Missionary, pastor, and others attacked with swords, sticks, and crowbars after service
A dozen or so suspected Hindu radicals associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) attacked an American missionary, an Indian pastor, and the pastor's family last night after an evangelistic meeting in Thiruvananthapuram in the southern Indian state of Kerala (audio).

Joseph Cooper, a bishop of the New Jerusalem Universal Church (a small, Marietta, Ohio-based Pentecostal denomination run by revivalist Haskel Swain), received a deep cut on his hand and wounds on his arm and body. He told the Associated Press that the attackers "first exploded a firecracker and frightened us. They detained us for a while. Someone from the group attacked me with a sword and I fell down." Others attacked with bamboo sticks and iron bars.

Though there has been a surge in attacks against India's Christian minority (they make up only about 2 percent of the nation's population), Kerala Next reports, "Police said there was no communal tension in the area till the incident took place last night. This was also confirmed by the Pastor Benson, who said that there had been no threat whatsoever to the functioning of the church in the area."

Christians make up nearly a quarter of the Kerala population. "I never had thought of this kind of an attack here," said Cooper, adding that he has traveled from his home in New Castle, Pennsylvania, to Kerala 14 times. "When I am in Kerala, I feel at home."

Five other victims of the attack, including Benson Sam, pastor of the Protestant Friends of Bible Church, his wife, Sali, their two children, and a singer received minor wounds.

Two RSS activists have reportedly been arrested, but RSS leaders say the Hindu radical group, which is closely related to the Bharatiya Janata Party that heads India's federal government, had nothing to do with the attack. The RSS leaders have plenty to say about Cooper, however. "It was unlawful on the part of Cooper, who was on a visiting visa, to preach religion," said RSS leader K. Rajasekharan.

Local RSS leader R. Santhosh accused Cooper, Sam, and others of making speeches insulting to Hindus during the "Gospel Convention" they were leaving when the ambush occurred.

Cooper rejects the claims. "I am almost offended by this allegation that we are converting Hindus to Christianity," he told Reuters by telephone. "I see that people are afraid that others may steal their people—that is the last thing I want to do. It is not profitable to downgrade other people's faith."

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Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) likely to hold first ever Special Assembly on gay ministers
Prebyterian Church (U.S.A.) moderator Fahed Abu-Akel yesterday received a petition calling for the first special General Assembly in the denomination's 214-year history. The move, says the Presbyterian News Service, "has been talked about for months but landed like a bolt of lightning."

The 57 signatories are upset that several churches are flouting the denomination's ban on noncelibate homosexual ministers.

"The whole fabric that holds the Presbyterian church together is our constitution," Alex Metherell, who presented the petition, told the Associated Press. "What is happening right now, that fabric that holds us together is disintegrating."

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Former Attorney General calls Jesus a terrorist:

Church and state:

  • Crestview council says no to Ten Commandments, but may reconsider | The City Council voted against posting the Ten Commandments in City Hall for a second time in seven months, but the debate is far from over as one opponent said he may reconsider in the next few weeks (The Daytona Beach [Fla.] News-Journal)

  • Students try court on Christian gifts | A group of Christian high school students in Massachusetts has filed a federal lawsuit against a public school district, claiming school officials violated their free speech (The Washington Times)

  • Students sue over messages on candy | "We really don't want to come across as sue-happy Christians," says one of the group leaders. "This is nothing against the school, but the policy needs to be changed." (The Boston Globe)

  • Our courts are for the godless, too | It would be wrong to accept an invitation to an annual "ecumenical" service, this time at a Christian church, to mark the opening of the courts. (Ted Matlow, The Globe & Mail, Toronto)

Politics and law:

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Persecution and violence:

  • Also: Good management of religious affairs stressed | During an inspection visit to the State Administration of Religious Affairs Friday, Chinese Premier Zhu said the management of religious affairs has always been an important part of the overall work of both the Communist Party of China and the government (People's Daily, China)


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  • Backward Christian soldiers | As war looms, the church may be resuming a more dissident path (Bryan Appleyard, The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Make the case | Iraqi threat remains unclear (Editorial, Christian Century)

  • Bishops blast Blair over Iraq | The Anglican House of Bishops, in a statement, warned that without compelling new evidence to confirm that Iraq was stockpiling chemical or biological weapons, war could not be morally justified (The Evening Standard, London)

  • Archeology digs routed by threat of war | Planning for the summer season of excavations in the Middle East is in disarray as archeologists assess the risks (The Globe & Mail, Toronto)

Religious growth:

  • A Chinese American awakening | Immigrants help to reenergize U.S. Christianity (The Washington Post)

  • For Koreans, changes in store | N.Va. grocery, churches reflect shifts in community (The Washington Post)

  • Converts discover refuge | Though there is little firm data tracking the transition of Latino immigrants from the Catholic Church to Protestantism, scholars and religious leaders note that evangelical Protestant missions are reaching their booming population with practical support and a strong Spanish-language ministry (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • Religion in America | Church attendance has dipped, but faith remains strong (Scientific American)

  • Episcopalians go on fact-finding mission | Detroit bishop, others to visit Nigeria, where membership is growing fast (Detroit Free Press)

Church life:

  • Storefront salvation | They have taken over abandoned banks, boutiques and even bars on a mission to redeem lost souls. they may look like the poorest of churches, but they are some of L.A.'s richest folk architecture (Los Angeles Times)

  • Television broadens church's reach | Countryside Christian Center puts its Sunday sermons on TV each week in a drive to reach the ''unchurched'' and recruit more members (St. Petersburg Times)
  • Church alert on mobile phones porn risk | Churches could become unwitting peddlers of pornography due to the growing trend for mobile phone masts on steeples, religious leaders warn (The Scotsman)
  • Congregations meet under the same roof | Increasingly, churches are offering services in multiple languages or are inviting other congregations to make use of their facilities-both for the Christmas holidays and year round (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • Church unveils merger proposal | Plan suggests bringing together the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the United Reform Church and the Methodists as a single religious institution (The Scotsman)
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  • Also: Let's have faith in joined-up thinking | Scotland goes on pioneering in several ways, but in relation to Christian unity, we might be kindly described as a developing country (The Evening News, Scotland)

Sexual ethics:

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