Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 25, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 25, 2010

Daily briefs of the top Christian news and persecution stories impacting believers around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Former President Carter Heading to North Korea
  • Lesbian Minister Heads to Church Court Again
  • 6 Months Later, Haiti Volunteers Toil and Shed Tears
  • Judge Stops Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research


Former President Carter Heading to North Korea

Friends and family of Aijalon Mahli Gomes are hopeful that he will soon be back in the U.S. after months of imprisonment in North Korea. According to Voice of America, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has left for North Korea on a humanitarian mission to bring back the former English teacher. Gomes, who illegally crossed the border into North Korea from China in January, was sentenced to eight years of hard labor in the country's prison camps. Acquaintances say he may have been inspired by an American missionary who made a similar trip out of concern about human rights in North Korea. Former President Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang last year to bring home two American journalists who were also jailed for illegally entering the country.

Lesbian Minister Heads to Church Court Again

A retired Presbyterian minister faces the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s court for performing same-sex ceremonies California. Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, a lesbian activist, was previously cleared of wrongdoing in 2008, when the PC(USA) high court reversed a regional judicial committee's decision. Christian Today reports that an anonymous lay person has brought new charges alleging that she officiated at the weddings of 16 gay and lesbian couples between June and November 2008. "What we do in the Presbyterian church or churches is that you have civil authority and then we pronounce," she explained. "So I pronounced them in the name of the state and in the name of the church. I had to say it in the name of the church because it's a matter of my faith ... and the calling that I have."

6 Months Later, Haiti Volunteers Toil and Shed Tears

Even as signs of commerce have reappeared in the six months since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake of Jan. 12, Port-au-Prince residents are forced to scrounge for life's basic necessities. Baptist Press reports that seas of tents and blue tarps form makeshift cities covering open fields, barren lots and river beds as the nation grapples with providing housing for the estimated 1.5 million homeless. A former police headquarters stands vacant, its parking lot now home to relief agency tents. Across the street, a collapsed multi-storied building is tackled by workers with sledgehammers and hauled away in buckets. For their efforts, they receive only $5 a day in wages. Those in the tent cities must cope with daily seasonal rains that soak their belongings and leave them susceptible to diseases and pneumonia. Yet a spiritual movement is gaining momentum as Haitians cry out to the Lord, said Phito François, the Confraternite Missionaire Baptise d'Haiti (CMBH). "There are no places to sit in the churches, more benches are needed to hold the people."

Judge Stops Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

A U.S. district judge effectively blocked the FDA's recent approval of federally-funded studies involving embryonic stem cells. On Monday, Judge Royce C. Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction against the research, saying the decision violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment included in federal spending bills. "The Dickey-Wicker Amendment unambiguously prohibits the use of federal funds for all research in which a human embryo is destroyed," Lamberth's ruling said, according to CNN. "It is not limited to prohibit federal funding of only the 'piece of research' in which an embryo is destroyed. Thus, if ESC [embryonic stem cell] research is research in which an embryo is destroyed, the guidelines, by funding ESC research, violate the Dickey-Wicker Amendment." President Obama signed an executive order in March 2009 that repealed a Bush-era policy limiting federal dollars for human stem cell research.