Southern Baptists again prod foreign missionaries on new statement of faith

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2003

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The Southern Baptists Convention is making another attempt to get all its overseas missionaries to pledge that they agree with the denomination's revised statement of faith -- a document that opposes women pastors and says wives should submit to their husbands.

Avery Willis, senior vice president of the International Mission Board, has been contacting missionaries by phone to follow up the original request, made a year ago by board President Jerry Rankin.

The nation's largest foreign mission board estimates that less than 1 percent of its 5,400 personnel have not yet complied, Baptist Press reported.

The dispute involves missionaries who were hired under pledges to agree with the previous, 1963 version of the ''Baptist Faith and Message'' statement.

The 2000 revision, among other things, opposes women pastors and says ''a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.''

Willis is telling personnel currently in the United States that they will not be returned overseas without making a commitment. However, a Baptists spokesman said the phone calls are meant to persuade the missionaries to agree to the faith statement, not to tell them they're fired.

The board said 32 missionaries who resigned in the past year cited Rankin's letter as one reason, but the Baptist Standard of Texas says others are believed to have left for that reason without explicitly saying so.

Newly hired missionaries are required to adhere to the 2000 faith statement.


------ Catholic radio group seeks to expand reach with two Indiana stations

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) -- A Roman Catholic media group is trying to buy two bankrupt northwestern Indiana radio stations as it looks to extend its reach.

The Starboard Network of Green Bay, Wis., has offered to buy AM stations in Hammond and Michigan City for $3.25 million. The firm already owns seven radio stations in Wisconsin and one in Minnesota.

''Their goal is make Catholic radio available so someone driving across the country can tune it in everywhere they go,'' Jeff Kurowski of Green Bay's Catholic diocesan newspaper told the Post-Tribune of Merrillville, Ind.

Kurowski said that about 50 Catholic radio stations exist in the United States, compared with 1,500 Protestant stations.

Starboard plans to fill the Indiana stations' schedules with Catholic educational programs, devotionals, Masses and national talk shows hosted by theologians.

------ Churchgoers asked to plant 1,000 signs in response to North Carolina town's crackdown

EDEN, N.C. (AP) -- Some local churches want members to post religious signs on their properties in response to a crackdown on placards that violate a city ordinance.

Eden city workers have taken down dozens of signs that flouted the ban on signs in any public right of way along streets. Many contained political or religious statements such as ''Jesus Saves,'' ''Prepare to Meet God,'' or ''Abortion is Murder.''

Two Baptist congregations asked members to put up at least 1,000 ''Jesus Saves'' signs on private property. ''We can keep the message out there, but in a legal way,'' said the Rev. Steve Griffith.

Bill Hambrick, an Eden resident, contacted several churches about posting new signs. He said there have always been signs posted around town and the city never objected.

City officials said they had not received any calls about the sign removals.

Mayor Philip Price said ''the ordinance had to be enforced, and unfortunately it's for all signs. We're not trying to control the content.''

------ Bare majority of U.S. Jews report synagogue membership

NEW YORK (AP) -- An annual survey of American Jews says a bare majority of 51 percent reported membership in a synagogue, though 70 percent identified with a particular branch of Judaism.

The American Jewish Committee poll of 1,008 Jews showed 31 percent thought of themselves as Conservative, 30 percent Reform, 7 percent Orthodox and 2 percent Reconstructionist.

Asked to choose the quality most important to their Jewish identity, 41 percent said ''being part of the Jewish people'' and 21 percent, ''commitment to social justice.'' Only 13 percent chose ''religious observance.''

On whether anti-Semitism or intermarriage is the greater threat to Jewish life in the United States, two-thirds chose the former. Respondents also expressed concern over anti-Semitism on American college campuses and in Europe.

The survey, concluded Jan. 5, had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


------ Kentucky student who admitted having sex sues Baptist school over expulsion

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- An 18-year-old is suing the Baptist high school that expelled her last year after she admitted having sex with another student.

Jessica Marie Frietch claims Calvary Baptist Church and Calvary Christian School violated her right to privacy when they inquired about sexual activity that occurred at home. The suit also alleges that Calvary defamed her and obstructed justice.

''Being expelled is a terrible stigma,'' said Frietch's attorney, Edwin Kagin. ''It's like saying, 'You are a bad person, and you're not worthy to be numbered among the students of this fine institution.'''

Frietch told The Kentucky Post a fellow student initiated three sexual contacts and she either resisted or felt coerced, but school officials believed the boy's claim the relations were consensual.

Both Frietch and the boy were expelled.

The school's attorney declined to discuss details, citing privacy, but said ''sometimes it's necessary for a school to take disciplinary actions.''

The student handbook lists ''promiscuous activity'' as grounds for expulsion. Kagin said a court probably cannot force the school to change policy but can decide it violated the rights of a student punished under the policy.

------ Boston's Hebrew College plans to train rabbis for all Jewish branches

NEWTON CENTRE, Mass. (AP) -- Hebrew College has announced plans to develop a program to train rabbis from all branches of Judaism, partly to aid candidates who want to study in the Boston area.

President David Gordis said his college is ''a specialized academic institution of Jewish studies -- not a seminary or religious institution -- open to people of all ideological points of view.''

The college's own faculty and visiting teachers from other area schools will offer courses. The college also plans to start a doctoral program in education next fall and, later on, a program in Jewish studies.


------ Italian cell phones provide daily papal thoughts

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Italian cell phone users can now click on to a daily thought from Pope John Paul II, culled from his sermons and speeches and squeezed into a screen-size message.

The cost for the ''short message service'' is 15 euro cents (14 U.S. cents).

For the moment, the service is available only in Italian, but TIM is considering adding other languages.

TIM already offers a similar service in Brazil, transmitting daily Bible passages in Portuguese.

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