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Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 20, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 20, 2006

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

  • California Church Nearly Closes, then Sees Tremendous Growth
  • Muslim Backlash over Pope's Remarks Impact Palestinian Christians
  • Homosexual Agenda Threatens Religious Freedom, Leaders Warn
  • OBI India Sets New Medical Record

California Church Nearly Closes, then Sees Tremendous Growth

Tom Smith, bivocational pastor of Mountain View Southern Baptist Church in Porterville, CA, said nothing can withstand the forces of God's grace and will. Baptist Press reports Smith has seen it happen "here in California even with an aging congregation, even in the rough part of town, even when it looked like the church might have to fold." The 61-year-old computer technician and business owner became pastor of the congregation -- seven small families -- in January. The church is located in an area known for gang-related violence and drug abuse. Eight months into his pastorate, Mountain View has seen eight people baptized -- their first baptisms in three-and-a-half years. Smith has specialized in bringing youth into the church, mostly through a program called Friday Night Alive. Smith collects neighborhood children in his van and brings them to the church for crafts, games, videos and a meal. The first Friday night they had six children. They're now up to about 20 children and 10 adults on Fridays. In addition, the church has restarted children's Sunday School for the first time in three years.

Muslim Backlash over Pope's Remarks Impact Palestinian Christians

AgapePress reports weekend firebombings of churches in the West Bank and Gaza have left Palestinian Christians confused, frightened, and increasingly struggling with their identity. The church attacks were part of the uproar in the Muslim world over Pope Benedict's comments last week about Islam, which many Muslims saw as an insult to their religion. Some Palestinian Christians distanced themselves from the Pope, saying he caused them needless trouble, while others accused their Muslim neighbors of intolerance or concocted conspiracy theories, saying Israel must somehow be involved. The tension highlighted Palestinian Christians precarious status as a dwindling minority in an overwhelmingly Muslim society.

Homosexual Agenda Threatens Religious Freedom, Leaders Warn

Religious conservative leaders, sensing declining alarm over same-sex "marriage," are warning that acceptance of homosexuality has led to attacks on religious freedom, AgapePress reports. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, says pastors may be more inclined to get involved "when they realize their ability to preach the gospel may very well be at stake." Freedom of religious expression will be the main theme of an October 15 gathering in Boston of conservative religious and political leaders that will be broadcast to churches nationally. Eight states have ballot initiatives in November to prohibit homosexual marriage, including some states with closely contested congressional races. Perkins said religious conservative groups plan to alert voters about the stands candidates have taken on the marriage issue.

OBI India Sets New Medical Record

For the rural poor living in India, medical care is a luxury. "India lives in its villages," said Kumar Periasamy, director of Operation Blessing India (OBI). "Over 70 percent of our population lives in rural India. But of an estimated 700 million rural Indians, about 300 million live in poverty with an income of less than 50 rupees a day." Such poverty keeps the majority of this rural population from obtaining much-needed medical care. But thanks to an effective training strategy, OBI India and its medical staff are able to spread out geographically and utilize an ever-expanding network of pastors, doctors, and local volunteers. During July, OBI held 76 one-day "Medical Camps," in which over 43,000 people were treated. According to Periasamy, it set an organization record for the largest group of people served medically in a single month. Medical services included eye exams, distribution of prescription glasses, dental procedures, distribution of medicine, and administering anti-parasite pills to every child in attendance.