Burma to Accept 'All' Aid Workers to Help Cyclone Victims

After weeks of refusing access to foreign relief experts, the junta in Burma finally agreed to allow badly needed aid for cyclone victims into the country, according to Fox News. The agreement comes after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Burma's effective ruler, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, on May 23. Ban said the government also agreed to let in aid "via civilian ships and small boats," suggesting that foreign military ships may not be allowed to dock.

Questions remain as to when the agreement will take effect, but a senior U.N. official present at the meeting said Than Shwe gave a "green light" for areas that were previously untouchable to workers, such as the hardest-hit region of the Irrawaddy Delta. International aid agencies were poised to act as soon as they learned the practical details of the country's new commitment. "This is a significant step forward, and could be a turning point in the aid response," said Brian Agland, who heads the U.S.-based aid group CARE in Burma.

Religion Today Summaries

Willow Creek Undergoes Huge Shift' Away from Seeker Sensitivity

According to a Christianity Today story, Willow Creek Community Church, after modeling a seeker-sensitive approach to church growth for three decades, now plans to gear its services toward mature believers seeking to grow in their faith. Since 1975, Willow Creek has avoided conventional church approaches, attempting to reach the unchurched through polished music, multimedia, and sermons referencing popular culture. Last summer, executive pastor Greg Hawkins co-authored a book titled, Reveal: Where Are You?, which detailed much of Willow Creek's four-year research effort into whether the church's model had been effective or not. Hawkins declined CT's interview request, and senior pastor Bill Hybels was unavailable for comment. Greg Pritchard, author of Willow Creek Seeker Services, told CT the church "sporadically has recognized it was not teaching a robust enough biblical theology and needed to turn the ship around. It is a huge shift."

Religion Today Summaries

Chinese Churches Call For Prayer, Aid After Powerful Earthquake

Seventh-day Adventist leaders in China called for prayer as well as aid after the 7.9 earthquake in central China killed tens of thousands, destroyed buildings and left many people buried. The Adventist church in the city of Chengdu has gathered limited funds to purchase food, water and other necessities to distribute, according to David Ng, a ministries director for the church's Chinese Union Mission (CHUM) in Hong Kong. Chinese officials have reported 40,000 people are dead, warning that the final death total could be more than 50,000. Regional government officials upped the confirmed death toll to more than 19,500 and left 26,000 buried. An additional 14,000 were still missing as time was running out to save survivors buried in the rubble of broken communities.

Adventist Press Service, via MissionNet

Zimbabwe Food Crisis Is Becoming Critical

The food crisis in southern Africa is deepening and Christian workers in Zimbabwe are calling for prayer that God will intervene.

With food prices rising and supplies dwindling globally, "food security" is a major issue in many countries, but the crisis is much sharper in Zimbabwe, where political uncertainty and economic turmoil-including the world's highest inflation rate at 160,000 percent-are making daily life virtually impossible for the poorest people. About one-third of Zimbabwe's 12 million people are receiving emergency food aid.

The situation is compounded even further by weather, said Mark Hatfield, who leads work in sub-Saharan Africa for Baptist Global Response. Flooding wiped out crops in many parts of the country early this year, then three months of extremely dry weather have caused serious damage to this year's maize harvest.

Baptist Press

California High Court Imposes Homosexual Marriage' on State

On May 15 the California Supreme Court imposed, through judicial fiat, so-called same-sex marriage on Californians, thus totally disregarding the sanctity of marriage and the will of the people. In 2000, Californians adopted Proposition 22 to protect marriage and maintain its definition as a union between one man and one woman, and expressly prohibiting the state from recognizing same sex marriages.

Ron Prentice, the executive director of California Family Council, warns of the contempt this ruling shows towards democracy, "This shocking decision is a wake-up call for the majority of California's citizens, whose votes have been rendered worthless by the Supreme Court's disregard for the democratic system."

GFA Leader Says Claims of Dalit Reconversions False

Persecution against Christians continues at an unprecedented rate in India, and Hindu radicals are using so-called "reconversion rallies" to entice Dalit Christians to reconvert to Hinduism. Hindu leaders in southeastern India's Tamil Nadu State claim that's exactly what happened when 300 Dalits returned to Hinduism. Gospel for Asia (GFA) President K. P. Yohannan, however, said the report is false. "They sought out extremely poor fishermen, [called them] Christians and said, We are going to convert them back to Hinduism.' None of the people are known to be practicing Christians."

Hindu radicals may be staging these reconversion rallies because "very large numbers of untouchables or Dalits are leaving the caste system, and many of them are becoming Buddhists or embracing Islam [while a] large number are following Christ (whom) they see as the only hope," Yohannan said. Meanwhile, GFA continues with its outreach across India. "Wherever there is opposition or these types of things are happening, always we see God working and more people are opening their hearts to the Lord," he said.

Mission Network News

India's "Rat Famine" Leads to Revival as Believers Look to God

The rat famine in India (called mautam) happens every 50 years when the bamboo flowers and bears fruit that rats eat. As a result, the rats reproduce more than at any other time and begin devouring farmers' crops. Mauii Pudaite of Bibles for the World said the famine is hitting hardest in Manipur and Assam in northeastern India.

Leaders in these areas have formed the Mautam Task Force to address the famine situation. "Farmers are given seeds of cash crops such as ginger to plant and grow," she explained. "The rats do not eat ginger. While they grow ginger, the farmers are provided with rice for their sustenance." The task force also helps farmers market their crops and helps people find other jobs that benefit the community and the food program.

"It's been really, really awful, but our God is truly amazing in what He does," Pudaite added. "In the midst of hunger and suffering, there's a beautiful revival among the believers in the churches in the hills. In their desperation, they draw near to God. God meets them in the form of their needs, and there is much spiritual revival there."

Mission Network News

Critics Weigh in on Evangelical Manifesto Call for Reform

According to a report on the World on the Web Website, 80 evangelical leaders have signed an "Evangelical Manifesto" that rebukes both liberal and conservative evangelicals for diminishing the gospel to fight the culture wars. The manifesto, made public May 7, encourages political engagement, but says evangelicals have sometimes spoken "truth without love" and calls on evangelicals to "reform our own behavior."

It's not without its critics. Warner Todd Huston called the manifesto "another attempt by the political left to undermine the devotion of Christians to the political right," and asked why the project "studiously excluded so many prominent conservative Christians." Names attached to the Manifesto include: Os Guinness, academic and author; Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary; Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School; and Rick Warren.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he would not sign the manifesto, though he agreed with 90% of its statements. "At best, this statement betrays a startling lack of clarity and specificity," he said, noting as an example a declaration that "we have no desire to coerce anyone or to impose on anyone beliefs and behavior that we have not persuaded them to adopt freely...." This could be used to justify turning a blind eye toward homosexuality, pedophilia, etc., he said.

Based on reports from Religion Today Summaries and Baptist Press

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