Religion Today Summaries, July 16, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.  In today's edition:

  • Atlanta-Area YMCA Ousts Member For Witnessing
  • Immigrant Christians See New York as 'Prime Conversion Ground'
  • Congressman Criticizes Catholics for Aiding Immigration
  • Selma Church Caught Between History and Progress

Atlanta-Area YMCA Ousts Member For Witnessing
Jody Brown, Agape Press

An evangelist from Georgia says his local YMCA terminated his family's membership because he shared the gospel with two young men just outside the facility. The national YMCA's stated mission is to "put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all." But Marietta resident Larry Lee notes surprisingly that his local Y apparently does not support those who want to share their faith in Christ. Earlier this month, he says he went to the East Cobb facility to work out. Lee took time to witness to two young men standing outside the building, then went inside to work out. "The next morning...I got the call from the YMCA director telling me that my family membership was terminated because I was talking about religion at the Y," he said. The Georgia evangelist runs "Down to Earth Ministry." The East Cobb YMCA officials characterized Lee's actions in very negative terms, calling what he did "bizarre" and "uncalled for." He says the director told him the young men he had addressed "were not there to talk about religion." Lee finds this baffling. "I was just confused," he says, "if it was wrong to talk about Christianity at a Christian organization." Lee feels one of the saddest things about this episode is that he was never given an opportunity to explain what happened before his family's membership was revoked, arbitrarily and without warning.

Immigrant Christians See New York as 'Prime Conversion Ground'
Charisma News Service

A generation of immigrant Christians sees New York City "as prime conversion ground." According to an extensive report by "The New York Times" last Sunday, "these envoys are traveling to New York to evangelize their compatriots as well as to convert members of other immigrant groups." "Missionaries with a twist, they are reversing the path that for generations has sent Americans and Europeans to Africa, Asia and Latin America to convert the local people to Christianity," the newspaper observed. "[They] are drawn to the city's vast and growing ethnic populations, to its reputation as a salvation-needy capital of sin, to its status as a major metropolis." Many of the emissaries come from cultures that were themselves the objects of 19th- and early 20th-century European or American missionaries. Like their earlier counterparts, they preach in public (on street corners, in some cases), establish churches, help educate and try to improve lives. The Church of the Pentecost, the largest Pentecostal denomination in Ghana, has 57 churches in the United States, including five in New York City. In 2000, the church established the Pentecost International Worship Center, specifically to reach out to non-Ghanaians.

Congressman Criticizes Catholics for Aiding Immigration
Agape Press

A Colorado congressman is criticizing members of the Catholic Church in Mexico for deliberately aiding people who want to enter the United States illegally. Representative Tom Tancredo, chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, says Catholic churches all along the U.S. border are providing Mexican nationals with assistance in breaking U.S. immigration laws. He says churches are providing would-be illegal aliens with "maps, and things telling people how to sneak into the [U.S.], and what they should tell the Border Patrol if they are stopped, what kind of demands they can make for their rights. They will provide sometimes water and food ... to help people break the law here." The congressman feels the Mexican Catholics are wrong to encourage illegal immigration and says, "I think it is terrible for anybody in the Church to tell people they should break the law, especially a law that no one could ever claim to be an unjust or immoral law."  Tancredo contends that a large part of the Catholic Church in Latin America remains stuck in the old liberation theology movement, which in the 1980s defended communist regimes like the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Selma Church Caught Between History and Progress
Agape Press

A congregation in Selma, Alabama, is suing the local city council for the right to demolish a building the church already owns. Members of First Baptist Church, located in downtown Selma's historic district, asked permission to tear down the century-old YMCA building that the church had purchased in 1996 to build a parking lot. An adjacent building has already been razed. But in May the Selma Historic Development Commission rejected the church's request. An ordinance limits construction and demolition in the district. However, the church claims the government cannot regulate property in a way that "imposes a substantial burden on religious exercise." The City Council of Selma met this week to discuss the lawsuit. A member of Alabama's historical commission says a compromise may be in the works.