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Religion News Report

February 8, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 322) - 2/2

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Rainbow


» Continued from Part 1
=== Mungiki
20. Mungiki Officials Call For A Truce

=== Mormonism
21. Olympic kingdom Games provide opportunity for Mormons
22. Local writer delves into why LDS members become inactive

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
23. Jehovah's Witnesses' trial in Russia said to be legally unsound

=== Hate Groups
24. Pair in Aryan Nations suit sole bidders for compound

=== Other News
25. Death of teen in sect probed (Gen. Assembly Church of the First Born)
26 Faith healer parents probed in child death
27. Prayed-over girl died of untreated diabetes

=== Noted
28. Churches find believers in Silicon Valley


=== Mungiki

20. Mungiki Officials Call For A Truce
The Nation (Kenya), Feb. 6, 2001
http://allafrica.com/Off-site Link

After a weekend of bloody clashes with police, the Mungiki sect yesterday called for dialogue with the government and an end to violence.

Sect officials said yesterday they were tired of accusations of seeking to violently overthrow the government and of the deaths, injuries and destruction suffered in violent skirmishes with the police in the past.

They claimed three members were shot and several either injured or arrested by riot police who confronted them in Thika and at Githurai, a suburb on the northern edge of Nairobi.

Police on the other hand welcomed the apparent change of heart and confirmed that three adherents were arrested during skirmishes at Githurai on Sunday.
(...)

In the violence at Githurai, riot police faced off with hundreds of rampaging sect followers returning from a baptism ceremony at a nearby dam.

Earlier, police sources at Kasarani said, the sect faithful had battled with touts in the area.
(...)

Meanwhile the day before, police engaged hundreds of sect members in day-long running battles in Thika Town.
(...)

Mr. Waruinge told the Nation yesterday, ''The government is using our brothers to attack us over allegations we are violent. It should be reconciliatory rather than using guns on us.''

He said their meetings often disrupted by riot police ''are peaceful and prayer sessions and not sinister as alleged.''
[...more...]


=== Mormonism

21. Olympic kingdom Games provide opportunity for Mormons
USA Today, Feb. 8, 2001
http://cgi.usatoday.com/Off-site Link

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Mormon Church won't broadcast, sponsor or organize the 2002 Winter Olympics, which begin a year from today. The church will, however, have an extraordinary home-field advantage. Mormons founded this city as their own Kingdom of God, built the temple that is its visual icon and, while constituting more than 70% of Utah's population, largely sway state politics.

And the fast-growing Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sends most of its 19-year-old boys on 2-year missions around the globe, isn't reticent about self-promotion. For the Olympics, it will ''try to tell the story of Mormonism in every possible way,'' says historian Jan Shipps, author of Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons and a leading non-Mormon authority on the church.
(...)

Now, she suggests, the church's central message will essentially drive home the point that church President Gordon B. Hinckley, considered a prophet, has made publicly: ''We're not weird.''
(...)

The church won't give the city an Olympic makeover, so don't expect Mormon blimps hovering over venues, say church officials, or proselytizing in the streets. ''We've heard references to these being 'the Mormon Games,' '' says Mike Otterson, a member of the church's internal Olympic Coordinating Committee. ''None of us want that. We haven't pushed things on (Games' organizers). We just want to inform, educate and correct misperceptions.''

After all, church spokesman Bruce Olsen says, church research ''show lots of people know very little about us, if anything.'' But he sees a big opportunity: ''Probably the most phenomenal part of this is that we've spent 150 years sending people out in the world. And here, finally, it's coming to us.''
(...)

Every Olympics brings the possibility of protests. Ten thousand media people are expected, and they'll find potential controversy among the Mormons, which could prompt publicity the church wouldn't be able to control.

Consider the church's position on homosexuality, which it can't condone because it bans premarital and extramarital sex as well as same-sex marriages. Mac Madsen, retired from teaching health science and golf at Weber State, says he's a faithful Mormon who sent letters to dozens of church leaders but got no response. Because of the church, he says, ''Our lives were turned upside down when our daughter came out as a lesbian.''

But Madsen, in a group of Mormon parents of gays, says he can't even get church leaders to discuss it -- even after the group took out a local newspaper ad. ''We've tried to tell them how much turmoil, even suicides, this is causing in Mormon families,'' he says.

