Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 22, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 22, 2012

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

In today's edition:

  • Chinese Activist Chen Guangcheng Now in U.S.
  • A Year Later, Joplin Church Rebuilds, Reaches Out to Tornado Victims
  • Christians in Egypt Worry as Elections Near
  • Faculty Leave Christian University Over 'Lifestyle' Statement


Chinese Activist Chen Guangcheng Now in U.S.

Human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, a month after escaping house arrest in China, arrived Saturday evening in the United States after a flight from Beijing, CNN reports. Traveling with Chen were his wife and two children. Less than two hours after he arrived, the blind 40-year-old activist spoke from New York University, where he will participate in a fellowship. "I am very grateful to the assistance of the American Embassy and the promise of the Chinese government for protection of my rights as a citizen over the long term," Chen said, indicating through a translator that the U.S. government granted him partial citizenship rights. "I am very gratified to see the Chinese government has been dealing with the situation with restraint and calm." He said he was looking forward to recuperating in "body and spirit," though he expressed mixed feelings about leaving unfinished business at home. The self-taught lawyer angered Chinese officials for fighting the nation's one-child policy and exposing more than 100,000 forced abortions; he spent four years in prison and was then held under abusive house arrest for 18 more months until his escape April 22. He asked people to work with him to "promote justice and fairness in China."

A Year Later, Joplin Church Rebuilds, Reaches Out to Tornado Victims

A year after a deadly EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, Mo., a church that was destroyed plans to reach out and minister to victims of recent tornadoes in Indiana, the Christian Post reports. The Rev. Aaron Brown of St. Paul's United Methodist Church announced Sunday that the church plans to not only lay the foundation of its new building, but also send money and volunteers to help victims of March tornadoes in southern Indiana that caused widespread destruction and wiped at least one town of about 1,900 people completely off the map. Brown, whose church's mission is to lead people to an active faith in Jesus Christ, said, "God will use what we've been through to show the world who He is." On May 22, 2011, about one-fourth of Joplin was destroyed by the half-mile-wide, 13-mile-long tornado; 161 people were killed, nearly 7,000 houses were leveled and more than 850 others were damaged. The storm also destroyed or damaged 27 churches. Pastor John Myers of the Joplin Full Gospel Church, which too was destroyed, says that though the church now has a new building, he will always live with the fact that he could do nothing to help the members of his congregation who died. "You're glad to see a new building, you're glad to see things happening, and the people are happy," he said. "But still yet, in the back of your mind, you still remember it. It is still there yet, and it will be."

Christians in Egypt Worry as Elections Near

As Egyptians prepare to vote May 23 in the first post-Mubarak elections, the country's minority Christians are deeply worried, fearing their situation may go from bad to worse, CBS News reports. Thirteen candidates from all over the political spectrum are running, but the two frontrunners are hard-line Islamists -- and Christians don't think any of the candidates are capable of protecting their community or making them a priority. "We see that in neighboring countries with Islamic leaders, Christians aren't safe," said Pola Marqus, a Coptic priest. "So we're concerned about getting an Islamist president too." Since Egypt's "Arab Spring" revolution began a year and a half ago, Islamic politicians and parties have flourished, and more than 100,000 Christians have already fled the Muslim-majority country.

Faculty Leave Christian University Over 'Lifestyle' Statement

Three dozen faculty members have resigned from Shorter University, a Baptist school in Georgia, after it required them to sign a "personal lifestyle statement" condemning homosexuality, premarital sex and public drinking, the Religion News Service reports. The statement, which was adopted in the fall of 2011 along with a statement of faith, reads, "I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality," and also requires faculty to agree that they will not engage in illegal drug use or drink alcohol in restaurants, stadiums or other public places. In addition to the 36 faculty who have resigned -- though some who resigned did not state the reason for leaving -- university president Donald Dowless said at least 25 have cited disagreement with either the pledge or the statement of faith. Dowless said he and the university board recognized there were "strong feelings on both sides" about the new employment rules, but the board decided to "reclaim our Christian roots" even if the consequence was a loss of faculty and staff. "Our university was at a crossroads to either take steps to regain an authentic Christian identity in policy and practice or we would become a Christian university in name only," he said. The Georgia Baptist Convention began appointing all trustees of the school's board in 2005 after a ruling in the state convention's favor by the Georgia Supreme Court. The university usually has about 100 full-time faculty.

Publication date: May 22, 2012