A premium-charge telephone service offering "biblical testimonies" has sparked a controversy in Brazil.

The service, which offers callers a minute of taped messages from the Bible, testimonies and prayers, was launched last September by Nilson do Amaral Fanini, president of the Baptist World Alliance and pastor of the First Baptist Church in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro. Callers pay $4.38 for a one-minute message - far more expensive than similar telephone services, which are common in Brazil and other Latin American countries.In face of criticism of the cost of the service, Fanini recently told journalists that his objective was to spread the gospel. He said the income from the calls helped pay for one of his social work projects, "Re-Encounter."