiatrist, when they were arrested by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and taken for interrogation. According to Li, who was released later that day, they were questioned about the activities of Liu Feng-gang, a house church activist who has been held by the PSB since October 13. Li was told that Dr. Xu was accused as "a suspect of espionage the national secrets" in collaborating with Liu Feng-gang. This arrest is only the latest in a new crackdown on leaders of the house church movement in China. Dr. Xu previously spent two and a half years in "re-education" for his faith. He is a prominent advocate for the house church and has spoken out against corruption in the Chinese medical system. Dr. Xu came to faith in Christ in 1989, after loosing faith in the Communist system and seeing the spiritual void. In an interview, Xu said, "Life without faith is unbearable. But after I found God in 1989, my life totally changed. I felt like a new person."

Egyptian Arrests of Christians Continues
Charisma News Service

Some 22 Christians in Egypt, many secret converts from Islam to Christianity, were recently arrested in a new crackdown on apostates and their supporters. The believers -- who were arrested beginning Oct. 21 -- were taken from Alexandria to police stations in Cairo, where they were beaten, interrogated and tortured. The converts and the other Christians have been charged with falsifying official identity cards and papers. Other believers fear the arrests will continue and many other converts from Islam, who have been living quietly as Christians will be arrested. Although Egypt, which is 90 percent Muslim, has no law against apostasy from Islam, converts to Christianity -- in practice -- are targeted by police who try to force them to return to Islam. A Christian who converts to Islam can receive new identity papers with an adopted Muslim name within 24 hours. However, it is impossible for Muslims who convert to Christianity to change to a Christian name.