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.
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."
- Torontonians get new SARS alert | Residents told to stay home at any symptom of the disease; Catholics change Easter communion procedures (CanWest News Service)
- Virus devastates 'soulful' group | 'They are very concerned': All 500 members of Toronto branch forced into isolation (National Post)
- Catholics alter Easter traditions to stop SARS (CBC News)
- Malaysian Catholics avoid kissing cross to prevent SARS | They do not need to kiss the cross in Easter ceremonies in a bid to prevent the spread of the deadly SARS virus. (AFP)
- SARS victims tied to Toronto religious group | 500 more quarantined: Cases connected to member who died on April 1 (The National Post)
- Hong Kongers turn to the heavens in fight against deadly virus | Living under the threat of SARS, people are flocking to pray for heavenly intervention to ward off the deadly virus. (AFP)
Iraq aid and relief:
- A crusade after all? | Plans of some Christians to evangelize as they offer aid pose dilemma for Iraqi reconstruction. (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Muslim League warns Christian body over Iraq relief | The Muslim World League warned that "non-Muslim organizations," a term used for Christian missionaries, were preparing to work in Iraq under the cover of providing humanitarian aid. (AFP)
- Interview: Missionary work in Iraq | Time talks to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary leader Albert Mohler about venturing into Iraq (Time)
- Christians in Iraq 'live like slaves' | Ottawa cleric fears further hardships for non-Islamics (The Ottawa Citizen)
Passover and Easter connections to the Iraq war:
- What Holy Week can teach us about the war | Holy Week is a time to reflect on the sacrifice, suffering and death of Jesus on behalf of mankind. (Newsday)
- As Jews celebrate Passover, war comes into question | Although these three events are divergent, for many people, they are connected. (The Dallas Morning News)
- A freedom festival | Metro Detroit Jews observe Passover today with Iraqi liberation on minds (Detroit Free Press)
- Wounds of Israel's Passover bombing slow to heal | Timed to take place on one of the holiest nights of the Jewish calendar, the Park Hotel bombing killed 29 people and injured 150, the worst toll of any suicide attack in 30 months of violence. (Reuters)
- Couple pleads guilty to harboring killer of abortion doctor | Dennis Malvasi and Loretta Marra conspired to harbor James Kopp (Associated Press)
- Church man's theft after car sex | A married parish treasurer stole more than £35,000 from church funds to pay off a woman he had a sexual encounter with. (BBC)
- Hoods steal man's Bible | Victim says it would be good if the thieves took the opportunity to read the stolen Bible. (New York Post)
- Convicted man appeals sentence over Bible | A man convicted of killing a woman wants his death sentence thrown out because the jury allegedly invoked a Bible passage (Associated 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:
- Why Muslims love Moses | And yet, I lament the tension that exists between the American Muslim and Jewish communities. (Beliefnet.com)
- Gnosticism and the struggle for the world's soul | What do Harry Potter, the Star Wars series, The Matrix, Masonry, New Age, and the Raelian cult have in common? (National Catholic Reporter)
- "I'm right, you're wrong, go to Hell" | Religions and the meeting of civilization (The Atlantic Monthly)
- Ads target campus 'anti-Christian bigotry' | Legal group seeks to 'end the intimidation by the political left' (World Net Daily)
- Religion in the Americas began 2250 BC | Ancient icon found in Peru is 1,000 years older than any other religious artifact in the region. (The Christian Science Monitor)
- 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:
- Robertson's speech backing Israel gets ovation at temple | He told a synagogue that his support for the state of Israel is not based on theology but on his appreciation of Christianity's ancient origins in Judaism. (Boston Globe)
- Robertson speech draws protesters (The MetroWest Daily News)
- Prominent Jewish educator arrested | He protests Pat Robertson appearance (Boston Globe)
- Earlier: Robertson taking message to temple (Boston Globe)
Clergy sex abuse:
- Lennon appeals to archdiocese priests for greater unity | Lennon's plea for unity is, in effect, a call for a return to the traditional relationship between Catholic priests and their bishops (Boston Globe)
- N.H. priest apologized to accuser on tape | A man who says he was raped as a teenager by a Roman Catholic priest met with him last year, wired with a recording device and seeking an apology. (The Washington Post)
- '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:
- Placing her faith in dolls | Entrepreneur risks everything to market religious toys. (The Indianapolis Star)
- Church treasurer pleads guilty to embezzling $1.6 million from New Hampshire church | Ross Perry, 43, of Greenland, "violated his duties to his church and to his country," U.S. Attorney Thomas Colantuono said. (Associated Press)
- Pale rider of apocalypse riding into toy stores | Video game publisher 3DO Co., on Tuesday said it had signed a licensing deal to develop toy action figures based on an upcoming game featuring the biblical "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." (Reuters)
