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Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 20, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 20, 2009

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

  • Egyptian Priest Faced with Death Fatwa 
  • S.C. Bishop Distances Diocese from Episcopal Church
  • Christian Books Become Prison Missionaries
  • School Officials May Lose Retirement over Prayer


Egyptian Priest Faced with Death Fatwa

Christian Today reports that a Coptic priest now faces a death fatwa after he applied for a license to turn part of his home into a "prayer hall" for Christian funeral and marriage ceremonies. Father Estefanos said Muslim elders of Ezbet Dawood Youssef in Minia Governate also banned him from his home there for a month. Estefanos says he was forced to hold such services in the streets for years, as such Christian buildings must receive special licenses. “I went to the state security to get the necessary licenses for using this space in my family home, but they told me I need first to obtain the ‘permission’ of the village Muslims, as they want no problems in the village,” he said. Muslim elders in his village and neighboring ones then stirred up trouble and warned him to change his mind. "[T]here is no ‘blood money’ for killing a Christian,” Father Estephanos said.

S.C. Bishop Distances Diocese from Episcopal Church

Religion News Service reports that the bishop of South Carolina has suggested that his diocese withdraw from the denomination's governing bodies. "We face a multitude of false teachings," Bishop Mark Lawrence told clergy from the 75 congregations in his diocese last Thursday (Aug. 13), "which like an intrusive vine is threatening the Episcopal Church as we have inherited it and received it from our ancestors." The bishop walked a fine line in his address to clergy Thursday, proposing that the diocese clearly distance itself from the Episcopal Church, but not advocating a full break with the denomination at this time. Lawrence has suggested special resolutions that would register dissent with recent pro-gay actions and remove the diocese from "all bodies of governance" in the Episcopal Church that have assented to the pro-gay moves.

Christian Books Become Prison Missionaries

Baptist Press reports that that Christian Library International (CLI) changed its whole way of ministry once someone suggested giving books to prison chaplains. Kathleen Skaar, director of Christian Library International based in Raleigh, N.C., said the group had been distributing books in various locations -- YMCAs, nursing homes and the like -- and was trying to decide what to do with some extra books. When Skaar contacted the chaplains, "They were just thrilled," she said. "Some chaplains said they'd been praying for years and years." The ministry is now totally focused on prison ministry, and often receives thanks from inmates. "That's where we are and that's where we'll stay unless God tells us otherwise," Skaar said. She thinks of the books going "out like missionaries into the prisons."

School Officials May Lose Retirement over Prayer

Christian Post reports that two high school administrators may also lose their retirement benefits for a prayer offered at a booster club luncheon. Florida school officials Frank Lay and Robert Freeman already face criminal contempt charges for the public prayer, even though it was not on school-sponsored event. "They certainly never thought they would be defending themselves under a criminal contempt charge and face up to $5,000 in fines and up to six months in prison, and they never thought that they would jeopardize their collective 70 years of employment (retirement benefits)," said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. Staver is representing both men in court after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint about the prayer to U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers, who initiated criminal contempt proceedings.