SBC sets May 5 deadline on faith statement holdouts
The Southern Baptist Convention has set a May 5 deadline for overseas missionaries to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. In letters to 31 missionaries, Southern Baptist International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin said the statement must be affirmed by that date or "I will be recommending that the board take action to terminate your service in their May meeting."

The Associated Baptist Press reports this is the first time that IMB has threatened termination in connection with not signing the faith statement. Since Rankin asked for the statement to be affirmed more than a year ago, over 99 percent of SBC missionaries have done so. Only 73 out of 5,500 overseas workers have not. Forty-two have either resigned or are expected to by August. Rankin sent the recent letter as a final appeal to the remaining 31 who haven't signed.

Twenty-five of Rankin's April 11 letters ask for missionaries to either sign the statement or resign instead of facing termination. Six letters, however, give only the option to resign or be fired. According to Rankin, the six "have clearly and publicly stated positions contrary to the [faith statement] that are beyond acceptable parameters."

Some missionaries who have not signed the faith statement cite disagreement with its calls for male-only ordination and for wives to submit to their husbands.

Religious questions play major role in discussions to rebuild Iraq
As U.S. leaders say the major combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom has concluded, efforts to rebuild the country began this week. In a Tuesday meeting, ethnic and religious leaders debated Iraq's future. The group meeting in the ancient city of Ur agreed on basic principles of a democratic government and planned to meet again in two weeks.

The New York Times reports that a critical underlying thread to the talks was the role of religion in state and society. More than 80 delegates of rival exile groups, including Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish leaders, attended the gathering. Thus far, there has been a great deal of support for democracy but little agreement on issues of religious tolerance and religion's role in the new democracy.

The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq boycotted the meeting because of the U.S.'s involvement. Other religious groups said they were not invited. Shiite Muslim cleric Mohammed Bakr Al-Nasri, a prominent leader of the Al Dawa Party, has recently returned to Iraq after 24 years of exhile and held his own meeting to rally support for Al Dawa's belief in a fundamentalist Islamic state.

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At the Ur meeting, representatives had varying views on the involvement of Islam and religious leaders in the new government. Sheikh Ayad Jamal Al-Din, a Shiite cleric from Nasiriyah, called for Iraq to build a secular government with a clear separation of church and state. "We reject the concept of a confessional democracy," he said. "Dictators may not speak in the name of religion." He demanded "a system of government that separates belief from politics."

Others argued that such a goal is unthinkable in Iraq. Said an Iraqi teacher at the meeting: "Those who would like to separate religion from the state are simply dreaming."

More Articles:


Iraq aid and relief:

Passover and Easter connections to the Iraq war:

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  • A freedom festival | Metro Detroit Jews observe Passover today with Iraqi liberation on minds (Detroit Free Press)


Church and state:

  • Ruling backs church posters in schools | A federal judge has ruled that the San Diego Unified School District discriminated against a church by refusing to let it post advertisements on a series of seminars (The Washington Times)

  • Religious group's access to schools limited | A federal judge yesterday denied a religious group's request to immediately be allowed to distribute fliers in two Montgomery County public schools. (The Washington Post)

  • Utah atheist's right to pray upheld | An atheist who sought to pray during City Council meetings for deliverance from "weak and stupid politicians" received the blessing of the Utah Supreme Court on Friday. (Associated Press)

Interfaith relations and other religions:

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  • Maids 'to work only for bosses with same religion' | Acting on reports of the ill-treatment of foreign domestic workers by employers, the Home Ministry will introduce regulations to ensure they are only employed by individuals with the same religion (The Straits Times)

Pat Robertson speaks to Jewish audience:

Clergy sex abuse:


  • 'The Rebbe's Army': God's Salesmen | The Lubavitcher sect of Hasidim, to which the outreach squad belongs, resembles nothing more than a Jewish version of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (The New York Times)

  • Father's mind-set is liberated | Author Frank Schaeffer finds friends beyond his elite circle and confronts the class prejudices of his peers after his son joins the Marines. (Los Angeles Times)

Money and business:

Church life:

  • Christianity and the young | What should the Church do to meet the needs of the younger generation? (The Times, London)

  • Ireland's "mass rocks" enjoy revival | The ledge serves as an altar in a rock which, like hundreds of others dotted around the Irish countryside, bears silent witness to times when Roman Catholics, their religion suppressed and churches confiscated by British Protestants, held secret services during the 17th and 18th centuries at "mass rocks" in the open air. (Reuters)

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Life ethics:

Politics and law:

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Religious freedom and discrimination:


Other stories of interest:

  • A season for new faiths | This is salvation season, when Christians and Jews retell and rejoice in the stories central to their religions. (USA Today)

  • Put away childish things | There is no God. So why do people cling to such absurd palliatives when we are on the brink of colonizing the universe? (The Guardian, London)

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