Protests preceded the church allowing blacks to serve in the priesthood starting in 1978. But for now, Madsen says, his group doesn't have ''specific'' Olympic plans: ''We're a small army in righteous dissent, not trying to get booted out of the church.''

Says historian Shipps: ''I don't think the church would try to stop a gay-rights protest. But they wouldn't talk to its leaders, either.''
[...more...]

Theologically, the Mormon Church is a cult of Christianity. It does not represent historical, biblical Christianity in any way. Therefore, Mormons can not be considered to be Christians, nor is the Mormon Church a Christian denomination.


22. Local writer delves into why LDS members become inactive
Deseret News, Feb. 2, 2001
http://deseretnews.com/Off-site Link

In a state where personal identity is often affected by one's relationship - or lack of one - to the LDS Church, many who were once active church members remain tethered to a faith they no longer feel a part of, according to a local author.

Jim Ure told a group gathered at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics on Thursday that the reasons are cultural as well as spiritual. ''If you were born and raised in Utah, Mormonism is a part of your life whether you are Mormon or not.'' For many Utahns who were raised LDS but have become inactive, the church is ''almost like a kid brother that follows you wherever you go. No matter where you go, it shows up in your life in certain ways.''
(...)

Ure published a book last year called ''Leaving the Fold: Conversations With Inactive Mormons,''Off-site Link which chronicles his interviews with 17 well-known Utahns, along with former U.S. Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, who served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The project, Ure acknowledged, was part of his own decadelong ''coming to terms'' with the part that Mormonism no longer plays in his life, though he continues to be listed as a member on the church's records.

Because his purpose was ''to create understanding . . . this is not an anti-Mormon book,'' Ure said he avoided what he termed ''evangelical Jack Mormons who foment against the church.''

Those whose stories are chronicled were listed as members of the church, had never been disfellowshipped, excommunicated or asked to have their names removed from church records; and were not paying tithing or attending church.

Ure, a former editor and writer for the Salt Lake Tribune who worked in advertising for 37 years, said he sought out intellectuals and professionals, watching ''which punch bowl people went to'' at public events to help determine whom to talk with.
(...)

The majority of those interviewed told Ure they left activity in the church gradually, unlike musician Ardean Watts, who said he had ''an epiphany one day'' that took him out of church circles.

''The intellectualizing of the church created it for a lot of the people I interviewed. They were just not able to accept some things.''

As they placed the church within an intellectual framework, many mentioned a disbelief of the church's early history, particularly surrounding the Book of Mormon, he said. ''It's an intellectualized approach to religion, so that there is no room for faith.''

Another common concern was ''the inadequate training of lay clergy. Maybe the bishop thinks he is doing the right thing, but maybe it's in a heavy-handed way. One woman felt the bishop was asking inappropriate questions and another had had the same experience. While you can have abuses of power in any religion, I did get the sense that lay clergy'' was problematic for many.
[...more...]


=== Jehovah's Witnesses

23. Jehovah's Witnesses' trial in Russia said to be legally unsound
BBC Monitoring, Feb. 7, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

Text of report in English by Russian news agency Interfax
Moscow, 7 February: The case for banning the Moscow community of Jehovah's Witnesses is legally unsound, defence attorneys John Burnes of Canada and Artur Leontyev of Russia told the Golovinskiy Court on Wednesday [7 February].

The prosecution has failed to prove that the religion of the sect foments religious intolerance, destroys families and has an adverse impact on the psyche of its members or that the ban on blood transfusions for sect members amounts to making people commit suicide, they said.

The court has adjourned until Friday. Another defence attorney, Galina Krylova, will address it then.
[...more...]


=== Hate Groups

24. Pair in Aryan Nations suit sole bidders for compound
The Associated Press, Feb. 8, 2001
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/Off-site Link

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - A mother and son whose lawsuit bankrupted the Aryan Nations will be the only bidders for the hate group's 20-acre compound next week.

Victoria and Jason Keenan were the only parties who beat the deadline for registering to bid in Tuesday's bankruptcy auction.
(...)

The Keenans have kept a low profile since the trial and were not available for comment yesterday.
(...)

The Keenans needed $95,000 in cash to complete the purchase, and that money was lent to them by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala., civil-rights group that served as lead counsel in the lawsuit, Gissel said.

