by Mackie Landers
LOS ANGELES (Compass) -- Cuban government authorities closed a Baptist church in a Havana suburb on Easter Sunday. Members of the church must comply with the April 23 closure order or face fines or a court trial for contempt, said a pastor of another denomination who spoke on condition that his name not be used. He said that the closed church is affiliated with Cuba's Western Baptist denomination, a sister denomination of the Southern Baptist Convention in the United States.
However, the Baptist congregation has divided into five cell groups and will continue to worship. Each cell group averages 70 members in attendance.
Explosive growth of church membership and a church building shortage has forced believers to worship wherever they can, even in small apartments, illegally. While most of these Christians want their own buildings, which the government requires for legal status, those same authorities routinely have denied requests to build new churches. In recent years, churches often have been allowed tacitly to function, even without permission.
"What a difficult situation for evangelical Christians," a Compass source said. "We still don't have complete freedom to honor the Lord Jesus Christ ... yet we thank God for all things, trusting and hoping in our Lord and Savior."
The source said that national church leaders are trying to help Cuban churches of various denominations become legal. The government-approved Cuban Council of Churches supports the building of an inter-denominational church that will serve all the community's Christians.
Copyright Â© 2000 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.