Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 1, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 1, 2011

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

In today's edition:

  • Seven Christians Released on Bail in Iran
  • After Controversy, Christian University Changes Gay Policy
  • Chinese Tourists Receive 1 Million Bibles in 10 Years  
  • Anglican Communion Aims to Re-establish Relationships

Seven Christians Released on Bail in Iran

ASSIST News Service reports that seven Christians were released last week from Iran's Evin Prison. Four women were released from Tehran's Evin Prison on Jan. 29, and one woman and two men were released three days earlier. All seven had spent a month in prison without charges on the basis of their faith. Most had been in solitary confinement. One family was forced to surrender a trade license to post bail and fear authorities may arbitrary decide that bail has been broken, thereby destroying the family's livelihood. All of the Christians were arrested as part of a government crackdown on house churches immediately after Christmas. Twenty-six Christians arrested at that time remain imprisoned.

After Controversy, Christian University Changes Gay Policy

Religion News Service reports that a Christian university in Nashville, Tenn., has amended its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation after a recent controversy. "We are a Christian community that is welcoming, loving and inclusive of everyone," said Belmont University President Bob Fisher in a Jan. 26 statement. The change comes a month after the university's soccer coach, Lisa Howe, left her position after revealing that she and her lesbian partner were expecting a child. In his announcement, Fisher said that sexual orientation was not a consideration in "hiring, promotion, salary or dismissal decisions" during the 11 years he has been president. The executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, however, said he was "saddened" by the school's decision. "It sounds very much like a compromise of a traditional biblical worldview and the mores of the day," said the Rev. Randy Davis, whose Southern Baptist state convention severed ties with Belmont in 2007.

Chinese Tourists Receive 1 Million Bibles in 10 Years  

Baptist Press reports that almost 1 million Bible packets have been distributed to Chinese tourists throughout Asia over the last 10 years. The Southern Baptist project, called Southern Cross, has aimed to increase the availability of Bibles within China by giving them to Chinese citizens on vacation. Each Chinese national is allowed to bring a Chinese Bible home from trips abroad. During the next Southern Cross project, set for Jan. 30 to Feb. 6, mission volunteers from five states - Georgia, Kentucky, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia - will engage Chinese tourists during Chinese New Year celebrations in Southeast Asia. One Southern Cross worker estimates these packets, which contain a Bible, the "JESUS" film, various tracts and Christian DVDs, have reached about 8 million Chinese. Most of the Bibles taken back to China are pulled apart and passed around underground churches as chapter passages.

Anglican Communion Aims to Re-establish Relationships

Christian Today reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged the "critical" situation facing the Anglican Communion at the end of a six-day meeting of Primates in Dublin. Almost a quarter of the Communion's 38 primates missed the global summit, most of them deliberately abstaining because of Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in the U.S. The Episcopal Church's stand on openly gay clergy and traditional orthodoxy has strained relationships with members of the conservative Global South. Dr. Rowan Williams acknowledged the strain. "Of course, there is a critical situation in the Communion. Nobody would deny that. But that critical situation has not ended relationships, often very cordial and constructive, between Churches within the Communion," he said. "There is no suggestion that this is somehow closing the door on those who are not with us."