The auction proceeds will go to Bankruptcy Court, where they will be disbursed to creditors of Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler - of whom the Keenans themselves are the most prominent. Butler, his group and three Aryan security guards owe them $6.3 million.

The Keenans want to resell the property and contents as soon as they can, Gissel said.

There had been speculation that Butler supporters might try to buy the property and return it to him as an 83rd birthday present.

The compound is a wooded site north of Hayden Lake that contains numerous buildings, including Butler's home, a bunkhouse, a guard tower, the chapel of Butler's Church of Jesus Christ Christian and other facilities.
[...more...]


=== Other News

25. Death of teen in sect probed
Denver Post, Feb. 7, 2001
http://www.denverpost.com/news/news0207x.htmOff-site Link

Feb. 7, 2001 - For the third time in two years, Mesa County authorities are investigating the death of a child whose parents belong to a church that believes illnesses and injuries should be treated with prayer rather than medical care.

Amanda Bates, 13, is the latest child of members of the General Assembly Church of the First Born to die after medical care apparently was withheld for a life-threatening illness.
(...)

Daniels said he will be considering whether to file charges in the case when he has more information.

The last child of First Born parents to die in Mesa County was a 3-day-old infant who was born with a heart defect. No charges were filed against the parents of Billy Ray Reed, who died last July 9 after church elders prayed over him.

Charges were not filed because Kurtzman could not determine if Billy Ray's symptoms would have been severe enough to alert the parents to his critical state or if medical intervention could have saved him.

The parents of an 18-day-old who died in February 1999 were prosecuted for criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death.
[...more...]


26. Faith healer parents probed in child death
Denver Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 7, 2001
http://www.rockymountainnews.com/Off-site Link

GRAND JUNCTION -- Mesa County deputies are investigating the parents of a 13-year-old Clifton girl who died Monday without receiving medical care, Mesa sheriff's spokesman Janet Prell said Tuesday.

A factor in the investigation, Prell said, is the parents' membership in the General Assembly Church of the First Born, a close-knit Christian sect with several congregations in Mesa County and in other states. Faith healing is a core component of their beliefs.
(...)

The case follows several deaths involving members of the church.
[...more...]


27. Prayed-over girl died of untreated diabetes
Denver Post, Feb. 8, 2001
http://www.denverpost.com/Off-site Link

Feb. 8, 2001 - GRAND JUNCTION - An autopsy Wednesday determined that 13-year-old Amanda Bates, the daughter of members of a church that believes in prayer rather than medicine to heal the sick, died Monday of complications from untreated diabetes.

Her death came days before state legislators will discuss a change in law that would make it easier to prosecute adults who withhold treatment from minors for religious reasons.

Authorities are trying to determine if Amanda's parents, Colleen and Randy Bates, and elders of the General Assembly Church of the First Born knew that Amanda's illness was life-threatening.

That will be key to deciding whether the parents, and possibly other church elders who had been gathering at the Bates home to pray for her and anoint her with oil before her death, will be prosecuted.

Amanda, one of 12 Bates children, died just days after Rep. Kay Alexander, R-Montrose, introduced legislation that would change the law governing prosecution of parents and other adults who knowingly withhold medical treatment from gravely ill minors for religious reasons.

The proposal, scheduled to be heard in committee next week, would remove an exemption for Christian Scientists - an exemption that has muddied the law and made prosecution in Colorado difficult.

That exemption allows parents to use faith-healing treatments on their children rather than seeking medical care as long as the faith-healing treatments are recognized as legitimate by the Internal Revenue Service and insurance companies. Christian Science prayer falls into that category. Other faith-healing methods, such as the prayers and anointing practiced by the Church of the First Born, do not.

The law, which was sponsored by Gov. Bill Owens when he was a state senator in 1989, is considered flawed because it gave an unfair advantage to one religious group.

[From sidebar]
Members eschew all modern medicines, including aspirin, but some use herbal remedies. Some wear eyeglasses and hearing aids. If members do seek other medical care, they are not excommunicated from the church, but they are urged to repent. When members are forced to get medical care, such as inoculations in the military, they say that, through their prayers, they turn medications into water.

