Mounting threats to religious freedom in Russia have led more Protestants to leave, including a Baptist family granted asylum in Germany over the summer after suffering insults and assaults due to their missionary activity. The court accepted their persecution claim, even though the Russian constitution officially guarantees freedom of religion. More than 5,000 Russian refugees fled to Germany in 2018, some in response to the 2016 anti-missionary law that bars evangelism and led to the country banning Jehovah’s Witnesses. Baptists and Pentecostals are among the most-fined groups for violating the evangelism restrictions.
Algeria: Church closures escalate
Local authorities in Algeria have tightened their oversight of Christian churches, forcing several more to close due to alleged building violations. Nearly all of the shut-down buildings—at least six in the past year—belong to the Protestant Church of Algeria, which is no longer recognized by federal authorities regulating non-Muslim worship. Christians believe their churches, schools, and bookstores were being targeted since Muslim sites have not faced the same scrutiny, but the government has previously denied those claims. In the wake of the ousting of Algeria’s president earlier this year, the World Evangelical Alliance called on the country’s interim president to reopen churches and offer greater freedom for the fewer than 1 percent of the population who are not Muslim.
A former deputy sued the Lee County, North Carolina, sheriff’s office, alleging he was terminated for following the Billy Graham Rule. Manuel Torres objected to the extended one-on-one time required for training a female deputy and requested a religious exemption, saying his faith as a Baptist forbids him from spending significant time alone with a woman besides his wife. While adherents say the Billy Graham Rule—adopted by the late evangelist and followed by leaders like Vice President Mike Pence—protects marriages, critics worry it limits opportunities for women and distorts views of the opposite sex.
Egypt: Government approves 1,000 churches
More Christians in Egypt can worship in legally sanctioned buildings as dozens of additional churches make their way through an arduous government process instituted three years ago. The country licensed 88 churches in August alone, bringing the total number of registered Christian congregations to 1,109. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 Protestant, Catholic, and Coptic Orthodox churches are still waiting for approval, and thousands more have not yet applied. The 2016 church registration policy replaced complicated, Ottoman Empire-era rules that were prone to manipulation by local authorities, sometimes under political pressure from Muslim majorities who raised security concerns. Eight Coptic churches were closed by mob attacks in 2018.
Ohio minister Donna Barrett was elected general secretary of the Assemblies of God (AG) in August, becoming the first woman voted into its executive leadership team in its 105-year history. Though the Pentecostal denomination has supported women in ministry since its founding, with nearly a quarter of all AG ministers today being women, it took nearly a decade after opening top leadership positions to women in 2010 for a female to take office. Barrett now holds the third-highest position in the denomination, which has 3.2 million adherents and over 13,000 churches in the US.
The Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) no longer considers the doctrine that Jesus will physically reign as king on the earth for 1,000 years an essential part of the gospel and dropped the word premillennial from its statement of faith after its national conference in June. The denomination now believes “in the personal, bodily and glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ,” leaving the question of premillennialism to personal discretion. Seventy-nine percent of delegates approved the change, which the EFCA first considered in 2008.
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