Wednesday, May 14, 2008

14 May 2008

Presbyterians Week Headlines:

[1] 42 Episcopal Priests Deposed Since 2004 by Liberal Bishop
[2] Charges Shift against Christian Bookstore Owner in China
[3] Pastor's 13-year-old Daughter Gang-Raped in Bangladesh
[4] Seminary Professor Responds to University of Toledo President's Suspension of Administrator
[5] Reaching Out to the Romas
[6] Pro-lifers like decision by WA judges

[1] 42 Episcopal Priests Deposed Since 2004 by Liberal Bishop

David W. Virtue reports that since 2004 when he first took office as the Bishop Coadjutor of Florida, Samuel Johnson Howard has deposed a total of 42 priests in his diocese, with very few orthodox priests surviving his "ecclesiastical holocaust." It is the largest single deposition of priests in the history of The Episcopal Church.

Virtue characterizes Bishop Howard's ecclesiastical oversight as heavy-handed and as a "reign of terror." He describes Howard as demanding that all parish assessments were to be sent to him with no local options to redirect part of the assessment to other entities, and how the bishop threatened and then retaliated against parishes going against his mandates, including one parish that because they did not pay the bishop the mandated 10% of their budget was forbidden to obtain a loan to renovate their church's organ.

+ VirtueOnline, 1236 Waterford Road, West Chester, Pennsylvania 19380

[2] Charges Shift against Christian Bookstore Owner in China

An advocacy organization reported this week that Chinese authorities now accuse a Beijing businessman of being a "dangerous religious element" - which a long-time friend dismissed as contrary to Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan's gentle, patriotic nature.

Authorities have been slow to reveal charges against Shi, who after his original arrest for "illegal business practices" on November 28, 2007 was released on January 4 due to "insufficient evidence." He was re-arrested on March 19, according to his wife Zhang Jing, for printing Bibles and Christian literature.

Until last week he had been denied a visit by his attorney. Following that visit, China Aid Association reported on Monday (April 28) that authorities were holding Shi at the Beijing Municipal Detention Center as a "dangerous religious element."

Shi's wife has said she has been prohibited from bringing the 37-year-old father of two any food or change of clothing since his re-arrest.

Operating a bookstore located near the Olympic Village, Shi had never had any problems with authorities before his arrest last November, according to Sharpe.

+ Compass Direct News Service, Post Office Box 27250, Santa Ana, California 92799

[3] Pastor's 13-year-old Daughter Gang-Raped in Bangladesh

Muslim villagers in Mymensingh district eager to rid the area of the Christian work of a local pastor have gang-raped his 13-year-old daughter, the girl's father said.

Pastor Motilal Das of United Bethany Church said that at around 3 a.m. on Friday (May 2) the villagers sexually assaulted his daughter, Elina Das, and left her unconscious in front of his house in an attempt to drive him and his Christian ministry out of Laksmipur village in Fulbaria sub-district, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital.

The day of the rape, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) announced annual recommendations for countries to be designated "Countries of Particular Concern," but it did not include Bangladesh.

Rather, the commission put Bangladesh on its "Watch List" due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government. Other countries on the Watch List are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria.

According to USCIRF, Islamist radicalism and violence, the threat of serious violence and continued discrimination against members of religious minority communities remain significant concerns in Bangladesh.

+ Compass Direct News Service, Post Office Box 27250, Santa Ana, California 92799

[4] Seminary Professor Responds to University of Toledo President's Suspension of Administrator

Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D., Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, through an open letter has responded to University of Toledo (UT) President Lloyd Jacobs for his suspension of Associate Vice President of Human Resources Crystal Dixon for a guest opinion article she wrote for the Toledo Free Press in response to their 4 April editorial "Gay Rights and Wrongs."

Dr. Gagnon's letter describes Ms. Dixon's suspension "for rejecting a comparison between homosexuality on the one hand and being black or handicapped on the other hand" as "a gross injustice and an expression of the very intolerance that you claim to abhor." Gagnon further describes the suspension as being "predicated on a lack of knowledge and thus prejudice."

He concludes his letter to President Jacobs by stating "I hope as a president of a university you will provide your students with an example of thoughtful and rigorous reflection rather than the kind of harsh, knee-jerk response that you have thus far taken. Instead of suspending Ms. Dixon you should be singing her praises for her honesty and her courage of conviction."

(Note: Pete Winn of Cybercast News Service reported on 12 May that Ms. Dixon has been fired by UT and that she is now being represented by the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Michigan)

+ Robert A. J. Gagnon,

+ Toledo Free Press, 605 Monroe Street, Toledo, Ohio 43604

[5] Reaching Out to the Romas

Chris Meehan reports that David Pandy-Szekeres has mixed his missionary work with chronicling through photographs the harsh life of gypsies ­ also known as Romas -- living in a corner of the Ukraine called Sub-Carpathia.

A Presbyterian missionary in Eastern Europe, Pandy-Szekeres stopped in Grand Rapids, Mich., the week of 4 May to talk about the gritty but evocative photographs he has taken of the gypsy town in which he helps run an elementary school on behalf of the Hungarian Reformed Church.

With the photo exhibit, he wants to let people in the Christian Reformed Church know more about his ministry to the Roma people.

Christian Reformed World Missions has been active in Eastern Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. At that time, it began sending Christian teachers to various schools in Hungary, Romania and the Ukraine. Under communist leaders, many schools had been closed.

Persecution of Protestants during the counter-reformation, harassment by the Nazis, and subsequent communist rule damaged and challenged the Christian church in his part of the world, and yet the gospel has always triumphed, says Rev. Daniel Szabo, a seminary professor and evangelist who is a colleague and mentor of Pandy-Szekers, and is also in the United States to help talk about the work going on in Hungary and surrounding countries.

Discrimination has followed the gypsies, a traditionally transient population found in many areas of Europe, throughout the ages across the world. Today, very few gypsies lead a nomadic lifestyle for which they have been known. Instead, they have been forced to settle down.

In the Ukraine, Roma children are sometimes denied access to public education, says Pandy-Szekeres. As a response to this, the Hungarian Reformed Church helped to launch the small school in Nagydobrony.

We are teaching them about the Lord and the Bible says Pandy -Szerkes. We are holding bigger gatherings for spiritual learning and fellowship. We are trying to help them as they undergo the often painful and frustrating process of assimilation into the larger Ukrainian community.

+ Christian Reformed Church Communications, 2850 Kalamazoo Avenue Southeast, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49560

[6] Pro-lifers like decision by WA judges

Rusty Pugh reports that federal appeals judges have refused to immediately reinstate a Washington state rule that would deny pharmacists a religious exemption to dispensing the Plan B regimen -- the so-called "morning-after" pill. A federal judge in Tacoma suspended the rule last year, after pharmacists and a drugstore owner sued, claiming the rule required them to do something their religion condemns as immoral.

The state wanted federal appeals court judges to lift the suspension while the law is being challenged, but a panel of judges refused the request in a 2-to-1 decision.

+ American Family News Network, Post Office Drawer 2440,Tupelo, Mississippi 38803