Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Iran 'Annuls' Death Sentence for Pastor
- Episcopal Church in Maryland to Convert to Catholicism
- China Ordains Bishop without Vatican Approval
- Lutherans Partner in $45M Campaign against Malaria
Iran 'Annuls' Death Sentence for Pastor
Following a huge prayer campaign on behalf of an Iranian pastor, ASSIST News Service has learned that Iran’s supreme court has overturned the death sentence handed down to a pastor. Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor, is accused of apostasy for having converted from Islam. The pastor's lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, said Sunday, “The Supreme Court has annulled the death sentence and sent the case back to the court in Rasht (his hometown), asking the accused to repent." Nadarkhani, a pastor in the Church of Iran denomination, was arrested in October 2009 while attempting to register his church. However, neither the pastor nor his lawyer has seen the written verdict yet, and Dadkhah himself faces nine years in jail for defending the pastor.
Episcopal Church in Maryland to Convert to Catholicism
St. Luke's Church in Bladensburg, Md., will soon become the American Episcopal Parish to convert to Roman Catholicism. The congregation has already transitioned to distinctly Catholic forms in its liturgy, including offering a prayer for Pope Benedict XVI. "What really drew us was the apostolic authority, the oneness of the faith of the people," said the Rev. Mark Lewis, according to Fox News. "That's what we really wanted, and I don't think you have that in Anglicanism." The pope made special provisions last year for Anglican churches and priests to join the fold, as many conservative Anglicans have increasingly distanced themselves from the more liberal American branch. The Episcopal Church, with nearly 1.5 million members, has challenged traditional Anglicanism in recent years by pushing for the ordination of gay clergy and otherwise testing the limits of traditional orthodoxy.
China Ordains Bishop without Vatican Approval
Stepping up a protracted confrontation with the Vatican, China's state-run Catholic church on Wednesday ordained a bishop without the approval of Pope Benedict XVI. Religion News Service reports the snub came just three days after police arrested the pope's choice for bishop of another Chinese diocese. The Rev. Paul Lei Shiyin was ordained as bishop of Leshan. According to the Vatican-affiliated Asia News service, the seven bishops who ordained Lei included the president of the state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA). For more than half a century, China's 12 million to 15 million Catholics have been divided between the CPCA and an "underground" church of Catholics loyal to the pope. In recent years, the Vatican and Beijing have tacitly agreed on a number of bishops acceptable to both sides. Beijing broke that pattern last November when Joseph Guo Jincae was ordained as bishop of Chengde without papal approval.
Lutherans Partner in $45M Campaign against Malaria
Lutheran World Relief (LWF) and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) are embarking on a new partnership with the United Nations Foundation (UNF) to fight malaria in Africa. WORLD News Service reports that the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI) debuted at the Historic Trinity Lutheran Church in Detroit. The initiative joins with the UNF, a public charity created in 1998 with philanthropist Ted Turner’s $1 billion gift to support global problems. According to Vicki Biggs, LCMS director of public affairs, the anti-malaria initiative will take a “comprehensive approach” to treatment. It will “focus on bed net delivery, prevention treatment, and improved access to medicine and care.” The initiative hopes to distribute effective insecticide-treated mosquito nets to pregnant women and families with children under age 5. LMI will partner with Nothing But Nets to promote and deliver $10 treated net beds.