U.S. Ousts Theologian

A renowned Finnish theologian and tenured professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., has been forced to leave the United States because he did not qualify under new visa regulations for religious professionals.

In what may be one of the stranger cases involving stricter visa regulations in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Veli-Matti Karkkainen was unable to appeal government decisions that denied him an extension of a visa and a work permit, prompting a July 31 deadline for him, his wife and two daughters to leave the country.

"If a theology professor from Finland can't stay here, there is something wrong with the administrative process," Karkkainen, a professor at Fuller since 2000, said in a telephone interview just before his departure.

The case of Karkkainen, first reported in the July 27 issue of the Christian Century magazine, is ironic in part because the order to leave the United States affects a man who, like Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, is a Pentecostal.

Howard Louwen, a Fuller dean, said new rules for visas for religious professionals appear to be the cause of the problem. Also a factor, he said, were new rules under which a seminary is strictly defined as an institution with ties to a single denominational body.

Fuller is one of the nation's most prominent evangelical, interdenominational seminaries, with about 4,300 students from 67 countries and 108 denominations attending on seven campuses.

"I suspect that Fuller looks to [the government] more like a multidenominational university rather than a training ground for ministers," Louwen told the Century.

-- Religion News Service

Vatican Sports Office

Just in time for the Athens Olympics, the Vatican has opened an office to promote ethical values in sports.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity said it had established a Church and Sports section to tackle problems that have alienated sports from its original ideals.

Pope John Paul II, an enthusiastic athlete who continued to ski and hike in the mountains after his election as Roman Catholic pontiff, has deplored the commercialization of sports and doping by athletes.

"The upcoming Athens Olympics and the millions of people who from all over the world will follow its course are yet another clear sign of how much sports are an important element in the life of our society," the council said.

But, the council said, "tendencies that are increasingly alienating the practice of the different disciplines from the original ideals of sports make it urgent to recall fundamental values in this field too."

The new Vatican office will encourage church participation in sports at the parish, national and international levels to encourage athletics "as a means of integral growth of the person and as an instrument of service to peace and the brotherhood of peoples," the council said. It will also support the "witness of Christian life among athletes."

-- Religion News Service

Baptists Reelect Official

The Baptist World Alliance has reelected its general secretary, the Rev. Denton Lotz, to another five-year term.

Lotz, whose new term will begin in 2005, recently addressed members attending the alliance's first General Council since the Southern Baptist Convention voted to withdraw its funding and membership from the global body based in Falls Church.

"We wish to affirm again, for all to know, our adherence to the historic doctrines of our faith," he said, affirming their belief in salvation solely through Jesus Christ.

Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, which officially ends its relationship with the alliance Oct. 1, said the alliance was no longer presenting such a "crystal-clear Gospel message."

At the meeting, held July 26-31 in Seoul, Lotz referred to the alliance's plans to move ahead.

"This has been a tremendous year of encouragement and support but also deep waters and a break in our fellowship which has caused great distress, especially in our minority conventions around the world, but we have to go forward," he said in a news release issued by his organization.

Baptists attending the meeting passed a resolution acknowledging the contributions of the U.S. denomination to the formation of the alliance in 1905 and expressing their regret for the Southern Baptist withdrawal, calling it "a compromise of the worldwide testimony of all Baptists."

They also voiced their support for efforts to reduce poverty worldwide and concern for the division of families between North and South Korea.

-- Religion News Service