Religion News Summaries - Jan. 26, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion News Summaries - Jan. 26, 2009

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

  • Iran: Apostasy Law May Be Coming
  • Missionaries to Gambia Still Held, No Word on Pardon
  • Methodist Women Seek to Pastor Large Churches
  • Atheist Bus Ads Launch in Spain, Italy Soon

Iran: Apostasy Law May Be Coming

Mission News Network reports that the change of administration in America probably won't make much difference to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly railed against the "western influence" in his Muslim country. Christians in Iran face arrest, beatings, torture and the situation could soon get worse. "Parliament is looking to push an apostasy law with life sentences and death sentences for Muslims that convert to Christianity," said Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern. "This isn't posturing. This is real stuff. We're helping some of these brothers come out there with their bodies and minds broken." King believes this move is partially due to the less-than-passionate attitude displayed by many of the country's youth toward Islam.

Missionaries to Gambia Still Held, No Word on Pardon

Baptist Press reports that a British missionary couple in Gambia have been sentenced to a year in prison at hard labor for sending e-mails critical of Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh. David Fulton, 60, and his wife, Fiona, 47, pled guilty to the charges after their arrest in late November and a judge gave them the maximum sentence, saying he intended to send a message to those who "spread hatred against the government." The couple wrote a letter to Jammeh, fully apologizing and asking for pardon, but have received no word on the result of that letter. Jonathan Racho, ICC's regional manager for Africa, said his organization was asking the government to release the Fultons, "considering their relentless effort to help the poor and the marginalized section of the society in the country and considering the poor state of their health."

Methodist Women Seek to Pastor Large Churches

The Associated Press (AP) reports that the United Methodist Church is actively setting out to put more female pastors in the pulpits of the denomination's megachurches. About 23 percent of the denomination's 44,842 clergy are female, yet they lead fewer than 8 percent of the denomination's largest churches. By contrast, church membership in America's second-largest Protestant denomination is 58 percent female, prompting leadership to launch the Lead Women Pastor Project. The initiative will "examine barriers to women being appointed pastors to Methodist churches with more than 1,000 members," according to the AP. "Coming from that perspective it's almost natural we pay more attention to the development of women's leadership in the church," said the Rev. HiRho Park, the project's director. "It's breaking the stained-glass ceiling. I think it gives a younger generation of women hope to have a collective vision for the future."

Atheist Bus Ads Launch in Spain, Italy Soon

ASSIST News Service reports that London's now-infamous bus ads have spread into the heavily Catholic nation of Spain and will move to Italy next month. Buses carrying the "There probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" slogan appeared Monday in Spain. In Italy, home of the papacy, the buses will read, ""The bad news is that God does not exist. The good news is that we do not need him." So far, conservative groups managed to stop the bus ads from running in Genoa, Italy, but sponsoring groups are filing a court appeal. "It’s strange that in a country where ads depicting near-naked women wearing skimpy lingerie is permitted on buses that we can’t run ads about atheism," Giorgio Villella of The Italian Union of Atheists and Rationalist Agnostics (UAAR) told Reuters.