- 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)
- Modern clergy 'lack knowledge of Christianity' | Clergy training is facing a radical overhaul amid evidence that curates have a poor grasp of theology and "biblical literacy" (The Times, London)
- Kirk criticized over domestic abuse | The Church of Scotland has not always been a safe haven for women suffering domestic abuse, according to a report. (BBC)
- Hunger strike threat in church row | Members of a church congregation in Sussex are threatening to go on hunger strike in a row over re-instating their priest. (BBC)
- Anti-Gay group targets churches | The signs they carried signs and used epithets to proclaim God hates homosexuals. (The Hartford Courant)
- Suicide reform plea to stop Britons going abroad to die | Campaigners for euthanasia claimed yesterday that a failure to make assisted suicide legal in Britain was driving people abroad to end their lives. (The Guardian, London)
- Also: Investigation opened into suicide of British couple | Relatives and officials at the retirement community where the couple lived told British newspapers that the pair was not terminally ill. (CNS News)
- Also: Swiss assisted suicide 'may be illegal' (BBC)
- Texas abortion lawsuit headed for mediation | Parties will attempt to reach an agreement before an unbiased third party designated by the court - usually a former district court judge. (CNS News)
- Also: Texas women press court to enforce abortion safety | Four tell judge of their own clinic experiences (Houston Chronicle)
Politics and law:
- Mugabe leaves door open for churches | Recent comments by President Robert Mugabe had suggested the church could constructively engage government on democracy (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)
- Catholics asked to vote for faith | The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has written to churchgoers urging them not to vote for parties whose policies clash with its doctrine. (BBC)
- France threatens to expel extremist Islamic leaders | Minister says application of Islamic law won't be allowed (Associated Press)
- A wise faith-based deduction | Officials at many charities said that the change in the law could help boost contributions in difficult times. (Editorial, The Plain Dealer)
- Police alert on religion-based campaigns | Bauchi State Police Command said it has received reports that some religious leaders were planning to organize an open air service to instigate youths against political leaders. (This Day, Lagos)
- Religion likely to determine Nigeria's elections | The Catholic Church in Nigeria, concerned that the elections be truly democratic, has deployed 30,000 people across the country to monitor fairness at the polls (Compass News Service)
- Also: Nigerians brace up for election (This Day, Lagos)
Religious freedom and discrimination:
- Malaysian group demands reverse of Bible ban | Members of the Iban people in the state of Sarawak have demanded Malaysia's Home Ministry reverse a ban imposed last week on the Iban-language Bible - 'Bup Kudus'. (Radio Australia)
- Also: Bible ban shock in SE Asian democracy | Other books banned include translations of books in by well-known Western evangelical authors J.I. Packer and John Stott.
- Earlier: 35 books, detrimental to public peace, banned (Star Publications, Malaysia)
- Woman sues for religious harassment | A woman with bipolar disorder is suing her former boss for religious harassment, claiming he blamed her disorder on unconfessed sins and fired her because it was "God's will." (Associated Press)
- Vatican working on papal stop in Russia | Would be first by any pope (Reuters)
- Also: Vatican barters with Russia for papal visit | The Vatican is using a 16th-century icon that is one of the holiest objects in Orthodox Russia as a bargaining chip (The Guardian, London)
- Also: Pope's trip to Russia yet to be confirmed (The Dallas Morning News)
- Easter week means renewed debate over priestly celibacy | Thousands of Roman Catholic parishes will be without a priest for Sunday Mass. One organization has a solution to make the shortage disappear (CNS News)
- Pope slams 'unacceptable' actions | Only priests can celebrate Mass and divorced Catholics who remarry cannot take communion. (Associated Press)
- Also: Pope's ruling bars Blair from taking Communion with family | John Paul II is issuing a new encyclical that will explicitly forbid Protestants like the Prime Minister taking Communion with Catholics such as Cherie Blair and their children. (The Times, London)
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)
- Icon carried on pilgrimage | An ancient bronze figure that lay undiscovered in a Norfolk field for 800 years is being carried on a pilgrimage to the religious shrine at Walsingham. (BBC)
- Warning on posters that offend faiths | New guidelines respond to complaints from believers. (The Guardian, London)
- Emory experiments with spiritual healing | Part of Emory University's newest clinical trial is to see whether alternative medical techniques can improve life for Parkinson's patients. (Associated Press)
- Animal sacrifice all in a day's work | Police get lessons in religious rituals (The Miami Herald)
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