Religion Today Summaries - August 29, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - August 29, 2011

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Hurricane Irene Floods NYC; Death Toll Rises to 12
  • Libya: Gospel Prospects Called Hopeful
  • United Methodists 'Sing a New Song' for LGBT Awareness
  • Christian Pastor in Iran Freed from Prison


Hurricane Irene Floods NYC; Death Toll Rises to 12

Recently-downgraded tropical storm Irene made its way up the East Coast to New York Sunday morning, with flooding reported in low-lying areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn, The Christian Post reports. Irene touched down with winds of 65 mph. The latest death toll update for Irene is 12 people in five states. At least 3.1 million homes and businesses on the East Coast are experiencing a blackout, according to ABC News.  In New York City, flooding was reported in all five boroughs, but wind and flood damage was less severe than anticipated. New York’s mass transit system and all its airports will reportedly be shut down on Monday, and hopefully be reopened on Tuesday. Another tropical storm, Jose, is forming near Bermuda, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Libya: Gospel Prospects Called Hopeful

Baptist Press reports that it may be several years before the dust settles in Libya and Christians can hope for a clear way to the nation's hard-to-reach people groups, said Drew Carson*, a Christian leader among North African and Middle Eastern peoples. "Unlike any other situation so far (in the Arab Spring), this whole situation in Libya sort of takes the governmental system back to zero," Carson said, noting that in Egypt and other places, when the leader fell, the government was still intact. That's not the case in Libya, where rebels are pressing Muammar Gaddafi's regime hoping it will crumble from the inside out. But Christian leaders in the region remain optimistic that in the long view there will be new avenues to reach Libya through a new government that gives more freedom. "Overall, I'm positive about a total reset in Libya," Carson said. "In a sense what you have is the chance for a rebirth of a country. Hopefully in the midst of that there will be an opportunity for freedom of thought and freedom of expression."

United Methodists 'Sing a New Song' for LGBT Awareness

According to a Religion News Service release, United Methodists from all over the globe gathered in Ohio August 25–28 to plan for more openness to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Christians in the church. Close to 700 supporters planned to "Sing a New Song" at the convocation, at Sawmill Creek Resort in Huron, Ohio. Actions are already in motion to move the church toward policy change and the General Conference is not until April of 2012. One-thousand clergy have vowed to perform same sex weddings despite prohibitions. Retired bishops signed a statement urging the United Methodist Church to drop the judgmental language about gay people in their Book of Discipline. Black Methodists for Church Renewal, a recognized caucus of the denomination, voted to affirm these bishops' statement. "The Spirit is opening people's hearts," said Troy Plummer, executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network. "Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians have joined the United Church of Christ in ordaining candidates based on their ability for ministry, rather than their sexual orientation or gender identity. We know that God is opening the hearts of United Methodists as well." "The church works hard to fulfill Christ's commandment to love your neighbor," said Jill A. Warren, executive director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. "United Methodists support human rights for all people, including LGBT people.

Christian Pastor in Iran Freed from Prison

ASSIST News Service has learned that Pastor Matthias Haghnejad was released from prison on bail on Saturday August 27. Jason Demars of Present Truth Ministries ( ) told ANS: “A family member pledged their property so that he could get out of prison. Thank you for praying for him and for all who helped make this known throughout the world. God worked through your prayers and made a way for his release.” Haghnejad had been charged with blasphemy against Islam. “This is a serious charge against him so I ask that you continue to pray for him and his family. God made a way for his acquittal previously and I believe he will do so again,” DeMars said. DeMars said Haghnejad was being held in prison, presumably, in the Rasht area by VEVAK, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and National Security. He was arrested during a pastoral visit with a family in the Rasht area.