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Religion Today Daily Headlines - June 28, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - June 28, 2012

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Chaplains Respond to Colorado, New Mexico Wildfires
  • Requests Spike for 'BibleStick' Devices Providing Audio New Testaments to Troops
  • Episcopal, Presbyterian Churches to Debate Same-Sex Marriage, Gay Ordination
  • Two Lao, Two Thai Christians Arrested in Laos


Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Chaplains Respond to Colorado, New Mexico Wildfires

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is in Colorado and New Mexico as wildfires continue to affect large regions in the nation's west. Chaplains deployed to both locations on June 14, shortly after the fires began, and are currently offering emotional and spiritual care in the Fort Collins area of Colorado and the Ruidoso/Capitan area of New Mexico. Chaplains have begun reaching out to homeowners in New Mexico, but have had limited opportunities to minister in Colorado as the fires continue to rage and survivors remain evacuated from their homes. "Many of those who have been evacuated and unable to return home have told us that the worst part is not knowing," said Jack Munday, director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. "They don't know if their homes are still standing, don't know if their pets are alive, and don't know if they've lost all they own in this world. Our chaplains are there to encourage the ministry of local churches and offer a listening ear, practical assistance and support to those affected. We want to bring the compassion and hope of Jesus Christ into this horrible situation."

Requests Spike for 'BibleStick' Devices Providing Audio New Testaments to Troops

A Christian ministry that creates pocket-sized digital audio devices for troops that contain the entire New Testament is reporting that requests for its product are higher than ever as July 4 approaches, Mission Network News reports. Faith Comes By Hearing said more than 80 requests for its Military BibleSticks had come in from military chaplains during the first two weeks of June, asking for more than 20,000 BibleSticks. Since FCBH began its military outreach program in 2007, more than 218,000 BibleSticks have been given free-of-charge to more than 1,000 chaplains, who distribute them during pre-deployment briefings, counseling sessions, chapel services, Bible studies and upon direct request of service members. While a surge in demand can quickly deplete the ministry's inventory, FCBH views it as a blessing. "We really have to work diligently year-round to meet the ongoing requests from chaplains, but the reward for us and our great donors is knowing that more and more of our troops have access to God's Word with their very own BibleStick," said Troy Carl, FCBH's vice president. "As we celebrate our country's birthday, we need to remember and honor those who are defending the freedom and independence we cherish. We will continue to do that by providing God's Word in audio for their spiritual protection as they continue to protect us."

Episcopal, Presbyterian Churches to Debate Same-Sex Marriage, Gay Ordination

The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) will both be debating gay marriage issues in the coming week, and any decisions made may have far-reaching consequences, the Christian Post reports. Both denominations have around 1.9 million members in America and both have been experiencing divisions over the ordination of homosexual clergy and the acceptance of same-sex unions. Congregations have split over the issues, with some insisting that the church should become more gay-affirming and others holding firm to the traditional definition of marriage. "The marriage issue, depending on how the vote goes, has the potential to be very, very distressing to some of our congregations," said the Rev. Sheldon Sorge, pastor to the Pittsburgh Presbytery. "It would not surprise me at all if some congregations would see [approval of same-sex unions] as the straw that broke the camel's back for them to leave the denomination." Dozens of congregations have already left the PCUSA since it approved gay ordination last year, and many have also left the Episcopal Church  -- which has been blessing gay and lesbian couples for decades -- for its increasingly liberal theology. The PCUSA will gather to discuss blessings for same-sex couples in church from June 30 to July 7, and the Episcopal Church will host its triennial General Convention in Indianapolis from July 5 to 12.

Two Lao, Two Thai Christians Arrested in Laos

Lao officials arrested two Lao and two Thai Christians in Luang Namtha Province on June 16, seizing them from a private residence in Long district, Compass Direct News reports. According to the Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF), officials have charged the Christians with "spreading the Christian faith without official approval." Another source who requested anonymity said, "That is ironic, since Lao officials are highly unlikely to approve of anyone spreading the Christian faith." Thai brothers Jonasa and Phanthakorn Wiwatdamrong, along with two local residents, one identified by the single name Chalar and the other as yet unidentified, were taken directly to Luang Namtha provincial prison. Under normal procedure, detainees would be held in a village or district prison for 36 hours during a preliminary investigation before transferring to provincial facilities.

Publication date: June 28, 2012