Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 20, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 20, 2010

Daily briefs of the top Christian news and persecution stories impacting believers around the world.

In today's edition:

  • North Korea Executes Underground Church Leaders
  • Poll: 1 in 5 Americans Think Obama Is Muslim
  • New Church Body Will Be Formed for Lutherans in North America
  • Skateboarding Priest Reaches Out to Young People

North Korea Executes Underground Church Leaders

North Korea has executed three underground church leaders and jailed another 20 Christians, Christian Today reports. The country has kept the executions under wraps since mid-May, and AsiaNews only recently uncovered the killings. North Korean police reportedly raided a house in Kuwal-dong in Pyungsung county, Pyongan province, and arrested all 23 believers who were gathered there for religious activity. The leaders were sentenced to death and soon after executed. The other 20 were reportedly sent to the infamous prison labor camp No 15 in Yodok. The 23 Christians had come to faith after some of them travelled to China on business and met with church members there. An estimated 40,000 to 60,000 Christians are currently in prison labor camps in North Korea because of their faith. Persecution watchdog Open Doors has ranked North Korea as the world's worst persecutor of Christians for eight years in a row.

Poll: 1 in 5 Americans Think Obama Is Muslim

A new study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that even more Americans now believe Obama is a Muslim than Americans who believed the inaccuracy during the 2008 campaign season. A substantial and growing number of Americans say that Barack Obama is a Muslim, while the proportion saying he is a Christian has declined. More than a year and a half into his presidency, a plurality of the public says they do not know what religion Obama follows. Eighteen percent of Americans believe he is Muslim, up 7 percent from March 2009. Only 34 percent say the president is a Christian, down sharply from 48 percent in 2008. The survey was completed in early August, before Obama's recent comments about the proposed construction of a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center.

New Church Body Will Be Formed for Lutherans in North America

More than 1,000 Lutherans from throughout North America will gather Aug. 26-27 to form a new church body for confessional Lutherans. The annual Convocation of Lutheran CORE will adopt a constitution to officially form the new North American Lutheran Church (NALC) after splitting from its more liberal parent church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Lutheran CORE leaders note that the problems in the ELCA are really not about sexual behavior but rather about an ongoing movement away from the authority and teaching of the Bible throughout the ELCA, according to Christian Newswire. "It was not our choice to leave the ELCA, but the ELCA has chosen to reject 'the faith once delivered to the saints,' so now we are acting to maintain our position within the consensus of the Church catholic," said Ryan Schwarz of Washington, D.C., chair of Lutheran CORE's Vision and Planning Working Group.

Skateboarding Priest Reaches Out to Young People

One Hungarian Roman Catholic priest is reaching out to young people with his skateboarding tricks - and becoming a YouTube sensation in the process. ASSIST News Service reports that thousands of people have watched video of Rev. Zoltan Lendvai performing on his skateboard while talking to a a group of teens. Lendvai, who is based in Redics, near the border with Slovenia, learned to skateboard as a young teen at school. He told Reuters that he is inspired by the 19th century Italian priest and educator Saint John Bosco, who used games to teach poor children. "Many times I have felt that this is the way I can bring many people a bit closer to Jesus," he said. Lendvai says he's brought three boys to church after teaching them some skateboarding tricks, and has even given away skateboards bearing the papal coat of arms to teens in his parish.