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Religion Today Summaries, September 3, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, September 3, 2003

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

  • Minister Hopes Christians Learn from Episcopal Mistake 
  • WCC Calls for U.N. Control in Iraq, Aid for Liberia
  • Church Gets to First Base in Dispute Over Ballpark Sign
  • Alabama Has Met Ten Commandments Court Order

Minister Hopes Christians Learn from Episcopal Mistake
Jim Brown, Agape Press

With the Episcopal Church, divided over the recent election of its first openly homosexual bishop, conservatives in other mainline denominations are hoping the same scenario does not occur in their churches. One United Methodist leader is praying that all mainline Protestant denominations will learn from the divisive action in the Episcopal Church. Dr. Maxie Dunnam is president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky and one of the presidents of the World Methodist Council. The minister says this is a crucial time in American Protestantism. "I do pray that this grave mistake that has been made in the Episcopal Church will speak to United Methodists who may not have been as concerned about these kinds of growing issues within our church, and that this will be a wakeup call to those who see themselves as moderates or centrists within the life of the church," he says. Dunnam believes what has happened in the Episcopal Church will not take place in his denomination because the general conferences have shown that the United Methodist Church is completely opposed to ordination of homosexual pastors. In fact, Dunnam thinks this issue will move more Methodists to return to biblical orthodoxy. The seminary president hopes what is happening in the Episcopal Church will inspire and mobilize Christians to the fight for orthodox biblical values in the Church.

WCC Calls for U.N. Control in Iraq, Aid for Liberia
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

The World Council of Churches on Monday (Sept. 1) called for the "immediate and orderly" withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq and the transfer of power to the United Nations. The WCC's Central Committee, ending its eight-day meeting in Geneva on Tuesday, also urged churches to provide humanitarian aid to alleviate the "horrific conditions and untold human sufferings" in Liberia. In a five-page statement on Iraq, the WCC called the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq "immoral, ill-advised and in breach of the principles of the (U.N.) Charter." The WCC said it remains concerned about the "long-term political, social, cultural and religious consequences of this war and the continued occupation, especially the negative impact on Christian-Muslim relations." The U.S. occupation of Iraq will exacerbate the "intense hatred towards the Western world, strengthening extremist ideologies (and) breeding further global insecurity and increased emigration of Christians from the Middle East," the WCC said. The Geneva-based body of 342 Protestant and Orthodox churches called on American and British forces to pay "full reparations" to the Iraqi people for the war's damages and urged "unimpeded access" for humanitarian groups.

Church Gets to First Base in Dispute Over Ballpark Sign
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A Baptist church in North Carolina has chalked up an important legal victory.  A federal judge is allowing the church to move ahead with its lawsuit against a public school district. Last fall, Oxford Baptist Church tried to participate in a fundraiser for the Catawba County School District.  Although other community groups were allowed to purchase signs to be posted on the school's ball field, the church was not because its sign featured a Bible verse:  "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31). When the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit on the church's behalf, the school proceeded to take down all of the signs.  But recently, a federal judge rejected the school district's arguments that the lawsuit could be ended prematurely. ADF attorney Peter Gentala, says "the important thing to remember here is that religious speech is fully protected by the First Amendment," Gentala says.  "Under the Constitution, the church cannot be discriminated against in this situation just because its slogan [has] a scriptural foundation." Gentala says the courageous stand Oxford Baptist Church is taking will allow other believers to continue to spread the gospel and not have their protected speech censored. No trial date has been set.

Alabama Has Met Ten Commandments Court Order
Kim Chandler and David White, Religion News Service

Alabama is in compliance with a federal court order to remove the Ten Commandments from the state judicial building's rotunda and is out of the shadow of contempt, a federal judge said Friday. Attorney General Bill Pryor and plaintiffs in the lawsuit that challenged the display informed U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson of the monument's removal during a conference call Friday morning. "We withdrew our motion for contempt," said Richard Cohen, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Cohen is one of the lawyers who sued to challenge the display placed by Chief Justice Roy Moore. The 2.5-ton monument that once stood in middle of the building's rotunda now resides in a locked storage room. Moore said he intends to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican who supported Moore's display of the monument but not his defiance of the order, is hopeful about the appeal to the high court.  Cohen said protesters, who have bemoaned an erosion of religious rights, have twisted what the lawsuit tried to do. The lawsuit was about protecting religious freedom, he said. "The case was never an attack on religion. Justice Moore wanted to promote one religion to the exclusion of others," he said.