Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 27, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 27, 2009

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Most Americans Open to Church Invitations from Family, Friends
  • Presbyterian Court Rules against Lesbian Minister
  • Iraq: Satellite Ministry Mostly Viewed by Muslims
  • Obama Notre Dame Speech Continues to Draw Fire

Most Americans Open to Church Invitations from Family, Friends

The Christian Post reports that more Americans might visit church if someone they knew invited them, a new Lifeway Research survey suggests. The study found that less than half want to receive information through an advertisement or impersonal means, but 56 were open to hearing more about a church from a friend or neighbor. "We want to help Christians discover what approaches work best in today’s culture," said Ken Weathersby, senior strategist for evangelization at the North American Mission Board, according to LifeWay. "It’s not about changing the Gospel, but determining how best to share it." The findings come at a time when all mainline denominations are seeing their membership decline. Even the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., reported a small drop in membership in 2007.

Presbyterian Court Rules against Lesbian Minister

A San Francisco woman's quest to overturn a ban on non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy in the Presbyterian Church (USA) was denied on a technicality, Religion News Service reports. Lisa Larges, 45, declared a conscientious objection to denominational standards that require celibacy for gay and lesbian clergy. On Wednesday (March 25) the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific ruled that the San Francisco Presbytery erred when it voted to certify Larges as ready to be examined for ministry, with a "departure" or conscientious objection. The denomination's highest court and General Assembly, its lawmaking body, have issued contradictory decisions about whether such objections are allowed. The PC(USA)'s 173 local presbyteries are currently voting on whether to scrap the ban on partnered gay clergy, a measure that requires approval from a majority to pass. To date, 81 presbyteries have voted against it, according to a Presbyterian gay rights group.

Iraq: Satellite Ministry Mostly Viewed by Muslims

Mission New Network reports that SAT-7 satellite television in Iraq has a larger audience than they may have expected. A recent study of viewing habits showed that almost a fifth (5.3 million) of the 28 million Iraqis with satellite television have watched the Gospel-oriented broadcasts. Iraq's Christian population has dwindled to less than 600,000 in recent years, implying that many SAT-7 viewers are Sunni or Shia Muslims. "I spoke with an Iraqi pastor who told me that years ago, they had no material that they could give out to people, so having television was such an important tool for them," said David Harder with SAT-7. "We know that within Iraq, churches are growing. They're also facing tremendous pressures and persecution. We're excited that as a satellite television broadcaster we can be part of that growth and can be an instrumental tool for local churches to use."

Obama Notre Dame Speech Continues to Draw Fire

Religion News Service reports that President Obama's planned commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame continues to spark controversy, as the local Catholic bishop said he will boycott the event because some Obama policies contradict church teaching. Bishop John D'Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (Ind.) said Tuesday (March 24) that "as a Catholic university, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth." D'arcy cited Obama's "long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred" and his corresponding actions in the White House. Meanwhile, an online petition protesting Notre Dame's invitation to the president has gathered more than 111,000 signatures and counting. "People are outraged, and the alumni of Notre Dame in particular are communicating to each other," Patrick J. Reilly, president of Cardinal Newman Society, which launched the petition, told