Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Iran Arrests Evangelical Pastor, Closes Church
- Va. Episcopalians Backpedal on Gay Unions
- Books Pulled for Image of Smoking, Drinking Jesus
- Unregistered Christians Targeted in Uzbekistan
Iran Arrests Evangelical Pastor, Closes Church
ASSIST News Service reports that an Iranian pastor arrested by officials on Feb. 2 remains in an undisclosed location. Officials arrested Rev. Wilson Issavi, the Assyrian leader of the Evangelical Church of Karmanshah, and three others while he was visiting friends in the remote city. The Kermanshah Church, which sources say was badly in need of repair, was shut down and sealed by local authorities exactly one month before Issavi's arrest. The church was the only one located in the western part of Iran. According to the Farsi Christian News Network, security agents called Issavi on his mobile phone before that incident to be sure that he was not home to defend his house and his household... the security agents had ransacked the house in his absence and had taken away much of his personal possessions."
Va. Episcopalians Backpedal on Gay Unions
The Washington Times reports that largest diocese in the Episcopal Church has postponed the decision on blessing same-sex unions within the church. The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia instead voted to form a panel, which will include church laity, clergy and lawyers, to discuss the diocese's response if the national church approves the unions. Currently, 16 Episcopal dioceses allow same-sex blessings within the church. The Virginia vote was in response to last summer's decision by the Episcopal General Convention, meeting in Anaheim, Calif., to begin "collecting and developing theological resources and liturgies" for same-sex blessings. The denomination is not expected to endorse any rite until 2010. Saturday's vote acknowledged churches feel pressured, The Times reported, by the "the growing differences between Christian and civil understanding of marriage and relationships."
Books Pulled for Image of Smoking, Drinking Jesus
Religion News Service reports that authorities in India's majority-Christian Meghalaya state have confiscated all copies of a text book that contains a controversial picture of Jesus. The picture shows Jesus holding a can of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The controversial picture was discovered in a cursive writing book that was being used at a private school in the capital city of Shillong. It depicted the picture of Jesus on the page for the letter "I," to represent "Idol." State education minister Ampareen Lyngdoh condemned the illustration. "I am appalled and condemn the violent pictorial representation of Christ. The children for whom the book was meant look up to Christ with reverence, and they are shocked beyond words," she said. Copies of the book were ready for distribution in at least 10 more Meghalaya schools before the picture was brought to the attention of authorities.
Unregistered Christians Targeted in Uzbekistan
Mission News Network reports that Christians in Uzbekistan continue to face targeted measured against them in the predominantly Muslim country. Voice of the Martyr's Greg Musselman said one Christian, 28-year-old Tohar Haydarov, was framed last month on drug charges. "The drugs were planted on his person and also in his apartment, and now he's facing a sentence of 10 to 20 years," Musselman said. "This intimidation is nothing new in Uzbekistan, and unfortunately I don't think it's going to stop any time soon." Churches in Uzbekistan must register with the government, but their applications are consistently rejected. Some churches have stopped applying, although it allows government officials to "shut them down or cause disruption of their services."