The Church of the First Born has about 285 families in six congregations in Colorado. The largest congregations are in Delta, Grand Junction and Palisade. Others are in Olathe, Cortez and Denver. The church has no paid clergy.

Congregation-led services are twice weekly and include singing and impromptu speaking by members. Members sometimes speak in tongues, wash each other's feet on special occasions and greet each other with a ''holy kiss'' on the lips.

Women cannot cut their hair and are encouraged to stay home and produce and raise children. Members keep to themselves and often live and work in close proximity to one another and to their rural churches.
[...more...]


=== Noted

28. Churches find believers in Silicon Valley
Associated Press, Feb. 2, 2001
http://chicagotribune.com/Off-site Link

(...) The absence of fire and brimstone doesn't obscure Field's message. In fact, he believes that laid-back approach is necessary for his formidable quest: to start a new Christian church in Silicon Valley, regarded as an inhospitable environment for traditional religion.

To be sure, there are hundreds of churches, mosques and temples in the suburbs between San Francisco and San Jose and pockets of pious folk, especially in Hispanic areas of the big cities with high levels of Roman Catholicism.

But with science and technology at the core of the area and with swarms of new arrivals putting in long hours in cubicles and labs, some clergy estimate only around 10 percent of the valley's residents regularly attend religious services.
The nationwide rate, according to the Gallup Poll, is as high as 56 percent.
(...)

''Silicon Valley is a place that needs the impact of what we're about,'' Field said. ''It needs Christianity to permeate the fabric of life here.''

So Field, 35, decided to start a church that could speak the techies' language and remind them of a higher purpose. He and his wife, Donna, moved with their four children to suburban Los Altos.
(...)

Field tells them about his vision for his Grace Presbyterian Church: It would emphasize the timeliness of ancient concepts of grace and redemption, and it would spend less time on ritual. There would be classical and jazz music instead of a choir.

''Just as no one is `good enough' to avoid the need of God's grace, no one is `bad enough' to be outside the reach of God's grace,'' he wrote to some prospective congregants.

So far, about 50 people have expressed interest. Field hopes to start his congregation with about 100 members this year, once he can line up a place to worship.

''It's about as hard as I had pictured it would be,'' he said. ''I'm trying to reach people who for one reason or another have completely blocked [Christianity] out of their lives. The younger people get, you're not even getting people with a religious background.''

Some who have researched local attitudes about faith say the reality is more complex.

''We had somehow bought into the idea that this was the heartland of godless atheism, and that's not true at all,'' said Jan English-Lueck, a San Jose State University anthropology professor who is undertaking a large-scale study of life in the valley.

English-Lueck and fellow researcher Charles Darrah found that many overworked high-tech employees simply don't have time to attend religious services, choosing instead to spend Sundays unwinding. Being new to the area, many lack a connection to the church down the street.

But when the professors visited homes and cubicles for their study, they noticed that many people who never went to worship services had assembled mini-shrines: pictures of the Virgin Mary, American Indian religious artifacts, even rocks from places they found peaceful.

The professors realized the supposedly secular techies were harboring rather non-scientific beliefs about the deep mysteries of life.

''People were putting together spiritual packages for themselves, based on traditional religion, New Age spirituality, whatever else is out there,'' English-Lueck said. One man told the researchers: ''I'm a typical Okie Buddhist.''

Richard Keady, who heads the comparative religion studies program at San Jose State, believes that mix is largely a result of the multicultural atmosphere at most high-tech companies.
(...)

Bob Loftis of Sunnyvale, Calif., a 52-year-old manager for Compaq Computer Corp., was raised a Catholic and attended a Jesuit college. He eventually became disillusioned; later in life, he sampled Quaker meetings and a liberal Catholic church in Berkeley.

Then, almost three years ago, Loftis, his wife and their young daughter began attending Ananda Sangha of Palo Alto, a church that combines aspects of Hindu and Christian theology with meditation, yoga and group chanting.
(...)

Fellow Ananda member Don Pierce, 46, a networking engineer who was raised a Seventh-day Adventist, tries to take 10 minutes or so during hectic afternoons to clear his mind and meditate.
(...)

Field understands the pace of the business world and the appeal of New Age approaches. But nothing could make him veer from his course, ''intimately and lovingly'' telling people about Jesus.
[...more...]

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