City votes to keep missionary’s statue

The citizens of Nuuk, Greenland, voted to keep a bronze statue of 18th-century Lutheran missionary Hans Egede. The “Apostle to Greenland” is seen by some as a symbol of colonialism. Greenland, with a population that is nearly 90 percent Inuit, remains part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Egede’s 1721 mission was jointly funded by a for-profit corporation, the Danish king, and Protestant missionaries. The referendum came amid anti-racist protests and growing pressure in the US and Europe to remove landmarks honoring controversial historic figures. Nuuk voted to keep its statue, 921–600.

Billy Graham statue to take honored place at US Capitol

The North Carolina Legislature has approved installation of a statue of the late Billy Graham at the US Capitol. The Capitol has two statues from each state, most celebrating political or military leaders. “America’s preacher” Graham will join a few religious figures, however, including Catholic Father Damien (Hawaii), Pueblo leader Po’pay (New Mexico), and Mormon Brigham Young (Utah). The evangelist will replace former Governor Charles Aycock, who supported the violent overthrow of Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1898 because some of the elected city officials were African American. It is considered the only coup d’état in US history.

New restrictions on religion proposed

The Russian parliament is considering a law that would ban foreigners from participating in religious activity. The proposed law is framed as a protection of religious liberty, but limited to Russians. It would also prevent Russians from studying theology abroad. Proponents of the bill say it is necessary to curtail the influence of foreign extremists, including Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Baptists. If it passes this fall, the law would be the latest in a series of restrictions backed by Vladimir Putin since he became president for the second time in 2012. In July, Russia amended its constitution to allow Putin to stay in office until 2036.

Christians support TV company

Evangelicals threw their support behind ABS-CBN, the largest television company in the Philippines and the oldest in Southeast Asia, as President Rodrigo Duterte considered whether to allow the company to renew its license. The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches called for prayer that the president and lawmakers in his party would “decide virtuously for the good of our country.” Duterte has feuded with ABS-CBN since the 2016 election, when it aired footage showing the candidate joking about raping an Australian missionary. Legislators have investivated ABS-CBN 12 times.

Prison officials point to Methodist failures

The Fiji Corrections Service is asking the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma to consider why so many Methodists are in prison. Nearly 30 percent of the prisoners in the country’s 15 correctional facilities are Methodists, which is also the largest religious group in the republic. Chaplain Josefa Tikonatabua, an ordained Methodist, said the church needs to confront its failures and look at how Methodists raise their children. The denomination has previously promoted prison outreach and launched a rehabilitation program with the state.

West Bank baptismal removal sparks dispute

Israeli and Palestinian authorities are accusing each other of stealing an ancient Christian baptismal font. The stone font was carved by Christians in the 500s and is similar to a baptismal discovered during restoration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Israeli officials removed it from the West Bank under the cover of darkness, alleging the font was stolen from an archaeological site in 2000. Palestinians say Israel is attempting to erase historic evidence of Palestinian presence through the theft of heritage sites. Israeli plans to annex more of the West Bank in July were delayed, possibly because of COVID-19.

Property fight divides Protestants

The Protestant Churches of Egypt (PCE) claimed victory after a top Egyptian court ruled that Anglicans “cannot be separated from the evangelical community” and the PCE has rightful administrative control over all evangelical church property. A 2016 law created a uniform national process for licensing churches but only recognized three “Egyptian denominations”: Coptic Orthodox, Catholics, and the PCE. Anglicans, who have been in Egypt for 181 years, say they should be independent and accuse the PCE of using the law to steal property.

COVID-19 prompts return to Wesleyan tradition

United Methodists in Zimbabwe have revived small groups, a practice promoted by founder John Wesley for Christian discipleship, as a way to worship within the limits set by coronavirus restrictions. Churches were allowed to reopen in June, but with no more than 50 people at any one gathering. Traditionally, Wesleyan “classes” and “bands” had 7 to 12 people who would gather and ask each other, “How is it with your soul?” Pastor Gift Kudakwashe Machinga said the church believes it can encourage spiritual growth and adhere to strict health guidelines at the same time.

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Missionary settles suits with bereaved mothers

A US missionary agreed to pay about $10,000 each to the mothers of two children who died in her care, according to an out-of-court settlement reached in July. Renee Bach, who has no medical training, has been accused of passing herself off as a doctor at the health center she founded in Uganda at age 20. Bach says she was trying to help in a “non-ideal situation.” The center treated 940 children over five years; 105 of them died. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, 125,000 Ugandan children die of malnutrition-related illnesses each year.

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