Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Church Chimes Bring Probation to Phoenix Pastor
- Azerbaijan: New Religion Law Slid Under the Radar
- Episcopal 'Buddhist Bishop' Appears Headed for Defeat
- North Korea Convicts 2 U.S. Journalists
Church Chimes Bring Probation to Phoenix Pastor
Religion News Service reports that the leader of a charismatic church in Phoenix was placed on three years of probation Wednesday (June 3) for violating a noise ordinance because his church rang its bells hourly during the day. Bishop Rick Painter of Cathedral of Christ the King also received a suspended sentence of 10 days in jail and was ordered not to play the electronic chimes more than once on Sunday mornings and once on specific Christian holy days. "It's ridiculous to be sentenced to jail and probation for doing what churches have traditionally done throughout history, especially when the sound of the church's bells did not exceed the noise level that the law allows for ice cream trucks," said Erik Stanley, a senior legal counsel with Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing Painter.
Azerbaijan: New Religion Law Slid Under the Radar
Mission News Network reports that mission and aid agencies missed the latest version of a repressive religion law while it was quietly ratified. As a result, religious organization must re-register with the state by January 2010, a move that religious groups say is calculated to weed out churches and ministries. "It appears that this is a little bit worse than what we thought it was going to be. Just looking at parts of this legislation, now in force as of May 31, it seems like there have been some new offenses that have been added to it as well as some new penalties," said Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association. "So it seems, at least within Azerbaijan, that there is an intent to try to crack down on evangelical churches."
Episcopal 'Buddhist Bishop' Appears Headed for Defeat
Religion News Service reports that the election of an unorthodox Episcopal bishop in Michigan appears headed for defeat, according to an unofficial tally kept by a newspaper reporter. The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, who has practiced Buddhist meditation and changed traditional church prayers, was elected bishop of the sparsely populated Diocese of Northern Michigan in February. Under Episcopal Church rules, a majority of bishops and 111 regional standing committees must vote to ratify his election before it is valid. On Friday (June 5), the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which has kept an unofficial running tally of the voting, reported that 56 standing committees -- a majority -- have voted to withhold their "consents." The official tally will not be known until at least late July, when all of the ballots are due.
North Korea Convicts 2 U.S. Journalists
Washington Post reports that two U.S. journalists accused of entering North Korea illegally were sentenced to 12 years in North Korea's labor camps Monday. Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been detained since March, when they were arrested along the North Korea-China border. The official Korean Central News Agency said the women were convicted of unspecified "grave crimes" against North Korea in addition to their illegal border crossing. Outside experts were surprised at the severity of the sentence, and the U.S. government said it was "deeply concerned." The communist country essentially dared Western countries to take a stand, saying further sanctions or interference would lead the country to "answer it with extreme hard line measures." Still, some experts expect the journalists will be eventually released in concession for more aid.